Down By The River

In the interest of moving on to the more interesting stuff, I’ll skip the details of the bus ride from Ningbo to Fuyan.  I can sum it up by saying that while there are many places in the world where taking the bus seems like an exceptional immersion experience, in this part of China it’s pretty much the same thing as Greyhound except that people can smoke on the bus, and the food at the rest stops is even harder to identify if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Fuyan is the city where the Coastlines Kayaks Club retail store is located.  Jason and I came through here on our trip in 20098, and this is where we first paddled some of Winner’s kayaks.  Walking into the office I saw some more familiar faces, and was instantly made to feel right at home.  They had even set up a little work area for me in the office.  After some entertaining story telling and a couple of cups of tea, we quickly rounded up everyone and headed out to lunch at their favorite restaurant.

It was immediately obvious that these guys ate at this place pretty much every day.  They didn’t even pause before heading to their little room, and the staff brought the customary tea along with some first dishes without us even asking.  Of the new people I met, King is bound to be the one who is most likely to pop up in this blog again.  He’s just out of college and started working for Nick a few months ago.  When I sit down he hands me a Chinese cell phone to use and explains that his job is now to be my assistant for the duration of my stay and that he is very interested in improving his English skills.

After lunch King and I head back to the office while Nick heads home to say hello to his wife and son.  Before too long we are all off to the island village where Nick grew up on the Fuchun River.  It’s only a 20 minute drive out of town, but it feels like we’ve travelled back in time 200 years as we pass ancient farm houses and bright green & yellow fields.   As we cross the bridge onto the island it’s easy to tell where the new construction is.  Interspersed among the small farmhouses are huge new multi-story homes.  The most prominent among these is where the Coastlines Kayaking Club is now based here on the island.

The 4 story clubhouse has 10 rooms for guests, an office area on the top floor, a large conference room, and a full kitchen.  All done up in the newest Chinese style.  The team has obviously been working hard to get everything ready for the big Grand Opening event at the end of April, and there is activity everywhere.

On our way through the clubhouse King shows me to my room where there is a team of 4 guys finishing up last minute details like installing the shower & hot water heater.  Up on the 4th floor I am greeted by more of my friends from our last trip.  If you read any of those blog entries (I’ll try to put a link up here at some point, but I think you can get to them by searching for SouthEast Expeditions on Blogshpot.com) then you may remember Jason and Song.  Jason Light (my friend from Atlanta) and I were meeting so many new people that we had to rely on our own nicknames to communicate with eachother.  Having another Jason wasn’t going to make things much easier, so we nicknamed him Japanese Jason, allowing for alliteration to beat out any actual cultural relevance or political correctness since Japanese Jason is in fact Chinese.  Song we nicknamed the General since he was usually decked out in a kick-ass military coat and seems to have more presence than anyone else in China.

Both Jason and Song greeted me like a long lost brother, and we were soon out on the deck telling stories in a mix of body language, mixed Chinese & English, and hilarious pantomime gestures.  Song asked about Georgia Jason, and I was happy to tell him that the reason he missed this trip was to attend to his budding career as a rock star in Atlanta.  While the guys were disappointed not to see their other American friend again, they seemed to understand that sometimes the groupies win out in the battle for one’s time.

I used the rest of the afternoon to wander around town and get familiar with my surroundings.  This is where we will be spending most of the rest of the week, and also where I will teaching their guide training course next week, so it’s home for a while.  By the time I got back to the clubhouse Nick has decreed that I will not be staying there (“not hot water”) but will instead be staying with his sister and her family a couple of blocks away.  I quickly pack my things back up and we head over there for dinner.  At his sister’s house (another newer home) I find tremendous hospitality from folks who speak about as much English as I do Chinese.  After dinner Nick heads home to see his family, and I am promptly off to bed where I collapsed for a my first really solid night’s sleep.

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