Day 8

We were awoken early in the morning to construction noises outside our room.  We don’t know what they are building, but it appears to be a fairly large structure by Guipingstandards.  There are several pretty large buildings in Guiping.  Most look like they are apartments.  Within view out our window we can see several 14 and 16-story apartment buildings.

It was fascinating to watch them work.  There were few machines to help them.  It appears they dump/place the materials in different locations and then move them by hand to where they are needed.  There was a group of 5 men whose sole job was to walk over to a brickpile and hand-stack 10-15 bricks and then carry them to where they were needed.  There was another set of three workers responsible for  making the concrete.  They had large sacks of dry concrete mix in one spot, a small mountain of sand in another spot and a pile of unidentified white stuff that looked like marshmallow fluff (perhaps that’s what it was…that stuff is pretty sticky!).  Using shovels they would mix the concrete mix and sand and then right before adding the water they’d add in the marshmallow fluff.  Then they added water and the real mixing began.  Basically, it was a LOT of mixing with shovels to create the concrete.  After they had worked for around 90 minutes they had concrete and the guys carrying the bricks started building the walls with the bricks.  Interestingly, there was a mix of women and men doing work. The heaviest work (carrying bricks) was all men, but the rest of thework, much of it very strenuous was shared by men and women, which was admirable.  The women didn’t appear to be treated any different than the men.  Later, when walking the streets we came across a 3-person team that was doing some similar work and there was a woman there with a pole across her shoulders and a load of bricks coming down from both ends of the pole.  She was not afraid of anything.  I said “Hello” as we passed.  She eyed me carefully the entire time I was passing and then after I had passed and was a bit down the way she called out, “Hello!”

Breakfast was an interesting experience.  The food was all Chinese and for those that don’t know, it would be hard to recognize the difference between a Chinese breakfast or dinner buffet.  I’m sure the dishes were specific to breakfast, but we couldn’t see the difference. I was proud that our girls were troupers and tried a lot of things.  Nothing tasted “yummy” to us except for the watermelon.  After we pretty much cleared out the watermelon plate, we left with a “Shay-shay” (I know I’m spelling that incorrectly – we were later told that is the Mandarin saying for thank you, but that the Cantonese translation is something along the lines of “Mmmn Bao”, I’m probably killing that, too).

Once in the van we wandered about a bit, asking for directions as we went.  We finally landed at the orphanage and eagerly waited at the gate as two of the three directors came out to meet us.  The exchange was very pleasant, but not as heartfelt as I think we had dreamt it might be.  It turned out that this same day was Children’s Day in China and that the directors likely would not have time for us to take them to lunch.  In the end, this was probably for the best.  I’m guessing it would have been fairly uncomfortable at lunch with not much of value being exchanged.  I was looking forward to learning more about the orphanage, but don’t think the woman who was the one who spoke the most, would have been very forthcoming with information.

We ended up giving them our gift of diapers that were purchased in Nanning by our guide and a variety of bags we brought from theU.S. filled with goodies for the nannies and director.  I would have liked to know how that stuff got shared since there were quite likely more people than bags.  I think we brought 6 or 7 total.

They also presented Mia with a gift.  It was rather large and wrapped in a bag that resembled giftwrap, sort of a paper bag/box.  Following the Chinese custom of not opening your gift in front of the person giving it, we waited until we were in the van where we found out it was a large wall hanging that our guide called a “loving family knot”.  That was very nice.

After finishing with the orphanage director, we were approached by a husband and wife with a small boy who wanted to have their picture taken with our family.  We happily obliged.  Soon, several more people had gathered and were asking for more pictures.  We introduced them to Mia and explained that she was from Guiping and they all said “Very beautiful!”  There was one grandmother who was veryapproachable and Kathleen took a special liking to her.

We hopped back in the van and headed to the main street again.  David had us stop at Mia’s finding place where we hopped out to take pictures.  We then walked the street for a bit.  We stopped in a bakery and bought a bagful of breads and cookies that set us back about $3.  The store had speakers the same size as what we use to DJ that were sitting outside the store BLASTING music onto the street area.  Every once in a while a woman in the store would start speaking into a microphone.  I can only guess she was calling out what good things they had that were available.  David bought our family a special cake for Children’s Day. 

We continued walking down the street stopping at a pharmacist who was mixing tea bags that were to be used for making medicinetea.  It was quite interesting.

We then went to the main square which was filled with all kinds of people and activity.  There were a lot of kid-friendly activities from sand art to paint pens and even an eel-catching pond.  Each activity had a small cost and we chose to avoid most since the artwork might not have survived the trip home.  The girls did try their hand at eel fishing (with a net).

The large public square led to an even larger park with a pond.  Past the pond there was a very well-populated kids ride area with bumper cars, carousel, mini roller coaster and several other rides.  It was there that we saw something rather remarkable.  There was a woman with two children who had beautiful blue eyes.  I asked David if that was common and he looked at me with shock and said, “A Chinese person with blue eyes?  I have never seen this!”  We tried to get a picture, but she was apprehensive so we didn’t push it. Her eyes were not just like light blue.  I’m not sure if it was because of her skin color or if it was truly the color of her eyes, but they looked almost radiant and very striking.  We wondered if she felt lucky or ashamed on not looking like everyone else.

