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~ MY MOST MEMORABLE VACATION ~

My most memorable vacation happened 3 years ago in 1997. When I had taken a Chinese boy for 4 weeks in 1996, he enjoyed being with Bob and I so much, he asked his parents to bring us over there to their home. There were 16 Chinese students that came to Holland Ohio to our church for classes in American cultures and stayed with American families during this time. I think it was because we treated Wang Meng (Jon, his American name that we gave him) like a member of our family instead of as a guest. We took him everywhere, a graduation party, up to my parents lake, to my uncles funeral (my dad's brother). I received a letter in October of that year asking us to come. I told them I could not possibly afford it. 

Wang Meng (Jon) Wang Chengfa (father) Wang Minjun (mother)

They told me they would send me the tickets. My husband was not able to get any time off when they wanted us to come because he was low man on seniority list. My best friend Patricia went with me. So we went about getting our passports and our visas. We left Detroit Metro on July 19 of 1997. It took 13 hours to get there. The Northwest Airlines went from Detroit all the way to Beijing non-stop. The only thing is that our plane arrived in Beijing 5 hours after the plane to Chengdu left Beijing. So this nice Chinese man and his friend found us a hotel, got a cab for us and gave us the money for the cab for both of us, called Jon's family to tell us what hotel we would be at, Guomen. 

When we arrived at Hotel it was past the time to get our money changed. They found someone to speak English to us. They charged us 400 yen to stay that night but would not let us call Jon in Chengdu. I was almost in hysterics. Finally at midnight Jon's friend Sonny called us to tell us not to worry. a lady will come and get us in the morning and make arrangements to get our tickets changed, get us to airport and put us on plane. She arrived at 7 am after riding a bus from the country to our hotel. She made the arrangements, went to airport with us. got us breakfast there, then made sure we were on the plane

We arrived in Chengdu at 10 am. (the pilots do not land the planes right on the runway. it comes in at 100 ft then plops down, Bang! We got there. Jon ran in gave me a big hug and got a cart for our luggage and took it out to the car. We went to their house to rest for a few minutes then to lunch and to a Tao Temple. They do not worship on Sunday or have a service. They go, light a incense stick and go in and kneel and pray. 

Afterwards. we went to a huge park next to the temple where there was a flea market going on. They have them every Wednesday and Saturday. I bought for my 3 sons bamboo scenes of mountains. Jon's parents did the bidding for us in Chinese, told us not to speak but only to them to tell them what we would pay. I got all three for 180 yen, which was 8 into 180 was $10. Jon's father bought for Pat and I a set of Chinese exercise balls, a neat soap stone dragon boat. I bought for my Pastor a beautiful wood cross. Each temple has these parks or campus like parks. most of them have gift shops. 

The next day we went to see DuFu's Thatched Cottage. Dufu was a very famous Chinese poet. It was a very beautiful place. I bought my granddaughters some silk pjs and my mom a miniature tea set. Jon's dad had his hair cut at the tea courtyard where we had tea. Pat and I had massages from head to shoulders for only 20 yen. I cannot think of the name of these massages but it is like they massage the areas where they would have put pins in for pain. 

On Monday it was a very hot day, so we went to the "Moon Pool". It is a place like "Soak City" with 5 different pools and for different sizes and ages with high big long curly tube slides. Anywhere you went, you could get American soft drinks or bottled water, even on the street corners in Chengdu downtown. Well actually, the whole town was downtown. There are over 5 "Million" people living in Chengdu the ancient capital of China. 

On Tuesday, a bus arrived at their apartment complex. There were three other families who were friends of Jon's parents. We were to go south about 2 1/2 hours to see the Buddha that was carved in the side of the mountain. There were so many stairs to walk all over. We walked all the way to the top. there were temple buildings on the way up with big gold bell and monks. There were beautiful gardens all over with bonsai trees. 

We got to the top and saw the cave that the monk lived in for 20 years that carved this Buddha into the mountain. We went back down after having tea. We stayed at this neat hotel. but it was like at the bottom of some 350 stone stairs. The bus driver drove the bus down to the hotel while we had gone into dinner back up at the main part of the hotel. Our rooms were so beautiful. just like here. but the hall ways were like a terrace that you could look down into a pond on the main floor with gold fish in it. The next morning got into the bus and rode back up and went to Temple Gardens. There in the main part before we went into the door there were about 10 men with trained monkeys. They would sit on your shoulder and hold a flower while your family took pictures. or they would do other tricks like stand on one leg on your hand or shoulder. We went into the door of the temple (Jon's father had to pay so much to get us in) Here it is all terraced with bonsai trees. 

Mt. Emei Terrace Gardens 
That's me, with the monkey & my friend!

