You know, China isn’t for everyone. It’s communist, they speak one of the harder languages to learn and understand in the world. There is a huge gap between the rich and poor, they spit on the streets and have limited traffic laws. So why have I fell in love with this place? My obsession started 10 months ago.
Over 20 years ago I met my soul mate. Often times they say things are meant to be, I really couldn’t see it any other way. We have become best friends. My wife was born in rural mainland China. I mean RURAL, we visited her hometown, for the first time (she has taken all 3 of our kids there a few times) about 10 months ago and I was blown away. It’s a small town called “Siloh” about a 25 minute drive from Longyuan, China, which is a middle-sized city in the Fujian Province. Siloh is poor, very poor. Sewer and drain lines run through the sidewalks and you can see the trowel marks in the cement with which the lines were built. There are wild chickens and ducks waddling around the front porch. Houses were hand build with a dirt and sand mixture and a lot of the homes still have cement floors. Beds are simple, a flat piece of plywood held up with whatever they could make work. Electrical lines are loosely ran as if it was a temporary fix. Kitchen sinks are made of make shift water pans with a hose and the streets are so narrow that I fear for my life driving through them. Just as their ancestors they don’t know what they don’t have. Life is hard and easy, simple and difficult at the same time. Families manage their own crops while an uncle or cousin will raise pigs. My wife came from very humble beginnings and it took me 20 years to see it. I have enormous respect for her, this up bringing has made her a great wife, friend, and mother.
In America you have friends. Not like friends here in China. When we visited 10 months ago I learned what friends are. To this day my wife stays in constant contact with her childhood classmates. We are talking from kindergarten on. There is about 15 or so in her close group and when they get together it’s a party, it’s something special. Her friends were so happy that we came back to visit, that within 2 days, they arranged a Class Reunion. Now this wasn’t like a class reunion we have in the states (that takes months to plan), this took 2 days. There were over 75 classmates who showed up for this event. Some traveled from several hours away. The reunion was an event, food, dancing, karaoke, hugs when we arrived and more hugs when it was over. Since we have been back we have met up with the same group of 15 and had dinner last night. They sat and teased one classmate for 1 hour, reminiscing about her passing a love note to another classmate, this happened nearly 45 years ago in grammar school. Heck, I couldn’t name 3 kids in my 3rd grade class, let alone teasing one of them about a love note from 35 years ago. It was all in fun, but everyone was passionate about their side of the story and our table erupted funny comment after funny comment. Dinner started at 6pm and lasted till 10pm, the group could have stayed there all night if the restaurant staff would let them.
China gets a lot of things wrong, but one thing they do right is transportation. While a car is a convenience it not a necessity like it is in the states. In Longyuan, where we are living, there are 4 kinds of taxi’s. You have your standard, start the meter with the flip tag and see the rates on the box, then you have motorcycles. Basically, guys on motorcycles driving along the curb looking for someone who needs a quick lift. There are 3 man motorcycle taxis, think of a motorcycle with a box built on the back of it. It has a bench and is basically enclosed with a curtain.Finally you have their version of Uber, which they call “DiDi”. All services are affordable, we recently took a taxi to the train station and it cost around 10 RMB, which is about $1.50 usd. Cheap. Not to mention the buses, they are all over the place and will take you wherever you need. They cost around 2 RMB, or $0.10 usd. If ou need to travel longer distances there is the China Bullet Trains. They cost around $15usd to go from city to city, and they travel at around 150mph and are very comfortable.
Have definitely saved the best for last. The food in China in incredible. My wife and I are huge “foodies” so are like kids in a candy store with every stroll down the street. Everything here is made fresh, while Hong Kong is slowly becoming Americanized, China is still in its virginity. Food is everywhere and is convenient, you walk down from your apartment and you literally have 12 places to eat serving anything from steamed buns to wonton noodle soup to fried rice. On the same block is the street market where you can get anything from fresh pork (and I mean fresh) to the most gorgeous mandarin oranges you have even seen. We have befriended one mother and son “hole in the wall” (that would be Michelin rated in the states) and we bring to them what we want cooked and they cook it. (tonight we actually had golden chives with pork) and the cost…..$15 RMB, or about (ready for this fellow foodies) $2 usd. That included rice, soup and little of a tip (which they don’t do here in China). The best part of the food is you feel good after eating it. Not like the greasy feeling after eating Little Caesars Pizza.
For now, I call China home. My wife and I have 3 different real estate agents looking for a “steal” on a house for us. If it happens we may never leave, after all she grew up here and we can live happily ever after in her rural, humble back yard. If it happens, it’s fine with me!
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