The China Posts
October 9th 2009–Meeting our daughter for the first time
In October of 2009, we adopted our daughter Ping-Ping from Guangzhou, China. She was 13 years old, about to turn 14. She was a bright and competent young girl, so the day before we came home, we let her stay overnight at the house of her girlfriend YiYi.
When she came back, she had made a promise to her foster grandmother and her girlfriends to return to China and see her friends again within three years.
On the plane home to America, our brave girl started crying. To date, she has almost never cried. Through the translation box, she explained about this promise. Was I going to let her honor it, she wanted to know. Wasn’t keeping promises important?
It was the hardest moment of my parenting career. What could I tell her? Not to honor promises? Why would she keep them to us?
But I was terrified. What if my lovely daughter went back to China, and we never saw her again? Finally, after praying, I decided that if, after three years, she did not love us enough to come back—well, we would have failed anyway. So, even though I had no idea how we could possibly get the money for this, I said yes.
Little did I imagine that she wanted me to come with her!
Originally, she had said three years…but she wanted to go for Chinese New Year, because friends had promised to give her money. And she wanted to go in 2012 rather than 2013, as her friends would still all be at the same school…they would not have graduated and scattered yet.
So, two years and a quarter after that fateful plane ride—winter of 2012—my 16 year old daughter and I set out to spend Chinese New Year. Below is the record I kept of our travels at the time:
(If you click on the titles of each post, it will bring you to the LJ version, where you can comment, or read other comments, if that post had any.)
January 11th, 03:06 pm: Writing from China.
Writing from China. My daughter abandoned me in front of the computer for email time, not understanding that no one would email me at 1am.
Xin Fu School
I am in one of the rooms to the left.
We have been here about three days now. The first day was spent getting here. Hong Kong was an adventure. My Mandarin and Cantonese speaking daughter would not talk to anyone, so I had to try to make do in English. This worked…most of the time. Once, she had to talk after all, and we ended up dragging our bags up a very steep and weird staircase…but sure enough, it got us where we were going (rather roundaboutly involving walking between VERY big busses. ;-)
We stayed at a YWCA…which might as well have been a hotel. During the night, Ping-Ping woke up saying that it sounded as if it were raining inside. I heard a noice too, but thought it was the air conditioning.
That morning, the elevators were down. So we walked from the 14th floor to the ground. From floor six or seven downward, the stairs ran with water. Apparently, a pipe had broken. We ended up having to walk up again (let me tell you…skating is not enough because I was not in the proper shape for this.) Luckily, as we tried to drag our bags down, the hotel staff found us and sent a man to help.
We took a walk that morning. I smiled as we rounded the corner and saw the familiar word: Christ. Well, imagine my surprise when the next word was "Scientist". It was the Hong Kong Christian Science church! This is not as weird as it might sound as it was the people from this church who recommended that YWCA…but they had given me a list of places. I didn't realize this one was so close.
We met the lady from the church at 9 and went to buy some CS books in Chinese, which we had been trying to get for over a year. (Ping-Ping's Sunday School teacher paid for them, bless him!) Then, we headed off for Guangzhou.
We arrived and have been treated like royalty ever since. The food is wonderful. We have a lovely apartment provided by the Chairman of the Board, Ping-Ping's "Chinese father" as she calls him. (What board, I do not know. Maybe the school. Maybe the orphanage.)
We were taken to lunch and the photographed and then taken to dinner by five or six people at a super posh restaurant that served shark fin soup (said to be very expensive), turtle, frog, silk worm coccoons, intestins, sea welkins (sp?), and other exodic things. We did not eat any of those. We had a big feast. We all got to pick something. I picked first…and for some reason, what I requested never arrived. But everything else was wonderful. (I LOVE the food here.)
Then, the next day was the Chairman's birthday. We were picked up by five people, including the photographer and had breakfast with him. Ping-Ping gave him the tie she had bought him and some chocolate. The food was, again, excellent. We ate at the Gold Coast Marina Club.
Then, we went to the Chairman's office. He had a shrine to Jesus, ancestors, Buddha, the goddess of mercy, and more. There was beautiful jade. We were each given a little bear of very rare jade that were treasures of his. (By each, I mean myself, Ping-Ping, and the Incomparable YiYi, my daughter's best friend, who spent the day with us.)
Then, our real adventure began. We went to the country and visited an orphanage. We saw many little boys, mostly "special needs" children. I held the hand of a blind toddler who didn’t seem to understand what that meant. The children were precious. I wanted to take a few, but Ping-Ping would not repeat my request.
Then, we went to a chicken farm.
Yes…I did say chicken farm. I was as puzzled as you. Especially as this was not an industrial chicken farm. It was a chicken fancier's farm with many different chickens. Some small and spotted, some big. There were white fluffy ones, and a huge handsome bantam rooster. There were also white doves and an emu.
I kid you not.
Finally, I decided to inquire what had brought us to this strange ramshackled yet picturesque place with its gazebo over the small lake and mangy goat. Turns out this was also the property of the Chairman.
The whole trip was like this. We passed things the nature of which I have no clue. Like things in a fantasy or science fiction story, I have no idea what I was seeing or why it was there. We stopped for lunch at a place that was also nice and yet ramshackled, overlooking water. Then we went to the Chairman's house.
It was a mansion…but the house itself looked like a modern apartment building. The rest of it was traditional Oriental, almost Japanese. There was a koi pond with hundreds of koi…you could feed them and they frenzied all rushing to get the food. It was cool to watch. We ate a star-shaped fruit off a tree and drank tons of tea. There was this lovely wooden furniture, thick but weathered with odd round holes in it. My father would have loved it.
Then we went to Canton Tower…said to be the highest observation tower in the world. We visited a lovely garden first, where they were putting up decorations covered with what I thought was paint, but it turned out to be flowers, for Chinese New Year (will the flowers last two weeks?) Everything–I should mention–is decorated for Chinese New Year, including the Chairman's house and the school. (tassels hung down at the Chairman's house, so when what looked like a tassel was dangling into my tea, I assumed it was a decoration. No. It was a random root from a banyon tree.)
We went up in the tower with the photographer (there were four people showing us around most of the day, the photographer, a driver, and two woman…jobs unknown. No one introduces themselves. I don't know their names.) and saw impressive sights. I discovered that my daughter did not like heights. So YiYi and I did a lot of posing. At the end, the photographer spent extra time just shooting pictures of YiYi. I don't blame him. She's gorgeous. (Not as gorgeous as Ping-Ping, who may be the prettiest girl in China, but Ping-Ping is camera shy.)
Then we were too tired to continue to dinner. So we went home and to bed. (The first night I was so tired, I slept through meeting YiYi's boyfriend.)
Today, we had lunch with Ping-Ping's foster grandmother…she is the person to whom Ping-Ping made the promise to return that brought us here. It was a buffet with amazingly odd food and exotic teas. Very nice. Everyone was amused by my few words of Chinese.
Today, we brought Ping-Ping's little sister, Pan Xiao Li, who has the same foster grandmother. I was so glad to see her. Right now, Ping-Ping is out shopping with her didi, her little brother. Like Auntie, and the Chinese Father, these are chosen relatives, not biological ones. But Ping-Ping and I treat them as if they are the same.
I forgot to mention Auntie. She is a teacher here at the school…a house mother. She is wonderful. I am wearing a scarf she gave me. I credit her with being responsible for Ping-Ping being such a wonderful girl…her care and love. She asked, through Ping-Ping, what my daughter does that annoys me. Honestly, I could not think of anything. I worry about her sometimes, but she never annoys me.
So…here we are. There are plans for more meals, shopping, and karaoke at the Chairman's house this weekend…I think with other girls, too. So far, due to the kindness of friends and strangers, we have spent very little of our own money on this trip. It is a miracle.
Seen over the roofs of the lower buildings on Shamain Island
January 11th, 06:53 pm: China Post Two-Things are different here
Things are different here. Different in odd little ways. For instance, driving is different. There are almost no traffic lights here in this huge city. The main roads all run beside raised roads, the nature of which I don't know because I don't think we've been on them… but they are bestrooned with greenery that hangs down. Some of which is flowering. These roads are divided with exits, so there is no need for lights.
Drivers drive differently, too. They nudge in front of each other and weave in and out in a way I never see at home. It is scary because they also seem to walk and bike in the middle of the street. So, you always seem as if you are going to hit someone.
There is a gated community of sorts near us…at least traffic is limited and has to go by a toll-like turn style. At first, this seemed very random, as if the gates were only on some sides, so you could not get in one way, but you could just drive around the other way…but now I think I may be wrong. Maybe it is gated on both sides.
Eating is different, too. You aren't supposed to put you hands on anything, and yet everything has sharp little bones, which the girls put on the table without a plate or anything when they are done with them. And I just ate a part of a pig that I fear to have identified. I am very adventurous with the food in general, but twice today, I had to spit something out. And there were so many unfamiliarly weird things at lunch, that I skipped a lot of them. And some of the ones I did take were not what I expected. I have so much sympathy for Ping-Ping's misadventures sorting food out at home.
I did really like the brightly-colored objects that looked exactly like aquarium rocks but turned out to be chocolate.
They sell it differently, too. There is a spot on the way from the school to the apartment where they sell stuff on the roadside. Literally. Piles and piles of garlic, ginger, tiny oranges, etc. just lying on a tarp on the sidewalk. And it comes in different packages. Squeeze bottles are seldom food at home. And instant noodle shaped containers never contain coffee, much less sweet milk coffee with a thing you put in it that is like solid jelly like strips, almost like a bubble tea thing.
Last time we were here, so many people spoke English…near the adoption hotel, that I never used any Chinese. Here…across town…it is quite different. No one speaks English except Ping-Ping and one girl who shouted toilet at me a number of times to see if I needed to use the bathroom. There were people from all over in the White Swan. Not here. I am the only Caucasian around. No one has stared though, except for one pretty little girl who seemed to find me fascinating.
People don't hug much, but they are constantly taking each other by the arm and walk together. I've been by the armed all over the place. I find it mildly disconcerting, but I like them all, so its okay.
So…different. Nice, but different.
January 12th, 2012 09:35 am: China Post Three — Bathrooms are especially different
I forgot to mention the bathrooms. They are even weirder than other things. Deciding to go to one is always a bit of a risk.
Occasionally, a nice restaurant will have a Western style toilet. That is true luxury. The bathroom in my room here has one, for which I am very grateful.
Most of the time, though, one is not so lucky. The typical bathroom has a ceramic pit over which you squat with ridges to either side to show where to put your feet. (This is very important, or you are over the wrong part of the thing, which is liable to cause splashing of substances God never intended to participate in an activity such as splashing.) Using these without causing harm to surroundings and/or clothing takes practice. You know you are in a posh version if they provide toilet paper. In general, here in China, you are expected to provide your own (and it goes in the trash can.)
But it gets weirder still. The school did not have a foot pit, it just had a trench with water running in it.
The bathroom at the orphanage we visited had a trench with no water (presumably they wash it occasionally.) Also the 'stalls' were about two feet high and one on one side…intended for little children. All three of us women could see each other very clearly. I am a good sport about such things, but I expected my modest daughter to balk. She dealt with it cheerfully.
So…bathrooms. REALLY different.
January 13th, 2012
09:05 am: China Post Four — Shopping
I forgot, when I suggested that Ping-Ping buy things that fit her here in Chnam what shopping in China is like. Shopping, too, is different:
The shopping spaces…the word store does not apply…are like wide warehouse areas that are several floors high and connected by escalators. These spaces are filled with little booths maybe five or six feet wide and eight or ten feet deep. Each booth has stuff to sell. Shirts and jackets. Or bras and panties. Or shoes and pants. Lots of stuff, close together with very little inventory. In other words, very little choice of size. (Luckily, most shoppers are pretty close in size.)
These stalls are very close together. You have to push through a constant stream of people. Everyone moves by everything very fast, and it is hard to guess how they ever seen anything they want to buy. And the stalls have the same stuff over and over, so bras, shoes, pants, shirts, shoes, bras, etc.
The picky princess seems to find less she likes here than at home. She moves by everything very quickly. When she does buy something, though, it often happens so quickly that I miss it!
Something funny happened to me. Walking along through the forest of goods, it suddenly struck me that I could buy something for me. It was a novel thought! I never shop for me. I looked around is amazement for about five minutes until I realized the problem. Nothing there would fit me. Sure enough, later, when I mentioned I liked a shirt with a wolf on it, the lady told us she did not have it in hen da…very big. (For those of you who do not know me, I am under 5'3"…but I'm heavy by the Chinese standard.)
My daughter turns out to be a bartering queen. Yesterday, Ping-Ping saw a long sleeved t-shirt she thought Orville might like. She talked to me about it and I asked the price. The woman said 68…about $12 (would have been 10 when we were here, but the exchange rate went down.)
Folks…good quality long sleeved T-shirt like might sell at an sf convention for $25 to $35. It was a steal.
Ping-Ping looked outraged–something she does VERY well–and said 25. When the woman demurred, our daughter staunchly turned her back on the lady. It was hilarious! The lady came down to 30.This was not good enough for Ping-Ping. She decided against the shirt and actually walked away! She wasn't going to buy it!
At this point, I intervened. 30 is between 5 and 6 dollars. The TAXI to get there cost more than that! (34). So I bought the shirt. Our daughter disapproved. I could not put across what a good deal she had gotten me!
We went to an Italian restaurant for lunch. It was as Italian as Chinese food in America is Chinese. The pizza and noodles had toppings such as duck and squid. The food was good and I liked the drink machine.
