A Travellerspoint blog

Bye Bye New York, hello Hong Kong

...two steps sixteen hours apart.

semi-overcast 22 °C

It's half past midnight and I'm eating carrots and pistachios. If I had a spoon I would also be digging into the rice, but I forgot to pack utensils. The terminal at JFK is filled with people, and it's safe to say that every single one of them is absorbed by something behind an electronic screen (including myself, as I write). It's hard to know, but I imagine the majority of the passengers in this flight are returning home to Hong Kong. Maybe not. Maybe some are actually Chinese-Americans visiting family. One thing is certain: my wild hair and round eyes are as strange here as book reading or conversing with strangers.
The red-eye schedule seems to have little bearing on people's energy levels. There are young kids watching music videos while they sing animated but in a moderate volume. Not a single person is sleepy-looking, they way I presume I must look right now. But I'm not giving up. I'm reminding my body that this may look like midnight out there, but it's lunchtime where we're all going. So I chew my carrots and pistachios evenly, enjoying the salty tinge mixing with the moist fibers of the carrot, hoping for a mouthful of rice and the fortitude to stay awake a few more hours. With luck I'll be sleeping in the cabin, something that, to me, represents the epitome of discomfort.

  • **

Everyone in this flight speaks Cantonese, and if it weren't for the bilingual flight attendants, I would be signaling my way through meals and drinks. Sixteen hours in high altitude confines were looming ahead. Not even halfway up the sky, I was chatting with the young couple sitting next to me. Although not really "a couple," Dani and Ken were close friends who met two years ago studying in Philadelphia, and going back home to Hong Kong for a visit. They were curious about my trip, and amazed at the few things certain to me upon landing, but took my aloof, carefree attitude with a grain of salt. Through the sixteen hours up there, Dani, Ken and I took breaks between movie-watching, video-gaming and napping, and had five minute flash chats, in which I was giddily nervous about being understood, and not speaking a toddler's worth of chinese. But both Dani and Ken were immediately concerned, in a very loving way, about my well being. Arriving at Hong Kong was then tinged with a spectral familiarity, not because having been there, but because my new friends were leading the way. We stepped out into the muggy morning, passed through customs and got our luggage. They offered me a phone call or two, so I contacted a couch-surfing host who offered to at least take me around and have breakfast. No answer. Everything moved so quickly, even thought the 5 am airport was virtually empty. Things got quicker when Dani's dad showed up to pick them up. All of them looked up at me, parting expressions on all of us. I had their numbers, they said, I can call any time. My momentum quelled, but Dani's phone rang, The host was calling me back. We agreed a place and time to meet, and I felt a bit less torn about staying alone in the airport.

Posted by findmywuwei 18:07 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged flying travel airport friends chinese arriving departing long_flight Comments (1)

Do you have everything?

... are you sure?

semi-overcast 10 °C

Chelsea's cricket's woke us up at 4 AM. The chirps from her phone made her jump out of bed, but I woke up milliseconds before they were set off. My eyes opened to the moon, shining bright, shaped like a flower from behind the curtain. I can't tell you what I dreamed of, but it was adventure tinged for sure. Five hours before I was closing my eyes and watching a candle burn behind my eyelids. I tried picturing the flame as vividly as possible, but the picture moved, flew up and down, turned around defying gravity.

Someday I would like to sail across the ocean. We've become accustomed to flying everywhere, but that won't last forever; the clouds will fight us to the end and the atmosphere will compress the airplanes out of the sky. All the while, sailing will have been so forgotten, so few true sailor will be alive, that when we'll need to traverse the globe in search for other consciousness, we will be stranded, waiting for the star readers to come to shore. My eyes closed, I pictured a sailboat. At first thought, I imagined sailing through the ocean as a straight line over an unchanging blue map. Realizing my naïvety, I began to picture the most realistic needs for a sailing trip to China. Why not, my dreams and my imagination can take me there, even if a plane is taking me there in 24 hours. The sailboat bobbed up and down in my mind, and a cat appeared from under the deck. I'll sail with a cat. An adventurous one, unafraid of the dark depth below us. And what of food? How do sailors do it? I guess a dry storage of grains, the least perishable kinds of dried vegetables? But, I want to eat lots of fish with.... salad greens. So I set off my fishing line, and designed a hydroponic lab where all kinds of greens lived. (wouldn't it be awesome? I want to try it!) And so, the night rolled over the sails of my dreams.

Dream of everything you can possibly fathom. I dreamed of traveling to China and got all the steps to make it. I'm sure my star driven, hydroponic, cat-accompanied sailboating is just over the horizon. All the everything's that will be required for your dreams to come to reality will present themselves in due time. When all is picked and packed, we find that the journey isn't made by us, it is given to us. Chelsea, my dear friend, is taking me to the airport. She is laughing, amazed at the small suitcase I packed for the three months ahead. I scratch my head and laugh too, not because it seems impossible, but because it feels perfect.

Posted by findmywuwei 03:04 Archived in USA Tagged flying packing dreaming asheville imagination dreams waking_up Comments (0)

OK, formalities aside, let's eat

...and a bit more, please.

semi-overcast 19 °C

The first two entries of this blog amuse me. They are like rolled turkey on crackers, pretending to be caviar hors d'oeuvres. Let me tell you something about me. Since I was a fourteen-year old school reject, I've been fascinated with the French language. Not even necessarily the French culture, not because it isn't fascinating, just because I didn't know or care to learn anything about it. All I cared about was the alluring lull of the language. I grasped it well, and studied it until college. As I learned more, I realized I needed to go to France... no, I wanted to go to France. But I didn't. I worked and went to school and talked about how much I wanted that trip. Fourteen years old when I started, fourteen years of French studies later, inconsistent ones, but fourteen years, I'm embarking on my first trip out, into the world, my first excursion beyond the three or four Americas, and I'm finally going to.... China.

