A few years ago, my wife and I visited Hong Kong and China, which is the location for much of my third book. Hong Kong, was part of the British Empire but is now officially part of China. HK feels completely different from Shenzhen, the city just across the border, with its mix of British and Chinese cultures. Much of Hong Kong had very tall new buildings and shops, and most of the people we ran into spoke English clearly making us feel at home. But within HK we also found open markets in the alleys and meat markets that speak of a time a hundred years ago. These markets were clean, but as the pictures show, different than anything you will find in America. Most of Hong Kong was a beautiful modern city-state, however there were areas that have not changed in decades, filled with older two or three story buildings.

Many in HK have ‘domestic’ help that come from outside of China. On Sunday, we saw hundreds of Filipino and Indonesian women crowd into all the open areas of the city. Sunday is their one day off and they enjoy spending it with their friends. There were groups of Christians, Muslims, as well as non-religious groups. We were told by our friends who live in HK that if you could afford a maid you were expected to have one. We were also told that while these women come to HK hoping for a better life, many of them are mistreated.

Crossing the border into China emphasized the difference between the two “Chinas”. We went through a very standard border crossing where we needed a passport and visa. Some people had their bags checked and others did not. Just inside the checkpoint in  Shenzhen, we found hundreds of markets, but the feeling was much different. As we traveled deeper into the city, we felt the people were more guarded. We never saw police traveling alone, but always in groups of two to ten.

We later flew to Hainan island and stayed near the university. We spent part of that time in a local coffee shop talking with some of the students. Life in China is way different then in the U.S. Many students told us that if your family does everything the government wants, you can go to college for free, but you cannot pick your degree. A couple I talked with were both in fields they did not like and never planned on working in them. The two, sounded like they were planning on getting married once they were out of college. They asked us a lot of questions about life in America. When they learned we had homeschooled our kids they were surprised. They wanted to know how we had the time, where did we get the training and how could our kids possibly get into college without ‘formal’ education. We explained our homeschool experience and assured them that our children had all graduated from college without any problems.

All in all, we found China very interesting and all the people we met with very friendly. I have included several pictures of our visit, some showing settings I used in the story, such as the wet market (open meat market) and the apartment we stayed in in Hong Kong.

Here are pictures of the apartment I stayed in while in Hong Kong. I used this apartment as the layout of Sam’s and Kai’s flat.

While Hong Kong has some of the best high-end stores in the world, you can still walk around a corner and down an alley to find open air booths selling meat, fish, vegetables or just about anything you could want.

Here are more pictures of China.