Very good travel writing. You also have great taste in naming your children. ^_^
|We experienced China for the first time at a five star hotel in Beijing by Tiananmen Square. We had an entirely different experience this time we staying at my son Jesse's apartment. This was partly for financial reasons but I also wanted to spend more time with Jesse, his wife Iris and our grandchildren Andora and Mira,
We left for the Chicago airport at 8pm for a 1am flight to Inchon Korea. It was a grueling thirteen hour flight. We arrived in Inchon at 5am hungry and glad to be off the plane even though we had a five hour layover. It gave us enough time to find the terminal for our flight to Beijing and to grab a bite to eat. All the restaurants were closed at 5am so we had to wait to eat. We had no Korean money and didn't want to exchange our money there because we didn't know how much we needed and there is a hefty charge to exchange money at the airport.
We found out that we could use our dollars at any stores in airport and found a McDonald's, Starbucks and other places with Western food. Our flight to Beijing was only an hour and a half. By the time we arrived in Beijing it was 5pm there. Jesse, Iris and Andora were at the airport to pick us up.
Even though we had not been to bed it was already day two. Jesse asked us if we were hungry and I said not too much since they kept serving us food on the plane although we would be glad to stop somewhere with them. The other grandparents met us at a Chinese restaurant, Fenglan for dinner. Andora was standoffish with me but I was willing to take my time and use any means necessary in the coming days to gain her acceptance if not love.
In Chinese restaurants the custom is to agree on several dishes to be shared. The food is put on a large lazy susan in the middle of the table and everyone helps themselves to what they want. I'm not real fond of Chinese food but can usually eat chicken so they ordered one chicken dish along with some other things. They had some kind of thing like quesadillas filled with meat and no cheese. I tried a little of most dishes and liked the chicken and the Chinese quesadillas. Dave wouldn't try anything but did order some coffee. He asked for sugar and cream in it and the waiter told Jesse in Chinese that it wouldn't be good that way. Dave just said then just put milk on the side and have sugar. When they brought the coffee it was in a tiny cup with a sugar cube was in the spoon. The waiter put fire under the spoon and melted the sugar. Dave didn't ask for a refill.
When we got back to Jesse's apartment I finally got to meet my new granddaughter Mira. She was even more beautiful than the pictures I had seen as her. I knew it would take time to bond with her also, so hard as it was I held myself back from picking her up and showering her with hugs and kisses.
I felt really grubby so asked to take a shower. I was really glad that they had a western bathroom with a real toilet, sink and bathtub shower combo. I felt much better after my shower.
Jesse's apartment is on the nineteenth floor in a complex with at least half a dozen similar buildings. His apartment three bedrooms. One for Mira and the nanny, one for Andora and one for Jesse and Iris. There is a small galley kitchen with a room at the end they use for storage. They have a dining room living room office combo. They gave us their bedroom which had a bathroom attached with a shower, sink and toilet. The shower didn't work though. At the end of Mira's room there is another room used mostly for drying clothes since they have a washer but not a dryer.
After visiting with the in-laws and interacting with Mira and Andora Jesse mentioned to us that there was a Miss Africa in China Pageant he wanted to take us to. The people putting on the pageant were friends of Jesse. As tired as we were I thought this would be interesting. It was more than interesting it was fantastic. This was not like the typical Miss America pageant. The women were all beautiful but not all model thin. There was no swimsuit competition but the women did come out in traditional costume of their countries. There was a talent competition. Most of the women danced to African music or recited poems. The entertainment had traditional music and dancing to hip hop from Africa. I never thought I'd travel all the way to China to experience African culture but I'm glad I did. When we got home I went right to bed and sleep. Since we had been up for more than twenty four hours I had not trouble sleeping.
Real Life in China - Day 3
Our first full day in China. Jesse took me to a local convenience store in the apartment complex to stock up on Coke. The store was about the size of a one car garage with snacks, cigarettes and alcohol from floor to ceiling.
In the courtyard for the apartments there was an exercise equipment area for the adults and a playground for the kids. I saw a group of older women doing an exercise dance. I would have loved to join in but didn't dare. Many children were out with parents, nanny's and grandparents. In China it is common for grandparents to take care of their grandchildren . Children in China are really treasured since each couple is only allowed one.
