Today was a pretty typical Sunday, starting with Mass in the morning. The main difference was that we had only vague hints at the location of the church and a Mass time of questionable accuracy. If I’ve learned anything over my few months here, you always leave for Mass early. We left the hotel at 9 even though the church was reportedly “not far”. But when we got off at the right stop, no one had heard of the street we were looking for, despite asking about 6 or 8 people.
So with 8 minutes to go we got a taxi. The street name and street number were wrong, so if Dad hadn’t seen the statue of the Blessed Mother as we drove past, we would not have made it to Mass – how’s that for a miracle? They were singing Amazing Grace as we entered; of course the words were in Chinese but in my heart, I was thinking of those who once were lost and now are found – like us!
There aren’t a ton of Catholic churches in China, but I have yet to see one that isn’t full. This one was no exception, and we relied on the kindness of strangers to find seats. The cathedral is beautiful, and they had an organ!
After Mass, we explored the huge church complex. We met a sister, one of the habited nuns I’ve seen in China, and took a picture with her. (No, I didn’t suddenly grow 3 feet; she’s just that small.)
Then as we were leaving, we happened upon a ceremony in front of the church – something concerning the beginning of the confirmation process for young people. I wonder if this is going on at my church in Xiamen, too!
[Note: A few days later, I read an article on the Union of Catholic Asian News and was surprised to discover that it was written about this very ceremony! It turns out that it was a coming-of-age ceremony for church members who have recently turned 18, a ceremony that originated from Confucianism.]
The church, since it turned out to be nowhere near our hotel as we had expected, was actually quite close to Chengdu’s main park, RenMin GongYuan. We walked over there and got to experience it in all of its weekend glory. There were a ton of people there – cute kids, cute old people, and everyone in between. They were flying kites, feeding fish, playing board games, dancing, practicing taiji, singing, playing instruments, drinking tea . . . There were also a lot of vendors, selling candy, pop, grilled meat, fruit, tea, and a few specialties. It all played right into mine and Mom’s plan to kill Dad, the diabetic, because they had juice made from pure ground sugar cane and beautiful decorative suckers hand-made from melted sugar.
We easily could have spent an afternoon there, but we had a lunch date we were particularly excited about – Peter’s Tex-Mex Restaurant. It was so legit – Texas map on the wall, Mason jars for glasses, checkered table cloths, and Texas flag shirts for staff – that I still can’t believe Peter is Chinese.
The food was great, too. The nachos were okay but the quesadillas and salsa made my heart melt. We also tried their chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, green beans, carne asado, refried beans, and rice. The Texas Brownie for dessert was the perfect ending – overall, highly recommended! (In fact, we’re planning on retuning for breakfast in the morning!)
After eating our fill, we went for a walking tour of Sichuan University. This was my first-choice school, so it was interesting to see where I might have ended up. It’s huge, and has more of a U of M feel than XiaDa, which seems to be more on the same scale as TU. It’s nice, but certainly not as beautiful as XiaDa. Dad particularly enjoyed the sports complex, where he challenged a series of ping pong players til he found an equal opponent.
Turns out the kid was 6. Who knew?
Continuing in our plan to kill Dad, he bought a candied fruit stick (and loved it).
Our prior plans for dinner were immediately scrapped when we came across a couple of Uighurs selling lamb skewers out of – literally – a hole in the wall. Believe it or not, this was my parents’ first taste of the fat of the lamb, and after sharing the first 10 skewers we went back for 10 more.
At least he didn’t only eat sugar today – there was also some fat.
I never needed proof, but for all you doubters – Dad declared this meal, which cost a total of $4 and was bought from a small shack with questionable health inspection results, the best one yet in China.
The day’s events, especially our makeshift dinner, brought up a few more ways in which the parent-child roles have reversed on this trip:
They sit in the back of the car because I always get the front seat
I have to give them money to put in the collection basket
They always want to eat before the food is ready
They eat off the ground (true story!)
Back in the hotel, we’re packing for our departure from Chengdu tomorrow morning. We’re heading first to Leshan to see the world’s largest Buddha, and then to Emeishan for a taste of mountain climbing, Chinese-style. We’re hoping for good weather, smooth travels, and ready internet access!