Life's this way. Step right up. It's funny how we may heat the skillet, take out the butter, grease the hot cast iron and instead of pouring pancake batter, we end up flicking a blender switch and make smoothies. Sometimes we even let the butter burn a little, because in the process of making up our minds we forget to turn the range off. But that's how some parts of life work.

Instead of going to a country I may not know well, but in which I may be able to tell, quite clearly actually, if I'm being asked wether I want the ham soup or some liquid detergent, I'm going to a country where discerning between meal choices is the same as understanding wether I'm being asked, told, demanded, or being brushed off for being laowai. Not that it bothers me in the least. I'm so excited about going to China, I could run around the block naked with a mad grin on my face. Nor am I scared; I will navigate my surroundings with amusement and grace (I presume.) But those fourteen years of French in my head will serve me only for one thing: French tourists in South China. This weighs so heavily in my mind, I've actually fantasized about running into a francophone tour group and subversively tagging along, perhaps making casual banter with a white-shorts-and-caqui-sock wearing Pierre. In the four months I've had the ticket to China, I've learned such a small amount of Mandarin words and tones, I'll be surprised if I don't get slapped the first time I'll ask a waitress for tofu and the "ma?" at the end of my request sounds more like an insult than a question.

But that's how I chose to do it. Perhaps that's how my whole life has been. It explains things like finally starting to love math in college but declaring a Music major, or getting a car driver's license but always wanting a motorcycle. The fact is, we all make something out of nothing, and we all make it differently. There are as many flavors of traveller are there are rice dishes in the whole world, if not more. Some pack to a list, others throw what they find in the backpack and go. Some plan up to the toilet stops, others stick out their thumbs and ride the chancy winds. Some wait until the end of their lives to go anywhere at all, other's get a job as soon as it is legal and spend their first hard saved earnings going where they please. Some prepare for French and en up getting Chinese.

Posted by findmywuwei 05:31 Archived in USA Tagged food france travel china funny packing language french tour chinese meals comic prep choices creative_non-fiction Comments (0)

Tying the loose caboose

...and getting everything ready for airtime. (Including my head)

18 °C

Up front, how many times have you wrapped up your life and stocked it, put it in suspended mode, to go adventure?

Guessing that this is a traveller's site, your answers will invariably be similar and affirmative. But hoping that this blog reaches many others who haven't gotten to go out into the world, I ask the above question. You homebodies, you marauders of the local urbanity, you itinerant suburbans, you wrap up you life and stock it more often than you think. But you do it in small, quantified doses. You pack up winter clothes come spring, unhinge pull out couches for family, put away dirty laundry for that fancy visitor you've been dying to have over. Packing up our lives happens constantly, and it unhappens just as constantly, so that we hardly ever notice it. We're all children of Penelope, weaving and unweaving life at every junction. This we call routine.

Leaving for a long trip is taking the darn yarn and and stuffing it, saying thank you and good-bye to the routine. Yet routine is instrumental to its own defeat! We follow a regimen so we can free ourselves of it. For the last months I've been working three jobs while going to school full time, have sold every bit of property I could, and have gotten financially supported (in small contributions that added up to sustaining stipends) by a few very generous individuals, all for the realization of a small dream. I pushed myself in ways I didn't think I could, and recalled...
Five years ago, were you to find me at a party, and had you talked to me about your recent travels, I would've said: "I've always wanted to go there!" or, "I don't know how you do it!". Strange, but somewhere along those five years I figured out how you managed. There is no set how, there is only the belief and the drive. When I began to believe I would find myself in China come summertime, I began to make every move of my body a move closer to the East. The more I snuck upon that eastern horizon, the more confidence I felt that I would succeed. Not to say that I was an iron pillar; in the early spring I spent more money on Toblerone and ice cream than I should've. My work station wasn't the zen focus I wished it to be. I was distracted and aloof as always. I nearly failed an subject. But through it all, here I sit, packing up a small bag for the next two and half months.

We are fortunate, even in an economic downturn, to live in one of the wealthier nations in the world. Fortunes are often squandered, their utmost potential unharnessed. To me, travel is a way to potentiate the opportunities we have, and there is so much money here, so many means to save up enough dough to make muffins somewhere else! Travel opens up our minds, challenges our misconceptions, exposes our hearts and chips away at our ignorance. Why wouldn't we want to "invest" in travel? Just use your imagination, be daring, and take the first step towards that dream.

Posted by findmywuwei 05:36 Archived in USA Tagged travel work packing dream prep inspiration Comments (0)

You may enjoy what is about to happen here

...my strange planning style makes for some interesting chance happenings.

sunny 24 °C

How hard is it to get out there in the world with no expectations at all? I mean, the simple act of waking up in your room every morning is imbued with a million expectations; what is it like to wake up to an unknown language being spoken, unfamiliar birds singing, strange sounds outside the window? Could I possibly go anywhere without expectations? Probably not.

In a week, I'll be boarding a an airplane for the first time. Ok, not really, but it feels like it. My chosen destination for my first trip away from the Americas? The Middle Country, as the locals call it: China.

For the next few months, you and I will tumble around the southeastern part of China, expecting anything can happen, and following a path directed by the intersections between their rural and urban landscapes that are constantly shifting. I'll tell you more about this path later. It's not a secret, I'm just not ready to disclose. It's a project of mine that has become a secondary motivation for my travels.

Wanna come with me then?

Posted by findmywuwei 11:48 Archived in USA Tagged departing Comments (5)

(Entries 9 - 13 of 13) « Page 1 [2]