Calculated chaos: Beijing to Chongqing


Editor’s Note: Local student Alana Redden is currently studying in China as part of the Journey East program.


3/25: Some time of day in some time zone -- it feels like nothing can touch me on an airplane. I wonder if that same thought crossed the mind of a passenger on Malaysian Airlines Flight 270.

3/26, 3:32 p.m.: Smog allows me to stare directly into the clementine sun without a squint or sting.

3/26, 6:31 p.m.: I have been awake for 31 hours. If I were to eat something and choke, it feels like there’s a legitimate chance my body would be too tired to help me. Bummer.

3/26, 8:14 p.m.: We cannot access our Journey East Documentary blog. All blogging sites are blocked in China. Freedom of speech and expression are not rights enjoyed by all members of society; it is easy to forget that when one lives in the United States.

3/27, 8:45 a.m.: There is a woman lying on the shoulder of the highway. She is being attended by no one but protected by a policeman. Her face is two feet from moving cars. Human nature is complicated.

3/27, 12:04 p.m.: Human corpses were built into the foundation of the Great Wall. I wonder how many bodies I have passed over. Is this the top of the world?

3/27, 2:03 p.m.: One Direction’s faces are plastered on billboards. I suppose one should never underestimate the power of millions of teenage crushes. (That’s what I attribute their fame to.)

3/27, 2:14 p.m.: Trees here are planted in straight, straight lines. The Vermont in me protests unnatural nature.

3/27, 2:58 p.m.: Two Lamborghinis, two Ferraris and two Maseratis passed our bus one lane over. A village, comprised of houses made of mud and bricks, sits next to the highway. I wonder who’s happier: the drivers of those cars or the dwellers of those homes?

3/27, 2:35 p.m.: The lyrics to the song I am listening to are, "what would you do if your son was crying at home on the bedroom floor because he’s hungry? And the only way to feed him is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money. His daddy’s gone, in and out of lockdown. I got a job now. So for you this is just a good time but this is what I call life.’"

3/28, 12:04 p.m.: I asked the waiter in Chinese where the bathroom was. He looked outrageously confused. I think I need to work on my tones ....


3/28, 6:45 p.m.: We are staying with host families for four nights. We forgot the word for "cold" so we asked our host mom, who doesn’t speak English, if we had the right word. She has since asked us, very sweetly, if we are cold on four separate occasions in the last hour and a half. It’s 73 degrees out.

3/29, 10:10 a.m.: I just witnessed dozens of monkeys descend a mountain side to appear at my feet where they either stole our water bottles or cleaned one another. As Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation correctly observes, "Nature is amazing."

3/29, 11:15 a.m.: Today is a beautiful day. I am wholeheartedly content.

3/29, 2:57 p.m.: I almost dropped my camera out of the window a double decker bus in the middle of a major intersection. That would have been bad news bears.

3/30, 9:50 a.m.: Moments can seem more poignant through a camera lens because the only things in existence are what lies within the edges of the frame.

3/30, 11:23 a.m.: Two Chinese students, who are representing South Africa in the Model United Nations we are attending, are in black-face and comically colored afro wigs. I don’t know how to handle the situation.

3/30, 9:24 p.m.: I want to stand in the rain but I am in no mood to get wet.

3/30, 10:48 p.m.: Thunder shakes the bones of our house and lighting reprimands the sky.

3/30, 11:56 p.m.: I. Want. Sleep. Can’t. Keep. Editing. Documentary. Footage.

Miao Village:

3/31, 12 p.m.: Does paying to tour a "traditional village" fall under cultural appreciation or exploitation?

3/31, 6:36 a.m.: I am struck by how quickly two people can find solace in one another.

3/31, 9:41 a.m.: We have entered the land of terraced rice patties and forested mountains. The beauty can almost be appreciated, but not quite. It may be too beautiful.

4/1, 8:19 a.m.: Happy April Fool’s Day? I’ve never been much of one for holidays. Is April Fool’s even considered a holiday?

4/1, 1:15 p.m.: The most delicious food is always found in the most unexpected places. One must enter knowing he or she will leave with either salmonella or gluttonous contentment.

4/1, 4:23 p.m.: We hitchhiked home with my host mom. It was not dangerous or uncomfortable; the practice seems to be commonplace. Most Chinese don’t appear to be wary of strangers in the way many Americans tend to be.

4/1, 6:55 p.m.: My roommate and I gave our host family maple candy as a thank you/goodbye present. Our host mother refused to eat it because she wanted to save it for an indefinite length of time. She said she’d rather look at it than eat it. It felt like a very Chinese thing to do.

4/2, 11:30 a.m.: People sit here. Few people at home make the time to really sit down and hit the pause button.

4/2, 2:22 p.m.: It turns out all-bus sing-alongs are undeniably fun.


4/3, 1:57 p.m.: We have left the land of green pyramids to be swallowed by concrete skeletons. I imagine there are enough apartment buildings in three square miles to house the entire population of Vermont.

4/4, 11:09 p.m.: That’s all for today. Until next time,


Alana Redden is a senior at Leland & Gray Union High School. She can be reached at


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