Liam R. is currently a junior at SYA China and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He comes to SYA from The Bishop’s School in California.

The following is my first journal entree written en route to Taizhou, Zhejiang. When in Taizhou a few students and I had the opportunity to study alongside Chinese students in their high school. It was an experience I will never forget:

The air seemed to tornado around the winglets of the plane. It was dry, until we got to the clouds. The crystal clear image that I was developing of Beijing rearranged itself; my new home seemed to conjure itself into a whole new scene. Small houses and gardens, laced with small streets; lǜ’s and jiē’s harmonized on the floor beneath me. What a beautiful masterpiece it was to see: architecture playing in the cold air. When we hit the cotton candy of condensation that layered over the bustle of China, spirals of water vapor swam around the fuselage. Simultaneously, snowflakes appeared around the windows and glass that protected us from the harshness of our atmosphere. Every time I fly, I realize I’m a quarter of the way to being an astronaut. There’s a whole lot of air up there. Miles of gas were layered beneath my feet that silently groped the floor through my expired sneakers. The entire body of Asia seem to be gone, dissolved in the man-made toxic mass of smog. It’s actually quite beautiful, when you think about it; the evidence of economy. Beneath me, a humming cylindrical smokestack exhaled the remains of burning carbon into the dawn. My neck bobbed with the turbulence as the remaining melatonin in my bloodstream found its way, for I had awaken at four in the morning to catch my flight. 

“Are you a exchange student?” My sitting neighbor asked with a certain tone that convinced me she wanted a short answer. “I am.” Quickly, she closed her eyes again and frustratingly pushed her jacket deep into the abyss under her chair. The rhythm of soul vibrated my ears through my headphones as I looked down through the clouds to try and find the ground. The captain said we were beginning our descent 15 minutes prior, and my ineffective coffee was pleading to leave my body. Surrounded in a blissful, bright paradise, I grew immensely more tired as the plane seem to be rocking me to sleep. My leg laid comfortably against a radiator used to heat up the old flyer and I was exhausted. But, before I could cover my corneas, the green Earth opened up beneath me. Hundreds of miles from the pit of China’s capital city, the southern town of Taizhou seemed to be beckoning me into it chartreuse crust. I want to lay down on the bed of grass that sat on a distant hill and stare up at the small raindrops. I could imagine the sound of rain falling on a car after you shut it off- or the sweet whisper of bleached snow. The ground grew larger as I began to feel smaller surrounded by such beauty. I could recall descending into Beijing for the first time, suspended above purple mountain ranges sleeping in front of a golden sunset.

We slipped to our gate and touched down on the bowels of our mother. I stepped out into the humid weather. It wasn’t hot, but neither cold. Rather a feeling comparable to spring’s first fog: wet, yet pleasantly refreshing. The golden letters of the airport’s sign were made matte by the overcast gloom as we exited the baggage claim, recently reunited with our luggage. The beauty of a new bustling village lit up around our van, more of a caravan, however, if you ask me. After a brisk drive through the damp environment, we arrived to the school gates of Taizhou Middle School, and I was slapped with fear. I forgot every word of Chinese I had studied and I felt smaller than I did earlier on the plane. A world of questions sat before me, but I knew that the only way through was forward; and I will always abide by that during my many experiences here in China.

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