Day 6

Day 6 – Guangzhou to the train After the concert, the kids were happy to have a night off. Some headed out with chaperones to McDonalds. Others walked along the river. My son Travis, Samantha, Kenna and our tour guide Sophie headed to Beijing Street for some shopping. While the girls looked at clothes, my son stood in the doorway. Locals kept approaching him to practice their English and take his picture. This we’re getting used to but he was taken by surprise when a woman handed him her baby. A six foot three American man here is seen as healthy and prosperous – so having him hold her baby was good luck. She was lucky he didn’t drop the baby.

The next morning, we loaded up the bus. This in itself is an ordeal as our luggage pile is huge. We headed to an experimental middle school. There are 800 boarding students. We were prepared to play some music with the kids but we were misinformed. Instead, we walked into an auditorium to “We are the World” on the speakers, a slide show of their students all over the world and hundreds of kids clapping. They reserved the front of the auditorium for us. The kids were overwhelmed. Then the performances began. The kids wrote about those so I won’t. After our kids played a few pieces in return, mind you no music stands were available so we improvised – students held music for others – we sat down for a lunch. There was quite a buffet. So much gets lost in translation but the menu offered chicken grizzle and scalded vegetables. I told the kids to eat whatever was served but it was one of the best meals we’ve had. Kids were photographing their “school” lunch. Of course it helped that coca cola and bananas were on the menu!

Saying goodbye involves lots of handshaking, bowing and of course, more photographs. It takes a long time. We loaded up the buses and headed back to town for shopping. My group ended up in Shoe City. Imagine a 6 story mall with tiny shops all with shoes. There must have been a thousand shoe stores. Emily J was willing to shop but kept getting told her feet were too big. The boys weren’t terribly interested in that place so we wandered down to the International Market. This one was fascinating. Too many floors of random stuff. The girls bought $10 dresses, robes, fans and cell phone charms. After awhile there, we headed to KFC and then onto the hotel meeting place. There was a park across from the hotel that had exercise equipment. The kids tested it out.

Once we reloaded the buses, we headed to the train station. Having traveled by trains in Europe, I was prepared for the train station but the chaos around it was a challenge. It’s hot and humid and we’re unloading a bus on the street. The tickets are in Chinese and we have to have them to enter the station. Then moving our party thru any crowd is a challenge – especially with luggage. We follow our guides who carry spinning flowers. We organized by sleeping carts and got thru a maze in the station. Guangzhou has 11 million people and a train station to match. Keynes’ brother warned us about pickpockets so we wore our back packs as front packs and had no problems. We got to a waiting area and could sit down to relax.

No one was quite sure of the configuration for the train. It’s 6 bunks on one side and a hallway with tables and chairs on the other. The girls filled a car of the train and the guys, the tour guides and I filled part of another car. I was unsure of how it would be to share a car with complete strangers but ended up with a mother, father and a daughter who has spent time in West Palm Beach. The bunks are clean, the hallway was quiet until we showed up and the bathrooms are Chinese. This doesn’t bother the boys at all but the girls are getting used to it. There is no place to change or shower so I’m sure by the time we reach the hotel, we’ll empty the hot water tanks. Keynes gave everyone a taste of dragon eyes and bamboo something – both delicious fruits. The kids played cards, talked and were in bed by 11.

It’s 5 am and we’re rolling past rice patties. There isn’t a high rise in sight. We’re headed to Guillin to ride on bamboo rafts down a river and go bike riding. It looks like it’ll be a great day.

Posted in China Trip 2010.