Where are my words? I have wanted to write so many times.
About the countryside. How the mountains of Bingyu are exactly what you imagine them to be: rocky and majestic, with steep cliffs and brave trees overlooking a misty valley. The sound of water nearby and dogs barking, a few peddlers asking in thickly-accented Chinese – foreigner, ride a horse? 20 kuai for a ride!
About Dandong – a city a few meters north of North Korea. How the gap between North Korean poverty and the developing Chinese urban scene is grossly evident. At nighttime, the Chinese border is a carnival with fiber-optic lights, patriotic statues in parks full of dancing people, Erhu music and Beijing Opera, roller skaters. Across the river, there is only darkness.
About hiking the Great Wall.
About celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. How Zhongyang Street is full of shoppers seeking sales, vendors selling moon cakes, the smell of grilling meat, tofu and spices. Harbin Vanilla Milk ice cream. A bright, silver full moon beaming from the sky, deep indigo with stars and chilly breeze. A conversation with my roommate, eating Russian bread with hot chocolate and watching the season finale of The Voice of China.
About practicing Taiji with friends on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
About the language pledge. From that scary first day – one minute to say your last sentences in English…okay, time’s up! 开始语言发誓! – to now, communicating pretty freely with a clothing vendor over the price of a sweater.
About all of the wonderful people I have met: my American (and one Scottish!) classmates, my roommates Zi Lu and Meng Nan, my professor Hu Laoshi, Bubu and Lili who work at a Western-style coffee shop nearby, the shopkeepers at the paint-supply store, the Ayi downstairs who lent me her umbrella, the custodian who really likes my Chinese name, the English teacher and his wife that I go to church with on Sundays, my friend Jerry who is attending Tsinghua University next fall.
I have wanted to write for such a long time about all of these things, but now that I have a free day – it is China’s 63rd birthday today, so no school – I am finding that there is no way to express these things accurately. If I could just wish you here, and you could see!