Sarah met me at The Beijing air port after
my 12 hour flight from Heathrow. I was feeling a bit odd after being cooped up
for so long and even the generous flight attendant who asked me with genuine
concern if I wanted another beer and kept me topped up throughout gave little
comfort and quite a lot of discomfort as the beginnings of a hangover started
to emerge and crawl into my skull.
After a brief hug and a kiss and a inspection
of my wife’s new hair cut she handed me a pair of what looked like skiing
trousers. They were in fact long johns to protect me from the -20 cold that was
gripping Beijing at this time. Before I had left from here 5 weeks ago it was
-8 and that was quite cold enough for me.
Our train was leave from Beijing to Xin
Zhuo in Shanxi province in 5 hours so we went and lay down on a very
comfortable seat which was like a declined deck chair. There were about 20 of
them all looking out of the massive glass windows of the air port. I blissfully
lay down and admired the air ports tall ceiling with its strips of wood running
all over it. After a far too short sleep which only served to remind me of how tired
I was rather than actually refresh me we left the relative warmth of the air
port and stepped out into the cold.
At first I thought “ it does not feel that
cold, -20 BAH!!” but within 2 minutes of waiting for the bus my ungloved hands
started to actually burn with cold. Something I had never experienced before.
It felt like I was being attack. Thankfully the bus for the train station was
prompt and we got on and Sarah and I huddled together for warmth. I then
managed to catch yet another tantalizing nap before we arrived near to the
train station. As we blearily got off the bus One of the many taxi people
shouted “HELLO!!!/” in my ear. An act which puts my back up even on the best of
days. When I first came to china I found it quite a novelty that people would
stop on the street and say hello to you, but after the first few 100 times and
actually being able to understand what they say afterward I have become
increasingly tired of such things.
Out of participle I ignored him and got my
bags from the bus hold. Unfortunately Sarah got in a conversation with him and
I heard him say “30 Yuan to the train station”, Sarah and I ignored him and
started to walk. He clamored after us rapidly dropping his price. “20 Yuan?,
10? 10? 10?”. I was very please when in his enthusiasm to overtake us and
persuade us he slipped over on the condensed grimy ice on the foot path.
Because I had been there last month I knew that the train station was about 2 minutes
walk around the corner, as I though this I heard the taxi driver shout in Chinese
“its 2 kms away its so far get a taxi!!”.
We approached the train station after 2 minutes
and saw the grand large building lit up with bright lights, The square in front
of the station had the odd seller with large lighters and colorful lighted
spinning Topps for sail, all with a open bag beside them so that if the police
came they could quickly pack up their goods and make a quick exit. I saw one
seller who was a elderly man who clearly had mental health problems, shivering
in the bitter cold looking far into the distance with a glazed look on his
face. I felt very sorry for the people who were out there freezing away.
We got into the train station had out bags
scanned and then went and waited in the departures room. There were no seats available
so we put my bags against a wall and sat against them. Almost immediately a young
woman with a baby came up to us and plunked her baby in front of Sarah and
started to ask for one Yuan. Sarah told her to go away angrily. “GO AWAY, DIDN’T
YOU HERE ME THE FIRST TIME?”.
After a short wait we scrambled though the
barrier mercilessly buffeting people out of the way with my large back pack and
walked along a wide bridge then down the stairs to the train platform. We got
on at the less crowded carriage at the end of the train and found our beds.
They were small and hard but I prefer a harder bed and they also had blankets.
On top of that I was just so glad to be able to lie down and know that I could
sleep for 9 hours until we got to Xin Zhuo.
I tied my back pack straps around the metal
bars on the rack and Put my smaller suit case under the table by our beds and
tied the laptop bag strap to the table before putting it under my pillow. When
I was here before I noticed a man putting his hand in Sarah’s hand bag as we
were approaching the train station. I slapped his hand out of the way and thrust
my finger in his face. He backed off slowly giving me a dirty look and cursing
me. I saw that he regrouped with a large group of his friends and they all
sneers at us as we walked on by. They were from the Xin Jiang province. They
were slightly darker and dirty looking and looked more Middle Eastern than the
other Chinese. Many Chinese people are very scared of Xin Jiang people, They
say that they are very violent and steal a lot and most scarily many people I
have spoken to say that police do not prosecute them when they murder or steal
because they are from a minority. I find that part hard to be leave but it just
goes to show they have a sinister reputation.
I fell asleep with Sarah in the bed beside
me and I had a fitful nights sleep. Starting off utterly cold even with all my
cloths on and a thick blanket then later on waking up drenched in sweat because
the heating had been put on full blast. I quickly moved my suit case away from
the table and radiator as it was full of chocolate.
