As I sit here looking out our hotel window I feel it necessary to tell you that in my house we celebrate Harry Potter. First we celebrate the books, then we celebrate the movies (as it should be). Are these books about witches, wizards, and sorcery? Yes. Are there also redemptive themes that we can emphasize and use to educate our children? Kristi and I certainly think so.
If you haven't read the books or seen the movies I will not wait for you to do so. That is something that should be enjoyed slowly, like a cigar around a campfire. It isn't something you should do while you know someone is waiting on you. Why do I bring this up? Great question...
After starting our day at breakfast we took a short bus ride to the local pearl market. The weather is warm but rainy and I figured we'd be outside in make shift booths getting drenched while shopping to support the local commerce. According to our guide there are quite a few small businesses in China and many of the owners have little to no education in running a business. They just try because they don't have any other options. Instead I was pleased to see that that "market" was actually a five story building with a common area in the middle. I'd consider it a mall in China as many malls are multiple stories high and consist of many different stores all under one roof. I handed Kristi my wallet and said have fun sweetheart (major points right?) and off she went. Actually she and Ben picked out some nice necklaces for the girls back home and a jade "life saver" for Ben. It's actually a necklace too but it looks like a lime green life saver. I was off taking Joshua to the sitting room while they did their shopping.
Having completed our shopping at the pearl market we wandered up to the silk embroidery store where we were just going to browse... until we saw some nice wallets that replace failing wallets back home. The best part of the store was they took American Visa!!! We are in a weird quagmire of not having enough cash on hand, not wanting to take out too much RMB cash that we have left over at the end of the week, and having American money that is difficult to turn into RMB. So if a store accepts the "American" Visa we are fans. (Turns out Visa isn't really everywhere I want to be) Our final shopping destination was Shamian Island which is home to a little store called Jenny's (they too accept American Visa) where we were able to get updated Chinese clothing for the kids. Shamian Island is also where we get back to the Harry Potter nonsense at the beginning of the post.
Shamian Island must be cool because it has it's own Wikipedia entry. I do not. The Island was a French and British hotspot back in the day, and legend has it a prominent Chinese girl married a British Sailor and the powers that be jailed her entire family because of the marriage. I'm not sure if they were upset she married a Brit, or a sailor. Regardless you can see on parts of the island that there is a great deal of French architecture in the buildings. Our guide mentioned New Orleans and it was clear walking through parts of the Island that it could be mistaken for parts of the New Orleans.
In the Harry Potter books there is a place where the students get their supplies located in London called Diagon Alley. It is a nice place with nice clean stores and everybody who is there seems to be having a good time and a good if not great life. Our first stops at Shamian Island were like that. Nice, clean, and fans of the Oxford Comma.
However, somewhere near Diagon Alley is another place called Knockturn Alley. Knockturn Alley is the place you tell your kids never to go even if they are with a friend. It's a place where even if you need flesh eating slug repellent, you don't exactly announce that you are going there. When all the shopping was done we walked to the "other side of the river" to the market where they had weird stuff. Fish scales, scorpions, deer parts, bugs, herbs, spices, and a variety of other things were all over this part of the island. This side of the Island made it click that todays' topic should be opposites, or the difference between Diagon and Knockturn Alleys.
The pictures don't necessarily do it justice, but hopefully you can see the difference walking 1/8th of a mile makes. Kristi mentioned it was a little uncool, unfair, or just plan cruel to parade a bunch of Americans past these people as if they were some sort of side show on the trip. I hadn't given it much thought but she's probably right (you can count that one sweetheart) in her statement. There are probably many deep conversations that could be had, but the very bottom line for me is that there are people who have some and are working to get more, and there are others who have even less, but they too are working to get more. Regardless of class it seems that everybody is taking responsibility to try and do something to make a living. I think that is the end of my deep thoughts for now.
At the conclusion of the Island adventure we stopped for a treat at Subway. It was a meal of firsts as both Josh and Ben learned they can eat ham and cheese! As a father and fellow picky eater I was quite proud of boy #1. Boy #2 seems to eat most anything so he's already cooler than me. Upon returning to the hotel we took a quick nap, family hot tub session, and then it was off to a local noodle shop for dinner. Kristi even managed to get a photo of me with noodles in chopsticks. Who needs portion control when you have chopsticks? I get so tired of trying to eat I just give up.
Joshua seems to be doing very well and is responding quite well to the family so far. I'll stop short of making any bold proclamations that will come back to bite me, but he's a little guy with a big personality so he'll fit in quite nicely.