Leaving Fuzhou

posted Aug 20, 2010, 6:33 PM by Charles Boling   [ updated Aug 21, 2010, 7:47 AM ]

Friday 2010-08-20

Whew – another early morning from Jonathan – this time though it was 6:30 instead of 5:30! Last night too, a bunch of people came in after midnight talking VERY loudly in the hallways – it sounded like dozens of people all laughing and having a great time :-(. They were out there for at least 15 or 20 minutes being very obnoxious. I wonder how many of them had a little too much to drink...

This morning we had our usual “before breakfast” stroll down the boardwalk along the lake. Then we had our “usual” breakfast and came back up to the room. Jonathan needed to get out about 9:30 (he was getting antsy) so Charles stayed and did computer stuff while Michele and Jonathan wandered around the hotel and surrounding area. Apparently there is a big conference or something happening today here, because there were a large number of people (all dressed in white shirts and black pants or skirts) milling around and talking. The obnoxious part was the SMOKING. Ugh. It was so thick in the lobby and lower floors you could see it. Michele had a sore throat before she was done. Unfortunately this was the day Jonathan wanted to be inside instead of out... She “forced” him to go out though, when she just couldn't stand the smoke anymore. Boy, the Chinese people are going to have a serious lung cancer problem in a decade or so...

When we first got Jonathan, he had a mild cold, and that seems to be mostly clearing up. But he still has a racking cough – that happens if he cries hard, or when he first gets up. Charles made the observation this morning that it really sounds like an asthmatic cough (Charles has asthma, as does Alexander, so we are familiar with that sound). We wouldn't be surprised a bit if he did, considering the smoke he's spent the first 2 ½ years of his life inhaling!!!

Nap time came early today – 11:00, which is good since we need to checkout today and catch a plane this evening to our next city.

Here are some more “cultural differences” to share:

It's suberbly hot and sticky over here, but the Chinese people enjoy the “fresh air”. They all have A/C but don't use it except at night or when a child is taking a nap. Otherwise they leave the windows open.

Yogurt for babies and toddlers is a big thing here. As soon as they can drink from a straw as an infant they are given little cups of yogurt with a straw pushed through the lid to drink, like an American child would drink a bottle. Even at Jonathan's age, he is still used to 2 “bottles” a day. The kind we get at the breakfast buffet are a similar size and style to the pudding cups you can buy for kid's lunches in the US. They have a foil lid that you push a straw through (like a “Capri-Sun”). The more common kind is one that doesn't need to be kept cold. It's about the same volume, but a hard plastic bottle with a small, hard, foil lid that the straw gets punched through. It reduces spilling and you see little kids frequently, sucking on these as they are walking along the street or park. I'm sure this is very good for their little digestive systems. Yogurt has all sorts of good things in it.

We've talked about the transportation differences a little here. In Hong Kong, things were set up very smoothly. Many buses, taxis and trains served most people's needs very well. There were few cars and even fewer bicycles and motorcycles. In mainland, things are quite different. American cities think that encouraging people to use bikes and motorcycles, to reduce traffic and emissions is the answer to all their traffic woes. Anyone who truly believes that, needs to come to a Chinese city. Even the Chinese cities, with many fewer cars, can't cope with all the bikes and scooters! When you do get more than half your population on bikes and scooters, with out planning for them properly (like designated lanes and rules) it turns into an absolute zoo. It's really scary walking on the side walk or crossing the street. America has huge traffic congestion problems, but if all of those people tried to switch to bikes, it wouldn't help. It's hard to say what the best choice is, but blindly saying that all people should take bikes isn't it!

It's interesting looking at the transportation vehicles themselves. The cars are ALL new. It's hard to find anything over five years old. It would be interesting to know what these cars cost over here. It's hard to say that anything over here is a true “motorcycle”. You really don't find anything that big. Most things would be classified as “scooters”. Some are two seaters, some are really old and rusty, some are brand new and shiny. Some even double as bicycles – they can be pedaled or motor-driven. None are very loud. The bikes are reminiscent of America's bikes in the 50's for the most part. A few newer (like 20 year old) bikes are around, but they are hard to find. “Mountain bikes” are very rare – most are wide-seated, “touring” style. Most appear to have been around for quite some time.

