Touring famous cities and greeting relatives in my homeland, we visited Beijing, Jinan, Penglai, Tai’an, Weihai, Shanghai, Wuxi, Xihu and Hangzhou. Travelling by airplane, train and ferry, we stayed in hotels and homes.
My favourite part about China was the July solar eclipse. I only glimpsed about three-quarters eclipse, an unforgettable sight, though maybe I’m biased: I love astronomy! At morning, I went to the courtyard, using sheets of X-ray film to darken the Sun enough and look safely yet briefly. Soon, neighbourhood children and adults came outside, and I shared my X-ray film. Shadows and lighting on the earth were strange yet spectacular.
Mount Tai, Shandongwas another great experience. On tour, we bought souvenirs, purchasing food from vendors. Higher up, temperatures were cooler, and I got sunburnt – I was wearing a cowboy hat! We bussed over cliff roads, where signs warned of rockslides, before taking a cable car uphill and reaching the summit, surrounded by forested hillsides.
On we went to Weihai, a coastal city near Korea. I and local civilian army associates (common in Chinese cities, public places and tours) joked and discussed Nomura jellyfish. International Beach, frequented by Chinese and Westerners, had tides and jellyfish. The water seemed slightly murky, but nobody seemed to mind: motorboats and parasailers sped away from shore. I remember my grandmother fearing the jellyfish. The sand was very hot.
We ferried over to touristy Liugong Island, vivid in early morning fog. Almost missing the boat, we went to the war museum. It discussed 19thCentury Japanese conquests of China and modern history. Online, Wikipedia discussed the island’s British garrisons.
We ate at restaurants, sang karaoke and sometime during it all I talked to a cousin about Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland. In August, we visited Shanghai by train, and kept the A/C in hot temperatures. From there, we reached Wuxi and Xihu on Tai Lake, seeing adverts for the 2010 Expo. Family in Shanghai later held an early birthday party for me; I didn’t mind the cake-makers not getting my name right.
In Hangzhou, our final stopover, we caught up at a nursing home. There, we had family dinners. My Vancouver cousin also came over, and we had a last trip to a lakeside restaurant on Chinese Valentines Day after getting a family portrait.
There were still things I disliked: limited Internet access, hazy air, and the gasoline smell. Breathing wasn’t difficult, but photographing distant buildings was. Yet, that summer, my maternal grandmother had terminal cancer, and despite it she accompanied us. I remember her saying meaningful things to us, and we promised to live on in her memory. Somehow, she managed to smile frequently like when we went boating on a Hangzhou lake. We soon bid farewell, returning to Shanghai, and then to the airport, Canada-bound – I noticed different attitudes between Chinese and Canadian customs – a culture to get used to once again!
I’ve learned plenty from my China trip, eight years after first arriving in Canada. After unpacking our luggage, seeing weeds growing a metre tall, I went to sleep. A week later, I went back to school. Sadly, few months after our trip to China, my grandmother passed away from her illness. We mourned and prepared a slideshow in her memory, yet weeks later we started returning to life as usual. I went on school trips; I went to a friend’s birthday party; I even went to church after a years-long absence.
My trip back to China has been an unforgettable experience, and even the sharp difference in cultures reminds us that we live in a small world.
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