Iris, Jesse and I were in the courtyard watching Andora and Mira. It had just rained so there were puddles in the low spots. Andora was with Jesse poking a stick into one of them and she wanted to walk in it. Jesse said, "No dirty." I decided this was my chance to make friends with Andora. I was wearing Clogs so I stepped into the puddle and splashed with my feet. I took Andora's hand to join me in her socks and sandals much to Jesse's protests. As we were having fun splashing our feet in the puddle we were surrounded by onlookers. The children wanted to join us and the grownups were laughing at us and keeping their children out. I don't think they had ever seen a grown up splashing in a puddle with a child before, but that's how I finally started to make friends with Andora. After our fun I gave her a bath and washed my feet back at the apartment. No harm done as far as I was concerned since Andora was starting to like me.
I told Iris and Jesse that I wanted to go to Wall Mart. I knew there was one in Beijing and I wanted to see what it was like. Dave said he wouldn't go to Wall Mart because he is morally opposed to it. Jesse said it was too far away. Iris told me she knew of a similar store they could take me to that was not so far. I wanted to buy Jesse and Iris a toaster since they didn't have one and Dave likes toast every morning. I also wanted to buy some toys for the girls. I got Andora some washable markers and paper and our toaster but it was so crowded and hard to shop with Andora we decided to leave.
Dave and Jesse went to a Starbucks nearby and then a big electronics store across the street. We were in touch by cell phone. They asked us to pick them up which didn't sound unreasonable to me since Dave was hobbling around with a cane and a broken foot. Traffic was really bad. It was a Saturday and everyone was out shopping at once. However bad traffic gets here on the worst day after Thanksgiving at the mall here this was many times worse. No one in China lets anyone in front of them to change lanes. There are four lanes of traffic on each side and if you want to make a turn you have to play chicken with all the other cars. If you get to the light and are in the far lane cause no one would let you in to change lanes and you still have to turn you just do it anyway against all the traffic and block all the cars in your way.
We were having a terrible time getting to where Dave and Jesse were waiting. Andora started talking to Iris in Chinese. I should tell something was wrong and I asked Iris what she was saying. Iris told me she was saying she had to pee. Iris kept telling her to wait in Chinese. Some things even if you can't understand the words you know what they are saying. We weren't even moving in the traffic and Iris said she would have to find a place for Andora to pee. Iris had switched cars with her friend cause it had more room so she really didn't want Andora to pee in the car. There was no way she would find a place for Andora to pee, or so I thought. Iris just put the car in park right there in the middle of the street picked up Andora and headed to a fence on the side of the road and let her pee right there while I sat in the car in the middle of traffic. No one honked, traffic just went around the stopped car like this was a normal occurrence. Iris got back in the car with Anodra and back to fighting traffic like this was something that happens all the time.
That evening we went to a beautiful shopping center. The stores surrounded an outdoor area with fountains. One area was for children with the water shooting up from the ground at random intervals. Iris's friend and her son Munmun met us there. The kids were having a great time playing with the water, this time with parents approval.
I didn't go in any of the stores because I wasn't interested in shopping for western goods in China. I had more fun watching the kids. There was an outdoor display with Egyptian travel broachers and items for sale which I did look at.
I was more interested in the gelato stand. I had another chance there to win Andora's heart. It was apparent that I was going to have continue to work for her approval. I found it interesting to find Italian gelato in China realizing that Beijing is quite cosmopolitan. I got us some and it is far superior to our ice cream and custard. I had a flavor called Kiss that was a chocolate and hazelnut mix that was delicious. Andora and Munmun shared a peach gelato which gained me more approval from Andora. I finally found the easy way into her heart.
We went up some steps to another level of the mall and found were more stores and an African exhibit with more items for sale. Dave and Jesse bought some Ethiopian coffee and the kids played with some authentic animal skin covered drums. I was tempted to buy a large drum but the price was high and I would have trouble getting it home safely on the plane.
There was another level with a walkway along a lake filled with lotus blossoms. Along it there were restaurants and bars with outside seating above the lake. It was beautiful. We had dinner there while the sun set closing another incredible day in China.
Real Life in China - Day 4
I wanted to see Ken, Krista and their new baby Brandon. Ken has been Jesse's best friend since high school and was the best man at his wedding two years ago in China. He liked China so much he decided at Jesse's urging to move there.
Jesse suggested we meet at a Tex Mex restaurant in the expatriate neighborhood that Ken and Krista live in. First we went to the foreign grocery store in the neighborhood. You can find American name brand food but it is really expensive. Dave bought a box of Corn Flakes that cost the equivalent of six dollars.
