It has taken me some time to begin to process our trip to China. One of the women on the trip said that for her, the trip was a vacation from a very stressful and hectic life which had been particularly difficult over the past summer. She thought that the trip would renew her.
I immediately understood what she was saying, for although my life was less stressed than hers, for me too the common annoyances of life were for this brief moment being replaced with new places and new people and new experiences beyond our imaginations.
My difficult summer had begun with becoming ill almost exactly when my sister arrived to visit me for two weeks. The relatively benign virus affected me so strongly that I was not able to function for weeks. My doctor had informed me that I would take months to recover. We wondered whether I would be able to go on the trip, but my lab values began to improve and I was determined to go.
When we got to the Great Wall on the first full day in China, there was a climb of what turned out to be 1200 uneven steps. Since this was likely to be my only time at the Great Wall, I made a decision to climb it. Something about that climb amid the beauty of the countryside, the bright colors of the tourists’ clothing, the optimism of people having a good time, the wonder of being in an exotic setting, gave me the energy and determination to go on and I did it! I accomplished my goal. But from that day on, I no longer felt weak or sick. Without noticing it, I had recovered my strength faster than I would have predicted.
It was not that long afterwards that we had our first walk in a Chinese garden. They are places of enormous delight. They are verdant with flowing water and rough hewn rocks and are filled with sounds of flute and other Chinese instruments. They are a place of quiet and contemplation. As we experienced these gardens and temples and as we made our way on quiet rivers and lakes, I felt a sense of peace and well-being. In the exquisite Stone Forest, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of nature in a misty rain. As we cruised along the Li River, the beauty was breathtaking. Our hotel in Guilin was along the side of a lake that provided calm and beauty to a bustling city as people walked along its paths and crossed its bridges and walkways.
Among 1.3 billion people, there was peace and solitude and well-being. There were oases of calm and quiet. And there was beauty.
Our trip was not only an adventure, but a healing experience.