The 3rd Largest

Today, appropriately enough, I would like to talk about China. Happy Chinese New Year! It’s pure coincidence, I promise. I never really considered China as an area I was interested in. The thought of its overpopulated, busy cities seemed daunting and unfamiliar. So, when I clicked on the documentary Wild China, I was a bit hesitant. “China?” I thought. “Do I even like China enough to watch a documentary on it?”

I do. I forget that the country is far larger than Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. I think that is one defining characteristic about me. I’m less interested in the cities and urban landscapes of a country. Instead, I like to learn about the far less-inhabited places, where no one thinks to go right away.

 

Rice fields in Tibet, China.

 

Our family has a “tradition” of sorts to go on trips our senior year of high school. People do this all over the U.S.; some travel in school groups, some venture into the world alone. I went to Italy, my sister (who graduates this May) visited me in Australia, I don’t know what my brother, Keifer, plans to do (or if he’s interested in travel), but my youngest sister Natalie is 9 and already plans on visiting Paris and also intends for me to come along. She will graduate in 8 years, and I will be 29. My youngest brother, 7, brought up his country the other day. I don’t think he knows exactly what a senior trip is, or even if he knows our family does that sort of thing. But he knows I love to travel and he constantly talks about me toting him along.

McEntire (and one Bass) siblings work before Christmas to make chocolate covered pretzels. Left to right: Natalie, 9, me, 21, Keifer, 17, Grayson, 7, and Loren, 18.

McEntire (and one Bass) siblings work before Christmas to make chocolate covered pretzels. Left to right: Natalie, 9, me, 21, Keifer, 17, Grayson, 7, and Loren, 18.

“When I’m older, can you take me to China?” he asked shortly after I got home from Melbourne.

His question struck me as odd. I’m not sure how much he knows about China or if I had any interest in going there at all. I tell him maybe we can do that.

Watching this documentary, I’m realizing that many landscapes and inhabitants I know exist in the world are actually in China. I forgot that I know what a Pika is (not the journalistic measurement). They live in Tibet and are eaten by foxes that look like wolves and bears with fluffy ears.

I remember that I’ve watched another documentary on Tibet and how the Chinese government is quickly urbanizing the country against their will, destroying a great deal of culture. I forgot how much I cared about that, watching it then. I forgot that when I was working on Great Walks magazine and my editor did an interview with a man who traveled much of Mongolia on horseback, that was in China, and I was interested in reading the book the man wrote.

I learned, watching the Wild China documentary that there are huge, unexplored caves in Zhongdong, China. I love caves. It’s one of my biggest pulls towards geology (in which I am a minor). My other pull, paleontology, has some of the most undiscovered fossils hidden in their mountains. It’s where the velociraptor is from (not to be confused with Deinonychus).

Wild China reminded me that I care a lot about China. I don’t have a strong inclination to immerse myself in the crowded cityscape (though I’ve heard the skyline in Hong Kong is remarkable), but I would put in a great deal of effort to make it to the Himalayas and through Tibet.

I might even bring my brother Grayson along for the ride. When he’s 18 and graduating, it will be the year of the Snake. For now, I’m looking at my own Horse-year graduation.

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