Living in China. August 21-23, 2012. Xinyuan to Xinjing to Urumqi

Tuesday. August 21, 2012. It’s 9:30. Sea just left for the police station. It doesn’t open until 10:00, but she wanted to be first in line. She said she might have to go to 71 Regiment later, but was unsure. Apparently bureaucrats don’t even know all the rules. Anyway, if all goes well she will be finished today. We decided to take a car all the way to Urumqi, instead of just to Xinjing then flying to Urumqi. A car will cost about $125. for both of us. The drive will be about 8 hours. I’m kind of looking forward to driving through the high mountains I described before, though I suspect we’ll follow a river and not get up to the levels where there are glaciers.

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get a plane to Shenzhen the day we arrive in Urumqi. We might have to spend the night there and fly home the next day. But before we can make any plans Sea has to complete her paperwork. My fingers are crossed. It will be great to be back in civilization. It’s amazing how much I miss hearing and reading English, the internet, news of the world, and my friends.

Generally I’m a fan of the exotic, but a couple of days here was more than enough to fill my quota for the unusual.Also, I’ve always considered China a developed country, not third world. While it’s true that places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen are modern, much of China is very third world.
I have great admiration for Sea’s getting out of here and making something of herself and her kids.Had she stayed she would have ended up as an ill tempered clerk in the police office and her kids would have worked in restaurants.
I told Sea to eat light today because I want to have a final plate of the boiled mutton for dinner tonight before we go.
In case anyone’s noticed, some of my daily entries were written in the past tense and others are written in present. The reason is I figured out how to write my daily entries in Sea’s iPad. When I get back to Shenzhen I can send them to my computer via email, edit them, add pics and send them out. So some of them are written the present, others are written from memory.


At about 12:30 Sea came back. She had gotten her business done, checked out of the hotel, and arranged for a car to drive us to Xinjing that afternoon. By 13:40 we had hit the road. We arrived and checked into our hotel by 16:00. I then learned Sea had a final piece of business to attend to, so she was out the door. The offices stay open until 20:00 in Xinjing because it gets dark so late. By 19:00 she was back with everything done. She had paid a clerk a 1200 Yuan bribe because it was going to take 3 days to do her business otherwise.

We went to a Muslim bazaar for dinner that night. I had my usual mutton skewers, sea had two different noodle dishes, then she ordered a huge plate of boiled mutton bones. We gnawed on the little meat that was on them, and picked out the marrow. Pretty good.

Out trip to Urumqi was re-scheduled until the next day. In case you didn’t notice, some of the things I said in the beginning of this entry have changed. Such is life.

Wednesday. August 22, 2012.
The car to Urumqi left a few minutes past 10:15. The trip took about 8 hours, and generally the highway was very good. Most of the scenery was semi-arid and generally unimpressive,but there were a few few interesting things. We drove through the mountains, but never got to the really
high parts. Once I think I saw some snow caps far away, but it was too hazy to get a decent picture. We stopped to take a few pictures of other sights. Generally the country was arid to semi-arid and unimpressive, if not depressing.I did notice quite a few cemeteries like where Sea’s father is buried. Without a lot of vegetation, they were easily visible from the highway.
A little kid kept looking at me in Xinjing because westerners are so scarce. I waved to him and invited him over for a picture. His parent encouraged him, otherwise I don’t think he’d have come.
While we were driving I got a text message inviting us to a party Friday night. Unfortunately we had to decline the invitation. There is some interesting scenery including a giant lake in the middle of apeared to be close to a desert.

We arrived at Urumqi about 19:00 and got settled into out hotel by 20:00. Sea’s younger sister was waiting for us at the hotel with three bags of fruit. They hadn’t seen each other in 20 years, though they kept in contact by video calls. We went out to dinner at a place close to the hotel. I had mutton skewers that were made on sticks that were from a tree that lives 1000 years. I’m not sure if the sticks added taste to the meat or longevity to the person eating it. Anyway, when prepared on these special sticks the mutton cost twice as much as on metal skewers.
Sea’s daughter had been trying to make reservations for us to return to Shenzhen. The best she could find were at the evening of the 26th at 21:00, arriving in Shenzhen at 02:00 on the 27th. Since Sea had many friends and relatives in Urumqi we decided to stay so she could visit them. She swore she would never return
to this part of China, so I suppose spending a few extra days was worth it to her. Our hotel was well situated, so there are plenty of things to keep me amused. Sea and her sister talked non-stop through dinner than for several hours back at the hotel. At some point I fell asleep.

Thursday. August 23, 2012. Got up relatively late this morning. We had eaten so much the night before we decided against breakfast. There is tea in the room, so I made myself a cup.

Today Sea visited her father’s sister who is 77 years old and her husband who is 84. I went along.They lived is an older community that seemed to have mostly very old people living there. I got the feeling it didn’t start out as a place for old people, but that’s how it ended up. People moved in, got jobs close by, and never moved out. There were a lot of chairs outside and a lot of shade trees. The old people sat outside and talked or played cards or mahjong.
Inside the apartment was very crowded with a lifetime full of souvenirs. I noticed a medal with Chairman Mao on the front. It was hung from a ribbon in the window. I picked it up and it was very heavy. Most stuff issued by communist governments were very light weight and crappy quality. This was pretty well made. I took a picture of both sides. If I can ever find my book on the subject, I’ll look it up.

After and hour or so the granddaughter and her friend came by. After hugs, pictures, and a few more minutes of talking we went out for lunch. We walked to a restaurant a couple of blocks from the apartment. The 6 of us went in and sat at a large round table. Sea ordered about 10 things. We barely ate half. The old folks took the leftovers home. Not that they seemed to be hungry or need anything.

Random thought: I didn’t bring a nail clipper because I thought this trip would take a week, not two. My nails have grown to an irritating length. It’s hard to type.

In the bad old days under Chairman Mao there were more workers than jobs. Retirement was set at age 50 to take people out of the labor pool, but the government pension was close to nothing. Chairman Mao didn’t allow foreign investment, now it is welcomed and as a result of that, plus the one child policy, there are fewer and fewer workers for each job. I have two friends who manage factories. They both say the good old days of
great workers for little money are long gone.

Sea retired at age 50 and has at least 30 more years of leisure. Her pension is very small. I’m sure her kids help her out, as is the custom here. The government has been talking about raising the retirement age to 65, but as they are discovering in Europe, it’s a lot easier for governments to promise goodies than it is to take them away.

After returning to the hotel Sea’s sister came by. Sea is tall and thin, the sister is short and fat. The only family resemblance I can see is they both have very happy dispositions. She brought each of us a piece of jade to wear around our necks for good health. I’ve noticed many Chinese men and women wearing them, and they’re for sale everywhere. Some are very intricate. They also wear jade bracelets, both solid and beaded. I put mine on. I hope it works given my luck the last few years.

She brought Sea a few other things. They began jabbering away, so I went out for  walk. I told them to call me when it was time to go to dinner and I’d return to the hotel. About 21:00 I got the call.

We took a taxi to a place that specialized in a chicken dish the sister liked. Basically it’s a whole chicken, except the head, cut up in served with onions and a spicy sauce. The sister picked out all the bony pieces like wing tips, neck, and feet and put  them on Sea’s plate since she likes them best. We shared the rest. We had a couple of other dishes too. Everything was pretty good.

About Charles Kirtley

Have been living in SE Asia and China since 2007. I have an opinion on most every subject, and don't mind sharing them. Lover and collector of worthless facts.
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