Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chechnya, Xi'an, China and Symbolic Navigation

On the 26th Chris from Active picks us up in a little hatchback and we head off to go register with the police. The route rapidly leads off pavement and onto rather dubious looking dirt roads in the middle of the city. It turns out the road goes through a couple of city blocks the government decided to demolish. It basically looks like Chechnya, or maybe a bombed out WW2 town. There are partially demolished buildings standing amidst six feet of rubble with people still living in them. This delightful complex backs onto the police station. A group of eight local police are busy giving a push to a police car that seemingly won't start unless it is rolling at a decent speed. We are given leave to wander while the police take our passports for paperwork and stroll back into Chechnya. On approaching a small shanty with a kennel with a wired shut gate we discover a gigantic wolf-like dog in a tiny kennel. This is near the local repair shop, which may be the desired destination for the police car. The whole thing is pretty unreal. Chris from Active seems a bit freaked out and unsure of why we think the whole affair is hilarious. Sadly no camera and Chris from Active doesn't seem to think the idea of coming back for a photo-shoot is a good one.

After registering with the cops, Chris drops Pavan and Chris (travel companion) off at the apartment and takes off for the Active offices with Rod. After a fairly routine days work, Rod successfully gets home by waving the notebook with English text and Chinese characters at a cabbie and pointing at the desired destination.

In the evening we go to a local coffee shop. We order Pu'er tea. It has two prices. Not sure why, but we ask for the more expensive version. Shortly after this the waitress comes over, babbles at us, confuses even Chris (travel companion, speaks some Mandarin) and finally writes some Chinese characters and a +20 on a piece of paper. Surely this is an offer of an upgrade of some sort so we make affirmative gestures. The tea shows up and is delicious. The menu is odd in that it has correct English titles (eg appetizers) but no menu items except tea and coffee are translated so ordering food is hard. While we're trying to figure out what to order, a bunch of plates of nuts, crackers, and what fruit rollups would be if they were really fruit shows up. We consume more tea and eat nuts. It's a tough life. Then popcorn shows up. We're starting to think we won't need to risk ordering food at all! Then a fruit salad shows up!! That's enough for dinner so we enjoy a couple more pots of tea, fruit, and nuts and call it a day. The whole ninety minute affair sets us back ¥88.

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