The entire expanse of the universe seems to be at our feet as we surf the internet to our liking, perusing the many wonders available at the click of a mouse. I thought that having done so much research on Nanjing beforehand, I’d know everything to expect, but being in a place is nothing like seeing a picture. Pictures don’t express the pulse of the city through the constant thrum of the subway rails. Nor do they convey the onslaught of heavy rain, or the drips of sweat from a sweltering head of hair. These things, the steady rhythm and torrential rain and sticky perspiration, along with things like the burst of soup in a 汤包, are what make the experience in Nanjing.
It’s a beautiful city. The hazy sky perpetually looks as though it’s about to wake up but not quite, and the area surrounding the University is always with something to do or see. Exotic birds and plants line every corner of my apartment area, and the smell of street food fills the air. The quick sound of Chinese ebbs and flows, all around like a dissonant harmony.
My host family is wonderful and very laissez-faire, which I appreciate. Dinner is always delicious, and they’re always willing to drive me here or there. They have a beautiful home in the outer area of Nanjing, and have been quick to welcome me to it. Sometimes I hear the trademark song of a certain Chinese drama playing downstairs, and I know that 爷爷 (yeye, or grandpa) is downstairs watching his favorite show. Sometimes I hear the sound of a chopping board, and I know that 奶奶 (nainai, or grandma) is cooking up a great meal. It’s a routine – unfamiliar, but routine.
All while absorbing a new culture, I myself have developed personally. Walking down a dark, rainy, and scary street to get home at 9pm really allows you to test your limits and reflect on your life decisions, within the context of your home culture, and within the context of the current situation in another culture.
I have more pictures of 南京家庭 than anything else, so here you go!
Take a plane, take a look, and taste a bit of the world. Maybe you’ll end up ice skating or something like I did. If you have any qualms, “Save it for tonight,” when you have to walk down a creepy road, because, as Anushka says, “That’s when you know!”