Friday, June 13, 2008

Where We Goin' Anyway?

Let's start with where we're NOT going: Beiliu City, where little Katie has lived her first 11 months in the orphanage there, is part of Yulin Prefecture, which is one of 14 prefectures in Guangxi Zhuang Province. Actually, it's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, but it's still a province of China. A prefecture is sort of like a county, and a province is sort of like a state.

Yup, the map is China and most of it's 14 neighbors (can you name 10 of them?). See the Great Wall? It's right there.

Anyway, we got word a few days ago that we will not be allowed to visit the orphanage that Katie has lived in. Word is that security has been tightened "for the Olympics". Yeah, like visiting an orphanage is going to affect something that's happening 1,000 miles to the north. Our facilitator also mentioned that a Spanish family adopting a little girl from another orphanage brought along a "family member" who turned out to be a journalist doing a piece on Chinese orphanages. The Chinese hate losing face more than anything, and I'm going to bet that we are reaping for the misdeeds of that journalist.

So, we're going to fly 300 miles or so west from Guangzhou to Nanning, leapfrogging Beiliu City in the process, since it is between the two. Katie will be taken by train from Beiliu City to Nanning, which is the capital of Guangxi Zhuang province. By the way, the Zhuang word refers to the fact that a large minority population of Zhuang people live in this province, although the Han ethnic people group (92% of all Chinese are Han) are still very much the majority, even in Guangxi Zhuang.

Of at least passing interest is that only the Han majority are subject to China's one-child policy. Evidently, it was felt by the Central Committee that asking the various minority groups to submit to the policy might mean extinction of those groups over time. Or maybe not all the members of the Central Committee were of the Han majority. You never know what might happen in politics, especially one-party politics.

To put things in perspective, Han Chinese make up 92% of China's population, and a whopping 19% of the world's population! That makes them the largest ethnic group in the world, more than a billion strong. Wondering which foreign language to have your kids take in college? My vote is for Mandarin, although Spanish and French were a piece of cake compared to the little Mandarin I've learned. Then there's the problem of reading and writing Chinese characters. Oo la la!

So, I've learned how to say "bu yao" which I think means "I don't want that" which could apply to an overly zealous street watch salesman ("Rolex for you. Good price.") or to a waiter offering an omnivore's surprise, which could be anything from fried seahorse on a stick to fricassee of feline (you can pick the kitty of your choice from a cage outside the restaurant).

I've also learned how to say "I'm not Chinese" which I know will come in handy, given my complexion and blonde hair. I can also say "do you want to eat lunch at my house?" which will also come in handy in case any of my new Chinese friends has an extra airline ticket for Minneapolis.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: the few bits of conversational Chinese I've learned from Mr. Pimsleur are in Mandarin, or Pǔtōnghuà (common language), the official language of China. Unfortunately, we are traveling to the south of China, where the vast majority speak Cantonese (Guangzhou was formerly known as Canton). So when I tell the watch salesman "bu yao" in Nanning, he will probably pull and knife on me because I said "your mother shaves".

Hopefully he'll at least have a bandaid for me. Good price.

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