home like China

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Sometimes its a smell or a feeling, or the color of the sky. Sometimes it is the temperature or an odd looking cow or a landscape. Something will remind me of China.

This morning on my walk to work I saw this water lily and it reminded me of a trip to Hangzhou. My work has taken me on many trips to visit our vendors in China and Hong Kong, but I don’t travel there anymore. I miss it. I miss the people most.

A trip to China is hard to share with folks back home. It is too big to describe in a few sentences, a story or even a pile of pictures. It is packing a carry-on size bag with enough clothes to last 17 days; running with all the other business-class folks through the airport to beat all the other passengers to the customs line; loading luggage into the back of van after van to be driven to factory after factory; watching that amazing landscape go by the van windows at 60-80 mph; viewing Santas and Snowmen and jack-o-lanterns sculpted by bright-eyed and proud sculptors who never knew these crazy characters in their childhoods; half-tolerating/half-enjoying another adventurous, vendor-hosted meal in the evening; trying to not just stay awake but also singing during an evening of karaoke; and finally falling into bed in a luxurious hotel room, sometimes overlooking a mountain or lake or harbor only to rise at 6am and do it all over again.

It is the people we meet, the stories they tell us about their families and the way they grew up. It is the open-air markets we travel by where the man is selling ducks in a box, noodles on a rack or parts from a quarter-hog on an old wooden table. It is the motorbikes loaded with a family of seven, the rickety trucks hauling vats of paint or crates of pigs, or the double-decker buses filled with travelers headed home from their factory jobs or the other way round. It is the food we eat, the sites we see, the history we learn about the places we visit. China is so very much.

All these memories and more come flooding over me on a simple walk to work. It’s not just the water lily; the oppressive heat and humidity of today is no different than a July trip to Xiamen or Guangzhou: home like China.

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