Joan goes to China! This is her trip diary…

Day 1:

After enduring a 13-hour plane journey to Hong Kong, I was filled with excitement to visit my family. However, my journey was far from over as I had to wait for 6 hours at the Hong Kong airport before heading to my final destination, Chongqing. During the flight, I learned about the requirements for entering China as a US citizen. Despite my father-in-law and friends expressing concerns about my return, I assured them that they were mistaken. I understood their worry came from a place of love and concern for me.

Living with someone who didn’t speak Mandarin for the past 10 years had caused my language skills to deteriorate. Therefore, when I heard that we needed to provide health information upon passing through customs, I was ill-prepared. I scrambled to gather the necessary documents and information while on the plane. Luckily, the lady sitting next to me informed me about an app called WeChat, where I could find the “Fingertip Customs” feature, known as Zhijian Hai Guan. Although I didn’t initially understand the meaning of “Zhijian,” a fellow passenger from the Bay Area explained in English, clarifying that it referred to fingerprint scanning.

Unfortunately, I had no cellular signal upon landing, but I quickly filled out the required form and screenshot the QR code for the customs officials to scan. China had implemented this process due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, enabling them to track individuals who may carry the virus and their close contacts. The form also required me to provide information about my intended destination and accommodations, allowing for easier monitoring and surveillance. While unsure if there were still active cases of COVID-19, I had heard of a client who contracted the virus while visiting their family.

During the customs process, the officials collected the prints of my four right-hand fingers, as well as both of my thumbprints. They also captured my facial image as I boarded the plane at LAX airport. Instead of scanning boarding passes, China now utilizes facial recognition technology at the boarding gates. I momentarily forgot about the prevalence of “squat potties” in the country until I encountered them everywhere I went.

As I made my way out of the airport, I reunited with my nephew, who kindly guided me to the parking area. The changes in the airport’s layout and expansion left me feeling disoriented. My brother had helped my nephew purchase a car worth approximately 190k RMB, and as we entered the vehicle and embarked on our journey, I found it difficult to identify our exact location. The lush green landscapes along the way were awe-inspiring, but despite crossing multiple bridges, I struggled to pinpoint where we were heading. The progressively narrow streets, coupled with heavy traffic and congestion, made it impossible for me to drive. It wasn’t until we arrived at my nephew’s home that I finally recognized the area. The towering high-rise buildings were overshadowed by numerous trees, although they did little to alleviate the intense heat. Despite it being 10 years since my last visit, the scorching temperatures in the city remained unchanged. To my disappointment, there was no refreshing breeze to be felt as I explored the community, only an unrelenting heatwave.


I didn’t experience much jet lag, despite the long journey. My nephew and I had dinner at my stepbrother’s home. We went out grocery shopping after dinner, which turned out to be an expensive store for the locals. However, he did buy me breakfast before we headed home. Exhausted from 28 hours of sleep deprivation, I immediately fell asleep upon returning. Around 1 am, I woke up and tried to chat with Sean on Wechat, but the hot weather and internet blockage prevented him from joining me. My nephew left some money on the desk for me before he went to work, leaving me to navigate the city on my own. I decided to explore and handle personal errands by myself. I was impressed by Chongqing’s monorail system, which was both efficient and affordable.

Upon entering the monorail tunnel, I was tempted to stay inside because of the cool, air-conditioned environment. Surprisingly, even though the monorail was crowded and sweaty, it was always clean. I couldn’t help but marvel at the complexity of the system with multiple exits. Unfortunately, I made a mistake and took the wrong exit, which caused some confusion. I recalled seeing a monorail being built through a residential building, which had become a tourist attraction called Liziba. To take care of some errands there, I decided to take a taxi. It cost me 22 Yuan, but later I discovered that the monorail would have only cost me 3 Yuan and had the same travel time. Now I understand why foreign tourists often express their frustration when riding buses or taxis here. The close distance between cars and their tendency to squeeze through narrow spaces constantly makes you feel like danger is looming. I even witnessed a car attempting an illegal U-turn, only to give up eventually.

