Anyway, here is the conclusion to the trip. Thoughts and insights will have to wait until my brain is in less of a fog.
Last day in Andrew's city. I mended several articles of his clothing, re-packed the suitcase, finished up several things I had been doing around his house. I also walked to the commercial area off campus to take videos of the streets, markets, and shops, and also go to the ATM one more time.
In the evening, his neighbors James and Joanna from upstairs, and also his friend Carolyn, came for supper. We still had plenty of spaghetti fixings so made another pot of it, and also another pineapple casserole. Joanna brought salad and some cookies, and Carolyn brought bread. Nice last dinner.
Up at 5:15 to meet Andrew's friend Jim at the back gate of campus by 6:15. He had kindly texted Andrew the day before, and offered to take us to the train station. Jim is a brilliant hydrologist in his forties who is working on major dam projects in the area; he and Andrew have become friends. Andrew helps him with translation work and Jim does kind things like this for Andrew. And as Jim said while I was there, "We do not keep lists."
The trip to the train station was another great tour of the city - I saw parts that we'd not been to yet. I also saw my first and only church building in the city (7 million people according to Wikipedia) - a Three-Self church near the downtown.
Jim dropped us off around 7:00 and we made our way inside, past the beggars playing instruments and the people hurrying to work. We went through security, waited about twenty minutes, and boarded a D-train to Beijing. Those are the nicer (not the nicest but still very good) trains - we had assigned seats and a pleasant car. I took the window seat to get the best view. Saw fields, cities, towns, polluted rivers (every river appears to be polluted), rice paddies, and more. In six hours' worth of viewing fields of corn, beans, orchards, and rice, I did not see a single mechanical implement. I did see that paper bags are placed over all the fruit on trees to prevent birds from eating the fruit. That would be a huge amount of manual labor.
Arrived Beijing at 2:15 and immediately headed for the subway. Now we had another experience of crowds, security, and moving as quickly as possible. This subway trip included two changes to other lines, so we were in transit for well over an hour. It was very nice to see our friend Sam in his van waiting for us at the end of all this.
|Four boys who couldn't quit grinning at me on the subway. They don't see many middle-aged white women!|
Saturday morning we left for Starbucks and then - the Great Wall!! Penny-Sue kindly gave a day to drive us there. The trip there should have been only a little over an hour, but due to a wreck it took three. Their three girls (one is their summer guest) went up to the wall with us. We went up on a chairlift; I came down on the same chairlift but the girls and Andrew took the toboggan down. Being on the wall is surreal. There really isn't anything up there except the wall itself, but just knowing you are standing on such a piece of history makes it quite an event. We got several pictures, including one reading WORLD magazine and one reading the ELECTRIC CITY NEWS. Hopefully both can be published.
In the afternoon, our hosts had to leave for a Book study and some work obligations, and two of the girls had a class to teach. But the third took Andrew and me to the Pearl Market. Due to the lateness of the Wall trip, I only had about thirty minutes to shop. Amazing all I can accomplish in that short amount of time. In the evening we met the other girls and went to a performance of the Chinese Acrobatic Troupe. Unbelievable contortions, acts, and immersion in Chinese culture.
|Our trip to the Chinese Acrobats|
Sunday - last day in China. All were up early as we had to leave for the meeting by a little after 9:00. We drove about 45 minutes to another part of the city, picking up three Chinese along the way. (12 of us in a van - Chinese rules are a little more lax.) We met in two believers' apartment - 12 Chinese plus our group. Sitting in a circle, singing from a Chinese hymnbook with the girls' accompaniment on the violins - very touching. The room was warm because the air conditioner did not reach in there, and of course the windows could not be opened. There is another group that meets on Saturday nights; the groups cannot be merged because they would get too large and attract too much attention. Sam spoke in Chinese and his daughter translated for me. Being a part of this small nucleus of Chinese family, just for one Sunday, was an honor.
|Mao's tomb in the middle of Tiananmen Square|
After eating, we returned to their apartment (which is comfortable and relatively roomy), I repacked my suitcase, and then they got back into their van to take me to the airport. (I said that they were wonderful hosts. Not once did they suggest that I take the subway or bus or taxi.) I said goodbye to them after checking in my baggage, and then Andrew walked with me to the security checkpoint. Needless to say, it was difficult to say goodbye to him. He and the others are being light in a dark place; I am so proud of him and of them all.
After a 14-hour flight to Washington-Dulles, and another short flight home, I retrieved my luggage and saw Mike waiting outside. Wonderful to see him. He should have been in the bed at home, as both Sunday and Monday were stressful work days, but he was determined to come pick me up even at 11:30 p.m.
So, after some recuperation days (yesterday I never left the house) I will post comments and more pictures!
Thank you to those who have kept up with the progress of this trip. I appreciated it.