First Week in Chengdu – Love at First Sight?


I’ve never been one to believe too hard in the ideology of “love at first sight,’ but after being in Chengdu, China for a full week I’ve come to see the merit. Twenty hours of airports, planes, and cat naps disappeared into the background as soon as we stepped into the city at 2:00 in the morning. It was as if I stepped into a whole other world and despite the time of day, the air was full of honks, music, and intelligible conversations of Chinese that all jumbled together to create the wide-eyed look on my face.

That was on Tuesday. Which is also the day I met my cultural immersion Partner, Yangyi, who is a part of one of 55 ethnic minority  groups in China: the Yi [Nuosu] people. She immediately latched on to me when we met and from then on we’ve been pretty inseparable. China is a gift-giving culture and Yangyi gave me one as soon as we met. She gave me this amazing Yi inspired hairpiece, a teddy bear charm, and a pair of earrings. In return I gave her a OSU shirt and a stuffed bear wearing an Ohio State hoodie which she cooed at endlessly though I’m just as guilty. The Chinese students are all very considerate and understanding, always willing to lend a helping hand or a happy smile. To be honest, I don’t think this journey would be the same without them. It’s only been four days since we all met and I already find myself saddened at the idea of leaving next month. I suppose the only thing I can do is enjoy my time to the fullest and see what the future holds.

I’ve learned a lot about Yi culture from mythology to cultural traditions such as weddings and coming-of-age ceremonies. We’ve even delved into poetry and compared the narratives and livelihoods of indigenous Chinese and Indigenous [North] Americans. I’m very excited to learn about traditional Yi medicine and how it’s been incorporated, if at all, into modern medicine which tends to neglect the cultural and spiritual methods of healing in favor of a pure bio-medical approach. I’ve also had the chance to see the Sichuan Opera yesterday which was actually my first time being to any kind of opera and it was an amazing experience. The clothing, the music, and the atmosphere were fun and enrapturing. The story was about a man who discovers he has faults and the resulting struggle of that realization until he realizes that faults can be worked upon and fixed. When my professor explained this I was intrigued because I think that this struggle of self is something that we all experience at one time or another, so it was great to see a facet of the human condition in the form of performance art.

I think my favorite part of the week by far would have to be last night when our Yi friends took us to dance. The university we are studying at is dedicated to ethnic minorities and every Friday and Saturday these groups gather together to perform dances from their respective cultures. The best part? Everyone is welcomed to join in. So for about three hours straight, I linked arms with friends and strangers to stumble, jump, and step along to a foreign mother tongue. It was the most fun I’ve had in ages and no matter how well I did or how many times I stepped on someone’s foot, the night was one of laughs and fond exasperation. I wanted to go all night. Now I’m sitting on the window seal of my dorm room watching people walk around the track or chill on the field as I type this blog. I think I might go join them.

Deuces for now!