A Walk in the Park | by Andrea Russell

A Walk in the Park | by Andrea Russell

Hello. I am called Andrea. I have also been called “auntie,” “sister,” “daughter,” “friend,” and other things that I just can’t mention in this blog. I originate from New Hampshire, the United States. I have lived in Costa Rica and now in China, as have I travelled to the Dominican Republic, Chile, and most recently, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, and Canada. My thirst for travel is never quenched. The more I travel, the more I want to travel! It is a sentiment that, if you are reading this blog, you probably have in common with me.

Tonight, I left work on a Saturday evening at 5:50 p.m.

I got on my electric bike to scoot on home from my job teaching English for York. The temperature was not too hot, especially for being mid-summer in southeastern China, and the breeze was ushering me into an adventure. I strolled into my beautiful community. The gatekeeper allowing me to pass, I parked my electric bike in the charging station (with all the exploring I’d been doing in a new city I needed a solid charge!) and I walked towards my apartment.

changle

The breeze, the temperature, the setting sun— they all enticed me to stay awhile. “Don’t go upstairs to your 27th story apartment! No, you’ll never come back down! If you go up there, you will veg out, watch Youtube, and just waste your moments away.” I’ve heard this voice before. This time I obeyed. I didn’t bother going upstairs to change my clothes or my shoes. No—I followed the setting sun: literally! I walked to a park that I had noticed a few days back while exploring ChangLe on my e-bike. It was a short 15-minute walk from my apartment, so I got on my legs and I started walking!

The path was on a main road: dusty, dirty, full of construction, but also full of charm.

On my way to the park I noticed mango trees, papaya trees, and even “dragon eye” trees, which bear a fruit similar to lychee, and in Chinese is literally, well, “dragon eyes” (lóngyân—龙眼) . There were gardens, a village, an old generation: the old with the new in the foreground — progress and change., people with cars zipping by these gardens and villages.

changle

Finally, after a short walk, I reach the park. There are no people. Just me. I begin to ascend the steps. I can hear the sound of construction and bustling cars behind me. Like all Chinese parks I’ve been to (except maybe Xihu park in both Fuzhou and the original Xihu Park in Hangzhou), there are steps, steps and more steps! “ChangAn Park” (长安公园)reads the sign。Steps. Steps. The further I go, the less traffic I hear and the more singing of birds and buzzing of insects. More steps. A clearing. A place to sit. An amazing place to enjoy a book or a study session. And then, Up. Up. Up. Great exercise after being in an office all day, I think to myself.

I reach near the top of this charming and beautiful hill when I stumble across a park worker, cleaning up fallen branches and leaves after the recent torrent and destruction of Typhoon Maria hit coastal southern China.

We chat for a moment. In my understanding of Chinese, it seemed he was shocked that I was traveling alone: “个人吗?”(Literally: Just one person?) he asked multiple times during our chat. The idea that a young woman would be adventuring on her own in an unfamiliar place seemed absolutely foreign to this charming worker. He then warned of the coming “darkness.”

“不久黑黑的”he would warn me — (“soon it will be very dark!).

He warned me that I should be getting back down immediately, and he was nearly desperate that I should do so! At this point, I could tell I was very close to an open platform which would permit me to see the setting sun over ChangLe. So despite his urges, I told him I would go quickly to see the scenery and then quickly return back down. He was satisfied with this response, and asked me where I was from (his curiosity got the best of him). I said that I come from America. He told me he has a a wife (or an uncle?— unfortunately in Chinese the difference between a “wife” and an “uncle” is only one small letter away in meaning: laopo (老婆), or laobo (老伯), so I didn’t know which way was up!) that lives in New York and that he had visited a year back. He again warned of the darkness, to be quick!

I climbed up those steps to find that they weren’t at all the final steps! They kept going! But I knew this was the end of the road for me this day. He was right; it was getting dark. I snapped some pictures of the setting sun, was tempted by the staircase to continue on, but was ultimately distracted by some scurrying ants, forming a perfect line across the step I was on and continuing into the thick forest.

Do I have to? I thought to myself.

China has got a lot of things going for them, and their amazing parks are one of them! I really didn’t want to go back down, but I knew that I needed to. To appease that sweet man (mostly that), and also because I didn’t know if that trail made a full loop around.

I began to descend. I came across this same man, and as before, he urged me to get down quickly before it got dark. He thought that it was crazy I was traveling as one person (个人)but then vocally appeased himself with the thought that it was safe here (which it was), so no need to worry. He also told me, next time, come earlier, before the darkness comes! I may or may not obey.

I descend, and so does the sun. This place is beautiful.

I feel great. The further I descend the more noise I hear. No, it’s not insects this time, or birds. I hear construction. Traffic. Cars. Down. Down. Down. I reach the base. What was a quiet park entrance when I first had arrived an hour was now a bustling park plaza. Children roller skating, women practicing their dance moves, people enjoying the evening air. Amazing what an hour can do!

I walk home, feeling refreshed and alive, having soaked up the clean air and the beautiful environment. I never thought a walk in the park could be so inspiring. I will go back to this park. Surely, I will. When I go back to America in January, I will miss the beautiful parks of China, as they are plentiful and they are great.

But to end this blog, I mean to say: I have a travel bug. So do you, I presume.

But sometimes the best traveling that we do is “in our backyard.” Explore your surroundings, near and far. And never forget to enjoy the moment you are in. Don’t get lost in your circumstances, nor at the other end of a camera or phone. Enjoy the world. Enjoy your surroundings. Most of all, enjoy you and your life. Get out there and explore, you travel bugs!

Andrea is a Senior Teacher at our Changle branch. To read more blog posts by her, click here.

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