After shopping, shopping, and more shopping, we got in yet a third taxi to go to dinner. It let us off in the middle of nowhere at what looked like an abandoned exit. We walked into what looked like the bad section of town…but everything looks like that here…a bit run down. Goods lay on the sidewalk that one only sees at home in National Geographic (or occasionally at the Asian grocery store where my daughter shops.)
Turns out, we were going to the restaurant owned by the family of the sweet boyfriend of the Incomparable YiYi. It was ramshackled, like everything else. Our pink table cloth had a large rip. But, boy, was the food good! It was, again, the thing where you throw raw stuff into boiling water and eat it with this wonderful ginger mix.
Off for more shopping!
January 14th, 2012 10:09 am: China Post Five — In Which I Buy Some Shoes
So yesterday, we did more shopping. Thanks to the kindness of friends, Ping-Ping bought two pairs of shoes and a cute coat/cape thingy. She really needs shoes and the other thing can be used for school, so good calls.
But I needed shoes, too. The $13, made in China, Wal-Mart sneakers I had picked up two weeks ago were falling apart. They were the same style I had owned twice before, "made" by Danskin, I think. But this pair just wasn't up to snuff. So I needed shoes. But my size 8 feet are super big here. The very largest size that any of the cute fashion stalls carried. I would have loved a pair of high black boots, but the only thing they carried in that size was Uggs and Ugg-look alikes. I found a pair that fit, but the were almost $40. Seemed like too much.
We did find a store later, though, that sold sneakers and had a bin of hen da size. So, I found a pair of nice blue sneakers. Not fancy. Not really my style, but they fit and were not falling apart. I think they were about $25. More than I would have liked, but not bad.
This morning, however, we passed someone selling boots by the street size. They had a pair of Ugg style boots with fur trim and pom poms…my size. $6. I bought them. I figure they probably won't last long, but they sure are cozy!
Ping-Ping and Ling Shan ended up with about 8 coats between them by the time all the charity and coat buying was done. Ping-Ping came to China with the purple one Ling Shan bought that I thought was Ping-Ping's favorite. But once here, she told me that she and Ling Shan had decided to give it to a child who did not have a coat. She also gave away her darling pink Tinkerbell pullover with the white pom poms. It looked adorable on her, but she said it was a little small. I was pleased at her charitable impulse, but it broke my heart to see it go. It was my favorite of all her garments.
I wish we had brought more clothes to give away. We had planned to, but used the space bringing chocolate and other gifts. Ah well.
Lots more to post about…but later. If all goes as planned, we're going to Shamain Island today, which I have been REALLY looking forward to. It is the one thing, other than going to the bookstore, on my list of things to do…and the only thing that is for me rather than her.
10:14 am: Shoe Clarification
It occurs to me that those of you who do not know me personally do not realize that by buying two pairs of shoes, I have effectively doubled the number of shoes I own.
January 15th, 2012 04:57 pm: China Post Six — In which I return to the scene of past glories
Yesterday, I did the only thing I plan to do on this trip for me, instead of for Ping-Ping. I went back to Shamain Island.
Shamain Island is the wonderful, resort-like place of Georgian buildings, banyan trees–102 of which are so old as to be on some protected historical tree list, and wide nigh car-less streets where we stayed when we were here before. It is a man-made island, a piece of land along the Pearl River separated from the mainland by a canal. For years, the US Consulate was here, in various different buildings–which is why it became the place to stay for adoptions. But there are other reasons that it is perfect for adoptions as well. It is a peaceful beautiful place where everything moves slowly in an old fashion way, with lovely bronze statues everywhere, old buildings with columns on them, and brides getting photographed everywhere. It is a perfect place for getting to know your new child…and not having to worry about the little ones running off into trouble.
I am so glad we stayed on the Island last time, rather than in the city…I cannot imagine our adoption experience without the sheer beauty of the island.
The center of all this used to be the White Swan Hotel, the first 5 star hotel in China. Only the White Swan is currently being remolded and is not open to guests. Rumor has it that it will not be used for adoptions when it reopens, but for government functions. I hope not. It is an ideal adoption hotel and the local merchants rely on it.
I did not realize when I was here the first time that you cannot find silk dresses and jade figurines everywhere. But in all the shopping we have done, we have not seen any of the cute pretty touristy stuff you can buy on the island. It is all there to cater to the Americans who want to bring back a piece of China.
It took a long time to get there. Ping-Ping had never heard of it and her friends told the taxi the wrong place. By chance, the wrong place had a Starbucks. I found someone in Starbucks who spoke English and had her write down the address for the Starbucks on Shamain Island. This got us there…despite the protests of my daughter that her friend and her "little brother" who was with us, did not want to go.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to be back!
First, it is beautiful there. Second, I had happy memories of being there with John, Ping-Ping and YiYi the first time. (YiYi was ill yesterday and could not come.) Third, there were things I wanted to do there.
Fourth, and most important, for the first time in a week, I was oriented!
Normally, I always know where I am. I carry a map in my head of every place I go and fill it in as I learn more. But here, I have been being whisked about in a taxi, and I have no clue where anything is. I have not been able to find a map of the city. (I plan to look online.) So, it was REALLY nice to come to a place where I recognized where I was and could find my way, even to places that were farther afield.
Dong at Susan's Place in 2009
(By 2012, he had moved next door into a bigger building.)
First, we went to see Dong at Susan's Place. He had been my favorite shop keeper the first time. John and I bought our Chinese jackets we wear for book signings from him, as well as the Chinese outfits the boys wear to church and Ping-Ping's pink dress that doesn't quite fit her. He also serves free tea.
Dong was there, to my delight. He is a slender young fellow at least six feet tall…rare in China. He remembered us and our friends who had been here, what we had bought and when we visited. He even pulled out pictures of me drinking tea with him last time! I bought a few more things and drank some really good tea with him. My daughter and her friends bought and ate instant noodles, which they love.
The Apothocary Market
Then, we left the island and found the apothecary market across the street where they sell all manner of amazing dried things, most of which I did not recognize. They also sell pets…the children loved the kittens, puppies, and baby rabbits. There were exotic birds, too, and all matter of gear for animals, beds, leashes, etc. And, they sell knickknacks…at much cheaper prices than on the island, so I bought a few as gifts. (That was why I wanted to go. last time I bought the same stuff on the island and paid much more…even though it was still rather cheap.)
Starbucks — Shamain Island, Guangzhou
Finally, I went back to Starbucks, had a coffee, and met with some other American families who were there adopting. By one of those amazing quirks of fate that no one would believe in fiction, a particular online friend from the adoption community happened to be in town adopting another daughter…the whole story is too long to tell here, but it was a friend for whom I had prayed fervently, even though the situation I prayed about had seemed hopeless. Meeting her in person was like having God tell me that all that prayer had been worth it! I loved her and her family–her husband, Chinese son, and darling new daughter. The other two ladies I met were charming, too. One was adopting her seventh child!!!
So, that was my day. I had a wonderful time. I was so glad I had insisted on going!
January 15th, 06:39 pm: China Post Eight — More China Joy
First, I love my new boots.
Turned out I paid $4.75 for them. Or I would have if I had changed my money at the bank. Foolishly, Ping-Ping and I changed our money at the train station and lost half a yuan per dollar. This came to a lot of money foolishly thrown away due to ignorance. But if you consider that we've been given almost $250 just in Chinese New Year money since we got here, not to mention other gifts and meals that have been showered upon us, I shall not worry about it.
Second, we had lunch at MacDonald's today with about 20 other orphans, and the Chairman of the Board and his family, as well as Aunty and one or two others. We all had a good time. I communed with a young man who wanted to work on his English, but probably ended up teaching me more Chinese than he gained English. He was very charming, though. His shirt, like all Chinese shirts, looked like it had been translated by our awkward translation box.
Then we had another wonderful Chinese meal with the Chairman and his family and employees.
I LOVE the food here. It is so good. Some is strange, but most is just wonderful. Ping-Ping can make some of these meals. Ling Shan made some, too. I bet I could cook things sort of like this, too. I should try more often. The younger boys won't like it, but…hey…
Yesterday, when I was chatting with the other Americans, they were talking about the places to get American food…and I realized that I had forgotten that not everyone thinks this is the best food ever. So, that evening as we were eating noodle soup and steamed lettuce (four of us eat at this place for $5.50) I was thinking that Ping-Ping has no idea how lucky she is that her mother happens to LOVE the food she likes. To me, every meal…except the one at MacDonald's…is a treat. Not everyone would feel that way.
We had one meal, though, that was more of a treat than any other before or since. I took four of the children with me to meet another American family who was here adopting. They treated us to the revolving restaurant at the top of the Garden Hotel. It was a buffet of the likes you could not possibly imagine, had you not been there…lobster, mackerel, oyster, caviar, Chinese dishes, steak, salads, cakes, a fountain of chocolate for fondue, a raspberry mousse thing that was beyond imagination. It was utterly fantastic.
I knew it would be pricey, so I took our $5 meal and raised it by a factor of 10 and took along more money than that for each of us. It was a good thing that we were treated, as the price turned out to be a factor of 30 not 10. It would have taken all my available cash. It is unlikely I will ever eat such an expensive meal again. But it was just wonderful. We stayed there a long long time, the children eating plates full of fresh fruit and desserts. We had such a good time and are so tremendously grateful for the unexpected gift!
Today, I saw another side of the local food. After our second lunch (I feel like a hobbit), I took a walk and visited the market across the street. Like everything else in China it was quite different from our markets, even from a Chinese grocery store. It was like an open air market, only inside a building that was open on some sides. There was a great deal of vegetables and meat of all cuts. You knew the meat was fresh, the back was filled with live animals in crates waiting their turn to be butchered. (A lot of restaurants here have the ducks, chicken, and fish around in cages or tanks. It is impossible to tell what is actually waiting to be eaten and what is on display to show you the possibilities.) There were also little side stalls selling baked goods or cigarettes or the same chocolate that my daughter lugged from America (It is so prevalent that I suspect it is connected to the New Year. A lot of other things on display, such as tiny orange trees (tiny trees with tiny oranges) are related to Chinese New Year, which Ping-Ping calls Happy New Year.)
I was very happy that I am now oriented enough here that I can go out on my own and take a walk and I know where a few things are. ;-)
January 15th, 2012 07:18 pm: China Post Nine — the Incomparable YiYi
The Incomparable YiYi
I have wanted to do a post about the Incomparable YiYi for some time.
John and I first met YiYi when we came in 2009. She came to the hotel to visit our new daughter and ended up staying overnight. I remember one of the first definite conclusions I drew about my new daughter was that she must be a pretty good kid because she had the most wonderful friend in the world. It is a very good thing that YiYi is not an orphan, or we never would have left China without her.
She immediately adopted us as gama and gaba, which our translator box translated as "mother by affection" and "father by affection", which I thought was so sweet. She bought a birthday present when John's birthday came. She went swimming with me. All with a sense of charm and grace.
Sometimes, when you meet someone under special circumstances, you exaggerate qualities of theirs. Thus, I wondered if I had correctly remembered YiYi. If maybe the real girl was an ordinary mortal creature, not the fairy creature removed from the irritations normal to mortal kind that she seemed to be. I came expecting to meet an ordinary girl who had as one aspect of her personality some of the charming traits I recalled.
I was entirely wrong. If anything, YiYi is even more wonderful than I had remembered.
YiYi is without question the sweetest person I have ever met. She exudes sweetness. She does everything with a sense of extraordinary kind grace, her whole face lighting up with delight when she smiles. She is gentle. She is very stylish, she always looks as if she stepped from a fashion magazine, and she is filled with joyful cheer. Even on the few occasions that I have seen her pout, she does it with sheepish sweetness. The only time I ever saw an admonishing expression on her face was the time she felt her boyfriend was not properly caring for an injury he had received, and even then, her manner was so wifely as to be adorable.
While I have been here, she has been looking out for me in such a loving and joyful way, making sure that I had what I needed–including this computer, which allows me to type and read my email at home instead of having to impose on the teachers to use the school computers in a public room. She makes sure I do not get lost and always seems so joyful to be about this.
In the bubble car that circles the top of Canton Tower, overlooking Guangzhou.
But the most interesting thing about YiYi to me is that she is not overpowered by the Princess.
It is delightful to watch my daughter with the other children. She is so forthright, so determined and definite, compared to the rest of them. She is clearly the leader, and the rest the followers. She does everything with quick definite action, and the others look up to her. This dominance of Ping-Ping was also true with wonderful, sweet Ling Shan, so much so that I had nicknamed Ling Shan the Lady-In-Waiting. They had a wonderful time together, but Ping-Ping was clearly in charge. All these children are in my daughter's shadow…except for YiYi.
Somehow, with all her sweetness and grace, YiYi still manages to give the impression of equality with the Princess, as if they are shining stars of equal brightness, shooting through the sky together. She seems totally outgoing and accepting and yet not in the least overshadowed. It is uplifting to see them together.
Someone took some really excellent pictures of the two girls, pictures so good that they look like something from a magazine. They are supposed to give us a copy before we go. If they do, I'll post one or two of my favorites. There is one of the girls running together that may be one of my favorite pictures I've ever seen of someone I know, and another of them leaping in mid-air that is just adorable. Hopefully, you will all see them anon.
The two girls jumping for joy at the Chairman's mansion.
January 16th, 11:23 am: China Post Ten — Day and Night, Night and Day
So…I am sitting here all by myself–my daughter went out to have her hair cut. She takes off five or six inches about once a year and everyone else around her has shoulder length hair. She told me in Hong Kong that she wanted it cut when she got here, but she did not get to it until today. I thought I was going to go with her, but she snuck out while I was napping.–and everyone who I know who speaks my language is asleep. Or close to it, as it is Sunday night back home.
Here, however, it is Monday morning.