When I asked the taxi driver if there were any police around, he wasn’t sure and called the driver crazy. I also inquired about the taxi business, and he mentioned that it’s pretty bad, and he only earns enough to barely get by. Internet ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft have become fierce competitors. I’ve heard that the local economy isn’t doing well, but there’s always a bustling atmosphere. I mistakenly left my passport behind, so I had to take the monorail back to retrieve it and then return to my original destination. Unfortunately, I took the wrong exit again and struggled to find my way. After going up and down multiple times through the overcrowded passage, I finally asked for directions from several people. Ultimately, I sought assistance from the monorail staff and purchased another ticket to get back on track. The most interesting part of this adventure was encountering a local shoe repair shop where the worker was shirtless.

For just 10 Yuan, he fixed my heels, and I even bought five pairs of heel bottoms to bring back to the USA. Although he recognized me, we didn’t have much conversation, and I never mentioned that I now live in the USA. I used to visit his shop to have my heels repaired regularly. The old street had mostly remained the same, except for the addition of more restaurants. Although I wanted to try a bowl of noodles, I was already full. I took the monorail to Jiefang Bei, a significant landmark in Chongqing, where I encountered many tourists and locals alike. I checked my bank accounts and visited the World Financial Center, where I marveled at the opulent interior. Following the signage, I reached a viewpoint to admire the panoramic view of the city, which cost me 118 Yuan. Unfortunately, my bank card didn’t work due to ID inaccuracy, but luckily another card came to the rescue. I took an elevator to the 76th floor with many tourists and a tour guide using a loudspeaker. From there, I witnessed the confluence of the Yangtze River and Jialing River, marveling at the well-connected high-rise buildings and bridges of the city.

At around 1:30 pm, I went to a small restaurant to satiate my hunger and finally tried the famous Chongqing noodle dish.

The owner was also selling chili jars, and I inquired about the price of a larger one, which was quite expensive for locals at 80 yuan. Given my sensitivity to spicy food, I wanted to ensure it wouldn’t upset my stomach. Chongqing is renowned for its hot weather, attractive women, and spicy cuisine. However, I did notice that people were dressing more casually than before, perhaps due to my experience on the monorail. Despite hearing about the struggling economy, the city always appears bustling with numerous tourists. Additionally, on the outskirts of Chongqing, you can visit Eling Park on foot. I returned home via the monorail and rested briefly before heading out for dinner. The table was filled with around 11 people, including all my stepbrothers and their children. My nephew organized and paid for everything, which amounted to 888 yuan, a substantial sum for locals. It is customary in Chinese culture to invite someone to dinner as a kind gesture.

Day 3

Day 3

Chongqing, also known as Tsong Ching in English pronunciation, is a city that boasts beautiful mountains, bridges, and a rich historical background. It served as the capital during World War II. Unfortunately, I encountered some unknown issues with my old Chinese ID, rendering it useless and causing significant inconvenience. However, I managed to find solace through a shopping trip where I bought clothes that fit me better than before. As a foreigner, it is mandatory for me to register at the local police station within 24 hours of entering China. The challenge arose when I realized I had no GPS and was clueless about the police station’s location. Thankfully, my nephew came to the rescue by guiding me. Following his instructions, I hopped on Monorail 3 and then transferred to bus No. 880. The monorail ride was enjoyable, but the bus ride was even more pleasant as it followed a familiar route, with picturesque tree-lined avenues. This made me wish that Chongqing had more trees than concrete buildings, as the towering high-rises overshadowed the small trees. However, my delight returned when I spotted a lush green landscape with layers of trees on both sides of the road leading to the airport. It was a refreshing change from the underground monorail. Chongqing’s public transportation system is both convenient and affordable for locals, with monorail fares maxing out at 7 yuan and a fixed fare of 2 yuan for buses regardless of the distance traveled. The vehicles are well-maintained and safer compared to taxis. Sadly, I made a mistake during my journey and got off the bus two stops early. My nephew informed me that I needed to walk an additional 1400 feet to reach the police station. However, upon reaching the designated spot, I realized there were no signs indicating its presence. Undeterred, I pressed on, asking passersby for directions. Unfortunately, they informed me that I still had another 20-minute walk ahead. I was shocked and disappointed in myself for misreading the directions. To save time, I caught the next bus and sought guidance from locals until I finally arrived at the police station. There, I completed my registration using my American passport and engaged in a pleasant conversation with the friendly receptionist, who explained the purpose behind the registration process – ensuring the safety and well-being of foreigners in China. With ample time before my dinner appointment with a potential client at 5:30 pm, I decided to take bus No. 880 back home since it was around 3:00 pm. At the bus stop, I realized that all the cars were parked in the bus lane, and I had unknowingly walked out of the designated bus stop area.

