We awoke at 4 AM and were in the hotel lobby, ready for our cab to the airport by 4:30 AM. We weren’t tired; we were excited to think about the schools we would be visiting in China! All airport procedures went smoothly. At our gate, we met a young American woman who had taken time off from her job to backpack through Southeast Asia. Our son has the same adventurous spirit, having done that a few years back. We conversed happily until boarding time.
The flight from Hong Kong to Beijing takes three hours. On the plane we were served a snack of dim sum and noodles, two foods of which we will never tire. Upon leaving the plane, we went through immigration without problems. We were really in China!
Beyond the luggage carousel, we saw two people holding a sign that said “Barbara and Nick Pisarro.” They were our driver and interpreter! Liang, our driver, did not speak English, but our interpreter, Anna, is an English teacher at Pleasant School in Gu’an. We learned that she is originally from Poland. How wonderful to be fluent in several languages!
Anna asked if we were hungry. When we replied that we were, Liang took us to a Szechuan restaurant for lunch. At home, when we go to restaurants with friends with the intention of sharing some menu items, we try to make sure that we order the right amount of food for us to finish. Liang had a different approach. He wanted us to try everything. If we were slow to finish something, he was afraid we didn’t like it, so he ordered more foods. Our lunch consisted of kung pao chicken, duck in buns, pork riblets, pumpkin fries, deep fried fish, and a salad. He even ordered two desserts, both of which were delicious. One was fried dough filled with bean paste and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and the other was custard in a pastry crust very similar to pastel de nata, a specialty of Portugal. We tried to reassure Liang that we liked everything!
After lunch Liang drove us to the hotel at which we would be staying for the night. It was absolutely beautiful. Because we had awakened so early, we felt that a nap was in order. Later, we went to the dinner buffet at the hotel. There were many choices of foods, but they were not labeled in English. That has never stopped us before, and it wouldn’t now! We tried many foods and ended our meal with ice cream, green tea for Nick and mango for me. Back in our room, we switched books that we each finished on the plane. Nick started my Montalbano mystery (Montalbano is a Sicilian detective who loves life, food, and being Sicilian), and I began his Sherlock Holmes adventure.