Once in awhile, I get hit by a sudden gust of love for this city. It’s a good thing too, because Lord knows I need those feelings to keep me from flying away.
The other night it came as I was riding home on one of those new city bikes you can rent for one kuai. These bikes alone must have something to do with this sudden surge of happiness. There is always one waiting for you wherever you might need it, and mean that instead of being stuck in traffic or spending your money on frustrating taxi rides, you can ride with the wind in your hair and the sometimes-sun on your face. Even Margot prefers it to the hated stroller, riding snuggled up in my wrap carrier, content as can be.
As I rode along that evening, dusk descending on the streets, everything began to pop as though I was being slapped in the face with reminders of why living in this old Chinese city has ground its way into me and may feel like something akin to love. Albeit the kind of love that grows cranky over time, knowing the shared years have brought you closer in a way you wouldn’t trade but still leave you highly irritated by the uncontrolled farts and nasty hoar hairs.
Still there was this sudden upsurge of love. For the culture. The beauty. The chaos and noise. The people. The familiar wonder of it all—the fact that such a foreign place has become so familiar.
A Tibetan monk passed in front of me, his crimson robe swaying against his heels.
An old woman alighted from the bus into the warmest welcome; her aged friend grasping her shoulders, rocking her back and forth in delight, then cupping her face in her hands, fingers dancing on her cheeks as if to say it’s you and I’m so glad.
The heavy scent of smoky, cumin-roasted chuanr hung in the streets, following me home.
I rolled past my favorite strawberry seller, past the concrete covered “park” where I have taken my kids for years now, filling with the dance groups and their boisterous music boxes, past the big old trees swaying in an uncommon evening breeze, past a tiny woman and her tall son, he with her hand in his and she laughing at something he said.
I get to live here. Farts and hoar hairs and moments of unexpected grace and all.