At the end of my first twenty four hours in Shanghai, I found myself lying on a treatment table among a group of strangers on the 13th floor of your typical non-descript Chinese high rise apartment building. They were Reiki practitioners at a weekly free exchange and I was about to have my first laying on of hands. My roommate at the hostel, a young mandarin-fluent African-American Reiki master from Ohio, asked if I wanted to tag along. Being a sucker for woo-woo experiences, I went.
We stopped at a narrow eatery to fill our stomachs with simple noodles and soup, black-skinned chunks of randomly-hacked chicken, bones and all, resting in the bottom of my soup cup, taunting my self-professed willingness to eat anything. China, true to warning, presents even the most adventurous Western omnivore with a double dog dare in the dining room. I was not used to this black-skinned, grey-fleshed chicken I later learned was a breed called Silkie, commonly eaten in Asia, known for their sweet temperaments and big white fluff. I lifted the pieces of chicken with my chopsticks and gave them a stare-down before gingerly picking around the bones. This was a battle I wasn’t in the mood for on my first day.
In the aforementioned room were gathered a small United Nations: the US, Japan, Italy, France, Laos, Zimbabwe. The soft sitar music coming from the laptop and the smell of incense reminded me of a yoga studio in Santa Barbara. I soaked it in. For a short while, lifted above the endless clamor and honking of the Shanghai streets, with some nice Italian expats waving their hands over me to clear my chakras or something, I found a little break from my China jitters.
Yes, folks. The China jitters. I’ve been to third world countries, lived without plumbing for weeks at a time, and traveled to 20 countries to date, and I finally meet one that freaks me out: China. It’s loud and mysterious and gritty and glamorous and full of contradictions and I really really really want to fall in love with it. But right now, I think I will hide under the covers instead.