Musings from China – Week Two | Guangzhou: Blanche Dubois and the Kindness of Strangers: Part èr

IMG_0015Èr is “2” in Chinese and is written in Pinyin, which uses our alphabet.

It took three women, one man, one boy and two cars to meet us at the Guangzhou East train station. One “Billy” was not enough in Mainland China. Heidy, our host English teacher, and Iline, another English teacher, took our bags from us and guided us to the transportation area.

The driver from the school took our bags (only two each) and headed to our new home. We met 12-year-old Martin and his mother Xiaoming, our host family, climbed into her car, and were whisked off to our home away from home in Guangzhou, in mainland China.

I bet Blanche Dubois never had five people at her beck and call? And four out of the five spoke English!

Guangzhou is known as the flower city of China. All along the highways into town were shrubbery, trees, and flowering vines. This is good I thought…when I was able to look. The traffic and driving made New York look calm. There was a laissez faire attitude about lanes. Horns blared. Near misses every minute!

Everyone else in the car was chatting away with no worries. Deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Adjust, Andy!

We arrived at our home in the Liwan District. It was just what we wanted. The neighborhood is filled with local shops. There are many historic sights: Renmai, an 800-year-old Taoist Temple; Linwan Park, where people practice Tai Chi; and Lychee Bay, an historic area with waterways and a stage where Chinese Opera is performed.IMG_0004

Our hosts/guides told us our home was on Pan Tang Road, the most famous traditional food street in Guangzhou. Well, you can imagine how happy foodies Karen and Andy were!IMG_0001

Our new apartment was on the 11th floor of a gated community: guards, keys, gates, gardens, play areas, and all. It is humbling to think that Xiaoming and her son Martin, strangers to us, are graciously loaning us their home for our month in Guangzhou.IMG_0009

On entering the apartment, our gracious host Martin showed us where to take off our shoes and the indoor shoes we should use. The apartment has a living/dining area, two bedrooms, a small kitchen, two balconies, and a toilet/shower room. We have a washing machine! No dryer…that’s what the balconies are for.

Yes, there is a squat toilet, the beds are very hard, and it takes several days to dry your laundry in this wet southern city. I’m not sure blue jeans will ever dry!

We are in China. Glad I did some camping when I was growing up. Glad I didn’t wait until I was over 70 to come to China.

I’m also very glad we have new friends in China. We mentioned that we needed money changed and that we liked food markets, and it happened. Xiaoming came back the next day and took me to the bank and helped me find an English ATM. She also took Karen and me on a wonderful tour of an open air market down an alleyway, explaining what the strange fruits, vegetables, fungus and mushrooms were. Yes, they do eat snakes and frogs in China. They are bought live in the market.IMG_0012

Heidy discovered that we were interested in going to Guilin, a scenic city nearby. Immediately, Heidy was on the phone with her travel agent friend making the arrangements. She will accompany us to serve as guide and translator.

We know now that we do not have to depend on the kindness of strangers like Blanche did. We have friends in China on whom we can depend. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Next week: Schools in China. Children in China. Teachers in China

Andy Hawkins, with her cousin Karen Robinson, will be in China for six weeks from March 4-April 15. They are teaching English at Xijuan Experimental Primary School in Guangzhou for a month. The last two weeks of their visit, they will tour other areas of China. During this time, Andy will post a blog “Musings from China” with pictures once a week or as often as she can get the technology to work.