It is funny to be the one whose friends are awake during the night. Normally, it is my daughter who wants to stay up late to talk to someone. Not that I have really been talking to anyone back home that much…but the occasionally emails I do get often come at odd times. So, it gives me much sympathy for my daughter's situation. Not that I did not have it before, I did…I just have more now.
The first few days, I did not get much sleep. Today, I slept a LONG time. I am hoping to take a walk or something later. All this just sitting, eating, and sleeping is a bit wearing.
But the whole night and day thing is intriguing. It is not a problem most of us deal with…and yet, one can imagine that there could be a world where it did matter. I think the movie Ladyhawke is the closest thing I've seen to it. But one thinks that more people would make elves nocturnal
The romantic troubles of a couple where one was a nocturnal creature and the other was not are intriguing…and would probably lead to a lot of lost sleep on both sides. (Making the success of the relationship depend, in part, on how well the particular individuals involved did without sleep.)
January 16th, 02:25 pm: China Post Eleven — In Which I Take A Walk
My daughter is off on her own now, shopping with her didi (little brother) for clothes for the two of them. I can only sleep and hang around typing out annoyingly long emails about the emotional life of Rachel Griffin for so long (not to mention that the moderator of that game certainly must be praying for me to get up and do something else.) So…
I went out for my first walk by myself.
First, I love my new boots. I don't expect them to last long and they have no arch support whatsoever, but they are delightful.
Second, this is not my first time out alone. I went and bought cookies on my own yesterday. But this is my first actual walk. In fact, it is my first deliberate walk, as opposed to walking to shop, in days.
The apartment opens on a back road, but faces a big road. Huangshi something. (I pulled up a map yesterday, but Ping-Ping could not tell me where we were.) There is a raised walkway to cross the highway. I figured if I walked away from the crosswalk I could see it coming back. So, I set out and had a wonderful time looking in stores and watching people pass. I walked for quite a while and then came back…as always happens when you go somewhere the first time, the way back seemed much shorter. (I am sure there is a principle related to shadowalking or maybe motion tax in there somewhere.)
I was particularly proud of myself because I got up the courage to buy a bubble tea. I love bubble tea, and I am often too shy to ask for foods that I want…but I screwed up my courage and bought one…it cost 1 yuan, about sixteen cents.
I also noted some place names…road signs have the pinyin words, too, and am currently, in another window, trying to use them to find out where in the city I am on the map.
I also noted that every single person I saw was Chinese, or at least from an East Asian country. This stood out to me because it was not true where we stayed last time…there were Americans, Dutch, Spanish, French, Polish, and Indian and Arabic people. At home, also, the area is very international, and I meet people of every kind regularly. Not here.
Still, almost no one stared. ;-)
The stores are interesting here. They don't always put the same things together that we do. One store had health needs…canes, pillows, special chairs…and chocolate and candy. Drug stores are simpler, too. Less other stuff.
Oh…we are off…YiYi and Jing-Jing, her boyfriend, and I!
Jing-Jing, Me, and YiYi
January 16th, 05:44 pm: China Post Twelve — In Which We Eat Like Hobbits
Try as I might, I don't seem to be able to limit us to three meals a day. It is nigh impossible to explain to someone who is offering you a free meal at their family restaurant…a really good meal, too, a full chicken, a full duck, and the best pork you can imagine!…that you already had lunch.
So, I surrendered and ate again–even though we have a dinner date, too. (We are having dinner with YiYi's mother.)
We had chicken (gi), duck (ya, I think) and pig (ju). It took me a moment to realize why this was weird. We don't eat pig in America. We eat pork. I tried to explain…but I don't think it made sense. ;-)
There was an adorable kitten at the restaurant for Second Lunch. And a very sweet cat, too. This was a life saver. The cheerful mother kept piling more meat on my bowl of rice. It was very good, but after a while, I could not fit any more in. I was able to discretely pass the extra duck onto the cat, who loved it.
Thank you, cat. Thank you, duck.
January 17th, 07:24 pm: China Post Thirteen — In Which I Dare To Walk Around The Block
Emboldened by my walk yesterday, I found today that I was gripped by wanderlust. The map that normally exists in my head, telling me about the local area, is nearly blank, and I find this uncomfortable. So, I wanted to go beyond just walking down the street and see if I could walk around the block.
But first, events with the daughter. This morning, we went to one of the orphanages to see some of Ping-Ping's friends. A gentleman who worked there spoke some English and chatted with me briefly. He was clearly very pleased to see Ping-Ping. She is still Yue Ping Ping to these people, and she is a celebrity of sorts, with everyone exclaiming in delight and amazement when they see her. we had Guang Huang Zen and Qiao Qiao with us. To of the people Ping-Ping wished to meet were not there, so we went out for a delicious lunch in the local area, walking some distance to get there. We went to a place Qiao Qiao (pronounced Chow Chow) recommended.
Chow Chow has been with us for most of the last week. I was puzzled at first, as this was not one of the children I had known about, but Ping-Ping has a lot of friends she refers to just as 'my friend'. Chow Chow is quiet and thoughtful. She is the only chubby child I've seen here. She knows a few English words and phrases which she uses with great amusement. Ping-Ping seems to like her very much.
As we left to come back, Chow Chow stayed behind…I was surprised to find out that the orphanage we had just visited is her home. I had thought she was from the school like the other children I had met. It seemed sad to leave her, but I gather we'll see her again on Thursday.
When we got back, Ping-Ping took Pan Xiao Li, her meimei (little sister) bra shopping. For some reason, they took GuangHuangZen with them. Ping-Ping came back with some excellent photos of the three of them from one of the funny photo booths the children here love so much. I will try to copy some and send them to G.H.Z.'s future American family.
While they were out, I had my chance! I told the still sleepy YiYi (she had been up really late) that I was heading out on a walk and slipped out by myself.
The whole world lay before me, an adventure waiting to happen!
First, I bought candy. For some reason, at the end of each mean, I keep wanting something sweet. Sometimes there is fruit offered, but it isn't quite dessert. What I really felt like was hard candy. So, I went peeking in among the local stores and finally found exactly what I wanted. (Earlier attempts had not produce quite the right type of candy.) I got a bag filled with hard candy of different types….milk flavor, cola, raspberry. Exactly what I wanted! I put some in my bag. The rest went on the table when I get back for the constant stream of teens coming through here to eat. I also bought a few other things, cookies, chocolate covered macadamias, etc, and some of the jasmine tea with honey that John and I loved last time. (I've been drinking it the whole time I've been here. We found it once at home, at the local Chinese grocery store. Boy is it good!)
Armed with this bounty, I set out to walk around the block. This did not sound too hard. Four corners and you're back, right? Well…everywhere else in the world, maybe. Not in China.
It took me five turns to get back. Not sure why. I suspect that if I had gone straight after the third turn I might have made it also, that the fourth was onto a diagonal road that cut across the block…but either way, I had now successfully negotiated a block and had a better idea of where things were.
I was victorious!
The only sad thing was that Ping-Ping had put a cross around my neck earlier. I looked down and discovered that the chain had broken and the cross had been lost. I looked around for it for a little while but did not find it. I knew it did not cost much, but I was still sad to lose it.
Emboldened by my success, I decided to head farther afield…a larger block. I had with me the blue bag that Auntie gave me that I carry everywhere…it has a notebook and the translation box. This morning I had finally looked at it and realized that it had the name of the school on it. I figured if I got really lost, I could hail a taxi and point at it.
So, I set out. I walked beyond the school to the next large road…a very large road with one of those raised highways running down the middle. I decided to go right, which was farther from the apartment. It seemed more daring. I walked for a bit and came to another larger cross road to the right. Only this one ran at an angle away from where I wanted to go…I had no idea if it would ever meet Huangshi Donglu, the main road in front of the apartment, which was now my destination.
I headed up it nonetheless and down the next road that ran back to the right again. This was a quiet road. The people along it, the man who was sweeping, the children throwing orange peels for a puppy, the man on a motorbike, all looked at me oddly. After a bit, I realized why. It did not turn a bend…it ended in a turn-about. It was not a through road. They were all wondering where in the world I could be going. I had to pass the same folks again leaving. It was rather long for a pointless detour. Sigh.
Coming back, I had to make a decision…continue forward on my quest to make a rough square, or go back the way I had come? If I continued and had to turn around, it would be quite a long walk.
Adventure called. I went forward!
After a bit more, I came to a road to the right that had enough traffic that I felt it must be a through road. I dared. I took it.
I walked down this long windy road, passing an infinite number of small grungy shops selling teas and candy or weird food substances like a roll of something that might be fish surrounded by seaweed and covered with some kind of powder. A few of the stores had billiard tables in front of them. One even had children playing billiards. I passed lots of people on motor bikes, a canal beside which walked women carrying bright red papers for Chinese New Year, intriguing smelling side roads. Lots of intriguing people.
As I walked, I contemplated the mysteries around me: what was that papery whitish food on a stick? A pastry? A pork product?; Why, earlier in the day, had we seen six or eight venders with carts selling steamed corn on the cob right next to each other at the bus station…and nowhere but the bus station. Was steamed corn a bus thing?; What where those squat cylinders of cement…maybe two feet high and about as wide…lined with vertical white and red reflectors? One saw them various places, but I could not see any purpose or function; Why did some of the trees in the countryside have roofs halfway up them. The roofs did not seem to cover anything except the ground beneath. What was their purpose?
These and other puzzles presented themselves to me and I contemplated them as I walked.
As I walked, I began to worry. I had come quite a long way. If I was right about where I was going, I should be able to make it back no problem…but if I had to turn around and retrace my steps…it was going to be a really long walk. I didn't know if I felt up to it. I figured I could do it–all things are possible with God–but…it was daunting!
Then, ahead of me was a place where the road seemed to curve on itself. Was it another dead end? The idea of having to walk all the way back was so daunting that I realized there was a tear on my cheek. I gathered my courage, prayed a bit, and pressed forward. My sense of logic said this had to work. There had to be a way back to the other main road.
To my delight, the road did continue. Around the corner was a fair. Brightly colored tents covered clothing, knickknacks, bins of brightly-wrapped candies and dried fruit, jewerly, moon bounces for children and more. And taxies…so if I did decide I to give up, I could make it home.
As I neared an intersection, I decided I needed guidance. I wrote down the name of the main road and approached a policeman. I showed it to him. He was a young slender fellow. He grinned and pointed in the direction I was going.
Delighted, I pushed forward. I was so pleased that my sense of direction had proved correct that it was a few minutes before I realized the real good news: I was not going to have to walk back the long way after all!
To one side, some young men were selling these long dark stalks I saw everywhere which I thought was a variant of bamboo. They lay on the sidewalk all over the place. People stripped the outer bark off and gave the light -colored woody substance beneath to children to eat. I stopped and watched the young men quickly stripping them with large knives. They tossed a few left over pieces among the shavings. I wished I could take one and try it…but they probably did not give free samples.
Finally, I got up the courage to indicate that I wanted to know how much for a piece. 2 yuan for a large, 1 yuan for a small…about a foot of stalk. That is about 16 cents. I bought one. The young man quickly stripped it for me and gave it to me with a plastic bag for holding it.
Biting into the fibery stuff, I realized it was not bamboo. It was sugar cane!
Boy was it good. You could only chew the fiber for a little while before you had to spit it out, but the juicy stuff was just excellent. And it really added to the sense of adventure. Also, you never notice how many trash cans are in a city until you are looking for a place to spit weird woody fibery stuff.
I do not know if this fair was a normal market or was for Chinese New Year, but the existance of moon bounces and rides for children made me suspect that it was temporary…sprung up in what was normally a road and a park square. Everything was charming and quaint and mildly unfamiliar. I was intrigued by the bins of candy and fruits…but could not figure out how you bought it…by what weight or measure.
Finally, I came to the end. There was a cross road. In one direction I glimpsed a large road. A man said hello to me…the only person to speak to me without being approached during the whole day. His boldness amused his friends. I showed him the road name, but he did not know it. I would have worried…not believing that a person could be 200 ft from a road and not know its name..except that my daughter who lived in this area for years and could not find it on a map of the city. I figured this might be a Chinese thing. So, I headed for the main road I could glimpse about 200 ft away.
And sure enough, there it was! Huangshi Donglu! I recognized the oddly curved metal bars above stone pillars in the park square that I had passed yesterday on my walk and today in the bus!
I had made it!
A bit more of a walk and a purchase of a pair of gold dangly earrings from a street vender (no idea what I am going to do with these earrings, but it came to me rather strongly to buy them.) and I was home! To the great relief of YiYi, who was beginning to worry.
Took me an hour or so, but I had done it. I had successfully walked around the block
January 17th, 2012 09:30 pm: China Post Fourteen — In Which I Eat Out (By Myself!)
The first day we were here we ate at a place I liked. I wanted to go back, but my daughter had not seemed thrilled with the place. So, this evening, when she was too bushed to get up for dinner, I decided to go there on my own.
During my earlier walk around the block, I had figured out where this restaurant must be. Now, I put some money in my pocket and headed down there. Like many restaurants it had chickens in cages outside and fish swimming in tanks. I now know the answer to whether these animals are just for show. A young man with a net caught two of the fish, to be used for eating, while I watched.
I stepped inside and tried to ask to see the menu…it had pictures, so I thought I could point at what I wanted. The proprietress did not understand. So she left me standing there and ran off to help other customers. It was very busy. I stood there quite a while.
Eventually, I figured out where the menus were and found one. I then discovered my next problem. One of the two dishes I wanted was not pictured. Ping-Ping had just asked for it. After contemplating how to ask for it, I decided just to pick something else.
