Today is our last day in Xi’an. Tomorrow we will fly back to Kansas City. Yesterday we started to feel sad. We had lunch at our favorite restaurant—the one we don’t know its name—with our friends Jado and Dieudonne. Then we went to church at St Francis Cathedral one last time. St Francis has been our haven here, and it is hard to say goodbye to it and to all our friends there.
This morning we stopped by to say goodbye to the people who make our favorite breakfast food at the West Gate. We gave some of our plants to our neighbor who keeps a garden. She was the lady who had a duck back in September. We also walked onto the old campus to get coffee from Big Tiger and his mom one more time.
It is hard to believe that most of last week we were in Hong Kong. We stayed at our favorite Regal Airport Hotel again. Then we took the train in to Victoria Harbor and the ferry to Lamma Island. We think next time we come to Asia we will take a writer’s retreat to Lamma Island—the island of no cars. The plant and insect life there remind me of El Salvador and Thailand.
So today we will make the most of our time by saying goodbye to people we will miss. But tomorrow we look forward to seeing our family and friends in the United States again. So today is bittersweet for us.
People in airports are often not on their best behavior. Maybe this is due to airport/airline policies and the fact that people are trapped in a space they cannot control. This post is not about them; however, I mention them to provide a contrast for the kindness and comfort I found in airports this weekend.
Yesterday Asher and I were flying back from Hong Kong via Nanjing. Nanjing airport is smaller and older than the Xi’an airport. In fact, we found it hot and cramped and confusing. Our flight had been slightly delayed, so we were worried we would not make our gate in time. We made it with time to grab a water bottle. Then we looked for somewhere to sit thinking we would only be there a few minutes. People were taking up several seats with their luggage. A woman was lounging across three seats and laughing at a video on her phone. Everywhere we looked there was nowhere for us. Finally, we found a spot on the floor. Then a man moved over and made an open seat. It was next to the luggage table, so Asher took the seat and I took the luggage table. We were very grateful. Then it turned out that our flight was delayed, so we had to sit for much longer than we had planned.
When we travel to Hong Kong, we like to stay at the Regal Airport Hotel because it is connected to the airport by a walkway. Then we take the train into town to have adventures. Because our hotel is connected to the airport, we wander around watching people and eating at restaurants. I especially enjoy watching the people in line at McDonald’s. People from all over the world line up for the inexpensive predictable food. (McDonald’s do vary from place to place, but they have coke and fries all over.) In front of us there was a little boy who had an American accent, and he was begging his dad for a happy meal. His dad re-explained to the little boy that he was not getting a happy meal in a non-American accent, and then he spoke to the cashier in Cantonese. She seemed to understand, even though she seemed to be of Indian heritage. My son, who at one point in his life also begged for a happy meal in his American accent, had more in common with the little boy in line that probably anyone else in the room.
But my more important take away from the Hong Kong Airport McDonald’s is that this is what the world should look like. Covered women eating next to Nigerians in business suits. Australian children running around in Easter bunny ears, and elderly Brazilians waiting for their coffee. Thai teenagers ordering fries in English from the Indian girl behind the counter. The whole world wonderfully coexists while eating ice cream.
Last Monday, we took the high speed train from Xi’an to Shenzhen. The train ride took nine hours, and we enjoyed seeing the farmland, mountains, and rivers as we crossed China.
This is the view from our hotel in Shenzhen.
On Tuesday, we took a walk along the beach, and then Jeremy and Asher decided to go for a swim. It was a bit cold for a swim (think Las Angeles in winter). Chinese people stood on the beach in their winter coats filming Jeremy and Asher while they swam…
On Wednesday, we took a taxi to the boarder between Mainland China and Hong Kong. We went through the boarder on foot, and then took a bus into Kowloon. There we found the Walled City of Kowloon Park. Apparently, it was a fort during the Opium Wars. After the Opium Wars, it became a lawless city. In the 1980s it was torn down, and now it is a museum and a lovely city park.
On Thursday, we went for a two hour hike up in the mountains. It felt just a little bit like home to us. We could hear the birds sing all around us.
On Friday, we hiked along the beach. We also ate breakfast at a place called Our Bread. We enjoyed eating at a German restaurant near our hotel as well.
Saturday we flew home. Asher was sick the whole time, and so he felt miserable. Sunday Jeremy and I had to start back to work with a beginning of the semester meeting. Things should get back to normal now.
Finally! Our work permits arrived—just in time for me to take Asher to Hong Kong. Everyone in the Gulley household is extremely gruntled now that we can touch our own passports whenever we like. In addition, Asher re-entered China after going to Hong Kong, so he now has sixty more days before he has to leave again. We are able to breathe easy.
Except for…grading papers, planning classes, listening to speeches. You know, the usual stresses that come with being a teacher. The things we love to complain about but would miss if we didn’t get to do them. Speaking of teaching, I had my Freshman listen to “Please Call Stella” (the famous linguistics study) and then send me a voice recording of themselves saying it. Listening to fifty Chinese students say “five thick slabs of blue cheese” has been the highlight of my week.
And then of course, there was Hong Kong. Asher and I stayed in the Regal Airport Hotel which is connected to the airport. We took a train ride into Hong Kong proper, and we ate Panini’s for dinner. Then we went to an English language bookstore and bought new books to celebrate our good sportsmanship. Before dinner we strolled along the harbor, looked at public art, and saw the moon for the first time in a long time.
After a relatively comfortable flight home, Asher and I figured out how to take the shuttle bus back to our neighborhood. Then we crossed the street and took the city bus back to the mall near our house. When we started up the street to our apartment complex, we realized that Xi’an is home now.