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A Minnesotan in China: Learning about the world; learning about ourselves

Brandon Ferdig gets some help holding up a map to illustrate his location in the historic Chinese city of Xi'an. Submitted Photo

My 11-month stay in China ended with the three-week journey you've been following me on. This three-week journey ended with a brief bit in the historic city, Xi'an.

After this stop, my trek through central China was over. I returned to my China home of Zhuhai for two days of preparations, reflection, and final good-byes to all of China.

But first, a thing or two about this Xi'an place: for starters, let's learn to pronounce it, shall we? In the pinyin (alphabetized Chinese), the "x" sounds like "sh" but tighter. So "Xi'an" sounds something like "She an." And then remember that Chinese is a tonal language so you gotta sort of sing it.

Go ahead and give it a try....

An ancient capital and the eastern point of the legendary trading route, The Silk Road, Xi'an has 3,100 years of history! There's a week's worth of sites to see here; I only had 40 hours. And beings it was the tail end of my trek, I had the anticipation of returning home on my mind.

But, I did get out to see some interesting things here in Xi'an.

Being an old, old city, Xi'an has an old-school security measure - the city wall. Of course, now the once-contained urban area sprawls far beyond this boundary, and automobiles make their way below it. Nonetheless, it stands strong:

It's a big wall, as they like them here in China. Atop this construction is a wide walkway/bikeway - heck, even a roadway if needed. It was wide. The Drum Tower and the Bell Tower are located in the city center.

It's incredible where life will take you if you go with its flow. Getting on the bus out of Zhuhai with my luggage, a couple rough plans, and an openness to meet others and follow curiosities, opportunities were presented, situations arose, one thing led into the next.

I see my trek as an example of what life as a whole can be. Of course, this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveling is all well-n-good given the resources, time and lack of domestic responsibilities I had. But now, stretch these three weeks to encompass a lifetime and then dilute the relative drastic nature of my experiences - going from urban to rural, from wealth to squalor, from modern to ancient to include the broader, real-life endeavors such as marriage, parenthood and career. I do think it's translatable.

And though our fantastic journey called life does not, as a whole, take the form of such concentrated movement and variety as my recent trek, these real-life endeavors delve into a deeper need for personal and professional growth and fulfillment. So no, I don't believe the drama and excitement of life's journey decreases with responsibilities, occupation, or age. It ends when you use these events as excuses to feed your hunger of activity and adventure with the food of vicarious existence - living solely through others or the television.

With that in mind, I flew back to my Chinese home in Zhuhai. Facing "real life," I had 48 hours remaining to prepare for the travel back to Minnesota and to say goodbye to all of China.

Next time, I will reflect further back - encompassing the entire previous year.


Brandon Ferdig grew up in Blackduck and spent the last year teaching and traveling in China. In future columns, the Pioneer will go back into his earlier blogs.