Thursday's Child: Kick-birdie in China

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trip planning is serious business.  When we’ve chosen our destination, I sit down with a travel guide and my internet resources, and try to find the most interesting activities and hotels.  But no matter how much I plan, there are always moments of serendipity.  Moments that couldn’t possibly be scripted, but that happen because we were in the right place at the right time, and were open to the possibility of something different.  This month, I’ll be writing about some of those wonderful, unplanned moments we’ve experienced.

One of my favourites occurred when we visited our friends, the Jay family, in China.  Colleen had been transferred to Guangzhou, and it seemed the perfect time for us to see the country.  By the time we visited, they’d been there a year and a half and knew the city well.  Although it isn’t a major tourist destination, it’s a significant commercial city and has many interesting places to visit.  And while we were there, Garth took us all over, from the busy markets to the Western Han Nanyue King's Tomb.

One afternoon, he guided us through a maze of alleys that was way, way off the beaten path.  I remember walking down a narrow passage filled with tiny shops and balconies where clothes hung out drying.  We bought sugar cane to try, and a couple of young vendors were thrilled to have their photos taken so they could view them on our digital camera.

We neared the end of the alley and reached an open square.  A group of older women was playing a game of what we called “kick birdie”.  Just like you might imagine, this sport involves using knees, ankles and feet to keep a birdie aloft.  It’s a popular local pastime and is often played in groups.  Garth and the Jay girls had taught us how to play the day we arrived in Guangzhou and we’d already enjoyed a couple of spirited matches.

We stood beside the game and cheered as these talented women deftly kept the birdie from dropping to the ground.  Then Garth, with a smile and a few arm motions, let them know that he’d love to join in.  They smiled back and opened a place in the circle for him.  One by one, the rest of us joined in, lack of language skills no barrier to a shared activity.  The high point of the game was the women’s laughter as Garth used his head to bump the birdie, soccer-style.

This moment represented the true China to me.  Everywhere we went, the Chinese were incredibly proud of their country and thrilled to show it to the rest of the world.  And nowhere was this more true than in a small square in a tiny neighbourhood of Guangzhou, where we joined in a game of kick-birdie.


25 comments:

Angela Felsted said...

This looks fun!

Carol said...

What fantastic places you have visited, and this trip sounds amazing. That game sounds like hacky sack

allieksmith said...

"I remember walking down a narrow passage filled with tiny shops and balconies where clothes hung out drying."--> That reminds me of something you would see in a movie!

I love those TRUE moments when traveling. How awesome :)

I can't wait to hear more this month!

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

wow love it always smile at your travel posts as well

Jess said...

It's like Chinese hacky-sack! What a beautiful moment to capture on camera. I'm so glad to have you as a blogging friend~ you take me on the most charming and unexpected adventures :)

Tasha said...

What a fun story. I always enjoy the stories from the amazing places you have been, and I'll be looking forward to hearing more of your special unplanned momments!

Valerie said...

I was hoping for a virtual visit to beautiful China today! What a fun game, I'm sure being skilled in soccer helps. :)

Belinda said...

How fun to find those serendipitous moments to connect with others! I don't think I could keep that up.

jillbert said...

What a fun memory, and how neat that you had friends to visit in China!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Your post almost made me cry! (good tears) Thank you, Beth! I probably have mentioned this about 20 times, but we lived in China for eight years (in the Northern part). The pictures you included bring back so many memories. *sigh* I miss it. People there are so friendly and they always get out and *do* things outside-- like kick the shuttlecock. Or walking backwards. Or sword dancing. I also grew up in Hong Kong, which is close to Guangzhou ... and we finished up our daughter's adoption in Guangzhou, too. So lots to love about your post!

Amy

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

What a lovely moment in your trip! I'm so glad you shared it and that it brought back so many memories for my friend, Amy. :)

What a blessing for your family to see so many wonderful places. :-)

Raina said...

Great story! Sounds like lots of fun and a wonderful way to experience another culture. At first I thought it might be a real bird they were kicking..lol

michelangelo in the kitchen said...

What wonderful experience you have of China! i just love these candid off the beaten path adventures of travel! Bless you for sharing them to us. Cheers!!!

5 Star Foodie said...

How fun, thanks for sharing this memory!

julie said...

That sounds like a truly beautiful memory of your travels. The unscripted moments are most definitely the best.

Xinmei @ Pudding Pie Lane said...

Hey Beth, just wanted to stop by firstly to say, yes, you should try the Green & Black's cookbook, it's got some great recipes :)

Also, glad to hear you liked your trip to China. I was born there and I used to play 'kick birdie' when I was teeny tiny, but I wasn't any good. My mum was amazing though! And I'm really happy to see you visited some of the 'real China', not the built up industrialised bits of Shanghai, as beautiful as it is, it doesn't quite portray the culture and history.

I look forward to reading more of your adventures :)

Meagan Spooner said...

That's just such an awesome moment. I agree, seeing "the sights" is a great thing on vacation, and I wouldn't miss it. But it's always the unexpected pleasures, the little flashes here and there, that stay with you as the most vivid memories.

Julie said...

How fun this must have been. Although, I've never planned any trips as exciting as yours, I love trip planning.

Happy Mother's Day!

Joanne said...

I love how you guys are so not afraid to immerse yourselves in whatever country you're visiting!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I loved Guangzhou when we went there to get my daughter's visa when we adopted her. I wasn't brave enough to go to the market though my husband did.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a wonderful post. I'm fascinated by the game and the coordination it must take to keep the birdie in the air! What a wonderful trip it must have been.

Faith said...

Great game Beth! How fun it is to embrace the cultures where you go. I think it's really brave and nice of you guys to do it.

Have a great weekend.

Reeni said...

For a moment I thought you were talking about a real bird too! I love hearing your stories - this reminds me of hacky sack.

Jayne said...

Yes, I thought of hacky-sack as well. I love the pic of Garth joining in. These sort of moments are to be treasured, when language is no barrier. :)

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh, we tried this in Bejing at the park! We provided the locals with endless amusement--my husband was pretty good, but I couldn't connect!

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