With only 2 yuan in change, I sought advice from the bus driver, who suggested seeking help from fellow passengers. Fortunately, a kind lady provided me with the needed change and paid for my bus ticket. Then, I transferred to the monorail for the journey home. The day was hotter than the previous two, so I took a brief break before heading out for dinner with my potential client. Initially planning to take a taxi, I was unable to find any available ones. Faced with the sweltering weather, I sought refuge in the monorail station and decided to rely on it for transportation to the dinner venue. I apologized to my friend for the possibility of being late, as the weather and lack of personal transportation brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help but long for the convenience of driving myself and the time-saving benefits it brings. Unfortunately, the delay made me arrive half an hour late, which was disheartening. My friend had her niece accompanying her, and we dined at a Japanese restaurant. During the meal, she suggested downloading a taxi app, which would enable me to call for a taxi before leaving my apartment. The app even had a map feature to assist with navigation. However, I was unaware of this option until then. After dinner, I took the monorail back home, took a shower, and began writing about my day. Eventually, a few short sentences later, I fell asleep.


Day 4

Today, my nephew took a day off from work to drive me around. Our first stop was my dad’s grave site on the outskirts of town. I was amazed by the lush greenery surrounding us, and it felt refreshing to take in the sight of nature. Unfortunately, due to the high temperature, we couldn’t have any fireworks or burn fake money as a tradition. Instead, we bought an electric candle and some flowers and headed to my younger brother’s home.

On the way to my brother’s place, I couldn’t help but notice the clean and green trees lining the highway. Although in my mind, they appeared slightly dusty. My younger brother, who is an elementary teacher, is incredibly kind and hardworking. Surprisingly, he was able to buy a condo in Chongqing city with cash, valued at around 860,000 yuan. Having property and a car in China are essential to finding a spouse. Property is in an oversupply situation caused by the one-child policy, however, the prices haven’t dropped significantly due to the government artificially propping up prices. I’ve even noticed many abandoned construction sites by Evergrande Group, where very few lights are on at night, indicating limited occupancy. Many investment companies have purchased these properties after receiving funds from the CCP and being told to buy them. As for my brother, he has access to his own land but doesn’t own it. Consequently, they save money on vegetables but spend more on meat. They also engage in side businesses to supplement their income. My brother’s school was closed due to lack of children. This is because of the one-child policy along with the fact that most people move their kids to the city for education. Luckily, he was able to find another school to work at, but they only have 10 kids.

My brother constantly nags about my nephew’s girlfriend situation, which annoys him. I try to mediate between them due to the generation gap. Although my nephew is a software engineer and knows what he’s doing, parental concerns are inevitable.

While chatting in the only air-conditioned bedroom (which we shared with the four of us), we discussed my brother’s living conditions, which aren’t as great as their son’s. I advised them to not only save money but also enjoy life and improve their living conditions. However, they prefer to wait for a developer to come and offer them a large sum of money for their property. I emphasized that quality of life is important, especially when living in a place for an extended period.

Around 3:30 pm, one of my friends from middle school paid us a visit. We discussed various topics, including America and China. My brother’s access to social media is limited, and he tends to be influenced negatively by TV news, resulting in his hatred towards America, particularly due to gun violence in places like Detroit. I provided a counterargument, highlighting that although there are areas of concern, many Chinese people still choose to immigrate to America, indicating its relative safety. After this trip, I reaffirmed my preference for living in America, which silenced my brother. Later, my friend and I enjoyed dinner with our former classmates, and they even introduced me to their husbands. It was a delightful day, especially after feeling tired of the concrete jungle in the city of Chongqing.

