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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Been A While!

Sorry I haven't written in a while, I've been super busy!
Last week, I went to this place called Huan Xian, which is where my buddy Benjamin Xi is from. I met his family, who are all very cool and some of the nicest, most hospitable people I have ever met. I was filled with a very deep sadness when I left the town.
There were a lot of things I liked about Huan Xian. For one, it is a small town - maybe about the size of Marshall, TX - maybe a little bigger; almost a village by Chinese standards. Because of its size, the sense of community is very, very apparent. As we walked down the streets, a lot of people recognized Ben and talked to him. We visited numerous family members, a couple of his former teachers - one from high school, one from primary school. His parents cooked some wonderful meals and never let me pay for a single thing (except for one. I broke my glasses on the sleeping bus and had to buy some new ones. I absolutely insisted on paying for that, although they argued. Only 50元!). I also loved the environment; the air was super fresh and clean - the pollution in Huan Xian is very very light, pretty much nonexistent because most people get their money from agriculture. The area surrounding the city is miles and miles and miles of farmland - 90% of it planted by hand because pretty much no one has enough money to buy a tractor or harvester. The city is surrounded by all this agriculture, framed by grassy and sandy mountains.
We visited a lot of places in the city, including a Buddhist tower that was built during the Song Dynasty and also the city's Buddhist temple, which is very close to the Song Dynasty tower.
One thing I didn't really like about Huan Xian was their dialect. Because many places in Northwest China are very isolated, many regions within a Province or even individual cities have their own dialect. Even Christina Yao, who is Chinese, had some problems understanding the dialect sometimes.That was really the only thing I didn't like. It's really awkward when you are sitting in someone's house and can't speak or understand their language at all. They couldn't speak Mandarin - wow! Ben's brother, who's probably the most laid back Chinese guy I've met in a very long time, spoke Mandarin, so we could talk sometimes without any problem, although sometimes his dialect slipped in.
As far as anyone knows, I'm only the 3rd foreigner to ever visit the city, so everywhere I went, people stared at me and pointed and the girls giggled. It was like Lanzhou on steroids as far as people's reactions to me are concerned. But because of that, I got to meet a lot of really cool people and have some unique experiences. The highest mountain overlooking the city has a Buddhist temple on top of it, which is always closed to visitors these days. But because I'm a foreigner, everyone who was with me was allowed to go inside - fantastic! They even locked the door behind us so no one would interrupt what we were doing! Sometimes being a foreigner has its advantages.
I'm going to Tianshui next Monday to visit one of Ben's uncles and see the tourist sites - I've heard Tianshui is beautiful. It's funny, the other day his uncle called my phone (Ben doesn't have a phone, so he uses mine) and I talked to him for a little bit and didn't really have any problems. Ben couldn't believe it because his uncle speaks dialect, not Mandarin. I was really suprised too....I guess I've learned a little Chinese after all!


  1. I think you may be making a good start to becoming an adopted son of China !

  2. wow Austin, I'm so happy for you!! yes, you have absolutely accomplished a lot in these few months. Thank you for blogging here. I haven't been able to do a regular follow up but the times I do get to read you is always good. It's so nice you got to meet Ben's family! He called me through Dr. Darville's phone when I was in Langzhou. I was sad to learn he wasn't coming to Beijin but I hope one day I do get to see him again. Reading your experience there a friend and visitor has been encouraging. Xie xie friend!!


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