Everywhere we went to eat, Jon's father had it like there were about 10 bowls of food brought to our table and the interpreters, Sonny and Nora would tell me which food was spicy and which were not. I cannot handle very spicy food, and Jon's dad was very considerate of this knowledge. We went back home on Wednesday and rested up. The next day they took us to the big shopping center in the middle of town. It is like a mall but was like 10 stories tall. We stuck close by Nora and Sonny so they could help us figure out our money on what we wanted to get. I found a bag tote bag with Hong Kong 97 on it, it was the year that Hong Kong went back to the Chinese from the British. We went to another store down the street that I bought fans and chop stick sets for all my friends at the office at church. Jon bought a neat cane for my dad made from some tree but it had a dragon head as the holder. He called my mom and dad his grandma and grandpa. I also bought a small piece of jade for myself that had a squirrel on it. It was only 35 yen. 

Each day that we were home, Sonny and Nora would come at 9 am and stay till 9 pm. They rode their bikes or took a bus to Jon's appt building. One day we took a walk with Jon's family to the outdoor market. It was so cool. One street was just flower stands, One street was pet shops with parrots, kittens, turtles, frogs, little white puppies. (not to be eaten) One street was just vegetables and one street was meat. (You had to go early in the morning to get your meat because it all hung outside, sides of beef or pork or fish in tanks) 

Jon's mom's maid went every morning to get the meat. One street was fruits. You had to peel the fruit and man, the peaches were huge but had a different taste to them. the apples were huge too but they were like ours but you also had to peel them before you ate them. That day we also walked to the indoor store which was about a mile away. You walk in and you give them your purse to put in a cubby hole. You are not allowed to carry your purse around in the store. This is the store that you got your bag or boxed foods like noodles, or rice or frozen food. Since it was hot, Jon's mom bought some ice cream bars to eat on the way back. Guess what brand? Meadow Gold. Almost everywhere we got ice cream bars, even up in the mountain we got Meadow Gold brand. 

They ate rice for every meal including breakfast. but the maid Tsou made Pat and I scrambled eggs in the wok. they toasted our bread in the microwave. The bread was like the "Texas bread" that was very thick" The rice for breakfast was hot with milk and sugar. The pork for dinner was fried but not with a breading, it was in little strips and there were bowls of vegetables we didn't know what they were but ate them anyway. Sometimes we had Chicken or fish. There was always a case of Pepsi or bottled water there for us to drink.

The next day we went to the Chengdu Panda Institute. This place is where they raised Pandas and this place was HUGE. We walked back about a mile to get to where the twin pandas were at. The building, where they were held was like our zoo buildings but there was a great big place outside that was fenced in for them to roam like 30 acres. These babies were 9 months old. They were artificially inseminated babies that were raised in the main institute at the front of the property. the trainer wouldn't let us in so Jon's mom and dad took us to see the Lesser Pandas, they were like little darling raccoons that came right up to you and took a piece of apple from your hand. The lady that was in charge of this area let us in to see them. (Jon's mom paid her) after telling the lady that we were from America. 

Then the lady took us back down to the big panda building. She told the trainer to let us in. He lured one of the babies to the other cage and locked it. IT was very hot that day which was 94 our temp and he opened up the cage and we could each go in and pet the panda while Jon's mom took pictures with our cameras. We had to be very quiet and quick to go in, pet it, then go back out very quietly. The fur is very wiry like. but they are still very cute, but a very dangerous animal. It just laid there and slept. This building was air conditioned for them.
On Monday of the next week, we got in Jon's fathers car with Sonny and Nora and Jon's family and headed North. It took four hours to get to the Dianjian Jou Water Irrigation Project. We were going to stay at this hotel that had like 8 buildings with villas in them. We had one villa to ourselves for this 4 family group. Minjun's classmates from school and their families.

It had two floors with four two bed bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms like home and a shower room for the floor. Each floor had like a living room with a huge TV (DVD) They had quite a few movies to choose from. We took our bags to whichever room we wanted. After that we went to dinner. It was so delicious. meat just fell off the bones. I was doing fine till I looked on the platter and saw the head laying there then I couldn't eat any more. Then we went to the Irrigation project. We took a tram up there. Then we walked across this bridge that did not stand still because my son Jon and his friends were making it sway. Gees, you could look down and see the water rushing through real fast. Jon's dad told him to quit it, I was hanging on to the ropes on the side for dear life. Sonny peeled them away and grab my hands and said walk very fast and we will make it across ok. On the other side we went to the park and had tea and crackers. Every park you would go to over there, people were playing mahjong. 

