This week contained two of my favorite days of hiking and also two of the most emotional days of the trip. Our last days at the Zhangjiajie National Park with the Tai Chi masters and British group were great. The hikes were beautiful and the geologist in me was astounded at the surrounding formations. There were massive cliffs, long, skinny ridges, glass walkways and tall pagodas to catch 360° views of the area.
But after Zhangjiajie we had to say goodbye to the British group and the Tai Chi masters so that the group from our school could go study Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for almost a week. Suddenly we went from a large, tight nit group of about 20 people to just the 7 of us for the first time on this journey. It felt like the 20 of us had been traveling together for months, not just a couple of weeks, and the goodbye was a little difficult. Some were very excited to be heading to the TCM hospital, and I was interested, but for me the best days of the trip were hiking around the mountains with a large, very diverse group of friends.
We had most of a day’s travel on the train before arriving at the TCM hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital we noticed that everything operated very differently than the previous part of our journey. Where before we were busy busy busy all the time, suddenly at the hospital we had down time to relax. We had hours in between meetings and meals and classes that we had to fill by ourselves instead of a planned or recommended adventure ahead. Meals were no longer as soon as we got back to the hotel after a long day of exploring or a buffet style breakfast right after Tai Chi practice in the morning but at set times throughout the day. It was almost as if being in a whirlwind for two weeks and suddenly we were out of the frenzy and didn’t know what to do with ourselves.
Our mornings seemed very slow while waiting for the consultations with patients, touring the TCM pharmacy or going on rounds to the patients to begin. There was a 2-3 hour break for lunch and in the afternoons we had classes on acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, how to do these techniques and what they are good for. Then a free evening to explore the hospital workout stations outside, play games similar to hacky sack and volleyball with a group of people from at least 5 different countries or just to relax and hang out.
This was our last week in China and as such it was full of feelings of excitement to go home but also of wanting to fill as much into the remaining time as possible. Talk increased about what American foods we were looking forward to and what were our favorite parts about the journey. One person of our group left a day early. This felt really weird to be losing one of our own but it also was a big reminder that our journey was almost over and brought many mixed feelings. After an all day train ride the next day we said goodbye to two more of our group that headed off on another adventure. Then after a tumultuous evening of weather delays and rearranging tickets and meeting up with 3 of the people we’d parted ways with earlier in the week I had two more rounds of goodbyes before I was the last one left in Beijing alone.
Luckily, one of the Tai Chi masters we’d traveled with happened to be in Beijing for a business meeting. He helped me get to the hotel, get some dinner and a room then told me how to get on the shuttle to the airport the next morning. For the first time in nearly a month I had my own room. In the Capitol city of China I was finally able to find somewhere completely private with no one else in my room. I’d had a great time getting to know my roommate over the last 3 weeks and it was very nice to finally be alone. Quil