My trip to China in June 1999 was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We landed at the airport in Hong Kong. The airport itself is a modern wonder of architecture. The awesome dimensions of the passenger room were my first overwhelming realization of the existing and forthcoming successes of the great country of China.
Most people go to Hong Kong in order to purchase cheaper things like perfumes, cameras, sporting goods, etc. I preferred to take the tours and enjoy the sightseeing of the beautiful city.
We took the boat in Hong Kong for Taishan. Taishan is the city closest to my village Hazardon. The trip to Taishan was a most memorable one. It is a tropical and exotic itinerary. There were boats of all forms and sizes. There were sails of all forms and sizes. There were banana trees and trees with exotic fruits.
I saw beautiful colors on the ground and in the skies. I was fascinated with the people that I met on the Australian-made boat.
Taishan is a 3-hour trip from Hong Kong by boat. My uncle Mugau and my cousins Galai and Gaffe picked us up at the port. We all got on the old minibus for the final leg of our trip: Taishan-Hazardon. The road to Hazardon was my first experience of rural China. I now realized for sure that I was in a quite different and highly interested country. I couldn't help observing the poverty and the miserable living conditions of many people. However, I also started noticing how happy and joyful they were. They get so enthusiastic with so little.
My first interesting observation about the final stretch to the village is the way the other villages were arranged. They have all been built along the long road in a very organized and distinguishable way. The entrance to any village is through a beautiful gate. All these gates are lined up along the road. It is virtually impossible to miss your village. The gate to my village is very tall and colorful. It also faces the gorgeous green rice fields. A deep green that I have never seen before the United States. Our old house is very close to the gate. Like most other houses in the village, it is built on a tiny little street about 5 feet wide. I have never seen such a small street before. The houses are also very close. In the spaces between them I saw chickens laying eggs.
The people of Hazardon are poor and needy. Some of them are so poor that had nothing else to offer us than a tiny cup of warm water. They are extremely friendly in their own way. They are aloof and cautious. They do not shake hands and they do not use any gestures when they meet you. They were continuously laughing when they realized that I wanted to shake hands with everybody.
I visited the old tower that was used for the protection of the village. It has long and thin vertical holes for the rifles overlooking the gate from the inside. The village used to have direct communication with the sea via a canal. The canal used to be very busy with boats that would travel to the port where people would exchange rice for fish and other food items.
The school of the village was such an elation for me. I was so happy among all those hundreds of children's eyes looking at me with surprise.
I took photos of everything. I had a screen saver made out of them that I now have permanently on my computer.
My uncle, aunt, cousins and grandfather live in a tiny house. There is barely any space for people to move around. They have an old television set that my father bought for them in 1987. The shows are usually of ethnical nature. Many of them are about the activities and the achievements of the communist government. Actually, there is a television set in the middle of the square of the village. People would come to the square, which is right next to my house, and sit on their little chairs to watch television for a couple of hours every night.
My relatives in Hazardon are mainly rice growers. They work extremely hard for very little money. However, there has been considerable progress in the village in the past 10-15 years. For example, many bicycles have been replaced by motorbikes, and there is great number of tiny little stores selling a variety of little things.
The dentist's office is such a comical establishment. The room, where the dentist works on your teeth, is totally exposed to the public. There is no front wall. The patient is sitting on a chair in the middle of the room, and the other patients are sitting around watching the entire operation take place. Needless to say, the cries from pain can be heard at quite a distance from the dentist's office.
We ate traditional Chinese food that I have never seen or heard of before in the USA. We talked and talked about anything and everything. I was thirsty for knowledge. I wanted to know everything about the village, its people, their occupations, their socio-political problems. I wanted to know how they felt about the United States. To my great surprise, I discovered that they love and admire our country. They also wish that they could come and live here.
I should not forget to mention Lai Che. Lai Che is a small red spherical fruit that I had to have in large quantities. In fact, we visited several other relatives that gave us many Lai Che.
In summary, my trip to China was an unforgettable experience. An experience that opened my eyes toward another world and another civilization. An experience that filled me with everlasting feelings of pride and excitement