On tuesday, we’ll go to Hangzhou, China. It’s the home town of my wife, so it’s a family visit more than a travel occasion. While i am not a big-city-type and it’s quite hard for me to be there in summer because of the temperature and humidity, i’m really looking forward to go.

Family

In germany, we have no family. When my mom died in 2011, that was my family. In China, we have lots and lots of family. My father-in-law has three brothers and his father is 90 and it’s a joy to be around him (he laughs a lot) while my mother-in-law has two sisters and both her parents are also still alive. Then there are my wife’s cousins and their children, friends of the family and so on. If we were to put them all in the same room, it would easily amount to 30 people. We can’t, because her parents also divorced, so it’s basically divided in two parts.

Street close to Great-grandfather's home

Street close to Great-grandfather’s home

Our chinese family is really easy to be with. Family can be very needy and quite complicated, but i’ve never felt that way in china. I have felt some pressure last year, when we were with a cousin’s family for three weeks and they were trying to be nice and didn’t want me to go out by myself. That lead to three weeks of company for a person like me who needs to be alone to recharge batteries. It was stressful. And also, quite far away. We had to ride the bus for an hour to reach the rest of the family. So this time, we’re back into an appartement hotel, we’ll have privacy and we’ll be very close to large parts of the family.

It’s also great for our son, of course, because he gets to see how family life should be. His grandmother is also doing ok now and isn’t in hospital anymore (she was the last time we were there), so he and she will get to spend some quality time together, which is great.

And our son can hear more chinese and will hopefully begin speaking it, as well. He understands everything, but to him, chinese is “english” and german is “correct”. And maybe, i can improve my chinese at least a little bit.

Food

Now there’s a reason to love China. The food is so diverse and so good that it alone would be reason enough for me to go. I really can’t tell you how good it is. I guess in the US, you are probably lucky enough to have more authentic chinese restaurants, but here in germany, there aren’t many. Authentic, that is. Chinese restaurants, there are a lot. But they serve germanized chinese food.

I like almost everything, although sometimes, a little bit of caution is advised to at least ask what kind of meat something is. I’m not very eager to eat cow stomach, chicken feet or something like that, but i’ll try it nonetheless. Still, it’s difficult to share favourites, but one thing you can make almost everywhere are Jiao-Zi.

A more normal view on the city.

A more normal view on the city.

Food experience is made even greater with the fact that we are able to eat in almost every conceivable way- at home (all parts of the family have a different way of cooking and eating), in small, “normal” restaurants that resemble cantinas more than what we’re used to see as restaurants (they’re great and i often like the food here more than in the more expensive restaurants), even chains or more expensive restaurants up to foreign food (japanese, korean etc.)

Jingci Temple

I’m not a religious person. However, i feel close to buddhism, albeit in a quite shallow way, as i haven’t made the effort yet to really dive deeper here. Belief is all about world-view, in my opinion. Everyone should follow the faith he or she deems right and, well…believes in. While i know the basic “philosophy” of buddhism and find it strangely close to my own world-view, i haven’t really made a connection to the religious part. In Hangzhou, there are a few buddhist temples, of course, but in the end, Jingci is the one i prefer to visit- and i’m making a point in visiting it each year.

In a city full of people, here's some much-needed calm.

In a city full of people, here’s some much-needed calm.

Jingci is more than that, though. It’s positioned right besides the West Lake, a tourist attraction in a city counting 6 million people. The city is loud and alive, in summer it’s hot and humid. There are many, many people in chinese cities and the West Lake area in particular, because the tourists go there. And then, enter Jingci. This temple is not a tourist attraction- there are a few dozen people, but you’ll have plenty of room. It’s peaceful and quiet- to be honest, it’s the most calm place i’ve found in the city yet, with the exception of a particular coffee shop.

City life

Despite me really not being a city person, i do like what they have to offer- all the more in China, because, while the cities in China are not particularly diverse in their architecture, they aren’t the homogenic cities we know; in germany, there are all these chains in the city- you mostly know what kinds of shops there are in a city. While China has, of course, its own chains, i don’t know them very well yet. There’s a supermarket chain i deem “trustworthy” and that’s it. There are more, of course- restaurant chains i don’t recognize and there is McDonald’s and KFC, sometimes Starbucks. They are vastly outnumbered by all the small shops, restaurants, supermarkets. Mom-and-pop shops are still a thing in Hangzhou.

Around the corner from my favourite coffeeshop

Around the corner from my favourite coffeeshop

Another reason the city feels so alive is that the people are actually quite positive- you can see they’re expecting their financial and personal situation to improve in the coming years, something that is not as apparent in germany.

Taking a break

No PC, no active work, no MMO gaming for two weeks. Well, “no PC” isn’t entirely correct, of course we’ll take a notebook. But it’s different. In these last years, it have always been trips to China where i am able to take a step back and think about the life i’m living vs. the life i’d like to live. What kind of person am i? How can i change a few things up professionally? For once, there’s not always something to do- and it’s helped by the fact that we’re not alone in looking after our son. Now, we stay with him all the time, but it’s still a great relief knowing that other people have an eye on him while we’re visiting relatives.

So, if you don’t hear anything from me after tomorrow in the coming two weeks, it’s because i’m enjoying my time taking a breather.