After months of daily Skype sessions with Sierra and Eben, the Rossfelters are finally reunited in China. Their frigid apartment in Mien Yang has finally begun to feel like home, and Todd has become a pro at navigating the city bus system. We’ve seen some beautiful places since we’ve been here, snowcapped mountains, spectacular frozen waterfalls, and holy temples covered in gold leaf. We’ve had so much fun with tour guides Sierra and Eben, celebrating Christmas in their festive apartment.
However, the trip has not been without mishap. We were stuck in the Moscow airport lounge for two days, after our connecting flight was mysteriously cancelled. We lost Todd for several hours on our first unguided trip to Chang Hong Mall to buy groceries. We repeatedly traveled to the train station but all our attempts to get tickets were unsuccessful. We even were so bold as to go to the movies in an attempt to see Life of Pi, but ended up in a subtitled Chinese film called Lost in Thailand. Sierra has been battling sickness, but the American antibiotics are doing wonders. Most recently, I lost my tooth, my left incisor to be exact.
It happened during our time at Jiuzhai National Park, when we paused from our hike for a snack break. I was attempting to bite a lollipop, when my cap and a good portion of the tooth underneath it broke off. Initially I was petrified to feel the gaping hole in the side of my jaw. There goes a flight to New Zealand I thought grimly, not excited about the prospect of draining my savings account on a post. At first I was surprised by the sympathy of my family, though it wore off by the end of the night as they mercilessly snapped pictures of my toothy grin. “I look like a monster,” I remarked at my reflection.
The more I stared at my altered reflection, the more I began to laugh at the ridiculous situation. Roll with the punches, even if they’re dealt from hard candy suckers, I thought. I thought back to earlier that very day while exploring the National Park with the family. We had stumbled upon what appeared to be an abandoned monastery, hunkered at the base of a cliff. As we prepared to turn and leave, a solitary monk emerged from the monastery. He joyfully greeted us, face glowing with a warm smile. Eben was able to exchange a fragmented conversation in Tibetan and we all shook hands. A smile is a universal gesture, and his emanated with such warmth that we forgot about the icy conditions. Clearly the monk didn’t care that his smile was relatively toothless. He had shed all vanity, knowing there were more important matters in life to focus on.
This put things into perspective for me. On the list of pressing issues in life, where did a missing tooth rank? I’d much rather blow money on traveling the world, experiencing the now and releasing attachment to material things. Since I’ve been to China I’ve witnessed countless people less fortunate than me. That’s when I decided to let it go. It was temporarily out of my control, and I wasn’t too keen on using Charades to locate a dentist in the chaos of Beijing. A tooth or two isn’t integral to my happiness, and so I’m forgetting about it for the time being. For now when I glimpse it in a mirror I remind myself to laugh, to embrace the inner beauty that outshines any surface flaws. I have no doubt that my family and close circle of friends will show me unconditional love.
So maybe in a year or two or three when the gap widens, I’ll patch it up. But for now this is who I am, Cynthia Louise Ross, a veteran of travel, maybe just a little more weathered now. So in the future when you see me in pictures, I’ll be smiling. Seeing my daughter in China and sharing these priceless memories with my family are what is truly important. The hole in my teeth is not symbolic of an unfulfilled life, which I will continue to live without inhibitions.
(Actually, this was written by Bryce, as a joke, hoping for a reaction- now you can tell me your TRUE feelings- There is no amount of money that would keep me from getting that hole filled in, in fact I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday).