When I left off last week, we were on the bus to Mainland China after a thirteen hour flight from Vancouver. For the Chinese folks riding this bus, it must have been boring, for many of them slept. We tried to do the same but were far too excited.
We took in the overwhelmingly busy highways lined with concrete high-rise apartments stretching endlessly through the flat, open landscape. We passed through Shenzhen, a city of nearly ten and a half million people, which within the last 40 years has been transformed from an agricultural region to a major port and trading centre. We then disembarked at the border to go through a complicated series of tasks that involved showing passports, visas and other paperwork. It was completely mind-boggling and I would never recommend anyone to try it without the ability to speak Cantonese or to have a seasoned guide! When all the papers were stamped and returned, we boarded the bus again.
Our destination was Guangzhou and by the time we arrived we were so punch drunk we collapsed into bed at the Grand Continental Hotel and slept like the dead. I awoke at two thirty in the morning and tiptoed to the window of our hotel room. What I saw was enthralling. From the twenty-eighth floor I looked down on the Pearl River, lined with blue lights. I watched ships pass, lit up even more elaborately than the river. Closer to the hotel, I saw people unloading goods from trucks for the coming day’s commerce.
Several young men were playing a version of hacky sack with great enthusiasm. This city of fourteen million souls truly never slept!
The next days were spent experiencing a dim sum lunch, finding a Starbucks in the historic area of Shenmian Island and learning to cross the streets without getting run over.
We walked many kilometers.
The most moving event was attending Easter service in a marvelous old Anglican church very near our hotel. The windows were wide open to the street sounds and attracted bystanders. Afterward, Paul and I were given hardboiled eggs to take with us. As we walked from the church, I began serious people watching. I did not know what to expect as I made eye contact. I need not have worried. I started smiling at older people who had their grandchildren with them. There was a universal connection and from there on, I was comfortable wherever I went even though I had not a word of Cantonese. I found grace in the way people moved about. I am known as a klutz but I never once bumped into anyone. I suppose it comes from so many bodies learning to move past others without intruding on another’s space.
Soon we were on our way again by China South Airlines with a two day stopover in Wuhan to visit friends Steve and Nancy LePoidevin. Wuhan, population ten million, is the Chinese version of Silicone Valley and growing exponentially. We could see the Yangtze River from time to time as we traveled by bus and taxi. It was at the LePoidevins’ that we slept on our first Chinese style bed. When I tried it, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding!” It was just a piece of felt over a board, but we woke up the next day refreshed with no nagging backache. In Wuhan we were also introduced to the one rule of the road which was, “He who is in front has the right of way” which led to interesting techniques to be the one in front.
April 7 found us at the Wuhan Airport again, waiting on a China East plane, anticipating the take off for Beijing, the jewel in the crown until now. Till next week.