I have survived the 100 days!

I can’t believe I have survived the 100 days in this remote Chinese village.  In several days, I’m going to Beijing.  After that, I’m going back to my home in Ohio.  You know what?  I’m really fired up.

Beijing is such a lovely place to me.  I used to live there for 15 years.  Many of my college buddies are still there.  I’ll be able to take a shower daily (Yes! Finally), use the in-door bathroom, enjoy the delicious food, walk on the familiar and clean streets, and have fun with my friends.  The last time I saw most of them were 3 years ago, when we had the 30-year reunion.  The trip to Beijing will definitely bring back a lot of my sweet memories.

Instead of counting the months and weeks, now I’m counting the days and hours.  Thank God, finally I’m here.

The last 100 days have been tough.  How did I survive it?  I don’t know exactly, but somehow I made it with a lot of struggles.  No matter what, I came out of this ordeal in one piece.  The life inconvenience didn’t melt me.

The truth is that, I’m not a saint.  I complained (to myself, and on this blog) many times quietly.  I don’t remember how many times I wished I could get out of here immediately.  But, I managed to keep my mouth shut, and stayed on.  After all, I knew this long trip was not about me, and it’s more about my mom.

What kept me on was the hope.  I knew that, this trip was not a permanent one.  The hope looked remote, but was still there.  When a new day started, I knew I was one day closer, though every day was pretty much a struggle.

Now I can look back the 100 days in a more relaxing and amusing way.  It is hard to be even in my own shoes, not mentioning in someone else’ shoes.

Going to the town was a big distraction to me.  I enjoyed it a lot.  The town is 7 miles away.  It’s not a fancy town.  But it provided me the precious personal space and time I have been desperately craving for.  I was finally left alone, without any interruptions.  How nice it was to stay away from the microscope for several hours.

Walking over to the main road alone, waving for a bus, I got a rare sense of freedom.  It only cost $0.6 to get to the town, and the experience was priceless to an introvert like me.  Wandering around in the town, I could go anywhere I liked to, alone.

Sometimes I walked in my high school, the school I left 37 years ago.  All the old dorms and classrooms were gone, but I could still feel the attachment.  I miss my high school classmates and teachers, and wonder where they are right now.

I used my laptop, and drew a chart of the old layouts of my high school.  It showed, where my dorm was located at, where my classroom was sitting at, and where some of my beloved teachers’ offices were.  I shared this chart with my brother and my friend, who went to the same high school and feel the similar connections with the school.  It was cool.

Reconnecting with my childhood friends was a mixed bag.  I’m very happy to see them all.

Luckily I was able to spend some good time with Jane, my childhood friend I mentioned earlier who was brutally denied from the college education by her mom, simply because she’s a girl.  Jane’s second kid went to college, which was great news.  In some way, this fulfilled Jane’s college dream (I hope).

On the other hand, it was heartbreaking to hear that, Jane lost her husband early 2018 due to the lung cancer.  We sat down together, and became very emotional.  Sometimes life is just not that pretty …

One day, Jane and I took a long walk.  We went to see the Hu Tuo river, called the Big River when we were kids.  It looked okay, but not that good as 40 years ago.  It was sad to see the river had become so narrow, and all the lovely trees along the river banks were long gone.  The corn field intruded to the edge of the river, together with the dumped trash, and empty pesticide bottles.

On the mountains far away, there are quite a lot of mining factories.  Yes, they contributed to the GDP, but also to the pollution.

Jane and I felt bad about this unwelcome environmental change.

Some of my childhood friends tried to convey the message: “Helen, move back to here.  What’s good about America?”  It was a daunting task to describe why US is a better place to me.  They care more about money, food, and being around with loved ones.  I care more about fresh air, greenness, food safety, personal identity, freedom, privacy, and independence.  At the end, we couldn’t convince each other, had to laugh it off, and let this topic go.

Food safety is a concern to me.  It’s kind of handy that, all the groceries are available in this village.  The prices of fruit and vegetable are very low.  For fresh English cucumbers, green beans, tomato, crispy and juicy pears, they are only $0.5 per pound.

But I’m worried if they are clean, as it’s said those fruit and greenhouse vegetables were sprayed too much pesticide or over fertilized.

I found a decent buffet place in the town.  It had quite a lot of dishes, cold and hot.  Most of them were vegetables, and a few meat dishes.  The dumplings were freshly hand-made with different varieties.  We could select the flavor and boil them at our table.  The place looked very clean.  And the buffet was only $3 per person.  For seniors (age 75 and above), it’s 45% off.  It was cool.

The meat I ate daily must have gone through the same delivery process.  That made me uneasy.  Sometimes when my stomach was upset, I always suspected if it was because the food I ate.  I may be wrong.


I’m so glad this long stay is coming to an end.  I feel excited, and a little bit sad because I’m leaving my mom behind.  After all, we are living in two different worlds.  I guess that’s part of life.  I have to move on, and so does she.  She will be all right, as she is healthy, and likes this closely-knitted community.  This is her home.

Dear readers, I want to thank each of you for your support.  This blog has been a great distraction for me during the last 100 days, as I know you are listening.  Thank you.

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8 Responses

  1. It is a really interesting perspective Helen. Glad to have you coming back home. Enjoy your time in Beijing. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, thank you. Yeah, I look forward to the time in Beijing. Shortly I’ll be back home in Ohio. Miss the snow and lots of great things in Ohio.

  2. GYM says:

    Have a great time in Beijing! Sorry that your friend lost her husband, life can be so hard sometime. It seems like you had a good time reconnecting with your friends and visiting the river. So much has changed in a few decades.

    Oh wow, that MEAT! Just sitting there on the truck! You’re probably accurate when you have a stomach ache and you wonder if it’s something you ate. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    • Hi GYM, thank you. Yeah, 2018 was a tough year for my friend Jane. She will get through. Environment wise, this village changed quite a lot.

      Yeah, regarding the meat handling, that’s the way it has been for hundreds of years. The local people don’t feel anything abnormal at all. But it bothered me quite a lot. I guess I don’t belong to here anymore.

  3. Katrin says:

    Have a great time in Beijing! When I saw the top picture of the river I thought it looked very nice – spotting all that trash must have been a real disappointment…

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Katrin, Thank you. I just came back from China. Feel wonderful to be home again. It was a great time in Beijing, and I was able to do a lot of things I couldn’t do in the village. Yeah, the river looked better in the picture than the reality. I hope the local people wake up soon, realize the importance to protect their environment, and really do something about it.

  4. Joe says:

    IMO, the meat is fine as long as you cook them well. I saw similar things at the fresh market in Thailand. The food safety in the US is over the top. I agree about vegetables and pesticides, though. I feel safer with vegetables in the US.
    Enjoy Beijing! It must be super exciting to get back to the US. We just got back after 5 weeks and it feels great. Life is so much easier and smoother here. It’s chaotic in Thailand.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, yeah, the meat has been that way for hundreds of years. It didn’t look odd when I grew up. Now after living in US for so many years, I feel differently. In terms of food safety, US is doing much better.

      It’s cool you wrapped up the 5-week trip. I just came back, and started enjoying my sweet home again. Feel great to be at home.

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