About that time I went to China…

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It’s been a pretty solid year of blog silence — a year of change and new beginnings, for me, and the blog writing slid more and more to one side as I marched steadily through the year. And here we are, at the tail end of November, and there is snow on the ground and that whiff of the holidays. This year has been so much its own, and full of so many experiences.

The novel is back in the drawer, I think. As much as the blog posts felt like they were too much to do, the writing has been a struggle. It’s hard to be creatively engaged with fiction when the energy that flows into the stories feels so depleted.

I think that’s changing, now that we’re moving into the winter months. I went to China recently — yes, I went to China! — and if that’s not something that shakes up how you see the world and what you think about yourself, I don’t know what is.


Global Centre, the world’s largest building. It’s impossible to get the whole thing in one shot.


First night in Beijing.

More than anything, I learned that I could be brave. I could fly across an ocean — something I’d been really scared about. I could learn to speak simple phrases in Mandarin, and I could navigate my way through six cities, flying from place to place, on average, every day and a half. Jet lag was something new for me, and not so bad going to China, but pretty vicious coming back. I ate a ton of incredible food and met wonderful people. But most of all, I figured out that I could do something so out of my normal routine, so vastly different…and I liked it. There were times when I looked around and felt like I’d stepped into a William Gibson novel, and other times when I just stopped, looked around, and let the enormity of being so far away from home hit.


Night and rain in Xian. I think this is something I will remember best.


The Terracotta Army in Xian — staggering in its scope. The history of it weighs on you the whole time you move through the museum.


For 10 yuan, you can have your picture taken at the replicas. Totally worth it.


Night in Chengdu. The light displays on buildings make you feel like you’re living in the future.




Pandas, pandas, pandas!


The view from my hotel in Wuhan. It was so breathtaking and beautiful, as the sun came up. East Lake is somewhere behind those buildings.


Lunch in Chengdu. I very quickly learned how to say ‘it’s so delicious!’ in Mandarin. A very helpful phrase to know.

I felt very much the lack of a partner to share it with…both when I was away, and when I was home and crawling miserably into bed or sitting awake at 3am, waiting for the rest of me to catch up to me from crossing the dateline. But I also felt the lack of writing — the lack of creating, I suppose. And both are things I’m working on, restoring and rebuilding. China taught me that you can make do with what you have, because it’s so much more than you realized you had. It’s like driving or walking in a throng of people: you get in there, because if you hang back and wait for a space to open, it never will. One shoulder, one hip forward, watch where you’re going, but get in there and take your place.


More of Xian.


Our driver dropping us off at the airport for the flight to Qingdao.

So! As the end of November approaches…welcome, December, and the tail end of this hard, but wonderful, year, and the feeling that there is a new journey ahead.


Halfway through the trip, chilling at the airport. There were a lot of night flights, and a lot of time for thinking.


Walking across the Han river in Chaozhou, one day before leaving for home. The legend is that Han Yu appealed to the crocodiles to leave with a logical argument. It worked. No more crocodiles in Chaozhou.

3 thoughts on “About that time I went to China…

  1. Re: the unreal-ness of reality. Back in 1980 I was in the USNaval Reserve with my husband, and we had traveled to Okinawa for our annual 2-week active duty. While being in Japan was a totally new experience, the whole million-miles-away-from-normal-reality didn’t hit me until we were on a casual off-duty flight to the Philippines and the pilot mentioned that we were currently over the South China Sea. South China Sea?! Suddenly I was l-o-n-g w-a-y from home.

  2. Wow, Heather, it sounds like an amazing trip. I really admire you and envy your tone of courage and resolution.

  3. A busy and eventful year, and an amazing-looking trip! I hope the novel won’t stay too long in the drawer, though — there are some of us who really want to read the finished version! :)

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