It was a life changing trip on so many levels…and I learned a lot. Some things were obvious, while others….not so obvious.
Of all things (other than Ning Qiu) that stick out from our trip, the driving (or drivers) is the first that comes to mind. Chinese drivers are what Arthur Fonzarelli used to call “nutzo.” In the U.S. you have one idiot cut you off or weave in and out of cars like Danica Patrick, but that is the outlier here in the states. Not in China, where “nutzo” motorists are the norm. You think I’m kidding? In China, cars NOT pedestrians have the right away. In fact you see these public service signs all over the place with pictures of old people trying to get across the street. You don’t have to read Mandarin to get the point. Every time Reece and I stepped away from the curb it was as though we were taking our lives into our hands. In fact our drivers (and there were 5 of them) rarely braked unless coming to a complete stop. Think about that for a moment. It wasn’t like we were driving down country roads here. The streets were packed with everything from buses to bicycles. Perhaps the most harrowing drive of my life occurred on our last day in Wuhan, where our driver buzzed through a park, nearly wiping out several cyclists….oh, and there was a semi going the wrong way down a one way street. After awhile it became a joke…how many times could we brush with death? I just thank the Lord I live in Cincy when it comes to transportation.
We heard different things from people. Some said the food in China was great, while others said it sucked. I’m no gustatory expert but after a week of the stuff I was toast. There’s only so many meals you can have with noodles and rice. Luckily, every hotel we stayed in had wonderful breakfast buffets filled with western/eastern foods so I didn’t suffer. All in all the food was good. The only exceptions were one extremely salty meal in Beijing and an authentic Chinese lunch in Wuhan where our chicken was served in pieces…and I don’t mean nugget pieces. I mean a chicken chopped up as though someone just put the poor clucker on a chopping board and had their way with it. Not very appetizing unless you enjoy chewing on bits of cartilage. Another note to mention was the sweets—or lack of. We went into more than one bakery filled with the most delicious looking pastries imaginable, but most were just bland and disappointing. I was told that Chinese don’t like things as sweet as Americans and now I believe them.
I always thought China was a Godless country but I changed my views after our trip. The truth is, there are many religious in China and religion is accepted. However any form of protest against the government is forbidden and against the law. Our trip to a Buddhist temple was one of the highlights. I saw how there are many Buddhas just as in Hinduism there are many gods. I also saw how Buddhists light candles and incense for the same reasons as Catholics do. In fact there were many things that I saw as parallels to my Christian beliefs.
Modern yet not
There are mega cities in China surrounded by miles of farms and small towns. It sounds like America, but it’s not. There were few free-standing buildings or homes. As we sped across China by train, I only saw one area that could be considered a neighborhood like you see in America’s suburbia. Most of the landscape was farmland, communal type structures, shack villages or immense, seemingly abandoned warehouses. It’s a weird mix and one guide mentioned how China has modernized too quickly. Supposedly the country was a shell of itself just a mere 30 years ago and such tremendous growth has caused issues with modernism and traditional living.
The water is so bad that Chinese people don’t even drink it. Most times I noticed people drinking hot tea rather than water in restaurants. All I can say is that if you’re a bottled water distributor, take your business to China…you’ll make a mint.
In a hurry
I don’t live in a big city so my perspective is midwestern, but everyone in China seemed to be in a freakin hurry. So much so that my wife and daughter were pushed aside with regularity. The only exception was in the Beijing airport where a group of wonderful strangers offered Reece and Ning a seat on the terminal bus. Anywhere else, it was dog eat dog and every man, woman and child for themselves. Even the lines were whacked. As one guide said, Chinese people won’t cut in line but they will guard their space no matter where it is. Our first guide, Alice, had to push Reece into the subway cars because as she put it, “we won’t make it unless you get in there.” The cool thing is, Chinese people rarely take things personal, so if you step on them, push them aside, cut them off in traffic, you don’t heard and grunts or cursing. Of course they could have been cussing us out in Mandarin for all I know.
Where’s the sun?
After two weeks, I never once saw the sun in China. There was a constant haze blanketing the entire area. One elderly lady looked at us and exclaimed “How lucky for this girl (Ning Qiu) to grow up with clean air.”
It was cheaper for sure in China but not in the outlets. Cars cost more in China because the taxes are so high, yet you still see plenty of BMW’s and luxury cars which brings me to the next point…
Where’s the middle class?
Every guide said there’s a huge gap between the rich and poor in China and this gap is growing wider each year. Nevertheless, many Chinese try their hand in small business and work long and hard to scrape by. In every city I saw hundreds of small businesses cramming the shopping areas and streets. According to one guide, most Chinese work 7 days a week and only take off during Chinese New Year. Pretty depressing if you ask me.
With so much competition for jobs, there’s a lot of pressure on students in China. One guide mentioned how her son complained about not having a childhood with all of the schooling and pressure. Just like in the states, there are many different types of schools in China but the ones we learned of spent over 12 hours a day in class with 2-3 hours of homework each night.
Most people we dealt with in Chinese hotels, airports and through our adoption agency were efficient and professional. This fact became embarrassingly clear when we went through immigration in Newark, New Jersey where in the span of 30 minutes, American workers cussed at and ridiculed 4 immigrants entering our country.
Bottom line…it was a trip of a lifetime but I’m glad to be home.