Reflection of the recent reunion trip back to China

P Chang
6 min readApr 8, 2024


Ever since I left China many decades ago, it was not until three weeks ago that I embarked THE very first trip that I was one hundred percent focus on friends and relatives reunion in six cities. I have been very reflective and most of the times I felt that there was a second part of me standing aside and observing me mingling with my old friends and relatives. I was so absorbed in the reflective state that I feared sometimes I acted a bit absentminded.

I cannot be blamed being too self-absorbingly reflective. This is becaue, in the past, all my China non-business travels had been guilty filled home visits to my ailing parents and then the medical crisis trips for their various needs. And now it felt so luxurious to fly in and out of so may cities just to meet the loved ones we left behind and not seen in decades.

The college friendships I left behind turned into life-long ones

Author’s photos

We were shocked that we’ve been knowing each other for so long already. And more shockingly was that seems we’ve been stuck with each other all the time and we’ve been each other’s significant friends even though we only managed to see each other once in a few years.

Never before we felt so strong that life is actually so short and something important as the friendship we built when we were young could survive the wash of the time and drastic changes of life events and still stay as fresh, innocent, pure and beautiful as day one when we first met in the college.

For that we are the priviliged lucky few. And we are grateful that we made it to come back to the campus to celebrate it.

And some of them start to show aging signs

Within last 12 months, two gals broke their arms, leg while walking on the street. One even needed to replace her knee joint and had six nails screwed on one of her legs. The third girl is at stage IV of lung cancer and cried non-stop fearing she would no longer to see many of us any more. There was also a big sis who was six years older than us when we enrolled. She was among those impacted by the ten-year-university-shut-down during the cultural revolution so her college years was delayed. Big sis came to meet us with a crane in her hand and could only accompany us for a short walk on the campus as she claimed her knees were totally failing on her.

I could not help noticing that all my classmates from China now carry a small bag of medicines for various chronicle illness of theirs. It is part of the results of “over-curing/medicine” mentality deeply rooted in the Chinese culture and part of the fact some of them indeed started developing some problems we usually only see associated with real seniors in their late 70s or 80s here in North America.

I developed a bad cold the first week, and instantly everyone was offering various medicines to me. That reminded me myself also used to carry a small bag of all kinds of medicines whenever I was traveling, some of which would have had been qualified as “prescribed” ones here in North America. My old friends were shocked that I did not bring any medicine and just attempted to beat it by non-stop drinking water and prolonged sleeps.

Author’s photos

The government did a super decent job to build the best (nation wide) infrastructure for transportation and living

Believe it or not, the paved road is built by the government to each single village in the nation. Plus the world wide most dense high speed railway network (250 km/hr to 350 km/hr) made the inter-city travel such a blast connivence for daily work and life. The 100 meter long steel rail built on vanadium titanium play the most crucial part of the success and high quality and durability of the railways.

For this trip I took three times rides of the high speed trains that spaned between four to six hours. I enjoyed it every single minute because it was my very own grandpa who discovered this largest natural resource of vanadium titanium on earth at Panzhihua City of Sichuan China back in 1930’s that eventually led to this world wonder of today.

The squat toilet is killing me and many foreigners (if they still come)

I remember the trouble we ran into when we brought our daughter back to China when she was young. She refused to drink and eat in order to avoid going to the public toilets. Her hunger strike was so severe we sometimes need to change our route and daily travel plan to stay in hotels with decent morden toilets.

I think this is the very first time I got a full grasp of the horror feelings she went through when she was too young to deal with an alienate discomfort by employing pure will power.

Two third of the places I went still offers squat style public toilets. Not only they made my attempts near death ones because I not only need to hold my breath even behind a N95 mask but also I have to avoid eye contact to all the garbages near by (as it is forbidden to throw anything into the squat ditch). Worse yet, these public squat toilets go hand in hand with the old buildings that do not use modern ventilation system but locate them to the corner of the buildings with best chance to get the smell out into the public air!

Hence the suffer of my occasional sniffing of human urines in the air on top of people’s heavy smokes of cigarets, nearby restaurants/kitchens’ over burnt oils, and some other unknown strange smells carried over by the city smogs, regardless of heavy or thin.

Good news is that in Chengdu I spotted a new type of “smart toilet” that were scattered in some new regions’ street corners. I just hope before long they will become the norm in all the major cities in China.

It is a supreme privilege to call the bay area my adopted home

To me, it is the air. Nothing else, but the air. And of course all the wisdoms and other factors behind the difference it made.

Author’s photo: 10 hours difference of the air between Beijing taking off and arriving at the Bay Area; all around 1 pm.

Still, I left so many loved ones behind back in China

Author’s photos

One thing comforting me is that all my aunts, uncles and their kids are living a much better lives nowadays compared to the time when I left China. Their living standards occasionally rival to us who live in the adopted new homeland.

China is a civilization so different from the rest of the world and I just wish it will survive once again to the latest challenges and let the common people live peaceful and joyful lives as they are enjoying now.



P Chang

It all started with the 2020 SIP, when suddenly you became very reflective.