This is the last entry of my Shanghai journal.

I know it seems strange to talk about Shanghai when we had such a major catastrophe in the eastern States, but I think even in times of difficulties life has to go on.

My heart goes out to all those suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. I emailed my agent, who lives in Manhattan and she said they had no power, no offices were open, everyone was home, no water, everything was flooded and there were no cars on the street. She didn’t expect her office to be open for a week!

Very very somber.

Where I live in Toronto, we had a few windy moments on Monday night, and there were power outages and localized flooding in Toronto, but nothing, alhamdu lillah, compared to the States!!!

May Allah subhanahu wata ala give them relief soon!

Now back to the Shanghai trip and the dear little girl I’ll always think of as Alice in Wonderland

One of the nicest things about the trip turned out to be the people we were travelling with.

We went with Tai Pan tours, a Chinese-based company so I was expecting the majority of the travellers to be Chinese but we were fortunate that a family of six English speakers like ourselves had joined the group.

Two grandparents who lived in Ottawa, the parents of a precocious seven year old named Alice, and the maternal uncle who hailed from Calgary.

There were also about ten Chinese Canadians who’d come along, including a couple who originally came from Singapore and others who were fluent in English and who helped us English speakers constantly.

They really were so helpful!

Especially when it came to dinner time.

Alice and her father (a computer professional who writes textbook manuals on networking technology for goodness sakes!) are both vegetarian. The maternal uncle couldn’t eat seafood. We couldn’t eat pork, so we were the ‘difficult’ table.

Without the Chinese speakers helping us we were all likely to eat something that didn’t agree with us!

But back to Alice!

There are plenty of seven year old girls who could have made a ten day journey by bus extremely tiresome with caterwauling and tantrums galore!

But Alice’s sweet disposition was such a joy!

I can’t help thinking our group would have been so diminished without her.

At one point the tour guide called her ‘our angel’ and that pretty much sums it up.

Me, I constantly saw my eldest granddaughter in her.

Alice has sandy blonde hair and jade green eyes. Everywhere we went Chinese people stopped her parents and asked to take pictures of her, till my hsuband told her she should charge 10 yuan for the privilege.

This wasn’t Alice’s first trip. Earlier that year she’d gone with her mom and Grandma to Turkey–another ten day trip!

I wish I could have done that with my children. Imagine the educational opportunities, how it would mould such a young mind, and the lessons in patience and tolerance the child would acquire at such a tender age!

It really would be like Alice going through a fantastic world of different cultures–a wonderland–perhaps no Mad Hatters or Cheshire cats, but peopled with equally exotic and interesting characters.

And it was neat to see how protective the whole group was of this precious little girl.

When one gentleman at a restaurant, having asked permission to take a picture of Alice, actually started picking her up, John, the Chinese speaker originally from Singapore, quickly spoke out in firm tones, something in Chinese that basically meant “Put her down! No touching!” And instantly the man obeyed!

It was so sweet to see everyone looking out for her.

When the Grandmother tripped on a curb we all gathered around her and poor Alice kept saying that if only she’d been more vigilant, Granny wouldn’t have fallen.

It was amazing to see how she’d internalized the blame like that! Reminded me of something Dr. Phil had said. That whatever negative thing that happens, kids will always fnd a way to make it their fault.

Watching them as a family unit: grandfather, grandmother, son (maternal uncle), daughter, son in law and granddaughter, all experiencing China together as a family and being so kind and loving to each other, reminded me of the time I took my parents and daughter for three weeks to Mecca, Medina and Jordan.

We left smiling and returned smiling and happy with each other.

Not sure if it would have worked as well if we’d added other extended family members to the mix.

The grandfather of this little clan is a real character!

Named Chuck he reminded me so much of my own father, the same joviality and friendliness!

At the dinner table one night he told us a story of the time when he was hunting ducks near his cabin.

He heard a flock overhead and rushed out with his shotgun.

It was foggy and he saw something flash by overhead and heard other hunters shooting so he went ahead and fired at something he could barely see.

He turned to me and said, “You know the first rule of hunting is don’t shoot till you’ve identified your target, right?”

I nodded even though I hadn’t known that was the ‘first’ rule. I figured it ranked up there but I’d figured the first rule would be something like ‘don’t hurt a human’.

Anyway, he continued, saying that it turned out he’d winged a seagull! And all his fellow hunters knew it because it landed with a splash in the water that flowed into a shallow bay, eddied around and then flowed out of the bay again.

Well Chuck tried to pop it again to put the seagull out of its misery, but the gull was moving pretty fast on the current around the bay calling , “Gawk! Gawk!” like gulls do.

As the gull moved out of range of Chuck’s shotgun, all the other hunterss were trying to shoot at it too. Chuck kept hearing a “pop pop” as it floated around the bay and then on out.

None of the hunters hiding in the shoreline hit the darn thing!

He said, “It was SO embarrassing!”

I couldn’t help saying, “And just imagine what it was like for the gull!”

But I didn’t say it in a mean way, and Chuck could tell.

I just thought it was a funny story though in this day and age, not exactly politically correct.

I was having a chat with the uncle, telling him what a good idea it was to travel with his parents and sister’s family and he echoed my own feelings saying he wasn’t sure how much longer they’d be around he wanted to spend as much time as possible with his parents.

Don’t I know the feeling!

And maybe that’s the best reason for travelling with your family there is!

Alice will always have memories of this trip. Nobody can take that away from her.