Melissa Block

Back in Chengdu

I left Washington in a downpour this morning; nineteen hours and one connection in Beijing later, I climbed off the plane into the humid night air of Chengdu. I'm reminded that I posted on this blog a year ago about the much-touted moist air of Chengdu, and how wonderful it's supposed to be for one's complexion. We'll see about that.

Last year, I spent just about a month here on two separate trips, but the geography of this sprawling city is still a puzzle to me. I hope to have more time to explore Chengdu on this trip, but most of our time will be spent outside the city. Even though Chengdu was only about 55 miles from the earthquake's epicenter, damage here was minimal. So tomorrow we'll be heading out to nearby towns in heavily damaged areas to check in on some reconstruction projects. After all the anticipation and preparation, it will be great to be out talking to people at last.

Tonight, as we walked to dinner at a vegetarian restaurant near our hotel, I paused to watch a group of about a dozen women dancing in slow, graceful motion on the plaza outside. A boombox was playing a languid Chinese song, and the women - middle-aged and older - swayed and gestured and pivoted as one, with long, elegant arm movements. At one point, they jiggled their heads gently from side to side: "They look like bobblehead dolls!," Andrea said. I was almost tempted to join in and try to follow along, but fish-flavor eggplant was calling.

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