Further Explorations

posted Aug 26, 2010, 6:41 AM by Charles Boling   [ updated Aug 26, 2010, 7:39 AM ]

Thursday 2010-08-26

While we were sleeping on this side of the world, one of our adoption people on the other side of the world was researching our Taiwan problem. She said that she got two different stories. The Taiwanese government said it was fine to bring Jonathan through the airport as long as we didn't try to leave. The travel agency said that it was problem and that we needed both a document from the China side and from the Taiwan side.

Charles decided to go the more “risky” route and trust the Taiwanese government. Everyone out there reading this, – keep your fingers crossed and keep us in your prayers!

Jonathan was up before 7:30 this morning and we were out the door by 9:00 or so. We headed over to our favorite :-/ food stop – 7-11 and grabbed some things for an outdoor breakfast. It was already hot and sticky outside, but we really didn't want to try to eat in the hotel room – it just isn't kid-food-friendly. So we wandered over to Judy's shop and ate outside there. We visited with her again for quite awhile. She is just such a happy person. Once Jonathan was getting too antsy to stay, we headed back to the hotel room to grab a water refill and then headed out for our morning's exploration. We wandered over the large bridge over the river and down along the other side of the river where it parallels the island. (If any of you are curious as to our walking routes, you can zoom in on the “china map” on the main page to see them).

We ended up exploring in a slightly new area, actually looking for a China Mobile (cell phone) store. That is who Charles' bought his sim card from here in China. Yesterday it gave him a message that Helen translated, saying he needed to recharge it. (But it still worked fine all day today...). We use it for the maps and tracking our routes we walk – so we actually use it quite a bit.

We passed two China mobile stores on our route the day before yesterday, but couldn't remember at all where they were. So today we decided to just wander and see if we could stumble across one. What we did end up stumbling across was a “Carrefour” store. It's actually, a huge world-wide chain and is like a super-center. It was a huge mall-like building on the first two floors with lots of small shops, like you'd find in a typical American mall. The third floor was the department store part of “Carrefour”. And the fourth floor (which we almost didn't find – we thought the 3rd floor was all there was, until we discovered that the 4th floor where you checked out) was the grocery section. It was as large as a large Safeway. It was the biggest thing we've seen here for food. Great find. It had everything (except peanut butter and jelly!) that a normal store would have. It also had a great deli section and after doing some grocery shopping, we bought lunch and went out and ate it in the mall. In the department section we also found a leather belt that actually fit Charles (for work) for less than $3.

Lunch was really yummy and then we topped it off with Slushies from the 7-11 there in the mall. Michele normally doesn't do things like that, but it was SO hot and were SO thirsty for something cold (literally, that is the only way to get ice or any sort of cold drink here) that it tasted good to her too!

Then we headed on – in the direction, more or less, of our hotel, to put the fruit and veggies in the fridge. It was about a 45 minute walk away. When we got back we checked, and that entire walk was about 6 ½ miles.

On the way home clouds came over and it sprinkled just a bit – enough to actually cool things down a bit. Jonathan slept in the stroller and woke up just after we got back to the hotel. So that insured we weren't in the hotel for very long. We tried to stretch it out as much as possible, but it just wasn't working (we were really enjoying the air-conditioning).

When we headed out this time we explored a different bridge off of the island. This one took us through some interesting places. It took us by the waterfront area – just a little scary. One of the things that frustrates us the most, is that it seems that over half of the sidewalks are blocked or torn up here. The Asian games are happening in a couple of months and they are giving the entire city a facelift. But that means getting anywhere with a stroller is a challenge. The waterfront area was really bad. It's quite something to have to play chicken with a city bus (because there is NO other way to go) – especially when there are 10 of them in a row....

One of the first stores we passed, after we got off the island on this new route was a China Mobile store! The sim card was charged enough to last all through today. We're going to stop by tomorrow to recharge it.

We walked to a really pretty park – one that resembled the one in Fuzhou. Lots of water, trails and Banyan trees. Banyans are the neatest things – they send down roots all along their branches. Anything the roots can wrap around they do (or just keep growing long until they reach the ground) and they root in and form a new tree – still fully connected to the mother tree!

