ARRIVING IN CHINA
First of all – China has the best firewall on the planet – not only is Facebook banned & I can’t find any cinemas playing ‘The Great Gatsby’ (desperate to see it) but also haven’t been able to get onto WordPress, so blogs have been a bit slow – now thanks to cousin Meri she has been posting some of our blogs and photos from Australia – thanks Meri – you’re a legend!
This following blog was written almost 2 weeks ago – more recent to follow:
China has been a big culture shock – we don’t really know what we were expecting – though if I had to articulate it I would’ve thought it was less developed, more chaotic & probably lots more crowded. I mean it is crowded but no-where near as crazy as India (which both Sandy & I just love!) The infrastructure, roads and general cleanliness is quite amazing. Though then you turn a corner into a back alley which is super dirty & the toilets – well that deserves a blog entry on its own!
One of the biggest culture shocks for me is I’m not used to being so lost with language – previously when I’ve traveled I’ve known the language or at least spent a few months studying it but this time I was far too busy – so I am embarrassed to say how lost we all are with it – we know some numbers, hi, thank you and the words for twins but that’s it – and not many people at all speak English – and why should they – Mandarin is he most spoken language in the world!
Traveling with kids outside of their sleep times makes everything that much harder – firstly we get to our Singapore hotel at 11pm (1am body clock time), then the next day stay at Singapore zoo till 10pm ( the night show was really brilliant) and expect the kids to wake up at 4.15am to get our flight to Kunming via KL. Asking for trouble weren’t we!
Arriving in Kunming was relatively painless though then we get into some guys car ( who said he had a big car (aka 5 seater sedan) – well he seemed very nice! We managed to get all our big bags in the boot though we had to squeeze others into the car as well as all the kids and myself in the back while Sandy chatted to the guy in the front. It was a scene to remember! The 1/2 hr trip into town would’ve been pretty easy if it only took 1/2 hr though as Chinese streets don’t always have names rather are part of a group or neighbourhood – our quaint little guesthouse wasn’t easy to find – as he drove around the lake for over 5 times and making more and more frustrated calls to the guesthouse – the time in the car was about an hour, I couldn’t feel my legs from a sleeping Zoi and I was worried that we might be tainted the loudest family in the world as the kids got fidgety and started annoying each other. Eventually we found the guesthouse and really needed the quiet few days walking to the ‘Green Lake’ nearby, trying desperately to find food that wasn’t so spicy and feeling totally inadequate with the language.
On one of the days we walked to ‘Walgreens’ (yes I know the Americans think China is taking over but American companies have already taken over China!) and a great, busy and smelly market to buy some snack foods for the kids – if the kids are hungry things get harder so need to be prepared. Somewhere along the way I lost Toby’s iPod from my day-pack- not exactly sure if it fell out or someone took it but we couldn’t find it anywhere. I felt so bad – Toby and Yasi have been saving for almost 2 yrs as we said if they can save the $ themselves they can have one when they were 10 yrs old. Well initially they didn’t have enough so they shared one which I thought was going to be a disaster and the deal was if there was any arguing it came straight to Sandy or I for a whole day. Anyway – just upon leaving Australia they had enough for a second one duty free. If Toby had lost it himself then he would just have to save enough for another because I think kids need to learn these tough lessons but since I lost it I think I’ll have to replace it. Bummer!
TRAFFIC IN CHINA
MAPINGGUAN VILLAGE ‘HORSE TREK’
Mapingguan is a village of about 100 homes that has only had electricity for the last two years and has just had a mobile phone tower put in. I was walking up puffing and thinking ‘Holy strife – how did they possibly build electricity poles and infrastructure here?’ I have been amazed at what this country can achieve. It’s very different to what I had imagined. All building materials sourced in the village surrounds or hauled up the mountain by horse.
We stayed with a beautiful couple called Dun Zhe Qun (male) & Dun Yue Zhe (female) – they met by introduction at the age of 21, had 3 children (obviously before the one-child policy – though Bai minority people can have 2 children), grow most of what they eat, have built their lovely home & seem very united.
Their children have all grown up & moved to the cities & towns nearby – 2 of them are married & the weddings were right here in the yard. They also have 2 grandchildren. Dun Zhe Qun’s face just lit up when I asked about his grand kids. He reminded me of my granddad in Greece – I was almost in tears – he and his wife were so impressive- making their own oil, honey, drying meat, collecting enough hay for their horses who live in the underground stables during the snowy winter (imagine their wonderment when they come out again in the spring), their wood pile was so neat like my grandad’s – I really thought they were awesome. We were fed such glorious food – lots of different types of veggie dishes – but one of them we couldn’t even get a translation for even through Yeshi – they were a root veggie that looked a bit like big whichetty grubs but tasted like delicious chips! Mmmmm! Yum! Please tell us if you know what they are. We asked Dun Yue Zhe to not make things too spicy but I almost fell off my stool when Tobes, Yas & Kiki added chilli to their bowl – OMG!
The biggest culture shock though was the toilet – we had to go out the front gate, down a path littered with rubbish (obviously the local tip as well) then to a small mud building that had no running water just a shallow rectangular hole. We were a bit confused about what to do with the ‘stuff’ so asked Yeshi & after he asked Dun Zhe Qun he said ” oh no problem just leave it – they will gather later & mix with the pig manure for the garden!” The whole experience wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to walk though rubbish to get there. As we’ve been rating toilets – we gave this one less than 1/10.
By Baba Miliking