After tea, Sonny and Nora took Pat and I and Jon's Cousin over to sit on the camel and have our picture taken on it, I was not so sure of that. I got on it from a stool then the trainer had it start to get up. first you think you are going to go right over its head because its back feet go up first. you are sitting between the humps on a saddle. Their legs are bent under them in front and in back. Then the legs come up in front and you think you are going over backwards. It is a very scary feeling. I was very much ready to get off that animal after Sonny took my picture. THEN, we had to walk back across that swinging bridge. There are lots of people going back and forth across this bridge and it is very long about a half mile across the water. This time Jon's dad took my hand and walked me back across. 

When we got back to the villa, we went swimming in the pool. then had supper. 

The next morning we took a walk to some thirty flights of steps but each 10 steps had a landing where there was someone selling something, perhaps a pop and water stand. I bought a set of marble exercise balls for my brother at one place and further up I bought Bob a lighter that was like a motorcycle. When we got to the top, we got on another tram. that took us up to a landing where there was a lake halfway up the mountain. This place was called Qingchen. The city down below was Qingchen City. there were three rivers that met at this city. (gads, I don't know what I did that gave me this font). We waited for the dragon boat to come back over so we had an ice cream bar. This boat was on a cable under water. after the boat ride to the other side we got the shock of our life. we had to get on these High cars to go further up the mountain that don't stop. the men hold them long enough for you to jump in. then you get on these ski lift chairs. they don't stop either so you sit back and hope you are on the chair before it leaves to go the rest of the way up the mountain. There were carvings in the side of the mountains of women and children and kings in color. you look back down the mountain and see the tiny lake. At the top is a beautiful temple. there are millions of stairs going up to the temple or down to the tea house restaurant. You DO NOT go anywhere alone, Remember that!!! I did, and got scolded. I just wanted to find a stand that sold pop. By this time Pat and I understood the money system. Sonny came looking for me. we went back to the tea house. You could look back down the mountain from another angle and see Qingchen city. On this excursion it was just for the ladies so Jon and his dad and the other men and their sons stayed back at the villa and swam or played monopoly. We got back about 4 and had dinner and packed out bags and got in the van and headed back home. By the time we got back home we were ready for bed!!

Every day we were home Tshou had made our beds and if we had clothes on our bed that she thought that needed washing she would wash them with a wash board and hung on a rope outside the apartment on the railinged terrace. it had bars on them and that kind of upset Pat. but by the time we got back from shopping our clothes would be laying folded on our beds. This complex was very modern It had about 10 buildings of 4 stories. Jon's was on the first floor. They had marble floors and the walls had a damask wallpaper. the furniture in the main living room was like cherry couch and chairs. The dinning room had a cherry table and chairs. the kitchen was very small and had a small sink and one burner stove that the maid cook dinner in wok. Pat and I were not even supposed to take our dishes to the sink. We were so spoiled. Yes, I did eat my food with chop sticks. Pat used regular utensils. Jon's family, MinJun, his mom, and Chengfa, his father was very proud of me that I used chop sticks to eat with wherever we went to eat. 

Ok. Now we went to this one restaurant very often when we were home. it was very nice. The waitresses and waiters were very attentive to our needs. When they were not waiting on us, they stood at attention with their hands behind their backs. In the evening there was Karaoki with a TV that the people sang to. The ones that did get up and sang were very talented. There were these two huge TVs in different parts of the restaurant. This was on the second floor. The main floor was a noodle restaurant. You don't eat the noodles soup that they sell on the corner stands or in this first floor place. Mainly because of the water it was cooked in. I kept telling Pat not to order ice tea that you drink from glass because you don't want the ice if it is not boiled before it is frozen. The Pepsi in the car was not cold so I learned to drink it warm. You know, I still do for some reason. 

One night we went to a very fancy restaurant. We all sat at this big oblong table. Jon's mom's friends and their families. On each end of the table there is a Big hole with a two sectioned pot in it on a burner. In this pot is a broth. In the broth the waiter put in Chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, fish, clams, potatoes, carrots, peas, and one side of the pot is very, very spicy and the other is not. See Jon's dad was thinking of me again. You would not believe the bowls of food on the table. After we ate. there was a style show. Then there was a magic act. and a singer was last. We left there about midnight and by the time we hit our bed we were out like a light. The night before we left to come back home. Jon's mom and Sonny and Nora came into our room and helped us pack. I had brought an extra bag I had gifts to bring for Jon's family and his grandparents. When I went home I had gifts for my family and friends. We were all crying. Tshou came in also and she was also crying and did not want to see us go. The next morning. we got up early and there were the one family that came on the first trip and Jon's Mom's sister and her husband and Jon's cousin Judy who went on our second trip with us and Minjun's youngest sister and her daughter Susan. She was only six then. We had bought her a set of tapes for her to learn English with a coloring book to go with them. (When we first got there, Pat had taken a pack of sample lipsticks from Avon that she sold for MinJun. Susan wanted one so Judy put some lipstick and some nail polish on her fingers). One family gave Pat and I each a tea set. Judy's mom gave us a porcelain tea set and Judy gave us 3 tins of green tea.

