It was in Sichuan that I first came to experience a truly grassroots passion for the torch relay.
Early last May, I visited the province's relay cities before joining the reporting team that has followed the torch's domestic journey.
During that week, I was deeply impressed by local residents' enthusiasm for the relay.
I still remember how many residents of Guanghan city, home to the world-renowned Sanxingdui Relics, about 30 km from Chengdu, told me: "We have agreed that 590,000 of us would join hands and line the route of the sacred flame to greet its arrival."
I never doubted their sincerity and have seen similarly grand gestures in other cities, where cheering crowds stood for hours in the scorching sun to greet torchbearers, stood until midnight to greet relay teams or lined up to wave to relay bus fleets passing through their hometowns.
But since May 12, I had often wondered: "How will Sichuanese receive the torch after facing such a devastating earthquake?"
I didn't find any answers upon arriving in Guang'an, the relay's first Sichuan leg.
It was too late, and I was simply too tired after traveling all day from Tangshan, Hebei province - a journey comprising eight hours on a bus and three hours on a plane.
On Saturday, one day before the torch relay in the city, I was awakened by that hustle and bustle all too familiar to modern urbanites.
Peering through my window, I found a colorful tableau downstairs.
The street, lined with a multitude of Olympic posters and flags, was packed with local residents: children perched on grownups' shoulders, lovers standing hand-in-hand and elderly people calling to their frolicking grandchildren.
They were brandishing Olympic flags and wore headbands reading: "Go China!". Some of them were snapping photos in front of a poster of the relay schedule when I caught up to them.
Moved by the festiveness of the atmosphere, I joined in.
I was almost lost in thought about the previous day's doubtfulness when I felt someone yank my hair.
I turned to see an innocent toddler perched atop his father's shoulders, grinning widely and still tugging at my tresses.
His mother, who was about to snap a photo of the father and with the poster in the background, apologized.
But the infant, whose smile increasingly resembled a grimace, simply wouldn't relent with is iron grip.
I began apologizing, almost begging for his forgiveness: "I didn't mean to get in the way of your photo; I promise to leave if you let me go, OK?"
He immediately released me, flashing an "I-forgive-you" smile.
Source: China Daily