Amidst all the Spring Festival travel planning, minutes have turned into hours, hours into days, and plans are coming to fruition. Last Thursday Jessica and I held our last classes of the semester, packed our bags, cuddled with our puppies, and whittled away the hours until our two o'clock in the morning train left for Wuhan. Trent - having arrived in Wuhan the afternoon before - met us at the train station where we hailed a taxi to the airport to connect with our Wuhan friend, Carole, and with our flight to warmer weather. We were at last - after a year and a half of foiled plans - going to Hong Kong.
Friday afternoon we serendipitously found John and Megan holed up in their closet (literally) in one of the milliard hostels located in a large, condemned-looking building overrun with people wanting to sell anything you could imagine and understanding every English word except, apparently, "no". After dropping some things off at Trent and Jessica's lovely hostel in another condemned-looking, old building where, were we to comment on the ratty bedding, poor privacy door (a curtain), or any other less than accommodating features, we would be reminded of the e-mail Jess received after booking the place that to expect anything even remotely safe, clean or modest would be to express a purely Western arrogance and unreachable standard, we met with Harmony - a friend living in Hong Kong - and went to dine on a fine dinner of Pakistani food. As I'm sure it will mean nothing to anyone living in the States, I'll not mention all the amazing food we splurged on while in Hong Kong. Although, I will venture to say that anyone who has visited Hong Kong, especially having spent much time in Mainland China first, will understand anything short of describing our food going experiences to be a grossly inadequate portrayal of our Hong Kong visit in its entirety.
Saturday the seven of us went to Lama Island for some seafood, which didn't happen, and to enjoy a little hiking, which did. Lama Island was enchanting. The sun was shining, a breeze was blowing, we spent some time on the beach, and wandered not aimlessly around, but almost. That evening we took a bus to the top of Victoria Peak for a beautiful view of the Hong Kong skyline at dusk.
Sunday we visited St. Andrew's Church in the morning and then split the group for diverging activities. Trent, Jessica, Carole and I visited a Buddhist Nunnery and the surrounding well-kempt gardens. Later that evening we all re-assembled on Hong Kong island for a disappointing ride up the world's "longest" non-continuous, overly impressive-sounding escalator and then spent a few hours indecisively wandering about the part of the island that clearly caters to expats.
Monday was our "completely unsuccessful attempt at shopping" day. China has been hard on our clothes so we had grandiose plans of finding jeans at one of the many H&Ms in one of the many malls in Hong Kong. Only in Hong Kong can you show up to a mall wearing jeans and feel completely underdressed. Luckily I've developed a useful ability to not notice when I am completely noticeable. In this particular mall, there sat an ice skating rink begging for awkward skaters to skim above its sheeny surface, and despite the rink employee's refusal to allow us small support penguins to aid our unsteady legs, not one of us fell down in our thirty minutes of shaky maneuvering.
Tuesday we did a last bout of shopping which proved invaluable to me as I finally found jeans, and then we boarded a bus to the Shenzhen airport. We flew to Wuhan quite stuffed from eating our words that we would never again have to spend a night in that city. It was good, though, because we got to meet up with Zoe who has moved to Wuhan for a training school and enjoyed some good food, drinks and music at Mr. Mai's.
Wednesday afternoon we made it back to Shiyan along with a crowd of Spring Festival travelers, giving us a taste of what is yet to come. Suffice it to say, that I couldn't be happier to NOT be traveling in China during this time. Best of luck to those of you who will be! Upon entering my apartment, I immediately understood that my settling in for the evening after standing four hours on a train was a dream to be unrealized: while I was gone, workers had "painted" my sooted walls white, which translates, workers sloppily threw white paint on the wall, the floor, the couches and missed lots of spots leaving smeared gray streaks running down the walls. In addition, they muddied my floor and spread dirt everywhere. I spent the next few hours cleaning intermittently between discussing small crises that had also occurred while we were gone and needed some attention.
Thursday was Dacy and Jesse's wedding. Dacy's a Chinese sister, and Jesse is an American who formerly taught at my school. The wedding was absolutely beautiful. They had a western-style wedding in a nearby church building which was followed by a Chinese-style reception held at a local hotel. A lot of the Family - old and new - gathered together to celebrate this special occasion.
Without classes and with most of our students having gone home, my days have been folding into themselves. I do know, however, that the day after tomorrow we will be heading to Beijing - 20 hours in hard seats. The following morning Jessica and I will catch a flight to Paris where we will begin our great European adventure. Wish us luck!