Author Archives: Bayley 白丽

About Bayley 白丽

Life in Hangzhou

For Spacious Skies: An Emotional Re-Entry

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I’m back in America. Owen and I landed yesterday morning, after a long and sleepless but blessedly uneventful trip home. The first thing Owen said when we landed was, “America is closed. Go back to China.” I laughed so hard I choked. Twelve hours back across the Pacific? I didn’t think so. But how was I supposed to convince a two-year-old of the awesomeness of our “new” home? [We moved to China when he was 2.5 months old, so it is his only known home.] I tried the weather: “Look at the blue sky! And the mountains and the grass and the trees!” I was choked up, actually streaming tears in seat 41K as we pressed our faces to the plane’s window. California must be the loveliest point of entry. Owen was somewhat impressed, but unconvinced. “We can pick strawberries here,” I offered. His eyes lit up. He jumped up in the seat and yelled to all the passengers, “Go to America now! Pick strawberries!”

The immigration agent asked us jokingly if we were siblings, and we shared a short, easy laugh. When I requested that he stamp Owen’s passport (the general practice for re-entering U.S. citizens is to pass through immigration without receiving a stamp), he grinned. As he leafed through Owen’s passport, his eyes widened. “Wow, extra pages! This boy’s been all over. I’m going to give both of you stamps.” And he did: thwack, thwack, “Welcome home.”  Continue reading

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Over and Almost Out

SmileI’m flying home in one week. That means my two years in China are nearly up, and so you all must be chomping at the bit to know what my highs and lows are, top-ten style. Well, okay. Here, then, a dual list: things I will miss and things I will not. (This may become a short series, but I’ll stick with ten for tonight.)

Things I Will Not Miss
1. Grandmas constantly scolding and chastising me for my parenting decisions, from warmth of clothing to choice of snacks to leniency in allowing my child to do things on his own
2. Going into a clothing store and realizing that I am the completely wrong size, shape, dimension, and height for every item (including shoes) Continue reading

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On Nanji Island, Live from KTV Spring Break

_DSC3426The official website of Nanji Island (南麂岛, or “South Muntjac Island”– for anyone wondering, here is what a bunch of muntjacs look like on a bad day) describes the little piece of land off the coast of southern Zhejiang Province as a “national-level geopark.” Dramatic weather patterns, abundant wildlife, high cliffs, and gorgeous beaches are all part of the official description–along with many more ostensibly-good things, like “standardized hotels” and “entertainment facilities.” But as we continued down the fog- and rain-sogged coast, from the fishing villages of the Shengsi Islands to the light-industry powerhouse of Wenzhou, with memories of our last five-hour boat journey still painfully fresh,  one advertising point above all stood fixed in our minds: Nanji Island is serviced by a high-speed ferry. The pull of the sea is strong for travellers of China’s eastern coast, although it’s apparently stronger for some (Nick) than for others (Bayley and Owen). But when the sea is offering to pull you out on a quick, relatively stable hydrofoil ride, it becomes impossible for any landlubber not to gaze out, past the gray waves crashing on trash-covered rocks, and imagine themselves loving life on a not-so-distant beach with standardized hotels and geopark-quality muntjacs.  Continue reading

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On Wolfberry Island, Cranky Fishermen and the Easy, Breezy, Subsidized Life Aquatic

_DSC3174Continued.

The next day, about citied-out, we finally set off on our real journey: to the islands. An early-morning bus ride took us out, one last time, across the bizarro world of Outer Shanghai to edge of the Asian mainland. Then we bought tickets for another bus, this one to take us over the 20-mile bridge to Little Ocean Mountain Island 小洋山岛, where cargo is on- and off-loaded from massive container ships that never have to bother entering a cramped port on the Chinese mainland. From Little Ocean Mountain Island we then hopped a high-speed ferry to Si Reef Island, with “Si” (泗)really just a name, but a name that can also be translated as “nasal mucus.” A beautiful place, the locals on Nasal Mucus Reef Island took one look at us and said, shaking their heads, “You’re a month early for tourist season.” It was the sweetest put-down of our travel sensibilities that we’d ever heard.  Continue reading

