View from our window of Xining
We arrived in Xining on Sunday around 2pm. The flight from Beijing to Xining was very different from our previous flights because we were the only westerners on the plane, which meant a lot of stares and the kids getting touched. Also, it seems that when there are less westerners, the Chinese people assume we know Chinese, otherwise what are we doing there? So several people came up and tried talking to us, but we just shake our heads. The guy next to Zak on the flight asked Zak in English if he knew Chinese. When Zak said "no" he turned away and didn't speak to him again. Maybe he wanted to make sure that he could talk about us behind our backs???
We had a few harrowing moments when the security had an issue with our checked bags. Apparently they don't allow AA batteries on checked luggage, something we didn't know. When they called us back, we had no idea what was wrong with the bags, just that there was an alarm going off and a security officer had to come. It took awhile for us to understand since we speak no Chinese. Once we got on the plane, we noticed a couple of odd things, such as no one obeys the seatbelt signs and EVERYONE on the plane had to go to the bathroom at least once. It was a two hour flight. Not even Storey had to use the restroom.
We met up with our guide at the airport. She's a nice lady, but I was under the impression (because of what our agency had told us) that she would speak really really good, fluent English. Unfortunately, that's not been the case. It's been frustrating, especially when it comes to the food situation.
She can only understand about half of what we say. For instance I asked her about getting pizza for our family and she told me that I can wear t shirts every day if I want. I also had to basically act out "baby crib" (this is more difficult than it sounds) in order to get one for our room for Mabel's arrival tomorrow. It makes makes the whole experience much more difficult. There are no western stores in the city and after the guide got us to the hotel she just took off though I thought she was supposed to help us find out which food or restaurants would work for us and help us find a local supermarket. Finally she agreed to come back to take us to dinner, but we were starving so went to the hotel restaurant and got French fries and fried chicken. They overcharged us by double we think (even as we added up everything we've spent here in Xining today, Zak and I looked at each other and scowled about that dumb overcharged lunch from three days ago).
I asked our guide if she had an ideas or suggestions for things to do during our "free time" and she said "no". What is the point of having a guide if she doesn't guide us!?!?!? We are here until Friday. I guess we will hang out in the hotel room a lot (we found out there is no pool in our hotel).
We took a walk around a pretty park across the street which was the highlight of the day. People seem to be less inclined to take pictures of the kids here it they certainly do stare! We are the only westerners that I've seen since being here. The guide did come back and took us to a local Muslim restaurant that had a good noodle dish we would be willing to try again. She also ordered a beef dish for us that turned out to be yak and I don't recommend it. Chewy and gross. Definitely the opposite of pizza (but at least I know I can wear t-shirts if I want).
Tomorrow morning will make all of the language difficulties and bad food and frustrations worth it.