There was also a very good European bakery next door where I bought some delicious bite size almond cookies. Three beggars that approached us. I gave them each some money and they motioned that they would like some cookies so I also gave them some of my cookies. These were the only beggars I say on this trip to China unlike the many we saw around our hotel every day on our last trip.
It was nice to catch up with Krista and Ken and see their baby. Ken is thriving in China. He teaches English. Krista is homesick since she has had her baby and is unable to see her family. She does have a companion in Brandon's nanny and her daughter who live with them.
After lunch we went to see one on Ken and Jesse's friends who is also an English teacher. His name was Dave and he's from Meadville Pennsylvania which is near Franklin where my Dave's' Mom and Dad came from. His sister and much of his family still lives there. Dave from PA lives behind a store that his girlfriend owns. She's Korean and has a daughter. Her store sells used American girl dolls and new clothes for them. She also sells a Gwen Stefani line of clothes and pashminas. I bought myself a pashmina for only three dollars. I also bought a Chicago Cubs outfit and pajamas for the Chinese doll I brought Andora from America and I bought a traditional Chinese outfit for my granddaughter Chole's doll back home. The outfits were only five dollars each. She let me pay in America dollars and I thought I got a real good deal.
Krista kind of let me know it is not a good to pay in American dollars because you end up paying more. I said three and five dollars was a good deal to me so what difference did it make. There was another American couple there with their daughter buying clothes and the guy stated if I pay too much then the other Americans who come behind me will be charged more. I got into an interesting conversation with his wife who is involved with an orphanage in China. I would love to work in an orphanage in China some day. After that I took a walk in the park across the street by myself.
On the way home even though it's out of the way Iris drove us by the 2009 Olympics birdcage. Traffic was terrible as usual and we couldn't find a place to park so I didn't get any pictures but it was nice to see it even if it was from the car.
Dave from PA came back to Jesse's apartment with us. I promised to cook dinner so I went to the grocery store in the apartment complex to buy the ingredients for Jambalaya. Just like the rotisserie chickens the grocery stores here sell, in China they also sell cooked chickens. Only the Chinese chickens still have the heads attached tucked up under the wing and the feet in the cavity along with the organs.
I cut all the edible parts out of the chicken for our jambalaya and was putting the rest in the garbage containing the feet and head when Xaio-Li stopped me and grabbed the chicken and put it in the refrigerator for later.
After a good dinner of jambalaya I drew pictures with Andora and played with Mira. I went to bed early with my book while Dave form PA, my Dave and Jesse stayed up drinking late into the night. I got a good nights sleep anticipating another exciting day in China.
I was tired of being joined at the hip with Dave so I suggested that Jesse and Dave go
out without me. Iris had to work all day and Jesse not until three. Dave had been wanting to see Mao. Chairman Mao is preserved in a clear casket for all to view at Tiananmen Square. I had no interest in seeing Chairman Mao dead or alive. This was a good opportunity for me to spend some quality time with the girls. I drew with Andora and helped Xaio-Le with Mira. I was also enjoying spending time with Xaio-Li. We communicated with an unofficial sign language. For lunch she made a delicious meal of spicy noodles for us to share.
When Dave and Jesse got back from their outing I said I wanted to explore the neighborhood on my own. Jesse and Dave were skeptical of letting me wander alone even though I didn't plan on going far. Jesse wrote out his address in English and Chinese in case I got lost. There was no problem of that since there are many stores in Jesse's neighborhood and a five story shopping center just a couple of blocks away.
When I got to the gate I saw a police car and two police officers. They motioned to me and I approached them with my passport ready for inspection. In English one of them asked me where my registration was. I asked him what he meant. I was playing dumb. At the airport we had to fill out a form and on the back it said we had to register with the local police if we weren't staying at a hotel. I asked the man at the airport who collected the forms about it and he asked me how long I was staying. I said ten days he said don't bother. So I didn't. I told the police officer I was just staying with my son and like a dummy I gave him the address that Jesse had written down for me. He said I had to have my son take me to the police station that day to register. If I didn't there would be a fine each day. Since I had volunteered Jesse's address I knew he had a way to track me down.
I went back up to the apartment and told Dave and Jesse what happened. Jesse spent the rest of the afternoon looking for his apartment ID which he couldn't find and applying for his visa which was going to run out in the next couple of days. He would need to bring these with him to the police station. He had to work but after conferring with Iris they decided that the landlord would have to supply the apartment ID for us. The only way they felt comfortable asking her to do that was to pay another months rent early as incentive.