Eventually, I was seated. A pretty quick waitress set a table for me. This place gave you the cups and saucers in plastic wrap, but they also gave you a bowl and tea for rinsing. In many Chinese restaurants, you rinse you bowls and cups etc with hot tea before you use them.
So, I rinsed and then poured more tea to drink. I showed them what I wanted. Then I waited a long, long time, because it was so busy. A nice man who was getting a bowl of salted peanuts for himself brought me one, too. I practiced eating the peanuts with my chopsticks…which was not all that hard.
The food eventually came. A plate of slices of really good pork…not as good as the pork at YiYi's boyfriend's place, but close. Only, in China, food just comes when it is ready. There are no appetizers and dessert–though occasionally there has been fruit at the very end. They just bring the dishes when they are ready, haphazardly. the advantage is you get some food pretty soon in and it just keeps coming. The disadvantage is that if you ordered meat and vegetables, you might get one ten or fifteen minutes before the other one.
I orded a plate of pork and a green bean, Chinese eggplant and unknown-bitter- pulpy-vegetable-that-I-ate-last-night-but-no-one-knows-the-English-name-forf dish. Both were excellent, though I am only so-so about the bitter pulpy veggie, but they came quite far apart. I only had pork left because I deliberately waited.
At one point, the perky waitress came and said what sounded like "Yu-mmy food?" I looked puzzled and repeated the same thing I'd been saying since I arrived at the restaurant "wo bu mingbi" (I don't understand) The proprietress told her that I didn't understand and to do it anywhere. That's when I realized that she had said: "Yao meifan?" which means "Do you want rice?" (I may be spelling the pinyin incorrectly on these.) So, I had rice, too, which went nicely with the vegetables.
I practiced picking up a single grain of rice with my chopsticks. This was not so hard. Keeping a group of rice grains from dropping. That was harder.
The problem of not knowing how to ask for a to go box was solved by eating all the pork and much of the veggies.
The problem of how do you indicate that you want to pay was eventually solved, if a bit awkwardly.
So…I found the place, I ordered, I ate, I paid. I went home very, very full!
Not a bad evening.
January 18th, 01:25 pm: China Post Fifteen — The Princess in China
It is enormous fun to watch the princess in her element, and she really is a princess here. If she was not in her previous life, she certainly is now that she is visiting royalty. The other children flock around her. The adults adore her. And officials come and chat with her.
Today, she chatted with some officials from the orphanage, I think, about her life in America. Somehow, I missed the whole thing, though I would have liked to speak with them. I asked her if she told them it was horrible here or all right. With a sheepish smile, she admitted she had said it was all right.
A few days ago, we were having lunch with the chairman and some teacher…fifteen or twenty people in all…and they asked her what was different about America. What she chose to speak about was church. She felt this was one of the biggest differences. I do not know what she said, but she spoke confidently and with cheerful energy for several minutes and had the whole table laughing twice.
The Princess and the Chairman (with me in the back)
Right now, she is sitting here with her meimei and her didi…her little sister and her little brother–the two children she claims a family connection with. Her little sister shares a foster grandmother. I am not sure how her little brother came to be her little brother, but they are enormously fond of each other.
Having talked about and prayed for these two for two years now, I really enjoy watching her play with them. The girl is always looks as if she is about to cry in a sweet puppy-like way and the boy is full of mischief and cheer. He is surprisingly polite, though for a young man of somewhere in the vicinity of thirteen.
For my part, my job is to strike a proper balance between being available and being out of the way. Sometime I am needed. Sometime, it is better if I am off somewhere and the children get their own time together. This is new to me. My boys are different from this. They interact with adults more like other adults. These kids are, well, like kids. So far, I think I have been doing a pretty good job of following Ping-Ping's cues and being present or not as needed. I also try to be welcoming and friendly to everyone she brings by.
Being here has given me a much better understanding of her life to date…particularly when it comes to food. I thought when she came that we would be providing her with better food than she had before…but now that I have eaten at the school…I think she used to eat better than my sons! The meals are all rice, really nicely steamed vegetables, and a tiny bit of meat. She could use more meat than they gave…but otherwise, it is a very nice meal!
Tomorrow, if all goes well, we will go to the bookstore, a four or five story place. Ping-Ping has gift money to buy books. I want to get a map. In the meantime, she is participating in her favorite of all activities…she and her meimei and didi are watching Chinese TV.
January 18th, 05:38 pm: China Short Post A — In Which I Learn the Meaning of Hen-Witted
I have decided that it might be nice to do a few short posts.
So, I brought a romance novel with me to read. In it, someone explains that foolish people are hen-witted because hens are so foolish that they will look up when it is raining, get water in their beak, and drown. Whole flocks can die that way.
I don't know if this is true or an old wives tale, but either way, I had sympathy for those hens today when I tried to rinse my hair under a facet that was too low for me and, in the act of leaning backwards to get the top of my head, ended up with the shower angled directly down my nostrils.
It was a thoroughly uncomfortable experience made worse, I am sure, by the fact that I immediately thought of the novel I had just read and burst into laughter.
January 18th, 05:47 pm: China Short Post B — The Princess and Her Hair
Every year about this time, Ping-Ping cuts her hair. It gets pretty long in a year. It was well down her back and looked lovely. But she announced on the way from Hong Kong that she wanted it cut while she was here. She had it down yesterday. It falls around her shoulders now and forms the cutest pompom in the back when she put it up. she looks like an imp or like Tinkerbell.
I was glad that she did not make it any shorter than that.
(My hair, which falls past my waist, gets regular comment. Everyone thinks it is rather neat.)
January 19th 05:57 pm: China Short Post C — My Generous Daughter
My daughter is very careful of our money. She doesn't want me to have to change more bills because she is hoping to come home with enough left over to get a proper Ipod that she can use for QQ (Chinese social network). However, when Auntie let her know that some money had been taken…around $60…and thought it was–if I understand correctly, because she had left the gate open for Ping-Ping's little brother who did not come home (he stayed for us), Ping-Ping immediately restored the money from her own supply.
I was proud of her.
(Later note: Auntie would not take the money. ;-)
January 18th, 06:05 pm: China Short Post D — the Guardian Lions
As I took a walk today, and paused, deciding whether to turn around or push forward, I saw a strange sight. Two stone guardian lions, the kind you see in front of all the buildings, pushed to the side and discarded. One facing forward, one facing to the side.
I walked over and communed with them. They were eerie and beautiful. They seemed so out of place, shoved off in a corner of an empty parking lot beside a fenced area of greenery. They were so beautiful and solid. I got to touch the grim face and the paws. The male has the world under his paw…a ball. This ball was decorated with line. The female holds a little baby under her paw. They stand normally as a matched set. Only once have I seen two males (both holding balls). Almost universally, you see both.
They looked so eerie and out of place that it almost seemed magical. I could not help thinking, as I looked at them, that they would make a great children's story. I could just imagine that if you could turn the lioness so that she faced forward, that the gate they were mean to guard would suddenly open. I'm sure there is a story idea there somewhere!
A Guardian Lion from Forbidden City in Beijing
Note the baby under the mother's foot
January 18th, 06:08 pm: China Short Post E — Gmail Catches Up
Gmail tries to offer you ads based on the content of your emails. For a long time, it offered me Harry Potter ads–which was fitting In the last day, it has updated itself to ads for learning Chinese.
In between, for the last several months, all the ads were for how to tell if your man was cheating and what to do about a cheating wife. Clearly, Gmail cares more about the life of Rachel Griffin than about the rest of my correspondence.
January 18th, 06:15 pm: China Post Sixteen — In Which I Discover I Am Less Oriented Than I Thought
So, today, I decided to walk in the opposite direction along the main road. Along the way, I saw the lions from the earlier post.
Well…imagine my surprise when I rounded a corner and recognized the place I was yesterday! The place that I thought was four blocks away and perpendicular to the road I was on!
Turns out that the road the school is on and the main road both make kind of a J shape, but in opposite directions. So that school road…the same road this apartment is on, make a kind of a oblong horseshoe from and to the main road, while the main road curves, too.
This means that when I was wandering yesterday–and I thought I was inside a square and, therefore, had a good chance of finding the main road that made up one side of the square–I was actually making a large semicircle from and back to the same road.
Basically, I was absurdly lucky that the road went where I thought it did. Well…it was a little more organized than that, because the main road did curve, too…but still…I was very lucky.
Really hoping to buy a map at the bookstore tomorrow.
January 18th, 2012 06:27 pm: China Short Post F — The Eye of the Storm
We are at the middle of our visit. A quiet time. The initial excitement of arrival and seeing people is over. The coming excitement of Chinese New Year has not yet begun. Ping-Ping even chose to come home and watch TV by herself tonight without anyone staying over with us. A momentary lull in the storm of visits and friends.
January 19th, 2012
Year of the Dragon–the gold and red on the dragon's body was from thousands of flowers.
You can see on the right where flowers have not yet been added to the dragon's neck.
The signs of Chinese New Year were already going when we first arrived a week ago. Red lanterns hanging here and there. A tree with small oranges on it in front of a building. A blow up red arch with twin dragons on top. (These arches are ten feet high and fifteen twenty feet long..) In the center of town, they were decorating a dragon with flowers…blooms placed so close together that they looked like paint, two different shades forming yellow scales with brown delineating lines.
The tree at Xin Fu School
But now, it is everywhere. Red lanterns–or strings of them–hang from every tree. Doorway have red banners around them. Every institution has it's own orange tree, many seven or eight feet tall, hung with the red paper envelopes that people put New Years gift money in.
Merchants all up and down the streets are selling these red paper envelopes, complete with your favorite design or with Pleasant Goat (every child's favorite character.) The street of the market near the house is filled with small orange trees for sale and a few big ones. Brightly colored tents have popped up everywhere…selling everything under the sun. Sugar cane merchants are everywhere, and on the corner a man is selling tiny pet turtles and goldfish to children.
A wall of ping and gold paper lanterns.
Today, we went to our first Chinese New Year celebration. It was at the orphanage. The entire group of 13 children from the Elementary School, along with Auntie, and us were bussed to the orphanage we had visited Tuesday. There, some people spoke with Ping-Ping about her life in America for about fifteen minutes. Then, we were brought to the party area where we were given seats of honor. I had a nametag with the characters for Ping-Ping MaMa. (I wanted to keep it, but it got whisked away.)
The head of the orphanage, a high muckimuck, was there and gave a speech to all the children, big and small. Then the small children–mainly special needs boys–were taken elsewhere, and the party began.
Pretty sure this is the same head guy.
This is the gentleman who gave us our daughter in 2009
The older children and dignitaries–there were a lot of these–all joined together in making dumplings. Making dumplings together is apparently a basic part of Chinese New Year. The head Muckimuck himself came over and showed me how to do it. I fear I was a slow learner, but my very last dumpling was pronounced 'very good' even though it was just middling.
The dumplings were taken away to be cooked, and the feasting began. There was chicken with that wonderful garlic stuff, goose, a small bird the name of which no one could translate…guinea hen, maybe? Pigeon? I don't know. Fish made in an odd breaded with bones still in it style, with the head and tail present. Huge plates of dumplings, and some vegetables that came out at the end, when I was too full to enjoy them. At the end, the cute little oranges we see on all the trees.
There was far, far too much food for anyone to eat. I saw them putting it in containers. Hopefully, the children will eat it for several days.
It was all eaten with very thin plastic bowls and cups…with tea. Plus there was a small swallow of red wine in glasses for the dignitaries–we were among these, but I had Pepsi in mine and Ping-Ping, who was still not feeling well, had hot water. (Which is what she drinks for four days every month.) We used both glasses for toasts…clinking overly soft plastic cups of hot tea against each other and saying Happy New Year (well, I said it in English) over and over, as people circulated to toast each other. My daughter ran far and wide toasting all the children and workers she knew and liked.
Then, there were gifts. Red envelopes with chocolate coins in them and gift bags filled with nuts and candy. I thought we probably would not get any, since we were not the needy orphans, but they actually presented us with ours first.
Everyone came by to jabber at me that they were so thankful to me for my kindness to my daughter. I constantly gave credit to the very good daughter. But after a while, I sort of caught on. I was the representative of what every other child there…maybe 200 in all, big and small?…wanted: a family. It made me both happy and sad to contemplate it.
At the end, the bus stopped at another building and the elementary school kids signed a paper and were given 100 Yuan each. Ping-Ping and I were not given money, because this was official government funds…I was relieved. Private individuals giving us money is one thing…but we certainly did not want to take it from orphans!
So…that was our first Chinese New Year celebration. More to come!
January 20th, 01:46 pm: China Short Post G — In Which I Sleep…A lot
Messed up my sleep schedule Wednesday night. So yesterday, at the orphanage thing, I was kind of out of it…which was not the worst state to be in when everyone around me was making speeches I could not understand. I went to sleep when we got home and continued sleeping…gettng up every few hours and sleeping some more…until 11:30 this morning. That was a lot of sleeping, but boy, did it feel nice.
Took a walk when I finally got up. Got my postcards ready to mail, and the book for Ling Shan (I just have to figure out how to wrap it up.) Bought some tea and water (but failed to buy a bottled pepsi. There was some problem with my buying it that I could not understand. I think maybe I was supposed to drink it there and recycle the bottle. Not sure.)
I did buy some chocolate called Meltykiss. I love the name. Yesterday, I bought a similar thing. It was green inside. There was a leaf. I thought it might be mint, though mint is rare here.
It was green tea flavor.
I had such sympathy for my daughter. This happens to her all the time at home.
Today, I bought the Meltykiss in blueberry. This proved a safer choice.
Ah, the guy is here to fix our toilet! How nice.
