We felt at home instantly the minute we walked out of the airport into the balmy, tropical night. A Didi (one of the Uber-like servers in China) car drove up immediately and whisked us, not to a hotel or guest house but our very own monthly-rented apartment complete with amenities that you wouldn’t think you’re anywhere but home. I was always impressed by the lushness of Singapore but Xishuangbanna is equally lush, yet more untamed than manicured, less maintained and wilder looking but the roughness is part of the attraction.
One expat website labeled it a poor man’s Thailand and there may be truth to that since things can be relative to how much you make and spend. However, for us who have been stuck in the industrial, drab, flat north, the green land and blue sky expanse is more than welcome as well as its affordability. The imperfections make it a real city like any other struggling to survive the ups and downs of humanity and the economy.
Case in point is the water park located by the river that runs through Jinghong city. It has the simplest, most basic facilities. The pools aren’t even lined with tiles but with plastic that doesn’t try to hide the bumpy surface, however the whole place offers the most fun any kid and kid at heart can have with water, soap bubbles, slides, floating seesaws and extra slippery inflatable challenges. I spent an hour laughing at myself trying to get over straddling a tube and another hour stuck too afraid to take the plunge. I thought this might be a metaphor for life — how fear holds us back from doing what we know we ought to do. I admired the bravery of my husband and my sons who took on the adventure courses way, way faster than I could. They had no fear.
I always dreamed of participating in those TV game shows where you go through a series of obstacles, avoid falling into the water, practice your balance and show-off physical strength and prowess. I thought I’d nail those type of activities but boy was I ever so wrong. I’d nail laughing at myself, hauling my overweight body and refusing to let go of hugging a big plastic tube for dear life.
Aside from the trees, flowers and plants, I’ve been going crazy over the rice noodles. From between 7 to 10 RMB, you can get a scrumptious bowl of fresh goodness. I’d need to spend triple that amount in the Philippines for half the quality. For the space we are renting here, we’d be spending quadruple, quintuple for the same size unit in Manila.
The other great advantage of Xishuangbanna is Hudou with the booming and hearty laugh. He’s my husband’s friend who knew us as a couple before we got married and is now helping Jason get a business off the ground. Creative and artistic, Hudou also loves kids so Joshua and Jimmy felt right at home with him. He’s lived quite an exciting life following wherever his dreams took him from Tianjin to Chengdu, from Nepal to Lijiang and in the future, who knows. It may be Sri Lanka or Kenya where the trail of tea might lead him.
I didn’t realize how long I haven’t checked TED Talks. When I was teaching at the university, I regularly scoured the choices from their website to find inspiration to share with my students. Today, I remembered and found Isaac Lidsky’s talk so appropriate for my “don’t fear taking the plunge” situation. Lidsky said:
Your fears distort your reality. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing off what you dread for what you know,offering up the worst in place of the ambiguous, substituting assumption for reason. Psychologists have a great term for it: awfulizing.
Fear replaces the unknown with the awful. Now, fear is self-realizing. When you face the greatest need to look outside yourself and think critically, fear beats a retreat deep inside your mind, shrinking and distorting your view, drowning your capacity for critical thought with a flood of disruptive emotions. When you face a compelling opportunity to take action, fear lulls you into inaction, enticing you to passively watch its prophecies fulfill themselves.