Thursday, November 26, 2015

Houkeng Village

China - #2

Brad and Yessi meet the first six American visitors arriving for the wedding, with four more drifting in over the next two days.  The Hat is born!  And, Houkeng Village becomes our home.

Fran, Yessi, Brad, Stef, Paul, Ed, Greg, and Deb

 Uncle, living in the building next door  and connected to Yessi's
 family home with a tiny bridge high over the street,
made his elevator available to us when we were carrying luggage.
 Otherwise, it was six flights up...

 The Hat

Gathered on Yessi's mom's outdoor room we capture a first day's moment.

Rainier Mt. is our backdrop, the location of Brad's wedding
proposal to Yessi.

We soon meet Gina, our guide and interpreter, and soon to be our good
 friend.  We affectionally called her "Little Boss".
She and Yessi were a perfect guide team!!!

In Yessi's villiage, Houkeng, within the city of Xiamen, we are the "family" from America, with the children swarming Brad when we venture out.  

The narrow streets within the village accommodate only a few cars, around the edges mostly, but there are hundreds of bicycles; even more scooters, all electric to comply with Xiamen ordinance; as well as little three-wheeled and four-wheeled trucks hauling all manner of stuff.  The people own their streets with the old men playing cards in the park, working men and women rushing through on their way to jobs, folks of all ages shopping, teenagers playing badminton, and little kids doing what kids do…basketball, bicycles, skateboards, frisbee, kickball, yelling, laughing and making the most delightful squeaks and shouts.

The little narrow streets buzz with life and are safe enough that Yessi's mom one night met our taxi at midnight, dressed in pajamas.  The security in the village consists of a camera system recording activity on every street.   There is little police presence on the village streets, and we only heard sirens once or twice the entire time we were staying there.

Yessi's mom's Temple, nearby in the village.
The village security cameras can be viewed in a little precinct below the Temple.

For now, within this huge city, Houkeng Village is distinct.  Xiamen's rapid development stops at the edges, leaving the village social and family ties united.   It is slated for reconstruction in the next decade, so it's future is uncertain.  In the meantime, tiny produce, meat, grocery and drug stores are all close at hand, occupying the first floor of the five and six story apartment buildings, along with small manufacturing companies and repair services providing all the services needed.  The local grocer operates on the ground floor of Yessi's family's apartment building.  Yessi's family live on the top floor.

Our exercise program was not hurt by the six flight climb several times a day.  Chickens and a vegetable garden happen on the roof.  The four floors in between the grocer and Yessi's  family home provide residences for about 30 families.

The roof, with the chickens in the background.

View from the roof.

We were stuffed, three times a day with a wonderful assortment of food, especially seafood.

A typical meal prepared by Yessi's mom (we all called her Momma and Ed
and I were called Momma and Poppa).

Yessi's mom is a very good cook, spending endless hours
in her kitchen spoiling all of us.

Momma in her kitchen

Birthday parties for one year-olds are a very big celebration and, like at Yessi and Brad's wedding, the "Red Envelope" filled with money is the appropriate gift.  This poor baby is scared by all the fuss, but the party rolls forward with food, drink and boisterous gaiety.

Birthday Girl, not so sure about all the hullabalou.

Gina's mom was the cook and the party was at her family's home in the village.  The sushi was a special gift  delivered to our table.

One of five party tables, all loaded with food.  The quantities of food served
at every meal  were stunning.   In the company we were keeping,
we were able to once and for all put aside the warning from our
parents, "Finish your meal.  Think of the starving children in China."

Gina took a cake making class so she could create these
 cakes for this special occasion.

Daily, Momma serves tea to friends and family, often several times.  In our language void, she would often serve tea as a friendly and welcoming way to communicate and share and make us feel welcome. I can report total success with the tea-welcoming technique.

We were told not to thank Yessi's family for all they did for us.  It was not necessary and in fact it could be insulting.  In China, you don't thank family, as they are honored to be in your company.  Love says it all.  I had trouble with this concept throughout our visit.  I say "thank you" knee-jerk often and curbing it was almost impossible.  I'd bite my tongue but thank you still creeped out, or rather, was blurted out frequently.   Once I said to Gina, by way of explaining my inability to stop uttering my thanks,  "I can't say thank you freely to you, but believe me, in America, we thrive on thank you."


"If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will be enough."

Meister Eckhart

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