Monday. August 13, 2012. This morning Sea went out to take care of her business. Because all of China is on the same time, there are no zones, it gets light later in the day, and stays light later. Consequently breakfast is 9-ish, lunch 2-ish, and dinner is 8-ish. The stores and offices open about 10:00 and close about 8:00 PM. The hotel‘s breakfast was served starting at 09:00.Anyway, I accompanied Sea to do her business. It took a few hours of mostly sitting around while Sea went from office to office. I decided this was the last time I’d accompany her. When we returned to the hotel Sea made arrangements for a car to take us to Xinyuan the next morning.
Tuesday. August 14, 2012.
Rented a car to take us from Xinjing to Xinyuan. It was a little more than a three hour drive. I paid 85 Yuan to sit shotgun. Sea shared the back seat with 2 other Chinese men. They paid 75 Yuan each. The trip cost us about $26.00.
The road was pretty good and well maintained. We made good time and it was generally easy to pass if we got behind a truck. The road followed the Yili River which ran between two mountain ridges. The mountains were almost completely without vegetation and looked black. The valley was green and appeared to be farmed mostly with corn and a few sunflowers. There were also a number a brick kilns which I assume used the dirt from the mountains.
The road passed through lots of little villages where sheep herders and farmers lived. Most wore the little white beanies that Muslims wear. The towns were little more than dirty crossroads with decaying brick buildings.
About midway we stopped for a bathroom break at little shack. It’s shown below.
We arrived in Xinyuan about 14:00 Sea’s sister had made a reservation for us. The driver let off at our hotel only to be informed they were not authorized to accept foreigners. In fact there was only one hotel in town where foreigners were allowed. It was about four blocks down the street, so we walked there and got a room.
The hotel was nice looking from the outside and had a beautiful large marble lobby with chandeliers, but the rooms were a little run down. When it was built it was rated 3 stars, but I doubt it would earn more than 2 today. In typical Chinese fashion it was not well kept up. I wonder if not being able to own things outright has something to do with people having little pride of ownership.
Sea had warned me about Muslims in this part of the country. She considers them lawless and willing to stab and rob. Since I am the only foreigner in Xinyuan now, I stand out. She warned me against exploring alone like I do in Shenzhen. She said the Muslims might think I carried money and would rob me. So I was feeling a little paranoid, especially since I’d be on my own most of the time while she took care of her bureaucratic business. I wasn’t about to spend my entire time in the room, nor did I want to be stabbed. Between the experience at the first hotel and Sea’s constant warnings about Muslims, I was beginning to wish I had stayed in Shenzhen.
After settling in, we went out for dinner at a place close to the hotel. I got lots of stares on the street and a few “Hellos.” Our table was next to a window and kids playing on the sidewalk took pictures of me through the window with their cell phones. A few were brave enough to come in a get a better picture. Some even sat with us so their friends could get a picture of me with the kid. One young adult spoke a little English and we talked a little. The waitresses were friendly and wanted pictures too. Even the Muslims were friendly.
We shared a mutton dish and a dish of cooked Chinese cucumbers. Both were good. By the time we left for the hotel it was dark. Because of the altitude, the temperature was cool and comfortable, much like Hendersonville. All in all I was feeling pretty good about spending a few days in Xinyuan.
Wednesday. August 15, 2012. Today Sea began her bureaucratic business regarding her Social Security. I was on my own and didn’t feel like doing a lot of walking because of my blister. I hung around in the lobby for an hour or so hoping to snag something to read in English, but no such luck.
About 14:30 I went to lunch at the place we had been he night before. I saw what appeared to be an omelet being served to another table, and asked Sea to point it out on the menu. That’s what I ordered this day. It must have been made of six eggs and had diced veggies in it. The only thing I didn’t like was the Chinese cucumbers. They are bitter if not cooked long enough, and I guess they didn’t get cooked long enough in the eggs. Everything else was very good. I’d have it again, even with the cucumber.
Then I limped around the block before returning to the room.
A few minutes later Sea returned. She was carrying a sheaf of papers that must have been half and inch thick, all covered in red stamps. She had a second sheaf of notes and instructions she had written to herself about various procedures and things she had to do.
I sometimes rail at the various bureaucracies in the U.S., but the Chinese paper pushers make our bureaucrats look like rank amateurs. If America was like China, we’d have to go to Louisville to get anything changed to our SSI. Our official residence would be Louisville or maybe even Buechel, and to get anything done we would take a trip there. Little, if anything, can be done my mail or FAX.
Sea discovered a noodle restaurant where we had dinner of soup with veggies. Very tasty, very healthy, and very inexpensive. The soup is pictured above.