My daily walk in Chengdu

Chengdu is different. It has 13 million people and is set in one of the most beautiful provinces in China.

I work at two different public high schools here. One is considered the oldest school in China, and perhaps the world. Built in 141 BC, Shishi was built during the Han Dynasty. It’s operated continuously on the same site for over 2,155 years. There are 6,000 students. Only about 120 are mine, at an international center.

I live about a 15 minutes’ walk from the oldest school in the world. My journey is set to a Rachel Maddow Podcast or the busy Chengdu atmosphere.

Things I hear:

Chanting

Sales pitches set on a digital repeat, connected to a microphone.

Traffic horns

Groups of real estate agents warming up outside together preparing for the day with a song.

Grandparents talking to their children as they walk them to school.

“Ni shi laoshi ma?” (Are you a teacher?)

“Hello!”

Things I see:

A pedestrian bridge.

Blocked traffic on both sides of Xionan St.

Fruit vendors. Meat vendors, unashamedly selling all parts. (Chicken feet are a favorite here.

Spit on the sidewalk.

Blended generations of people.

A shop owner’s cat always tethered to a box, desperately in need of a bath.

Dogs with dyed fur (usually pink or green).

Three-year-olds with backpacks.

My school’s security guards saluting me as I enter. (Education’s a big deal here).

Amazing Chinese architecture of my school. Shishi is very traditional.

Things I smell:

Baozi (Steamed meat bun)

Sichuan pepper.

Other strange kitchen smells.

Urine.

Pollution.

When I take the bus an hour West to my other school twice a week, I encounter similar things. THe bus journey features many smells. Breath smelling of freshly eaten noodles or seaweed tang. I see older ladies walk carefully with curls that you swore were stolen from a Black woman (sometimes thick and textured like mine).

My favorite part of my morning routine istaking it all in. People say both good and bad things about China. After two years here I can safely say Chinese people take pride in who they are. They may seem different to us foreigners (dress, language, food) and they know it and own it. I’ve never seen more confident people wearing sweatpants that say mistranslated English phrases,

I enjoy learning each and every day I’m here.