[Italy] Cicione Margherita, Chongqing University
Since the minute I was on board on my first flight to the East, I had been imagining how Chongqing, the new world which I would soon meet a dozen hours later, looked like. I looked forward with excitation to the life expanding before me. It has been seven years since my first amazing trip to the city Chongqing.
When I finally landed in Chongqing, I saw an amazing city with diverse charms. It was a city of mountains, a city of bridges, a city of hot pots and a city of Bangbang (long and strong sticks to help carry packages). It was also a modern city with a great number of skyscrapers and leisure parks. It had thousands of colors and millions of delicious specialities. For example, for peppers only, there were red, green and even black peppers. The first impression Chongqing had on me was “fear”.
I was worried and unsettled almost into tears, as if I was exiled to a new world, nothing similar to Europe. China made my daily life into chaos. I had a deep breath and told myself, “Margherita, this is a self challenge. Believe yourself. You will soon get used to China after only six months.” I felt headache when reading articles in Chinese and my stomach also ached when eating food with too much spices. Chongqing is a very big city and I was often fearful that I would get lost.
Fear was soon replaced by curiosity. I found that there were spicy and hot delicacies besides salty and sweet food. The potatoes I found in the dishes turned out to be lotus roots and red beans could be made into sweet paste. I started to ask myself many questions about China: Why ancient and modern China can be perfectly merged? Why people can keep perfect balance between haste and ease? Why I feel welcomed and protected even in such a big city? Why every thing is moving forward, changing and evolving?
I found clues to some of the questions in my university life and in talking with Chinese people during some get-togethers. I travelled to a number of cities, such as Beijing, Nanjing, Guiyang, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. I learned the diversity of Chinese cities in these trips. There were distinct differences in food, attitude, life style and language in different areas in China.
I began to know more about China from books and then verified the knowledge when travelling. I stopped looking at China from a Westerner’s perspective. Instead I tried to look at China with eyes of Chinese. I knew I was being changed or even transformed by the new life in China.
Curiosity soon turned into merging. I felt at ease with Chongqing very soon. The hustle and bustle of life became pleasant music, the irritating spicy hot-pot became delicious, small-bowl rice which had previously been nothing to me now became a must, some strange places became familiar and the Chongqing tone which had been hard to understand now became pleasing tune.
My home was there, with a window from which I enjoyed shadows of skyscrapers at night, a bed with sweet dreams and a kitchen where I cooked dumplings. All simple trifles in daily life made me happy. I wish I could stay in China longer. Therefore I extended my 6-month studying to four and a half years.
I became a captive of Chongqing. I smiled brighter, and I grew softer and stronger. Life in China motivated me into high spirits. Sometimes I asked myself if I was worthy of such a beautify life. My previous understanding of China slowly changed and I grew some new habits now, for example, I drank nice hot tea instead of cocola now, I loved softer Mantou (Chinese steamed bread) more than bread, and I used chopsticks easier than forks.
Several days before my flight back to Italy, I visited for the last time places I frequented in Chongqing, ate my favorite specialities and took a picture with the home which I had stayed for more than four years. I feared time would blur my memories about China. However, I believed that time could never erase the memories because my mind and heart would keep a special place for those memories forever.
Now though back in Italy, I often felt I was still connected to China thousand of miles away with a thin string tight in my hands. I had to admit I was deeply attached to China. Somebody may think this was quite incredible, however it was so true to me.
Now I am writing this article while drinking hot water (a habit of Chinese people), and I realize that I am not only Margherita in Italy, but also Moli (meaning Jasmine in Chinese) in China. The flight taking me to Chongqing seven years ago changed my identity and also transformed my life. This is my beautiful encounter with Chongqing, China.
The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).