ten days in china

As this was my first ever visit to China, I thought I'd collect a few photos and reflections.

On Easter Sunday morning we attended one of the officially recognised churches. 1000 people, standing room only. Traditional, but not necessarily nominal or liberal. The Germans occupied the province for less than twenty years, but transformed the architecture (see below) and left behind a world-class brewery (not seen below - I don't believe in such promotion). After the service on the hill on high, we descended to the road below where a young man with a disability of some kind was chalking his version of the gospel on the footpath.

There was the thrill of driving over the longest bridge in the world. It never touches land. It takes 25min to cross - and it would cover the English Channel with some kilometers to spare. There was even a spaghetti junction in the middle of the ocean. Meanwhile, over on terra firma, a quick shot from the car captures the razor edges of the mountain ridges that took me back to sketches in the biographies I read as a child.

The cities were impressive. A majority of our time was based in Qingdao, China's 18th largest city - but still coming in at over 4 million (in a province, Shandong, with over 100 million people). It was the base for the sailing at the Beijing Olympics. It gave me an opportunity to share how New Zealand wins all its Olympic medals sitting down. The Chinese enjoyed that one...

For a country aiming at being the dominant nation in the 21st century, I was a little surprised at the paucity of English. I knew it was a challenge (and I confess to enjoying seeing indigenous languages to the fore) - but they won't dominate the world if they don't dominate English. Quite a contrast to India, with its British colonial ancestry. Then, rather ironically (and this is true throughout Asia), I am a little bemused by the dependence on Western models on billboards. The metanarrative for beauty and fashion (and wedding apparel) still tends to be written far from Asia. The new colonialism. Kinda sad.

The food was fun, as I appreciated the diversity of cuisine from the different regions of the country. Obesity was a rare sight and the link was made with the Chinese preference for savoury over sweetness. But I am still shaking my head on how these little sea slugs could fetch USD10/each - and that be considered a steal. They look more suitable for garden compost to me. And while the food was diverse, not everything that circulated around the table was edible.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my first visit to China would have me landing in a city just one hour from Weifang, where a big hero of mine (Eric Liddell, of Chariots of Fire fame) was confined during World War II ... and where he subsequently died of a brain tumour in his early 40s. There are various memorials, all of which I indulged. But there was a poignancy about the visit. As I stepped out of the car, a message came through that my best friend from way back, Martin Lovatt, had succumbed to cancer in his mid-50s back in New Zealand. Eric and Martin. Good men of deep and uncomplicated faith. Serving God with all that I am becomes a more straightforward choice because they are in my life. It is gonna be one of those days I remember for forever.

Partly because of the language barrier, I did find the person on the street and in the service industry to be a bit stern and unsmiling. I was not quite ready for this. I kept trying to make them smile - but to no avail. Oh well - it couldn't be said of the people with whom I hung out and who showed me around. Some of the warmest, most hospitable people I've encountered. Their kindness to me as I grappled with being so far from home when my friend died will remain with me.

 nice chatting



Steph Christensen said…
What were the books that influenced you which had their setting in those mountains? Was Mountain Rain by James Fraser one of them? That book was very influential in my life.
Michael Ardern said…
Paul, I really appreciate your thoughts on the places you travel to, and the work and people of God in those places. Hope to meet you properly one day. Thanks for you blog posts. Mike A.
Paul Windsor said…
Thanks, Michael. Kind of you to comment and glad you enjoy my chatting about this and that! Bless you.
Paul Windsor said…
Steph - Yes, James Fraser's book was one of them - but probably more the very old Hudson Taylor material was on my mind. There were the biographies, but the one that stands out in my mind was Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret. I feel privileged to be among those who can visualise you in your setting now. Bless you. Paul

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