About a week and a half ago was the Lantern Festival here in China. I’m so thrilled that I got to be in my city during a major holiday. A large group of friends and I went to eat 北京烤鸭. After dinner we went to贡院街, the famous Confucian temple in Nanjing.
This is a spot I walked around the last time I was in Nanjing seven years ago with my parents. While crowded in 2007, the floods of people who had come out for the holiday along with a new found independence made this stroll different. As I stopped to sample some 冰糖葫芦, candied haw fruit on a bamboo stick dipped in sugary syrup, and other small snacks, I wanted to take in all of the changes of the past seven years.
The people I was with walked so fast, it was nearly impossible to see all of the lights, breathe in the smells, and listen to all of the songs, conversations, and excited shouts around. As my friends were looking at all of the twinkling lights and lanterns hung on the the streets, I don’t think they noticed how electric I was.
It wasn’t just the holiday that filled me with energy – it was the area. More than the nearby temple or the river flowing through the city, being near the Nanjing Social Welfare Institute, near where my nanny lived, near my abandonment street again, I felt so close to my past and so close to myself.
The first day I arrived in Nanjing, I wrote in a two sentence entry in my journal: My feet touched the ground and my heart felt at home. This is the story I want to tell.
I was initially disappointed that I didn’t feel the instant connection I had remembered experiencing in my city. Tiredness from jet lag, stress from my studies, insecurities about my language ability overruled me. But in this spot, I felt so alive despite running on three hours of sleep. This adventure refueled me with purpose and excitement and a desire to make the most of my time here.