Aplaneload of American adoptive parents met and cuddled these babies for the first time before whisking them off to the States to become Americans. No sooner had they left than another planeload arrived. A further wave of excited parents also arrived before we left.
That was during the days of the ‘One-Child’ policy and male babies were preferred. They reckon 3,500 unwanted baby girls were adopted every month in this way from this province.
Twenty years on there are young girls about 20 years old, sisters and cousins to those I was talking about, everywhere walking, running and exercising as Mere and I walk the early morning streets.
So it seems that not all the girls were exported, and just as well. They dominate the service industries, whereas 20 years ago it was the Filipinos who covered this field. One of the girls is even jogging in fashionable high heel running shoes. E ki e ki! Now Mere wants some, so no doubt we will be heading off to a fake shop to get a pair.
Hong Kong is the safe and mature mega- city, with colonial architecture expression everywhere. And although high finance and bustling, it is almost like an old people’s home compared to Guangzhou whose buildings stick out at jaunty angles with curves and twists giving the fingers to tradition.
And their food is like that too. In Hong Kong you get a perfectly sized and cooked fish fillet with the best sauces in a dainty dish. For the same price in Guangzhou you get the skin served up as entree, then the head and bones deep-fried, then the guts in a soup, then the fillet in dripping gravies. Whoa!
And these restaurants are serving our fish here and have been for a while. They want to increase volumes, but need security of supply before they go upping the ante in the marketplace; hence our visit here.
These chain restaurateurs and superstore owners have all visited Hawke’s Bay Seafoods and been hosted at Tomahawk Lodge for an underground BBQ! They reminisce to Mere and I of the unique blend of food and hospitality they received from us, so turn everything on for our brief stays with them. Fresh fruit, food, fish, fashion and friendship.
And that’s the main thing – friendship, relationships, whanaungatanga. Business increases as a result. They tell us it’s an important thing for them to be invited into our home, as over decades it’s the first time ever they’ve been into anyone’s home but their own.
During our morning hikoi we walk along the river for about an hour and decided to break off and walk through a bit of scrubland. We walk down a well-kept walking track until we are stopped by a teen on a bike, who we can’t understand. Nor can he understand us, so he gesticulates for us to return the way we came. We can see the next road about a half-kilometre away, so we carry on and he follows us on his bike and we try to talk to communicate with each other.
He goes to an app on his phone and shows me the quotation, “When the mountains and the rivers meet it is the end of the rope”. Okay we say and carry on walking for another 100 metres and he shows me another Confucius saying, which on the app says, “The lunatics have taken over the asylum”. And as we are reading the app two armed guards arrive, make us turn around and we are marched back the way we came at gunpoint.
When we are finally off the property and the guards turn back the boy on the bike shows us one more saying, “Still water runs deep”. We all laugh, high-five, shake hands and look for our next adventure.
What I think he was trying to say was, “Turn around or get shot”. Then, “Have you lost your marbles?” Then, with an ‘I told you so’ look, “Run and don’t look back.”
On the way back to the hotel, again off the beaten track, we come across a frog farm where frogs are being hacked in half and dropped into boiling fat, and a backyard piggery where pork heads are split, then marinated in oils and hot spices before being slowly basted in a waiting wok. Piglets are bonged on the head, gutted, and then stuffed with herbs to be slow roasted in nearby ovens.
Everyone watches us watching them, and only get agitated when I try to photograph them. So I don’t and we are allowed to watch their goings on. We also come across a fisherman on the river using bamboo, a metre square net and a rope to catch hundreds of the small fish varieties we see everywhere in this once highly toxic river.
Well enough for now. We are off to Shanghai. I wrote a good piece the other day but it vanished from my phone never to be seen again. My best korero never to be read!
Take care, hope all going well.
Mgoi, doxhie. Hei Kora.
Ngahiwi Tomoana is chairman of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and chairman of MBIE’s Maori Economic Development Advisory Board.