I’m way behind in uploading BLOGS (here it is the 28th of January), first because I’ve moved from Shanghai to Xining. Secondly, because when we transferred software from the MacBook to the MacMini, somehow/thing went wrong with the word processing program I’ve been using, X11 and Open Office.
It’s complicated, as the Mini has both operating systems OS and Windows. I could use Windows Office, but what about viruses, Marty? Also, what about having to go between both operating systems when I want attach a Windows generated document using Firefox browser, Marty? Still protected, or would a Windows document attract a virus?
Computers we’ve grown to depend on, but they continue to get more and more complicated. So now, I’m using an Apple product called ‘Pages,’ (iWork 6) on a trial basis, this just to have something to word process with! Gosh, my IBM Selectric was never like this!
The train trip here January 17th, Shanghai to Xining...
It was a new train, the one that goes all the way to Lhasa, Tibet, one that has been heavily advertised. All new inside and out and very fancy! On all the notices and signs for information all three languages: Tibetan, Chinese and English. The Chinese Government has finally gotten ‘hip’ about such.
Also, all male attendants on this train, no female. I wonder why? I must say, however, the one in our car a wonderful guy, who was very helpful (gave him a good written report).
It was 25 hours (something like 2,500KM) in length/duration, this very fast train, which supposedly made few stops (less than six; goes through 100s of stations), and supposedly chugs along at 180KM per hour (don’t think so).
I’d bought a lower soft berth and was so looking forward to sleeping, but guess what? Some bad luck, the Chinese would say. It just so happened a Chinese man, a Government worker had the one across and turned out to be a veritable snoring machine! I’m talking the loudest I’ve experienced yet. Fat, and unpleasant, his face like an overripe pumpkin. I labeled him ‘the animal,’ as he, like so many Chinese men spit out food while eating.
I put in my German ear plugs. They didn’t stop the sound. I put the audio headset (provided) over the ear plugs, but this didn’t work either. What did work is when I used my fingers to press against the ear plugs. But, I couldn’t sustain this, my fingers growing tired and going to sleep. I got so frustrated trying to sleep I actually woke him up. But, it changed nothing, as I can’t complain readily in Chinese, and Government people in China are the ‘royal class,’ and they don’t have to accommodate anyone, including lowei! He was unhappy I’d awakened him, and supposedly asked, ‘What’s your problem?’ He quickly was right back at it!
The other side of the coin and above me turned out to be a wonderful young Chinese guy, English name, Richard (which he doesn’t like because of the nickname, 'Dick'). He spoke very good English because he’s been working in Sweden! Wow! What’s the chances of running into a Chinese guy working in Sweden on the train to Xining? Pretty slim! We had a wonderful conversation, and I learned much about him, his hometown Xining, working in Shanghai, and his travel business in Stockholm, Sweden. Also, because of the social system in Sweden, he doesn’t want to move back to China. He was very helpful, in fact has been since, as he’s home in Xining for ‘Spring Festival.’ I will meet with him to see if his mother has any ideas about where to live in Xining?
In the middle of the night I’d had enough of ‘the Animal’s’ snoring and explained to the attendant I needed to move to another bed. He understood, as Richard had moved before me! He took me to the next car, and I slept next to another Chinese man, who didn’t snore, but talked in his sleep!
God help you when traveling in China! If I had the money, when going by train, I’d buy all the berths (4) in a compartment isolating yourself from the ‘unwashed!’ The only way to be sure you have privacy, and sleep well! But, who can afford such luxury? I may have to fly more, avoiding my favorite trains. But, still the best for me, cycling if I have the time and the situation warrants.
But, an ironic twist with ‘the animal.’ It just so happens he works at the Agri. Bank of China (owned by the government of course), where I have an account. He has since been some help to me. As it should be as he kept me awake until I moved, and then bothering us both again sleeping during the day!1 Thus, I intend to extract as much work out of my snoring Chinese banker as possible!
At 0700 the next morning I awoke to a bright sky, now in the ‘blue and brown’ part of China (west of Xi’an). I returned to my car and compartment, only to discover ‘the animal’ still sawing logs! So, I made as much noise making morning tea as I could! He hardly stirred. Then I sat outside the compartment to drink my morning tea.
In occurred to me sitting there, hearing his snoring through the compartment wall, that China has developed much materially--I was riding in complete physical luxury. Yet, I was made miserable by one man (after having bought the most expensive fare possible). What about social development? I wrote an article about this entitled, ‘Public versus Private Manners,’ in which I identified the difference between theirs and western culture (not that Western is better just different - we lack private manners).
In China, because over populated (although the average person doesn’t know) there’s tremendous competition for space and time. It’s the too-many-rats-in-the-cage syndrome, and thus animal-like behavior. If I’m introduced as ‘somebody,’ to a Chinese person, they can’t do enough for you. An anonymous guy on the street, I’m just another body to push out of the way!
It’s annoying for a Westerner who’s been trained to be polite in public, as I’ve had Chinese people push in front of me in line! I now say something to them, and they get the idea I’m unhappy, generally deferring. But, if you don’t get aggressive in public places in China, you’ll stand there all day waiting.
I now understand why no one goes by the traffic regulations. If you go by the rules you will wait all day, never getting anywhere or accomplishing anything!
Patience is not a Chinese virtue! I wonder what Confucius would say if he could see people acting the way they do in modernity. For example, he said, ‘No talking when eating!’ That was before mobile telephones, however! Now, people when eating and talking, jump to answer their mobile telephone! It’s crazy, modern life (must be getting old)! But, I’m afraid it will only get worse in the world, Asia a precursor of things to come to the West.
