Over the past weeks, more and more I was getting urges to explore China. Now that I’m freeing-up more of my time to relax and engage more in this PRESENT experience (rather than being so far into the book-world that I’d become blind to the actual world I’m living in), I’ve been becoming increasingly eager to branch out.
Jinzhou was losing its brightness… and I was missing fresh air, the sea, the mountains, the greenery… I was seeing this city as being one compressed file of buildings, buildings and more buildings. So, Saturday night after work, I knew I had to get out of this place, even just for a few hours… Every bit of me was in need of it… my lungs didn’t want anymore pollution, my head didn’t want to feel the pressure of city life, my eyes didn’t want to see these grey buildings anymore, my ears didn’t want to hear the traffic… My overall appreciation for Jinzhou needed to be rekindled and the travel juices needed to be set flowing once again.
But before I could do this, there was something I needed to overcome. I had this little obstacle that had been stopping me from exploring, ever since arriving in Jinzhou: the language! This barrier meant I wasn’t able to read timetables, tickets, directions, destinations… I hadn’t a clue as to how the whole system of public transportation worked. I’d only been out of Jinzhou ONCE in the past 5 months!!!!! And that was with Lauren, who took it upon herself to sort our tickets and the directions. She also had enough Chinese to get us there without any problems. But, now I wanted to branch out ALONE… How would this work, if there was no English ANYWHERE and ALL I WAS SEEING WAS CHINESE CHARACTERS? How would this work, if I wasn’t able to ask ANYBODY what ticket I wanted, what bus I needed, what stop I had to get off at… if NOBODY SPEAKS ANYTHING MORE THAN ‘HELLO’. I can’t really give out, because I’m no better! My Chinese doesn’t go beyond: “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “I don’t understand”, “I don’t know”, “it doesn’t matter”, “right”, “straight ahead”, “stop here”, “where”... oh and… “green tea!”… (okay, I probably do know a little bit more than this, but still not enough to understand what they’re saying to me).
So, how would this work? I had to accept help where it was being given. So I got Elaine from work to tell me where the nearest seaside was. She also sussed out my trains times online (something I couldn’t do either, as it’s all in Chinese characters). She had to write the directions as well as the questions I needed, which were only 2: “Can I have one ticket to Xing Cheng” and “Can I have one ticket to Jinzhou”… (Xing Cheng is the place I decided to explore). Everything else was just guess work… And I knew I had her on the end of the phone if I really got stuck and lost in translation.
Was I confident to do this alone? I had to be. There was no choice in the matter… Not when my sanity was at stake ;) So, off I went on Monday morning… and wouw… I was amazed at how easy it was!! I felt deaf and dumb at the ticket counter, as I gave her the note with my questions written down on it! And I was just agreeing to everything they were saying, as I didn’t know what else to say… BUT that didn’t matter. Because I managed to get myself on the right train and the right bus! And only 2 hours after leaving Jinzhou I was at the beach!!! Yay yay yay… I couldn’t believe it. It was the best day I’ve had in so long. I wasn’t lost in translation at all! And I just had to constantly remind myself of how funny this whole situation really was… because I honestly don’t think that I’ll ever find myself to be in a place where I feel so NOT UNDERSTOOD…
What a liberating feeling: the language didn’t get the better of me. China had opened up its doors and suddenly I was seeing everything so fresh and new. Xing Cheng is a small tourist resort only an hour from Jinzhou… The city itself would, to most, seem to be pretty similar to Jinzhou, but to me it felt so different. Man, I suddenly loved China so much and everything that had become normal in Jinzhou, seemed so surreal, inspiring and cool in Xing Cheng. The donkeys, the carts, the stalls, the colours, the characters, the Asian feel… I was so inspired and it got my travel juices as well as my writing juices flowing! Yes… life was amazing…
I hung out at the beachside all day… writing, walking, looking, taking pictures, reading and having a ball, all by myself! I didn’t feel saddened that it was suddenly time to make my way back to the bus, the train and ultimately to Jinzhou, because I knew I could come back! I knew what it was I needed in this current situation, so as to always be on top of the game! There were no more barriers. And from now on I can explore every weekend if I want! All I have to do is accept some help from those who know this country and I don’t have to feel like a failure for doing so. I can’t wait for my next day trip, to whatever place it may be… all I hope is that it will again be by the sea!!!! Yay… I was totally refuelled by the end of the day… so to round it off and bring all that energy into my current contacts, I went to the club with the guys from work and had the best night ever…without getting ‘high’ on alcohol, but instead just being ‘high’ on life and becoming temporarily the ruler of the dance floor!