May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Friends in Shenzhen and Hong Kong

A pretty flower

Emma Willard supervising her gals
Proper Chopstick Technique
Fruit Sculpture
National Children's Day: Les and Elaine
May 31-June 1—Still in Shenzhen, we taught our last class sessions, said our good byes, and made our way to the bus station.   A guy gave me a plastic bag at the bus door.  I didn’t understand.  He put his foot in the bag, so I started wrapping my shod foot in the bag.  No.  He took off his shoe and put it in the bag.  Ahhh, OK. So goes communication in China.   So, as it turns out, the “seat” number didn’t relate to anything; there were three rows of beds lined up head to foot.  Soon we were over capacity and people were sleeping next to me in the isle too.  I couldn’t fall asleep all night, so I listened to podcasts until about 2:30AM.  I awoke at sunrise.  The conductor yelled various stops and we arrived in Shenzhen to see our wonderful friend Elaine.  Our driver, Mr. Li, took us to a series of skyscrapers where the family business had offices, storage, apartments and a lovely apartment they called a dormitory for employees or guests.  They had flowers on the table, fruit in the frig, fresh water and Les’s favorite breakfast—oatmeal—on the table.  They are so thoughtful to remember so much about our preferences in the US when they visited us one year ago.
It was “children’s day,” so an employee’s son (Louis) joined a group of us for a delicious lunch.  The food kept coming; new scrumptious tidbits that we did not know how to eat arrived every few minutes.  We tried eating a chicken foot for the first time; it tasted very oily.  My advisee Christina was not there, but her mom and dad, Grace and Wames (our hosts), treated us to a wonderful meal.
Grace and Elaine


Wedding Boat
From here we went to the Splendid China Folk CultureVillages.  We saw homes, traditions, dances, songs, temples, top spinning and horses running, along with water spraying games for kids and decorated boats with dressed up wedding couples in them. 
Special Banyan Tree
The park was beautifully landscaped, with plants of all sorts, huge water wheels, banyan trees filled with ribbons and artwork, water falls, suspension bridge, and bamboo sticks that would fill with water, empty and strike a note (depending on its size) when hitting the rock, thus creating a water chime instead of a wind chime.   

Les had fun with the life-sized figures of animals; he pretended that they (like the live camel in Jordan) wanted to take his hat for the photo op.  We went into homes made to demonstrate the lifestyle of Chinese people in various provinces.  One home had the main socialization area the same space as the mother-in-law's bedroom.  Another showed a nuptial bed. 
Les and I under Chinese prayers
The hat schtick

 Most had garden space all around and on top of it.  They made use of the land for growing useful things—not that grass isn’t useful….  We saw performances by young acrobats who didn’t have much joy in their work, and folk singers/dancers from the Tibetan traditions. 

For luck, grab a foreigner and get your picture taken with them! (Notice performance in the background)
Chinese Boy's Stylish Cut
  There, we had a strange experience.  It is good luck to get your picture taken with a foreigner in China.  People have gathered around me before, but this time it was after we did a group dance with the Tibetan performers and while they were trying to finish their show! 
A woman grabbed me and someone took our picture.  As I tried to wrestle free of her grasp (STILL as the performers were wrapping things up, facing the audience with a man speaking into a microphone), a half dozen people enveloped us for photos.  
As Les calls it, "Chinese Georgia O'Keefe"
 I was embarrassed that I was the center of these people’s attention instead of the performers.   

We had ice cream; Louis had coconut water, went to see the 1000 Eyed and Armed Buddha, and skipped the miniatures of the great sites of China including a miniature of the great wall, Tibetan palace, and more.  We were weary from the bus ride, so after a yummy dinner, we slept like babies. 

Traders and Partners International Co. Inc.: Grace and Elaine
Candy storage for the family business
LED department of the family business
June 2— First, we got to see the offices and storage for Mr. Lin’s company.  He has businesses that make candies and LED lights, as well as organize and give out promotional gifts.  I loved seeing  some of the products from the family business.   
Promo gift "Flora" found a flamingo lover

Hats off.  Flip!