Day 5

Today, we made a visit to my Mom’s grave. On our way home, my brother pointed out that it was the same date, December 4th, that I first arrived in the USA a year later after my mom passed. It was an unusual coincidence that gave me a sense of fate. Additionally, we celebrated my nephew’s acceptance into a prestigious university, which felt like a blessing from our mother. It made me wonder if she would have approved of my decision to move to the USA. Afterward, we went to visit my Godmother, who was not only my high school math teacher but also lost her son at the young age of 27. Because of the one-child policy, she was unable to have any more children, so she adopted me as her goddaughter. To show her my gratitude, I made it a daily habit to call her for at least half an hour and provide support whenever possible during the first year. I even sent my daughter, Yuki, to stay with her. The journey to her new vacation home, located in a cooler town to escape the summer heat of Chongqing, took us two hours. Despite living with type II diabetes for over 20 years, she is living her retired life to the fullest by taking up new hobbies like learning to play the Guzheng, electric piano, and other musical instruments. Her life after retirement is truly admirable. When we finally reunited, I embraced her tightly, grateful for all the love she has shown both me and Yuki. We had lunch with her friend, Mrs. Pu, who discovered that my nephew is currently single. Mrs. Pu wasted no time in contacting a couple whose daughter, one year younger than my nephew, studied in England and now works at Changan Auto Company. Interestingly, my nephew had been offered a job at the same company but declined for a higher-paying position at his current job, losing a 5000 yuan sign-on bonus in the process. If you have read my previous entries, you will know that my brother is the most excited about the possibility of a girlfriend for my nephew. We playfully teased Mrs. Pu by having my nephew serve her tea and insisting that he pay for lunch (although I ended up paying in the end). After our meal, we went back to my Godmother’s condo, which unfortunately lacks air conditioning due to the cooler weather in the town she lives in, Da mu. Despite the rain, the evening felt rather warm, so we all gathered on the balcony to enjoy the cool breeze. The view of the lush green nature and mountains in the distance was truly breathtaking. Later on, we took a walk, making sure to bring umbrellas just in case it started to rain. The streets were bustling with people, but it felt like a much more pleasant environment compared to the usual busy city streets. However, time has flown by, and it will be difficult to say goodbye tomorrow. I am uncertain about when I will be able to come back again.

Day 6

Eat, eat, eat, three meals a day are a must. It seems like I’ve gained weight because of it. Their overwhelming passion for food forces you to keep eating. I could have settled for just two meals a day, but with three meals right in front of me, resisting becomes futile. I’m being extremely careful about what I eat on this trip. Unfortunately, oily food found its way into my stomach and gave me a terrible tummy upset last night. Despite feeling unwell, I still managed to have a satisfying breakfast before going on a leisurely walk and having a conversation with my companion. In that moment, I wished time would freeze, allowing me to spend more precious moments with her on this trip. After an hour and a half of walking, we returned home and my godmother started playing the electric piano. She always keeps herself busy with various activities. On the other hand, her husband spends his afternoons playing games like Cards or Mahjong for entertainment. Today, they decided to invite their friends for lunch to introduce their goddaughter who has returned from America, even though I don’t know any of them. During lunch, they introduced me to their friends, and although I tried not to overindulge, the flavors were too tempting to resist. After the meal, we had to go back to Chongqing for a train tour to Guiyang to visit my beloved uncle, who will be turning 90 on August 15th. Saying goodbye to my godparents was incredibly difficult. As I hugged them, tears welled up in their eyes and I struggled to hold back my own. I desperately wanted more time with them, but time can be cruel. My godmother even worried about my nephew getting lost while driving, so she accompanied us to the car and directed us in the right direction. I wished I could take her along for the rest of the trip, but it wasn’t possible. She got out of the car, holding my hands tightly. I tried to hide my tears, but I knew she saw. As we drove away, I choked up and couldn’t bring myself to talk, even though my brother and nephew tried to engage me in conversation. Now, as I write this, tears fill my eyes once again. We realized that we had left some keys at my brother’s house, so we had to go back and get them before heading back to Chongqing.

