Our first stop is just a few hundred meters away, at “the old house.” Yulin’s grandfather had owned a tract of land here and worked it for himself. The Communists took it all away, of course, but the brothers have gotten rights to build on some of that land (hence the location of the vacation home). The “old house” is the one where po po (Yulin’s mother) lived just after she got married. It’s pretty dilapidated now and probably won’t exist five, or certainly 10, years from now as it deteriorates. Both Melinda and her mom said that even 15 years ago, it was in much better shape. Sort of a shame. Land ownership, permissions to build, and who can work the land are all very different in the communist world; I certainly don’t fully understand.
Next up is a local visitor destination: Xilai Farm. It’s built on reclaimed land on the north side of Chongming, reclaimed as the Yangtze pulls back along that side of the island. It’s been planted with species that will grow well there but it’s a demonstration park: paths run through it for looking at the plants. We talk only a short distance there because some people stay in the van and some people are achy. We make up for this short trot by stopping at a nearby lake, Pearl Lake Park, part of the same complex as the reclaimed land, and we kids (Melinda, Edwin, and I) and San Jiu take a tram ride around the lake. It’s about 45 minutes and a nice way to watch the scenery stream by. Much easier than the walk through the Dongping Forest Park. 8) Melinda and I notice, along the way, that the trees along the path change occasionally. Sometimes they’re willows, sometimes they’re Japanese red maples (well, not Japanese red maples, but we couldn’t identify them).
The banquet is tonight so it’s time we head back to Shanghai and off Chongming Island. The ride is maybe an hour, and again we see very few people on the otherwise huge roads. We stop for lunch along the way, hoping to find someplace quick but end up at a slow restaurant (Yulin: “we just want noodles” Irritated waitress: “then why don’t you just go to a noodle shop?”). Someone at the next table is smoking but I realize that it’s the first time I’ve really noticed smoking on the trip. In hindsight (I’m writing this entry four days later) there’s a lot less smoking than I expected. Chongming has a campaign against it, it’s disallowed in many locations, but it does still happen on the streets. Still, I like the direction the world is heading here.
We make one more stop along the way to pick up another auntie or aunt or someone; unfortunately they all sort of blur together, although I do have a better sense now of who the actual uncles are and who the school classmates are. Melinda and I will be staying with Er Jiu [Second Uncle] tonight and we go to his house. It’s nice – much nicer inside than what the outside would suggest. He has a granddaughter by way of his son and the granddaughter, aged 9 years, lives with Er Jiu and Er Jiu Ma. This arrangement is not uncommon, I guess, and it provides for the girl to live nearer the good school and to get a lot of attention from adults who have more available time. Melinda and I are given the master bedroom, which is spacious and air conditioned (it’s 22C outside). There’s a lot of organizing people for who’ll shower when (one shower and four people need to be cleaned), when does Melinda get her hair and face made up, and where are people gathering prior to the banquet. Long story short, most of the making up happens in the master bedroom, at the last minute, and it all worked out. We drive a short way to the banquet hall where there’s two tables of guests. It’s a 10ish course meal, intermixed with two 9-year-old girls playing hide and seek (with Edwin) and singing (with Yulin), some toasts, and Melinda and I changing clothes mid-way (no dragon outfit – too much work to bring from NYC). Shanghainese cuisine is not spicy and the banquet follows suit – there’s nothing too much for us to eat. I choose to drink orange juice but Melinda tries the corn juice – “it’s exactly like what you’d expect corn juice to taste like – just like corn.” So, reception #4 complete; hurray!
Back to Er Jiu’s house for un-making of face and hair then to sleep.