In 2004 I returned to China to start my degree in Beijing. The first plane to Amsterdam was incredible turbulent with items falling out of overhead lockers, arm rests jolting up and down and passengers crying. I apologised to the man seated next to me before I clutched onto his hand in fear and held it for the remainder of the flight. I was nervous about the transfer flight to Beijing but it started smoothly until 45 minutes later we had engine failure. A man seated in the opposite aisle looked around before focusing on me, ‘you had a feeling something would go wrong, didn’t you?’
I don’t know how I boarded the replacement plane but after arriving in Beijing I had developed a fear of speed and heights. I even climbed the 22 flights of stair to my friend’s appartment as I was too scared to use the lift.
One Chinese New Year holiday my mother in law decided it was time to cure my fears and as I’m not a vegetarian and the meat wouldn’t go to waste, I went along with her suggestion. She has often said to me that superstitions can’t be believed without question but more importantly she thinks they also shouldn’t be completely ignored.
I bought a sheep for 200RMB and walked it down the mountain to the temple. We joined a queue of villagers each accompanied by animals. In front of us was a chicken waiting to be sacrificed to the temple God in the hope good luck would be received for the upcoming university entrance exams (gao kao).
I was told it wasn’t a Buddhist temple but simply their village’s God without any specific link to a religion. Our sheep waited patiently in the queue without protest. Then it was our turn. It felt strangely calm. The sheep seemed to look directly towards me as the temple’s care taker took hold of the lead. Blood was drawn.
We carried the sheep back up the mountain for dinner. On the journey back to Beijing I was no longer afraid of the train and managed to enter a lift but my fear of flying is yet to be cured.