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One Last Trip to Shanghai

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This is the story of our final family trip in China. It all started one fine April day when, as Nick was putting the final touches (okay, tossing down the final unedited sentences) on his thesis, he had a remarkable vision. Huddled over his little laptop in the drafty guest bedroom, where he’d spent the vast majority of his uninspired life over the last six dreary weeks, he saw the peeling wallpaper before him suddenly peel away some more. The drab and yellowed paper lifted up and away, revealing not the inch-thick wall beneath, the medium through which the sounds of a neighbor coughing and hacking and possibly choking up blood often came to fill the many long, uncertain pauses between Nick’s tapping of his keyboard. Instead, the peeling wallpaper peeled all the way away to reveal a glittering azure sea, specked with emerald-colored islands and traversible via passenger ferry from Shanghai. It was a vision of freedom, of warm sun and salty breezes and Chinese seafood that was just-maybe somewhat safe to eat. It was a vision of the 嵊泗 Shengsi and 舟山 Zhoushan archipelagos, where the first rays of sun shine down on the Middle Kingdom each morning, and where in 1841 one of those sunrises was accompanied by tall-masted British warships, which shelled the coast and seized Ningbo’s tax barges until the Qing agreed to allow the unlimited import of opium. It would be out there, along the narrow, windy beaches of those small rocky islands, at the watery limits of China’s vast continental empire, and where continuing east means going back to the West, that the Hu Family would leave their final footprints in China. It was a glorious, coffee-addled vision.  Continue reading

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The Doctor Will See You

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I’m pregnant.

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The hospital where I have my prenatal appointments is the best in town, and I am fortunate to be allowed to see a doctor at the international clinic (foreigners only!), where service—besides being conducted in English by bilingual Chinese people—is relatively fast, easy and warm. The price is higher than in the regular hospital, but it is still a fraction of what I would pay out-of-pocket in the States. (An ultrasound, for example, costs $22; a visit with the doctor, $30.) The service for the average person at this hospital (the average person who is Chinese, that is) is agonizingly slow and convoluted. The waiting rooms are crammed with sick people, some with bodily fluids leaking out. The floors cannot stay clean with this many people, and the paper on the patient beds is not rotated. Every service takes place in a different hall, floor, wing, or building, so people can expect to spend all day walking from waiting room to waiting room, forking over papers and cash and endless patience. I reiterate that this is the premier hospital in town, and that I am extremely fortunate to be seen at the VIP/foreigner clinic there. My experience has, overall, been good, and certainly it is leaps and bounds better than what I could expect as a Chinese person in the normal medical system. But, there have been some humorous moments in my time spent there, and I relay them to you now. Continue reading

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At the No. 6 Park, Mama Non Grata

I’ve written about the park across the street, No. 6 Gongyuan, previously here. But, as with Heraclitus’s river (which you cannot step in twice, for each time both the river and you have changed), so it is with the Chinese public park: no two trips are identical, and in fact the longer we live here the more unpredictable our outings here become.

Since I last wrote about the place, Owen’s ayi has taken to airing him out by the West Lake nearly every day, and apparently she is not nearly as turned-off as I am by the thronging fans (read: she tells people his name when they ask, which I have stopped doing for reasons that will soon become clear). Thus, everyone who lives and works within a mile-radius of our home knows Owen’s name. The men who paddle the boats on the lake whoop “O-wen!” when I pass by; the woman who sell the laser-beam-and-blaring-music-enhanced automated bubble guns in the shape of sharks clucks “O-wen!” as we stroll; and the men and women who plant flowers and sweep and pick up trash with 4-foot-long metal tongs wheel around when we show up, smiling, his name on the tip of their tongues. Continue reading

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Hair

faithamericanFor going on two years now, I’ve gotten my hair cut at a fancy place across the street. It used to be called Hair 1981, but they updated the name recently to the more modern Hair, and in a sign of supreme styling self-confidence here in Asia, put up signage translated into Korean. It’s staffed by 6 or 8 young men at a time, all from small villages out in the hills of Zhejiang Province, all of whom compete with each other to have the biggest, cutest hair in the place. When not shampooing or styling the well-maintained locks of their discerning customers, they sit in the chairs and work the blow dryers on themselves with a vigor and attention to detail unknown in other sectors of the Chinese economy. Each resembles a different sort of lovely, rare bird of the K-Pop Amazon, their piles of hair dyed orange or light orange and tufting beautifully every which way. It’s really something to inspire confidence in a flat-haired American like myself. Continue reading

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