A year ago I would have been sitting on a balcony, coffee in hand, organizing my day and gazing out at the sea. Instead of NPR in the back ground, I would have been listing to the sounds of students marching to the Chinese communist anthem. There was a beauty to the ritual. Discipline and a sense of nationalism were the purposes of the young adults dressing and piling onto a playing field at the un natural hour of 6am. They were also there for roll call, so that the school and party knew where they were.
This spring I was in a colder and darker province. No balcony and no sea view. My mornings were spent listening to the chanting of urban roosters and the Muslim call to prayer. If the weather and time permitted I would stroll the early morning streets. Elderly men could be found doing calisthenics and women dancing. The only sign of the young was the reluctant 6:30 am lining up for finger printing at the student center. When that was done they had the choice of studying and then breakfast or breakfast then studying. Many would use the limited options as a guise. Pretending to be doing something while hunched over, playing video games on their phones, never seeing or caring about the light of day.
This morning I am getting ready to take the long road to work on my bike. It is my attempt at the discipline I witnessed in Jimei. I don’t have to pretend to be doing anything else. I may get rained on and I may have the joy of seeing the clouds break. Either way, the sky will be big and beautiful and the air will be sweet and clean. The path I take is a choice I get to make. China has taught me that freedom and independence are something to celebrate every day.
The forecast is for more “hazy, hot and humid, with a chance of thunderstorms”. That translates to a long, energy sapping day.
Here are a couple go to recipes that are short on time and long on refreshing flavor;
Photo Credit: Julie Cecchini