I’m nothing out of the ordinary: just a risk-guzzling, dare-delighting, testosterone-pumped 18 year-old who laps up the thrill of danger for breakfast. I’ve been in this country for less than 24 hours, and I’m hooked.
On my first day, for instance, I haggled airport officials over my lost luggage, leapfrogged around Beijing with three motormouth taxi drivers, scoured the city for a seemingly phantom hotel, inhaled a kingly dinner for a dollar, walked to the same hotel whose address I forgot, hitched another cab, blitzkrieged the driver with my brassy Chinese, walked, bartered for a map, hitched, walked, hitched, and finally got out in front of what the cabby proudly called “Your jolly Holiday Inn.”
I stared up at a gutted edifice that looked about as sanitary as I did, after all those hours. An English sign read “Sequoia Hotel: under construction.” I turned back to the cabby. “Hey wait, this isn’t it!” But he had already zipped off into the Beijing darkness. Wonderful. I gazed at Chinese signs I couldn’t read that splattered this unfamiliar city, and I somehow had to find a hotel that nobody thought existed. I broke down. The only time I had felt this abandoned was when my baby-sitter forgot to pick me up from the playground in third grade.
And that’s when I realized that I was free.
I was free because I had no shelter, no promises to keep and no belongings to weigh me down. I was free because I didn’t have my mom on speed dial. Ousted from the cold geometry of my old world, from societal molds to fit into, obligations to fulfill, possessions to safeguard, I now had to stitch together my own future with a motley of practical skills I had never really bothered to cultivate.
China forces me to burst the chaperoned bubble of home-sweet-home. I love the freedom, the risk, the challenge: it’s my own kind of oxygen. This freedom intoxicates and, dare I say it: China, bring on the adventure.