Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Hey all,

Writing now from an internet bar in Wuhu (Woohoo!), in central Anhui province. I’m here for the afternoon, waiting to change trains on my way to the Taoist holy mountain, Wudangshan.

First things first, I’ve finally got some pictures up! I have hundreds more, but I’ve found that uploading images to American servers from Chinese internet cafes is extremely slow, so I have to pick and choose the best to upload. Once I get back to Beijing, I’ll get every one of them stored on my Facebook page and link back to them here.

My time in Huangshan was interesting. I made a couple mistakes early on that limited my experience a bit, but learned a good deal in return. First, I decided to go up and down the mountain in one day. Biggest mistake of the trip so far. I only got a few hours up on the summit and didn’t see half of the things I wanted to. Regardless, the hike was beautiful; everything people say about Huangshan’s otherworldy terrain is totally true. I’ve posted a couple pictures to give you the idea, but the experience of being surrounded on all sides by totally vertical, razor sharp ridges that descend into mist, and climbing up pathways bordered by bamboo forests on both sides is a really special thing; one that pictures can’t do justice to.

It was a good time to do some personal reflection as well, once I got away from the throngs of gawking Chinese tourists (I love them, I really do. It’s just that by the 30th time you hear “Laowai! Hellooooo!” yelled at you, it’s started to get old). If you get off the beaten path a bit, you can go for an hour and not see a soul. That got me thinking about some things, which I’ll cover in a bit.

Second mistake I made was a good learning experience. Once I got off the mountain and exhausted my main goal for this leg of the trip, I found myself feeling listless and irritable. I couldn’t explain why. Sure, the hostel was frigid and the city I was staying in was kind of a drag, but that certainly wasn’t enough to stomp down my high from climbing the mountain.

What I found though, was that I didn’t have a group of friends to rely on in the hostel this time. Most people came to the hostel, stayed only long enough to get a bus to the mountain, and left. I couldn’t rely on a group of Chinese buddies to haul me along to some great scenic spot or bar. I had to remind myself that this trip I’m on is totally up to me to craft. Do I stay another day or not? Go to such-and-such village, or not? The initiative is on me at all times. That’s a kind of freedom I’m not used to, and it’s taken a bit of time to acclimate to.

I mentioned that I got to thinking about some deep stuff up on the mountain, and in reflection now, I see that my thoughts on the hill and my struggles of this feeling of freedom are interconnected: I’ve probably mentioned it before, but the idea that has led my life up until now is that our lives, for the most part, are what we make of them. Each of us is given a certain set of tools to work with; our education, family, and ultimately, a certain period of time before we croak. How we use what has been given to us is entirely our choice. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rice farmer in Anhui or a cube farmer in L.A., the way you rule your life is your choice. And in my mind, the key to life’s greatest goal, happiness, is found in employing those tools we’ve been given pursue what we want.

But therein lies the real kicker, huh? By and large, we have no clue what we want. Such a simple question, but so often difficult to answer. But I’ve found that once you know that you want something, you subconsciously move towards achieving that end. Just wish for it, and lo!, it is there!

Christ… and there I go waxing philosophical again. The point is: I’ve been thinking about what I want lately, and am starting to get answers. I hope that my time on Wudangshan will serve the same purpose. And at the risk of sounding totally arrogant, I hope that everyone back home has an opportunity to take some time and ask themselves the same question I’m grappling with. The results can only be good.

Sending much love back home! I’ll write again when I decide where I’m headed next.

No comments:

Post a Comment