Gratitude, China Edition

We’re home! We got back late last night after about 25.5 hours of travel from door-to-door. It’s a 12-hour time zone change, and my body feels confused and disoriented. (What time is it? And also, what is time?) Nevertheless, I’m immensely grateful for having been able to take this trip, and I’m also so grateful to be back in my familiar, comfortable American life. I wasn’t able to keep up with this blog while I was away as much as I’d hoped (to say nothing of my poor, neglected travel journal), but I will share more about our travels in China soon. For now, though, it feels good to start with gratitude.

Things I’m grateful for from our three weeks in China:

  • the privilege of having the time, resources, and opportunity to travel internationally for three consecutive weeks
  • the technology of flight: it still astonishes me every time that I can sit in a metal capsule 40000 feet in the air, plunging through space at 600mph for more than 13 hours, and land safely on the other side of the world
  • the experience of having an extended family nearby, full of interconnections, rather than only my small, isolated nuclear family
  • the opportunity to introduce Lawrence to my extended family, including all four of my grandparents, and to important landmarks from my early childhood
  • being able to meet my cousin’s infant daughter, born while we were in China, before she was a week old
  • that the presents I had painstakingly selected for everyone were well-received
  • having a partner with me with whom I could share the experience of this trip
  • having enough language skills to manage basic communication and translation
  • people and translation apps to help with the rest
  • a body that held up through exhausting back-to-back-to-back-to-back days and managed to resist catching my mom’s cold despite extended close contact with her
  • my aunt and uncle being willing to host us for so long, and my uncle being willing to drive us all over Sichuan and accompany us to Xi’an and Beijing
  • discovering surprising new experiences even in places I’d previously visited
  • mountains
  • cable cars
  • pandas and the delightful, endearingly awkward way they wriggle around
  • an AirBnB only a few minutes’ walk away from Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter, where we ate dinner every night
  • high speed trains
  • huge breakfast buffets even at mid-range chain hotels
  • cheap and yummy groceries near our hotel in Beijing
  • cheap Didi rides
  • an international data plan and a VPN that allowed us to bypass the Great Firewall of China
  • well-labeled, bilingual subway systems
  • liquid yogurt in pouches
  • three weeks of not having to cook for myself
  • the sense of being surrounded by history everywhere I go, thousands of years of heritage as the same spaces have been used and reused in so many ways by so many generations

Things I’m grateful for about being back home:

  • clean drinking water straight from the faucet
  • cold drinking water that is actually cold rather than lukewarm
  • fresh, clean air to breathe
  • I can just hold my breath for a few seconds when walking past smokers on the streets without this strategy leading to asphyxiation
  • people actually refraining from smoking in places where smoking is not allowed
  • being able to read
  • being able to understand pretty much everything that’s being said to or around me
  • having the vocabulary to communicate my ideas
  • public restrooms that don’t involve squatting toilets
  • public restrooms that provide toilet paper
  • uncensored internet
  • fast internet
  • not having to aggressively push myself through crowds or to the fronts of lines
  • enough room on the subway that finding a seat feels normal rather than miraculous
  • the animals at petting zoos generally seem happy instead of sad
  • being able to talk about politics and social justice
  • not having to go through security every time I enter a subway station
  • not having to get a pat down every time I enter a train station
  • being able to breeze through customs with Global Entry and airport security with TSA Pre-Check
  • undeveloped land
  • my big, soft, comfortable bed
  • smoothies
  • bathtubs
  • easy access to cuisine from a wide range of cultures
  • being able to have introvert time again