Jesse had to work and so we stayed in the apartment under what I perceived as house arrest the rest of the afternoon. I was afraid of running into the police again.
That evening when Iris and Jesse got home from work we all walked down to KFC for dinner. Chinese KFC has the same chicken that we do in America but everything else on the menu is different. No mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits or coleslaw. There was something that looked like mini quiches and corn on the cob. The rest of the items I didn't recognize. Andora got some of the mini quiches. They turned out to be desert. The best way to describe them is custard pie.
After that we went back to the apartment where I would have been glad to stay for the rest of the night. Iris had worked all day and she and Jesse also had to work tomorrow. Dave wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the Hard Rock Cafe in China. I'd been there on our last trip and it is just like any Hard Rock in America. I felt it would be an imposition to request Jesse and Iris to take us out after Iris worked all day but Dave insisted.
At the Hard Rock I silently stewed. Dave and Jesse ordered beer and Iris and I had desert. It was smokey and loud. When we left I let Dave know how much I didn't like going there and he said I should have spoken up. I did but he didn't listen. I was glad to get home and in bed with my book. I was worried about the police and still had jet lag so I took a sleeping pill hoping the next day would be better.
Real Life in China - Day 6
Iris and Jesse both had to work all day. Iris said she would try to get off work early to take us to the police station. Until that time we put ourselves under house arrest. I spent the day interacting with Andora, Mira and Xaio-Li. Xaio-Li made us some delicious fried rice which Dave refused to even try. In the afternoon I watched UP with Andora.
When it was apparent Iris wouldn't get off work on time to escort us to the police station I was becoming paranoid. I told Dave we should go on our own. As we started out the door Xaio-Li stopped us and communicated we would have to take Andora with us. She doesn't take care of two children at a time. In China with the one child rule there is no concept of the ability to take care of two children at once.
Andora was still not comfortable enough to want to go out alone with us so I said ice cream and that seemed to make it acceptable. When we got to the gate Dave asked me where the police station was and I told him the red building. He said he saw five red buildings. I had no idea where to go. Andora was starting to get distressed and there was no way Dave would be able to hobble around on his broken foot looking for the police station. We headed back to the apartment and saw Iris in the courtyard. I took Andora to the grocery store in the compound and got her an ice cream as promised. Then we all stayed in the play area and watched Andora and Munmun play. Iris called the police and they said just come in tomorrow. I felt much better.
We had a quiet evening at home. I cooked a pork roast with potatoes for dinner to give Dave a break from Chinese food. It didn't turn out good because I cooked it in a wok. Jesse and Iris don't have an oven. I don't think most Chinese homes do.
Jesse was going to be off the next morning and had made arrangements with the landlord to accompany us to the police station. I knew after that ordeal was over I would be able to relax and enjoy China with freedom the next day.
Real Life in China - Day 7
The landlord came early to go to the police station with us along with Jesse and of course Mira at Xaio-Li's insisting. Jesse really didn't want to bring her since he was worried that he would be asked questions about her. She as well as Andora are American citizens at Jesse and Iris's choosing. I didn't ask Jesse what the problem would be but I do know if they leave the country they can't get back in without a visa for the girls, which they don't have.
It was a short walk for everyone to the police station but Dave on account of his broken foot. We went through the alleys where I got a chance to see how the more average people live. They were crowded with life, garbage and smells, a wonderful combination of beautiful and ugly at the same time, a feast for the senses.
At the police station there was a special line just for foreigners to register. We had to fill out a lot of forms and answer many questions with Jesse as the only one who could speak both English and Chinese translating for us all. Although it was intimidating and confusing, we got our approval to stay with Jesse until Saturday. The only consequence was that in a couple of days Jesse would have to go return and show them his new visa. I finally felt free, unafraid to explore the streets of China on my own. I couldn't wait.
I went to the grocery store on the apartment complex to buy some hamburger for Dave. I even found hamburger buns. The only thing I couldn't find was mustard. Dave said he wouldn't eat a hamburg without mustard. I had been making him ham and eggs each morning but other than that he wouldn't eat much besides potato chips and snacks. He didn't like them that much cause even the Lays brand in China tastes different.