A time of rest

Paddling the Raft
Do-It-Yourself farm lunch

Curious Alisa and Angel
Later, we jumped into Mr. Li’s van with Elaine’s daughter Alisa, her niece Angel, her husband Wilson and Grace and rode about an hour to arrive at a tourist farm.  It is here where people gather in the countryside to have a natural experience.  There are several fireplaces to grill on, and a large sink and cutting area.  You can pick your own vegetables, catch, kill, pluck and clean your own chicken or fish (I declined the offer), and cook it to enjoy the freshest produce possible.  Grace asked that the staff do the preparation while we played with the potters wheels, rafts that you could pull or paddle across a pond, bows and arrows to shoot at a target, swings and hammocks to ride in, and a little pagoda where we can watch the polliwogs in the still water.  The little girls in their white dresses and bright leggings were adorable, curious, playful, energetic, and well mannered.  I loved spending family time with these guys; I felt at ease and part of something that families in China do from time to time.   
You-Pick tomato cheeks: Wilson, Grace, Elaine, Angel, Alisa
Off to pick tomatoes
 After a very fresh meal with luscious veggies, seasoned fish and fresh poultry, we went to a nearby you-pick tomato farm.  We snagged the tomatoes from the 6-foot tall vines attached to poles.  A nap in the car on the way home gave us energy for another amazing meal at the Joyful Restaurant.  

Wames on the Right and Friends
Beijing/Peking Duck
 Wames and Grace ordered Beijing (Peking) Duck among other delicious dishes.  We said our thanks, loaded the cars and off to Hong Kong we rode.  After security, we climbed into a bus for 20 minutes then we took our luggage across to the other side of the building where we were picked up.  Another bit of time and we were at the Tung Chung metro stop, by the airport and Disney where is their home.
"Our" apartment
View from the balcony
Christina, my advisee
June 3—Wow, this place was futuristic!  All these connected covered pathways with smooth curved lines, and clean surfaces, ubiquitous cameras and security guards, fountains and reflection pools, landscaped greenery with contrasting color, vehicles out of sight, skyscraper apartment buildings towering in an elegant curve and a racially diverse population make it seem like a happy utopia.  From our host’s second smaller apartment we see a beautiful mountain landscape out on the veranda.   
We were greeted by my old advisee, Christina, whom I haven’t seen since she graduated a year ago.  (She looks GREAT!)  Yummy dim sum for breakfast livened our taste buds.  One of my favorites was a sweet steamed bun with an egg in the middle.  

Les decided to stay home to blog as I headed to meet some old students/advisee from Emma Willard.
Jackie Chan.  Hai YA!

Hong Kong at Night from the "Peak"
 Christina dropped me off with Priscilla and Liana, and we walked the sunny “Avenue of the Stars” right in the middle of all the famous buildings of Hong Kong’s downtown.
Christina, Sue, Liana, Emma Willard and Priscilla

View of Hong Kong

Famous buildings from the ferry
Flamingo Dancing Girls

Beautiful Priscilla and Liana on the Peak
We talked and talked about everything under the sun—from how being a pedestrian hit in a severe car accident can give one a new perspective, the role of women in relationships and business, moral issues of the day, 
From the top of the world
the health of their alma mater, consumerism, taking risks and struggling with priorities, journeys that got them where they are, goals for the future to life as it is now.  I am so proud of them and hope their lives continue to grow brightly.  We took every kind of transportation: ferry, bus and trolley, to get to the high outlook at “the Peak.”  
Warm Milk Dessert
 It was a beautiful and clear evening and gazed below at the harbor and the ocean as the sky turned and the lights turned lit in and on the buildings. 
I had traditional Hong Kong “fish balls” for dinner and we went down to the middle of town for a traditional warm, sweet, thick milk dessert. 
Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre
 There was a group who had gathered in the center to bring awareness to the anniversary of Tiananmen Square: 6-4 (June 4).  Students camped out for 64 hours, brought in artists and speakers in effort to get China to admit they did something wrong and massacred people unjustly, and to bring the attention of the events to tourists (especially Chinese tourists) who were visiting Hong Kong.  This would be an illegal and dangerous demonstration in Mainland China.  
After a sad good-bye, I rode the immaculate subway back where Christina picked me up.  We shared a nice and late conversation on the way to the apartment.

Buddha from the bottom of the stairs
Buddha Face

From the Gondola, looking at the airport

Buddha on a Hill
"Off with his head!"       "What?"
June 4—Today was dedicated to going high into Lantau Island by gondola to visit the giant Tian Tan Buddha, then descending on the other side to Tai O, a fishing village.  The Buddha was impressive—perched on the top of a hill with a grand staircase and a monastery across its gaze.  To get to this serene Buddha, we had to go through an area that should have been called “Buddhaland!”:  too much to sell, too loud, too commercial.  Ugh.  The day was hot; the breeze felt great.   
Women and Dragon

HUMUNGOUS Incense Sticks
The people near the monastery prayed with incense—some of it was so big that it looked like cartoon incense the size of tree limbs.  I don’t know, is it the bigger the incense the more your prayer will be answered?  I enjoyed the sounds of the monks chanting and the feel of the place with ornate columns decorated with dragons.
Boat in Tai O

The Monastery
Tai O Fishing Village
 Down in Tai O, we went in a motorboat to look for dolphins—we saw several pink ones!  Then we walked the quaint town where Grace pointed out so many things being sold that I’d never seen before, from 50 gallon drums of shrimp paste to egg yolks drying in the open air.  Imagine going to a store and not recognizing 90% of what was being sold!   
Incredible Bonzai Man!

Ginger in the Garden
Christina with little egg
As we moseyed we stopped to admire quite a few old bonsai trees.  A man was working on one, and we befriended him enough for him to give us a tour of his backyard garden full of chives, lychee, ginger, salad leaves, corn, breadfruit, papaya, herbs and squash.  He was 78 years old and swam 40 minutes at 5 each morning.  He was very proud of his work and told us that his home and garden had been in the family for centuries.  We enjoyed a warm soybean dessert, and went home by bus down the windy roads.  Thai soup at the food court (the apartment complex has so many businesses under it: a ton of outlet shops, restaurants, groceries, real estate, doctor clinics, swimming pools and fitness clubs….) tasted good; afterward, we went up to share some wine and talk before we packed.

Dim Sum
June 5—We had our last dim sum and went to the airport to catch a van to the Shenzhen airport.  Except for a guy in our van who had to pay duty for a Gucci bag that took quite a while, the trip was easy.  

View from Apartment Left
View from Apartment Right
One Trio
Another trio

Cleaning Crew Announcements at the Airport
 Our plane was delayed, and after a while a crowd developed around the airline staff.  The crowd heated up and turned into a mob of yelling people.  
Everyone wants Les's Hat
Even Dragons
"C'mon Man, Gimme the Hat!"
One guy was particularly strong in voice and gesture and didn’t calm down for over an hour.  The plane was canceled and we were brought to the ticket desk where some lined up and others continued to circle the attendant and carry on angrily.  Eventually the people broke into the ticket agents’ office, leaned over their computers and started insisting they get helped now with their situation while I fought to keep my place in line.  They gave us tickets for a plane that was loading in 10 minutes, hurriedly gave us help getting our checked bags to the new conveyer belt.  One of the yellers saw that our bags got on the belt and went crazy.  His screaming started shaking him, spit flew from his mouth and veins bulged from his face.  Les yelled back at him, “OK!  That’s enough!”  The man caught on fire and told Les to “F()#& Off,” pointing his quivering finger.  Security guards gathered calmly.  The airline people indicated we should go to another line, while they misplaced my ticket.  The new plane was delayed too, so we made it.  Whew.  In Beijing, we slept on a hard bench in the airport.  Yee, I may be too old for that now; my hips were sore.
June 6—was a day in the air.  I watched tons of movies and looked out at the snowy mountains around Lake Baikal in Siberia.  The sun was always shining as we followed it around to London.

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