A Ningxia Road Trip

In my last post I wrote that I was once again headed out to Ningxia Province, to visit Yinchuan and Guyuan.  Whew.  That was last week already.  I don’t know how we could have packed more in the space of 36 hours than we did.  I, along with a group of visitors from the US, boarded a flight for Yinchuan at 10AM on Wednesday morning.  A mere hour and a half later, we had flown across the desert and were landing.  We flew China Eastern Airlines that morning, and I think were on a brand new aircraft.  I’ve neve been on a domestic Chinese airline flight that was so nice and had so much leg room!  Except for the food, it was actually a pleasant flight.  On flights in China we get what I call “carbohydrate boxes,” little snack boxes with bread and strange cake.  And warm pop.  The weather’s turning cold—no need for ice cubes!!!

Thinking that we might not have had our fill of carbs from the boxes, my friend who lives in Yinchuan met us at the airport with several buckets of fried chicken from KFC.  We talked our way into the little coffee shop in the airport, and sat there and ate.  Where else in the world can a group of 2o people carry their own food into a coffee shop and completely take over the place??

After lunch we headed out of town to a Hui village. As it happened, it was market day in the village, so we got to wander around and enjoy the local color.  After spending an hour or so at the village we went to a nearby middle school.  I think we all now know what it feels like to be rock stars.  As our two small busses pulled into the school courtyard, all the kids in the two buildings came rushing to the windows and leaned out and started cheering.  Within minutes they were down in the parking lot, surrounding us, and grabbing us to drag them off to their classrooms!!  Ok, now what?  Well, I was with three others, and we decided the best thing to do was sing!!  So, we sang, at the top of our lungs, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.”  The kids loved it.  Once we were all “sunged” out, we went back down to the courtyard to have our picture taken with the administration, faculty and all the students!!

Shortly thereafter, we fled to a restaurant and feasted on local delicacies (lots of mutton).   After dinner, our group split up, with half going back to Yinchuan, and half of us going on down to Guyuan, about 4.5 hours south.  Unfortunately it was getting dark as we pulled out, so our entire trip was in the dark.  And even more unfortunately, the first 2 hours of the drive were on a 2-lane highway, and not the newly-built expressway.  Some of the folks in our party had never been to Asia before, so were a little spooked by local driving habits—many cars don’t use their lights (saves power on the battery, so they believe); passing on curves; passing on hills; passing cars passing other cars who are passing trucks;  and above all, lots of honking!  The way I see it, honking absolves drivers of all responsibility in the case of a mishap!  And of course, no seatbelts!!  Well, we finally made it to the expressway about 8, and arrived in Guyuan at 10.

Thursday morning I attended some official meetings while the visitors hung out with my friends and their students.  After that, we went for a walk to the village where I’d encountered The Guyuan Gang back in April.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’d printed some photos and wanted to find the kids.  Well, the kids were in school that morning, but we met an older woman on the road in the village.  When I showed her the photos of the children and asked if she knew them, her face lit up and she said, “these are all my grandchildren!”  I’d found their grandmother! I was so excited I wanted to give her a big hug.  I resisted the urge. I gave the photos to her, and asked her to give them to the children when they got home from school.

From there we rushed back to the hotel, snarfed down a lunch and hit the road again.  We had to high-tail it back up to Yinchuan to catch a 6pm flight back to Beijing!

The photo here is of a couple of young boys in the Hui Market.