The side of my head says hello to the side of the Land Rover.
How are you? This road is quite bumpy, isn't it? It says again
I am on my way to the Zhao Tai (Jow Tie) Countryside, in Gansu Province, China. I am in the back of the Land Rover with my friends "Benjamin", "Elena", and in the front seat are the driver and Peng, "Benjamin"'s brother.
We are on our way to visit Benjamin's relatives, who are farmers in the southeastern part of the province. They have been anxiously awaiting our visit, as they haven't seen Ben in years, have never met his girlfriend Elena, and have never seen a foreigner before.
It's a long, very, very bumpy car ride up and down at least 15 mountains. This place is remote. The paved roads ended 2 hours ago. Now we're left with washed-out mud pits from the recent rain. The going is tough, but luckily we have a driver who has earned his title of 师傅, or "Master."
We finally get close to the house and see Ben's grandma in the fields looking at the corn. She finds Ben's frail, work-ravaged grandpa, and we sit down to chat. I stay for a bit, but want to venture outside to see the landscape, which took my breath away as we traveled to their home.
On every side, EVERY side, were mountains. The terraced mountains of China. Every inch of it farmland. This is the place that National Geographic photographers want to be. And I'm here. I'm here.
The vivid green and gold of the corn and wheat is giving way to deep, dark blues, blacks, and lesser shades of yellow as the sun fully falls behind the mountains. I hear crickets chirping and the footsteps of my two companions, Elena and a 10-year old cousin of Benjamin's. There's a slight chill in the air, and my bronchitis-ravaged lungs manage to control themselves after the ascent and offer me a temporary respite for self-reflection and deep thought.
3 years ago, I wasn't even interested in China, let alone wanting to go there and spend months (and soon to be years) of my life. I thought we should leave the farmers alone, they've got nothing to say. All the Chinese want is money, and eventually, a world dominated by Communist totalitarianism. What has China got to offer the world right now besides cheap toys and clothing?
But here I am, and what an ignorant kid I was.
Strangely enough, standing on top of the mountain, overlooking the farmland, not seeing a house, a building, a car, or a tractor.....I was at peace. I had realized my two-year dream to see the terraces of China. After mounds of paperwork, months spent in Chinese class, hours on the bus, I stood on the mountain.
Now I get to seek after a new dream. And what a dream it will be when I find it.