Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Guest Blog: Grandpa and Grandma

Lynne invited us to write a guest blog about our time in China with them. We are very happy to do so...even if it has taken us forever to actually do it!!!

We left for China on Tuesday, April 21 and returned home on Tuesday, May 5. To be honest, Jenny was pretty intimidated by the idea of China. It seemed so far away and like a "difficult" place to visit. But she was in for quite a surprise. Yes, it was far away, but both flights were uneventful and even pleasant (six total movies for Jenny; five for Doug). To be greeted at the airport by Lynne and our granddaughters made it seem more like coming home than arriving in a "far country." We were driven through the streets of a very modern city by the friendly driver, Zhang (the gentleman that regularly drives for Dave and Lynne). Cars whizzed past and we gulped a bit at the "no rules" driving of everyone around us. We were very glad for the fact that WE were not driving (this was true for the whole of our time in China!). When we arrived at our B&B, we were delighted by the lovely home Lynne and Dave have. They provided a beautiful suite for us and we quickly settled in. It was absolutely wonderful to have our two dear little granddaughters around and to be able to spend quality (as well as quantity) time with them!

We visited several restaurants in Shanghai and really enjoyed the food. This was another surprise. We rather expected that we would lose weight (even secretly hoped that the food would put us on a "forced" diet, so to speak). Unfortunately, between the delicious meals prepared by Dave & Lynne and the meals at fantastic restaurants – well, let's just say we didn't lose any pounds. Most of the time at restaurants serving Chinese food, we asked Dave to order for us and he did a splendid job of choosing a great variety of foods so there was always plenty to eat and plenty to like! It was also surprising that there were many restaurants offering Western style food (Italian, etc.) that was excellent, and we enjoyed these as well.

Lynne took us to the Fabric Market and we had fun ordering some clothes (after the requisite haggling . . . Lynne is good at it, so Jenny let her do that for her! Doug was a bit more adept, except for Jenny making him back down too quickly!). We also saw L--'s school -- which was really amazing . . . when we walked in we were struck with just how "happy" and whimsical an atmosphere was created by the teachers there. We can well understand now the disappointment Dave & Lynne have that the school may be closed in the Fall.

The first Saturday in Shanghai, Dave took us on a walking (and, to be honest, "cabbing" also) tour of the city. Lynne and the girls met up with us for lunch and we had such a great time. Shanghai was amazing to see . . . the construction and productivity of the city were mindboggling. On Sunday we all went together to the World Financial Center, one of the tallest buildings in the world. It was quite awesome to see the city stretched out below us and to get even more of a perspective on the size and growth of Shanghai – and the Lord even gave us a relatively clear (by Shanghai standards!) day.

For the next week we had the joy of traveling with Dave & Lynne and the girls to Beijing and to Yangshuo – a great mixture of contrasts. If Shanghai is like a combination of our New York and Los Angeles multiplied by two, Beijing is like our Washington, D.C. – with historic buildings, wide avenues, and public squares. Lynne proved again her prowess as a travel agent by arranging our stay in a two-bedroom suite right downtown. We visited the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, as well as a traditional area which we saw from the seat of a rickshaw (the drivers were given a full week off after hauling us around!). We also took a day trip to see the Great Wall – where we will have lasting memories of grandchildren taking their tiny steps on that huge edifice. We really felt like pinching ourselves at times to be sure that this all wasn't a dream. To actually be in China, with our loved ones, and seeing such amazing sights -- it was a gift from the Lord to us.

Yangshuo, by contrast, was the China of traditional post cards: foreground of rice paddies with waterbuffalo and women wearing cone-shaped straw hats and with background of steep Karst hills. We stayed at an eco-resort right on a river. We also managed to get in some shopping on a Yangshuo market street, ruthlessly driving for some tremendous bargains (only triple the "Chinese" price). We varied our town time with walks through villages amid the Karst Hills.

We enjoyed the people we met along the way in China. Although most did not speak English, they were friendly. The pressure to buy from street merchants was somewhat intimidating; but, in the end, it just added to the atmosphere.

Leaving our loved ones on Tuesday morning, back in Shanghai, was not easy – especially since we do not know when we will all be together again.

Dave & Lynne are sure great tour guides! They made our time in China so much fun—we got to see so much and do so much—and yet it was restful too. Thanks, you guys, for all you did to give us such a wonderful visit. We love you all and miss you greatly.

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