Yesterday we went to the Summer Palace in Beijing. Our visit coincided with the ongoing national holiday in China (October 1 to 9). A lot of Chinese tourists flooded the famous landmarks in and around the capital, they came from all over the vast country to visit places of national significance like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Summer Palace. It was a mass of humanity moving slowly between corridors, squares to eventually end up on the shores of the lake surrounding the palace where the Empresses of the past centuries walked with their entourage to escape the heat of the forbidden city. The mass of fellow sightseers made the summer palace experience akin to that of a severely magnified Time Square claustrophobic push and shove tide of humans during rush hour. Too many people in one physical confine can make one feel trapped, itching to get out into an open space and be alone, to restore one’s perspective and significance. Maybe if we didn’t take the Beijing-Shanghai overnight train -at my suggestion-the oppressive memory of being part of the masses with their sounds and smells and worries and smiles would have quickly subsided, instead it was intensified by the time spent waiting to board our compartment on the night train, pushed along by a throng of Chinese travelers interspersed with a sprinkling of wide-eyed young tourists nudged forward by a multitude of bags and packages of every color, shape and size, the sounds of loud voices-probably swearing at those damn tourists that won’t move-crying babies and loudspeakers blaring incomprehensible directions in Mandarin. I have shortness of breath remembering how it felt being in the midst of thousands of people moving in different directions, pushing me where I didn’t want to go. I longed for my home in the Swiss countryside for a fleeting moment. I really do enjoy traveling in Asia, yet being stuck in the middle of the masses is not one of its highlights. Now I am back in the high rise apartment in Shanghai, looking at the beautiful city’s skyline featuring my bottle opener building that I like so. A feeling of excitement is building about the rest of the trip, water town on the weekend, the pearl market, all that lie in store in the next few days before I go back home on Monday. Having lived in big cities, and now living in the wonderful Swiss area of La Cote on the shore
of Lac Leman, I have come to value the peace and quiet and the emptiness of the vineyards and forests, the crisp clean air of the Alps. I’m not exactly home sick, I am just saying that I prefer not to be a speck on such a monstrous chunk of humanity that is China.