Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reality but not Quite

Today was pretty epic. I climbed a mountain, went sightseeing at a famous lake, and watched the seventh Harry Potter movie. I never thought that I’d ever do all these on the same day, but that’s the way life’s been rolling for me recently - oftentimes random and always exciting. Afternoons of soccer or yoga, movie nights and slam poetry.. throwing parties for friends, searching for an elusive Brazilian bakery, having your friend cut your hair, riding a motorbike to claim insurance, this list could go on and on.

This weekend just adds to that growing list, another gem in the treasure trove of stories I’ve accumulated in my almost three months here in Shanghai. I was hesitant to go to this Suzhou trip to be honest, as I didn’t know any close friends who are going. The 100 RMB deal was too hard to pass up though, and I’ve been itching to go on a trip for weeks.

First stop was some Suzhou Garden.. now it might sound like it’s just some garden but this is Suzhou we’re talking about, a city renowned all around China for its garden scenery. It was the usual picture-perfect fare, with a huge lake surrounding it, but one or two hours is enough to stroll around the so-beautiful-it’s-boring lawns.

Next stop, Tai Hu. We had to ride a boat without anybody knowing what our actual destination was. It took forever to cross the lake that felt more like an ocean. Finally, land. An island, what now? Well, to my surprise, we were there to pick mandarin oranges. As many as we wanted! I got to meet some interesting guys taking graduate studies in Fudan. An interesting scene: Arguing about world economics with an Estonian master’s student in the middle of an orange orchard.

Tired legs + bags heavy with mandarin oranges = hotel time. Having only paid 100 RMB, I wasn’t expecting anything grand, in fact a shabby hostel in the middle of nowhere would’ve totally met my expectations. But how wrong I was. After a hotel-caliber dinner, I went up to what was probably the most spacious and luxurious room I’ve ever stayed in. It was awesome.

Mountain climbing the next day. It was a regular climb up a regular mountain, but still loads of fun. A chance to bond with fellow scholars. I realized that the Chinese government sponsors such a varied group of people to study here: a Fil-Am who’s lived in five different countries, a guy from Myanmar who got a level 11 HSK, some guys from Burundi, Nepal, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and even North Korea! As we were having a group picture at the mountain top, I realized that I was with a pretty exotic bunch.

Fast forward to night time. My first time to watch in a cinema here in China. As Polyjuiced Harry, Ron, and Hermione were infiltrating the Ministry, that familiar magical feeling of the books started seeping back into me. Harry Potter 7 was damn awesome. The best movie of the series hands-down. Most faithful adaptation of the book without a doubt. This is the first time in the series where the movie actually gives justice to the book.. It’s pure pleasure to watch the characters come alive on screen, to see in full-color action the sequences I so fondly pictured in my mind while reading the book more than three years ago. HP7-1 is a perfectly brewed mix of romance, action, drama, and dark sequences with a sprinkle of comedy set in the spellbinding world of Rowling’s imagination.. Having been to London just makes the setting more real yet more magical for me. After the movie, I felt like all inspiration was coming back to me.. my profound love for the series, for the characters, for stories in general..

Looking forward to more weekends like this. Back to school tomorrow. Back to reality, but not quite:)

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