Sunday, July 29, 2007

Last Days in Xiamen

We’ve been busy, busy, busy since returning from Xi’an. I’m really glad we went, but it has made the last few days of getting ready to leave completely crazy. We’ve had to pack up all the things we’re leaving behind (the stuff that was here when we got here, plus everything we bought to make our stay more comfortable but are too big to take home) AND the things we’re taking with us. And we’ve been saying goodbye to friends.

Friday evening Chen Xing (Maya’s classmate) and her family came over to bring us some gifts, and to take away some of the things we didn’t want to take home – some clothes Zoe has outgrown, some toys, all of the English-language workbooks we brought and didn’t use (!). They were also nice enough to take foodstuffs – bottles of soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic juice, sesame oil – that we couldn’t take home. I hate waste, so I’m glad they said they could use it.

Before we left for Xi’an I got a call from one of the parents in Zoe’s class. She said all the parents wanted to thank me for the English lessons and for putting together the English teaching materials to send home with the kids for the summer. They wanted to take us out to dinner Saturday night. I said that would be lovely.

Little did I know that it was going to be a HUGE party, with all 3 teachers and about 12 families in attendance! (The picture above is from the end of the evening and we’d lost some folks by then; the grownups are the three teachers). I think, though, that we were just an excuse for a party. Or maybe it was a little guanxi. Guanxi translates literally as “relationships,” but in China it’s often about doing favors and returning favors. The Chinese business world is built on guanxi, providing gifts and favors for business associates, government officials, those you hope to do business with. You’ll often hear Chinese people use the English expression, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” to explain guanxi. It’s not quite bribery, but it sometimes looks mighty close! I detected a little sense that the parents felt they owed me payback. But who cares? It was fun, and the girls had a great time!

We were picked up by one of the families and taken to a hotel with a huge buffet restaurant. The girls ate practically everything in sight, though they refused to eat a Xiamen specialty – seaworms in gelatin. Because our hostess insisted, believe it or not I ate it! Thank goodness it’s eaten with wasabi and soy sauce, so I couldn’t taste a thing beyond hot, hot, hot. And I didn't actually chew, so the gelatin just kind of slithered down my throat! Remember that old childhood retort, “Eat worms and die!”? Well, now I can say I ate worms and lived to tell about it.
Zoe much preferred the ice cream (can you blame her?).

Maya didn’t care what she ate, she just liked playing and being the pet of all the older kids and grownups.
I admit I had more fun hanging out with the kids than with the grownups – they are easier to talk to when you don’t speak the same language!
I think I’ve mentioned (brag, brag, brag!) that Zoe won a speech contest at Chinese School in Fort Worth for reciting a poem. Well, I’ve been trying to get her to say it to ANYONE here in China and she has adamantly refused. FINALLY, to my amazement, she agreed to say it to her teachers!
The teachers were amazed – they pulled over one of the English-speaking moms to translate their praise. They said she barely spoke a word at school, and they had no idea she knew any Chinese. They also said her pronouciation was excellent, that she got the tones right and everything. (But remember the rest of the story about the speech contest? I asked Zoe what the poem meant and she said, “I don’t know, it was in Chinese!” I’m still not sure she has a clue what she said!) Zoe was pretty proud of herself, and I sure was, too.

Today we went to my office to pack up everything there – not too much since I’m leaving all the books. Walking back to the apartment we stopped at the store to buy “special snacks” for the long plane ride. Mostly we wanted to cash in all of the coins the girls have been collecting in their piggy banks. I was amazed at how much they had – 52 yuan, mostly in 1-jiao coins (10 jiao = 1 yuan)! You can buy a lot of snacks with that!

As we walked home, the girls had a great time saying goodbye to everything – “goodbye, school; goodbye, basketball court; goodbye butterfly leaves; goodbye, beach. . .” you get the idea. Before long, though, the litany of goodbyes degenerated into “goodbye, stinky trash can; goodbye, beggars; goodbye, crazy drivers; goodbye rude people (that would be folks who cut in line, stare at us, pick their noses, etc.!).” Obviously they have their own list of “what I won’t miss about China!”) And just like my list, it’s a way to make themselves feel better about leaving.

Because we have had a wonderful time here. When you ask the girls whether they are happy to be going home, they’ll definitely say yes. But when you ask them if they’d like to come back to China, they say yes, too. And I admit I’m in full agreement – it will be wonderful to get home, and we’ll definitely be back!

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 we head to the airport with our nine pieces of luggage (3 suitcases, 3 carry-ons, 3 backpacks), first stop Guangzhou. We’ll spend the night at the White Swan Hotel, and then take the China Southern night flight, leaving 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31. We arrive at LAX around 7 p.m. the same day (the international date line is in our favor on the trip home), but don’t leave there until a little after midnight, making it Wednesday, August 1. We’ll arrive at DFW at 5:15 a.m. (poor Cousin Aaron, who has to come pick us up!). Yippee! We’re almost home now . . . .


Anonymous said...

Coming out of lurkdom to say how much I have enjoyed all your newsy posts from China. I have great intentions of someday moving to China with my daughter (now age 7)to teach English (I'm a college English teacher). Your blog has given us such wonderful insight into what that experience would be like. I will miss your wonderful stories about daily life in China, but, like others have said, I look forward to hearing how Zoe and Maya re-adjust to life on this side of the international dateline.
Thanks for taking so many of us along on your wonderful adventure.

Lee McCoy
Ottawa, Canada

Chinazhoumom said...

It has been such a joy to read all about your day to day adventures in China. I have learned so much and found places that I plan to visit with my daughter when we return to China (next year). China is such a lovely country - sure it has it's items - but so does the good ole USA - I hope you continue your blog - so we can keep up on your girls - My daughter loved looking at the pictures of "MY CHINA" as she calls it..

Well travel safe - Welcome Home.
Carol & Kimberly

Anonymous said...

Bon voyage! Thanks for all your wonderful posts. Please continue to write when you get home (after you get your nose out of a good book!). As you leave, my family and I depart for China. Please visit us at - would love to hear from you and anyone else who may be interested. Your blog will be a very tough act to follow! You, Zoe, Maya (and Mimi, too) feel like real friends. Take care.

A.M.B.A. in MI

Anonymous said...

Have a great trip! I will miss following your China adventures.

Elizabeth in KS

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your daily
adventures in China. We have a
grand daughter from Zhangzhou.
My daughter ,who is a teacher
wants to take her back to China
in a few years to visit. Have a
safe trip back to Texas.
Yvonne in Kentucky..a retired

mimifrancoise said...

Have a great trip home. Hope you will have less than 30 newly adopted babies on the long flight (like we had on the fligth bringing Maya home). As you know, we are so excited about having our 3 girls back! I just talked to Aaron and he didn't faint when I told him what time we have to be at the airport. He will pick me up before heading for DFW. Today he is 22 years old. He and Erica are coming over for dinner. I made thae cake he said he wanted..plain yellow with chocolate icing.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed following your adventure. Everyday I looked forward to reading your posts. My daughter is from Fujian, and one day I wish to take her to China for a visit (or more). I admire what you did (I am also a single mother). I will miss following your adventure. Good luck.

Melissa in Kentucky
(I see my mother posted earlier today.)