We arrived at Xin Zhuo at 6 in the morning,
I had been awake for two hours already due to the time difference jet lag. We
walked past the long taxi row of Xin Zhuo station and walked onto the road. The
taxis around the station always charge much more than the normal ones you find
on the road. We waved one down and started to get in and stupidly we didn’t
haggle for the price before. He grossly over charged the price so we got out
again and before stepping into the next one Sarah got the right price.
The taxi dropped us off outside Sarah’s
parents flat. We walked up the four flights of stairs and greeted her parents
who were understandably a bit groggy at 6 in the morning, but none the less
they had cooked up a real feast of pork dumplings cucumbers in vinegar steamed,
donkey meat and green vegetables. I wolfed down masses of it but there was
still enough for a few more people. We then went to bed and I slept until 4 in
the afternoon the next day.
Over the next couple of days I got used to the
time difference. Getting up at four in the morning and feeling tired at about 5
in the afternoon. Yesterday I managed to stay up until 9 in the evening because
I am such a big boy. We went out with one of Sarah’s friends Lu Yuen. We went
to a posh tea house. It didn’t seem too posh to me, more like it was posh 10
years ago and it had dent had a clean for a while. It was a large building
block with small booths that have glass tables and small sofas looking out onto
the main road. As we went up the spiral stair case to the 3rd floor I
saw a white piano on a stage and a large grubby fish tank next to it. We were
given a booth and Sarah and Lu Yuen chose some puer tea which cost 41 Yuan for
a refillable pot. I have never really been a big tea fan. This tea was no
exception it tasted like flavored water and smelt a bit like sea food but it
renched my eyes open with whatever caffeine stuff it had in it and I forgot
about my jet lag. Sarah and Lu Yuen talked about various things, I was not
really listening, I was looking out the dusty window down on the street and despairing
at the chaotic driving which was going on. At least they are going slowly I
thought as a push bike rode out in front of open traffic and was not killed. On
the other hand a young girl was killed yesterday near our house as she ran out into
the road and a car ran over her head.
ears perked up when Lu Yuen was talking about people from Henan province. “everyone
knows that Henan people always cheat, they are famous in china for it”. I found
this interesting coming from such a small country as England were there are stereo
types of the Irish welsh Scottish and they are so close to one another in
comparison to Chinese standers of distance. I asked Sarah and Lu Yuen if any
other provinces are known for anything. There was a gold mine of stereo types.
According to Lu Yuen and Sarah Shanxi
people are very lazy and the women are very good at making babies, because it’s
so cold most of the time the women keep warm all the time which apparently is
good for baby making, I don’t know if that true but Sarah is very obsessed with
keeping warm and if I am not wearing my slippers or if I am just wearing a t
shirt at her parents her mum gets a bit hysterical and orders me to put more
cloths on. Also Shanxi people always pay in cash, even if they are buying a
house. It can take the whole day to count the money. Real estate people love Shanxi
People from Hong Kong are small ugly and arrogant
and only respect you if you speak English of Cantonese or have a lot of money.
Also Taiwan people are arrogant as well and like to have second wife’s in
mainland china. People from fu Jian travel a lot and if you have not left home
very young it is a disgrace. People from Guangzhou and Guangxi are poor and
like to cheat a lot and will eat anything “we will eat anything with 4 legs apart
from a table, we will eat anything with wings apart from a plane”, is a quote
from that part of china. I lived in Guangxi for a year and a half and every
single day people would try and cheat you. From buying vegetable and getting a
taxi to apartment prices and just about anything you need money for.
People from Tibet are stupid and honest,
because there is not much oxygen. People from Mongolia are very strong and eat a
lot of lamb. People from Xin jiang like to fight a lot and Sichuan girls are
I found it so interesting listening to
these stereo types. Some were obviously true and based in fact but others were
so ludicrous it just made me laugh.
After the tea we went to have some noodle
in a small shop. We sat in a steaming fragrant small room crammed in with many
other people in full winter cloths. Sarah, Lu Yuen and myself shared a 6 meats noodle
bowl and listened to 4 men behind us complaining about there wife’s. “ oh I am
so unhappy with my wife these days, she was forced to change her job and now
she is unhappy”
“who does she think she is, the boss?!!”
“My wife is also annoying she always says I
never come home, I hate her”
I could see Sarah slowly working up a rage.
After the meal we all walked home in the
bitter cold with dark stories from Lu Yuen.
She told us of a knife fight which happen outside her apartment last
week and also of her friend who is with a English man who beats her and most
recently cut her face with a large Chinese kitchen knife.
I was glad to get back home and get under
the covers shocked after my arrival back to china. A country full of dark stories,
extreme cold and adventure. Also 6 meat noodle soup. My favorite.