In a recap of my stay here in the past year, there are a lot of pretty thrilling encounters like snowshoeing around Crater Lake, watching my first NBA game or chasing after migrant whales in a violently bumping yacht in the open sea. There are also quiet, but more touching, moments like hearing my students make their first complete sentence in Chinese or receiving a Chinese rhymed poem written by my student. But the most exciting of all, if exciting also means unpredictable and amazing, is the trip I took during the spring break to LA, which opened my eyes to the vastness of this country and its cultural diversity.
The trip, at its very beginning, was full of twists and turns. Three weeks before that, we had booked a packaged tour with a travel agency in L.A. Then we found that the air tickets were outrageously expensive around that time. So we chose to take the Grey Hound down to L.A. “Not a big deal,” we told ourselves, “it’s only 22 hours.”
“What an experience,” everybody said to us, while their lifting eyebrow indicating there must be something unusual about it. The greyhound ride turned out to not actually be that bad, except for the annoying short stops. We chatted all the way with people sitting next to us and shared our fruits and cookies with them. There was only one dramatic moment when we were almost at the border of California. A Mexican girl told us that we could not take fruits like apples into California. We were struck by a sudden rush of chaos and everyone gulped down at least three apples in two minutes.
We arrived in L.A. at 5:30 in the morning and roamed around the downtown for two hours until finally the first restaurant opened for business. But the waiting proved to be worthwhile. We had really delicious Chinese Yuntun and spicy Japanese noodle soup to chase away the morning chill. But that’s just the beginning. In the following four days, we enjoyed a great variety of international delicacies, from Shanghai dim sum, Vietnam spring roll, Thailand curry crab to my favorite, the cream cheddar soup with sourdough at the Fisherman’s Wharf of SF. We visited a number of world famous scenic spots like the Universal Studio Hollywood, the San Diego Sea World and the not-so-foggy Golden Gate Bridge. We were amazed by the breathtaking natural landscapes, be it the sun-bathing and leisurely beautiful San Diego bay, the snow-covered cliffs in Yosemite or the lavender-dotted plains along the coast. Traveling with my friends—two Chinese visiting scholars and two TIUA students, I was encouraged to explore more and therefore got more out of my travels. From everything I saw on the way, from the vibrant cultures living there, the distinctively-featured city skylines, and most important of all, people’s relationship with Nature, I came to better understand the greatness embedded in this country.