Monkeys and a 400 year old bathroom
During our 2 wk stay in China, the first half was spent in Elijah's birth province of Guizhou. We met him in the capital city of Guiyang, where the adoptions are processed.
The days we spent there were slow paced and we didn't do a lot of touring around which was exactly what we needed. At that point Elijah was not enjoying leaving the hotel much. I think every time we went out he was nervous that we would drop him off somewhere.
Our guide did take us out to see a few of the beautiful places in and around the city.
One of those places was a park and temple up on the mountain.
Guizhou is a very beautiful province (from what I've seen in pictures and documentaries). It's known for it's very rugged green rolling landscape and it's remote minority people groups. It's also the second poorest province in China, the poorest being Tibet. The capital city reflects the beauty, the melting pot of cultures, and the poverty. They don't see a lot of tourists, not compared to some of the bigger cities in China. We were a bit of an anomaly where ever we went.
The scenery was breath taking just outside the city. So serene.
Our guide told us that this is where the retired people like to come every day to do their exercises They walk backwards up the hill, they play badminton, do dancing classes, and of course Tai Chi. She asked what our retired age people do in Canada. I replied with not that...mostly just sit around watching tv I think. I couldn't believe how these senors were moving...they were doing things that would make me fall flat on my butt. It was incredible to watch.
There was a few guys doing some sort of martial arts with swords. Very cool.
Just up the paved path a little further up the mountain were monkeys....thousands of monkeys.
I've never ever seen so many wild, walking around out of a cage monkeys!
Our guide was terrified of them because she had been "robbed twice" by them.
I kept a safe distance...not wishing to be robbed, bitten, or otherwise assaulted by them.
Everything has a meaning and a purpose. It seems that nothing was made just to look nice, behind every statue, image, color, placement of anything, architectural design, even the foods they eat, lies extravagant superstition and religious ritual. It's all extremely detailed, with many legends and explanations behind it all that seem to be common knowledge among the people and still very much observed in the young generation. I think it surprised me a bit, that in a country that is formally secular and communist, that most of the people in the places I went are anything but that. From what I could tell, the ancient rituals and traditions mostly come down to two things - fear of evil spirits (and protection from them) - and trying to gain good luck. I found it all interesting, as we respectfully listened and learned from our guide throughout the week.
Deep in so many (if not every) culture is the knowledge and experience that there is a spiritual realm beyond what we can see...and a desire to find their way out of the darkness. I found it fascinating, and at the same time I'm just so thankful that Jesus isn't just another diety that demands trinkets, rituals, and performance... or that I have to live in fear of lurking evil. I know I could never find my way to God (or "enlightenment" or "paradise" or righteousness) with my own blind eyes and through my own "good deeds" but I'm so thankful that HE came into that darkness on a rescue mission.
I was just catching up on some sermons from my church that I missed while we were away (we are working through the book of Mark chapter by chapter) and I was listening to my pastor preach about Jesus healing the man possessed by demons. It really struck me after hearing, for the past two weeks of touring, about everything we must do to protect ourselves, hide from, and keep evil spirits from bothering us.
This is a quote from that message regarding the man who couldn't do anything to free himself, protect himself, or find his own way out of the tomb.
"We have a God who pursues people that everyone else has cast aside or given up on. And we have a God who frees and restores those who are bound and oppressed by the enemy.
This is not try a religion – this is the Gospel – an encounter with Jesus – not a set of rules to follow – but a deliverance – a setting us free from all that enslaves us. This guy is in serious trouble. He can’t pick himself up by his own boot straps – He doesn’t have any boots. This man is in darkness – bound in chains. Oh he can break physical chains, but he is bound in sin – in Satan’s bondage – and he lives in the tombs among the dead. He needs more than education or a change to his environment or anger management classes. He needs more than religion – some rules or rituals or routines…
He needs a Savior! He needs a substitute who will take his sin! He needs a powerful, delivering Hero. He needs Jesus."
Such ornate beauty and attention to detail. Such incredible works of art everywhere.
The memory that stands out most from our visit to this very old Buddhist temple was the bathroom. Not very profound I know...haha. I had taken Elijah the first time to a squatty potty at the gov't office building. It was awkward but it was a large spacious private bathroom. This was only the second time I'd taken him to pee beyond the comfort of our hotel room. Being that this courtyard was built hundreds of years ago we had the privilege of using an old school squatty potty...rather than the usual basin built into the floor there was more of a ditch...or a trough. I was a bit taken a back when I walked in to see several women squatting over the tiled sewage trough. Now if it was just me I would have sucked up my pride, and joined in the squat party...but instead I awkwardly maneuvered a child with CP who cannot stand straight, balance, or squat, and attempted to allow him to pee without us both falling into the trough full of unspeakable things.....with bare bummed onlookers watching.
We both survived..most of our pride intact.
He loved to get out of the stroller any chance he could.
Another place our guide took us was a museum of the minority groups. The province of Guizhou has about 48 (if I remember correctly) distinct cultural groups. Due to the rugged nature of the landscape and these distinct people groups living in remote villages, they live in very traditional ways. The total of all the minority people groups only make up, together, a very small percentage of the population of China which is mostly Han Chinese. (92%). Our guide thought it was very likely that Elijah comes from one of the minority groups since his city in the south part of the province is surrounded and made up of many of these ethnic groups...she also thought his eyes, features and skin looked like a couple of specific ones that I can't remember now. Who knows really...was kind of fun to learn more though.
So many elaborate costumes, and fascinating traditions.
Now that's some bling.
The decorations are made up of "bubbles and butterflies"...everything has a story behind it and a purpose.
This was our trusty, kind hearted driver Wan (I don't know how to spell his name in English but that's how it sounded). He was so sweet to Elijah and the most amazing driver I've ever seen. The traffic and driving was like nothing I have ever witnessed...in. sane.
Our guide was excellent too, we very much appreciated her knowledge, her humor, and her compassion.
The day before we left Guiyang we visited some very old interesting buildings right in the city.
In the courtyard a man was doing some sort of scribe work (for lack of a more intelligent description). He was forming the Chinese characters the old style way with a brush and ink. An art in itself.
We had him write on rice paper Elijah's Chinese name and his English one below it..along with the Chinese dates and his signature stamp. It's really cool looking and I'm planning on framing it to put it up on his bedroom wall.
This is the finished product (picture taken at home in Canada for Chinese New Year)
Cracking up watching ladies play badminton while we wait for his name to be written. It was such a beautiful afternoon. The sun was shining and the temp. rose to about 18 degrees C. It felt so good.
We really enjoyed our time in Guiyang. There were a few things about it that I won't miss (not at all wheelchair accessible = difficult to navigate...squatty pots...and the gawking stares) but there was so much about the place and people that we fell in love with and will always have great memories of. I think this first week, getting to know our son, and exploring just a little bit of this culture was a highlight of our trip.