From my Facebook page:
When we left for China, both of us were anxious. I was really worried about the language barrier and the crowds. We were originally supposed to leave on the 20th of November, but our dismal job situation gave us a more opportune time to leave at the beginning of November. We were hoping to take our mind off of bad things at home and I was hoping for a chance to detox from too much worry, food and not enough activity. We weren't disappointed!
The initial flight was pretty brutal. 15 hours smashed like cattle in the middle of the middle row, flanked on either side by very cranky (and sleepy) old chinese men. Getting up to go to the bathroom was very laborious. I had a flight attendant in my section that hated her life, job and me every minute of the flight. I finally had Ryan ask the attendant on his side to get some water. After we arrived in Hong Kong, we took a ferry to Shenzhen where Ryan's brother in law lives. The Hong Kong airport, immigration, customs and ferry were very streamlined and the best part of our travel. Things make more sense in general in Hong Kong.
Our first day or two were a blur, but my sense of anxiety went away. The language barrier was there, but while you're speaking english to them, they're speaking chinese to you and through miming and pointing, things are magically understood. The crowds took a bit of getting used to for me, but it wasn't a swirling mass of judgement like I think of it here. The Chinese are very kind and enamoured with giant tall guys like Ryan. A couple of people wanted to have their picture taken with him. Children everywhere would point in awe at us. Most of the men were shorter than me. I wasn't too special though because I have black hair.
What struck me the most about the people was the awesome level of pride and simultaneous humilty they have. People are so willing to help out there and seem to enjoy their jobs and take care of their environment. There's no trash on the streets and the parks are beautiful and immaculate. People in the service industry there really WANT to serve you. A novel concept here. I'm not trying to insult my friends in the service industry here, and I've been there too, but you don't always enjoy your job. Shenzhen is a beautiful city. The parks and greenspaces are amazing. The freeways are lined with greenspace. The trees do a good job of hiding the hundreds of highrises. There are highrise apartment buildings EVERYWHERE. It's apparent how many people there are while you're sitting in traffic and seeing that there are at least that many people biking and walking as well.
Traffic is insane in Shenzhen, not as bad in Hong Kong but still crazy. We're both very happy that we didn't have to drive while we were there. My highlights of sight seeing were Macau, an island settled by the Portuguese, Buddhist temples, Hong Kong and of course shopping. Macau was fun, pretty and it's amazing how much portuguese I could read and understand when the alternative was chinese. I've never felt more reverence than in a Buddhist temple, and the Chi Lin nunnery in Hong Kong. Shopping is great because there are alot of places that you can bargain.
China humbled me and changed my outlook quite a bit. Probably the worst thing about communism is the class system that it's created. I saw quite a few people begging, alot of them elderly. I tried to give them food when I could. I was touched by how grateful they were for food. They weren't just looking for money, these people were truly in need. The saddest thing I've ever witnessed was a woman sitting on the ground, holding her baby and eating rice out of a garbage can on the street. She wasn't begging, just quietly eating. I walked over to her and gave her a package of Koala cookies I'd just bought and she took them, but looked very embarrased. That made me even sadder. I'll never forget my brief encounter with her. Things like that really change how you look at your life.
China was a life changing experience and we're very lucky to have the opportunity to go. Thanks to Bonnie for giving us the chance, Colin and Jeanetta for showing us around and letting us stay at your house and Glenn for the idea to go earlier. Thanks to Jacinda and Jared for making sure our cats weren't feral when we came home and mom for being our airport shuttle. Thanks to everyone for being patient with our terrible jet lag!