January 20th, 06:02 pm: Chinat Post Eighteen — In Which We Go To The Bookstore
Finally, it happened. We went to the huge four or five story bookstore in the middle of the city. Our goals: spend the book money friends gave us for Ping-Ping and buy me a map of the city.
We had had trouble fitting this trip into our schedule, because we are pretty tightly booked. Then, when we could have gone yesterday afternoon, I was too zonked. So I really wanted to go today. I thought it was important that we get this in. It was one of the reasons we had come: see friends, buy shoes, buy bras, buy books.
On our way out, we passed one of the teachers from the school who lives in this building. He was carrying flowers. He smiled and talked to Ping-Ping. She said "Chu mei shu" This delighted me because I actually understood it. "Go to buy books."
The bookstore was a rather long taxi drive away. I think I have spent more money on taxies than almost anything else since I got here. Each ride is not much six to eight dollars, but we have taken a lot of them. I have been in more taxies in the last ten days than the whole rest of my life.
I spent the time in the taxi (when not thinking about what Rachel Griffin should while yelling at Victor Von Doom) looking at the Chinese New Year decorations that are now everywhere. A whole section of trees were hung with what looked like chimes…but then the "chimes" lit up to look like falling snow and blue and yellow lights. Very pretty! I was hoping it would be dark when we came back, so we could see even more lights, but it was not yet dark.
We arrived at the bookstore and found a map right away. I ended up buying two…neither, I think, are exactly what I wanted, which was a street map, but they are close. Already I got Ping-Ping to finally figure out where we are…so I have two points of reference, here and Shamain Island, which–thanks to Google Maps–I can now find on a map.
So, Ping-Ping got to fill a rolling basket–which looked exactly like the red ones they now have at our local supermarket in Virginia–with books. She picked all manga. Picture books. I recommended a few other things, but ultimately, let her get what she wanted. this is for her to read and enjoy. If she wants something more, she can read in English. (She has begun to read a little in English. Like Juss, she likes the Wimpy Kid books. She has the latest with her. Our friend Joy bought it for her before we left. I have recommended that she finish it and give it to Juss for his birthday, as I had been planning to buy it for him.)
So, the basket filled with colorful manga. We had one of her friends with us. (GuangHuangZen chose to stay back at the apartment. Whether to watch the place while the plumber was there, or because he did not want to go, I do not know. It was not made clear to me.) I told the girl to buy some books for herself, too. She was delighted and picked four…a how to draw anime book and three manga. She is sitting beside me reading them at the moment.
One of the books Ping-Ping bought had only one or two pictures per page. She was almost finished with the whole 200 pages of it by the time we got home. I figure this is not the worse thing. Anything she is done with and does not want to keep can be given to other children at the school.
We went with 1100 yuan of book buying money–gift money from friends and relatives for just this purpose. I told her I wanted her to spend at least half. She spent between 600 and 700..another 100 yuan if you count the taxi both ways. I thought this was perfect. She came away with two big bags of books and there is a little spending money left.
Ping-Ping's friend, whose name keeps escaping me–she is one of the students from the elementary school–insisted on carrying the bags. I tried to take one, but she wanted to do it. I think it may have been her way of saying thank you, so I let her. She seemed very happy.
January 20th, 06:13 pm: China Short Post H — We Eat At KFC
Coming out of the bookstore, we went to KFC. (First we stopped at Starbucks. We did not buy anything, but I saw that they have a Valencia Macchiato. I don't know if they have this back in the States or just here for Chinese New Year…but Valencia was my favorite flavor back when they had it. I really want to try one…but not on an empty stomach. So…I haven't yet.)
When we got there, I asked if we were going to bring food back for Guang Huang Zen. Ping-Ping haughtily said no. However, she had second thoughts because after standing at the counter for a bit, she announced that we would go home and go eat with him. I thought at first she wanted to eat somewhere else, but no. We got Guang Huang Zen and went across the street on the overpass to the KFC on the other side.
I understand now why my daughter, who was so excited about KFC when she came to America quickly got over it. The MacDonald's menu here is virtually the same as at home. Not so, KFC! It was quite different. The main chicken and sandwiches were the same, but there were real veggies, egg and veggie soup, a custard pie with fruit that I think was just for Chinese New Year, and I don't think they carry "cod fish fingers" at home. Also, they served bubble milk tea…which is what we all drank.
We ordered…some food came right away, some was brought to the table. I did not get half of what I ordered, but I think that was my daughter's fault not the person behind the counter. I don't think she asked for everything I wanted.
The food was all right, but I would definitely have preferred one of the little restaurants around the place. The only meal we have eaten here that I enjoyed less was the one at MacDonald’s. ;-)
January 20th, 2012 09:34 pm: China Short Post I — The Bookstore
Forgot to mention about the bookstore. Everywhere, there were people reading. In the section where Ping-Ping shopped, children squatted and read books. One girl wore rollerblades. I wondered how she had made it up the escalator. And as we walked down the actual staircase, people sat all along the stair case on either side, reading.
So, last night, about 2am, the computer stopped connecting to the web. I did everything I knew to do, but I could not get it to go. I reboot. I reconnected the little cell phone thingy, I played with the connection software, first doing what I knew how to do, then trying some stuff at random. (Probably a bad idea, but…)
So, I went to bed. I actually slept fro 3ish, when I gave up on the computer until 8ish. Rather nice.
Around 9am, which is the wee hours of the morning for YiYi, who stays up late and gets up even later, I woke her up and asked what was wrong with the computer. YiYi poked at it. She disconnected and reconnected the same stuff I had disconnected and reconnected.
The verdict– No money.
That is not something I would have thought of. In America, we tend to do this kind of thing by the month.
Ping-Ping gave her 200 yuan and later, while we were at yet another luncheon eating yet more wonderful too much food, YiYi went and paid the bill.
Up and running again!
January 21st, 06:51 pm: China Short Post K — In Which We Go Without Heat
Last night, as I said, the computer stopped working. So, I went to bed. As I lay there, I noticed I was quite cold. So I got up to turn the heat on. It would not turn on. I went to turn on the second heater in my room. It would not turn on either. To me, two heaters not turning on says: blown fuse.
I searched the place, but I could not find a fuse box.
When Ping-Ping woke up, I complained that her little brother had slept in the room with the other girls instead of on the stone hard couch where he usually slept. (Not that I was that worried about something happening with a group of children…but there are principles involved.)
She cried, "It was too cold."
I didn't argue with her. It really was too cold. At least they kept each other warm in their puppy pile.
I asked about a fuse box. Ping-Ping had no idea what I was talking about.
At lunch, I asked Ping-Ping to tell Auntie that the heater was not working. Ping-Ping did and then turned to me: "It is alright. After Happy New Year, new people come." I stood there stumped. Very well for them, but what were we going to do for the next four days.
They sat me next to the only person in the room who spoke English other than Ping-Ping…the wife of the man who is providing our apartment. She knew enough English to understand 'very cold'…but not enough to understand: "Our heater is broken."
It seemed horribly sad that we would suffer such cold…it's colder than it was earlier while we were here…when it would take moment to fix it.
I kept up my search for the fuse box. Ping-Ping continued to disdain Mom's search for something that made no sense.
Finally, I pulled up Google Translate and tried to explain what a fuse box was. Chow Chow immediately got up and found it! It was up on a wall and I had thought it was Chinese art!
We threw the switch that was out of place and…voila! Heat!!
The Princess, warm in her scarf
January 21st, 07:24 pm: China Short Post L — We Go To A Karaoki Bar
The one thing I still want to do here in China is mail my postcards and, hopefully, a book for Ling Shan. Easier to mail it here than at home. Er…make that cheaper. It would be MUCH easier to mail it at home. I have yet to find a post office.
I asked to do to the post office with either Ping-Ping or YiYi. Ping-Ping says we will go together, but we are also going somewhere else.
Somewhere else turned out to be a karaoke bar…just like in an anime. A large place, the vertical part of the stairs painted to form a beer bottle or something. We went in and the guard took Chow Chow's water bottle and escorted it to them main desk, where he gave it back…that puzzled me.
We were given a room…a long narrow chamber with dark patterned walls, leather benches and glass tables. There was a computer to chose songs, a large TV screen and two mike.
It was just like an anime. ;-)
At first I thought I would not sing, because I don't sing particularly well, much as I like to do it. But the first few songs were in English, and only Ping-Ping and I could read them. Also, when you sang, it added to the music but did not stand out…so it was fun and you didn't feel much put on the spot unless you were deliberately loud.
My favorite moment was Ping-Ping and I singing Taylor Swift's Love Story. We both love this song…I was introduced to it and to Taylor Swift by a video where someone had expertly clipped art from the anime Romeo X Juliet to this music. We had such a nice time.
The next song was Telephone by Lady Gaga. Good God, may that never happen to me again!
I will not torture your minds by telling you about this horrible video, but not only did I exclaim in dismay, but the only boy in the room, YiYi's boyfriend JingJing (JunJun?) –who by the way wa paying for the occasion–zipped his head into his jacket in such a way as to block it out.
When the girls turned it off and I exclaimed, "Oh, thank God!" they all laughed.
Then came lots of Chinese music and all the girls sang. For some reason, they kept picking soft love songs, not catchy singable tunes. Some of them were very sad! (The videos were sad. I could not tell what the songs said.) but the girls seemed happy. Jing-Jing sang some, too.
They brought food…fries, a plate of fruit including dragon fruit (red skin, white 'meat' with black dots) and a green fruit I could not place and the star shaped stuff we ate off a tree when we first came…also watermelon and apple. This was followed by deep fried dumplings and meat on a stick. I think there was something else, too, but I've forgotten what.
So, I sat there in a pleasant daze, listening to cute Chinese girls sing sad Chinese love songs and felt very happy that my daughter had wanted to bring me along, instead of leaving me at home when he went off to do this.
The girls had me pick some songs. At first I just picked songs I recognized…this turned out not to be the greatest idea. Bohemian Rhapsody was really not the best choice, for instance. It turned out not to be nearly as fun to sing as I recalled from high school…probably because there were not a group of us trying to belt it out very fast. Then I found a few really good songs, including on of my all time favorite singing songs.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time before they played. I sang one on the way out, though, to the amusement of YiYi.
We never did get to the post office.
January 21st, 2012 07:42 pm: China Short Post L — Tears In My Eyes
I walked by where my daughter is sitting with her didi ("little brother") and her girlfriend, Chow Chow. My daughter called me over. "Do you know what we are saying? We are telling how we came to that place."
A brief conversation followed, and I discovered that the three children were telling each other how they came to be at the orphanage. All three of them were old enough at the time that they remember how they got there.
I asked a question, but she shushed me because they were still talking.
I cannot tell you how touching and bittersweet it is to hear three children laughing as they tell each other how they became orphans.
January 22nd, 02:01 am: China Short Post N — In Which I Eat I Don't Know What
It is 2am here. I woke myself up laughing…not something that happens often.
Sweet Guang Huang Zen went out to spend money he had gotten and bought me Chinese flash cards and a huge thing of some kind of fancy tea. Really huge. It is sitting next to me now, but it is too late to figure out how to get hot water. I can't wait to try it, though. I am thinking I should Xerox the cards and send the originals to his future family after I get home.
Well, on to the matter at hand. Actually, I am always eating things I don't know what they are here…but this one was decidedly odd. It was like a tortia with veggies and sauce…maybe ham? Tomato? Then, they put on three or four layers of some crispy stuff…the nature of which I do not know. It stuck up two or three inches high. Then, this got wrapped into a wrap and cut in half. I ate half. Ping-Ping bought the other half.
It was really good…but God only (and maybe a whole bunch of Chinese people) knows what it was.
Then, we went to Jing-Jing's to eat…I didn't realize we were going, or I would not have eaten something else…again. So, I didn't have much. There was the boiled chicken again…only Ping-Ping poured a huge amount of soy sauce into my garlicy stuff…so it was too salty.
Then, there was some kind of tofu…but breaded and fried and in a sauce…so it tasted like sweet crispy egg custard. Boy was it good!
Finally…there was…well, I REALLY didn't know what it was. It looked like velcro and soft unicorn horn. I think it might have been tripe…which is the innards and intestines of a cow or pig, I forget.
I did not try this.
Had I been hungry, I might have dared. But I had eaten the God-and-some-Chinese-people-only-know-what-it-is wrap, so I was not that hungry (on top of treats at the karaoki and a HUGE Chinese New Year lunch with more dishes than I was able to find room for, including scary duck–where they rounded up all the evil duck in China, took the scariest parts of them and lined them up on a plate.)
January 22, 08:31 am: China Short Post O — Nihao Shou Mao
In Chinese Nihao (hello), shou (small) and Mao (several meanings. In this case: cat) all rhyme.
So, YiYi was so amused yesterday at Jing-Jing's when, not knowing the word for kitten, kept calling the kitten Shou Mao. I said "Nihao, Shou Mao" to it a number of times, to her great amusement. Then, I told it what a good kittly it was.
Ping-Ping, passing by, told me disdainfully that the cat did not understand English and I must speak to it in Chinese.
January 22nd, 01:21 pm: China Short Post P — A Bit of Quiet Time
We have some quiet time this afternoon, with activities planned for tonight. (Chinese New Year celebration at Auntie's house.) We took showers this morning, a big deal as we have to go to the school to do it. (there is a kind of a shower thing here where you wash over a bucket…not very practical for washing two feet of hair.) The dorms for the children who live at school are on the fifth floor. we trudged up there and washed. It is a public shower, but I got it to myself. Lots of hot water. Feels quite good afterward, I must say…
My daughter then wanted to abandon me in the computer room while she played…but I am a bit more independent now. I came back here to the apartment, put our stuff away, and plan to hit the bakery I noticed across the street before going back, perhaps with a book or something. It is nice to feel free to do things.
