The first part of my trip to China was decidedly touristy in nature. The second part was all about the kids.
My sister was adopting three children – 13 years old, 20 months old, and 16 months old. They were housed in two separate orphanages in the Guizhou province. So we flew from Beijing to Guiyang, which is the capital of the province, to meet with the kids.
Our tour guide, Vickie, told us that this province was the poorest in all China. They were too poor to have a McDonalds or a Starbucks even. This stuck with me throughout the trip as I looked out from our hotel dining area to the Gucci store across the street. And when I noted not one, but THREE Apple stores in our area. HAHA I think, in general, the province itself is quite poor. However, Guiyang appears to be catering to the international business people. It is an area that is obviously trying to encourage more business and therefore is working to determine how best to draw them in.
What I did find interesting, based on that assumption, is that very few people spoke English. Most children in China learn English at some point. They may not be fluent in it, but they are at least familiar with it. I did not find this to be the case in Guiyang. We had some English speakers at our hotel (including an incredibly nice manager in the restaurant) but for the most part, communicating with anyone in this city was exhausting. I found myself using many, MANY hand signals and accepting certain things just were not going to happen.
For example, I tried in earnest to send postcards back to the states to my friends and my staff. But I could not seem to find a stamp to save my life. The word stamp did not translate and it was not until much later that I realized I should have said “postage” instead. But even then I am not entirely certain it would have mattered. Our tour guide went to the post office for me and came back saying they did not mail to the States (WHAT?) and gave me a few stamps one of the previous families had left her. It was not until later I realized she had given me AMERICAN stamps from last year that were commemorating the Chinese New Year. So unfortunately, no one got postcards from me.
A few of the highlights of Guiyang
* Morning Exercises
On our first morning in Guiyang, I got to witness my first of many examples of morning exercise. I saw people doing Tai Chi and dancing. It was amazing to see everyone out and being active. My brother-in-law noted that China really puts emphasis on the mind, body and spirit and as Americans we could probably take a lot from learning from them regarding that. Later on our trip, I saw a lot of badminton, people spinning tops and even fencing as part of their morning ritual. What is also interesting to note is that it was always outside and visible for all to see.
What? You did not realize Walmart had made it to China? Neither did I. And in Guiyang it is underground! Initially I was super excited to see what Wal-mart was like over there. But quickly the novelty wore off. The things I hated most about Walmart in the States were heightened at the one in China. There were people EVERYWHERE. And on a whole, the Chinese can be a lot pushier than here so it was very crowded and uncomfortable as I was trying to make my way through an unfamiliar store.
Buying formula in that store was an experience as none of it had English on the packaging. We finally decided which stage to buy based on a tiny picture in the corner of what we assumed was a toddler. But we did not expect to have to purchase the formula in the alcohol department! The first time we went, we got yelled at by the cashier but could not figure out why. When we went the second time, we discovered it should have been purchased in the area we found it. And when we asked about it, they directed us to the liquor counter. I have yet to figure out the logic with that one. But like most things, you simple shrug your shoulders and say “ok” and move on.
* Qianling Mountain Park
We got to visit Qianling Mountain Park, and while beautiful, there were two major highlights. I got to visit my first Buddhist temple which was absolutely gorgeous. The older I get, the more I feel drawn to Eastern religions, specifically Buddhism. So it was amazing to be able to visit a temple while in China.
The second highlight was THE MONKEY PARK. Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE monkeys (my love of them is only second to bunnies). If it were feasible, I would own a pet monkey. Perhaps some day I will expose you all to my crazy ideas about having a runner monkey. But for now, I will say it was amazing to be in an area where monkeys were as abundant and birds and were running wild for all to see.
We were warned before getting off the bus not to have any food or drink with us as the monkeys can detect it and will come after you to get it. We were also told not to make loud noises or point at them as it would spook them and perhaps cause an attack. The warnings sure scared my 7-year-old nephew, but not me! I was super excited to see them! I got close, but not too close because I did not really want anything to go wrong. While it would have been a funny story to tell later about the time I got attacked by a monkey in China, I did not exactly want to know what that felt like first hand.
I will not go in to too many details for the sake of their privacy.
The girl is a sweetheart and always willing to assist us in any way. The language barrier was tough, but she wanted so very much to learn English to fit in with us. She will pick it up quickly once in school.
The 20-month-old is a very pensive child, and we joked he will grow up to be an engineer or professor. My other nephew nicknamed him “The Mayor” and for some reason it just seemed right. He had a male caretaker at the orphanage so we had a bit of a hiccup initially as he did not want anyone but his “baba” to hold him. He eventually warmed up to my sister and I and things were great after that.
The 16-month-old is the cutest darn thing ever and will give my sister fits as he gets older. He is a classic youngest child with a big of mischief in his eyes and a smile that makes EVERYONE melt. I suspect he will be the one that will require them to make frequent trips to the hospital and will require the teacher or principal to call his parents for some conversation about their child being the class clown.
I will cover the last part of my trip in another post just as soon as I can.