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Touring China on an Electric Bike

My daughter had been living in China for a few years when I made up my mind to go visit her. I am not a brave traveler, so going all this way by myself was a little intimidating. So was the fifteen hour flight (though I did finally get to see all three of the Godfather movies).

I arrived in Shanghai, jet-lagged and rumpled, and was met at the airport by my daughter. At first, I thought she was kidding when she told me that our means of transportation was her electric bike with me on the back, but she was adamant about not wasting yuan on cabs. So ride on the back I did, clinging to her coat for dear life as cars and buses careened around us.

As we toured around the city, I was fascinated by laundry. It was hanging from balconies, lampposts and street signs in the shadow of soaring modern buildings. This hominess could be seen all around the city, existing unapologetic-ally side by side with all the glitz of a bustling metropolis. Old men sat on stools on the sidewalks playing Xiangqi (Chinese chess) oblivious to everything around them. Men and women pedaled bicycles stacked with Dr. Seuss-esque piles of boxes, bags, gorgeous flowers and huge jugs of water. Street vendors hawked some of the most delicious food I had ever tasted. And speaking of food, I can no longer call what I order from take-out at home “Chinese food.” What I ate in Shanghai was fresh and new and out-of-this world, and I still miss it, especially the black sesame seed buns.

The biggest surprise to me was the people. At first they seemed so totally different. There was no similarity in language, mannerisms, facial expressions or behavior. Thankfully, due to my daughter’s fluency in Mandarin, I was able to move beyond these first impressions. I saw people living their lives in the ways that worked for them. I saw their instant delight and appreciation as I stammered “Ni hao!” I came to love them. China is not a place I would have chosen to travel to, opting instead for countries that felt less foreign to me. I will always be grateful that, because of my daughter, I went. My mind expanded to include new thoughts, new ideas and a new appreciation for those who are different from me. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Jeanne is a wife, mother and nurse practitioner of over 40 years-turned-entrepreneurial baker/blogger. Check out Jeanne's blog, Big Mouth Baker and follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.

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