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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Experiencing the culture

Today, we went to visit a small village of about 2,000 residents about 30 miles from the city. We walked down a narrow street lined with homes featuring a wide variety of architecture. Some were quite elegant while others were very basic. Many of the larger homes were two stories and had ornate doors made of metal or carved wood. The street had no sidewalk, so we had to dodge scooters and scooter ‘pickups’ selling tofu and carrying long metal pipes. Vegetable and fresh (?) meat vendors lined the entrance to the street. We brought candy for the local kids, and word spread fast. We felt like Pied Pipers as kids came out of nowhere and starting following us down the street. Selam loved handing out the candy, and once again she was a real attraction.

We then went to a Buddhist Temple in Nanchang. Although religion is frowned upon, there were many people lighting incense and orange candles in the front courtyard and praying in the series of temples that were part of the compound. The temples were separated by large courtyards, many of which had ornate vessels for incense and centuries-old camphor trees. As you entered each temple, you immediately saw a central, larger than life, golden Buddha. In front of the statue were slanted prayer stools where people could kneel to pray. Most of the buildings had a number of Buddha statues in different poses holding different objects.

Tomorrow is a holiday celebrating dead ancestors, so there was a lot of activity involving wrapping paper (fake money) into large packets that will be burned to send to the dead, so they can buy what they need in the next life. All week there have been firecrackers and bonfires in the alleys below our hotel, and we expect it will be even more pervasive tomorrow as the ancestors receive their gifts.

Evelyn, our guide, was so impressed with how our group managed real Chinese food yesterday that she took us to another great restaurant for lunch today. Highlights included sticky rice donuts, breaded eggplant and steamed egg.

This afternoon we took the kids to the hotel pool. Dian got cold pretty fast, but he learned to splash his sister and seemed to enjoy what we think was his first swim.

Tomorrow we fly to Guangzhou, where we’ll spend the remainder of our visit as paperwork is finalized for us to bring Dian home. In just four days he has won our hearts and feels like part of the family. Selam is even calling him “my Dian.”

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