My travels to China went off without a hitch… just barely. Four flights, one jog to a connecting flight and one full out sprint to a connecting flight landed us safely in Hong Kong on Sunday night. My travel buddy is Wilhelmina Krul- awesome helper of the seamstress program, designer of our IPAD bag, MAF pilot wife and all around amazing girl who is pretty much 50% smarter than I am, so it works well for me to have her around in times where a lot of thought is required.
We were immediately impressed with China. Perhaps coming from a culture of complete chaos has softened our expectations, but the Chinese got it going on. They are beyond efficient. It is almost as if they all have computer chips implanted inside their brains to know how to be the most helpful possible. Two people in line is one too many. Get off the train and pick your choice of hotel, sim card, taxi, translator, banking service, or vending machine within steps of your arrival. Ask and you shall receive. The Chinese are incredible. Their service, work ethic, attention to detail, architecture etc. is phenomenal…and beautiful. I am impressed.
So the first day at the Canton fair was intense. I can’t begin to describe the enormity of the fair. It is five stories high and I’ve been told it is 9 football fields long. It is a labyrinth of everything. Everything. Everything you have ever seen in your whole life is at the Canton Fair. It is all made in China and it is here. Everything. It was like shopping on steroids times a thousand. I really can’t explain it. It was exhausting. We walked for hours before we got the bright idea to try to use the computer to find the bead vendors. It turns out however that although the Canton Fair has everything, the bead vendors must have slept in because there was only a handful in the gazillion booths that sold beads. I was discouraged. I was thinking several thoughts all at once:
1. What on earth does the world need 400,000 different kind of nativities sets for and where are the beads?
2. I am freaking tired and jetlagged and have been walking for miles and have 150 people depending on me and I can’t find any beads.
3. Oh cool they have McDonald’s and Papa Johns. And coffee.
We found a smidgeon of awesome beads. I started to work with one of the vendors to buy some of their beads and they said a minimum quantity would be 3000. Wow. That’s a lot of money for one kind of bead. We were still game for this kind of purchasing but decided to go check out one of the factories that I had the address for before sinking all of our dough on five different kinds of beads.
We took the subway and a taxi over to a main square.. think Times square or something like that only lit up with all the colors of the rainbow and a TV screen about as big as Mt Everest. We walked into this mall – a gigantic six story super mall of all amazingness- and waited for someone to meet us to take us into the nether regions of the mall for a factory tour. Apparently a billion people need a lot of clothes because this mall was ginormous. We slipped into an ally way filled with watches, shoes, clothes, Hello Kitty everything and then it happened.
First one, then another, then I fell into a sea of ultimate bliss and happiness. Bead stores as far and wide and high as the eye could see. Literally. Bizillions. Quadrillions of the most beautiful things you have ever laid eyes on. My joy was uncontainable. I could not believe it. Seriously.
We found the factory store for the beads that I need for our signature piece, but my mind was blown for what else we will be able to bring back. Words cannot express how many beads were in this hole in the wall ally in Guangzhou China.
Next task– shipping and textiles. I will be spending the remainder of my time here trying to figure out regular shipping and also searching for fabric for our sewing program (no textiles are currently made in Haiti in any kind of quantity). We also have the 3rd session of the Canton Fair to still go to, a possible trip to a Chinese orphanage lined up, and maybe also getting to visit a Chinese Church on Sunday. My mind has once again been blown away by another culture- another group of amazing people representing their maker by the things that they do well. They are to be commended.
More to come…