On our way back out of the park we had a very funny thing happen.  We stopped at one point to buy homemade whirly-bird toys for Anna and Mia and became encircled by some young children.  After the purchase we had a group of children following us and we felt a bit like the pied piper.  It got so funny that we stopped and had our picture taken with them.  It made me laugh so much.

We then went to lunch at a restaurant across the street from our hotel.  It was pretty authentic Chinese, I think.  We were shown to our own room and dined with our driver and David.  It’s odd, but whenever you enter a room like that, the first thing they do is turn on a TV (32” flat screen).  We watched men’s volleyball.  David ordered for us.  It was Sichuan.  We had beef with vegetables, chicken with crispy fried rice and some vegetables (and they use the WHOLE chicken minus the head and feet and chop it up, bones and all), tofu and vegetables, wide slimy noodles (I bet it didn’t say slimy on the menu), fried rice, pickled cucumber, pickled radish, and Spanish peanuts (again, I bet Spanish wasn’t on the menu).  I tried everything and aside from bones and misc. chicken parts, it was pretty good.  I guess I thought the noodles were slimy, that’s true. 

We then went to the hotel for some R&R.  We had a little picnic in our room with the cake and the other yummies from the bakery.  My favorite was rolls with a very slight coconut flavor.  They were very moist and if you put peanut butter on them, it was quite good.

Back in the van, we went to the original site of the orphanage and I was surprised at its location.  I had seen pictures of it many times, but for some reason did not picture it on this kind of street.  The street seemed more like an alley to me.  It was only slightly wider than the hutongs in Beijing.  We took pictures in front of the building and then had a nice conversation with a young woman (30?) and her family next door.  She said she had lived there since she was a little girl, so at one point she was Mia’s neighbor!  That was a neat moment.  David then led us around the neighborhood and even down to the river.  I remember looking at a map of China after we had adopted Mia and learning that this river in Guiping flowed into other rivers that eventually joined up with the mighty Pearl River that runs right past the hotel we stayed at in Guangzhou.  Since we didn’t get to see Guiping that time, I took comfort knowing that some of the water that was running past us in Guangzhou had also run past her hometown.  Now we were standing right next to her river.  We were told that the home we were standing next to was the oldest building in that part of Guiping (over 100 years old).  We took some pictures and then the family actually invited us in to look around (a true highlight of our trip).  It was small, but nice.  There was one large room in the middle with asmall room on each side that we did not explore.  In the back there was a wooden staircase that led to the upstairs, which I assumed was the same size as the room we were standing in.  They had a small table, a couch and a couple of chairs in the main room.  Before we left, I fished around in my backpack for any remaining U.S. snacks that I could leave as a thank you.  I wished I had had more to share because all I had were some fruit snacks, a granola bar and a new pack of gum.  They were happy.

We went a bit further down and saw another home and were invited in.  It was more narrow and didn’t seem as large.  At the back of the home was another door that opened up to the river offering a nice view.  A small girl sat on a little, little seat on the very small deck and was simply watching the water go by.  She was also eating a chicken foot.  I was surprised that she did not react much to us being in her home (I guess Americans are always walking into her homeapproaching her from the back).

We then walked down to the river and talked to some boys who were fishing.  There were some houseboats there and David said poor people often live on a houseboat.  We also saw a boat “store” where we went and explored.  They had a lot of things – surprising for a boat.  Kayla bought a Coke (they even had refrigerated drinks – go figure!).

We walked one more street, this one with several stores with toys and kid product.  That was kind of fun.  I think Mia was the only one who made a purchase – a hand fan with a panda design to add to her ever-growing panda collection.  We then opted to go back to the hotel and simply enjoy more of our bakery leftovers for dinner.  Before going upstairs I had our guide contact our airline to verify that our tickets were still good since I had heard from Dave from Hong Kong that sometimes when you miss a leg of a flight it can void the remainder of the tickets.  That would have been very bad.  When we learned that we were okay, I bought a tall Budweiser from the local store to celebrate (more U.S. brand marketingmuscle showing up far from home!).

The four girls opted to watch Mary Poppins while Kathleen and I looked around the hotel a bit.  We went to a gift shop and I picked up a wallet on top of the counter display.  It seemed out of place with all of the other types of things they were selling but it looked nice.  I opened it up and didn’t see much, or a price.  When I put it back down Kathleen said it was probably the shopkeeper’s and sure enough, he grabbed it and put it in his pocket (but it looked so new!). We continued looking and saw a picture book we presumed was Guiping.  After looking at it for a few minutes the shopkeeper said something and motioned kind of like shooing us away.  We took it to mean, “Take the book free and please leave.”  When we left he didn’t react at all to us taking the book, so I think we were right.

The rest of the night was pretty quiet and everyone was in bed by 10 pm.  Good night Guiping!

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