When the train arrived in Xining, the Lius (Li Jian’s friends) were waiting for me! Richard hugged me goodbye (unusual), and the Lius drove me, with their daughter, to my hotel. This hotel the one where Richard and I had stayed at in November (have never known the name). I hadn’t realized, but it’s within walking distance of where the Lius live (luckily). This the sports center building/International Plaza part of Xining.
I spent the following days, walking around, eating in the Chinese restaurant where had in November, basically trying to get oriented to the P.C. of Qinghai. I appear to be the only foreigner in Xining at the moment. Everyone staring at me, although I’m used to this. Children said ‘hello!’ There are many red-robed Buddhist monks walking around, as a large Monastery (name to learn?) nearby.
I walked to a nearby park one day, sat in the sun. I discovered that this Park commemorates, with a remaining remnant of a wall, the ancient city that was here thousands of years ago! There’s a metal map depicting the ancient walled city. Walled, no doubt, as protection from the Mongols.
I walked up ‘Nan Shan (South Mountain) Park,’ one day, this up a series of small hills. It’s not that far from the hotel, maybe several kilometers distance. At the top the usual ticket booth to get inside the actual park (nothing is for free in China). But, only 3RMB or about .30 cents U.S.
Just inside a modern grass pavilion with a metal sculpture of two porpoises, and benches to sit and view Xining’s south valley below. Some kind of ‘expressway’ appears to head south, but to where? Maybe Chengdu?
Up another hill, some amazing contrast (see image in the Gallery), an old Taoist (?) Monastery, set below a modern Chinese building (which I never understood). But, it has a roof looking like so many wind-blown sails! Amazing! Truly amazing! The contrast between these two structures, the old and the new startling--only in China!
I first examined the Taoist Monastery, a complex of several buildings seemingly operated by, not Taoist monks, but Hui Chinese, the men in white caps, the Moslem Chinese. I wanted to ask questions, but didn’t for some reason. They didn’t ask for a donation.
I walked up to the ‘sailing ship’ building. I walked around it got a very good view of Xining, a few hundred meters below.
Xining interesting, in that it’s situated in two narrow valleys that form a ‘cross.’ One runs east and west, the other north and south. Of course, two rivers have made the valleys, but the one east to west (name?) has water and empties into the Yellow. The other barely runs, frozen in People’s Park where you can ride, pushing yourself with poles, on chairs with runners.
Then I returned to the hotel, crunching the snow on the side of the road enjoying sunny winter!
On the way back, I noticed a newly constructed office complex, a long, white building with store fronts (two new Chinese restaurants opening) and offices above. This unlike anything I’ve seen in China, as only 3 stories high. If you didn’t know you were in China, you couldn’t tell by this building, looking more like Scottsdale, Arizona.
I went with the Lius and friend (his SUVehicle) to pick up my luggage at the train station! They made it so easy, as I had nine cases bundled as three, but nonetheless. Without their help would have been a chore mostly dealing with the language, and not knowing what they’re saying. By the time we got it into the room I barely had space to move. But, at least with me!
I went on a bank expedition one day! I had to activate my new Bank of Texas card, and went to ‘the animal’s’ branch of the Agri. Bank of China. Amazing! The ‘international’ ATM rejected my card, as only having a four-digit password. This machine has a minimum of six! Crazy! I tried to find another ATM, and did ultimately at the Bank of Construction, a new machine with the VISA/MASTERCARD LOGO, but a problem there too--’I must ask my bank,’ said the response! Probably no ‘Cirrus Network.’
I discovered that Xining is not one of the more sophisticated Chinese Provinces, kinda unknown in the West. We’re going to change that!
The next day I got word from Richard that the bicycles had arrived at the Merida Bicycle shop. I went by to check, and sure enough, this huge box from Shanghai, with both Ms. Fiets and Giant inside was in the basement. I told (gestured, he can’t speak English) Liang Bao Shan, the operator, I would return the next day to put them together.
And we did just that, the very next day! I helped him clean her, and then we put together, or he did most of the technical stuff (me not a very good mechanic)! I test rode a couple of times, and he made adjustments until she felt right again. Then I decided to go out for a ride, and for some reason chose to return to South Mountain Park (I always like going up!). Now, in retrospect, a week later I wish I hadn’t, but more on that later.
I didn’t have James B. Feeney protecting me, as I’d taken the strap off (broken clasp). I hadn’t been able to put back together properly, even to the point of deciding maybe it was time to buy a new helmet. I’m so stupid about things, having taken the strap off without noticing exactly how it went back on! Ugh! Strange how things happen, and why. This you notice later, the course of events leading up to and why an ‘accident,’ or some trouble, etc...
I turned up the hill to the Park, and felt ‘da feng,’ an evil wind coming toward me. It was coming down the street, in ‘dust devils’ (appropriately)--I actually saw ‘it’ coming, wondering...! Just before 'contact' I closed my eyes and kept cranking upward, never one to back down. I thought nothing else of such, but continued up, never stopping, and feeling strong for it. On top I rested in the parking lot, the setting sun warm on my face. All was right with the world, or so I thought! Inside my lungs, however, trouble was brewing! The evil wind had brought a nasty virus with it, which I had inhaled! No mask covering my nose/mouth2! No James B. Feeney to protect me! Stupid! Hindsight, the most brilliant of things! If only we could backup time, and do things again!
But, trouble, pain, illness... All a part of life. No pain! No pleasure! No illness. No health!
We just had a wonderful three-month cycling trip the length of China, with no serious problems. Now, I was to suffer with the flu! With the financial loss in Shanghai, and this, ‘the Dog3,’ finally biting me in the ass as a reminder--you didn’t get off ‘scott free!’ in the 'Year of the Dog!'
Now, on to the 'Year of the Pig!'