Dr. Lomino in China: February 5
February 5: First Impressions
Because I’m not sure when my suitcase will be joining me, I have asked Jecky to take me somewhere to buy a few items of clothing. The general consensus from the travel experts on the internet is that for lengthy international flights the best clothing to wear is somewhat pajama-like: a tunic, leggings and layers for various temperature conditions. So I followed that advice, of course not knowing that I would remain in “pajamas” for an indefinite period. This would not be the proper attire for meeting my new friends. Spending my first day in Guangzhou shopping is not what I had intended, but it has turned out to be a great introduction. Before heading to the stores, Jecky wants me to try out the local cuisine. We stop at a small restaurant and I have rice and cabbage and of course try my chopsticks skills. The food was good, but using chopsticks needs a lot more practice.
As most residents of the city, Jecky does not have a car and uses public transportation. So we take a bus to the metro (subway system.) Navigating crowds of people is a constant here. But in spite of the numbers, everyone is generally polite, and on several occasions young people gave up their seats so I could sit down. (I told Jecky it may have something to do with my gray hair!) Seeing the masses does help me understand some of the challenges that China is facing as more and more of their people move from the country and small towns into the cities, like so many other places in the world.
Since it is Sunday families are on outings and I observe interactions between parents and their children. They were obviously enjoying the lovely weather and the lingering spirit of Chinese New Year which has just come to an end. It is noticeable that the families are small. Occasionally I see two children, but often just one per family. The parents are attentive and the children seem very happy for the most part.
My goodness—the shopping mall! It was seven floors of mostly high-end shops! It is by far the largest mall I have ever seen. So here’s another first impression: China is big, and everything about it. Huge passenger jets, huge numbers of people, huge buildings. And with all that come huge environmental problems. I had been warned that the air quality may often be poor, and to be careful about being outside during those times, and the Pearl River is polluted, so it is important to drink only purified water. I have read that the Chinese people are beginning to recognize these issues and are working to find solutions. This is the perfect time to spread the word about Forest Kindergarten around the world, but particularly in countries like China where environmental problems are dire. Children are the key to a sustainable future, and Forest Kindergarten provides the perfect opportunity to help them develop a love of nature. From this close connection, they will undoubtably be inspired to protect it. I know this was one of the motivations for the establishment of No Boundaries Kindergarten.
I find a pair of pants at GAP, of all places, so at least I will look a bit more professional for my introductions during the next couple of days—until my suitcase arrives.
The jet lag is beginning to set in, but before I can get some sleep, I need to make one more stop—the food market to get breakfast items mainly. Thank goodness I have Jecky to translate. He helps me locate oatmeal, coffee, sugar and bananas. He does not know what half and half is. When I explain it is cream, he said he has never seen it. I find milk in cartons and bottles of all sizes—but not a drop of half and half. I have to settle for the powdered variety, and both creamer and coffee are expensive. But I know caffeine will be a necessity for the next few days until my body adjusts to a 13-hour difference between here and home. A large jug of bottled water completes my list and with a wheeled shopping cart and Jecky’s young muscles we walk to the apartment, and I finally settle in for a night’s sleep.
Today’s insight: So many people live in large cities these days; more than ever we need to be sure that everyone, especially young children can spend time in the outdoors. They need to feel the sun on their faces, hear birds singing and be able to explore and play in their natural environments.