Our time here is winding down. Not much longer. Tomorrow is the actual Chinese New Year. Frankly, I haven't the least idea what is in store for us. The next day I have to find the post office. (Ping-Ping continues to not understand why I can't mail my post cards in America when we get home.)
It is so peaceful and quite here, except for the noise of cars in the distance. It has been so restful to have little to do and not to have to cook meals. That part I wish I could do all the time. Still, I have some good idea for meals based on what we ate at the school.
What a wonderful magical experience it has been so far.
January 22rd, 02:24 pm: China Short Post Q — Perfect Timing
I must say, we picked the perfect time to come to China.
You see…this year, Chinese New Year is earlier than it has been or will be in years. Usually, it falls in February. But this time it fell late January, which means falls during the vacation from school that Chinese children get for the month of January.
Because of this, all Ping-Ping's friends have existed in a state of freedom unknown to anyone except school children during relatively short vacations. No adult ever has this kind of pure free time. On longer summer type vacations, some children have camps or work or something. But now…all these children have had pure freedom with nothing particular they have to do.
Ping-Ping could not have come at a better time.
It would have been so different had her friends been in school. I am so grateful both that she insisted on this year, while they were still together at the middle school, and that Chinese New Year just so happened to cooperate.
All things work together for good for those who love God.
January 22th, 02:30 pm: China Post R — Tinsel-Haired
When I was first here, someone asked Ping-Ping why there was silver in my hair. At first I thought the question was a bit rude…it is a little bit embarrassing to explain. Then, I went and looked at my hair in a mirror.
On top, there is a lot of gray coming, and I think there is no question why it was there…but there is not as much of it in the body of my hair (which is black at the top, but chestnut along the last eight inches…it changed color after the children were born, and a little of the old color is still there. Also, my hair is thin and airy and goes every which way when not contained.
So, when the sun shines on it, it looks as if I have woven tiny threads of starlight-colored tinsel throughout its dark cloud of a length.
Kind of cool.
January 22nd, 02:36 pm: China Short Post S — Fireworks
People have been asking about Chinese New Year–I realized I had forgotten to mention the fireworks.
Fireworks here seems to be about sound–loud popping noises–rather than light. We've been hearing it since we got here. A series of loud pops, usually during the day with no light show. I wonder if there will be a lot more tomorrow.
The shops are all closing up. The bakery was open, but only had boxed cookies. Nothing fresh. I bought a coconut milk tea at the place next door and then managed to find a shop that would sell me a single roll of toilet paper…rather difficult. And I bought one more sugar cane. This is my third. YiYi bought us all some the other day.
The merchants are disappearing from the street sides. The brightly colored plants are mainly gone from the market…sold, I suppose. The merchant on the corner who sold buns and sesame buns disappeared days ago, to my chagrin. That had been our favorite breakfast.
Everything is getting ready for tomorrow.
January 22nd, 2:42 pm: China Short Post T — Laundry
We have a washing machine here, but no dryer. If I had a choice, I would definitely do it the other way. Washing by hand is easy. Drying by line in a damp climate is difficult. The clothes come out a bit weird, and my line dry skills are not up to my daughters. I know how to do shirts and stuff we did when I was a kid…but I put too many pairs of underwear and socks on a hanger and they got dank. My daughter looked at me with such disdain!
Also, my bras will never be the same. The washer here does horrible things to underwiring.
January 23rd, 12:43 pm: China Post Nineteen — In Which My Mouth Catches Fire
Yesterday, we were invited to Chinese New Year's dinner at Auntie's house. She lives in a lovely little apartment a short walk from the school. She has a husband and a two children, a son 17 and a daughter 22…I wonder what it is like for them to have their mother live away from home much of the time, as she is the one who takes care of the students who live at the school.
Auntie, her son, Ping-Ping, and her daughter
We sat down in front of an end table full of Chinese New Year candies and nuts. There were macadamia nuts in their shells with a little device for taking them out, pistachios, sunflower seeds, chocolate coins, something like a starburst called sugurs, figs in pretty wrappers, and my favorite of all, a pretty pastel wrapper that revealed what looked like a large chocolate kiss…but inside there was hard sugar and a liquid. I have no idea what the liquid was…but it was good (and messy the first time, when I did not expect it. Auntie noticed that I liked those and gave me the rest of them…about four…when I left. They are in my pocket now. I may eat one.)
Auntie's husband preparing the feast.
The kitchen was on the other side of what looked like a sliding shower door, complete with fish on it.
We watched a show about a fairy…looked like a normal person but had magic powers…who helped a blind man and then one about a boy fairy who helped a nerdy girl. They were cute and reminded me of old fashion American TV from the 60s and 70s.
There was a huge feast cooked by Auntie's husband. It was amazing. At least eight or nine dishes, as massive as Thanksgiving.
The table before we sat down
I sat down and was, as often happens, immediately given a huge helping of the least appetizing thing on the table. I never did eat all of it.
I tried everything except the dish that was actually cooked hot peppers. Some of the dishes were excellent. Two, the snow peas and the fish, looked like something you might have in America…except that it was all of the fish, head and all. The rest were distinctly Chinese. One was pork with huge, huge pieces of fat attached. I could not tell if we were supposed to eat the fat. I decided not to.
But…several of the dishes were VERY HOT!!!!!!!!
My mouth caught fire, or so it seemed. My cheeks must have burnt, too, because there were several comments about how red they were during the meal. My eyes teared.
Luckily, I had a glass of Pepsi. That helped cut the heat.
I was offered wine and something else…Whiskey? Vodka?…and had Ping-Ping explained, when I first refusal was not accepted, that it was against my church. Ping-Ping tried to tell me that everyone drinks alcohol in China for Chinese New Year…I tried to explain that the fact that Daddy and UBill and I do not drink is not an American thing…it is a matter of our personal choice. This was far too complicated to put across on the spot. I took Pepsi instead…which is why I had some now to throw on the fire.
It took about three of the relatively small cups to be able to continue eating.
Other than that, though, the food was excellent! My favorite dishes were a beef dish with a bit of greens and the potatoes cut into fine strips almost like noodles that Ping-Ping and Ling Shan also make.
I was so touched and honored that they invited us.
January 23rd, 12:48 pm: China Short Post U — Our Apartment
I realize there are two short post L's. Oops.
Having now visited YiYi and Auntie and the school and the Chairman's apartment, I am so grateful that we were given our own apartment, I can hardly express it!
I am sure if any of these other people had put us up, I would have been grateful that we were being provided for…but, my gosh! The ease and freedom of having a place of our own where we were not crowded or imposing on each other has been just wonderful.
Our apartment is rather nice sized. The main living/dining room is larger than the living/dining area in our house at home, but probably not by much. There is a narrow kitchen with frig, stove, washer, microwave, etc. and an attached Chinese style bathroom. Then there are three bedrooms. One small one that is Ping-Ping's, one with bunk beds (though, it did not seem to have any matresses) where YiYi stayed, and a large one that is divided into a bed area and a desk area by two HUGE cabinets that is mine. This one has the misfortune that the only light is on the other side of the cabinets, so you cannot read in bed unless it is very sunny outside. This one has a narrow bathroom with a Western style toilet…to my delight.
There are also two balconies overlooking the street…used by us mainly to dry clothing.
The whole thing is dark wood with beautiful wood floors and pleasant oak furnature.
It is really nice.
January 23rd, 12:55 pm: China Short Post V — Not At Home
Having posted about the joys of the apartment, let me tell you why I am not in it.
I was sitting there at dinner last night appreciating the apartment and imagining posting about it, when Ping-Ping got a phone call. We would be going to the Chairman's house to stay overnight. Right away. From here.
No toothbrush? No pajamas? No change of clothes? I was wearing a green sweatshirt with Santa and Rudolph on it…not what I would have chosen for the Chairman's house for Chinese New Year! I would have wore my red sweater.
Also…in one of those ironic twists of life, this was the only time I was not carrying my bag that had my notebook, some inspirational reading, some candy, etc.
So off we went, even though we took a taxi from the school and it would have been only a short distance to the apartment, without anything.
And it was very cold. I'll get to that in another post.
Only after we got to the Chairman's and Ping-Ping asked if I wanted to go back to the apartment that night — my answer, like everything else was that this was entirely up to her. This is her trip. I want her to have a good time — did we realize that we could not go back. We had given our only key to Qiao Qiao (Chow Chow) and she had given it to YiYi, who had headed off to her father's for the New Year.
Her father happened to live a mile from where we were but that was not actually helpful. LOL
So…still not home. Supposed to get there in about an hour.
January 23rd, 01:00 pm: Chinese Short Post W — It's Cold!
Before going to Auntie's yesterday, we stopped by where the children at the school were having a nice meal with shrimp…possibly leftovers from the big lunch. It was COLD. The dining room was not heated. I felt so sorry for the children eating in their coats.
Until I visited Auntie's and then the Chairman’s…and they were all, even this big executive with his impressive apartment and astonishing view…wearing their coats.
Then I realized what was going on.
It was like visiting NY in August. When I grew up, no one had air conditioning, because there were only about ten days in August when you wanted it, and who wanted to bother with the expense just for that. Even our cars did not have air conditioning.
It is very seldom so cold here as it has been the last day or two. The houses just don't have the capacity for heat that they would in a more northerly climate.
Still…wish I had been able to get back to the apartment and grab an extra layer of clothes.
January 23rd, 01:02 pm: China Short Post X — 712
The number of emails in my Inbox since I got here.
I have been staying on top of them for the most part, but it is going to be something sorting through them when I download them all at once back home.
January 23rd, 01:23 pm: China Post Twenty — The Chairman's for Chinese New Year!
Xin Yen Guai Le (not sure I spelled that right). Happy New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Dragon!
Last night, we spent at the Chairman's beautiful two story apartment in the city. I thought we were going to the country house we had seen before, but no…this place was right on the Pearl River and had the most amazing view you can imagine. The city is all lit up at night along the river, so the view was just amazing. He brought me out in the cold to show it off to me…and admire it, I did!
We then sat around together in front of a large TV and watched the Chinese New Year extravaganza special on TV. Some of it, like the comedy skits, were beyond me. But there was a lot of singing and dance numbers and acrobats and magicians and stuff that I could understand just fine. The magician did a trick with mirrors that was nifty (a hand came out of the mirror…still not sure how he did it. There didn't seem to be anything behind. And there was a phoenix and dragon dance that was gorgeous!
The weirdest bit was beautiful ballet dancers dancing, I think Swan Lake, interposed with men in black doing a techno rock leaping thing. The two pieces were put together in a really weird way. This was the only act I saw with non Chinese people in it. I wondered if they might be Russian.
There was lots of treats on the table before us. Cookies, more cookies, cookies with chocolate. A roll crisp thing with coconut and dried pork fluff. My favorite, by far, was the candied lotus root. Ping-Ping likes lotus root anyway. I used to cook it for her until I couldn't find it any more. This was really good.
I went to bed early. Ping-Ping had told me we would sleep together in a bed, and one was set up for both of us…but she never showed up. She fell asleep in front of the TV (that is my TV watching daughter!) This was too bad only because two other girls slept on the floor. One could have slept on the rather nice sized bed with me. We would not have troubled each other.
There were not many children there. The Chairman, his lovely young wife who speaks a little English (I forgot about this once or twice…I was used to being able to talk to Ping-Ping with no one understanding. LOL). Their son, whose English name is Tommy. An older boy…another orphan? I don't know. A girl I didn't know. The tough girl from the Elementary school, she is very scrappy and funny and always calling Ping-Ping crazy, and Guang Huang Zen. I have no idea why these particular children and not others…but it was a nice small group.
Guang Huang Zen and Tommy kept sneaking off to play video games upstairs. The unknown girl snuck off to watch TV on the computer when they were done…but I did get access to it for a little while to check my email. (That was the other thing about not going home. I could have grabbed YiYi's computer.)
It was fun. I was glad this happened to be the year of the dragon, as the dragon motifs were very beautiful. Very Chinese, too. Long Yen — Dragon Year.
I woke up rather early but stayed in bed because it was warmer there…I had one of the silk blankets we saw made when we visited Beijing last time. They are quite warm. Eventually, I wandered out and played with the computer. Checking email, sending out a few Happy New Year messages. Downstairs, they were playing a Harry Potter movie.
Ping-Ping called up that they were all waiting for me, so I wandered downstairs…easier said than done, as it was a spiral wood staircase and I was wearing a pair of overly large borrowed slippers.
Well…I got downstairs and discovered they were waiting to go to breakfast! Everyone had left except for four of us. So, just like that, without even rebraiding my hair or washing my face, I was off for Chinese New Year breakfast…in the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sweatshirt I had slept in.
This did not turn out to matter, though. We went back to the Gold Coast Marina Club and ate with a group of the older students. These kids had had it good recently…a huge meal at the orphanage, a huge meal with the school, and now one with the Chairman. Bless 'em. They are really nice kids. There is one really sweet older boy who calls me Mother and tries to learn a word or two of English. He comes and talks to me each time. We invited him to the party tonight…so I will finally be able to speak to him by Google Translate!
There were no pictures on the menu and this was breakfast and my daughter had no ability to tell me what the dishes were. Even if she had wanted to translate the things on the menu I would not have known what they were. I asked for something breakfasty, like a sesame bun. No such luck. But they did their best. A really nice looking bun went by on a tray for someone else, but no one was right there for me to show it to.
We sat down, after a chat with the Chairman's wife about drinking tea at breakfast and were given a tea pot of…
Er…the only person I have ever heard of drinking hot water straight is my daughter when she is ill. But that was what they gave us. I had two cups of hot water.
