Friday, May 25, 2007

Treasures! (Wednesday May 23, 2007)

Today was another another easy day for the adoption process. We simply had to be available when our guide took our paperwork to the US Consulate in case there were any problems with the forms. We got a call around noon that everything was fine and headed off toward a market that was on the outskirts of our little hotel map. The market was big, several square blocks of what we thought were dried foods, but after talking to someone later we learned much of it was actually a medicine market. We saw all sorts of dried creatures—snakes, frogs, toads, eels, etc. At one store you could buy bundles of straight dried centipedes, each about 7 inches long. They would hook about 25 of them together with plastic bag material for packaging.

Although we found this whole area amazing, we were also in search of some small gifts for some people and (except for maybe Steven and David) didn't think dried spiraled eels would be that appreciated, not to mention hard to get through customs. We asked several people where you could buy beaded bracelets by pointing at the ones they would be wearing. Everyone seemed to be pointing us in the same direction and we even got a cardboard note that we could show to people along the way for further pointing.

As we walked we passed the wine store with the dead animals in the jugs with the fermenting wine. We saw lots of snakes of different kinds just aging in the jug of wine This is apparently a tradition—the most famous of which is Three-Treasure-Wine. Legend has it that it is made with a Dragon, a Phoenix and Tiger, but since dragons are hard to get into fermenting barrels (as Dave Barry would say--”and I am not making this up”) they use a snake, a chicken and a cat. They actually put these dead animals in the barrel, fill it up with wine and let it sit for years and sell it as a delicacy. Heidi, being the wine taster of the family, decided to try it.


Well on we went toward the jewelry place that everyone seemed to know about. We came out of the little street side shops and instantly we are in this huge, modern shopping street. There are Reebok stores, McDonalds, KFC, Electronics Dealers, huge advertising signs and a 40' wide video screen showing Western style content. It was like a small Times Square in the middle of the city. On the one side of this street was a mall and we decided to step inside. It was huge—6 stories tall with glass elevators and escalators going back and forth at several places along its length. Additionally more hallways led to more shops behind the ones facing the open atrium on each level. We estimated at least 300 stores—a huge mall. Not exactly what we were were looking for, but we found this bead shop on the second level and Heidi bought a few beads. We asked the shopkeeper where we could get bracelets and she tried to give us directions but finally said “follow me”. David decided to take a break from walking and get a drink at KFC—with the arrangement that Heidi and the kids would come there next.

The shopkeeper took Heidi through this back hallway to someplace where there were lots of beads and jewelry in every store. Heidi looked around and with so many beads in so many stores she decided that this was something David had to see and started back toward KFC. She couldn't find it—the mall was all there in all of its beaded size and glory but KFC was no longer on the second floor on the end. Finally she wrote down KFC on a paper for someone who sent her in the right direction, back to the first mall where the KFC is. Either it was some time-space-continuum-alternate-universe or there is a second identical size and shape mall, completely full of beads and jewelry. It is incredible.
300 stores of beads—a entire shop of blue beads, another of purple, and the next one half red and half yellow. Several more in a row of only green jade. One full store of just jewelry findings, more stores of just pearls. I think if I were reading this and had not seen it, I would be saying “right—the Sneaths had a bit too much Three-Treasure Wine” but it is there. All three hundred shops of roundish objects with a hole through the middle.

Well we found some nice things and headed back toward the hotel—stopping to buy a suitcase along the way. A large lightweight suitcase was about $12 and we always need big cases when we take stuff to the Dominican Republic so we got one. We stopped for spaghetti at a coffee shop and went back to the hotel, ending our last full day in China.

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