Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guangzhou and Pingyuan

On August 27 we arrived in Guangzhou (the city where my mom was born) to stay one night before traveling to my grandfather's village. The extent of which we saw Guangzhou consisted of the path between the Guangzhou train station and the apartment we stayed in. We found a place described as "a 3 minute walk from the train station" so it'd be easy for us considering we had our packs on.

Arriving in Guangzhou Train Station (East)

When I asked where the hotel/apartment was in English, I got laughed at and then offered the cost of 40 Yuan from the taxi driver to take us there. I replied in Chinese, "What are you laughing at? It's close by, why would I pay you 40?"

We eventually found the apartment after asking about 4 people and it was close...not much to really see in Guangzhou.

The apartment we stayed in was one of the smelliest and dirtiest. Paul didn't even open his backpack to change his clothes. I found a cockroach in a cupboard and made Paul check it out. He found the source of the rotting smell - it was a leftover bowl of instant noodles in the cupboard with the cockroach. Classy. You may ask why we didn't just go complain - since I'm usually so good at it. Well, we had already tried to ask for a taxi for the next morning to take us to the airport they only said "no taxi." So, perhaps it was the language barrier but I'm sure it's just that the locals don't like to help. They especially don't like to help me because I look Chinese but tell them I'm American. My Mandarin got us by and helped (or so I thought) in some situations but it wasn't until we met a couple of New Zealanders (aka Kiwis) on our Tibet tour that I fully realized how much I was handicapping Paul by traveling with him in China. Basically the locals don't like helping us because of me. Andy and Warrick, the two guys we traveled with around Tibet, told us how helpful everyone was with them while they navigated through China - offering directions and even offering to pay for taxis! Maybe I was just in denial the whole time but now that I reflect on our time in China, it is clear that if Paul did all the talking and I stayed 3 feet behind, we may have gotten further. More than once people assumed I was Paul's tour guide. Paul says that he felt people's contempt for me.

Anyway, I digress...we were so disturbed by the dirtiness of the room that we probably only slept for four hours.

Don't be fooled by the bedazzled bed/headboard. This place (Guangzhou Yicheng Poly Zhonghui Apartment) was really a dump.

The next morning, we headed to the train station to wait in the taxi line. 45 minutes later, we got one to take us to the airport.

Driving to the airport all you see is construction - more and more apartment complexes going up

We made it to Meixian airport where my mom's friend and some family members I've never met, greeted us. We then drove another 2 hours to Ping Yuan. When Paul and I planned our China itinerary and discussed options with my mom, she suggested that we visit Pingyuan for a few reasons. One - it is where my grandfather (my mom's dad) is from. Two - my mom's charity, TLC Charities, supports local students with scholarships. And three - my mom wanted a second opinion on a potential investment (one of her dreams is to build a bamboo farm). Interested in seeing where my family is from and knowing my mom needed some help, we planned our trip to Pingyuan. Only a week or so prior my mom decided she could meet us there. Lucky for us because the language barrier would have been challenging. The locals, including my family, speak Hakka, a dialect that I do not understand. Between my poor Mandarin and everyone's limited English, it was just great fun for Paul!

Man, it was hot here

Rice fields in Ping Yuan

Upon arriving in Pingyuan, we had a home cooked meal. After a short nap, our first order of business was to hand out this year's TLC scholarships to the students. TLC Charities is a 501c3 non-profit organization that my mom founded in 2008 in hopes of providing moral and financial support to less fortunate and disadvantaged children. The goal is for children to experience a more consistent education at the highest quality available as well as support disadvantaged single mothers who may be going through a difficult period in their lives.

Group shot

Paul was a big celebrity with the kids

We chatted with the kids so they could practice their English for awhile and then we headed back to my mom's friend's place. My mom arrived late that night and the next morning we checked out some potential land located in the Lovesickness Valley, Shang Ju.

The area was recently developed to attract tourists so there are paved roads

The surrounding area is pretty

This is part of the land that my mom was thinking of leasing

I was busy snapping photos of butterflies (and bees) with the new camera

The zoom lens on this Canon is pretty good!

You can actually see this butterfly's face!

I got a few good shots of it before it flew away

Another side view

We then toured the already developed tourist area.

Me and Mom in front of Lovesickness Waterfall

Can you tell it's crazy hot? Yes, that is all sweat.

BaiZhangZai Waterfall

Group photo

There's already some bamboo in this area

Bamboo close up

We then had lunch with all the people who were trying to get my mom to lease the space. They are relentless with the rice wine shots. Paul had to take a few.

Gan bei! (it means bottom's up or literally, "dry cup")

After lunch, we went back for a nap. This was the routine during our stay in Ping Yuan - eat, drink, nap, eat, drink, nap.

Ping Yuan area

Lots of stray dogs

Our last day in Pingyuan, we went to visit the Lin Family Tomb.

Offerings to our relatives include tea, rice wine, and whiskey, fish, chicken, pork and fruit

Burning of fake money is part of the process too so that our deceased relatives have money in the spirit world

After allowing the spirit world to take the offerings, the fruit was shared with everyone and the meats taken back home to cook a feast for the family.

Food preparation

More food preparation

While the relatives prepared the feast, we chatted with some of the kids and walked around the area.

Playing Cut the Rope on my iPhone

This kid was running away from me

Nice door knob

Walking around the area

Mini Foghorn Leghorn

My grandfather helped build this house - I'm not sure if that meant financially or physically.

Mom wants to adopt him - he's my cousin's cousin's kid? Mom thinks he looks like an Asian Bruce Willis.

The feasting begins...and yeah, 5 tables of people and I'm related to 90% of them - I think.

The aftermath

Before leaving, I asked my mom if each of the families could group together so I could take photos to try and understand how everyone is related. I don't think it really helped since I'm still not sure who is who but I'm glad I was able to capture some family photos. I don't feel bad because my mom said she's not able to keep it straight either. I just know that the older group of women and gentlemen are my grandfather's brothers' kids (my mom's first cousins) and grandkids. The birth order and everyone's names? Um...yeah, I'll have to work on that.

The kid in orange, aka Asian Bruce Willis, ran off and didn't want to be in this picture. He was bawling his eyes out.

They insisted on taking a photo of us too

This kid was such a character

Mom: Paul, take a picture with him, he's left handed too! 

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