I am Mulan

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I’m content to just sit here, watching memories roam through me, mingling and chattering with the present. After walking through a Hunanese marketplace full of smiling, watchful faces, and braving the Indy 500-meets Wild West-meets Grand Theft Auto landscape of motorized travel, I end up on my fenced-in balcony in the teacher’s dormitory.

I’ve just been given my Chinese name by the family of teachers who’ve adopted me and the others in our nest of foreigners. It is a genuine honor, as their names aren’t just pretty syllables but carry meanings, messages and the wisdom of their unparalleled history.

Some of my friends got stuck with pretty floral names but I got an unexpected gift nestled in with the pigs feet and thousand-year-old eggs: the name of Mulan. She has always been one of my favorite against-all-odds heroes, and is the epitome of my personal motto lauding rebirth and second chances.

The air is somehow rich, although the kiss of pollution sifts through the breeze. Local flavors as pungent as they are raucous clamor for attention, wafting shreds of bing long with mantou and melting garbage. Car horns honking dismayed greetings layer with strains of Xiangtanhua and imperfect tools of construction.

With all these yammering children intruding on my solitary reverie, I should be irritated. But I’m not. Somehow, its balanced by the moments of stilted, overripe quiet and random natterings of chickens wandering freely alongside endless seas of people.

Somehow, its weirdly perfect.  A completely illogical, surreal peace amongst chaos. Actually, a more honest image would be peace, chaos, hospitality, community & lawlessness dancing a drunken offbeat tango while order slinks sullenly off to a corner.

It doesn’t make a dumpling of sense, and I couldn’t be happier.

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