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Published: July 14th 2010
Get ready for the culture shock, have your kid do the talking...and have fun!
...Because so far, that's what it's been. Downright fun. I haven't seen a family member in the flesh for more than nine months. I have been working in my third language, enduring a fiercely cold winter, as well as the usual trials of being a new kid in town (and a sore thumb at that); and now, the parents are here, and I am no longer the only one getting stared at! We're doing it together, and it's great!
Speaking more seriously, on the bus to the airport in Hushi, it hit me: I am going to be in my family again. My parents have come to the other side of the planet...for me. I feel so much gratitude and genuine happiness to be in their company. And being their interpreter has shown me exactly how far I have come with the language. They may have felt the language barrier too great before, but they have always wanted to come to China. I am so happy to be there with them for it. It has been a blast.
We started by meeting in Beijing.
Ironically, it was I who was late. My plane was delayed a few hours due to fog, and so I arrived in Bejing at 2:30 am local time, worried sick about my parents. Fortunately I had heard they were on time to the hotel and were waiting for me. When I saw my Dad through the window of the hotel lobby, I literally burst out of the car to go hug him. I stayed up with my parents until four in the morning, just catching up.
We stayed at a luxurious hotel built in an old Imperial complex (built for one of the dynastic princes as his private residence) and had the most truly superb hotel experience. Tailor-made service. Professional, poised staff. Not to mention, the unbelievably beautiful Shanghai '20s- style restoration of the rooms, with rich, dark-stained wood floors and panelling, lattices, furniture, hand-painted wall-paper, beds on platforms in alcoves enclosed by cocoon-like silk curtains...uniquely Chinese, and hands-down the most beautiful rooms I have ever seen. It was like stepping into a movie in Old China.
Our first day, we were ready to eat at lunch. I had considered Beijing duck for some weeks, and found a
restaurant recommended in our Eye Witness guide to China: "Beijing Da Dong Kao Ya." For duck lovers, in China, a must. Divinely crafted, carved and served at the table, and worth every penny (or fen). My mother, who thought she disliked duck, ate her fair share! I felt a pang when I remebered reading "Ping the Duck" as a child, but perhaps the duck was just that sinfully good that the pang was brief and quickly disappeared.
That made up our first day, as my parents were very jet-lagged. The next day was to bring the first of the real culture shock. They had experienced a little of that lostness you feel when you don't know the language; but when we went to the Forbidden City, they got the full-on, "China is BIG" effect. Tian An Men Square was a sea of humanity (which we declined to enter), and the Forbidden City, teeming with Chinese and foreigner alike, was close to busting at the seams. They were deeply affected by the beauty of the architecture, as was I: everything seemed new and even grander, though I had seen it before. An old coworker of mine accompanied us to lunch
and then the City; and though his English is next to none, he quickly won my parents over, anyway; and he was an invaluable guide to the buildings and what they were used for.
The third day in Beijing we went to the Badaling section of the Great Wall, and took the more difficult side (turning to the left after entering), which though hard was more scenic, in my opinion, with fewer people and lush vegetation below being wrapped in the bosom of a dense mist. The towers above flickered in and out of view, and rain began falling as we left.
Next was lunch and a visit to the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven, where we soaked up some culture by observing the locals (many retirees) at their leisure, playing cards, practicing music and playing "Jianzi," the Chinese answer to hackey-sack.
Today, a morning flight to Xi'an, lunch, then the Bell Tower. Tomorrow, the Terrcotta Warriors, Shaanxi History Museum and hopefully the Grand Mosque and dinner in the Muslim quarter. So much to write about, it's overwhelming. But in a way, writing cannot do what I am feeling justice: seeing my parents experiencing and enjoying
a country I love; seeing how far my Chinese has come in the four years since I last visited these places; feeling confident and helpful.
More tomorrow, hopefully more coherent, and with the photos nicely (re)organized.
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