I wrote this blog in segments so when I refer to “today” or “yesterday” see the date above.
I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned in China is how to be alone. Major parts of my life have been trying to find a group so I would not be alone. It has been trying to find someone to connect to so I feel like there is somewhere I can call home. Well, during my time in China, I really have no friends here. This means I have to learn to be OK with myself. I think many people struggle with this. Even in college, people thirst for acceptance. I cannot say I am not part of this group, but in China, I have learned it is OK to be alone. The people who think others are “losers” for eating dinner or doing an activity alone are the ones who need to learn.
On this topic, today is Chinese lover’s day aka their Valentine’s Day. I will say excuse me as you read this because this post will get very Eat Pray Love very quickly. Anyway, the day does not really bother me. The US Valentine’s Day is not until February and I will be with the one I love at that time. So today I was on my own for dinner so I decided to try out a nice American coffee shop/restaurant that was recommended to me by a friend’s sister who spent last summer in Kunming. I heard many expats go there to hang out and eat so I thought why not. I was craving some Western food anyway. So I Google Maps where to go and go on my way to dinner. I feel pretty comfortable walking around Kunming now so I was not very nervous about getting there. Once I walked in though, I was riddled with nerves. Where was I going to sit? Do I read my book and wait for a waitress? Do I read while I eat? What do I do? I plan everything in my life so no wonder I was already planning my escape plan.
I sat down at the bar and a waitress quickly handed me a menu. I had already looked at the menu online and had decided I wanted a quesadilla. If you know nothing about me, you should know that there are few things in the world that I love more than Mexican food. Back home, I probably eat Mexican 2-3 times a week. Anything with black beans is worth eating. Anyway, I looked over the menu and knew I wanted a Mediterranean quesadilla and a pineapple juice mix. Once I ordered, the woman nodded her head and I began reading my book. One of my favorite traditions I have is with two of my best friends, Molly and Charlotte. We only give each other gifts if they are from a thrift store. Most of the time it is eclectic housewares (like the giant gold spoon I gave Molly which I still don’t know what it is used for). Of course there are exceptions, but it is more fun to have to be creative. Anyway, one of the last gifts I got from Charlotte was “The Help”. Charlotte and I both share a mutual love for books. I have been reading “The Help”, and I absolutely love it. One of the most popular lines from the book and one of my favorite lines is from a maid who tells a little girl “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” This one line has a lot of power behind it. I say this because I don’t think many people in the world love themselves. We get our self-worth from others. In reality, it should only ever come from yourself. I know this can sound hypocritical from myself since I don’t always love myself, but I think it is really important to remember this. When you are alone, you don’t have to be lonely. If you are OK with spending time by yourself, you will never truly be alone.
Many people feel uncomfortable because they fear of being judged or feeling alone. Tonight at dinner, I was alone, but I did not feel alone. I read this interesting opinions article by a woman who says travelling alone is better than with others. In this world, too many woman are afraid to do anything alone. I cannot say I have truly ever travelled completely alone, but I think it is a triumph for myself to eat dinner alone even if it is considered small. One part of me dreads it, but I think another part of it is exhilarating. I can choose what I want to eat, where I want to eat, if I want to go on a walk afterwards, if I want sorbet, if I want a donut, and I do not have to consider anyone but myself. This trip has mainly been me with 10 other people. Sometimes it is nice to eat a donut stuffed with chocolate and watch an indie flick. Sometimes it means eating dinner and being able to actually read. Anyway, this trip has meant me learning to be OK alone. It is a learning process of course, but I think it may be one of the most valuable lessons I can learn. I mean who else can you count on more than yourself, right?
Here is the article I am referring to http://time.com/3708374/women-travel-alone/
Yesterday, I went to the Shilin Stone Mountains. The Stone Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was pretty interesting! The mountains are Karst limestone that have moved above ground due to the movement of tectonic plates. It is quite remarkable what Mother Nature can do! I walked almost the entire park. Plus, I was too cheap to purchase the ticket for the electric car so I walked about 1.8 miles to get there and 1.8 miles back plus whatever I did in the park. It was quite the experience though! It was the first real day off I have had this entire trip. It was not as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was more exciting to feel the wind on my face as I sat in a pagoda overlooking the stone features. I am not the type that enjoys relaxing too much, but I have to say this time was one of the best.
A quick note on culture:
Chinese weddings. I won’t get into great detail, but I think they have some interesting traditions. So for one, if you are from a village, the first born son must live with his wife and his parents after getting married. I think this is interesting because most American couples would refuse to ever follow this tradition. Also, the groom’s parents may have to purchase the couple a house and a car. If you live in a city, the groom may be expected to purchase the bride a house and a car and a house for his future in-laws! Of course this does not hold for all of China, but I sure think it is interesting.
Anyway, I have been hanging out in Kunming. We are not really sure what the plans are while the team finishs up in the field. I have been doing some data entry (oh, sooo much fun) and trying to start working on Ch2 of my thesis. I haven't finished Ch1 but my advisor said it may be easier to that last so I think I will take that approach. The introdution to anything is the hardest part.