I cannot believe that it has been a whole year since I went to Chengdu. That trip affected my life in so many ways, I am not completely able to comprehend.
My Three Favorite Things:
1. Sichuan Food
I MISS IT SO SO SO MUCH. It was so good and there has not been any real substitute for me. I thankfully brought back some spices with me, 花椒 (numbing pepper) and 辣椒 (hot pepper). I can still use them to cook green beans or fried rice. I also found this Sichuan restaurant in Gainesville where they serve hot pot, pots of tea, and my favorite dish 回锅肉 (twice cooked pork). The one thing that definitely has not been the same is the fried rice. I miss the fried rice from the restaurant we used to go to every day that was right next door to the university.
2. Subway Transportation
My appreciation for public transportation increased 100000%. The subway system was new, clean, cheap, and incredibly efficient. You could get to many places with just the subway at your disposal. Even if the subway did not have your stop (because more lines were still being built), you could take the bus. We had a large bus station right near the university where you could go on multiple routes. Even with these modes of transportation, you could always take a taxi. I just appreciated my ability to get wherever I wanted without having to drive. I did not even need to plan a trip, sometimes we would just look at the map at the station and then decide where to go. My trip to Chengdu has convinced me that I want to live somewhere with great city-wide public transportation available.
3. Constant Discovery
Although it did not always feel like it at the time, I learned something new every day during my trip. I either tried a dish I had never eaten before, went to a new shop, met a new person, traveled to a new place. I was studying in a classroom with students from all over the world. I got to partake in new games, like mahjong. I had the ability to go completely outside of my comfort zone: I stayed in a hostel in Hong Kong, slept in the Beijing airport, and ate meals of dumplings and chocolate shakes. I admit, coming home felt as if I were giving up all of my freedom I had gained. But, I have found ways to incorporate that attitude into my life. I try to spend weekends going to new places around my hometown, and traveled with my friends to Atlanta. While I do have my usual places I go to often, I go out of my way to try new things.
Looking back a year later, I am so grateful for this experience. You can be sure I will be going back.