China / Ambassadors

My Chengdu story

By Elizabeth Jones ( Updated: 2016-04-01 09:51

China Daily website is inviting you to share Chengdu Story with us! and here are some points that we hope will help contributors:

My Chengdu story

The year I graduated from college, I moved to Chengdu for the first time. I was 22 years old and had a bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature and was eager to achieve my ultimate goal – living and working in China without the safety net of fellow American classmates or a formal program.

On my first day in Chengdu, I moved into small apartment on Shuhan Road, just outside of the Second Ring Road in the Northwest part of the city. It was my first time living on my own, and I was excited to set up my new life, but I also knew I would face challenges. My first challenge was small, furry and had a long tail. I screamed and ran out the door of my apartment as a rat scurried across the floor on my first day in my new home. During my first week of work, one of my coworkers told me her cat had kittens. I took one home that night. That same cat is now back in Chengdu and still has yet to kill a single rat.

My Chengdu story

I learned my way around Chengdu by riding my bike and getting lost constantly. Despite my initial fear as I jostled with the other bikes and electric scooters in the bike lanes, I soon grew to love riding idly down the small lanes lined with shops selling chuancai, so spicy that the smoky scent of huajiao burned my throat as I rode by.

Before I came to Chengdu, I did not love spicy food. During my first few months, I would beg the cooks in the noodle shops to make my order “bu la”, but every bite burned my face off and made my lips numb. After I left Chengdu, I craved mapo doufu and malatang hot pot, and I felt unsatisfied by the imitation Sichuan food in American Chinese restaurants.

I left Chengdu in 2009 to join the U.S. Foreign Service. My first tour was in Hyderabad, India, and from there I moved to Taipei. Finally, five years after I left, I returned to Chengdu – with my cat and also my husband and a dog. The city has changed drastically in five years – I was shocked to see an extensive metro system, looming skyscrapers, luxury hotels, western restaurants and bars, and expensive cars clogging the new elevated ring roads. But I also find pockets of the city that haven’t changed at all. I still ride my bike down tree-lined streets and stop for shao kao or mouth-numbing hot pot. Along the river, people crowd around a game of xiangqi, and I see a barber cutting a man’s hair using a small mirror nailed to a tree as his guide. The Wide and Narrow Alleys are full of high end restaurants and boutiques, but the pungent smell of chou doufu still wafts through the lanes, and there are people reclined on the street getting their ears cleaned.

My Chengdu story

Chengdu is constantly changing. New luxury hotels and malls will pop up all over town, but as the rest of the country rushes forward, I am happy to see some people holding back, holding on to the relaxed Sichuan way of life that I grew to love.

The author is the Consul of the US Consulate in Chengdu.

The opinions expressed do not represent the views of the China Daily website.

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