Statue of Ganesh, The Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh, India
When I was a child, I hated coming home after vacations. For me it was the end of a dream, the rude awakening of returning to to the everyday sameness and boredom of real life. But then, I spent my growing-up years yearning to be anywhere, anywhere, other than where I was.
I’m different now. Six weeks is just enough; in fact, at times it was too much. Too much rain, humidity, heat. Too many bumpy overnight bus rides. Too many hotel rooms. Yet, I did something I’d never done before – except once, long ago, during two weeks of riding trains through Europe: I’d gone where the wind blew me, just being where and who I was, waking up in new places I’d never seen before, and enjoying the slow, laborious process of travel under less-than-ideal conditions. When I felt like doing nothing but hibernating in a hotel room away from the humid heat, dust, and noise of humanity, I did it, sometimes for days at a time. I read books. I imagined. I practiced looking – not just seeing, but looking, really looking with my eyes, ears, and feelings. It was an awakening.
From the Tao Te Ching, passage 47:
You can know all beneath heaven though you never step out your door, and you can see the Way of heaven though you never look out the window.
The further you explore, the less you know.
So it is a sage knows by going nowhere, names by seeing nothing, perfects by doing nothing.
In other words, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” – The Wizard of Oz
Well, I don’t really believe that, but there is something to be said for safety: I’m back in Chengdu, in familiar surroundings, in my comfortable, air-conditioned apartment, where I can hang out with my dog again and have clean sheets and towels whenever I want them. Still, having my senses bombarded for 6 weeks with things strange and unusual was an experience I’ll never forget. The reality of foreign places is completely different from anything you can imagine about them. I’ve enriched my life, but in some ways I’m just as ignorant as I was before. That’s as it should be.
Long story short, the 24-hour return trip was smooth and effortless. I’ve never liked airplanes – I find them confining and the transition from one place to another much too rapid. I woke at 4 AM on Saturday, left my hotel at 6, and took an autorickshaw to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. It’s one of the most beautiful airports I’ve ever been in, a pleasure to walk through.
Even the 9-hour layover in Singapore was pleasant. It went quickly, and was effortless: I spent the time in the “Transfer” area, with no immigration control, baggage transfer, or other bothers. The Singapore airport was part upscale shopping mall and part funhouse. I ate some (bad) noodles and some decent chicken, drank coffee, and relaxed. There’s even a Transit Hotel and swimming pool, where you can rest between planes, as well as amenities such as meditation rooms, gardens, and relaxation lounges with reclining chairs.
At long last, the Air China flight boarded for its 2 AM departure to Chengdu. I think I actually slept for a couple of hours during the flight, the first time I’ve ever been able to fall asleep on an airplane. Back in Chengdu, We whizzed thru immigration and customs, I caught an airport bus that dropped me off close to my university, and I took a taxi the rest of the way. Almost too easy.
Tomorrow will be my day for self-repair: I’ll visit my massage therapist, then go to the local spa for some scrubbing, exfoliation, a long soak in a mineral bath, and a steam in the steam room.
I’ll post more photos as I catch up on editing them, between naps and trips to the washing machine.
Departure lounge, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India