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.
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 Incomplarable 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 did'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 handsom 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 ramshakled 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 appartment 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-shapped 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 thougth 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. (tastles hung down at the Chairman's house, so when what looked like a tastle 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 brougth 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 karioke 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.
Writing from China.