The China Rowing Trip: Part 3


Did you read Part 2?

In the morning we were greeted by the usual Chinese breakfast... indistinguishable from dinner. But, lo and behold! An effort had been made to calm the morning tummies of the guests and so brioches, bread and even peanut butter had been set out for us. Coffee is non-existent but we were prepared for that and served up hot espresso from our room for all the caffeine-deprived adults.

That morning our hosts took us up to a beautiful lookout spot over the picturesque Qian Dao Hu. After taking the requisite group pictures we came across a school outing and dove into the melée…our smaller rowers within minutes were getting offered Chinese snacks and were on the picnic blankets playing Monopoly. The English teacher of the school was prodded forward to talk to us and some of her students helped her, especially when Marcello is nominated as our envoy. The kids offered us their Green Tea potato chips and we all wholeheartedly agreed with Elaine that those are “two different systems”.

I of course am used to the impact my sons can have on total strangers within minutes of meeting them.  I smiled with probably-not-very-well-hidden pride as they navigated the group of students and wore their cheeks out smiling for photos with Chinese kids. So the best part for me was seeing the other Italians kids mingle and share snacks, and try out their few English words with the Chinese kids’ equally few words. In Italy this would never happen: the Chinese community in Italy is that of the recent immigrants to settle an area - they’re seen as invasive and unclean, zealous and untrustworthy. Expecting stand-offishness, they do not make an effort to mingle with the Italians.

The weather, by the way, was absolutely splendid. It was warm and sunny, the sky was completely blue and the flowers were out. It was almost too hot and already I was thinking of which jeans would get sacrificed and made into shorts. The views truly were beautiful and the greenness of the national park was very restorative after all that travel. Afterwards I asked Elaine if we could make a quick stop…my eye had caught the unmistakable signs of a market on the way to the lookout: people heading out of a pi