My Great Grandparents traveled to Asia in the 1970′s and brought back clothes, camera equipment and several brilliant hand fans. But never in my childhood was the destination referred to as Asia; it was always The Orient. I loved that name – how grand and mysterious it sounded!
I used to sneak into the front room of my Grandmother’s house, pull open the middle drawer of the nightstand, gather up its contents and spread them out on the bed. That drawer housed collections of beaded purses, spectacles and the Oriental fans.
Though the fans were numerous, I always selected my favorite to carefully open and examine. I loved every detail of it; the delicate script, the gracefully blue and green outlines of mountains and storks and fishermen.
Then I would silently sachet around the room – beaded purse resting in one hand, Oriental fan fluttering in the other – before stuffing everything back into the drawer (technically speaking I wasn’t supposed to play with the collectables).
As I boarded an intricately decorated Mongolian train, that would take me on a 30-hour journey from Ulaan Baator to Beijing, I found it difficult to contain my excitement. I was about to enter The Orient for the first time!