Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trip to Yibin

This past week has been so full of things to write about, I will try not to bore you with too many details. Last Sunday, after our family meeting, three couples went to lunch together and had a great time getting acquainted. We returned to the apartment and had our second family meeting with two additional couples, both Chinese. After they left, we finished our packing and headed to the subway station to fly to Chengdu. It was a long walk to the subway with our bags but a very nice young man took my bag as he was going to the subway himself. He made sure we knew when to change lines to head to the airport. We did not get into Chengdu until nearly midnight. On Monday, Ron met with the government for the last time to make a final decision concerning the building of an orphanage in that city. There were too many problems with this government so he decided to forget that location. We traveled that afternoon by bus to Yibin, about three hours away.

The countryside was very interesting as we saw many houses along the way with people living in the same lifestyle we find many of the orphans. I especially enjoyed seeing the vegetation. As we got closer to Yibin, we got into rolling hills and saw more and more rich garden plots planted on every hillside, slope and even the roadside right-of-way. No small area of land is wasted.

The climate is mild in this area so vegetables are growing beautifully. There were many kinds of greens, cabbages, onions, leeks, and many other winter vegetables covering the hillsides. People were working the land so there were no weeds to be seen. We began to see more and more rice paddies and the hillsides terraced and irrigated for the rice crops.

In Yibin, we met Teresa, the sister of a dear friend of ours we knew when we lived in Montreal, Quebec. Ron taught English to Teresa's sister, Julie, while we worked with Chinese students in Montreal about 10 years ago. We were very close to Julie but never dreamed we would ever get to meet her family. Her parents had us for dinner one night and went to a lot of trouble and expense preparing a special meal for us.

Teresa works for the government so she set up meetings for Ron with the important people and they began to show us sites available for an orphanage. They had a big dinner for us one night. We saw several abandoned school buildings but all were too far gone to rebuild. The land mass was not sufficent to construct a new building. One had no road to the building and we had to walk a narrow, muddy path through the rice paddies to get to the location. Another one had a rocky, rough road for several miles and only a four-wheel vehicle can travel on it. A third building was an abandoned technical school on top of a mountain and had no road access. I did not see this one, but Ron said there were several hundred steps to take to get up to that building. These factors alone ruled out these locations even if the buildings had possibilities.

At the government dinner, I must confess that I ate fried bees. Ron was insistant so to be a good sport, I tried one. It was actually quite good and when he said I could not say I had eaten bees with only one bite so I ate the second one. I did refuse blood pudding, but everything else at the dinner was vey delicious.

Jacob, our construction superintendant was with us all week. He will remain in Yibin to continue to search for a location and see if we can finalize things with the government to build the orphanage there. Jacob is truly a gentleman. He made sure we had everything we needed and took care of us in the finest way. Jacob did the remodeling for NCCC and built the new building for us at Wesley's House. Jacob's brother, Luke, is the director of Neil Taylor Christian Care Center in Rongshui.

The city of Yibin is considered a small city with a population of 5 million. There are narrow streets going in every direction with shops, stores, businesses of all kinds along the way. No one drives in their lane so horns are honking and people are everywhere. There are motor bikes, three wheel carts (bicycle up front) with a two-seater cart behind to ride passengers or carry things. The sidewalks are full of people walking so the streets are noisy and busy all of the time. There are many high-rise apartment buildings surrounding the city where people live.

On Thursday morning, (Thanksgiving Day in China) we walked to an area of the city where two rives come together to form the Yantzee River. It was a beautiful location and people were there enjoying the sun and flying kites. Afterwards, we ate noodles for lunch. Teresa said Yibin has the best noodles in China. Ron told her that every Chinese person says their city has the best noodles. She smiled with her cute dimples sparkling in the sun and said, "Yibin noodles best in the world."

On Friday, Teresa and her family rented a van and driver and took us to see the Bamboo Sea (forest). It was a delightful trip about an hour's drive outside of Yibin. The entire mountain is covered with bamboo. We wound up and around the mountain for many miles. It's height would be equivalent to being in the Smokie Mountains. There were trails, waterfalls, a museum and many things to see in this beautiful park. There are many kinds of bamboo and they make everything imaginable from bamboo. We saw many roadside gift stands and several small villages in this huge mountain area. Huge ferns grew on the hillsides overlapping each other and creating a beautiful effect along the roadways. A beautiful Chinese girl got in the van, dressed in native costume, and served as our tour guide.

We ate lunch at a restaurant in the park also. It was delicious food but you can't have a queazy stomach and eat really traditional Chinese food. There was a hot pot in the center of the table and many side dishes of bamboo, mushrooms, sausage and vegetables. As they stirred the hot pot a black chicken foot popped up to the top. I just kept enjoying my meal and was almost full when someone put the rooster comb in my bowl. They said it is delicious but I was not able to do anything but take their word for it. I was very pleased that I had finished my meal before I was given this special treat!

Teresa's English teacher, Tiger, took time out from his classes and served as our translator all week. He is a very nice young man and seemed to enjoy practicing his English with Americans.

We left Yibin Saturday morning and returned to the apartment in Beijing late Saturday afternoon. Our plane was two hours late leaving Yibin. We have washed our clothes and repacked our bags to leave again tomorrow night (Sunday night). We will take an all-night train with a soft sleeper to Chengsha arriving early Monday morning. From there, we will take a 3-hour bus ride to Longhui to visit the North Canton Christian Care Center. We will stay a couple of days and head to Biyang to visit Mama Jo's House orphanage. We will return to Beijing late in the week.

We wanted to cover both of these orphanages in the north this week while the weather is mild. It will get colder in the weeks to come.

I will post again next weekend and tell you about our visits to the two orphanages.

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