As we left Yangshuo (fantastical landforms, bamboo rafts on rivers, lovely ecolodge, Chinese cooking class) on our way to Guilin to catch the night train for Guangzhou so we could catch the ferry the next day to Hong Kong, I realized that China has, at least temporarily, affected my general tolerance for risk.

the view from our hotel in Yangshuo

the view from our hotel in Yangshuo

This occurred to me in the taxi that picked us up from the hotel. The driver turned from a relatively minor road onto a major road. He was turning left, so he had to cross the oncoming traffic and merge with the traffic on the far side. As seems to be customary there, he went ahead and crossed, regardless of the fact that there was not only a car coming from the left, but there was also a second car coming from the left which was busy passing the first. At the same time, cars were approaching from the right, menaced by the car that was passing as well as by ours.

I noticed this all happening, but didn’t even flinch. In the beginning of our trip I was constantly horrified at the maneuvers our taxi drivers made: cutting into traffic, driving on the wrong side of the road toward oncoming traffic, passing on blind curves, passing a car which was already busy passing another car, etc. Now, at the end of the trip, none of it seemed to faze me anymore. I seemed to have developed a certain fatalism: ‘Que será será,’ as Doris Day so eloquently put it.

Any of you who know me know that I’m more ‘The Little Engine That Could’ than Doris Day. I like to be in control. I tend to believe that from my own effort I can make anything happen, and, damn it, I will. My fear of flying comes from this same need to control my destiny: in a plane I have to hand over that control to the pilot, and that makes me uneasy. (I’ve long believed that if I took flying lessons I could get over that fear, but the problem is that I’m afraid to take the lessons!)

So if I’ve managed to allow myself a certain level of fatalism, how can I hang on to that in my ‘real life’, when I take up the normal routine next week? I’d love to learn how to be comfortable with teaching a lesson that isn’t planned out ahead, or to stop being early to everything because of being afraid that I’ll be late. How can I just ‘go with the flow’ without ingesting any mind-altering substances?

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