Alright, so the plan I was told was that we would fly into some 'town' in Western China. I was thinking farms and villages and less people. Well apparently the Chinese have to outdo everything and make their western towns swell over 6 million inhabitants.
Lanzhou is pretty much the dirtiest, most unattractive city I've ever seen. Everything is dusty and brown. The buildings, roads, river, people. Supposedly it's known for being very rude, very dirty, and one of the most polluted cities. And it is just that! Thank goodness Uncle Tim is with me and speaks enough Chinese for us to get around. I wouldn't have made it too successfully. Nobody speaks English anymore.
We wandered the city. Who puts a shooting range in the middle of an old Buddhist temple? Or a zip-line, connecting 2 temples that probably doesn't meet any sort of safety standard? Not going to lie, I was totally freaked out for a while. Six million poorly dressed, short, Chinese-speaking people and then me: tall, blonde, and not knowing ANY Chinese. There’s no fitting in here.
We walked through Lanzhou University. It was much more pleasant than I was expecting. We snuck up to see a dorm room. Boy, will I be thankful for UGA’s dorms. The bathroom looked like a scene taken from a horror movie. Disgusting.
We ate a nice dinner along the river and watched the people and oddities of China come alive along its shores. Plastic cacti decorate the pathway. A pigskin raft floats right on the beach. As soon as I look at this food, I am no longer hungry. It may look and smell one way but taste in a most unfamiliar, not-sure-what-it-is way. I ordered tofu only to be served tofu with pork on it! They think vegetarian dishes just have vegetables added to whatever is already there.
Wow, do people have the nerve to stare. Not glance or even double take as I walk by, but they follow and get right up in my face and just stare at me. I guess Uncle Tim could pass as a Tibetan with his shaved head and light eyes, but for me, there is absolutely no hiding. And the only English words people seem to know are "hallo" and "hi" so they repeat those over and over and over again until I respond, and then they jump around laughing hysterically. At night, the city comes a bit livelier. People dancing, walking along the river and of course there are hideous neon lights and "American" music- like the Nutcracker and William Tell Overture. Real classy.
If you ever feel like just another face in the crowd, come here, you'll be an instant celebrity. People run up asking for pictures of and with me. It's nice to soak it in now, because in just a couple of weeks, nobody will care. I will look like everyone else. Nobody will ask to buy my hair. Nobody will flatter me in such sincere ways! Today alone there were at least half a dozen pictures, several drinks offered, and many more "hallo"s and "hi"s.