The past couple of weekends have exemplified a certain aspect of living in China as a foreigner: you can suddenly afford to do a lot of things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t do in your home country. For example, today RP and I spent the afternoon lounging in the hot springs of Anning, a town an hour outside of Kunming. Total cost for several hours of soaking in pools of different temperatures, different scents (lemon! lime!), and one that had little fish in it to chomp away your skin impurities (YES IT WAS SO BIZARRE I HAD TO SCREAM A LITTLE), plus a foot massage and full-body exfoliation: just under US$20.
So that was all very nice. But last weekend we did something outrageously amazing: we went paragliding. Understand? We flew around over mountains and fields and lakes! (And a factory, because this is China. Whatever.)
Paragliding is something I’ve always wanted to try but never have because I didn’t feel like spending a thousand dollars in a single afternoon. But here in Kunming, there is a friendly Canadian paragliding “pilot” who will take you on a tandem flight a couple hours outside Kunming for around US$43.
It’s a little hard to process what is happening when you’re flying because it’s so silent and so smooth that you almost can’t believe it’s just you and a sail. It’s not scary at all; when you run towards the edge of the cliff, you actually lift off before you get to the edge. There’s no sense of falling – in fact, you sail upwards on pockets of warm air.
The Canadian guy steers you around for a while and then eventually picks a place to land. In my case, this was the middle of someone’s tobacco field – in RP’s case, it was at the edge of a lake.
Either way, one thing that I hadn’t anticipated was that local people who happened to be in the area would take a tremendous interest in random foreigners sailing off the side of their mountains and dropping from out of the sky into their fields. They actually didn’t mind at all – they just wanted to know how it all worked, and then stood around with me on the mountain top watching RP sail around, saying “Wow, they’re so high!” for 40 minutes.
(Click on the pic above to see all photos from the day.)
Sometimes it’s tough to be a foreigner in China. It’s not your home, it’s not your language, and you get food poisoning A LOT. But the chances that you have to do amazing things here – opportunities at work, travels of a lifetime, FLYING, etc. – that you wouldn’t even consider doing in America, make it all worthwhile.
Speaking of which: a few days from now I will have been in China for four months. Stay tuned for an update on culture shock.