Jesse didn't have to go to work until 3 so I decided to explore the shopping mall down the street. Iris told me there was a large international grocery store there. The name was Bon Jour so I assumed it was French. It was a big store but I couldn't find mustard there. There was catsup and mayonnaise but no mustard. I explored the rest of the shopping mall quickly because Jesse would be leaving for work soon and I knew Xaio-Li and Dave wouldn't want to be stuck with two kids on their own.
Iris got back from work a little early and took me to a large building which had many booths like a flea market. I found a lot of nice things to bring home that were very cheap. Iris bargained the prices down and mad them even cheaper. I got wine covers that looked like traditional Chinese clothes, kaleidoscopes, a silk table runner and even a skate board for Judah.
That night Xaio-Li made dinner for us and I was asked if I wanted chicken. I said sure cause I can always eat chicken. At the table there were the chicken parts I tried to throw away feet, head and all. I found a couple of small pieces that weren't attached to a head or feet and put them on my plate along with some more spicy noodles.
We spent a quiet evening at home and I went to bed early. I took a sleeping pill so I could get a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we were going to the Great Wall.
Real Life in China - Day 8
Jesse and Iris had to work all day. Dave had been wanting to go back to the Great Wall. I wasn't really interested because we had been there on our last trip and I didn't want to impose on Iris and Jesse by asking them to take us. They were both busy with work and two kids under three years old. I asked if we could book a tour but Iris said she would find someone to take us. She said she knew of someone who would drive us and I asked could he speak English. She said no but she would find someone to go along that did. She found two friends of theirs who were willing to take us. The driver couldn't speak English but they had a friend who was from Canada and hadn't been there yet and could speak Chinese. I asked her and Jesse how much to pay them and she said just offer to fill their gas tank and if they refused offer to buy them lunch.
They picked us up first thing in the morning in a very clean nice van. I can't remember their names but they were Chinese driver a Chinese Canadian from Vancouver who had just moved to China. He had been sent there to sell air filtration systems and recruit other sales people . The driver worked for him. He was trying to recruit Jesse to work for him part time. I asked him if it was like Amway and he said no, it wasn't a pyramid. I offered to pay for the gas and they said no their tank was already full. We were on our way. The guys were very friendly and I didn't feel awkward at all traveling with them. It helped to have Dave there cause he likes to talk and Dave and the Canadian talked about sports and stuff.
It's about an hour drive from Beijing to the closest Great Wall site. Last time we had traveled a little further to the Great Wall where the tour book said it was not a crowded. This time we went closer and it was very crowded. We rode a gondola to the top as only the most adventurous would attempt to walk at this section. I had never ridden in a gondola before so this was very adventurous to me. The ride was a little scary but well worth it for the beautiful view going up and down.
The section of the wall we were at was very crowded and steep to climb. Dave and our tour guides stayed at the bottom and I climbed half way up to the top using the railing to help pull me along. On the way down I used it to insure that I wouldn't fall. Dave and the guides were waiting for me on a patio on the lower portion of the wall with cokes. We sat there quite awhile and took pictures before going down. I have to admit Dave was right, I'm glad we went to see the wall again. This will be on our must see list every time we go to China. I would like to go to a different section each time.
When we got to the parking lot there were quite a few booths selling T shirt and other tourist items. We passed by a two hump camel that tourists were having their picture taken on. Our guide asked me if I wanted to get my picture and I said no. I really did though. He said come on it's be your only chance to have your picture on a camel. So I said sure. I think sitting on that camel was the highlight of my trip and I have several great pictures of my camel encounter.
A man approached Dave selling T shirts. Dave asked if he had one in his size. There was a 5x and Dave tried it on and it was a little tight but it did fit. Clothes in China are not sized like ours. What they call large is really small to us. Dave asked how much and the guy said 150 Yuan which equals about 22 American dollars. Dave got him down to 50 Yuan but our Chinese driver started vigorously bargaining and got him down to 30. That equaled about five American dollars.
We offered to take the guys out for lunch. They took us to a typical upscale Chinese restaurant with the lazy susan in the middle of the table so we could all share our food. I wasn't sure what would be good on the menu. It was in Chinese but there were pictures of each entry. They asked me what I wanted to eat and I said I liked chicken and fried rice. The Canadian asked me if I liked Kung Pao chicken and I said yes. He ordered that along with the chicken and rice and a pork dish. Dave had a beer and said since he had a drop of Chinese water on his toothbrush he was experiencing gastrointestinal problems but not in those words. He went on an on a about it in great detail and finally I said we had all heard enough and to please stop talking about it. The food was delicious and I ate a lot. When the bill came I grabbed it an the Canadian guy insisted on paying. They had paid our way into the wall also. I was a little embarrassed but acted gracious.
