My brief stay in Xinchang Town, Shanghai, was both majestic + a learning experience. Most of my solo traveling adventures are learning experiences, but this one taught me a lot about fear + panic.
My morning was filled with tea + relaxation. I wandered around the streets of a part of Shanghai that is over 2,000 years old taking pictures. I happened upon a beautiful work-out class that held a group of elderly women dancing in unison. I ended up joining them. Although I could not understand them, it seemed we all shared a mutual understanding of the language of movement. I had no idea that dancing with a group of elders in Shanghai was on my to-do list… but I would say that box has been checked.
It felt SO special to be welcomed by these women. They hugged me and pinched my cheeks. It was such a delight to experience.
After my lovely morning, I was packing to get ready to fly to Delhi. That is when I heard a sudden echo of knuckles on my door. The knock spoke of urgency.
I opened the door to three uniformed police officers. They began to yell at me in Chinese, and the only English words I could make out were, “DON’T WASTE TIME!” + “COME QUICKLY!”.
Do you know what it feels like to encounter police officers in a foreign country that are yelling directly at you? I didn’t, until that moment. And now, I do. I could have probably gone the rest of my life without knowing what that felt like, but alas, this was not the case.
I learned about the emotion of panic. My heart sank + my stomach felt like it dropped into my butt. I witnessed my mind immediately create story line + escape strategies. It was wild. I saw how quickly my mind could create a drama narrative based on almost no information.
A deeper knowing came online that helped me remain grounded + calm(ish). I mean, I remained as calm as one could in such ridiculous and surprising circumstances.
I realized how much fear we store in our bodies from encounters like this. I was trying to let me body know it didn’t have to have a fight, flight, or freeze response. It was a great opportunity to track my breath.
I was coaching my body, while simultaneously packing and talking to my inner child ( who was REALLY confused + nervous) saying..”It’s okay to be scared, we will know what’s happening very soon, I’ve got you.”
I had to become my own parent in that moment. I’ve been practicing self-parenting a lot these past 12 months, so that was a great opportunity to use my tools.
It was not my favorite way to test my tools, but I managed to move through that experience with ease WHILE still being scared shitless. I think things become a bit more scary and dramatic when there is a language barrier, in fact, I’m quite sure of it.
Had I known what was happening + been talked to calmly, my experience may have turned out less dramatic than the current narrative. Communication is an art form that is both abused + taken for granted.
I was ready for Ashton Kutcher to call my WhatsApp and tell me I was being Punked. Was this some kind of joke? Are they sure they had the right woman?
I think we live in a reality where we can hold two perspectives in our awareness (or three…etc.) at the same time. I could be both panicked and afraid, while still maintaining a knowing that I would be fine. Even if “fine” meant having to call my mom and tell her to come to China and bail me out of jail. (I’m being a bit hyper-theatrical about the jail part, I did not, in any way, think I was going to jail. Actually, I’m lying.. I did have a sharp but passing wave of paranoia about accidentally packing weed in my suitcase. I sometimes work in that industry + you never know what can get trapped in a pocket.)
It turned out that my Air BnB host was not permitted to house foreign travelers. I will most definitely be writing her a nice review :)!
I was taken to the police station to fill out paperwork + sent on my way to the airport. Phewfff.
Drama much? Jeez, China… what a full spectrum experience of magic, connection + bureaucratic unpredictability.
I will not let that hiccup jade my perspective of how beautiful my experience initially was.
Here are some photos of the beauty of this culture!
Until next time, Shanghai….