Written on March 18
Last night on the way home from the Liu San Jie our new friends Tina and Fred asked if they could join us on our hike to Moon Hill! We loved the idea and agreed to meet them at 9:00 a.m.
After a quick breakfast we headed to the bus station to find the bus to moon hill. On the way we purchased colorful flower head wear for the girls for Y3 each. Apparently they are a tradition for a group of minority Chinese who live in this area. In fact, while we were out, we saw several school age girls wearing them. They had also decorated their bikes with fresh flowers. It was very sweet!
The bus we took was not a tourist bus like the one we rode to the warriors, but a local bus that “ran by” the entrance to moon hill. It was full of locals who were very interested in our family composition and we had the same conversation we have several times every single day.
Chinese: “How many children do you have?”
Us in Chinese: “We have six children. Two boys and four girls.”
Chinese: “Wow! Six children! Are these girls Chinese?”
Us in Chinese: “Yes, they are Chinese.”
Chinese: “Is this your American daughter?”
Us in Chinese and hand motions: “Yes, this is our American daughter. She was born to us.”
Chinese: “Where are your boys?”
Us with hand gestures: “They are grown.”
Chinese: “Why are they not in China?”
Us in English and looking to our Mandarin speaking friend, Fred: “The US Army will not allow them to come to China. They must work.”
(Actually, only one is in the Army but at this point we lose them to another discussion and we don’t bother to explain the rest. This of course is followed by a deep discussion about soldiers, duty and rules. We can never follow, but have heard the words, “soldiers, duty and rules” enough to get the jest of the conversation.)
Chinese: “Do your daughter’s speak Chinese?”
Us in Chinese: “We speak a little Chinese, they speak a little little Chinese.”
Chinese: “You are a good Mama and Baba. You love daughters very much! They are so lucky. It is good you bring them back to China, BUT (and it’s usually a big but) they should know Chinese! You teach them!” (Yes, like I know fluent Chinese!)
Us in Chinese: “Thank you. We are lucky!”
Then they usually continue the conversation without us, but continue to point, and pock and prod the girls. They laugh and make jokes and we’re all sitting right there, but it doesn’t bother them at all! ;o)
As soon as we got off the bus we were surrounded by yet another group of older women asking us the same questions, but this group continued to follow us even after we had purchased tickets and headed up the mountain. They were all carrying coolers tied around their shoulders with cloth and so we wondered out loud when they were going to hit us up for water or soda! That opportunity came at the half way point, but before the real steep part of the climb. As soon as we took a moment to catch our breath, they were on us like vultures. Long gone were the sweet old ladies who were curious about us and our children, and out came the vendors! They were very persistent and we did end up buying a couple of waters, but the one who ended up not selling a thing used some choice words on us before leaving.
Free from vendors, the rest of the hike was peaceful, but anything from easy. There are 800 steps up to the base of Moon Hill and the second half is definitely the most difficult part. Fred informed us that if we had not dragged him along, he would have stayed at the bottom, said “this was nice” and caught the bus home! Thankfully, he made it to the top with the rest of us, and got to enjoy the view!
At the top we stopped to enjoy the Karst scenery, take some photos and investigate the additional climb to the top. We decided against that hike pretty quickly and headed down.
The hike down was uneventful and we hit the road to walk up the way to Big Banyan Tree. One of our vendor “friends” decided to walk along with us, following us the entire kilometer telling us that she could show us the way. It really wasn’t hard to find…i.e. follow the road back toward town and then look for the vendor gauntlet that you must brave in order to get to the entrance of the Banyan Tree area.
We passed folks selling the typical silk pajamas and Chinese style clothing (all of it too small for any of us larger than Star), cheep toys, gaudy decorations and Chinese “Xiao Chi”, or “little eat.” Once on the other side of the tents and tarps we found something we have yet to run into: trained monkeys that you can have your photo taken with! Fred and Tina were the first to brave this (in fact, I had not intended to get anywhere near these monkeys but cause they did, I caved to my children’s pleadings!)
The banyan tree was pretty impressing. It is said to be 1400 years old! We walked around it and decided to head home.
It took about 30 minutes to find a bus back into town and while we waiting, Pie got to do her duty behind the bus platform (a generous description). She is pretty darn pleased with her ability to go to the bathroom anywhere in China (behind trees, on gravel and dirt roads, etc.). Of course, she sees it on a daily basis, right on the streets, everywhere we turn, so it is becoming second nature to her. (We DO NOT let her go on the streets in town, though there have been times that it would be preferable to the bathroom that was available!) So far the bigger girls have been very diligent about making sure they go before we leave the hotel room. They’ve seen enough to know that they don’t want to “go” anywhere else!
Again, we had “the conversation” on the bus and were grateful to be back into town! As soon as we hit the hotel, Xuxu and Star informed us that they wanted to go do painting lessons. Mom, Mouse and Pie took a break in the hotel room and Da took Xuxu and Star to see the painting Laoshi. His “studio” is a room down a very dark and dreary alley way, but his teaching skills are amazing! He was extraordinarily patient and ended up teaching 1.5 hours rather than the agreed 1 hour. The works of art that the girls came home with blew me away and they both agreed that they are going back for more lessons!
About the same time that the girls walked in from lessons, Fred and Tina showed up and asked to treat us to dinner. They took us to a place right next door to the place we have been eating and it turned out to be even better! We were thrilled to spend more time with them, and to find another place to eat! Fred and Tina will be leaving in the morning, and we will miss their company! They have invited us to visit them in Malaysia and we have also extended the same should them come to the U.S.