2017
05.04

MY LITTLE ENTOURAGE

SYNOPSIS:  About a visit to the well-worth provincial museum.   About trying to act like a local.  About a dust storm.

I have visited three provincial (and that is not in the sense of backwater but representing a particular province) museums by now.  Lanzhou wins the prize, hands down!  All of them were filled with priceless artifacts.  China has no shortage of archaeological remains; recorded history here goes back thousands of years, and plenty of prehistoric finds date millions of years back.

Urumqi’s museum had interesting items on display, notably those well-preserved mummies.  But for a visitor like me, there was little to be gained other than enjoying the visual displays, for lack of information in English.  Xian’s museum… famous, recently built and modern, supposedly filled with precious objects.  But there has not been a museum in my memory, that I left as hurriedly as this one!  Hundreds of people stood in line for their free tickets, thousands (or so it seemed) were already inside.  There was no getting near anything.  I don’t even know if the signage was in English or not.  I just had to get out of there as fast as possible, even though I had paid for my ticket.

Lanzhou’s museum, not only was built in recent years, its curators had created wonderful settings for the various objects on display.  They had resorted — perhaps a bit too often — to replicas, to achieve that end, but I did not mind.  The museum was interesting and most of all well labeled in both Chinese and English.  Interactive monitors added close-up views of many objects, and well-designed maps provided insights into the context for the displays.  Many locals wandered through the halls, but at a well-balanced number of people for the space available.  A visit here is a few hours well spent by any visitor in town.

If nowhere else, I would have expected a few Western visitors here.  But once again, I seemed the only foreigner in sight.  A group of youngsters attached themselves to me, one of them with a quite impressive set of English words.  He must have paid attention in school, but more, he was not afraid to try out his knowledge.  We had a good time together.   I took a taxi to the museum and finally, I can place myself on the little downtown map.  Finally, I know where I am.  I have to say, I feel much better with a map now, even though it’s only in my mind.  I am a map person; what can I say.

In the afternoon, it was laundry and house day.  I washed clothes in my kitchen sink, boiled a few eggs in my hot water pitcher, made a few Skype calls, and processed a lot of images.  My feet needed a rest, but my butt was sore after a while.  My room has no chair — only seating cushions on the floor — and my bed is so hard, that even sitting on it hurts!  I had to get out.   

For dinner I headed towards a place that advertised itself as “Rice in 5 Minutes” — in English!  They got my business.  I was ready to branch out from the noodles and ordered what I thought was a stir-fry dish of meats and vegetables, only to get… noodles!  The rice was on the side.  You gotta eat what you get, if you don’t know how to order; tough luck.  This was SPICY!  I had forgotten to present my phrase:  Without chili, please!   You gotta eat what you get, if you don’t think ahead.

Tomorrow was going to be a big excursion.  I had no time to lose in the morning if I wanted to get to Binglingsi and back in one day.  Lei, my AirBnB host, had provided me with the necessary information:  West Bus Station, 7 AM departure, Bus #2, (unless I wanted to waste money on a taxi).  But I had the feeling that things could go wrong if I would not try this when I had time.  And so I made all the mistakes I could:  Take the bus in the wrong direction, overshooting my station, not recognizing my home station in the dark, etc.  But I was in no hurry.  By the end of my escapades, I had all the landmarks down, and the distance timed.  Tomorrow, would go smoothly.  Despite all of these mishaps, I was proud of myself.  I was going to chance public transport.  I had come a long way from not even knowing where I was. 

The sky is never quite blue in Lanzhou even on a warm and sort of sunny day.  But today, was something else!  As I was sitting eating my noodle-rice, the sky went from grayish-blue to darkish brown.  In Michigan, I would have said a tornado was looming.  Indeed, the winds had picked up, but they were not blowing clouds or a storm across the sky, but dust!  The locals seem to know this phenomenon, as within minutes mouth masks and shawls came out.  I could feel the dust in my eyes; they hurt and felt crusty!  I was breathing this air, but I did not want to picture what I did to my lungs.  This lasted for a good two hours.  At home, I had left the window open.  When I got home, I could taste the dust in my room.  Lanzhou is surrounded by mountains.  I bet this contributes to this effect.  Dust is trapped like in a bowl and blown around by the wind. 

And so, my third day in Lanzhou came to a dusty end.  I hope I can sleep.

Good night.

3 comments so far

Add Your Comment
  1. And just as I was reading your comment, Carl, the breaking news came over the TV that Trump has fired the FBI Director, Comey. As a journalist with grave concern in his voice said: This does not happen in Democracies…the President does not fire the FBI Director when his administration is under an active investigation by the FBI. It happens in third world countries, not Democracies. Or by Nixon who fired Archibald Cox before he resigned the presidency.
    Troll, Carl? No…just someone who loves her country very much and who when reading certain bits of interesting commentary such as ET’s description of the air quality in China, is reminded that Trump does not “believe” in Science…in climate change; he wants to withdraw us from the Paris Accords. He has already rolled back restrictions on air and water pollution in his Executive Orders.
    And that might lead one to think about the Health Care bill the Republicans in the House passed…limiting Pre-Existing Conditions, eliminating Medicaid for millions, defunding Planned Parenthood, defining PREGNANCY AND RAPE as pre-existing conditions.
    When I am reminded, I will comment. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important on the world stage right now than what is happening in America. It is the very survival of our Democracy that is being challenged…as the Washington Post states in its header every day: DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS.
    If you do not want to read my comments, don’t. I really do not care. But they are as relevant here as any other place…it is important that each of us feel we have a voice and a role in our country.
    Troll…no.

  2. Why is Ann using this forum for her anti-Trump political propaganda? Troll.

  3. So you don’t think the changing of the atmosphere was due to pollution. Are there factories around there.
    We should send Trump over to China for an extended period so he can see what dirty air does to the human lungs…as he in all his “wisdom” decides whether to withdraw us from various climate change treaties. Assho**.
    The arrogant, uncaring and horrid GOP is voting on their odious health care bill today…not giving a damn about how many people are going to be thrown off their health insurance. I think people will remember when the 2018 midterms roll around.