Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 2 Part 1: Into China

The whole reason I flew into Hong Kong rather than Beijing or some other Northern City was to meet "Ba Ba" Minxi's father.  He had been a professor of Russian and English at the University in Guilin and had an apartment granted him by the University there.  Each winter however he went South to his hometown to pass the cold months with his three sons.

Minxi and Ba Ba's home village, Liange He, is across the river from a slightly larger village called Xin Du.  It's so remote that most people in Xin Du haven't taken up Mandarin and are still speaking Cantonese.  In her home town, they still speak the local dialect.

I was more than a little intimidated by the idea of meeting Ba Ba.  At 83 he had survived the Japanese Occupation, lost family members in the revolution of 1947, been relocated to a collective farm, raised three boys, moved by himself to the University, and when his wife died, took Minxi who was seven at the time, off to Guilin and raised her while teaching.  Oh, there was also the social revolution of the 70's.  He'd survived that too.  Now, two cancers later, he was alive and well, living the dignified life as the elder of his family and working hard to find a good husband for his youngest child, my Minxi.   Everything I've accomplished in my life reads something like, "got served cinnamon rolls during Saturday morning cartoons" next to this man.

Still, Minxi and I are not sweethearts or some kind of crush, we're building a life together and the right thing to do was to go meet Ba Ba and ask for Minxi's hand in person so, after a good night sleep punctuated by a midnight food attack, we made for the border.

There are tons of ways across the border from Hong Kong to China.  I was sort of in favor of taking the ferry from the China Hong Kong Ferry Terminal on the West side of Kowloon just about 10 minutes from the hotel.  It drops you off at the terminal Ghuang Zhao.  We were on a budget though so we used the MTR.  The MTR Blue Line runs from Hung Hom, which is connected to East Tsim Sha Tsui by an underground walkway, all the way to Lo Wu, where Minxi had crossed the border two days before.

Although it's called a subway, a good part of the blue line in above ground as it crosses the New Territories between the mountains and Taio Harbor.  The harbor and Mountains were beautiful but here I saw, for the first time, the poorer side of Hong Kong.  We left the glittering Kowloon, passes through some middle class neighborhoods an into poorer housing built over the drainages and culverts that run down the mountain.  There wasn't a lot of graffiti or signs of violence but it was otherwise a lot like some of the poorer parts of Los Angeles that I've seen.

Be careful when you get to Sheung Shui.  The blue line splits here.  Half the cars go on to Lo Wu, the other half go on to Lok Ma Chau.  Minxi and I had to leave our car and wait for the next one to take us to Lo Wu.

It's easy to find the border crossing itself.  The platform at Lo Wu is a kind of giant funnel.  I never had any trouble at any of the border crossings on the trip.  It's a two stage process, you fill out your visitor card, show your paper to the guard, they scan you and then pass you through to the inspectors who were never interested in me.  From there you go on to a second guard who clears  you into the country.

Minxi had to go into the "Chinese Nationals" line and I had to go into the "Foreigners" line.  It takes real class to stand in the "Foreigners" line and not hum "Feels Like the First Time."  There's an enclosed bridge from the Hong Kong side to the mainland China side but I didn't get a good look.  I'd lost sight of Minxi.  A few minutes later we were reunited and emerged in the warm morning sun in Shen Zhen. That was more or less when all hell broke loose.

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