China, Day 9: Zaijian (Goodbye), China!

After last night’s festivities that led until the wee hours of the morning, I managed to wake up today before anyone else in my hostel room. I was famished, so I immediately set out for my last breakfast in China. All I wanted was a nice, hot bowl of pork dumplings, and it took me over two hours of wandering through the streets to find it.

I came back to the hostel, met my ride, and by noon was headed to the airport. Finally, after a long delay on the runway, I was in the air by 4:30 pm. I arrived in Seoul around 8:00 pm, retrieved my bag (the last one out, of course), and took the bus home to Pyeongchon, finally bounding into home-sweet-home around 9:30 pm.

So all I can say is that it is good to be home. I never thought I would say this, but by the end of the week in China, I was really missing all things Korean and very ready to come back. Spending a week in that strange country was all I needed to count my blessings and really appreciate my Asian home-away-from-home.

So a little recap of random Chinese experiences:

First, I will never look at ordinary Western toilets with anything but complete appreciation and admiration. Any modicum of modesty I had left before going to China has completely vanished. If I never have to squat over a hole next to another person (no doors or walls, of course) facing six Chinese women who have no qualms about staring, then I will not die an unhappy person.

Two “toilets” in a bathroom I had the pleasure of using… Posted by Picasa

Secondly, I wish I had taken a picture of it, but one of my favorite sights in China was the babies. First of all, they have really big heads…it is such a strange phenomenon, considering nobody’s head seems abnormally large after the age of about two. Also, I do not understand why, but diapers have not caught on in China. Instead, babies’ outfits all have huge cut-out sections at the bottom, so their little bear hinies hang out. If the kid has to go, I suppose the mother gets a warning shot, to which she then holds the baby out (over a bush? a drain? an enemy’s head???) to do its business.

Thirdly, I thought the drivers in Korea were bad, but the Chinese are maniacs. In one afternoon in Xi’an alone, I saw two pedestrians get hit by cars. The first one was an older woman, writhing in pain on the street, while the passengers in the guilty van hung out of the window, staring at the victim and casually chewing gum.

Finally, I cannot begin to count how many photos I took with random Chinese people this past week. In Beijing, especially, people come up to you asking if you could take a picture. In the beginning, I naively tried to grab their cameras to play photographer; however, I soon realized that they wanted a picture with me! I was completely caught off guard, but realized that since I was in major tourist spots, these must be Chinese tourists as well. I assume they came from small towns that had never seen the likes of a young, blonde American girl. Of course, I posed like a movie star, but by the end of the week it was getting quite annoying. I do not know how foreigners living in China manage!

A random family photo…hey, who stole my eyes? Posted by Picasa

So that’s it in a nutshell. I had a terrific time, experienced things that I will never forget (including things I would like to forget!), and met many wonderful people. I know without a doubt that I will be back to China in the near future… maybe next time I’ll check out Southern China and Tibet. One thing is pretty much certain: While I love traveling alone, I feel like my solo travels are coming to an end. Japan was easy, but it would have been very nice to have had another person with me in China. I am a tough cookie, but I do not have to be that tough all the time! Here’s to hoping I can meet a cool traveling partner who is up for things like hiking a mountain in the middle of the night and not taking showers for days…Any takers???

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