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April in the Orient

April was a difficult month for both this year and last. Coming out of March being sick, feeling behind and scrambling trying to catch up and make up for lost time...struggling to get back in the groove of things, it just felt like there was never enough time to do it all. Even this blog post, in all its brevity, still didn't manage to make my self-imposed month-end deadline.

boat at West Lake (西湖)

Meanwhile, last year in 2018, following the events of my last blog post, I had just left my hometown Chongqing and Wuhan and was about to embark on the second half of my China trip. I was really excited because I was about to visit cities that I've never been before and cities in China have so much variability from one to the next, it was almost as if you were visiting a totally different country each time. Of course, nearly right off the bat, I got incredibly sick. So sick in fact, when I went to take a painkiller, I put the bottle of meds I brought with me down on the ground and promptly left the whole thing behind.

This happened while we were on Mount Putuo (普陀山), the renowned island for Buddhism in China. Folks travel from all over to go pay respects at the many monasteries on the island.

praying the entire way up the mountain

stuffed with money and all shiny from being rubbed for good luck

It is bad karma to complain or have negative thoughts while on the island and so I continuously asked Buddha to please forgive me, chanting (阿弥陀佛) like a monk-in-training as I lamented over my fever and aches and pains (and of course, my stupidity for losing the bottle of meds), all the while still climbing up the mountain to visit all the shrines.

It's fairly common to get sick while travelling (not my first rodeo, hence, the bottle of painkillers I knew to bring along) but the experience is wildly different depending on the situation. When I was sick in Japan, I popped a daytime cold & flu and still went about my trip without issue. I suppose the fear of missing out (FOMO) was too strong to keep me down, because I was going to enjoy my trip damnit.

Xixi National Wetland Park (西溪国家湿地公园)

But this time around, and perhaps it was due to the lack of medicine (very likely) or maybe also the fact that I had an allergic reaction to some tea shortly after (also likely) but I could feel my brain was not functioning normally. Sure, I was covered in hives and in immense pain and discomfort, but what really struck me was the way my mind regressed to a simpler state. Consequently, so did my view of the world around me and I can see it reflected in my photos.

Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔) in the background -- no, we didn't make it there in time

From volume alone, I took significantly less photos overall, largely in part because I did not take multiple tries at the shots I did take. I hate to quote this song but it's actually a pretty accurate description of my shooting process: I see it, I like it, I want it, I shot it.

street in Shanghai

street dog

not a street cat, likely has an owner given the ribbon around her neck

For that reason, I feel lucky pretty to like a lot of the photos that I did end up with. And who knows, maybe I wouldn't have been able to get these shots if I were less reactionary and was using my brain to create certain images. Overall, I have mixed feelings for this half of my trip. I'm acutely aware of the things I missed out on (especially when I was passed out in the hotel and Nick was running around exploring) but I also don't feel negatively towards the trip, despite being so sick. I still enjoyed it immensely and I do like the photos I have to remember it by, and it was interesting to have a different shooting experience, albeit an involuntary one.

In the end, the lasting sentiment is not "man, I missed out" but instead "oh, I can't wait to go on my next trip!"

More photos from this trip here: [1st half of the trip] [full gallery link to come]

Note: Before anyone gets on me for using "orient" in the title of this post, I want to clarify I'm using it 1) ironically: one of my favourite jokes from an Asian comedian is, "oriental?? am I a rug??", and 2) literally: "orient" refers to the east i.e. Asia, of which, China is in the eastern portion, of which, the cities I visited in this post were on the eastern shore (if you didn't catch that, this makes it east of east of east), and 3) as a verb: to orient myself and get back on track, since I'm all discombobulated from being sick. Yes, I'm a "werd-nerd", thanks for noticing!