The only two drawbacks for us have been the rain (which others claim is abnormal, the past year) and the reliance on unreliable taxis. Everything else has been wonderful, despite the fact that we speak about 10 words of Mandarin, each. We enjoyed 8 weeks in town while we waited for our container, and to find our lovely apartment. Out in the suburbs, at Castle Hill, we have enjoyed exploring the local village and being recognised there. Virtually all of our fruit and vegetable shopping was done locally, and Helen bought a bouquet of flowers for home and one for her office, at school, each weekend. Most of our colleagues eat out at local restaurants, but we cooked for ourselves at least four nights a week with local produce. We still found time to try a few of the many great bars and restaurants. We found one that fitted all criteria in the past month, the “Zebra Star”, across the road from the Garden Hotel – nice setting, reasonably-priced drinks and fabulous food.
Helen has loved the shopping in Guangzhou. We knew that we have not even scratched the surface, but it really hit home, this morning, when a taxi driver couldn’t find our usual clothing market, and dropped us in the middle of another enormous clothing and leather area, 200m up the street. Last Saturday, I chalked up a “personal best” – four pairs of shoes bought at a small shop that Helen found, and a fifth pair for the day. In times gone by, I probably wouldn’t have bought five pairs of shoes in a decade, and certainly not with the same high quality and low prices.
There are markets for everything, as well as a couple of famous “shopping streets”. Haizu Square is our favourite area, particularly “One Link” – about 6 floors of small shops selling almost anything imaginable, and quite a few things you didn’t know existed, until you saw them. A negative example of the almost-infinite number of objects obtainable are the tiger feet, ibex horns and pieces of monkey for sale for “health” reasons around town – presumably these people “leg it” whenever the authorities come by.
This week, only twelve months after we put our many material possessions into a container, we had the apartment contents wrapped in cardboard again. Machiato was traumatised, but, now that everything is being processed through customs, she has relaxed, although she doesn’t stray too far from us. Tomorrow afternoon we board the plane for Jakarta, and the next stage of our adventure. We are very much looking forward to our next jobs, although Helen is concerned that Machi may be emotionally scarred by the move, particularly the stay in Indonesian quarantine.
Lastly, the Chinese people have been wonderful. Time and time again, people have gone out of their way, with no thought of reward, to help us. Therefore, we do regret not learning enough of the language to really get to know people, but we, at least, began to establish relationships with people we encountered regularly, from staff at school, to staff at Castle Hill and people who worked at places where we shopped at and/or visited regularly. We hope to be back to see a lot more of China and its people.