Beyond the Hem | 途·中

By Ran Lavin Huo, SM ’17 (visiting student)

Ran Lavin Huo, a Beijing native and an exchange student from the University of Hong Kong, presents her interwoven feelings during travels around the globe.

ORIGINAL

旅途不仅是为了在火树银花的热闹下拍巴掌,更是为了走入情感上浓墨重彩的地方,体会翻腾的心情。过去的一年,我有幸到世界的多个角落游历。在这些地方的经历各不相同,却无一例外地体会到了并立与交集。

去年年初,我跟着李嘉诚基金会的科技创新团,去了以色列。第一天,荒野的风裹挟着寒意,早早将我们一行六十余人吹进了一个圆形的大毡房。毡房中间的炉子闪着星星火光,我们绕着它来回穿梭,每次落脚前,都要小心看看会不会误伤到谁。两天后,仿佛一夜间藏进了百年的发展,我们参观着特拉维夫世界闻名的创新企业,看到一件件敞亮的屋子像发电机一样,把美好的技术向全世界传递。荒野和科技的并立,来自一种诚恳的发心。一位以色列政府官员告诉我们,以色列认识到自己在自然资源上的贫乏,才会更加把科技作为自己的翅膀。

如果说以色列创造了一种先天和后天的对立,那么四川保留着一种原始的,仪式感的对立。我们绕着四川西部的边界,“咔嚓咔嚓”地记录着沿途的花湖和月亮湾,却好像怎么照,都只拍到了她的裙摆。而在用摄影把朋友们的一个个“赞”收入囊中的背后,我们连着吃了很多天在高原上易栽培,烹饪的土豆,甚至一顿饭里可以找到炒土豆丝,蒸土豆,土豆块等七十二变。以至于回到成都,住到四星级的宾馆,吃到自助餐,都油然生出一种不适感。从四川回来,觉得也许只有原始感,倒退般的环境,才能涵养景物中那朴质的神韵。

到了美国,这种倒退般的感觉在耶鲁的校园也随处可见。哥特式的建筑,让人仿佛穿越到了文艺复兴前的欧洲。宿舍也多数为了保持建筑的原始风貌,没有安装空调和电梯,却别有趣味地打通了地下,形成了一个地下王国。虽然常抱怨旅行归来,要搬箱子上到四层的宿舍,但不得不说当华丽的玻璃幕墙成为现代化的商标的时候,这所从不缺钱的学校,却依然披着那件古典的外衣。教室里,蜜色的木质桌椅聆听着世界级的艺术家,政治家,或是经济学家的授课,留下一声长久回荡的“吱呀”。

说到玻璃幕墙和现代化,就绕不开香港,这个我读了两年大学的地方。在这个城市丛林中,又高又瘦的建筑们仿佛在渲染一种营养不良的美。不过偶尔在街角,还会停留着一些炊烟袅袅的痕迹。有时是街角的一个凉茶铺子,点一碗廿四味,老板拿出一个瓷碗,揭开面前的钢桶盖子,舀上一大勺。双手捧起碗的那一刻,好像街巷和行人开始倒退,时光也变得格外舒缓,格外宽容。或是在一家貌不惊人的早茶店,熙熙攘攘之中拉着姐妹去寻个座位,才知道这是一家远近闻名的老店,还常有明星过来觅食。它却因此没有摇身一变,变得“珠光宝气”,而是像十年前,二十年前那样站在那里。也难怪十年前,二十年前光顾它的人,依然在门口排着队。

TRANSLATION

Traveling is not as much about having your breath taken away by wondrous views as it is about self-reflection. Last year, I toured several places that seemed very different, in all of which I felt the juxtaposition of old and new.

Early last year, I was on an entrepreneurship trip to Israel with the Techcracker Lab program. On the first day, the relentless wind drove us into a huge yurt, which held 60 people. In the middle of the yurt, we encircled a fireplace. Every time we were about to take a step, we had to take care not to step on anyone’s toes. However, just two days later, we arrived in Tel Aviv, a hotbed for prestigious tech startups. The co-existence of desolation and technological advancement in one region comes from the Israelis’ understanding of their nation: realizing Israel’s lack of natural resources, they used technology as their source of development.

While Israel’s development strategy builds on top of what it does not have naturally, the outskirts of western Sichuan, a province in southwestern China, seek to preserve their primitive form against the mainstream backdrop of modernization. During my trip to Sichuan last summer, my camera would not stop clicking in the picturesque Hua Hu (Lake of Flowers) and Yue Liang Wan (Bay of Moon). No matter how many photos I took, I felt as if I were examining only the hem of a beautiful gown. But soon, I lifted that gown, only to find a pair of worn out muddy sandals. Food was bland: once, I had stir-fried potatoes, steamed potatoes, and potato chunk in the same meal. Although potatoes don’t seem to fit with the richness of the view, they are easy to grow and cook in western Sichuan’s high altitude. Eventually, after we arrived in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, we all experienced some sort of culture shock and unfamiliarity, when we stayed in a four-star hotel and enjoyed a buffet. In retrospect, it was the backward primitive feeling we experienced in the outskirts of Sichuan that nourished the peacefulness within that scenery.

When I came to America, I experienced a similar backward feeling on Yale’s campus. The Gothic buildings here make people feel as if they are in pre-Renaissance Europe. I discovered that most dormitories were not equipped with elevators or air conditioners, in order to preserve the authenticity of the Gothic architectural style. Though I constantly complained about the inconvenience of carrying my luggage up to the fourth floor, I was impressed that while many modern institutions flaunt their “contemporary” glass walls, Yale is still wearing a classical outfit. Clearly, it is not because Yale is running out of money for renovation. Yet in classrooms, the honey colored desks and chairs continue to creak as generations of world-class scholars pass on their knowledge of art, politics, or science to students.

Speaking of glass walls and modernization, Hong Kong is not to be missed. I spent two years studying in Hong Kong, where I saw buildings are so tall and thin that they reminded me of skinny models suffering from malnutrition. But sometimes at street corners, I could see signs of the good old days. This sign might be a traditional tea stand at the street corner, where I would order a particularly bitter but healthy tea. The shopkeeper would take out a china bowl, lift the lid of the steel pot in front of her, and take a spoonful of liquid from it. The moment I held the bowl in both hands, the pedestrian rush and neon logos would fade away and time would slow down quite tolerably. Or it might be a modest-looking Yum Cha store, serving China-style brunch tea. Once, with a good friend, I hurried to find a seat amid the crowd, and learnt that this store was a renowned restaurant in the neighborhood with decades of history. Sometimes, even celebrities would come here to taste the original recipe. The restaurant, however, did not build up its fame through fancy decorations. It stood there quietly, the same way it did ten or twenty years ago. Perhaps that is why visitors from a decade ago are still lining up at the counter.

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