We walked through a park and descended into what was one of the lowest class neighborhoods we had wandered through yet. It was a narrow alley with tenements on either side. Occasional vendors selling interesting things – but very narrow. Michele was quite nervous here. Though, Charles is tall enough that she feels fairly safe with him – most of the Asians wouldn't mess with him :-).

Actually it's quite interesting – the older generation is what you think of as the typical size of Asians. But the younger generation (probably due to better nutrition) is actually quite tall. Michele fits in height-wise – most women are 5'2 to 5'6 and the men are 5'8 to 6'. The older generation is often 6 or more inches shorter than these numbers. We even saw an Asian young man that had to have been 6'5” or 6'6”.

The narrow alley way led to another entrance to the park (what we went out of) right past a temple of some sort (first one we've stumbled across). It even had a place out front where people were burning incense.

We took major streets on our way home, finally coming to the large square we have now visited many times and find very familiar. We even took a video of it this time.

We went up one of the malls there and on the 3rd floor Charles ordered a Papa John's pizza to go. The first floor was open-air and had lots of little shops, geared mostly to teens (clothes, handbags, jewelry). The second floor was ALL cell phone vendors. The third, along with Papa John's, was a video game arena with dozens and dozens of games of all sorts (and music so loud you couldn't think straight). After getting out of there we wandered down the vendor street towards home.

Michele really likes the vendor store that is the Chinese version of the Dollar store back home – the difference is here, it's the 30-cent store! Michele found some English/Chinese books and a few other things she's going to haul home :-). Our walk this time was 7 ½ miles and we got home in time for Jonathan's bedtime. Yea! We've gone through another day and we are another day closer to getting back to “normal”!

Some interesting things of note here: All of the sidewalks are made of cobblestone or bricks. It really is hard on the feet and the stroller. NO sidewalk is just cement. The cobblestones aren't laid with mortar – they are “anchored” by laying them, pouring sand all over the sidewalk, letting the pedestrians pound it in for awhile and then sweeping it off!

There are about 10 stores here on the island, like Judy's, that cater to the adoption crowd. They sell trinkets, souvenirs and things for babies and children (like the store we bought the stroller at). That's all fine and dandy, but what's funny is they have NO originality in their names. They all pick an American name for themselves and call their store by that name, then add the word “place”. So it's “Judy's Place” and “Jordan's Place” and “Mary's Place” and “Sam's Place” on and on. It's like the idea of coming up with something unique never really occurred to anyone. I wonder if it's a cultural thing – it's “normal” to not try to step out of the norm. That could be why we get such weird looks here. On the island we are “normal”. Staying on the island is “normal” for adoptive families. What's not normal is actually exploring outside the island and venturing deep into the city. So we get MANY weird looks on the street when we are out on our walks. I'm just waiting to be the cause of a bike wreck. People will pass us riding their bikes on a busy sidewalk, and turn and look at us. Then they turn again and look at Jonathan. Then they turn and look at us. And sometimes this goes on several times. :-)

I must say though, these people are EXPERT bike riders. The loads they can balance (and even push their bikes up hill) are just amazing. We can't imagine how they do it... Along with that is the odd combination of old and new we've mentioned before. But today we saw one person who typified that: A 20 something young man working. He had an old-fashioned straw hat on and was pulling a handcart (very common over here for cleaning up crews and construction crews). What made Charles chuckle though, was the MP3 player he was listening to...

One thing that really strikes us here is the NOISE. There really don't seem to be any “noise ordinances” here. The stores, especially in the square, trying to attract teens, blare music out at deafening volumes – next door to each other. The construction equipment seems to never have had mufflers installed and it all blends, with the people trying to talk over it, into a cacophony that makes your head spin. Along with that seems to also be a total lack of ear or eye protection of the construction workers. They are there welding metal with no protection on their bodies except a pair of gloves (no glasses etc...). They are using HUGE jack-hammers with not even ear plugs on. It's just incredible.

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