Eventually, I did get tea. I stole my first cup from the other table. The kids were delighted to share it with me.
Then they brought…
The kids love these. You can buy them in a bag, each one sealed in a little plastic bag of its own…but it REALLY isn't my idea of breakfast.
I sat there, staring at what looked like children's fingers or maybe a character from the Simpsons that someone had cooked. Sigh…
But then good stuff came. Really good stuff. Including the buns I saw. Ping-Ping picked up the plate, lost balance, and spilled one right onto my plate. BOY were they GOOD. They seemed to be real bread, had honey on top and a cream honey stuff inside.
There were bao, dim sun, pastry-thingies, and a rice pudding, maybe? Whatever it was, it was really good.
A very nice breakfast!
January 23rd, 04:51 pm: China Post Twenty One — the Party
The morning has a breakfast. The evening (afternoon as it turned out) Ping-Ping was throwing a party in our apartment. I thought this was an excellent idea, and the Chairman gave her plenty of money to buy treats with. (He came around at one point with pink envelopes which he handed out to a few children. I must have looked at him wrong, too interested or something, because, bless him, he gave one to me. He gave money to the rest of the children later, but not in envelopes. ) This way, Ping-PIng could give a Chinese New Year party and a goodbye party simultaneously.
After my last post, I left the school and walked back to the apartment. When I got there, it was already filled with about a dozen children…all sitting around in the semi-darkness (I eventually opened the curtains and let more light in) eating.
The table was strewn with treats…not a single one of which I would have bought for a party in America. There were rice cakes, corn puffs, corn candy, nuts, meat products in plastic, nuts and seeds, soda, orange juice, milk tea, tomato flavored potato chips (I love potato chips…but I can't seem to come to grips with the tomato flavor.) And more.
The children ate and ate. The young man who calls me Mother had me sit by him. He declared me to be his mother. This made me happy but sad, too, because I realized he did not have a mother that I was replacing. When he left, I gave him the pink envelope with 100 yuan that the Chairman had given me.
Then came one of my favorite parts. With the computer there, we pulled up Google Translate and I talked with some of the children. The first one asked me what my hobbies were. With the computer, I not only could tell them that I was a writer…I could pull up pictures of my novels, my husband's novels, my husband, and even a few of the boys. That was great fun. They wanted to know all about what I wrote. I was pleased they had heard of Shakespeare, so I could explain about writing about Miranda…but the thing that got the biggest response from the girls was my description of the Rachel Griffin novel (girl, magic school, perfect memory, in love with two boys.) The girls loved this…and went on to tell me how much they liked Twilight.
The mess was fantastic. I thought Ping-Ping was going to have one heck of a time cleaning up…but when I started a bit, the children all threw in and cleaned up rather well. It's still a bit messy, but not bad now.
One of the girls asked about my favorite song. Not sure how to answer, I pulled up Beautiful Beautiful by Francesca Battistelli on a Chinese version of You Tube (Youku). One of the girls went looking for the lyrics and accidentally pulled up Porn Tube. I tried to stop her…but I was not in time. Gah! The brief view we got was horrible. The girls were all laughing and shrieking…and so amuse that I covered my eyes. We turned that off right away.
About 20 children came through, I think, including the Chairman's son, who is a bit younger than the others, and YiYi and Jing-Jing. The place is still filled with treats. I guess we can leave them at the school tomorrow.
What I want now is a way to convince my daughter to leave behind the two foot tall Stitch (as in Lilo and…) doll YiYi gave her the day we arrived. It will probably cost us $70 to take it home.
I did not mention that YiYi and I saw two guys on bikes with enormous four by six feet bins of giant stuffed teddy bears the other day. Wish I had had a camera.
YiYi at the party.
You can kind of glimpse the computer in front of her. It is white.
January 23rd, 2012 05:22 pm: China Short Post Y — Packing
My smart daughter decided to pack today. Smart, because we do not have enough room for the gifts and purchases we have been given. (I was loaded down with gifts from Auntie.) We are only allowed 1 bag, but we can take a carry-on and a personal item. Neither of us have very large carry-ons…Our current plan is to buy large carry-on bags and put our current bags into them. We are allowed a carry-on and a personal item. Ping-Ping can probably take her bag she came with as her personal item. I can take the blue bag with the school logo, even though there is a hole in the bottom. LOL
The apartment is filled with treats we cannot fit to take back. Hopefully, we can give them to the school children.
January 23rd, 05:23 pm: China Short Post Z — Things We Never Had To Worry About When I Was Young
The music stopped at one point during the party because the DJ got a phone call, so he had to answer the device that was producing the sound.
Not once in my entire childhood did I have to answer a record player.
January 23rd, 05:30 pm: China Short Post AA — The Pig
There is a funny bit in a Simpson's cartoon where Homer claims that any animal that could produce ham, bacon, and pork chops must be mythical.
Lisa Simpson's list of pork products has nothing on China.
They do strange things with pig here. Two of the most tasty dishes I have ever had were pork dishes they served here. And yet, I have seen some things put on the table that were also pork that I would never want to put near my mouth. There was one at breakfast…it was…soft and bumpy and gray…yeek!
It is amazing the variety of forms in which this one animal can appear.
January 23rd, 05:38 pm: China Short Post BB — Inedible
I am very adventurous when it comes to food. I will try nearly anything once. A few things, like chicken feet, I'd rather not try more than once.
My worst encounter with inedible food happened years ago at a Zen Monastary in Upstate New York. We ate all together in a line. You brought your bowl and chop sticks. The food came down. You ate. Water for washing and rinsing came down. You put your bowls away.
I like Japanese food. I ate everything. When what looked like jam came along, I took a nice glob of it.
It was…liche, I think. Very bitter.
But I was game. Mind over Matter, right? I mean, come on! I was praying at a Zen Monastery! I could not be defeated by mere matter!
I was defeated.
I could not get myself to finish the stuff. I just could not do it.
But I had no idea how to clean the bowl using their system. There was no place for old food you didn't finish.
To this day, I am not sure how I did it.
Well…yesterday, I was given two substances I just did not want to eat. The first was a treat in silver wrapper. Nyooil or something…cow oil…was the brand. It was beef gelatin. I probably could have eaten it, but only finished half. Gah.
The second one was much weirder. It was a chocolate-covered wafer bar. Sounds promising, right? I like those. I opened it with relish, bit into it and…
Something was not right.
I took another bit. Unpleasantly not right. I tried again.
Then, I discretely snuck the wrapper out of the trash and put it in the wrapper and hid it in my coat pocket (It is probably still there.)
All I can say is: Imagine someone made a waffer cookie…layers of wafer and cream covered with chocolate…only instead of cream, they put in crisco.
It was kind of like that.
Gives me so much sympathy for my daughter and her food woes in America.
January 24th, 04:13 am: China Post Twenty-Two — The Hush That Comes After
The riot of life and color that was hundreds of orange trees, poinsettia, dragon fruit plants, and other dramatic red and green plants down at the market is all gone. Except for stalks of sugar cane and a few brightly colored gift baskets, nothing was there that had not been when we arrived.
This is our last night here in Guangzhou. Perhaps, my last post…depending upon what tomorrow brings. It is 4am here. Even the children who stay up until the wee hours are asleep…though I think I woke up the girl who was sleeping on the hard wood couch when I came out. The table is strewn with sunflower seed shells and empty soda bottles. (I caught my daughter drinking directly from the bottle last night. She shrugged and said that she could not find a cup. LOL)
What a wondrous, almost enchanted, two and a half weeks it has been.
I am always fascinated by the march of time…the process of anticipating something, having it approach, actually experiencing it, and having it fall into the past always intrigues me. This time, somehow, more than most…as this has been such a big undertaking. I am overjoyed at how harmonious it has all been.
Tomorrow we work out how we are going to handle our bags…whether we buy two carry-ons and get our stuff on for free…or one larger bag and pay for it. I would rather the first. It might cost more bagwise…but then we would keep the bags. A fee paid to the airport is of no future use.
And…I need to get to the post office.
Then, we are off to Hong Kong. I've checked on the price of the tickets and put aside the requisite amount. We stay tomorrow at the same place we stayed when we came. Then we have to get to the airport early on Wednesday.
Wednesday will then be some 13 hours longer for us than ‘tis the norm. God willing, we will arrive back in America Wednesday afternoon…and Ping-Ping goes back to school on Friday. (She is already anticipating this. She was doing her homework today, bless her.)
Our experience has been so full that I did not have much time for missing…I missed John when we saw interesting sights I would have liked to share with him, but other than that, while I thought and talked about him and the boys, I did not miss them…until tonight, when I suddenly started missing the boys, all three of them, but particularly Juss. I have some good ideas for the next couple of moderating classes with him and Orville…and I really hope Orville and I can get some work done on our Spore Christmas Carol program in the weeks to come. I miss the Cherubim, too.
I thought about the Cherubim a lot yesterday because the children at the school were taking pictures of things…using his camera. Two years ago, Ping-Ping sent her pink camera to Guang Huang Zen. But he didn't like pink, being a boy. It came back to her via another adopting family, filled with pictures of him. (My one regret on this trip, packing wise, is that I did not bring a photo of John and the boys. However, Ping-Ping's pink camera has one of the family we took with Ling Shan that we have to send her. I pulled it out a couple of times to show people and was puzzled at first as to who the small Chinese boy was in the early pictures…it was Guang Huang Zen two years ago, when he was still tiny!)
Back to the camera…Ping-Ping then sent Guang Huang Zen the Cherubim's dark teal colored camera…more appropriate for a boy…and the Cherubim–who occasionally is amused by things like taking 25 pictures of his foot in different settings (this really made him laugh) used my camera when he wanted one, until it broke.
Anyway, it was funny to see his camera here, being used by different children, none, I think, who knew that there was a boy on the other side of the ocean who had once owned it.
That's all for now. God bless.
January 24th, 12:47 pm: Last Post From China
This will be my last chance to post before we leave this afternoon for Hong Kong. The girls have gone out to buy DVDs–Chinese movies or shows Ping-Ping wants to take home with her. I do not know how this will go. Nearly everything is closed. Chinese New Year is apparently a number of days long.
I went out to mail my post cards today and failed, due to the post office being shut, among other reasons. I am quite sad about this. I will leave them with Auntie. God willing, she will mail them. I really wish I had gotten them mailed last week…but I could not put across the urgency to my daughter. She kept saying, "Mail them back in America." The fact that my friends receiving them wanted Chinese post cards with Chinese stamps eluded her.
Her friends were worse. They told me to send emails. I should have asked YiYi for help. She would have gotten it done.
The only other thing we don't have yet is the CD with the photos on it. But worst comes to worst, they can mail that.
We also don't seem to have any way to eat today…other than piles of snacks that will soon go off to the school. Sigh. I should have asked Ping-Ping to arrange for us to eat at the school.
One thing was not closed today…apparently across the street is a huge Chinese supermarket…they sell everything groceries, but also clothes and books. This is very good, because they also sell luggage…otherwise, we would not have been able to buy new bags. They did not sell the cute Winnie the Pooh carry on I fell in love with early on and nearly bought…though I saw it everywhere. But I did get a nice red bag that matches my big red L.L. Bean Duffle on wheels, that is my travel bag.
The Chinese Grocery Shopping Experience
There are so many strange things I have not mentioned…weird stuff you see on the back of a bicycle. How all the stores were closed but there was a guy at the bottom of the stairs selling…god knows what. I think it was spotted eggs (duck maybe?) in rock salt, but it could have been black sesame buns in sugar or mushrooms on ice. He was gone later, replaced by a guy selling sets of three live crabs tied together. And on the way back from buying the bags, we passed a guy carrying his newly purchased live chicken by the feet as he walked along.
You don't see that in Virginia.
I don't like the stairs here. They are too low, which makes my legs feel odd…but also too long, so when you try to take them two at a time–to make up for the lowness–it is awkward. But the wonderfulness of the food makes up for a lot!
I know China can be a scary place…but the police in town are very polite. The children are not scared of them, don' t even notice them. I thought this was noteworthy. I passed two today looking extremely handsome in their fur collared black coats. One looked at me with a brightness in his eye, and, for a moment, I felt nervous. Then, he gave me a big smile and cried out in English, "Happy New Year!"
A number of people said that to me today. Very nice of them!
I only ever got gawked at once, by one young woman in her twenties or so. Many people gave me very impassive looks, but if I smiled at them, 95% gave me a big smile in return. I notice that, already, they are not looking Chinese to me, so much as like people. If I stayed longer, I would probably forget that we were any different. I even was puzzled once–for just an instance–when someone knew to speak to me in English. LOL
It has been so strange to spent these days with no clock and no phone. There was a phone at first, but it soon became clear that it wouldn’t do me much good–no one called me except for John once a day the last few days (after I finally gave him the right dialing instructions.) So it became Ping-Ping's phone. She could call and text and was on it all the time. Some of the time, she was talking to Ling Shan.
Did I mention that Ling Shan's boyfriend proposed? Can't recall if I did.
Do you know what the strangest thing of all about this trip is: we came to China, we stayed here, we ate like kings, we had great fun, God willing, we will make it safely home and…
I have not yet spent a single penny of my own money on this trip.
I will, in the long run. I owe the friend who bought our tickets for one of the two tickets. (He paid for Ping-Ping's and lent me money for mine.) And I should probably pay my mother back some of what she gave me. But…the rest, everything, was paid for by the generosity of friends–both in China and in the US, family, and John's readers…who covered Christmas, or the rest of our tickets and our Visa and our part of Ling Shan's ticket…depending on how you look at it.