After a one-hour break, we went out to have another meal. My brother, his wife, my nephew, and my stepbrother joined together for dinner. Additionally, a friend who was my political teacher for a year in high school, and whom I hadn’t spent much time with during my visit, expressed her desire to accompany me to Guiyang tomorrow. The three of us, along with her other two students, had dinner together. It turned out to be a thought-provoking dinner conversation. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the government, especially regarding the amendment to the constitution allowing the president to serve an unlimited number of terms. They were also unhappy with the state of the economy. One of the students had high hopes of attending either Beijing or Tsinghua University after high school. She even received a scholarship to study an additional senior year to increase her chances. However, she failed to get admission to these prestigious universities and ended up at the Communication University of China, which is still a respected institution. To her disappointment, she found that even for a job in a TV station in Chongqing, personal connections were necessary. Frustrated, I exclaimed, “I hate this, as I don’t have these kinds of connections, despite having the necessary skills.” Another girl added that she initially believed she got her job solely based on merit, but later discovered that ninety percent of the employees got their positions through personal connections. My teacher and friend simply smiled, choosing not to comment. I understood her silence considering she is still actively teaching. In the Chinese education system, high school consists of three years (grades 10-12), while middle school covers grades 7-9. The only chance for high school students to enter university is through the Gao Kao, which is the national entrance examination. The results of this one-time exam have immense influence over their future. However, students are allowed to study for an additional year and retake the test if they are dissatisfied with their initial performance. Every year, during Gaokao, the atmosphere is tense for all students. After two weeks, when kids receive their Gao Kao grades, some of them are overjoyed. Some are devastated because they couldn’t get into a good university, which means no future. The unemployment rate in China is over 20%, how can kids find a job without a college degree? Two girls asked me if I have guns at home. I did answer their question, but I can’t include the answer here. They said, “Three years of a pandemic has destroyed the economy. And Chinese people can’t do anything about it. Because if someone does something, their career will come to an end, and the prospects for their children’s future will be extinguished. What a dinner!

Day 7

very hard to use internet, no photo yet

My beloved uncle lives in Guiyang, which took us a 2-hour train ride to reach. The countryside along the way was breathtaking, with picturesque terraced fields and newly developed country towns. Guiyang is the capital of Guizhou Province and is noticeably cooler than Chongqing, making air conditioning unnecessary. Upon arrival, I met many cousins, as well as my two uncles, one of whom is turning 90 tomorrow. Some of my relatives were surprised by my presence. It is customary for people to have a nap after lunch, and those who work enjoy a 2-hour break. Therefore, it’s best not to seek assistance from government agencies between 12 and 2 pm, as no one will be available. After lunch, while my relatives rested, I attempted to check my email and respond to a counteroffer. However, my frustration grew when I realized that my VPN was preventing me from accessing my email or opening attachments. Even forwarding emails through my cell phone proved futile, as the recipients couldn’t see the attachments. Desperate for a solution, I asked one of my cousins if I could stay at their home. Thankfully, they agreed, and with the help of my cousin Sean, organizing the arrangements took two hours. Eager to ensure I could work, I couldn’t wait to arrive at my cousin’s home. In the evening, I sought permission from my uncle and aunt to stay with them for some time, which they readily granted. Together, we took a taxi to their high-rise apartment building on the 28th floor. It was a beautiful home with three bedrooms and two baths. In this family, it is customary for relatives to give Hongbao, a red envelope with a monetary gift (ranging from 1000-145 US dollars or yuan) for birthdays, while the hosts cover the cost of a few nights in a hotel. I gifted my uncle a beautiful watch, which he greatly appreciated. We had a delightful two-hour conversation, though our plan to go for a walk was thwarted by rain. It was during this time that my uncle shared his insights on the tourism industry and how I could find employment with English-speaking Americans or British individuals. In the past, I had traveled with my uncle’s family and Yuki during winter vacations, as we all share a love for exploring new places. My uncle also expressed his belief that all TV news about America tends to be negative, and I agreed, citing issues such as gun violence in specific cities. I was taken aback when they expressed a negative opinion about Joe Biden as the American president, recognizing instead that Trump had grassroots support. I shared with them my perspective on the political mess in America and how the Democrats were making relentless efforts to undermine Trump. Tomorrow, there will be a banquet with 15 tables and around 150 attendees, which I am eagerly looking forward to. Unfortunately, using email and the internet has become increasingly difficult for me, as there is a data center monitoring my activities since I registered at the hotel using my passport. It is likely that they are tracking me and may restrict my access to Gmail and other platforms.

