Returning to Kunming

Green Lake at KunmingAfter winding our way through the paths traversing the Green Lake, all eleven of us arrived at a beautiful Qing Dynasty structure for dinner. We stepped over the wooden threshold and into the maze of progressively larger and more ornate rooms to the center courtyard and up the stairs to the room of honor. It had been so long.

2014 was the last time that my colleague Brian Killian and I had been to Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, the location of our internships at the Yunnan Health and Development Research Association. We disembarked from the hard sleeper train and made our way to Upland Youth Hostel— the hostel that I originally stayed at when I arrived in Kunming for the first time ever. I had the eerie experience of gazing on a familiar place with different eyes and recalled the old adage, “You could not step into the same rive twice.”

You could not step into the same river twice.

My old teachers and coworkers welcomed me back with open arms. We all took the opportunity to enjoy some time together and learn about everyone’s lives— plans for marriage, children, and cross-country moves for graduate school were all taking shape. In addition to some new faces at the table, there were even some who had left, only to fortuitously return at the same time as Brian and I. It was evident how much has changed since then.

Yunnan Health And Development Research Association Group Photo in Kunming

Sitting around a round table full of old friends and full of delicious Kunming cuisine, my heart was full of happiness. As I effortlessly participated in conversations, I was stuck by the comparative ease by which I could communicate. My previous internship really challenged my language abilities but this time, the way I could chime in here and there or listen to several people talking over each other was proof to me that I had continued to make progress post-graduation. Engaging my colleges and friends in a deeper connection without the worry of a language barrier went past the professional realm and touched me on a personal level.

After traveling from San Francisco, USA to Chengdu, China, another couple hundred miles was not going to deter me from making the trip to Kunming. It was a rare treat to revisit a previous time because it gave me better perspective on my past and reinforced old friendships. What an unforgettable trip.