Another little note – this may have been mentioned earlier, but in Hong Kong it was interesting that they started numbering all of their building's floors at the “ground” floor. The floor above the ground floor was the first floor. Above that was the second floor. It was really confusing when we asked where something was and they said “it's on the first floor” and we'd say “but we're on the first floor!”. Luckily, on the mainland, things are numbered similarly to America.

Another interesting difference: The Chinese people enjoy swinging their arms and slapping themselves on their back as they walk (in time as they walk) – we assume to improve circulation and just get everything flowing well. It looks quite strange to a Westerner to see people just walking casually, anywhere, and swinging their arms wildly. But if you've never tried it, you should – it really does feel good (but it you are in America, don't do it in public... :-) ).

The afternoon was really boring as we alternated waiting in our room with taking Jonathan out in a smoky hotel with going outside in the heat briefly (we didn't want to spend too much time and get really sweaty outside because we wouldn't be able shower when we got back since we were leaving.) Finally 3:00 came and we went down to a meeting room in the hotel to wait for Jonathan's passport. The other family I mentioned before also came for the same thing. Eventually a police officer arrived (a very young, slightly “I'm not totally sure what I'm doing”, man). The fellow from the Civil Affairs office was there as well and gave us each a gift – a decorative plate with Pandas on it (neat since we got to see the Pandas the day before). The police officer signed the paperwork and gave us Jonathan's passport. I asked for a photo of the Civil affairs person and the officer. They seemed surprised at first, but then realized they liked the idea and soon everyone was exchanging cameras and taking pictures :-).

Then we headed to the airport with Helen and the same driver that brought us to the hotel from the airport. We got there about 3 ½ hours before our flight. Ugh. We really wished it hadn't been so long. The Fuzhou airport is the smallest we've been in yet, and it doesn't take much effort to walk through the ENTIRE thing. It would have been boring by ourselves – but with an active 2 year old!!! Wow. Then or flight was delayed an hour and a half. So make that 5 hours in the airport with an active 2 year old. We were exhausted before even boarding. We ate a light dinner at the airport and were grateful when we finally boarded.

Jonathan did really well on the flight, considering it was SOOOO late. We didn't get off the plane until after midnight and Jonathan didn't sleep a bit on the plane. He got up from his nap this afternoon around 12:30 and didn't sleep again until we were in the car coming to the hotel around 12:30 midnight. Anyway, the airplane dropped us off really close (for a huge airport) to the baggage claim area and we actually got out rather quickly. We met our new guide, whose American name was also Helen (this could get confusing!!!) and she led us to the van we would be riding in. A bit older van than the last one – and to Michele's worry, had NO seatbelts in the back seats at all. The driver was fairly similar to the other driver – just a bit older. Our new guide looks to be just a bit older than our last one.
It took us over 45 minutes to get to the hotel – and Jonathan (big surprise) slept the entire way. On the plane he was cute – he had to figure out everything – the buttons, the seatbelt, the lap tray etc... He spent time playing peek a boo with a teenage girl behind us. He munched a lot on snacks – both the peanuts and the things we packed. He drove his car some – he only fussed when he had to be strapped back in his seat at descent. Then the stewardess brought him a little sack of breath mints. That kept him busy until we disembarked the plane.

The drive took us on very similar territory to the drive from the Fuzhou airport. Lots of freeways that look just like US freeways. Our hotel is in a REALLY old building – not nearly as nice as the last one. But what was funny was how similar the hotel room is to the last one. It is laid out EXACTLY the same way – just a little smaller. Similar furnishings (though Michele really likes this mattress better than the last one) though a darker tone because the trim is dark here. The carpet, towels etc... are downgrade – but the air-conditioning works better! It actually got cool enough to keep Charles comfortable!

The smoking was terrible in the hallways outside our room though. Gag. I will be so glad to get back to a country that doesn't allow smoking in buildings... Ooof – and the Greek art on the walls we find quite offensive. Naked bodies plastered around (like what you look at when the elevator doors open, an entire wall on one side of the lobby). It's just not what we consider art.

The location of the hotel is much more convenient to things than our last one was though. The last one was surrounded by park and other hotels. This one, while we do miss the park, is really close to restaurants, shopping places etc...