We are about ready to crash (yes, it’s not yet nine o’clock, shut up), diving into sleep for our second-to-last night here. Today was a very full day: up at six to leave for Eleanor’s visa appointment at 7:30, back for lunch — instant noodles from the 7-Eleven, surprisingly tasty — shopping, walking, more shopping, Thai food for dinner, Eleanor time in the room, and a long and contentious bedtime.
The most memorable part of the day for me was the electronics mall. Our guide, myself, and a couple other guys headed out to see if we could score some cheap geek stuff. And oh, did we ever. The electronics mall nearby is five floors of tiny stalls shoehorned together, selling anything having to do with anything that uses a battery or has a screen. In two hours we saw about seventy-five percent of one floor — and according to our guide this was one of the smaller such malls in town. My compatriots bought iPhone cases ($1.20ish), “Sony” earbuds (about $4), Bluetooth keyboards (about $12) and a zoom lens for an iPad (maybe $15).
Me, I got a nice webcam, a retro phone handset for my iPhone, and two retractable travel cables with iPhone, Kindle, and mini-USB connectors. Total cost: 85 Yuan — about thirteen dollars.
Afterward, my ladies and I went out for more souvenirs and stumbled on a shop we hadn’t seen yet, one with more authentic stuff than most of the tchotchke stands on the island. Kim was very excited to find a handmade crocheted doll for Eleanor (have you ever tried to find an Asian doll in Cleveland?) and we got some other fun stuff for L’s room and such.
(I have to say, though, my favorite souvenir is one we found yesterday: a shelf lamp in the shape of a beautiful book, with a woodcut on the front that the light shines softly through. It opens and closes like a book to give off more or less light. It’s very cool. It’s also a beautiful red color — the color of good fortune in China — and features lovely, subtle, stylized rabbits in the woodcut, which is appropriate for Eleanor since she was born in the year of the Rabbit.)
And speaking of Eleanor: she’s recently learned that she can walk if we’re holding her hands. This is very exciting for her. Very. Exciting. In fact, it’s so exciting that it’s pretty much the only thing she wants to do now. Food, play, bottles — who needs them? She’s got two feet and knows how to use them.
Fortunately the hallways in the hotel are long enough to wear her out pretty quickly. Unfortunately, her height is such that they wear our backs out pretty quickly too. We walk together when we can, each of us holding a hand, but she seems to prefer just one driver.
When we simply can’t handle the walk, we sit across from each other on the floor and let her plunge headlong from one to the other. She would do this for hours if we let her.
Meanwhile, we find ourself thinking a lot about going home. This has been a wonderful trip, full of happiness and laughter and adventures. We will look back fondly and look forward to returning. But, you know, it’s time to go home. We have one day of relaxation, then one very long day of travel. We’re sad to leave, but home can’t come soon enough.
With this in mind, we assembled the following list of things we plan to never take for granted again:
- Air conditioning
- Humidity below ninety-eight percent
- Ice in drinks
- Being in similar time zones to family and friends
- Walking or driving without fearing for one’s life
- Couches with cushions
- Being understood
- Non-negotiable pricing
- Drinkable water
- The ability to eat raw produce
- Uncensored internet
- Blue sky
- Closets and dressers
- Sturdy cribs
- Recognizable food products
- Real bacon
- Appliances, especially dishwashers
- Western pharmacies
- Our cats
- Open space
- Home cooked meals
- The predictability of everything around us
At the same time, we already know there are many things we’ll miss a lot. Such as:
- Almost everything about Chongqing
- Never having to clean our room
- Not even momentarily thinking about work
- Ridiculously cheap electronics
- Walking everywhere
- Bao for breakfast
- The surprised giggles when we say “thank you” in Mandarin
- The gorgeous Asian architecture
- The supermarkets
- Creative transportation by the locals
- Awesome t-shirts
- The beautiful faces of the children
- Red and gold lanterns
- The newness of everything around us
In the balance, I think home wins. But we’ll be back.
And now, some random photos from the last day or two: