Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reflections on China

In the short time I've been blog hopping it seems that the common protocol for one that returns from vacation (is that what we were on?) is to create a Top Ten List or at least a Highlights post featuring the location traveled. As this is my first attempt, a top ten list seems far too ambitious. Remember, writing does not come easily to me. I could see myself worrying about having to come up with seven more topics to discuss all while keying item number three. Therefore, I've decided to do a Highlights and Observations post for our trip to China.

My Observations

The People
They say there are 1.3 Billion people in China. I think we saw about 1.2 billion of them. People are absolutely everywhere in China. The people we came in contact with on the street did not seem particularly warm, nor were they unpleasant. For example, the norm here in the U.S. is to wait until everyone is off the elevator before entering. The Chinese do not subscribe to this policy. Additionally, people often stared at us, especially after we had Lily with us. We were warned that this would happen. Several Chinese people approached my mother and asked if they could take her picture. That was quite interesting. The people we met that worked in service, such as waiters, waitresses, hotel attendants, store workers, etc., were all extremely polite. Most showed a special interest in Lily. Some showed a bit too much interest for Julianne's liking. Several waitresses picked up Lily and began walking around with her. One waiter unlocked the wheels of Lily's stroller and began wheeling her around the restaurant showing her off to his coworkers.

The Food
Don't order chicken in China. You WILL be disappointed. You'd think I would have figured that out but I never gave up. I ordered chicken everywhere we went and in most occasions, it was not good. Their chickens have very little meat, lots of fat, and usually had uncooked, flaccid looking skin. Even the chicken in the Grilled Chicken Sandwich at McDonald's (Yes, we broke down and went there, but just once) didn't taste like chicken. We were able to enjoy quite a few meals in China though. It just took a while to learn what to order and what to stay away from. Besides, I've been working at losing weight and I managed to lose ten more pounds while in China without starving myself.

Julianne and I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit in our ten years of marriage. I can honestly say that I've still never had anything better than we can get here at home in the Los Angeles vicinity (perhaps with the exception of Mama's Fish House in Maui, HI and The Whaling Station in Monterrey, CA). But we still have not been to Italy. I hope to revise my previous statement after a trip there sometime in my lifetime.

The Traffic
Craziness. Chaos. Lines in the roads mean absolutely NOTHING in China. Everyone is merging, changing lanes, driving between two lanes for miles, and driving on the wrong side of the street. Some friends we met from our travel group said they took a cab and the driver did not feel like waiting behind the stopped cars and actually began driving on the sidewalk! Pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. Ever.

Amongst all the craziness, no one seemed to mind. There were no arms flying out of the windows with certain gestures like here at home. Although everyone honks their horns at each other, it seemed to be as a way of saying, "Watch out, I'm passing you." And through all the chaos, I didn't see one accident.

The Smell
We spent time in three provinces, Beijing, Jiangxi, and Guangzhou. There was a smell that was evident in all three provinces. It was not horrible but it definitely was not pleasant. It didn't seem to be quite as bad in Guangzhou. Maybe I just got more used to it by then. I've heard the smell might be due to the poor air quality. But I'm from Los Angeles. You'd think I'd be used to that. I wonder if visitors to L.A. think we have a smell.

The Shopping
The shopping tours our agency had arranged for us were quite interesting. Upon arrival to the pearl factory, the jade factory, the silk factory, and the tea factory, we were herded past the main selling area into room set aside for groups such as ours. I felt as if we were wearing signs around us that said, "TOURIST" or "RICH AMERICANS" or "SUCKERS." We were given the inside secrets on how to know the good stuff from the junk. I couldn't help wonder why they sold the "junk" as well. Upon completion of our education, we were released to the waiting vultures - salespeople swooping in from all angles to get our American dollars. Every time we bargained for a better price, I walked away with my purchase feeling as if they burst into laughter as soon as I was gone alla Daniel Miller, Albert Brooks' character in Defending Your Life, after a used car purchase.

Two Highlights
July 9, 2007, at about 3:30 p.m. About half an hour before we got Lily, Julianne and I took the opportunity to pray together. Humbled and broken before our Lord, we poured out our hearts to Him, thanking Him and praising Him for the opportunity to be Lily's parents, seeking wisdom in shepherding her heart, and petitioning for her salvation at an early age. We acknowledged that she is not ours, but rather, His. It was a precious moment that I will always treasure.

And now for the obvious: The whole reason for the trip was Lily Grace. China is a country I never had a desire to visit. I am glad I went though. I enjoyed the site seeing, some of the food, the people we met, and the hotels. But for the gift of Lily, I will be forever grateful. How painful it must have been for Lily's birth mother to leave her at the gate of the Civil Affairs Bureau. But in doing so, I'm sure she must have known that she would end up in a home such as ours. And that she will be forever loved in her forever family.

1 comment:

Mel said...

Hey Robert....I really enjoyed reading your observations on China and found it very interesting and entertaining! I find it hard to believe that writing does not come easily to read really well. And I particularly liked the two highlights that you listed...praying together before you got Lily must have been a very special moment...and would have brought a smile to God's face :)