Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Thursday in Fuzhou

Right now Shelly and Mia are relaxing in the AC so I thought I'd give a try at this blogging stuff. (See picture-they are watching Chinese music videos and now Balto is on HBO - like mother like daughter huh?!.) I also have to apologize if I'm repeating what Shelly has put - I haven't seen what she has been blogging :-)

This morning we went to a museum on the history of Fuzhou. Was really tiny compared to our museums (only one floor) but it was very interesting. They had everything from excavated mummies from the Song Dynasty to samples of their ShouShan stone carvings from the Yuan Dynasty to wax replica's of influential citizens. We then stopped at Wal-Mart again on the way back for people to re-stock up on formula, bottled water, etc. Personally I purchased a sun umbrella. It is still blazingly hot out - probably only 100 degrees today versus yesterday's (110!!!!). I don't know how these guys survive - It is like walking in a furnace - being in the shade offers minimal relief - if you lean against a wall in the shade thinking it might be cool - it is just as hot. Almost everyone here uses sun umbrellas - a tan is not a desirable item in China. But it does help. (Forget about makeup - it "melt's" right off)

After that we returned to the hotel and Mia took her nap. I decided to be adventerous and walk around to a little park which is across the lake from our hotel. The good news is I took my "sunbrella" - the bad news is I did not take any water. But, it was worth the walk (see picture). I think I lost about 4 pounds of water over the 1-2 hours - thank heavens for the little shops which dotted the way - the super wonderful gentleman saw me taking a water out of the fridge and instead lead me over to the freezer where there was much cooler water - bless his heart! The people here truly are very, very kind. Communication can be a bit difficult at times, but once they understand what you want, they immediately provide it for you. They are very serious people - we laugh and smile a lot more - I'm unsure why that is. I'll have to do some research on this one.

Speaking of communication, for anyone ever coming to China, do go to Barnes and Nobles or some bookstore and get a Chinese-English dictonary--pocket size is good -but the more comprehensive the better. Also make sure it has some sort of how to pronounce the Chinese words. Communication has been interesting - unlike other places I have been to, a surprising number of Chinese people do not speak a "lick" of English! This is especially surprising at our hotel - one would think a hotel that caters to Westerners would have more staff who are bilingual but this is not the case. Example: We needed a converter for Shelly's camera as hers was not working. I called the Concierge first - he spoke no Enlish. Did not understand the words "converter" or "adapter", etc. He transferred me to the Operator. The Operator did not understand what I wanted and transferred me to housekeeping. They did not understand what I wanted so they sent me back to the Concierge, who then sent me back to housekeeping. So, I could not communicate my need for a converter, but my little phrase book did have the word for towels (phonetically "Mow-jeen") so I did ask for four of these ("sur") and they were delivered immediately. I ended up calling our guide who called down and explained we needed a converter. This morning after we had breakfast, the cafe gave us a bill for the two cokes we had brought down from the room. I was having a devil of a time trying to explain to them that "we brought down from our room", "cold from refridgerator", "cold from room," "carry down," you name it. Finally I said the magic words "Cokes from Wal-Mart"--ahhhhh, they apologized and all was okay. (too funny :-) One of the gentleman in our group went down to the business center to try and get a newspaper and ended being pointed to the cigarettes. :-) When I tried to see if they had diapers the first day they sent me to the bathroom - LOL. (I have tried to find a dictionary here but they only have the English word and then the Chinese characters - not the Chinese word -- most likely due to the Chinese characters are the only universal language to the Chinese people -there are 56 different dialects within China and they are very very different!!! If you wish to study a language, the "official" dialect has been deemed Mandarin and that has worked well for me.) It is neat to note that when we went to a Chinese version of an outlet mall, as we were looking at shoes, the clerks were very nice, but didn't understand when we were asking for a larger size. A nice gentleman came to our assistance and helped the clerks understand what we were looking for. It turns out that he has just returned from studying/practicing his English in the US as he has been hired by the government to go about and start helping the vendors and shop clerks understand more English in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing - very smart country!

Okay, one more cute item, when we were in the mall, four of us plus two strollers and babies got on the little glass elevator. There was a little Chinese fella who ended up at the back as we go on. As the doors closed, you could he was voicing concern that he was trapped and would not be able to get off. All of us at about the same time told him "We'll let you off" in our kindest voices. I wish I had a picture of his expression. It was just priceless - he looked down at the floor, scrunched up his brow in puzzlement, and with his index finder scratched his head by his ear and murmured "hummm" in the classic "What in the world are these people saying." Classic.

So, we are now just hanging out until dinner. Tomorrow we leave in the afternoon for our final stop in Guanjou (I have no idea how to spell or pronounce this) but it is where everyone must go for the final paperwork and official visit to the consulate before you return home. We have no official sight-seeing tomorrow, but I'm going to check to see if it is easy to get to the Panda zoo. It would be a shame to be in China and not see the Pandas! Wish us luck - if we can just get there we will be fine - all hotels have pre-printed cards which say right on them "drive me back to the Lakeside Hotel" in Chinese so you just have to hand them to a taxi driver. :-)

Mia is now ready for a walk so will venture outside once more--this time with water and won't go as far away :-)

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