Back From China…Early Thoughts

Imperial Summer Garden, Beijing, China

We just flew in from Hong Kong two days ago…or was it three…the combination of jet lag, fatigue and a nasty Chinese cold have all turned my brain into a discombobulated mushy mess…I have no idea when was when or what day it is today in relation to what day we left Hong Kong. What I do know is that it was a very long flight home, fighting nausea and ickiness the entire 24 hours it took us to get from there to here.

Now we’re home, wide awake and hungry at 3am, both sick with this icky cold that just won’t go away, every muscle sore from both the long flight in uncomfortable seats and the cold. But so very very glad to be home.

I don’t have pictures ready to post yet, though I might muster the energy to find one or two to post here today.

But I wanted to come and get rid of some of the less favourable baggage we’ve been carrying for most of the three weeks that we were trekking through China. Maybe doing so will clear the way for better memories to poke through and bring some happier stories to tell.

The first and most overriding sentiment about this trip is “brutal”. It was an almost intolerably brutal pace from the first day, with very little downtime for the first entire week. Most of our days began very early in the morning and involved endless rushing around to get from one magnificent sight to the next, which after only a day at this pace turned everything into a hectic blur. We had to be mindful to just stop still once in awhile to soak in the surroundings and to allow our eyes to feast on the colours and splendor…but when we did that, we got so far behind our tour guide, that we risked getting totally lost in the overwhelming enormity of the bustling crowds who could quite easily have swept us along to other places we weren’t meant to go.

Most days, especially for the first week or so, had us leaving the hotel early in the morning and not returning (or moving onto the next new hotel) until late at night. These 10-14 hour days were brutal on all of us. Much time was spent on the bus commuting from one sight to another in the bumper to bumper traffic through enormous cities of Beijing, Xian, Chongqing and Shanghai, not to mention the “smaller” rural areas whose populations are larger than all of Canada put together! But those hours spent in the bus were not the downtime we craved, since the guides loved to use that time to describe the cities we were visiting and the sights we were seeing either en-route or were en-route to see. It was too much to absorb, but we all tried to soak in as much as we could. Unfortunately after awhile, each place just melted into the next and many of us had difficulty keeping up with where we were at any given time.

One of the first questions people have asked us since our return is “how was the food?” The food was one of the reasons my husband most wanted to go to China in the first place. And the food was perhaps the biggest disappointment for him and most of us. Most of the meals were served on large platters to be shared by everyone at the big round table. Our group was broken into three tables…our particular table was constantly feeling underfed – there was never enough food to go around, which made those first few meals very unpleasant…I have to admit to having flashes of “Lord of the Flies” flitting through my mind in those early days!

It took us a few meals to figure out that the other two tables only had 8 people, but our table had 10 – but they were serving us the same portions as the other tables! So there WAS never enough to go around. Once we pointed out the problem to our tour leader, she fixed it, and while there was never really enough protein to satisfy everyone, at least there was one of everything so that each of us could have one small portion. The food, like so much else in China, was rationed and controlled, making mealtimes a regular exercise in restraint and learning to be grateful for what little WAS served.

After a few days, the food all looked and tasted the same. There was very little variety. All the same ingredients, sometimes cooked slightly differently which was warmly celebrated with enthusiasm and relief, but those moments were rare, sad to say. Ultimately, the food was sufficient to keep us somewhat nourished, but with very little protein provided and never really enough to feel full (especially after all those hours of walking and climbing), in the end it was nothing close to what hubby or many of us had hoped to experience. With dire warnings of potential disaster and risk constantly ringing in our ears, we also felt disinclined to try the various offerings beckoning to us at the numerous vendor kiosks and shopping markets. So that was another disappointment for dear hubby.

Thankfully, the ancient sights, the people we met along the way and magnificent scenery all balanced out the pace and food problems. Mid-way through the tour, we enjoyed a four-day river cruise along the Yangtzee River, and this provided us all with lovely respite and chance to recharge our batteries, not to mention an abundance of protein and fresh fruit and vegetables at the buffet table!

I’ll write more about the actual itinerary in my next blog. In the meantime, I’ll try to get this body of mine reoriented and un-discombobulated!

Being on the Great Wall of China was the highlight of the trip for me!

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
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2 Responses to Back From China…Early Thoughts

  1. I’m so glad you had the chance to go – what an experience! Can’t wait to see more pictures.


    • Sharon says:

      We will always be grateful for having enjoyed the opportunity to be there and to travel so extensively through the country. While the pace was grueling, it’s what allowed us to see so much in such a short period of time. Our tour leader was phenomenal, and as time heals our colds and fatigue, the memories of all that we saw and experienced will deepen our appreciation for having been there. Lots of pictures to sort through!


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