On Saturday, May 27th, Javan and I left Hengyang once again for Guangzhou. Our plans were to visit some of my other former and current Chinese students, namely Li Aiting (Kitty), and her husband Berry, and of course Crescent and his family. Javan was to meet up with JoJo. The best part of the trip was that this time Flat Stanley 2.0 was going with me.
Javan and I met Jojo at the Guangzhou South train station. Jojo was Javan’s Chinese Chapel Buddy from Harding for the last year. Javan always told her that if he ever made a trip to China he would try to come see her. And sure enough here we were. I wanted this trip to be much more relaxed than the last trip to Guangzhou where I was so anxious about how to live without my Passport and Visa for a few weeks. I was to meet Zhang Yijun at my hotel that he suggested that was near his home. Jojo helped me buy my subway ticket and instructed me where I need to catch the first train, which transfers I need to make, and what my final destination stop would be. She wrote it down for me in Pin Ying and in Chinese so that I could recognize it on the overhead map that is in every subway car. Javan was going to be in another part of town than I was so we got two different hotels, but did plan to meet up with him for a family meeting on Sunday morning.
By now, I was on my way, headed across Guangzhou by myself, the third largest city in China and one of the largest cities in the world. I made it there with little or no issues. I love traveling alone in China just so I can say I did, and to show myself that I can! And, I wasn’t really alone… my buddy Flat Stanley was with me, albeit FS 2.0!
Soon I was at my last subway stop. I exited the car, wiggled my way through the crowded station and the menagerie of people, bound up the stairs to the street level, and looked around. It was a crowded, chaotic, and loud environment. Street vendors were everywhere, lots of people gathered around in circles watching others play Mahjong and more. I was told what direction I would need to walk to get to my hotel, or, as my better discretion at the time dictated, try to get a taxi to my final destination. I must have looked lost and bewildered because soon there was a nice young man who came up to me and in pretty good English asked if he could help me. After I told him where I was going he said, “Oh you need a taxi, that’s too far to walk.” He waived down a taxi, I got in and he looked in the passenger side window instructed the driver where to take me. I sat there thinking, I hope he really knows where I need to go… and off we went.
In a few minutes I was in the unloading area of the Hotel that Yijun had arranged for me to stay. I had called and asked him to make my reservation because I didn’t have a credit card to do so. I assured him that I wanted him to make the reservation and that I would pay for the room with cash when I checked in or out, as the hotel would dictate. I checked in and went to the room and took a quick nap, not knowing where and when I would be for the rest of the day to do so. I pulled Flat Stanley out of my backpack, set him on the night stand and told him (and Siri) to wake me in 30 minutes!
When I awoke I called Yijun to tell him I had arrived. He said I’ll be right there. I only live about a five-minute walk from there. I met Yijun in the lobby and we went to lunch. It was a restaurant that was in the lobby of the hotel. The food was good, but nothing very unusual in cuisine and taste for Guangzhou, but the tea they served was great! That restaurant provided a Chinese tea service at each table. I inquired about the kind of tea it was and the staff member that prepared the tea for me brought me back a new unopened tea bag of the kind of tea she was serving. I told Yijun that I would like to find a place to buy some tea like this before I left Guangzhou.
Yijun and I hailed a taxi and we went to his parent’s business, Creative Teaching Academy. It’s a private English school for preschooler’s that also has an after school program for elementary aged students. Yijun had told his parents that I taught marketing, advertising and public relations. They asked me if I would be willing to make a video for them. Of course I didn’t really have the proper equipment to do so as I would have done at home but said, Yes, I’ll do what I can for you. It turned out to be a lot of fun. Crescent (Yijun) ended up being the videographer shooter (with a little coaching from me). I thought for a few moments and had a series of simple statements that I conferred with Yijun about and I was ready. I had about four different talking points I would extemporaneously speak to while I was walking in and then out of the frame. Doing this strategically made for an easy edit opportunity by somebody else. Crescents Momma and Baba loved it!
I had met his Mama and Baba the previous year. In 2016, West Ling had taken us to dinner which was where I first met Zhang Yijun, Crescent. His father, Mr. Zhang, which was his family name, but all I knew him by, was a businessman that owned this English language academy. West and Mr. Zhang had picked me up at the airport. West explained that this was one of his friends and that his son, Zhang Yijun, was going to be a student at Harding in the fall and he wanted me to meet Yijun and his parents, so he had arranged for all to go to dinner that evening.
Later that evening as we were driving to meet Yijun’s parents, West explained to me about his father’s business and asked if I would be willing to go by the school and meet his staff and see what they do. He wanted me to give him some marketing advice. It was a delightful tour of his school and an even more delightful dinner and meeting with Yijun and his family. During dinner West explained to the Yijun’s parents about our host family program, and that I was one of directors that managed that program. Yijun’s Momma then asked me if I would be her son, Yijun’s, American Dad! I usually had a policy that I did not sign-on one of my direct students to be assigned to me as it could be uncomfortable if the student did not score or perform well in class, so “Mmmmm, maybe,” was the best answer I could muster up. When fall arrived Yijun was NOT going to be in one of my classes so yes, I signed him up quickly. Crescent is one of the most delightful young Chinese male students EVER! He is just wonderful.
Fast forward back to the present, in 2017, it was this same Crescent, and his family, that I was now back in Guangzhou to visit for a few days. Crescent asked me about my Visa issues, and about Flat Stanley! I explained that I now was traveling with a new and improved Flat Stanley, which I named FS 2.0. Crescent is an International Business major and has a pretty good marketing mind. He said, “You now you might just have a great travelling product there.” I explained that Flat Stanley was a copyrighted product and all I could do was travel with him and tell my stories.
Steve Shaner, also known as Xie Yeye, is a professional story teller that delights in traveling to meet new and old friends. He can be contacted at email@example.com.