On Saturday morning, we woke up to pack and head to the airport again. Each time we have left Kunming, there have been different emotions….
- On the first trip, we were thinking that we might be moving to Kunming so were excited and feeling sure that we would see it again.
- On the second trip, we had just told the Institute that we were not going to accept the position and felt sure that they were so unhappy with us that we would never be invited back.
- The third trip was an exceptionally difficult time and we were glad to have “Kunming in the rear view mirror” and were perfectly happy to NEVER return.
- On the fourth trip we took control of our environment and spent much time in our hotel….Michael working on a review article and me planning for our move into the new house. When we left, we had been told that all of the money was gone so we would not be returning.
Now we come to this fifth trip…… we were surprised to hear that there was more money available for Michael to travel here and, once again, we took control of the trip with Michael organizing teaching gigs all over the country so that we wouldn’t need to be in Kunming for long.
But something happened on this trip and we have truly enjoyed our time in this city and were very sad to be leaving it again. We know that we will have one night here while in transit next week, but we are both hoping that we will get to return for a longer visit in future years.
We got thru the baggage and security lines quickly and immediately started looking for some place to get coffee and breakfast. As if drawn by the Siren’s song, we missed the turn into our gate and walked straight into a Starbucks…..
One thing that I haven’t mentioned previously….before we left the US, we counted the number of airline legs that we would fly before returning home and were astounded to realize that we would take off (and hopefully land) NINETEEN times!! This flight was number 5…only 14 to go!!!!
We were excited by this trip as it took us to a new city….Chengdu, and a new Province…..Sichuan, best known for it’s extremely spicy food. We couldn’t wait!!!
We had an easy flight to Chengdu, were met by a student (Ping) and her boyfriend (Zhu Ran) and arrived at our “University” accommodation. Those two words have been known to strike fear into our hearts and minds as those accommodations have varied from an 18th century 3 bedroom house to a sixth floor walk-up apartment with no air conditioning, to a University hotel that had no hot water!!! However, this time those fears disappeared as we arrived at a magnificent 5-star hotel just a few blocks from Sichuan University.
The carpet in our hall was a bit disappointing, however, taking the photo was fun. The hall lights turn on and off automatically as you walk past so Michael had to run up and down the hall to keep the light on long enough for me to take the photo…..
We knew that we were out of our league when we opened the door and all of the lights turned on, the curtains opened and the TV turned on showing a screen that welcomed us by name!!!
The only control that I figured out how to use was the button that turned it OFF and back into a regular toilet, although the floor beneath the toilet was always heated and comfortable!!!
Michael had to immediately go to the University to start his meetings so I went for a walk to check out the surroundings. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I spied the local Walmart on one corner of my street….I guess that I am drawn to them like Michael is to Starbucks!! I bought our usual needs for the week…..water, potato chips, Snickers, Peanut M&M’s, Listerine and Bar soap.
When I got back to the hotel, Michael sent a text saying that they would meet me downstairs at 6:00 and we would walk to dinner. Little did I know how much fun this first Sichuan meal would be!!!
We walked to a small restaurant just a few blocks from the hotel. The first thing that I loved about this place was the tile floor….
He handed it to us and told us to pick out what we wanted. We were confused but managed to find a couple of things that looked good, made easier by the English translations……
Among other things, we could select from Chicken Skin, Beef Tallow, Small Intestine, Pig tongue, “the waist piece” (whatever that is), Pork Tripe, Gristle, Chicken Leg Muscle, Squid, and Pig Brains. Fortunately, there were other choices as well including Shrimp, Beef, Pork, Chicken Wings. There was also a HUGE list of vegetables from potatoes, leeks, cucumbers, corn, beans and more.
Professor Liu overrode our list and placed a huge order and we patiently waited for our food to arrive. They knew that we loved spicy food so the first thing on the table were two plates of chili pepper mix for us to dip our food in…..
When the food started to arrive, we understood why the order had been so seemingly huge. Each item that had been ordered was a skewer holding a few pieces of the meat or vegetable. They were all beautiful and SOOOO very tasty….
Some of my favorites included these gorgeous shrimp…..
Each item was grilled to perfection and, as witnessed by the stack of empty skewers, we enjoyed a wonderful meal……
It was a great first day of our time in “spicy” Sichuan Province!!!