They asked us if we would like to go to the Ming tombs. Of course I said yes. I had to use the bathroom in the restaurant. I saw they had the Asian toilets which had been dreading since my last trip. They are on the ground so you do not sit but squat. Getting down in a squat was not so much of a problem for me as the getting up. I am almost sixty years old and not in that good of shape. I was worried about falling on my way up. Why don't they have bars on the side so you can pull yourself up?. It must be that the Chinese are in such better shape than us Westerners that they aren't needed even for the seniors.
There was a lot of walking and steps in the Ming tombs so Dave decided to sit them out. He found a bench to sit on while me and the guys went into the tombs. We had to climb up quite a few steps to get to the entrance of the tomb entrance and then we had to descend around eight flights of steps to get to the actual tombs. There were displays of thrones with vases and other reproductions of artifacts at the bottom. Then you entered a separate room containing the tombs. The caskets were red metal boxes that didn't look centuries old. The big ones were for the bodies and there were lots of smaller ones for their stuff. The metal boxes didn't look authentic to me. It was not like the inside of the Egyptian pyramids with all the artwork and grandeur. I'm glad I went but it was not that great and I would not go a second time. We had to go back up all those steps but it wasn't that bad. Maybe I was in better shape than I thought.
We found Dave on his bench having a coke. I had to use the bathroom again and it was another porcelain hole in the ground. After that we checked out a small museum and gift shop and left. As usual as at any tourist site we were approached by people trying to sell items as we were getting in our car.
When we got back to the apartment there was a note on the door. The police had been back to check
up on us. They wanted to know if we had registered and left a number for us to call. That evening we stayed at home.
I told Iris and Jesse how the guys paid for everything and what a great time we had. Jesse said they wined and dined us to recruit him. That was fine with me.
Real Life in China - Day 9
Jesse and Iris had to work again all day. Dave was sticking close to the bathroom so I was on my own. I helped out Xaio-Li with the kids. That afternoon in our unique sign language Xaio-Li got me to go out with her and the kids. She put both of them in the stroller and I just walked with her not sure where we were going. We ended up on the top floor of the shopping mall where there was a play area. Munmun and his nanny were waiting for us. Munmun's nanny and Xaio-Li are good friends as well as Munmun and Andora. Munmun's mom is Iris's best friend.
The play area had a large room full of sand and sand toys. The walls were decorated with a scene of a tropical beach. There was a large play area on the other side with two levels containing padded climbing toys a trampoline room cubicle full of balls to jump in. The kids were having a blast.
I noticed quite a few kids in split pants. In China it is common for even babies not to wear diapers. They have split pants instead. Even Mira wore them some of the time. Every morning and night Xaio-Li would sit with Mira between her legs with a large plastic tub underneath until she did her business. Then whenever it looked like she had to go out would come the tub. She did have the occasional accident which was immediately cleaned up. Mira wore diapers most of the time though. I wondered about the cleanliness of the play area with all these split pants.
On the way back Xaio-Li took me through some colorful alleys for a shortcut. There is a whole other side of life in those alleys including shops and street food. Xaio-Li took my hand and put it on the stroller stroked it smiled at me in a very loving gesture. I had become very fond of her and it was apparent that she was also fond of me. We managed to form a close relationship without words.
That night Jesse made pasta for us. As usual Dave didn't eat but I did. I offered to make him the hamburgers but he still wouldn't eat them without his mustard. I turned in early with my book and a sleeping pill. Tomorrow would be our last full day in China.
Real Life in China - Day 10
This was our last full day in China. I had read about the White Cloud Temple in the guidebook and decided I wanted to go there. Jesse didn't have to work until three so he agreed to take us. It was a Taoist temple and I had been reading a book by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life Living The Wisdom Of The Tao, so I thought I'd check it out. Jesse doesn't drive in China so we took a taxi. Because of Xaio-Li's one child rule we also took Andora along.
The temple was not high in the clouds like I had imagined but right in the middle of some very busy Beijing streets. It was a series of ancient buildings filled with sculptures of different deities. They were beautiful but I did not get the spiritual feeling that I got at the Lama temple on our last trip. I don't know if it was the monk playing with his blackberry, the monk guarding the inside of the shrine in his sleep or the people accomping me but nothing felt sacred. To me it was just another tourist site.
