Tourist Tuesdays are when I push myself to become a tourist in my own everyday world. Yes, I live in Paradise, but I swear you can see your own stomping grounds with new eyes, too. DO, try this at home.
72 Hours More or Less
The trip was short. Although I had planned to catch up with my journal writing that extended weekend, I hadn’t. Therefore, what I have to relate is my spotty and imperfect memory of what occurred at the end of July during the summer of 1976.
After approximately a month each in Thailand and Hong Kong, we flew in to Taipei. Our plans to travel into the PRC on special visas had been put on hold due to a spectacular earthquake that shook Beijing to its foundations. We had still held out hope to enter, but made alternate plans to visit Taiwan and then Japan as we waited for the ready signal to enter Mainland China.
Our travels up to that point had been orchestrated by an NYU doctoral program, my mother being one of the candidates. Now we were creating our own itinerary. Let the adventures begin.
…as if what had happened up to this point in the summer had been pedestrian. Not. But stories for a different day.
We had to pull the shades of the plane’s windows before we could land.
Chiang Kai-shek had only died the year before, and there was increased paranoia regarding PRC espionage.
My mother hadn’t bothered to ship her text books on the history of Communist China before we left Hong Kong as so we were traveling with several suitcases full of contraband. My theory is that she purposefully did this to cause Mary Carlin, our traveling companion and her doctoral cohort, anxiety.
Once safely passed customs, we hailed a cab to the YMCA hostel. There was some confusion as to the exchange rate. We were dropped at an inconvenient distance from the hostel. Mom’s back suddenly hurt so that she could not carry even one of the 14 bags (many filled with aforementioned textbooks).
At the YMCA
I strapped what I could over my head. Two bags on each side. I resembled a cross between Pancho Villa and his mule. That left 10 other bags, five on each side. I began a chain gang rhythm of heaving two at a time a bit a head and then shuffling back to leap frog the ones in the rear position.
Mary had stormed off in exasperation. My mother soon abandoned me to the task at hand. 97 degrees Celsius=hot. But the rhythm had been comforting and I was always able to cocoon inside my own mind. An oasis lives there.
This too shall pass. Best to give in to the meditative rhythms than to fluster. Control what I can, even if it is only my own reactions.
I reached back for the set of luggage behind me and two hands covered my own. The heat and the hypnotic rhythm I had built up had dissipated any startle reflexes. I turned my head but not my body to see Micheal’s face just above my own.
A mass of dark curls and electric blue eyes. There was something serenely spiritual about him. There was also something incredibly funny…and fun.
“Now here is someone I could tell David about,” I thought. (For more on David, see Confessions Of A Spiritual Nature)
And yes, I really was that naive about life, boys, and my own nature. Just take a close look at the handwriting changes in the journal’s index page above! You don’t have to be a handwriting expert to make some leaps of psychological assessment there.
Michael was what my friend Nancy describes as a Trustafarian. He dropped out of Princeton, or was it UPenn? Really, he took a year off to find himself. He had studied yoga in India and was at the time learning Tai Chi in Taipei.
See, I told you there was something spiritual about him.
We made short order of getting the luggage up to the women’s dorm room. I listened as he schmoozed with Mom and Mary, both high school teachers and both charmed by his stories and humor.
When he asked then if he could take me to a special park the following morning, how could anyone object? Both thought the idea fantastic. Both no doubt thought that they would be going along. Both were very, very wrong.
But that as they say, is for telling another day. More specifically, next Tuesday. Stay tuned.
Ever been to China? I’m jealous. I still have yet to make my way back to Mainland China. Ever meet a stranger in travel who felt like an old friend? Ever wonder at old samples of your handwriting? Anything else in this story resonate with you?