In 36 hours, I will be back in New York, after almost 14 months living in China. I can’t really explain adequately this entire Fulbright experience so I won’t.
But here are some of the things I will miss about Hangzhou: The smell of the air during fall, all sweet from the trees and flowers. My local fruit sellers who always explained to me where each fruit was from and what the differences were when I asked; they have already moved on and their shop is empty with blank white shelves now. The two brothels I’d pass on 丰潭路that also seem to have closed; no more bored prostitutes watching tv but I will remember how cold they looked during the winter with jackets on but long legs bared. My favorite northeastern style dumplings place where I’d order a sichuan dish of double-cooked pork, full of garlic greens and thick cut pork belly, for 13rmb and the man with the lazy eye would take my money while the older lady would ask me if I was a translator since I always seemed to come with foreigners. Bicycle rides to places off my Hangzhou map, into the suburbs with tiny alleyways of restaurants and stalls. The canal by my complex which releases mosquitoes all summer and reflects the red light of the psychology hospital’s sign at night. The mountain path, up and down stone steps for kilometers and kilometers, nowhere to buy water along the way and very few other hikers, from Lao He Shan, past Lingyin and Beigaofeng, and south and south and south to those mountains I have not yet been to. M, in those early days, when we would sit on the couch together and he would show me movies and answer my questions and we’d talk about the strangeness of relationships in China. The pepper-filled rou jia mo from my local Qinghai hand-pulled noodles place, cumin seeds all over and the bun grilled in oil so that it crunches in your mouth. The Grandma’s’ tea-smoked chicken and those razor clam noodles that have no razor clams, just glass noodles and egg and beansprouts and scallions. Having my own bay windows and bathroom in the best apartment I’ve ever had, complete with views of the mountains and the neighboring building’s trellis of vines. Late night stalls on the street corners for noodles or rice stir-fried with an egg and greens for 7rmb or some grilled meat or veggies on sticks. The fuzhuangcheng (clothing city) that I just discovered today. All the delicious egg tarts, crisp and buttery and flaky. My roommates, Sunnie and P.F. and M, who will all be moving to different apartments and maybe even moving to a different city.
I’ll still be updating this blog especially since I haven’t quite caught up with previous travels and stories yet and I’ll be continuing on with my project. But I’ve packed my bags (1 checked bag, 1 carry-on, 1 backpack) and somehow managed to squeeze everything into smaller bags than I came with. My room is the neatest it’s been in ages. I’ve walked around West Lake and seen the Baochu Tower one last time (there’s construction going on, I wonder what these mountain paths will look like this time next year. Things change so quickly here) and through a bamboo forest. I’ve taken my last bus, paying for it in coins rather than my bus card. This is it. I’ll see you sometime in the future, Hangzhou. China, I’ll definitely be coming back.