July 5th (China time) Jiayuguan, China

Today we're in Jiayuguan which is at the end of Gansu province. Jiayuguan is famous because the great wall ends here and today we went to go see the great wall. It's pretty much exactly how you would expect it to be.... the views are beautiful. Here the mountains are amazing, they are perpetually snow capped and shoot straight out of the plains. In California all of our mountains have foothills that lead up from them, but here they seem to rise like magic out of nothing. I wish I could upload pictures, but I'm not sure how to make that happen at the Internet cafes. To get here we took an overnight train from Lanzhou and I have to say that overnight trains rock! I wasn't really sure what to expect, the idea of triple bunk beds didn't sound terribly comfortable but it was, the movement of the train is especially soothing. Comfort wise, trains kick planes asses! And once I found out that the bathrooms weren't as "rustic" as I was expecting, I drank all the water I wanted. That's right, I was reckless, drinking my whole water bottle.

Anyways once we got to the train station Emily left us to get our tickets for the overnight train to Turpan tomorrow. Left alone with nothing to do I decided to practice my fledgling Mandarin skills with the taxi drivers who were hovering. It was so much fun! Apparently there is a lot you can get done with being able to count from 1-8 and such key phrases as "Ti pu dong" which means "I don't understand what you are saying". I also find pointing at myself and saying "weigouren" which means foreigner very helpful. I think Debs and Arnold were ready for me to get rid of them, but I was really enjoying myself. When Em returned she came back to a huge group of taxi drivers fighting for our business. I admire the tenacity of the taxi driver who won our business. 10 minutes of counting and saying "I don't get it, I'm a foreigner" is a high price to pay for a short taxi drive. Since that morning I've added "how much does it cost?" and "That is yummy" to my vocabulary. Also now I can count all the way to ten, not just 8! That's right, I may be illiterate, but I can count to ten.

Enough about my mad language skillz...I think I need to touch upon the best part of China so far. The food is so amazing! I have loved Chinese food with a fervent undying passion my whole life and I have to say that so far, China does not disappoint. We've been eating a billion types of noodles, dumplings and stir fried vegetables. Please, do not even get me started on hot pot. That's not counting the excursions to the bakeries. Last night we ate chocolate cake in "honor" of 4th of July. Another great thing about China is that the food is ridiculously cheap. Last night we ate 60 dumplings. The price of all of that came to about $1.50 US total. It's really hard for me to understand how there is any profit margin at such low prices, but I don't ask questions. I just eat... a lot. I eat A LOT!

One of the other fun things about the western area where we are is that they are not used to foreigners. Emily attracts a lot of attention because she has blond hair and blue eyes. I kind of feel like an entourage when we walk with her because people stare in disbelief constantly. She is really nice about the attention saying "I think they know it's rude to stare, but they can't help it." For Chinese outside of the major metropolitan cities, Emily is the equivalent of a person with green skin. Kids love to stop and say "Hello" Emily says she often hears people goading each other into shouting "hello" at here. "No you say it, no you SAY IT!" "i DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU TO SAY HELLO TO THE FOREIGNER!" People especially go nuts when she speaks Mandarin. At our dumpling restaurant last night, literally every single person in the restaurant was staring gaped mouth when she ordered dumplings. At the Hot Pot restaurant our waitress was laughing so hysterically that she had to be helped by another waitress (it should be noticed that in China, laughter can express embarrassment and anxiety as well as humor). It's not clear if the waitress though Em was funny or if her presence was giving the poor girl a nervous breakdown. Em pointed out that most of the waitresses at that restaurant are probably small town girls from the provinces and that everything about Lanzhou makes them wide-eyed. 80% of the population of China lives in rural areas which is crazy, considering that the cities are so dense. Lanzhou is a very small city by Chinese standards, it's population is a mere 2 million people. When you realize how big the cities are and then realize that most of the population is not based in the cities, you'll realize that China is bigger than you can ever get your head around.

I think that's enough of a book for now, our internet cafe time is almost up, plus the little kids here keep stopping to stare curiously because I'm typing in English. We'll do our best to update you on the adventures of the weigouren on the silk road.

Posted on July 4, 2008 and filed under Adventures in the World.