Day 8

August 15th, Staying at my uncle’s home was a much better choice than a hotel because I had the opportunity to spend more time chatting with my uncles. For breakfast, my cousin even cooked noodles for me. Later, all of my cousins came to visit our uncles at their home. During the summer, my uncle and aunt live with their youngest son, but during the winter, they stay with their oldest son because his house is heated. While we were all together, one of my cousins, who is retired and quite vocal, started discussing America, Trump, and Joe Biden. He expressed that he preferred Trump as president because he believed Biden to be more deceitful and less friendly toward China. He also emphasized the vast wealth disparity in America, claiming it to be greater than that of China. Additionally, he stated that Trump was not a skilled politician, implying that any candidate in China would be better than him. I was shocked by this perspective, especially since my cousin used to be the principal of an elementary school. We also discussed Bo Xilai, the former Mayor of Chongqing, who played a significant role in transforming the city into a beautiful place. However, my cousin expressed his support for the current president. After our conversation, we went to a restaurant for lunch while the rest of my cousins went to a park I had already visited. I stayed at my brother’s house to wait for my friend, who had accompanied me to Chongqing but went to see her own relatives. Unfortunately, we only had three hours to talk in the hotel because my friend was tired from shopping. In the evening, we attended a birthday dinner with 15 tables filled with delicious food. The hosts even invited some minority groups to perform dances, which added a special touch to the celebration. They also created a backdrop showcasing my uncle’s life journey. During the event, one of my nieces spoke on behalf of the family, and we all gathered to toast and wish my uncle well. The dinner lasted for two hours, and the restaurant was filled with smoke from people smoking indoors. Finally, I took a taxi with my uncle back home to relax.

Day 9

August 16th: A must Reading

This morning, my 90-year-old uncle surprised me by cooking noodles for breakfast. I felt incredibly lucky and happy to enjoy a meal prepared by him. Despite his age, his mind is still sharp, he doesn’t require a hearing aid, and he only needs a walking stick for support, as his legs are in good condition. While he cooked breakfast, I had a wonderful conversation with my uncle. Out of the four siblings, two sisters have already passed away. My mother, who was his older sister, was unfortunately the unluckiest in her family. In their household, only the boys were allowed to attend school, while the girls were denied this opportunity. As a result, my mother didn’t receive much education and instead stayed at home to take care of their mother and assist with all the farm work. When my grandmother passed away, my mother sent a telegram to my uncle, who rushed home after her burial. However, my aunt, my mother’s older sister, had been a child bride and was urged to pursue an education by her child-engaged family. She was fortunate enough to go to school and passed away two years ago at the age of 92. On the other hand, my uncle attended school until he was 14 years old. He too was engaged to a child bride, but someone introduced him to a job opportunity in Chongqing, which prompted him to break off the engagement and leave. As for my mother, she left her first husband because he tragically took the life of their own son. The details surrounding this incident are unclear. My mother has suffered from chronic bronchitis for a long time. Wherever she went, she had to be prepared with a plastic bag in case she felt nauseous from motion sickness. My youngest uncle is currently 84 years old and had the best education out of the four siblings, having attended high school. My mother didn’t have many educational opportunities, so she wanted all of her children to receive an education. As the youngest, I had to work the most during my childhood since my father was often not at home and my brother was away at boarding school. I had to wash quilts in the pond with my little hands, while my mother watched me since she couldn’t handle the cold water due to her bronchitis. Childhood trained me good work ethic. After breakfast, I took a taxi to the train station. Although my cousin wanted to accompany me, I told him it wasn’t necessary. However, I realized I didn’t have much Chinese currency with me. Luckily, I found one dollar and asked the driver if it was okay to pay in US dollars. He was surprised to see US currency for the first time, so I showed him the $20 and $100 bills I had. He was delighted when I gave him one dollar as a gift. He asked me many questions, and I happily answered them all before heading back to my nephew’s home in Chongqing. The countryside was breathtaking, but as soon as we arrived in Chongqing, the heat became unbearable. Upon arrival, I took care of some personal errands and met up with an old friend. It was a busy day for me!

