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Friday, May 18, 2007

China Experience - Changsha, Hunan

On 4/4/07:

Good Evening - it is Wednesday evening (I think - good gravy, I'm so confused...). It should be your Wednesday morning, right?

We've been going to bed pretty early and waking by 5:30 or 6 the past few days. All the sightseeing and the excitement of the babies is exhausting! We watch a little CNN International, but Chinese soap operas are about all that is one otherwise. Oh, we do get the National Geographic channel. But I'm too tired to follow much of what the TV is saying anyway! (I know, can you believe that?) The Chinese commercials are the best - Kim and I crack up at those.

Yesterday we all tried to go to Wal-Mart, but instead Jane (a CWA employee – head of the China program) took us to a local supermarket. It was AWESOME and very inexpensive. On the way there we went through an alleyway where there were lots of little stalls selling vegetables and fruits. Then further on we came to the meat area - WOW! They really do eat EVERYTHING in China. :) We got some interesting and somewhat gross pictures. Of course, it is only gross to us because we aren't used to seeing our meat processed before our eyes. At least you can see how healthy the animal is before you eat it. :) There were chickens, ducks, eels, turtles, frogs, all manner of fish, and lots of meat (beef, pork, etc). In the supermarket we picked up diapers and formula and other odds and ends.

As we were checking out, there was a line of Chinese grandmas all getting their feet massaged (with those little machines you've seen being sold at Christmas time and such). They love the babies - but they loved Phoebe the most. (I think because she is so chubby!) Kim turned her around so they could see her and they all clapped. They do this to get the babies' attention. So we took her over to them and they went crazy! We got some cute photos. One of the ladies was very adamant about getting a copy of the photo (luckily we had Jane there to interpret). We'll email Jane the photo and she'll drop it off at the store for her. (Many Chinese do not have mailboxes.)

After the supermarket, Jane took us to a little "shopping mall" - just various stalls and independent vendors. It reminded me a bit of the bazaars of the middle east (like we saw in Turkey). It is so much colder here than we'd expected (58 was the high today - we'd expected it to be in the 80s and 90s) that many of the parents needed warmer clothes. Very cute baby clothes - at local prices (a few dollars for jackets and pants). All the Chinese look astounded to see this group of 20 some Westerners with little Chinese baby girls wandering around. They love to see the babies. Kim is very good to let them come see Phoebe and talk to her. Two young women stopped and said hello to Phoebe. We got their photo, too. (They love to look at the photos - so it is wonderful to have the digital!)

Kim and I both agree that, although we LOVED the sights we saw in Beijing, by far our favorite is just being out seeing the chinese! We both loved the walk through the city and markets yesterday. Some of our group are not so enthusiastic. In fact some are downright negative about it. (I'm also surprised that many of them are pretty ignorant about the culture and history of China - not the details, but the major points of Chinese history.) Kim and I are both really enjoying the culture and the people.

After the markets, we went home and had dinner in the hotel again. The food is good, but Kim and I would LOVE to venture out. It is better with the babies to stay in the hotel, though. We did have some spicy food last night. It was delicious - but I'm sure they toned down the spice for the "laowai" (noble foreigners).

Today our guide took us to a local park and then Wal-Mart. I'm not sure which I loved more. The park was just beautiful and HUGE! Magnolias, camelias, camphor trees, azaleas, miniature irises, acuba and more - everywhere! In the middle of the park was a good-sized amusement park with a big roller coaster (not in operation yet). Many groups of Chinese meet to do Tai chi, folk dancing, sing, play music, etc. We saw violins, flutes, and a traditional Chinese string instrument (played like a cello, but very small - fits on the lap...and shaped very differently). I'll try to get a photo the next time I see one. The park was full of people like it was a Saturday afternoon!

After the park we headed to the Wal-Mart SuperCenter. Kim and I had so much fun here! Because it is so chilly, I needed a warmer jacket. So I found one - a nice denim jacket for $12. (Btw - I had to buy an extra large - which is the same as a small in the US. I know this because we compared it when we got back to the hotel) Also got a couple of basic cotton tops - $2 each. Kids - I got you each a set of Chinese calligraphy brushes (these were in the children's school supply aisle). They were only about 15 cents for a set of 3 brushes. I bought a set for each of you and for each of the Thomasson kids. I'll need to find an ink stone and ink stick for you, too.

A very Chinese Walmart - all sorts of interesting produce and the meat department was fascinating and a little stomach-turning at the same time. :) Chicken feet (and I mean just the little claws - all fried up for you), pig hearts, chicken necks (for human consumption!), dried sting rays (whole), and lots more.

Chinese love to try out their english with us. (and we love to try out our very limited Chinese) Two young ladies came up in Wal Mart and said, "Hello" and we spoke for a moment with them. They, of course, doted on Phoebe. We complimented their English which sent them over the moon! (Even little kids will try saying "Hello" and "Good bye" in English. In the park today - we passed two groups of preschoolers on a field trip, I guess, (the cutest kids you've ever seen!) and many of them said "Hello"!)

The electronics department was to die for - so CHEAP! Erik, remember the SD card I just bought for the camera? It cost like $60 - I could have gotten it here for under $15. Can you believe that? I did need some batteries - they are also ridiculously cheap - I think I got 14 batteries for $4. That would have cost me nearly $20 in the US. I was a little worried they might fry the camera, but I double checked and they are the same voltage. :)

For lunch we stopped at the KFC (yes, KFC) just outside the WalMart (our guide paid - all our meals are included in the fees until we get to Guangzhou). Kim and I were a little bummed that they didn't take us somewhere for Hunan food, but we did have a chicken wrap with chinese vegetables and sauce. Phoebe ate "potato paste" - that's mashed potatoes to you and I. :) She loved them!

The Wal-Mart is inside a larger mall - Kim and I may take a taxi down there later this week and check out the rest of the mall. The prices are so good and the merchandise will be interesting.

Tomorrow we go to either another park or an embroidery "factory" (depends on the weather). I'm not sure we'll have a chance to purchase Hunan embroidery anywhere else, so I may buy some. (By the way - I'm holding out well on my cash. I've made one purchase on the MasterCard here, but otherwise I've used cash. And the MasterCard purchase was not huge - approx $60...just didn't want to run out of cash.)

Oh - one other thing about what you can discuss via email here in China - don't worry about it. I wondered if I'd be able to get onto Christianity Today to send those eCards - but had no problem. I don't think it matters. Besides, the Olympics are coming here in 2008 and I think they are trying to look as "open" as possible! :)

Ok - I need to head back upstairs. Our laundry is due back soon and I need to make sure I got all my clothes back! :) I love you all!

from China with LOVE,

ps. Remind me to tell you the "Taiguile" (**pronounced Tie Guay Leh) story in my next email! It is very funny and I can't believe I haven't told you that, yet.


Jimmie said...

It's interesting to read your perspectives on China. Of course, I can relate to all you said. The factory tours are such a joke. I despise that! We went on a Chinese tour and finally just told the guide we'd be willing to pay him extra if he wouldn't waste our time with these stupid "factory" tours ie shopping opportunities -- all overpriced!
The clothing sizes is another hilarious part of life here. I tried on a cute top recently; I thought it just might fit in an XL. Still to tight around armholes and arms. SIgh.....
I wear a S (or largest M) in USA. So funny.

by the way, your font on the last few posts is really tiny and hard on the eyes. :-) You might want to chose a bigger one.