Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In XiNing

Hey Folks,

It's another round of Jay's inane ramblings. Been in China for about 72 hours, still trying to get used to it. Initially getting off the flight from Dulles in Beijing was a bit of a shock. Between the 12 hour flight, sleep deprivation and all, I was for some reason, surprised to see an airport run by Chinese people. Then I realized, wait, I'm in Beijing. Duh!

A few amusing events/observations (Yes, I'm easily amused...)

* Flight from Dulles was delayed for 1 hour. First someone checked-in but never got onto the plane, so they had to remove their luggage. Then we taxied, made a u-turn and arrived back at the terminal. Turns out our cargo hold was overheating so we needed to get it fixed. During this time I noticed that the English/Chinese explanation was different and this continued throughout the flight; similar but different... The lucky family who 'missed' the flight was able to get on... but because we were late, they missed their connection.

* on the flight, saw an elderly woman carefully wiping down the air vents and reading lights above her seat and then remarking to her husband about needing cleaning. The plane was old, but, not THAT bad. How was she going to deal with China? All the smog, dust, car exhaust, etc...

* Going through customs and immigration was interesting. The 'Wait before yellow line' rarely applied. Cell phones were allowed in the pre-immigration area. There were trash cans around before going through customs. If I wanted to smuggle something, I'd throw it away and get my trash collecting buddies to retrieve for me, but that's just me... The health form had a question of "Have you recently been near poultry or birds" - dead or alive I ask? The customs form had a question about carrying radio receivers or transmitters. I was trying to decide whether to declare my GPS (which I just lost... :(), then I realized that a cell phone sent/received radio signals. I wonder who declared their cell phones...

* We flew over the North Pole and they displayed this on the flight map. The whole flight got up with their cameras to take pictures; so I have pictures of people taking pictures of us over the North Pole.

* Everyone on the flght had the new Harry Potter book. I was expecting that after take-off the WHOLE flight would take out their copy and start reading it noisily, talking to their neighbors about it; like a Disney musical and I would be the ONLY person on the flight without a Harry Potter book- the black sheep.

* Arriving in China I got my first glance of 'Chinglish' by the way of mis-quoted Andy Warhol, the one about not caring what they write about you, just measure it in inches. The quote was printed on a t-shirt with each character being a different size then the one before and after, with no spaces and a random word dropped every now and then. Or "Watch your heed" and "Please do not smoke to take picture".

* Was getting luggage from my flight and the whole carousel was crowded, so I stood back and waited for my bag. This old man saw his and tried to get his bag off the carousel and couldn't get it off. He got dragged along the carousel for a bit, people didn't even help him, in fact one guy just stood there while the old man got dragged into him. I had to finally walk up and grab his bag. Sad, sad, especially in a Confucius society where you are supposed to respect and honor your elders.

* The food here is as awesome as I expected! The service great, about 1 waiter/waitress per table. I arrived in Xining around 11pm and was hungry, so my mom took me down to the hotel restaurant which had just closed. However the manager got the kitchen to re-open up and serve me this enormous bowl of soup noodles for 8 yuan ($1.05 USD). Pretty much every where we went there were more servers then customers, be it a store or restaurant. They weren't kidding when they say labor is cheap here.

* Personal space. I still can't get used to it. Violating your personal space here isn't being so close you can smell their breath, or feel their hairy arms. No, violating personal space here means you are squeezing yourself between two sweaty people to get through. Or if they are interested in seeing whatever spectacle, putting their faces right by yours; so close you can count their eyelashes.

* Lines, simple don't exist here. You can tell from the second you got off the plane, it's a completely foreign concept. I thought people were bad in the states trying to rush onto a plane with assigned seats. Man, if Southwest operated in China, there'd be a riot every time they loaded their planes. People push and shove, old and young. A lot of streets in Xining have no lights. So you simply walk across and pray the cars don't hit you. If you are in a car and need to make a left, just start inching into the intersection until you meet someone who isn't crazy enough to get in front of you and let you pass.

* Money. Money makes the world go around, that statement is absolutely true here. People hound you for money, to either buy something from them, to take a picture with them (locals in local dress), or simple begging. Beggars and vendors range from 4-5 year kids to old ladies holding a fake baby to get your sympathy. On the other end of things, our guide arranged to get us a dish of local fish which was on the endangered list and it was illegal to fish for it...

Anyway, that's my musings so far. Great food, good fun!

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