Guangzhou. The taxi drops me off at the entrance of a large, guarded courtyard. Two handsome Libyan men help me with my three bags. They are local residents, possibly students at the Campus France Alliance Francois de Canton adjacent to the Hotel car entrance.
The security at the hotel requires using your room key to access the elevator in the lobby. There is a gigantic ficus tree outside my window on the 4th floor. It's cooler than in Hainan.
I am overwhelmed by the friendliness and helpfulness of people toward me. Next morning, in the hotel dining nook, I'm crying tears of joy over my hou joula, plain rice porridge with chopped, hard boiled egg, bun with sugary crust, banana and warm soymilk. 13Y or $2.12. The serving woman fuwuyuan peeks at me as I am coping with tears, so I smile and say something I know she can't understand the words, but I hope she feels my gratitude heart to heart, helping me get what I need for this simple traveling businessman's breakfast. The porridge is delicious with a condiment of pickled cabbage, but I must avoid salty foods right now, otherwise my feet swell and I am thirsty all the time.
This is my first day in several I am alone and able to reflect, start a new sudoku puzzle and not have to hurry somewhere and interact. My internal battery needs recharging like my shouji, mp3 player and netbook.
- Weather almanac: Dunsmuir, Californa high 14C low 0C and clear 57F - 32F.
- Guangzhou high 19C low 10C light rain 66F - 50F
- Fast facts: Population: Guangzhou (formerly Canton) 12.78 million (2010)
- Hainan island 8.6 million (2010)
- Shanghai 23.9 million (2013)
- Beijing 19.6 million (2010)
- Los Angeles metro area 18 million (2012)
- Oregon 3.8 million (2012)
- Dunsmuir 1650 (2010) Chery's hometown
- Total China 1,384,694,199 19% world population
- Total US 317,104,210
- Area: Guangzhou 35,000 km² 13,700 square miles
- Oregon 255,000 km² 98,000 square miles
My first morning back in Guangzhou after the two-day Foshan City interlude is sunny and
pleasant. I go out to find breakfast from a street vendor: a folded and fried dough packet filled with onions, slivered carrot and hot peppers and a cup of warm soymilk. On the way back to the hotel I buy a banana and a 1.5 liter bottle of Nongfu Spring water. All together about 6.3Y or $1.03.
I pass two young Algerian or Libyan men sitting on the sidewalk in the sun, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, dressed in heavy wool overcoats. On the way back from the ATM, they're standing, talking with a young woman holding a baby, presumably a wife and child of one of the men.
So I ask, weishenme? Why don't these young men have somewhere to go this morning, like to work? Is it that they are immigrants without work status and no Chinese will employ them? Perhaps someone with experience in these matters will respond to me, and I will share this mystery.
Yesterday, I dropped off my carry-on bag with a local shop to repair the handle. This morning it
is fixed for 30Y or $5. The enterprising shop owner sells me a pair of comfy, ankle high boots, black with gray faux fur cuffs and buckle. They will be warm for the cold weather ahead. 90Y or $14.68.
Baiyun Airport Starbucks is my first coffee since leaving Haikou. Soft strains of "midnight sleigh ride with you" blends with the cranberry white mocha latte, chocolate swirl pound cake and kiwi juice for lunch, 67Y or $10.93. It's a winter wonderland, and I think I might start crying from joy!
The taxi ride from my
Guangzhou hotel to the airport costs 120Y $19.58. For 20Y $3.26 a porter meets me at the curb. I show him the Chinese message in my phone shouji with the flight confirmation. We're suddenly swarmed by beggars. First time I've seen this in China. He takes my three bags on a trolley directly to the Hainan Airlines check-in. The extra weight-- or is it the extra bag?-- costs 536Y $87.45.
It's a Holly Jolly Christmas, and I'm tearing up. I'm missing everyone at home. My Thanksgiving was spent interviewing penjing masters in Foshan City. Christmas is coming up in a few weeks. I'll be in Beijing, just back from DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic Korea). So many emotions, like waves of love.
News for international travelers
Getting more cash from the airport ATM, a Russian girl begs for my help navigating the Chinese machine. Alas, it rejects her Russian VISA card. WARNING TO INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS: your charge cards are almost useless here. And the PayPal card I worked so hard to get set up hasn't been useful yet. On the rare occasion you can use either, you MUST have your 4-digit pin number which must be requested in advance and mailed to your address of record in the States. This is a good security measure but one of which people are unaware. The security code on the back is also useless.
For me, I have a debit card swa ka, like swipe card on my Chinese Bank of Construction. It's easy for me to access cash almost everywhere. If necessary I can wire transfer cash from my Mt. Shasta bank. It's easy and costs about $40 on the US side. If I didn't already have a Chinese bank account, things would be a little bit difficult. As it is, I'm feeling confident.
Also, no mainland banks will issue a credit card to a foreigner. I hear I could get one on a Hong Kong bank but haven't had the opportunity or need to do so. I have a Ctrip travel account set up with my VISA but haven't used it much on this trip so far. I want to use up my RMB here where it has value. The exchange rate to dollars is 6 to 1, so it makes no sense to take it home, although they would permit it.
It's time to board my flight to Xi'an.
Hout tou jian