At the culmination of the twelfth lunar month, my Spring Festival vacation commenced anew, heralding the most tranquil period of the year. However, owing to various customs and trite traditions, each year unfolds leisurely, yet not without blemish.
Failing any other alternative, I shall seize this respite to embark on a journey and reunite with him during the auspicious New Year celebrations.
To my astonishment, this time, as soon as I broached this notion, my elderly parents vehemently endorsed it. It appeared as though their concern for their grandson’s solitude during the Chinese New Year had taken hold. Moreover, my brother had already secured a reservation for a grand New Year’s Eve banquet at the opulent hotel, accommodating a throng of 20 to 30 guests. With such a multitude of devoted offspring accompanying our parents, their sense of isolation shall surely be alleviated.
Contemplating the prospect of voyaging alone overseas, I felt a flicker of unease. Yet, I recounted how my unschooled mother had once traversed Guangdong unaccompanied. If she, who possesses limited literacy, could achieve such a feat, could I not venture to the United States, having explored the far reaches of the world and acquired a modicum of linguistic mastery? In undertaking any endeavor, one must eschew vacillation and forge ahead with unwavering resolve. Naturally, such self-affirmation can only serve to embolden oneself.
Having acquired a passport several years prior and having accompanied my wife and children on two occasions, the preparations for this sojourn were relatively straightforward. Familiarity with the route aside, I merely procured a ticket through Ctrip, and all was in order.
The journey unfolded seamlessly. Departing from Beijing International Airport at one o’clock in the afternoon, the aircraft veered northward, traversing Siberia and Russia en route to the Arctic Circle. By about 16:00, I discerned that a profound darkness enshrouded the world outside the porthole window. Could this be the phenomenon known as the “polar night”? An inexplicable disquietude washed over me.
Following a protracted nocturnal flight, around 22:00, the plane soared above North America and Canada. Suddenly, daybreak greeted my eyes, and the eastern window was adorned with resplendent, multihued clouds. Sunbeams permeated the aircraft’s portal, presenting a breathtaking spectacle of celestial beauty. Never could I have fathomed that the heavens would unveil such resplendence and coquetry. Gazing upon the terrestrial expanse, I beheld Canada cloaked in a mantle of snow, with mountains and seas alike blanketed in ice and frost. In that moment, it felt as though I was defying the passage of time, inexorably gaining ground with each passing hour. Observing the watch and peering out the window, it seemed as though I had restored an entire day. Truly, I perceived a sense of enrichment in this lifetime endeavor. Consider: the journey commenced at 1 pm on January 31 from Beijing International Airport, and by 1:30 pm on the same day, I had already alighted at Burundi Airport in New York, USA.
If one were to merely chronicle the time elapsed, it would appear as though a mere half-hour had sufficed for the transoceanic flight. In truth, by the time of our arrival, it was already past 1:00 a.m. on February 1st at our place of residence. Yet, owing to the ceaseless alternation of day and night, it felt as though a full day had transpired, engendering the sensation of a 24-hour journey. Thus, what constitutes the genuine outcome? The expedition spanned a little over 13 hours, and fatigue had yet to claim me. Even when at home, I often find myself awake at this hour.
It is no wonder that people often assert that jet lag defies rectification. The disparity across these 12 time zones, coupled with traversing the North Pole, engendered a bewildering amalgamation of temporality. Particularly during the passage over the North Pole, the firmament abruptly plunged into darkness, only to be swiftly rekindled by resplendent light. When we disembarked in New York, it was once again midnight.
Although I undertook this journey unaccompanied, it proceeded relatively smoothly. Departing from Beijing and entering through New York, all formalities were discharged without incident. Notably, as I approached customs, I recalled last year’s experience of learning to complete the customs declaration form at a self-service kiosk alongside my son. This time, I was spared the ordeal of queuing before a window, subject to interrogation by American officials. In truth, their demeanor proved rather affable. Alas, my English proficiency proved woefully inadequate to withstand their scrutiny.
Regardless, I passed through the emerald light unimpeded. Guidedthrough the labyrinthine airport, I located the subway station with relative ease, boarding the train destined for Manhattan. The subway ride was unremarkable, aside from the peculiar glances cast my way by fellow passengers. Perhaps my appearance and attire betrayed my foreign origins.
Emerging from the subway station, I found myself immersed in the bustling streets of New York City. The cacophony of car horns, the vibrant neon signs, and the sheer magnitude of the cityscape overwhelmed my senses. It was a stark contrast to the tranquility of my hometown. Yet, amidst the chaos, I felt a tingling excitement, a sense of adventure that propelled me forward.
Navigating the streets proved to be a challenge, as I relied on a map and the occasional help of friendly pedestrians. Eventually, I reached my destination—a small guesthouse in the heart of Manhattan. The proprietor greeted me warmly and showed me to my room, a cozy abode where I could rest and rejuvenate after the long journey.
Over the next few days, I immersed myself in the vibrant tapestry of New York City. I marveled at the iconic landmarks—the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park—and explored the diverse neighborhoods, each with its distinct character and charm. I relished the opportunity to savor the local cuisine, indulging in bagels, pizza, and hot dogs, each bite a testament to the city’s culinary prowess.
As Chinese New Year approached, I sought out the local Chinese community, eager to partake in the festivities and connect with fellow celebrants. I discovered a lively Chinatown, bustling with activity and adorned with vibrant red lanterns. Streets were lined with shops selling traditional Chinese delicacies, and the air was infused with the aroma of incense and firecrackers.
On New Year’s Eve, I attended a grand banquet with my brother and his family, as well as other relatives and friends. The atmosphere was jubilant, filled with laughter, storytelling, and the clinking of glasses. We feasted on a sumptuous array of dishes, symbolizing prosperity, good fortune, and familial unity. As midnight approached, we gathered to watch the dazzling fireworks display that illuminated the night sky.
In the days that followed, I explored more of New York City, visiting museums, art galleries, and theaters. I reveled in the cultural richness that the city had to offer, soaking in the vibrant energy and diversity that permeated every corner.
As my journey drew to a close, I reflected on the experience with gratitude and a renewed sense of wonder. Traveling alone had allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, to navigate unfamiliar territory and forge connections with people from different walks of life. It had reminded me of the vastness and diversity of our world, and the endless possibilities that await those who dare to explore.
With cherished memories and a heart full of gratitude, I bid farewell to New York City and embarked on the return journey. As the plane soared into the sky, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of melancholy, knowing that I was leaving behind a place that had left an indelible mark on my soul.
Yet, as I gazed out of the window at the receding skyline, I also felt a profound sense of anticipation. The journey may have reached its end, but the memories and experiences would forever be etched in my mind. And who knows what new adventures await in the future, beckoning me to embark on another solitary voyage of discovery.