The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By John Miller
For the Sentinel 

Olmpics on Chinese TV featured native competetors and Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt


This is the second part of John’s story of his recent 23-day stretch of travel in China as a guest of the two families whose daughters Xianhan and Cathy he and his wife hosted as exchange students. Part 1 began on page 3.

My flight that departed about 2:00 in the morning, having been delayed by four hours, arrived in Wuxi about 45 minutes later. Bleary eyed, I was the first person out of baggage claim as I kept my backpack as a carry-on. It is great to travel light provided you find places to wash clothes. Of course when staying with families this is quite easy.

I was delighted to see Cathy running from the passenger wait area to give me a big welcome hug. I then greeted her parents, both of whom I had met two months earlier when they came to our country for Cathy’s graduation from high school and a visit to Goldendale and our home. Alex manages an American owned factory which manufactures a component of the structure that holds automobile air bags. Linda is a high school chemistry teacher who doubles as an exchange student recruiter and monitor.

After a short drive I was introduced to their home, the top floor of an eight family apartment building located amongst a complex containing perhaps twenty five multifamily buildings. Their apartment was spacious, consisting of four bedrooms, a living area, a dining area, three bathrooms and a small kitchen. After a very quick shower I retired for the night as they had plans beginning relatively early the next morning. We had to drive to Shanghai, two hours distant, and meet Luna who was arriving on her 24-hour (one plane change in Dubai) flight from Brazil.

I visited during the Olympics and at night we watched TV quite intensely. Of course it was Chinese programming so I saw very little of any participants other than Chinese. The two significant exceptions were the coverage of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

Our venture the following day was a two-hour drive to the homeland of both of Cathy’s parents. We arrived in Yangzhou about 11 and initially went to Linda’s family home. Grandma lived in a rather large home surrounded by acreage she leased to the neighbors for gardens and pasture. When she spotted us on our arrival she was sitting in her lounge on the porch, obviously awaiting her family and ‘special’ visitor. She gave me a hug like a long-lost friend, fetched a bottle of water, and insisted I bring a chair and join her. We conversed several minutes, laughing and smiling the entire time. Neither of us had a clue what the other may be saying, but our friendship surely must endure forever.

An hour later we drove through a maze of country trails and roads to finally arrive at the home of Alex’s parents. Again I met Grandma, some of Alex’s relatives, and eventually Grandpa made an appearance. They lived in a relatively new house, surrounded by gardens, a fish pond and a grove of trees. After Grandma finished giving me a tour of their property, I presumed we were departing. No! Grandpa came out of his house and invited us to join him for something to eat.

The meal he personally had prepared, laboring obviously for many hours, consisted of 23 individual and distinct dishes. Twelve of us sat around his table, which was constantly turning as someone spotted a dish they wanted to enjoy. About half way through the meal, Grandpa disappeared and returned with some local ‘liquid’ he had made from corn. The best description I can give it is one word: strong! I eventually emptied my glass, had sampled all 23 dishes, and have memories that will last a lifetime. I slept all the way back to Wuxi.

In and around Wuxi we visited the Grand Buddha of Ling Shan, at more than 88 meters high and weighing over 700 metric tons, made of bronze. We also went to several shopping malls, primarily to appease Luna our Brazilian visitor. Some are exceptionally large, with the same shops as you would see in Seattle or Portland, plus perhaps London or a comparable European city. One weekend we went to Zhejiang Province with friends Alex formerly worked with. They had rented a large house in the mountains and we spent most of two days hiking the wooded trails. It was refreshing and very enjoyable.

Our final venture was taking a high-speed train, at 300 km per hour, to Beijing. Upon arrival we attended an acrobat show at Chaoyang Theater. It was an amazing display of talent, strength, agility and endurance like I had never witnessed. High wire, 16 on a bicycle, tumbling, pyramid building, and the like.

The following morning we went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. From Beijing it was an hour’s car ride, a short bus ride, then we climbed 1,062 steps to reach the Great Wall. We had a wonderful vantage point. We could observe the wall in both directions, nearly as far as the eye can see. We walked from Watch Tower 6 to Watch Tower 11, a distance of perhaps a mile.

This section of the wall was first built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 557). In the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) patriotic generals rebuilt it in order to strength its defensive potential when they guarded the strategic pass to the capital. It is mainly made of slabs of granite. It measures 23 to 26 feet in height, and 12 to 16 feet in width. Recent restoration makes it an attractive and safe place to visit, but since it’s not readily accessible the area is not normally crowded. The total length of the Great Wall is 5,500 miles. But if you count sections rebuilt on top of older sections, there may be more than twice that distance of actual wall construction.


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