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Pear trees and Spiderwebs

I was in Chengdu, finishing the paperwork and trying to see as many people as I could before I left, trying to decide if it was my final time or not. The idea of finding work in Chengdu after the New Year is sticking with me. I could go somewhere new, struggle through the adventure of a new place and a new language, but for now, I have bills to catch up with. There are other places in China I could go, but my friends at the Peace Corps know most of the people I would want work with, so it might be better to go through them. Guanxi is a useful thing sometimes.
For now, I am heading south for a while, first to Kunming, then back into the mountains outside Dali. I teach a couple hours a day, and my foot is finally healing after my body rejected my effort to take up running again. I see old friends, and the food is healthier than I have had in a long time, but part of me just wants rolled tacos and a quesadilla. I am not yet looking forward to the adventure ahead.
Part of it is still being in China, like my time here hasn’t really ended for now. I’m not in anyplace new, and there isn’t much here I haven’t seen yet. Eryuan is still beautiful, surrounded by pear trees filled with spiderwebs, but it feels like I’m waiting, not traveling. Part of it is that I still have too much stuff. I need some fall clothing for Mongolia and my camping gear will be useful in the Philippines, but I should have shed more of the clothing I am still carrying around. Part of it is that I kind of envy the people who just went home.
There is something tiring about living in another country for so long, especially when home is so far away. In Mexico, I wasted a lot of time and money on trips home because it was so close. That was part of the reason I began there, that I could walk away if I needed to. Now, home is a city where my family doesn’t live. Part of the cost of travel is that the worlds you leave behind keep changing without you.
The same will happen in Lanzhou I am sure. I was a part of so many lives, and hopefully I did more good than harm, but I will never really know the result of all of my work. I will go back and visit one day, but I can’t possibly see all that will come of my time there. It makes me think of the dream of final judgement after death, the idea that we will finally know exactly what changes we enacted on the world. For good or bad, at least there would be an answer.
Most of the time I am okay not knowing. I choose to believe the people who have thanked me, or told me what a change I wrought, and I choose to forget that there is so much of the story that I will never know, but there is always a whisper of doubt waiting for my attention. The things I say and do are based in the facts that I am an outsider and an American. The people here who follow my advice are not. There is always a question of the damage that will be done if they follow me because where I am tolerated, they may not be. More important, they have so much more to lose here than I do.
Pear trees and spiderwebs. It’s easy for me because I have no fear of the spiders, but that is because they have never really hurt me. That is a privilege I wish everyone had, the ability to reach through danger because they can never really hurt you, but that is not the world we live in. All the people who are afraid for my safety as I travel have been harmed in ways I haven’t. So I travel on, with caution, but no real fear. Anxiety, yes. True fear, no.
The next place I go will be Lijiang, up the mountains toward Shangri-la. I have time, I may continue up or stay in Lijiang and leave something to the imagination, but in truth, nothing will be new until I reach Mongolia. A new language, new food, and a whole new world awaits.

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Posted by Porticaeli 20:40 Archived in China Tagged nature travel china english dali american

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