My time in China is almost up!! Today I left the hotel in Xiamen to travel back to Beijing. Another 3-hour flight and then I’ll stay overnight at an airport hotel before boarding the plane for New York the next morning at 9 AM. Ugh I am not looking forward to the 13-hour flight to get home…
I played it safe in this country. I think if I hadn’t come with my parents, I would have had more trouble since my Mandarin Chinese is not very fluent. I didn’t have 100% comprehension of some things my Mandarin-only tour guide explained when we visited tourist spots. Those were the times I would ask my parents to reexplain stuff to me. 😲
Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the new memories I made in China. Some things I wouldn’t do a second time if I had the chance but it was good to experience them at least once. I’m open to visiting China again someday. I wouldn’t join a tourist group like this time because it was very costly, plus some days I had to ride the tour bus all day to get from point A to point B. I hated that!
Some new experiences:
Getting a foot massage
Cons: Beforehand I was slowly getting more nervous about the massage because had this not been part of the tourist itinerary that was already paid for, I would have asked to not participate. Hair salons, nail salons, spas, massage parlors, just about anywhere where an employee waits on me and touches me are places I avoid. I also don’t enjoy when the person is a chatterbox and/or asks me things about myself. What I imagined would happen in the situation did sort of happen. I awkwardly answered questions from the foot massage guy but it was hard. I’m shy enough as it is when I talk to someone in English, and it takes me a long time to get comfortable with someone. But I’m worse in Mandarin because I can’t express thoughts as fluently. Or I don’t know what to say! And of course, it’s a sore spot for me once someone comments on my quietness. This time it was, “She doesn’t seem to like talking much.” Meh.
Pros: The foot massage guy was good at his job, for sure. It felt a little weird at first for a stranger to be rubbing lotion all over my feet and flexing my toes in a variety of ways. He worked on one foot at a time and twice he asked me to relax after noticing I held it too stiffly. I didn’t expect him to comment on the texture of the fat (or muscles?) in my lower calves. He said they were tender and toned from exercise which is a good thing for a woman. I know there wasn’t any inappropriate context to it but the way he tested out the elasticity of my calves by pushing them back and forth makes me blush a little thinking about it now. 😂 It was kinda funny how the fat would bounce back into place every time he pulled the whole thing like a rubber band. I also had another person shave off a lot of calluses on the bottom of my feet. Though it’s been more than a few days since my feet got a makeover and I can already see new calluses starting to form from all the walking I’ve done.
Climbing the Great Wall
Cons: I didn’t do research on what it’s like to climb the Great Wall. I try to walk a lot in everyday life (12,000 steps!) and do regular walking fitness exercises, so I assumed I was good to go when the opportunity came. What came as a surprise was the steps of the Great Wall are not all the same height. Some are taller than others which forces people to take a larger step and exert themselves more. It was very easy to get winded halfway up one set of steps before the next section so mini-breaks helped. Sweating profusely was unavoidable. I wore yoga pants that day! There were handrails at the sides and it helped to keep my grip if I went up a higher step. I have no idea how other people had the energy to stop and take photos as they were actively walking up. I did pose for pictures but only when I reached sections at the top of staircases where I could rest. The going down part was terrifying…I could see the view of everything down below. That increased my fear of heights so I kept my gaze on the step in front of me with every step I took.
I had such a difficult time that my dad offered to hold my hand. At one time I was forced to move away from the side handrail because someone was going up, and that left me standing in the middle of the staircase with nothing to hold onto. Panic set in and I tried breathing in and out deeply. I only managed one step down before I froze; the plunging view below shocked me. I felt as if I would tumble all the way down if I moved at all. Had it been a few more seconds, I am sure I would have burst into tears from fright. It takes a lot for me to cry so that was no joke. My dad who was ahead of me some steps down noticed and came back up to help. My kneecaps were super sore for 2 days after this downward hike.
Pros: The background view at each rest stop was beautiful. The hilarity of going up was all the people in front of me got tired and stopped at almost the same times as me. I saw some people ahead give up and start trekking back down. That was so understandable! I liked seeing people of all body types going up the Great Wall. It was wonderful to visit a place I only knew from online. I climbed the Jinshanling path which was crowded but probably not as much as the Baidaling route.
Seeing a real panda
Cons: Pandas have always interested me. They are like the mascot animal of China, especially considering how few of them are left in the wild. I have mixed feelings about the conservation efforts of raising pandas in captivity. Human intervention to aid in increasing the panda population seems great but I worry about how animals live in enclosures and if that kind of life has enough enrichment for an animal’s natural instincts. This also brings to mind the ethics of zoos in general and if the money generated from them actually go towards bettering the animals or are the animals just being used as a money making scheme? My last complaint is about the behavior of some of the people who visited Beijing Zoo. They didn’t respect the rules at all. The signs clearly said no feeding the animals and no knocking on the glass enclosures but they did both anyway. 😑 It pissed me off that people couldn’t just let the animals be and banged on the glass to try to get their attention, all the sake of a nabbing a good photo.
Pros: Having the opportunity to observe real, live pandas, it was worth the trip. There’s something so cute and lovable about their physical appearance, from their black-and-white pattern to their round bums. The Mandarin Chinese word for giant panda is “大熊貓” (dàxióngmāo) literally means “big bear cat”. I can appreciate that while my perception makes me think a panda is a cuddly bear, this is still a wild and powerful animal with claws.
Being hit on by a Chinese guy
Cons: This experience was more of an “okay that was awkward and let’s hope it never happens again” type of feel to it. Near the hotel I stayed in in Xiamen, whole streets had little shops selling all types of meals and snacks. It was common to see employees standing outside shops with food samples or flyers attempting to interest passersby into coming in. One evening after I had a full dinner and was walking back to the hotel, a guy said to me, “Pretty lady, come and have a meal?” (That is the rough translation of what he said in Mandarin, “美女, 吃飯吧.”) I’m sure my eyes got wide like big saucers at this point, lol. I know he was purposefully complimenting me to try to entice me to check out the shop but it still felt weirdly intimidating.
Pros: Are there any pros to this situation? XD It was my prerogative if I wanted to tell him, “Sorry, I already ate”, but it was also as much my choice to not answer. I walked past with a straight face without saying anything but afterward couldn’t help laughing nervously like, “uhhhh what was that?”
Almost getting scammed
Cons: It’s scary enough getting approached on the streets of New York by scammers but it was a total surprise in Beijing. It might have been the second or third night since my parents and I joined the tourist group. After dinner, the tour guide allowed us an hour to browse a shopping mall street on our own. On the way back, a lady stopped my dad and prompted him for help to buy a meal for her child. It was shocking because at first glance she looked very put together; makeup and immaculate clothes. A man was beside her pushing a baby carriage. I caught a glimpse of an infant but didn’t stop to think anything except something was off about the situation. The worst is as the three of us walked away, the couple followed us closely and kept imploring us to consider it because their child was so young.
Pros: I suppose the experience taught me bad people can show up even in the most unassuming of places.