Saturday, December 12, 2015

Travel Diaries: Chongqing, China (Part 2)

Welcome to the last section of my belated guide to China! Well, to bits of Beijing and Chongqing, anyway. You can see my post on Beijing here and the first post on Chongqing here.

Let me begin with a confession: during the majority of my time in China, I actually had no idea where we were going or where we were in proximity to anything else. My fellow students and I had either locals or teacher-chaperone people helping us out for pretty much the entire trip, so we didn't really have to know how to do anything…. So, my apologies in advance for not being able to accurately name some places.

Still, we got to see some amazing things, even if I don't know what they were. There was one particular neighborhood that I think we took a bus too, because I recall going home on one sometime after dark with my host sister, carrying dripping popsicles we'd bought off the side of the road.

Anyyways, the place we went to was a very artistic alleyway marketplace of sorts, with all these beautiful signs written in colorful Chinese characters and lots of greenery and unique architecture. These pictures only show a little bit of it all!


While we were wandering around I bought a melted-sugar butterfly (picture below), which looked like a cross between blown glass and caramel. It tasted like burnt honey, but it was gorgeous so who cares?? At one point I remember buying small cookies filled with rose petals, and impressing our Chinese hosts because I ate some super spicy pot sticker things. I mean, my eyes were totally watering and everything but damn they were good. I've probably said this before, but street food in China is absolutely amazing.

A rather amusing thing about China is the way funny English translations are everywhere…

Hehehe. Sometimes it's not even the translations, just the way things are phrased in English. I bought a running shirt that says

Run with my happiness
Always run run run 
I'm happy I'm running

which kind of makes me wonder about clothing sold in the US that's written in other languages or characters. Even if we think we know what it says… do we really? There was one guy I saw wearing a baseball cap that said "FUCK" on it, just like that in all caps, and I wanted to ask him if he realized what it said. I've definitely bought things with Chinese characters on them and had no idea what they meant!

Although I was always entertained by errors in translation, this pirate ship sticking out of nowhere was the greatest thing ever. 

Wait.. what? This giant pirate ship statue actually is at the edge of this bridge, though I'm not sure if it serves any sort of purpose other than looking epic. Maybe it scares pirates away from the bridge...

There's a funny story behind this part of our trip, actually. Our bus pulled up on the edge of the river at water-level, so in order to reach the pirate ship (and neighboring Subway and Starbucks… because, chain restauraunts) we weaved our way up through eleven levels of various food stalls and small shops. For whatever reason we went back down to the ground floor and then almost everyone decided to take the elevator back up. Except… I wanted to take the stairs. And being the weirdly competitive runner type I am, I was sprinting up eleven flights of stairs trying to beat the elevator when on the tenth floor my legs got tired and I slipped and split my knee open on the concrete steps.

I probably should have gotten stitches but instead I used nasal strips to hold the skin together, and now I have this weird scar and I get to tell this story. So um… don't race elevators up cement staircases?


After cool-pirate-ship-place (I get to make up names for places now because I don't know what they're really called) we took a hike through this waterfall park. Well, most of the students hiked… I got to ride the gondola with the chaperones through half of it because of my busted knee. I was trying to avoid bending it and reopening what was a pretty deep cut.

One of the incredibly fun aspects of this park was the way all the bridges were either floating on water (left, above) or wobbly and treacherous (above, right), which made the whole experience feel like something out of an adventure novel. It was pretty foggy, too (smoggy, maybe?) which only added to the surreal feeling of things.

Fortunately I do remember the name of one place we visited, the Dazu Rock Carvings. This was another long walk through a park filled with ancient sculptures and carvings etched into the rock. The carvings portrayed scenes and people that were often a few stories high, so I remember feeling ridiculously dwarfed. Definitely a beautiful tourist destination, though.

At some point we visited the zoo, which was small and crowded and basically very sad. I've never been a huge fan of zoos in general, having mixed feelings about animals in captivity, but it made me appreciate places like our own Woodland Park Zoo a bit more.

On the bright side, a fantastic old woman playing hacky sack was hanging out there. She had us join her and taught us how to play. She was really good and we kind of sucked, so it was hilarious to watch her do all this tricky footwork while we tried to keep up. We bought a few of her homemade hacky sacks (the feathered thing she's holding in the picture below) as well.

Our trip ended with all the US kids performing a dance to Pharell's "Happy," which was basically the anthem of that year, at our going-away party. It was embarrassing, and hilarious. Then the Chinese students performed a dance that put ours to shame, and everyone was laughing and hugging and several students were actually crying. I guess living with people in a foreign country for a few weeks creates bonds pretty quickly.

Though it was sad to say goodbye to our friends and host families, but I think a lot of us were ready to go home. I love travel, but China really is one of those places that is very, very different. Amazing and unique and fascinating, but some things (squat toilets, I'm looking at you) are just hard to get used to.

The biggest thing I got out of this whole trip, though, was the knowledge that just because another culture does something differently doesn't mean it's wrong- it's just, well, different. This was my first foreign experience (because, okay, Canada's great but it doesn't count) and it taught me so much about other people, human nature, and dealing with things as they come up (like my knee incident…). It made me realize how much I love immersing myself in foreign countries and cultures, interacting with new people and seeing the most unique things. Going to China finalized my college decision, too- I remember emailing my mom towards the end of the trip something like, "Okay mom I love travel, I'm addicted, I'm going to Singapore for school!" Basically, I learned that traveling is one of the most wonderful opportunities out there, and it's something I never want to let out of my life.

I also just want to reiterate… Chinese street food. Freaking awesome. I've heard India's is amazing too- someday I'll find out!

As always, thank you for reading! I hope you've enjoyed this travel series. :)