We left this morning at 7am for the airport to fly to Taiyuan in Shanxi province. We arrived at the airport in good time and things went smoothly until we checked our bags. The kids have been accosted by street vendors at every turn, so I finally bought each of them ONE item (call me a tyrant). Reilly got a red parasol and Sharon got a fan, both indicative of Chinese culture and beauty, while Matt and Paul were curiously determined to buy metal, gun shaped key chains---I think they were in the shape of miniature AK-47s. These have absolutely nothing to do with China, but they were under $5 each, so I didn’t complain. The boys put the guns in their checked luggage which set off the scanners before we even got our tickets. After the woman dug through our luggage we got a chance to explain to her that we are really loving people, and very safe to have on any plane, it’s just that we have a thing for weaponry.
The flight was fine (just an hour) and thankfully unremarkable, but the city is amazing. We were told that there was wealth here, because it is a center of coal and energy, but I didn’t expect this. There is construction all over and the landscape is flat, so you can see really far. They are building massive high rise apartment complexes with apartment buildings that are at least fifty stories tall with floor to ceiling bay windows, balconies and penthouses. Each complex has roughly 10 to 15 buildings. The whole place is just massive, new and wildly opulent. The streets are wide (this is wonderful after Beijing, which can give you a closed in feeling) and there are lanes for bikes and wide sidewalks on both sides of the roads, separated by rows of ornamental trees. There is extensive landscaping everywhere and the cars are all high end. It’s almost like being on a Hollywood movie set of futuristic America.
The only drawback is the air pollution. It’s horrible. I’ve been in China for a week now and I have yet to see the sun, or white clouds against a blue sky. It is just grey overcast all day and the sun is a shimmering, undefined glow against a grey background. All the cars have a thick layer of dust on them and there is a grey/brown haze everywhere. In Beijing, it was pollution and fog, but here it is pollution and dust. The wind blows all the time and you can feel stuff hitting against your skin. It’s almost like I would imagine Kansas during the dust bowl. Nick and Brenda, who came to visit us on Thursday, said that most Americans only last a few years here and then they go back to the states for health reasons. I can well believe this. As nice as the city is to be in, few American’s would ever last long here because of the muck in the air.
We checked into our hotel and went for a walk to find lunch. The guide had warned us that people would stare more here than they did in Beijing. Wow. We definitely attract attention. Bill made the comment that if we don’t do something about Reilly’s hair, she is going to cause an accident. I think he is right. They glance in our direction and zero right in on that blonde hair of hers. The heads turn and stay looking at us as the cars/mopeds/bikes keep sailing past.
We had directions to a pizza hut, but the line was so long, we didn’t even bother. There was a KFC next door and it was also jam packed with people but at least we could get into the door. This KFC had two floors of tables and a play place, but alas, the glorious influence of the modern world has still not reached Chinese plumbers. All the bathrooms were squatty pottys. I hate those things.
Across the street from KFC, there was a massive stone wall and waterfall that was about four stories high. We went to check it out after lunch and found a huge park. There was a winding path that went uphill to what I call a Textle (this is a temple, filled with teens, all texting), then led back behind the stone waterfall to a zoo and a park next to a lake. We could see some rides from an amusement park in the distance.
The kids were tired, and Reilly was starting to lose her cool from all the gaping stares so we finally turned around, found a grocery store and headed back to the hotel. Bill and I slept, but the kids turned on the TV for the first time since we came to China.
Tomorrow we get Qing Bei and I am worried. I thought she was in an orphanage, but the guide told me that she has a foster family and they really love her. This is good for the long term, because she will have experience bonding and trusting people, but it will be horrible for the short term. I can’t imagine being in a family and then being picked up and moved to another family, just like that. Then I think of the poor foster mom, handing off a baby to a perfect stranger….
Pray for me. I’m about to go traumatize some kindly Chinese.