Another night with little rest, but I am ready to head to our next destination. We have spent 6 hours flying (not including the 24+ hours to and fro the US), another 6 hours sitting in airports (not including the 13 hours of layovers to and fro the US), and somewhere around 20 hours sitting in traffic or driving between cities during the time we have been in China.I almost feel like I am going to need another vacation to recover.
We stopped for a quick breakfast at a little hole-in-the-wall (literally). Four of us ate for about $3 USD. Cheap, but I would have preferred Cocoa Puffs. Its all about the experience though. And I guess giving everyone else the chance to stare at an American. If I thought Beijing had fewer Caucasians than I expected, I never thought there would be a place that has really never seen one.
This morning we went to pick up Yeye since he doesn’t typically leave the apartment (he is 90 years old and has trouble walking up and down the stairs to their 4th
floor apartment) to take him with us to visit Liang’s dad’s family cemetery. In China there
are public cemeteries but often families chose and tend to their own “plots” instead. During this part of our trip we have a driver and a nice conversion van (Liang still gets excited that they have massaging seats) that comfortably seats 6- we had 8 people on this trip. Liang’s mom, Tina, Liang and I climbed into the back for the 30 minute ride up the mountain to the cemetery. The roads are mostly paved, but are whatever the opposite of flat is. The conversion van has a high roof and we wondered why this was. Today our question was answered. Without seatbelts in the back we bounced out of our seats with every bump. If the ceiling had been any lower we would all have migraines tonight.
We finally arrived at the mountain that the cemetery lies atop of. We pulled over to the side of the road and hopped out. Yeye stayed behind as he could not make the trip up (and basically told us we were crazy for going). Now we needed to make the trek up the steep slope in the snow and ice. At some points the side was nearly vertical and Liang had to push me uphill. Then we hit the weeds. Luckily the driver had stopped on the way in and borrowed a machete from a villager. Liang’s dad’s brother cut a path for us to follow. We finally reached the top where Liang’s dad’s mother, grandmother, and several other family members are buried. We burned large sheets of special paper that represent sending money to the next life for those buried there. This was a really unique thing to be able to experience first-hand. Again, something you would never get from the big cities.
After we bumped and jostled our way back into town, dropped off Yeye and said our goodbyes, we headed back into the van for the two hour drive to Yingkou (Liang’s mom’s home town). We arrived here and were greeted by many family members at the hotel (5 star from here on out- China’s rankings go up to 7 stars) and had a little time to relax before dinner. Tonight was another large family style meal but this time it was more laid back and actually with family. Yingkou is a coastal town known for their seafood. Tonight I ate sea cucumber, raw crawfish and even….wait for it…donkey intestine. I wasn’t too happy when they told me to try it and then informed me what it was after
I ate it. I draw the line at eating intestines. I deal with those enough in my everyday life. Ick.
During dinner we also got to try a saki that is specially made for the nine highest ranking Chinese officials in the country and only these individuals. Its not even sold anywhere. The “leader” of our group knows someone and got his hands on some. I feel pretty special. The nine highest ranking officials and some girl from Wisconsin now!
During dinner they asked me to explain Christmas to them. As I’ve mentioned before Christmas really isn’t celebrated here and they thought it was just the counterpart to Chinese New Year- American New Year. I explained Jesus’ birth to them. Then they asked about Santa Claus. I started to explain that this wasn’t linked to the religious holiday when Liang interjected that Santa had come from Bethlehem. He was serious. Don’t trust anything he says.
We have another busy day planned tomorrow visiting the city and nearby family. I think I am about ready to head home now. I need a day where I have nothing planned and nowhere to be. The stuff of dreams.
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