During our Sunday walk around West Lake, we got a text from our student-interpreter (also our new Chinese granddaughter), Eryi (are-ee’), asking when we were leaving. She wanted to visit one more time. So we met her at Pacific Coffee this morning and chatted for a couple of hours–about school, about going off to college, about China and the United States and the difference in our populations and cultures. Eryi had remembered us on Sunday while she was in her home town, which she describes as a small city about an hour’s drive from Hangzhou. Curious, Char asked what Eryi meant by a small town, thinking, of course, of our home town of New Ulm, which has a population of about 14,000.
“Oh,” Eryi said, “about a million.”
“A million?” I said.
“Six zeros?” I said.
“Yes, that’s right,” she said.
And then we had a good chuckle, realizing, of course, the differences in our countries and cultures and perspectives.
Meeting with Eryi was a pleasant diversion from the bitter-sweet task of packing to return home. Fortunately, when we returned to the apartment, we found ourselves occupied with having to fit all of what we have to bring home into bags that quickly filled to capacity, and repacking and resolving the issue kept our minds off what we are leaving behind. There is work to be done before we leave; we must take out the trash, wash the bed linens, scrub the floors, leave instructions for the next occupant, review the final scenario for the morning’s departure. During the three-hour drive to Shanghai, we will be discussing our time here with one of our hosts. Then we must go through the business of checking in, struggle through the throes of security, and find our way to the gate. We will most likely be several hours into the flight before we start to reflect on what we have just done, and that the experience of a lifetime that seemed to take forever to come to fruition passed in a heartbeat.