Minjun's friend gave me a big bamboo tray set with about 6 different sizes of trays and dishes. Nora gave us each some teas that was made at the agricultural school that she was going to. (she is teaching English in a school in Egypt now) Sonny and Nora gave Pat and I each a three set book of "The Three Kingdoms" , the history of China. It took me three months to read the three books. Well by this time, Minjun , Pat and I had to repack to figure out how to get our gifts in our bags. She got another leather bag out of the closet for me. We had to hurry because it would take an hour to get to the airport. We got there. Jon's dad had to pay for over weight on my bags. I had put some reading stuff in my Hong Kong tote bag and little brown bag. We were allowed to carry two carry-ons. After we said our teary goodbyes. we got on to the security area. we had pack a lunch each and when it went through security, my Pepsi can exploded all over the place. Dang, that Pepsi got me in trouble back in Detroit when we went through security there. Anyway we went down wait for our plane. We got on it and headed back to Chengdu.

MinJun made arrangements for us to stay at airport hotel. Well when we got there the hotel was full so we went back to Guomen. This time they charged us twice the amount for deposit and the bus driver had charged us twice then before because we were the only ones on the bus. We went to bed. I slept in my closed and left my bags closed. I was ready to get up at 7 and get out of there. We got downstairs to eat breakfast but it was too expensive. so we got in cab and went to the airport in plenty of time. When it was time to go through security in international floor. They told us we had to go and pay airport tax before we even went through security. That was 11 yen. We got on our Northwest Airlines plane at 10:30 am on August 5. I didn't sleep much even though it was a 12 1/2 hour flight I wanted to watch out the back window. I saw Siberia. Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territory, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, all of Michigan by the time we landed back in Detroit Metro. Bob and Pat's husband Jack were there to pick us up after we went through customs. That was funny because when we got on the plane the flight attendant gave us cards to list ALL that we brought back. I told her I needed maybe three or more cards. I listed all the things I bought. like 3 sets of bells at so much, 10 sets of chop sticks, 10 fans for so much. all the way down to the coin swords I bought for grandsons, the 3 -10 x 30" pictures that rolled up and attach to one of the bags with a bungee cord.. So I handed these three cards to the customs guy, and he looked at me and asked "Gees, did you buy all this stuff?" I said "Yes", He waved me on. the next guy he made open his bags. the guy had brought back some peaches, the customs agent threw them out.

Then we went to find our husbands and head back to Ohio. When we got to Pat's house, Bob put my bags in back of our pickup. We got out of Pats driveway and Bob looked at me with sad eyes, " I have some bad news for you", Your dad died the first week you were gone, but he didn't want to spoil your trip" The kids all moved up to grandmas to help her get everything arranged. I had arrived August 5 at 10:30 am. the same time and day I had left China, I was not ready for that news. I didn't even unpack, I went home. called Cathy at church to tell her I would not be going to camp the next morning. She already knew. Bob's sister had called Pastor Jon about it, so we left and went back to Michigan to the lake where Mom lived . My kids were great. they had taken their grandma wherever she needed to go and arranged the memorial service and the wake afterward, Luckily I had 3 days to sleep off the time before the service.

Well, to back track about the Pepsi. I had packed my backpack with some carryon stuff to read and snack on including 3 cans of Pepsi, they were in the bottom of the pack. I went through security and afterwards this lady asked if she could look through my backpack. She laughed and said, "Didn't you think they would give you something to eat and drink on the plane when you are going to be on it for 12 hours?"


After I had 11 rolls of film developed I made up a real nice album of my trip to China, along with all the tickets to places that we went.  [Then] there are the the 3 ten yens and 3 -2 yens and some coins that I had no idea what they are. This was what I had left of $400 I took with me in travelers checks. some cute cards that our interpreters gave us with hankies in them. I have a hankie that has a picture of Jon and I on it hanging on a bulletin board in my bedroom. 

Each year for Christmas and my birthday I received a card and a gift. This week for my birthday I received from Jon's family was a beautiful card, a big fan saying "Happy Birthday Mom, from Jone" and a little velvet bag with a gold charm in it with a dragon and some Chinese writing on it, something about luck, wealth, and prosperity. My youngest son got me a gold chain for my birthday to put the charm on. It is around my neck now.

Love to all, 
Nance

 

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