Friday, August 22, 2008

The Saga Begins... in a rocky sort of way....

Well, I'm sitting here in the Hong Kong airport... in roughly the same place I've been for the last 35 hours.

When we got to Hong Kong, we were all set for an adventure: Shannon and I had found the Hong Kong Temple on google maps, and had used the Lonely Planet guide book to find where to go to get there (Hong Kong has 7 million people in it... thank heavens for guide books). We were greeted with the news that there is a level 8 typhoon warning. For those of you who don't know what a typhoon is, it's like a mild hurracane. I mean, rain, wind and craziness. Level 8 is apparently fairly serious. So, we were advised to stay inside. Then we were advised that our flight was cancelled and would probably not fly out until the next morning. So, we began to camp. We slept on the chairs (not very comfortable, because they all had the arms attached), or under the chairs (one of the few carpeted places), or anywhere that we could find a place. I will be doing some talking with the other people and round up some good pics.

Basically, all of the stores except 7-Eleven (yeah... in the Hong Kong airport) and the Circle K were closed. (Remember that store that closed in the US? Well, it's alive and well in Hong Kong.) The typhoon warning was changed to a level 9. We survived on what we had in our carry-ons, and the junk-food that we could buy from those convenience stores in the air-port. The carpet was hard, the chairs were uncomfortable. :)

That morning, at probably 3 a.m., we were told that we would then be required to wait until Monday (it was then early Saturday) to fly out. Later that morning, Jacob Harlan scrambled to find a place to stay for 2 nights, and a way to get there, and still continue our planned visits to other cities in China. That poor, poor man. He really was scrambling frantically to get things taken care of. I was over watching the Olympics on the complimentary television. All the people were just sitting around our little section of the lobby. Jacob had Shannon call me over. He wanted me to make arrangements to get the luggage for the group of about 25 people. I went up, and stood in lines, and waited, and talked to people who made phone calls. After 3 hours, I was able to get the luggage. Shannon remarked on the fact that, out of 24 people, all of them being over the age of 19, some more like 26 or 27, he called me over from watching the Olympics to take care of the luggage, instead of picking from the rest of the group around him.

When I returned, he had negotiated a place to stay with the Hong Kong Temple President, in Patron Housing. Now, they had to bend some rules to let us do this, but we were so grateful. We made it to the housing without a hitch, had a relaxing Saturday evening, and then headed on over to the market to buy some food. Real food. So, the next day we had breakfast, showered (so nice...), and went to church on the 3rd floor of the temple. It was all in Cantonese, but it was enjoyable.

After elder's quorum, a man was handing out red hard-boiled eggs. From what I could glean from the people around me, his wife had a baby earlier, and it is customary to bring eggs to your friends when you have a baby. I see the symbolism, but it's a little weird to be eating the baby-symbol. Just a thought.

After dinner with the Mission President and Temple President, we met the office elders, and the assistants. It turns out that Riley Hedin is one of the assistants. We talked about home a little bit, but mostly about the work. :) The offices brought back so many memories.

Then we rested, and continued our journey to Changsha. From Changsha, we went to Xiangtan University, where the majority of the group would stay. They got their apartments, and Shannon and I got out motel room. After a little bit of training, and some preparations, we went to the touristy Yangshuo.

I will need pictures to do it justice, but I'll tell you what we did. We rented bicycles, rode to the river, got on bamboo rafts, floated down the river for about 2 hours, rode our bikes over to the bus stop where we would catch a ride up to the Moon Hill Water Cave. We bought swimming suits there, and they really didn't fit us very well. Mine was very short. By short I mean it covered the bare necessities, and no more. We hiked through the caves, and down to the mud bath. Then, we washed off in an underground river, hiked out of the cave, out onto the side of the mountain, and enjoyed beautiful vistas of rice patti terraces. We hiked home, made some touristy purchases, and went to sleep, having filled our day with very beautiful things.