This week it’s great to introduce another new writer to the Viva 70 team. I’ve been nagging Lesley McGillvray to write for us for some time now. She has recreated her life significantly in the past few years. As owner of the very successful Mt Franklin Estate winery for twenty years she embraced the country idyll. In 2018 she sold the 100 plus acres and beautiful Victorian homestead and created a home for herself in the regional city of Ballarat. A lock-up and leave townhouse creates the opportunity for Lesley to travel. Among our friends the cry is often heard ” Where’s Lesley now…is she back from……?”
This week she tells of her adventures in China with her grandson……….
My grandson (TC) and I recently returned from our adventure, a guided tour of China. I am 73 years old and my grandson is 12. Any concerns that I had were gone as soon as we were packed and ready to go. When our feet touched the ground in Shanghai we were ready to meet any challenges and experience every moment of our tour itinerary. We arrived at our hotel at 10pm and as always, my grandson was hungry, so we ventured out three blocks to a KFC store. TC created quite a stir being so handsome with his blonde, curly hair. The Chinese customers wanted to shake his hand and pose with him for a photo. He was quite taken aback by the interest he was creating. Several of the Chinese customers wanted to practice their English with us both but TC was definitely the star. What a great travel day. We were tired but excited about tomorrow….
Shanghai was all the brochures had described- exciting, vast and always intriguing. Twenty-six million people live in Shanghai. Travel around the city was by bus and the tour guide was very informative. River cruises, markets, gardens and museums filled our days, but the fast train was the highlight, travelling at 443 kms an hour. I was a little apprehensive and TC was keen for me to know that there were no wheels on the train! Powered by electromagnetism, when the train is moving it is suspended in the air about 10 mm above the track on a magnetic cushion. I’m not sure that this information made me feel any more secure! It was exciting watching the monitor to see the train increase its speed. Sometimes there was a slight rocking and that was a passing train on the other track. Everything moved so quickly it was hard to get a photo..vroom…vroom!
We very soon were aware of the large numbers of people in China. The large number of cars, motorbikes and pedestrians made the city feel dense rather than simply crowded. Like so many large cities traffic is restricted in the city centre on certain days. This is monitored by the last digit of the vehicle number plate. But Shanghai also has lovely gardens where people sit and play Mahjong and others stroll through lush greenery. Shanghai also has the second tallest building in the world with 128 floors.
Dinners were in local cafes, fortunately with pictures of the meals displayed on the walls. We each chose what we thought was similar to the Chinese meals at home. We weren’t very adventurous! On one occasion the waitress was shaking her finger at TC and saying ” No, No!” She produced her phone which had a translator app. and we discovered TC had just ordered roasted Sheep’s guts! We all laughed and headed back to the menu. Another day we ordered pork skewers. In the picture there were 10 skewers on the plate. When asked ” how many” we replied ” one”, thinking one serve. We stared blankly as one lonely skewer on a large plate was served. Again more laughs with our good – natured waiter.
We traveled by train (top speed 330 kph) to Zhengzhou (population 7 million). The railway stations were huge but efficient and security operated at a very high level. We found as days went by we relaxed more and became very comfortable with all around us. Architecture in Zhengzhou was curved, decorative and the high rise buildings are ever so tall. Our first adventure was to Wallmart! Our suitcases were full and we needed another to stow our treasures. Again the locals were so interested in us and keen to practice their English. Our queue was the longest as locals joined in the hope of asking us where we came from. They all knew Melbourne and Sydney. Mothers pushed their children forward to say “hello, where are you from and how old are you?” That was usually the limit of their English so we asked questions like ” How many bothers and sisters do you have?” The longer the conversations the happier everyone was and mothers were visibly proud of their children’s success in speaking English.
My white legs also drew great interest. I was buying shoes and wore a dress. One salesgirl called another from the next stall to see my white legs. There was lots of good humoured laughter. TC purchased a “Rolex” from a street vendor and it was working until we got on the bus!
We visited the Shaolin Temple and Kung-Fu schools was also part of the adventure. This was a very different school experience from what TC knew. The students at Kung-Fu schools are boarders and spend 50% of their time on Kung-Fu training and 50% on their academic studies. The martial arts exhibition was very impressive and TC thought that his schooling would be greatly improved with Kung – Fu instruction included.
Beijing was everything we envisaged. Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City were impressive. The views from The Great Wall were spectacular.. Rickshaw rides through communities that were hundreds of years old revealed another layer of beauty.
After our trip to the Great Wall my grandson was feeling tired. It had been a long haul, a 3 hour round trip. Walking the wall was a challenge. On our return to Beijing we decided to rest in one of the local cafes instead of shopping. We ordered drinks and 12 year old TC went up to the counter to order some chips. Moments later a tall glass arrived. I thought it must be lemonade. It turned out to be a very large Gin and tonic… which I quite enjoyed…..another trip back to the counter and success..hot chips this time.
The trip was booked some months ago as a ” two for the price of one” deal. Too good to miss and I had always wanted to see China. Taking my grandson would be an experience for both of us but as a half adult, aged 12 this would be a big adventure. This trip was great for both of us. Many times we only had each other for conversation. Wifi in hotels was limited or erratic and there was no TV we could understand. So we talked. About school and what we saw and how we felt. Conversations were also about my experience as a young child using ink and pencil at school… There were no such things as Biro’s never mind computers or mobile phones. I told him about how I always wanted to an an ink-monitor! So my grandson learned of grandma’s life too.
TC became a whiz at converting Chinese Yuan to Australian dollars and absorbed so much history and experienced a culture very different to his own. I enjoyed the company of my grandson, a very special time. It was a wonderful adventure and it will stay with us forever.