I think for some odd reason, Suzhou was my favorite part of the trip. I call it odd because I liked it for the mere fact that nothing really happened. I think for some, that may be confusing to understand at first. Throughout my entire trip, it seemed like everything was happening, and finally nothing did. While I did have the most racist encounter in Suzhou, my day in the city still fared out better than the sum of all my trip in China. It was my one day in Suzhou, and the short time I spent at Peoples Square in Shanghai on the last day that really left me with some positive things to say about my experience in the country.
Instead of staying in a hostel like we did in Nanjing, I found an apartment room on booking that cost each of us $15. It was such an upgrade from where we had stayed the night before, and the woman in charge of the property was such a sweetheart. She picked us up from the train station and drove us to the apartment. She showed us the bus routes and told us various places to visit. And when we stayed past check-out time the next day, the only thing she had to say was to make sure that we left everything tidy.
Day in Suzhou
Now very aware of the fact that many of the cultural sites close around 5:30, we knew we weren’t going to make it to the places we wanted to go. So instead, we decided to get food that would hold our stomach before heading to Lindun road. Lindun road contained a cozy alley for lots of shopping and food. I wish I had not spent so much money earlier in the trip because I definitely would have preferred to splurge on this strip of shops. There were many quirky themed places that were exciting to walk through. We visited a postcard café that served coffee and sweets while selling tons of merchandise for letter writers. We also stopped in a shop that had various whimsical items and hands-on activities. I remember fingering through a bunch of merchandise that featured everyone’s favorite forest fairy, Totoro. I even ate some great duck, which was probably the best meal I had in my six-day stay. It was great and I wasn’t even eating the infamous Beijing duck.
Race in China
I’ve mentioned in isolated moments some of the experiences I had in China with regards to the color of my skin. I want to say that while I had a better time in Suzhou as a black person, one of the moments I briefly experienced was
like a reflective moment for me on what it means to be a POC in China. In the time we had left in Suzhou, we decided to go to the gardens. Specifically, we went to the Lion Grove gardens which contained a section of rock formations which you could climb through and over. There were many narrow stairways and paths in this section that required for you to sometimes stop and let people from the opposite direction go. So, at one point we stopped in the caves so that a group of girls who were descending the stairs in to the cave could come through and we could get out. As each girl enters in to the shadows of the cave, they stop and look at us, two them making an audible noise. One exclaims that my friend and I are so dark that they could only see our teeth.
I was not only glared at in China, but I was also photographed multiple time. People would throw their kids in front of you or attempt to snap a quick picture in a wide-open secret. If there were a time where I ever seriously wanted to channel my inner Kanye, it was at these exact moments. I felt like an animal in a zoo, the only thing missing was my cage. The case always seemed to be that if my every move was not being observed to someone’s amazement, my picture was being taken for another person’s enjoyment. I’m now someone’s black souvenir to be passed around at his/her next family or friendly gathering.
On My Way to Vietnam
As I mentioned earlier, I spent my final hours in port at Peoples Square in Shanghai. It was a bustling park in the middle of the city where many groups of older people were playing a dynamic game of cards. I was there to go to the Contemporary Art Museum, but I found myself taking a detour as I strolled through this amazing environment. I made the trip alone and based on my experience so far, I was super prepared to have the same encounters I had been experiencing, except alone. But I didn’t, and if I had time, I would have just lounged in People’s Square and the surrounding area, enjoying the environment I had been waiting to experience for like six days now. However, the chapter entitled China was coming to an end and much of the exposition had already been written.