At long last, I’m wrapping up the travel series with Part Three of China. Last time, I told you guys about extravagant meals with the mayor and my father’s #1 and #2 companies. This time, I’m going to tell you about our leisure trip turned business trip to Guangzhou.
It was with a bit of shock and panic that I realized I had two weeks remaining in China. I’d promised myself that I would finish my novel by the end of my stay. At 60,000 words, my novel was nearing the finish line but not quite there yet. In order to complete it, I’d have to write more than I ever had before. After berating myself, threatening myself, bribing myself, I stepped up to the plate and faced the most daunting task yet. My daily morning routine consisted of chatting with Phineas, sending him off to bed, and gluing myself to my keyboard for however many hours it took to write 2500+ words. I felt bad for my grandma, who kept urging me to eat her cooking and tried to get me to go shopping with her. I didn’t give in until the very last day, when I — by some miracle — finished my novel a few days early.
Sometimes, my dad would take me to his company with him, and then I was writing while he met with government officials, discreetly coughing from second-hand smoke. When we went out to meals, I gulped down the food and went back to my corner, typing furiously. My father had previously mentioned a trip out to Guangzhou, where he would meet a healthcare representative to discuss collaboration on a future project. For the most part, though, he said we would be free to travel and dine at yummy restaurants. Little did we know.
I was told to pack for four days and we were off to the high-speed train station. My father’s #2 and #3 in command were apparently accompanying us. The #2 took my passport and my dad’s ID, and he hurried off to pick up our tickets. It was still surprising to me how much this man was willing to do for his boss. I understood that, in China, there was little separation between the professional and personal realms, but this guy had a Ph.D. for god’s sake! And he was still doing more ass-wiping than the average butler.
When we arrived at the hotel, I realized that it wasn’t quite a hotel. First of all, its lobby looked…funny. There were stairs heading up to a dining area, there was a little convenience store in the corner, and there were cubicles in the opposite corner. The place was thoroughly mismatched. It was also, like everything else in China, so new that there was still plastic wrap around the new furniture and elevator buttons. My dad explained to me that this place was both a hotel and apartment complex. The government had “granted” him one of the rooms to use permanently. I would get my own separate room for the night. After having dinner with this healthcare rep, who was fairly boring, I retired to my room. Happily, I found that there were no mosquitoes, the air conditioning worked well, and the internet was fast enough to support my How I Met Your Mother habit.
The next morning, I chose to stay in instead of heading over to my dad’s company for an early meeting. I was on my laptop writing until my dad’s #2 man came to get me for lunch. When I arrived, my father, the healthcare dude, and another government official were already seated in a suite. I found the food mostly inedible (too spicy, oily, and fried for my taste) and drank a lot of this special flavored water. I still haven’t figured out what exactly the beverage was made from. It had these reddish prune-like thingies floating around that gave it the unique taste. In any case, I grew especially fond of this drink while in China. Last night, I found it again at a Chinese restaurant, but as usual it was sweetened 10 times more than necessary.
I excused myself from lunch early to go to the convenience store and stock up on snacks. I’m absolutely in love with anything green tea flavored and found the perfect crackers with green tea filling. Then, I headed back to my room and returned to my writing. That was my most prolific day of writing — I think I ended up with more than 3500 words for the day. In the afternoon, someone rang the doorbell. It was the #2 dude again, telling me to pack up all my things. I was confused, since I just overheard him booking my room for two additional nights at the front desk. He tried to explain what had happened, but I didn’t understand him fully. And so I packed, muttering under my breath about my dad’s inability to forewarn me on important developments. I still remembered how I found out about my youngest sibling, Kevin. On the way to Publix, the local grocery store, my other brother Justin (who was six at the time) asked loudly, “So Dad, we’re having a baby next year right?”
It was after I’d packed up and followed #2 honcho down the hall that I saw the most astonishing thing. #3 honcho was finishing packing up my dad’s belongings. He asked numero dos, “Did the boss say he wanted to pack this up or not?” To which the first guy replied, “I don’t know, but pack it to be safe.” My eyes were bulging.
After a few more minutes of scrambling, we got into a taxi that took us to my dad’s company. I found my father there, chilling out like he was hanging out with friends at a bar. Smiling, he told me that we had to go back to Wuhan immediately because some important government official wanted to talk to him about potential funding.
Smiling back, I said, “Okay.” Within an hour, we were back on the high-speed train. I guess everything in China is high-speed these days.