I am turning into a prune…
…because winter air is back in Xi’an! The extremely dry winter air in Xi’an is partly caused by the lack of rain and partly due to sand brought in from the surrounding deserts. I am going through moisturiser even faster than I go through jars of Nutella. I keep getting electrocuted by everything I touch and people are starting to wear their masks again. The fridges at restaurants have been switched off and one can only dream of an ice cold beverage. Should you dare to ask for something cold you must accept the consequences and be treated as a special case of strange foreigner for the rest of the evening.
We’ve been spending an awful lot of time at coffee shops recently. They sometimes give you a straw to drink your (hot) coffee and they serve hot lettuce sandwiches and expect you to use a knife and fork to eat a pastry. But the coffee is nice and people watching is good. Here is one of the coffee shops next to my office frequented by most EF teachers.
This photo is taken just after one of our Chinese classes. The Chinese classes have now turned into chats where we discuss everything from human rights issues in China to food. It’s all done in very broken Chinese, but I am glad we can make ourselves understandable. We’ve found out that an average Chinese person from Xi’an doesn’t care much about human rights abuses or things happening in the world. This is sad, but I believe this attitude is acquired through generations of not having any way or power to exercise your democratic rights and having no sense of ownership for anything. While doing an exercise in English with our Chinese members of staff the following question was asked: what would you change if you ruled the world? and two out of three answers I got was to not tell people about ‘bad’ things happening in the news, because it makes them sad. After teaching the word ‘war’ to my 14-year old students, I asked them to name some famous wars. Only one student out of ten named WW2. When they started naming wars that China had been involved in my Chinese teaching assistant let them know that the history they learn in China and what I had learned in my country are different, so they shouldn’t bother naming these wars. It is very strange how people are aware of restrictions made for them, but are not in the least concerned or feel the need to change. There are exceptions, of course. The protests and imprisoned human rights activists you hear about in Western media are not known here or are stamped as lunatics by the government controlled media. Ai Wei Wei is not known here, Tian An Men square events are only known by those who are willing to look for the information, the abuse of minorities is seen as ‘helping them have a better life and position in society.’ Political rant over. For now.
We have finally purchased tickets back to Europe. Our last day of work in Xi’an will be the 12th of January and we will be on a plane to Kuala Lumpur via Shanghai on the 13th. We will have a day in Kuala Lumpur to see some of the sights and on the 14th we will get on another plane to Kochi, India. We will attend a wedding of a very good friend of mine in a Keralan city called Thrissur. David will be wearing one of these while I will be turning Indian in a saree:
We are planning to do a trip in a houseboat and do some hiking in tea plantations in the mountains. We are off to Delhi after Kerala to visit another very good friend of mine and to see the sights of Delhi. We’ll make time for Jaipur and Taj Mahal, of course.
We land in London on the 1st of February and will stay for a week or two, we have not yet finalised our tickets to Estonia, aga loodetavasti oleme vastlapäevaks kodus. Peaeagu 5 aastat ilma ühegi vastlakuklita pole mingi nali.
We will try to see as many people as we can while in the UK and tell as many China stories as you are willing to hear.
Life in Xi’an
Life continues as normal. I’ve been making a lot of kapsarull recently, missing home food. Both David and I had a cold for a few weeks, but with the help of vodka socks, jalavann and sinepiplaaster we are nearly cured. I am sitting at Starbucks as I write this and some of you will be happy to know that they do serve gingerbread lattes here. They are setting up what looks like a German Christmas market between the Starbucks and the Bell Tower. I am hoping for some mulled wine. Christmas is not a big deal here, as you know. Xi’an celebrates it by closing the roundabout around the Bell Tower thus turning the town centre into a pedestrian area and creating a shopping frenzy. I will most likely be here with the rest of Xi’an, shopping for things I don’t need.
We also have lots of sweet potato vendors, who use big barrels filled with coal to roast them; and people roasting chestnuts in large wok pans by twirling the chestnuts in small pieces of hot coal. Sugar cane is back, too, and you can see the big sticks being cut outside fruit shops and little children and grown ups chewing them. However, I really want to tell you about my new favourite food. It is called guo bao rou (锅包肉), which translates into something like ‘a package of meat.’ It’s thin pieces of schnitzel-like meat in a sweet gingery sauce. I will try and recreate it when I am back home, but I fear my efforts will not live up to the real thing. It’s so tasty that I sometimes just go and get the a whole plate and eat it all by myself.
Here’s a surprise – we climbed another mountain. This is a small one in the Qinling mountain range close to Xi’an. We just felt like some fresh air and this is where you get it. The mountain is known for its many temples and holds great significance to Taoists and Buddhists. For us it was a nice walk in the countryside admiring wonderful views all around. Here are some photos of it.
Until the next time. 再见!