I seldom think of going back into the past, but I almost wish that I could have visited myself while I sat on the plane two and a quarter years ago, agonizing over what to say to my daughter about the vow she had taken to return to China and see her friends, and tell myself that not only was saying "yes" the right decision, but that the grace of God, through family and friends, was going to pay for the entire trip.
It makes me cry to think about it.
If you are one of the people who helped us do this…God bless you!!!!
If not, God bless you for reading this and following our journey!
January 25th, 09:26 am: Hong Kong Post
I am at the airport in Hong Kong, where they have free internet kiosks. Free internet but no discernable clocks. It puzzles me why airports, which run on schedules, don't have more clocks posted.
Yesterday, my daughter convinced me we should leave for Hong Kong later than planned…as she would have nothing to do there and she wanted to wait for Guang Huang Zen to come back from the Chairman's, where he had gone to hang out with Tommy, the Chairman's son. Then Kitty, a lovely friend of Ping-Ping's with an "English name" — many Chinese children have English names like Kitty and Tommy. Ping-Ping's, however, was Apple. — who worked at the China Hotel, told us about a bus. She and I went by bus to the hotel and bought tickets. This had several advantages.
1) The hotel was not too far from the apartment, making it easy for Auntie's husband (Uncle?) to drive us.
2) It was cheaper.
3) Instead of dragging our bags all over the train station, we could load them directly onto the bus.
This also had an unknown drawback. To cross from China to Hong Kong, we had to change buses not once, but twice. Dragging our bags through customs was a pain.
The worst part was when we first got there…the bags had to go up and down stairs. A man mystically appeared and offered to take them for money. We accepted and as we went, I noticed that he was lame. His leg was deformed and he limped. And yet, he elected to make money by dragging bags around. I paid him what he asked even when it was slightly more than he had first said…best six dollars (50 HKD) I ever spent!
We got through the first customs spot and were approached by the bus company. After talking a bit, we were told 900 HKD for a car right to our destination. This was a shock! That was over $100! But we soon discovered that our bus ticket covered the next two stops for free, so we said no and went on.
The worst part of our entire travel experience so far could have been avoided if we had known ahead of time what to expect here.
From there…easy. We took the bus to the second stop, as told…and it was 5 minutes, litterly to the YWCA, where they were not only expecting us, but there was note waiting for me from fellow church people. We were given a suite because they were full. Ping-Ping spent the whole night on the couch in front of the TV–though she eventually fell asleep. I didn't bother her. I felt she needed quiet time. She had spent much of the bus trip telling meabout how everyone cried when she left. ;-)
This morning, we took a taxi from the door of the YWCA to the airport. I did this because dragging our bags was annoying and I had enough HKD left.
But what a magical, wonderful decision this turned out to be!
Last night, coming into Hong Kong, I was disappointed after the bright lights of China. It was so drab. Then, we entered Hong Kong proper and some of the buildings were lit up with Happy New Year Dragons! It was delightful.
This morning was better.
I have seen quite a few Hong Kong action flicks and not one has as captured the magic that is Hong Kong. The place is astonishing. As strange in its own way as Oxford. — no photo of Oxford, England puts across the wonder that is the mix of old and new in that town.
Hong Kong is like that…the most magical mix of futuristic vertigo inducing buildings (and this from someone who grew up in NY) and ancient mist covered mountains. The bay is filled with mystical islands…why is that never in those bay scenes in a Jackie Chan movie?
If Howard Roark built a city it would look like this.
January 25th, 11:39 pm (which was 26 hours after the last post): Brief Aside…
We are home…tomorrow, when I have slept…I will finish the Hong Kong post that got interrupted when the plane came and write just a little more. Then, I am going to take the China posts and put them in order on my website, should anyone want to see them again.
On an entirely different note, I think my cat died while I was away. This is not a surprise. I did not think he was going to make it…but I didn't actually think to say good-bye to him. Wish I had. He was a very good cat! Almost sixteen years old. He was the last of three siblings who were my wonderful pets for many many years. There is still some hope that he is still around, but…
January 26th, 08:38 am: Hong Kong Post 2
Sorry…got cut off by the inconvenience of the plane leaving.
As I was saying…the buildings were amazing. They rose like cliffs—four or five together in either a solid piece or really close together…each section built like a cross or a rounded cross, so as to give more window space. Some were flat across the top, but others…the four buildings were of different heights on a slant…so that the buildings seemed to echo the mountains behind. Also, there were a few really cool looking buildings.
As I said…looked like something Roark would build.
As we were crossing the bridge, I glanced sideways and saw this ancient myst-shrouded mountain with a jut of shining futuristic city at the bottom and…it is very hard to explain what happened except to say that my notion of science fiction broadened. As if I saw potential I had not seen before. It is very hard to put into words, but if I ever write a sf story (I did when I was young. Might again.) it will probably be inspired by that moment.
Or, maybe I could sum it up as: It occurred to me for the first time that skyscrapers could be built by elves.
Maybe I'll keep that image to use as one of the marvelous places in Heaven when I finally get around to writing Against the Dying of the Light.
Anyway…it was impressive and I was glad I got to see it.
January 26th, 09:12 am: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggily Jig!
The plane ride was uneventful. A quiet ride to Tokyo, I spent the whole ride reading Science and Health (by Mary Baker Eddy) which I normally only read in times of stress–otherwise, I tend to read the Sentinel when I pray –but this time, I just felt like reading it. I prayed quietly for everyone I knew, one at a time. It was nice.
In Tokyo, I realized that arriving home with lots of cute toys for Ping-Ping and none for Juss (there were presents, but no toys) was a BAD idea. I found a duty free store that sold stuff in dollars. I bought a Totoro, a Jiji the cat, and a Cat Bus for the boys. This was a GREAT decision. I am so glad I did. The boys love them.
Watched movies on the plane. Hardly slept. Want to sleep again now. Konk ffeewwww………..
Er…sorry. Should not sleep at the consol here.
Okay…I have a few concluding thoughts, but I will type them up after I wake again.
January 27th, 07:51 am: China Follow Up Post 1 — The Princess Triumphant
Unless she grows up to be famous, the Princess will probably never again be the princess as much as she was during this magical two and a half weeks.
Even if she goes back to China again, it will be different. For one thing, she will not be the first child to return, being celebrated by one and all for her victorious homecoming. There may have been others and, even if there weren't, time will have passed and changed things more.
The older children will have split up and will not all be at the same school all together any more. Time will have gone by. The distance between when she was their reigning queen and the present will have grown. I am sure they will be overjoyed to see her…but I doubt that her way will be paid quite as generous as this time.
Also, it is likely that, by the summer of her eighteenth year, which is when she hopes to return, that she will know more of the truth about China than she knows at the moment. Her paradise will no longer be unfallen. It will be haunted by the truth of why it is that there are so many orphans and other horrors. This time, it was still only wonderful.
But this time, she really was the princess. An adoring group of followers trailed her everywhere. She was lauded by children and adults alike everywhere we went. The schools, the Chairman's, the orphanage where the staff remembered her from when she would stay with them on holidays or come to visit friends. She went where she wanted, did what she wanted, ate what she wanted. In fact, except for the one day that her mother dragged her to Shamain Island, every single thing was at her direction.
And she took it all with calm and cheerful aplomb, as definite and forthright as ever.
She has figured out that by 18, she will be big enough to travel alone–and thus will be able to stay for a much longer period of time…such as a significant part of her summer vacation. This is true…and yet it made me just a little sad. I had been so touched that she had wanted me to come with her this time. And I had such a good time. John and I are thinking that if she does go, I might plan–circumstances willing–to visit for the last five days or so…both to see everyone and to make sure that she does come home!
And now we are home. And she is just herself again…without even her Lady-In-Waiting to keep her company. She and I both crashed for most of yesterday. I found her up watching Chinese movies she had bought at 2:30am. And yet, she decided to go to school today. (That had been the plan, but I had told her she could stay home one more day, if she wished. ) It must be very hard to go to school without Ling Shan there. Ling Shan had been her constant companion and the best part of her school experience for months now.
And yet, she went.
I am so very, very proud of her.
January 27th, 2012
08:01 am: China — Final Post
And so, we are home.
We experienced so much that was strange and exotic and marvelous. We saw sights that were amazing. Spent time with people who were just wonderful. Saw old friends. Made new ones.
There are so many things I have not mentioned. How Chinese the world looked…sure many stores might look like ours on the street, but others looked nothing like ours. There were far less brand name stores and many more individual places…the way New York looked in my youth…but not the way it looks now. And in addition to the unfamiliar signs, you could not go very far before you came upon a set of stone lions or a formal Oriental gate rising up and swooshing to the sides at the top or other touches that one would only see in Chinatown in America.
The food was so different and so interesting. What they sold and how they sold it was so different. That last day, when I thought we would not get lunch, friends arrived with fried rice, steamed veggies in a bag and a plastic platter of…roast duck. Not something one would get so easily at home!
And, boy, was the food good!
I already miss it.
Usually, I am anxious when I travel. On the way over, it came to me quite clearly that everything would be taken care of…as if this whole trip was a gift from God already encircled in his grace. As if the prayers of those praying for us had been heard and answered. So, whenever fears rose, I gently pushed them aside and remembered God's promise. And, sure enough, it all went perfectly!
We gained so much….experiences, ideas, images…much of which may make it into a book some day–either directly or as the inspiration for some other thing. I will never forget what I gained here. It will live in my mind as one of the high points of my entire life.
All that is left now is that, in years to come, I can tell the story to those who did not read this at the time–about the one magical year I celebrated Chinese New Year in China…with my daughter.
Here is the original post from December of 2011 that told about how we got to China:
About a week ago, an incident here at the Wright Household led John to post a request for money on his blog. What happened next, is nothing short of a Christmas Miracle.
John did not quite get the facts correctly, so here is the real story, in its entirety.
Two years ago, in October, I met for the first time my daughter, Yue Ping-Ping, soon to become Ping-Ping Evelyn Wright. (Well, maybe I met her for the first time then, or maybe she was the little girl in the dream I had many years before who told me that she was going farther away so that a little blond boy could come be with us first. I have always thought that blond boy was the Cherubim. )
The day before we left China, we let our new daughter have one last sleep over at the house of he friend, the Incomparable YiYi. When Ping-Ping came back, she was sadder. She had met her foster grandmother, who did not want her to leave. While with the foster grandmother and her friends, Ping-Ping had made a promise. She would return to China in three years and see her friends again.
We left Guangzhou and flew to Beijing. The book I had bought for my daughter had gotten packed in the wrong bag, and she finished her book. So, she was left for five hours in the airport sitting beside me and watching the very scary commercials about the flu in America.
On the plane, on our way home, my brave-spirited girl began to cry. She did not want to go to America. She wanted to stay in China. Then, she asked me, via our translation box, would she be able to go back to China in three years?
I tried to explain about money, about how expensive it was….but I could not do it very well. And, then, she asked me: “But what about keeping your word. Isn’t it important for me to keep my word.”
I am crying, sitting here at the computer, just thinking about it. What could I say? How could I tell my new daughter not to keep her word? Wouldn’t I be telling her not to keep her word to us?
But if I let her go…what if my little girl went back to China and never came home?
It was by far the hardest moment of my life as a parent.
But as I prayed, what came to me were words from, I believe, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: “If you love something set it free, if it comes back it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” And I thought, if after three years, we cannot get her to love us enough that she wants to come back to us, we’ve failed anyhow.
As I sat there and agreed, my heart in my mouth, for I had no idea how I could afford such a thing, I never had the slightest idea that when she went, she would expect me to go with her.
Fast forward two years. Ping-Ping has convinced me to go this winter for Chinese New Year instead of next year, because this is the last time her friends will be together at the same school…her last chance to see them.
So carefully, I start making arrangements. The money we are due from the IRS that I expect to pay for the tickets never comes (lost paperwork). I write a friend who has offered to pay for Ping-Ping’s ticket and beg him to lend me the money for both tickets.
God bless him, he does.
Only he sends the money from Belgium. By the time it arrives and clears, the ticket price as gone up $500 each…that is $1000.
So, I called my handsome and impressive husband and I said, “John, the ticket price has gone up. We made this promise to our daughter. May I take all our Christmas money your father sent, which is all we have for Christmas, and buy these tickets?”
And John said: Yes.
Meanwhile, we are trying to get our goddaughter, Ling Shan, back to China, where her aunt and boyfriend are waiting for her. Our good friend, Mark, for no reason other than kindness, offers to pay for her ticket home. God bless him!
Well, John puts a note on his blog, confusing Ping-Ping’s ticket with Ling Shan’s. And money starts coming in, and in, and in.
It was like the scene in It’s A Wonderful Life, where the neighbors show up and save George Bailey and the Savings and Loans.
That night, when John got home, we had received: $1048.00. The entire amount that we had spent over what we originally had plus a little more. We also received Warhammer toys for the boys, books, chocolate, fake coins for shoes, and a number of other wonderful gifts. Someone even asked to send cookies, god bless her!
We have now received over $1450.00.
$450 of this went toward Ling Shan’s ticket home. The rest about the same amount again, was paid by Mark.
$300 or more will be used for Visas for Ping-Ping and I to get into China. (I think Ling Shan doesn’t need one as a Chinese Citizen.)
The rest has gone to Christmas presents for the boys and to take all five Children to the Festival of Lights and the Winter Caravel on the other side of it…something they look forward to every year, that Grandpa Wright usually pays for with his Christmas money, and which I particularly wanted to do while Ling Shan was with us. (We went. We had a perfect night. The children loved it, and, in one of those wonderful serendipity moments, Ping-Ping ran into her other good friend there, too, even though we picked a time that was not very crowded.)
So, thank you so very, very much, God, all the wonderful people on the Internet who read my husband’s blog, and Clarence.