I am sitting on my balcony. Just beyond the trees a baseball game is in progress. It is a cloudy Sunday in the Jimei district of Xiamen of the Fujan Province of Southeast China.
Today I decided, in China you can look left or right. For sure, it is crowed, polluted, busy and full of stress and strife. It is also full of beauty, wonder and innate kindness.
It is like my view. If I look left I can see a handsome new building that pays homepage to the land's ancient architecture and the sea beyond. At night that is where the sun sets. If I look right I see aging white tiles, predominant in Maoist building, and a reclusive Australian neighbor's outdoor space, which often includes a decaying piece of fruit or vegetable. I am going to believe it is food for a pet bird that is allowed to roam free.
In two short weeks I have had the privilege of meeting interesting people, seeing incredible sites and learning about a foreign world. This city has 7,000,000 in habitants. For a girl from a town of less than 10,000 it is hard to quantify. After the May Day holiday last week, I was sure that I had encountered close to all of them as well as their extended families. But still I walk the crowded streets and find it is possible to be your unique self amidst such chaos.
When it rains, the drops are huge, reminiscent of s scene from a Street Car Named Desire. When the sun is out the air around you is like a blanket. The markets are brimming with enormous,verdant vegetables and colorful exotic fruit. Fish, fowl and all manner of four legged creatures are brought in buy local farmers to fill your table.
At night there are different markets, ones that sell any manner of consumer goods you might fancy. If you are adventurous they are also a place to enjoy one of the finest meals you will ever eat. Fresh, cooked to your liking and all for pennies.
In one shop I will encounter derision, in another pure joy at a foreigner gracing their doorstep. Unlike in the US or Europe where we proclaim, you need to speak our language if you are going to come here, the Chinese are embarrassed if they can not greet you in your own tongue. An early morning walk through a park finds people of all ages exercising-anything from ti chi to power walking. Grandparent's with children will take pride in seeing the little ones say HELLO.
As for the neighbor, he is not the only reclusive one. The Chinese are far more hospitable than the expats in my building. I decided the other day that I would make Spaghetti and Meatballs, as close to Rocci Cecchini's recipe as I can get here, and invite them all to share. Hopefully they will come and tell me the tales of what brought them to such foreign shores.
Afterward I am going to have an evening of pasta with my new Chinese friends. Hopefully I can coerce a few to come back and give me lessons in the wonderful cuisine they are so right to be proud of.
I choose to look left and am all the happier for it.....