Sunday, February 22, 2009

Out and About in Guangzhou

Yesterday morning we visited a museum of traditional Chinese handicrafts. There was some gorgeous stuff there, particularly the ivory carvings. China only very reluctantly went along with the worldwide ban on ivory, but today Chinese artists use other bones for their carvings.

Then it was off to the pearl market, which was laid out like an indoor farmer's market, except that stall after stall was offering pearls at ridiculously cheap prices. Our guide Zhou has some sort of arrangement with the proprietors of one of these (see the video), so we got an even better price there.

Our morning showed us that Shamian Island is very different from the rest of Guangzhou. Guangzhou is much like other Chinese cities (although far more cosmopolitan than Nanchang), but Shamian Island remains, as it has been for some 300 years, an enclave for westerners. Some are businessmen, but most are couples waiting to receive visas so that their adopted children can enter the United States. Because of this, nearly all of the local businesses--restaurants, shops, laundries--cater to new parents of Chinese children. The shops tend to have a lot of the same stuff: traditional clothing in children's sizes, ink stamps with the Chinese characters of your baby's name, jade trinkets, etc. And most of it is ridiculously cheap; Starbuck's, however, is just as expensive here as it is at home.

We joined John and Liesl Ross last night for a fabulous meal at a Thai restaurant. I had spicy port with basil, and it lived up to the two hot peppers printed in the menu next to the dish. It was just what the doctor ordered, because it seems I've come down with the cold that Stanzi is just about over. Tonight we'll be dining at a German restaurant. In China.

Zhou had his appointment at the U.S. Embassy today, and apparently everything is in order, so we should be getting Stanzi's visa tomorrow. And on Wednesday we head for home. We can't wait.

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