Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On to Wuxi and laoshi (teacher) Dong

NOTE: UNFORTUNATELY, I CAN NOT POST PICTURES. BLOGSPOT IS BANNED IN CHINA NOW AND NOW THAT INCLUDES THE POSTING PAGE. I HAVE TO USE SOME OTHER WAYS OF GETTING ON HERE AND THAT SOMEHOW PRECLUDES PHOTO POSTING. I HAVE SOME GOOD ONES. WILL PUT SOME ON FACEBOOK IF I HAVE A CHANCE...AND LOAD THEM UP HERE WHEN I GET BACK.

**

I’m at the airport in Beijing, on my way to see dong, my old Chinese teacher, in his hometown of Wuxi (pretty close to Shanghai). As some of you will recall, he dropped out to become a monk and ended up on the holy mountain of Huashan. I visited him there last year, along with whole family, including parents and aunt and uncle (Joan and Ben) and he was not well, I could see right away.

Now he has returned to Wuxi “to start his life.” I am looking forward to seeing him. I felt like this was an unresolved issue for me. I always felt a little guilty for not having offered him better guidance when he decided to become a monk. It’s a long story and one I hope to tell in detail some day soon.

The next few days are the Dragon Boat Festival, which has recently been elevated by the government into a national holiday. They used to only have three real holidays a year in China – New year, when everyone returns home and the “golden weeks” in May and October, when every single Chinese person who could afford to took a holiday and vacation places became absurdly crowded. As in, crowded beyond anything you can imagine if you have never been to china. So they shortened those two weeks and spread the extra national holidays amongst a few other ones, hoping to spread it all out a bit.

Well, it seems to have worked. I walked into the giant, soaring new Terminal 3 at 6:30 this morning and found it packed. Far more crowded than I have ever seen it. Even though I had a good half hour before the mandatory 45-minute cutoff for checking in – and the computers literally shut down, as I once experienced – I was worried looking at the lines. But Air China is efficient! I was checked in in 10 minutes and just finished slurping down a big bowl of spicy pork noodles for breakfast. Must go brave the security line now.

**

I am on the plane now, one of about three Westerners. The plane is full but not packed. I have never really even heard of Wuxi before, but in China there are always a lot of people going everywhere.

Walking through the airport, I felt a real surge of emotion, which surprised me. It’s not that I have any particular love for the actual airport, but the place was the launching (and landing) pad for so many great, great trips, adventures that changed the way I look at everything and which I’m sure I will remember forever.

I looked at the Haagen Dazs near the security line and really missed my kids, thinking about they always clambered for ice cream when we were on our way to a flight and Becky and I calculating if we had enough time to stop. And thinking about things like that makes me really long to see the family and miss them fiercely. All those great trips would not have been so memorable or important to me had I done them alone.

It’s really nice to be here and it is sure easy to make decisions and improvise plans with no one else to consider, but it also feels lonely and hollow not having the family with me. Even surrounded by friends and people I really love, it is lonely.