Day 10

August 19th

Today was unbearably hot. Despite the scorching heat, I accompanied my sister-in-law, who is married to my younger brother, to go shopping at the outlet. Purchasing clothes in China can be quite pricey. After we finished our shopping spree, my sister-in-law had a mission from my brother to bring something back for Sean. However, I told her it would be too burdensome to carry, and Sean is very particular about the things he likes, especially snacks. So instead, she treated us to a meal at a restaurant, where my stepbrother, older brother, sister-in-law, and I hailed a taxi to. Unfortunately, my sister-in-law was not familiar with the exact location of the restaurant, so we had to endure a 10-minute walk under the scorching sun. By the time we arrived, I was so overheated that I immediately requested a refreshing drink and some water. As a result, I wasn’t very hungry and didn’t have much of an appetite. After our lunch, we took a taxi to the airport. Waiting for a taxi under the blazing sun was incredibly uncomfortable, and I grew increasingly irritated by the situation. Eventually, I asked my nephew to book a taxi online to pick us up.

On a different note, my high school teacher accompanied me during my short stay in Chongqing and took the time to visit Guiyang with me. She kindly purchased some gifts for Sean based on my previous suggestions. Additionally, she was always there for me whenever I needed assistance with personal matters. We have developed a strong friendship over the years. She consistently shows her support by liking my posts on Chinese social media. Despite living far away from the airport, she still managed to prepare a meal for her 96-year-old mother and take the monorail to bid me farewell at the airport. Unfortunately, there was confusion regarding the terminals, so she had to ride the monorail back and eventually met me at the correct terminal. Before we parted ways at the customs area, where they could no longer accompany me, we took a photo together. It took her a total of two hours to reach the airport just to see me off, and she would need another two hours to return home. I am truly grateful to have such a loyal friend.

I was slightly disappointed that my nephew couldn’t drive me to the airport, considering he had known about my travel plans for six weeks. Purposely booked return tickets on Saturday, and the blistering heat only added to my frustration. However, I understand his situation as he has been working at his company for a year now. When the manager demands your presence, there are limited opportunities to negotiate. It seems that they prioritize work over family. I felt more at ease when I arrived at the airport in Hong Kong, where I could freely access the internet.


Summary of the trip to China:

During my trip to China, I had a lot of interesting experiences in just 10 days. One thing that really stood out to me was how prevalent facial recognition technology was in everyday life. From boarding planes to accessing neighborhood communities, facial scans were used instead of traditional methods like boarding passes or keys. Even banks and stock securities relied on face recognition. This reliance on facial recognition made me uneasy, especially since I was staying with someone who valued privacy. It felt like there was no other choice but to give away my face for everything.

The cities in China were remarkably clean, and the airports were impressively large. Residential buildings were incredibly tall, often surpassing 33 stories as the same as before. However, the urban planning left something to be desired, as it was hard to find fresh air while walking around the communities. In the mornings and evenings, I noticed senior citizens gathering to dance for exercise. They seemed content with their lives, even if they didn’t know much about the outside world. On the other hand, the younger generation, who had access to VPNs, didn’t always seem happy. They felt influenced by negative narratives on social media, with Chinese platforms often portraying America in a negative light due to associations with imperialism. However, I questioned if they truly understood the concept of imperialism. Similarly, Americans often received negative news about China, leading to biased views.

Even in America, social media is often negative about China. My family here were worried about my safety during my time in China, fearing potential government interference or detainment. Sean even had a rescue plan in place, involving a significant amount of money. While I didn’t believe there was much value in keeping me there, I did feel like I was being monitored by the government, considering they had collected all my information, including where I was staying and my nephew’s contact details. Strangely, my Chinese ID card became unusable, losing its magnet, even though it was still valid until 2027. Additionally, my old bank card was frozen after visiting the bank the next day.

If you plan on traveling to China, be prepared for fingerprinting and facial recognition at customs. They also retain your health information, which can be used to track you through platforms like WeChat. While the use of facial recognition does enhance safety and help catch criminals, it raises concerns about constantly using your face for identification. I mostly paid with cash during my trip, but I was told that even using cash is becoming less common, with WeChat transfers becoming the preferred method. I didn’t link my WeChat with my bank card because that would require my real ID. What are your thoughts on all of this?