Hello from Chengdu! My family and I just arrived here from New York City. We’ve moved here with the intention of making this our home indefinitely. I’ve lived in this city twice before, and visited it numerous times when living elsewhere, but a lot of time has passed and a lot of things have changed.
It’s a rainy summer in South China. Summer is always the rainy season here. The East Asian Monsoon sends bands of rain up across South China, and Chengdu–perennially damp to begin with–only becomes muggier in the summer. But this year is exceptionally wet. The drizzly rains, called meiyu 梅雨, have only let up for two days and since we arrived in Chengdu a week ago.
From a Chinese medical point of view, Chengdu is a perfect place to learn about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of illness caused by dampness (shi 濕). I began studying Chinese medicine in San Diego, whose dry climate is the exact opposite of the continual humidity here. Learning medicine in a dry climate, I never saw damp illnesses, and it was only when I spent a month following a senior physician here that I developed any real skill in dealing with them. My wife and I succumbed to the dampness yesterday. It feels like your limbs way two tons each and your head has the decided urge to dangle in any direction but upright. It also wrecks havoc on your digestion, but with the aid of some herbal medicine, we recovered in one day.
In spite of all the rain and the illness, we’re having a great time. The food is every bit as fabulous as I remember it, and the city still has both it’s old, winding, tree-covered lanes and the slow but steady determination to enjoy life that makes Chengdu so different from the frantic pace of Beijing. The alleys surrounding our apartment are filled with little restaurants, (crowded) tea-shops, and vendors selling everything a Chinese household needs. Every day around five vegetable vendors congregate on one of the side streets as people returning from work buy what they need to fix dinner. The back streets are a bit of a maze, and one of my favorite activities is wandering through them at random.
This is the view from our balcony. I know it doesn’t look like much, but down under those trees it’s really quite magnificent. It all feels very new still, but I think I’m going to really enjoy our neighborhood.