BOOKS and two sets of winter ensembles, the purple ones for my youngest sister and the green ones for me, were among the things I already packed with other must-bring winter essentials. I had also already imagined us, in our twinning winter outfits, strolling around Wudianshi in Jinjiang city.

I was supposed to go back to China after Christmas, but the news about the novel coronavirus broke in December last year. The Chinese government implemented lockdown measures in some of its provinces and cities to control the spread of the virus.

When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic three months later, suddenly, the world changed. Several countries implemented lockdown measures, people were encouraged to stay home, businesses closed, some were forced to manage operations remotely, and local and international travel was halted.

If circumstances were different, I would not have missed my niece’s first birthday, I would have gone back to some sites I visited with my family, and I would have explored other scenic spots.

Two years ago, I visited China for the first time. It was May and the weather was pleasant enough for sightseeing and exploring Fujian.

Fujian is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. It has many ancient cities, one of which is Quanzhou, a city where some of my relatives live.

Understanding

I’ve been to a few attractions around Quanzhou and the more I learned about its history and deep-rooted culture, the more I marveled at how its ancient architectural charm blends harmoniously with its modern cityscapes, and the more I connected with family and new friends, the more it made sense why my first visit felt like “falling in love at first sight.”

Wudianshi, where I imagined having a book and tea date with my sister, is a restored traditional and historical district in the center of Jinjiang city of Quanzhou. Locals and foreign tourists flock to this commercial area that is also known as the Five Shops District.

The restored houses showcase designs of traditional Fujian culture dating back to the Song and Ming dynasties. Some of the renovated buildings also blend Chinese and Western styles and were turned into tea shops, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, and bookstores.

The ancient touches of the Wudianshi, the traditional Chinese music played, and the local troupe performances during our visit made me feel like I was time-traveling back to ancient China.

I would have visited more museums, too. I only went to the Quanzhou and the Mintaiyuan museums last time. I would have also gone back to West Lake Park, just a short walk from the museums, with my niece in tow. Its spectacular gardens and refreshing atmosphere make it a perfect place for meditation and sunset runs.

Remembering those moments gives me the peace I need to keep hoping for better things ahead.

I don’t know when international travel will resume and when I can go back to China, but I’m resolved to not see my niece blow her birthday cake via WeChat again. And that nothing, not even corona, can make me love Quanzhou any less.