Homepage Everyday Adventures Work Visit! Contact

Chuan Di Xia - 3
(Go to page 1, 2, 3, or 4)

By this point, Jane, our resourceful leader, had successfully confirmed our housing for the night. About 20 village families open their courtyard homes to overnight guests. Each home is slightly different, and Jane gallantly visited each to ensure we got the best places.

I had no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised when we walked to the entrance of our home for the evening: Number 8 Chuan Di Xia Village:

Our "hotel" was really a courtyard home, transformed into a "bed and breakfast", Chinese-farmer style. The amenities included several folding metal tables with stools, a washbasin in the corner, and a primitive kitchen (a hot plate on a low shelf in a closet) in the back. Two snapshots should give you the idea:

This home (like the others in the village) had one faucet with cold running water (located just inside the front door), one electrical circuit (which had been artfully expanded via multiple extension cords to reach each room of the house), and no toilet (there was a single wash basin, but anything else required a 5-minute trek to the communal toilet for the village). We'll spare you the details on the communal toilet, but it's safe to say that all of us took care to limit our visits there to the absolutely necessary!

Surrounding the courtyard were three sleeping rooms, each with two communal "kang" beds at each end sized to hold about four adults. A traditional kang is built of brick and has a hole on the floor underneath where pans of hot coals are placed in winter to warm the bed's surface. Our kangs were simple wood platforms, and warmth was provided by traditional quilted Chinese bedding. Out "pillows" were filled with dried peas and covered with well-worn bath towels.

The girls quickly discovered that these over-sized, padded beds were perfect for pillow fights and somersaults. Mirandam, Laura, Sami and Emily scout out a kang.
They were also great places to snuggle! An exhausted Sharon slept the best of anybody, and woke up to warmth on each side!

After settling into our "hotel", the grownups started setting up dinner.

Jane had warned us ahead of time that village dining options were limited, and encouraged us to bring goodies to share. Each of us did bring some munchies, but we were put to shame by Jane's massive contribution. The night before our trip she had visited Beijing's first Sam's Club (the warehouse branch of Wal-Mart), and (as she put it) "had fun," buying up smoked salmon, shrimp (which she then cooked!), chicken wings, and a wide assortment of cheeses and dips. She even brought homemade, fruit-filled sangria for our happy hour!

The result was a feast by any standard - thank you, Jane!

Needless to say we gorged ourselves all evening! The only thing that surpassed the meal was the pleasure of the company, captured here in some candids:

Here's a quick introduction to some of the wonderful friends we have made:l

  • Jane, our tour leader extraordinaire, who founded and runs Our Chinese Daughters Foundation, the leading provider of services for families who adopt Chinese children. They do great "discovery" tours for returning families, adoption facilitation, and adoption-related travel. Jane's 6th grade daughter Emily, has already become a good friend of our girls.
  • Jenny, the founder and CEO of Half The Sky. Half the Sky focuses on babies and children in China who still wait to be adopted, and for those who will spend their childhoods in orphanages. Jenny's team establishes early childhood education, personalized learning and infant nurture programs in Chinese welfare institutions to provide the children stimulation, individual attention, and an active learning environment. Jenny brought her first- and second-grade daughters Maya and Anya; we missed her husband, Richard, who's working stateside this month.
  • ZZ, the head of Half The Sky's Beijing office, and a veteran English interpreter from the early days of US-China "ping pong diplomacy."
  • Michelle, the founder and CEO of Leyou.com, the leading online store for baby and kid products in China; with the husband Larry, the head of strategy for Microsoft in China and Tom's HBS classmate. They brought their 7th-grade daughter, Jessica.
  • Peter, the retired director of China International Publishing Group (which includes Foreign Languages Press - he's former editor in chief of Beijing Review Magazine), with his wife Jenny, a retired diector of the English division of China Radio Internationl (CRI 91.5 fm).
  • Sharon, an anthropology professor from Portland State University and a Fulbright scholar in China to research how to best combine cultural studies with language studies for foreigners learning Chinese; with her husband John (landscape architect) and their 11-year old daughter Laura.
  • Jenny, a senior executive with China International Travel Service who works with OCDF China Tours; with her 6-year old son Niu Niu.
  • Wang, our terrific bus driver and even-better teacher of fun things to do.

Hanging out with this group was even more fun than exploring the village!

Plus, with three Jennys and two Sharons, it was easy to remember everyone's name!

Next: Lots of fun that evening, and a special birthday surprise for Miranda the next morning...


Homepage Everyday Adventures Work Visit! Contact