I didn't know that the religion contained all these deities. I don't think it originally did. I will have to do a little more research of the Tao. I think it's like any other religion. A simple prophet in this case Tao Te Ching comes up with great wisdom and then a whole religion contaminates it with deities and rules layered on by humans. Didn't the same thing happen with Jesus?
We had a hard time getting a cab on the busy street and Andora was getting cranky. We finally walked a couple of blocks to another busy street and a taxi finally stopped for us. Jesse took us to an American restaurant in his neighborhood called The Tube Station Bistro. They featured paninis, and pizza. Dave as usual couldn't find anything he liked and ordered a smoothie.
When we got home I took a nap. I had invited the in laws over for an American dinner before I knew how hard it was to cook American food in their kitchen. They didn't have an oven or frying pan. Everything was cooked in a wok. I had brought a gumbo mix from America and Jesse wanted fajitas also.
The large grocery store was located on the ground level of the shopping mall. Dave hadn't been there yet so he went along. We took a quick cruise of the mall where I found a Tupperware booth and bought Andora a sippy cup. At the grocery store I picked up some items for our dinner. I couldn't find the right kind of cheese for our fajitas. They don't eat much cheese in China. I also couldn't find an avocado.
Jesse had tortillas in his freezer and I was able to find the rest of the ingredients. I got some shrimp for the gumbo. The Chinese love seafood. I would skip the gumbo myself.
When we got back to the apartment Iris's dad and stepmother were already there. Her dad speaks English because he taught at an American university for a few years so we were able to converse with him. Jesse and Iris were still at work. The step mom and Xaio-Li were busy making dumplings. I knew I would have to sample them to be polite. I just hoped they wouldn't contain fish. They didn't. It was pork and finely chopped carrots and onion. Dave wouldn't even try them. I liked them and ate a few.
Iris's uncle and aunt came for dinner too. I made shrimp gumbo and chicken fajitas. We also had the dumplings for dinner. Iris's uncle came loaded with gifts for us and I had some for them too. I gave him a book about Michigan with an invitation to come stay with us at any time. I also gave them also some Fannie Mae candy and blueberry preserves. This was my second meeting with them. On our last trip they took us out for dinner and back to their apartment where he also showered us with gifts. This time I was prepared to reciprocate. We had a very enjoyable evening. Iris has a very nice family.
I tried to wash my dishes but Xaio-Li wouldn't let me. I cleaned up as much as I could. When everyone left I gave her a box of candy. She had been so nice to me that I wanted to do more for her. I thought about giving her my remaining Yuan but didn't know if that would be appropriate. I wish I had a better gift for her.
We packed for out trip home and went to bed. We would have to get up early tomorrow for our long trip home.
Real Life in China - Going Home
That morning we left early for the airport for the grueling trip home. We had a one and a half hour trip to Korea, A three hour layover, a thirteen hour flight to Chicago and a three hour drive back to Kalamazoo. I was looking forward to my own home and bed.
I've been to China twice. Once in a posh hotel and the second time living in a middle class neighborhood with family. Dave and I debated weather to stay in a hotel or at Jesse's. Dave likes his comfort and the reliable food of the breakfast buffet in a good hotel. I like adventure. I also wanted to spend more time with family. Then there was the matter cash. I think that's what finally got Dave over to my side. The price we had to pay for the same hotel or a comparable one from our last trip was twice as much this time. We were strapped for cash because Dave had just broken his foot and wasn't getting paid for his time off.
They say everything happens for a reason and I believe that. Not to say that God broke Dave's foot so we could stay at Jesse's but the loss of his pay did directly result in our choice of accommodations. I'm so glad we got to see real life in China this time. The experiences we had living with Jesse and his family were so much more rewarding. Even though we were uncomfortable, scared and even bored some of the time the connections we had with family and the Chinese culture made up for it.
I loved getting to know Andora, Mira and Iris. I saw a whole other side of Jesse. When kids grow up and come home to visit they seem to get back into the kid mode. At his own home I came to appreciate Jesse for the responsible adult he's become. Dave and Jesse seemed to bond for the first time.
I got to experience how the Chinese really live first hand instead of being a tourist. As a tourist you only see the attractions and miss the everyday reality of the country. Not everyone has the option of staying with family in a foreign country like we did but my advice is skip the tour group. Find a way to see how the real people live and embrace the culture.
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