From Death to Fuzhou

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Being back in Fuzhou, this grungy, comfortable, familiar little town I’ve grown attached to, is very strange. I feel like I have just barely returned from near death, watching my brain slip quickly away from me, and I have a lot to think about from that glimpse of the end of my life. At the same time, some people here didn’t even know why I was gone and, given the so completely familiar surroundings of the dorm hallways and my old room, there is the strange sense when I see those people that… maybe nothing happened. How could it have been that bad? Here I am, talking and walking normally. They seem so unconcerned, how can I be? Yet there are others who run to hug me, thankful to see me again, and this feels more in tune with what happened. I think I want that support, that reminder that I really did go through something as intense as it feels to me, that I wasn’t just skipping school.

Banyan treeIronically, I have a different way to experience this place now. My knee is improving and I can walk freely and climb stairs. I can see a place and walk to it fearlessly. The constant stress of school is also suddenly gone. I can enjoy a moment for what it is, without the terror that I’m hurtling ever further behind in every moment that I’m not staring at a book. Together, these two things open this place in a whole new way that wasn’t available before. All of this helped make last night such a surprising delight.

I wanted to see the park. I wanted to be around all of those Fuzhou people enjoying the evening. In the bustle of travel I had somehow lost the tiny sim card for my phone and suddenly had no way to contact anyone. Apparently they had been calling me and gave up and went out to eat without me, leaving me alone to wander. I found one friend, Angela 张萌, who was free and insisted that she go with me to 五一广山 (wu yi square), the park at the heart of Fuzhou. As we waited for the bus she told me about 11/11/11, that day, a day with so many single 1s that the Chinese people call it, “singles day”. Single people are supposed to pair up and have a date that night. I immediately picked up her arm, dropped it into mine, and declared it a date.

I tried to make it as Chinese as possible. First we went to the massive, Burning Man scale statue of Mao Zedong and saluted. The banyan tree is the official tree of Fuzhou, so we found a wise old banyan dripping with beards and asked it, in Chinese, to make tonight perfect. He said sure, and to drink plenty of water. Thus blessed, we walked around the park and the city (after buying some water) just talking and playing and seeking out little places to buy sweets. We danced under the trees and over the steps. We watched drunk groups of Chinese people singing lonely songs to one another in the street. We ended in perfect style in a tower on top of a roof, at 5:00 am, looking out over the city and sipping walnut milk.

The whole night… the simple walking and talking in the light rain, the spontaneous smiles, the people we bumped into… all of it something that only a few days ago I thought would never be possible again. It made everything tingle with an electricity that sang, “just one more.” Just one more magic moment before I go. Just one more silly joke before I go. Just one more dance before I go. Just one more look at a fountain before I go. Just one more smile from a pretty girl before I go. Everything I see, taste, hear or feel now is a bonus, an extra, a treasure. Life has always been this way, so full of treasure. Life will always be this way. It’s so good to notice, feel, and remember this again.

photo links to photographer’s site

2 thoughts on “From Death to Fuzhou

  1. Nick Herman

    I have also been in this place.

    Then you are better, you build up a life, you don’t struggle so hard…and you have to remember to somehow still live in this way, regardless of that. That’s the really hard part.


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