Nanjing was heavy, but I was struck by the collaboration I found as well:contributions in the exhibits from Japanese soldiers, flowers from a Japanese botanist who had studied plants in China, Jimmy Carter contributing to the garden around the memorial. The peace garden was indeed peaceful, the sky was clear and kids amused themselves by tossing things into fountains and ponds that had frozen surfaces. It wasn't the propaganda it might have been and made recognition its focus more than retribution. I found Iris Chang (Zhang Chunru) towards the end and was a little puzzled when the museum said she died in los Angeles. I remember when a high school history teacher told me she lived in Los Gatos so out of curiosity, I pulled up newspaper articles about her suicide and was a little chilled to see that she likely shot herself along one of the roads I went along by bus in primary school or drove down for groceries. "Where?" I thought to myself as I carried out mundane tasks. But I guess Los Angeles and Los Gatos seem equally far away from Nanjing. I rested my feet and collected my thoights at a cafe across the street. Somewhat awkwardly, the words behind the counter where two young women worked said "There are no peace centers, only coffee shops". I pulled out my notebook and stared out the window at the memorial, wrote, ate my "baconic, cheese, and potato sandwich", had an Irish coffee, watched three men in orange polos walk in speaking in a mix of American and Irish accents and leave, and plotted my next move for the day. Since I visited Zhongshan last year, it seemed appropriate to pay my respects at the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum.
But back to Suzhou (which is not Zhuzhou, Fuzhou, or Huzhou). I went partly because I heard it referred to as "Venice of the East" and I've both been to Venice and studied with an Italian professor at a community college who had married a Chinese man. She also taught French and when she gave us her contact information she cleared up confusion by explaining that she used her French name and her husband's last name in her email address. She occasionally mentioned things she and her husband found similar between the two cultures. When I made my way to Italian speaking Switzerland and later to China, any potential similarity or connection excited me and I couldn't help thinking of my first Italian class. So I had to see for myself, despite knowing that the city had changed over time, there weren't so many canals, and that Pingjiang road with its boats and old buildings would also take advantage of its historic setting to sell Suzhou embroidery, silk, and boat rides. I told myself not to get inflated expectations based on the exciting name "Venice of the East". The one thing I could be sure of was that Suzhou wouldn't be full of glass shops with signs stating:
My day in Suzhou may not have been my deepest look into Italy and China's relationship or their cultural similarities, but I felt I had to go anyway to get another small piece of what's something of a hobby for me since my first Italian class and a growing awareness of Chinese immigration into Europe. After my day in Suzhou, I returned to Shanghai for one more night before hopping on the train to Beijing where roast duck, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and other mandatory China stops awaited me.