Friday, January 08, 2016

Welcome to the Silk Road... the land of metal detectors

Today we had no adoption paperwork to do, so we played tourist and headed off to the Grand Bazaar in the Uygher area of Urumqi. (That's pronounced, "wee-ger" if you were wondering.) Now, I have really wanted to see this part of Urumqi ever since we studied the Silk Road. Urumqi is in the Tian Shan mountains which extend into Afghanistan and through which the caravans would travel. 

Here is part of the market complex. This tower is part of the mosque which is just to the right in the photo. What you are not seeing are the police barricades which surround the square. To enter, you must pass through a guarded entrance and metal detector. This is actually not so odd here. P. muttered this afternoon that she has been through more metal detectors in the past three days than she has in the past several years. Not all ethnic groups are happy with the political state of things and in 2009 there were some significant uprisings here in this square. It changes the culture of a city to live with this level of unhappiness. There are metal detectors and x-ray machines for bags at the majority of building entrances. If they don't have an x-ray machine, there is usually some sort of guard who checks your bag. We've also seen groups of police in full riot gear, including those big shields, walking around together carrying grocery bags. Police barricades are everywhere. But on with the tour...

More scenes from the square... note the light dusting of snow. The high today, according to the computer was 14 degrees F., though it felt more like the mid-20's to us. Everyone here was walking around as though this was one of the warmer winter days... not many hats and many with bare hands.

Those are dried peppers piled at that vendor's stall.

Here we have moved inside. It's not heated, but enclosed, so was a more comfortable temperature.

This stall is selling mostly dried fruit and nuts. The majority of these are raisins, which the area is famous for.

Down another aisle of the market. Those are carved gourds hanging from the ceiling.

A stall selling musical instruments.

Here the stall owner is giving an impromptu performance for us.


I also stopped and bought a small amount of saffron. We are on part of the Silk Road, after all, and when else am I going to have a chance to buy saffron imported from Afghanistan? Plus, the price was better than at home for real saffron.

It was lunch time, so our guide showed us to another Muslim restaurant where we sat and had a lunch of beef soup with hand-stretched noodles. We had a lovely time sitting and enjoying our food and visiting with our guide.

After a rest at the hotel, we ventured out on our own for a while. We had seen a foreign language book seller as we were riding home in the taxi, so decided to head there. We found some good books for Y. so she can continue to work on her reading.

Since it was now about 6 pm, we thought we would head someplace and find some dinner. This wouldn't be considered unusual anywhere else, but it was a wee bit early for Urumqi. You see, China has one time zone. Just one. And yes, it's a big country. It took about five hours to fly here from Shanghai. This means that the sun doesn't even start to come up until about 9:30 in the morning. As a result, the city operates on its own unofficial time which is two hours later than the official one. Thus, people generally wake up around 8, have breakfast at 9, and get to work by 10, when the offices and stores all open. Lunch then happens at 2, with the work day ending around 7. While we weren't the only ones in the restaurant, it was clearly not the peak time and when we finished with dinner and were walking back to the hotel, it was rush hour with everyone heading home from work.

We had quite a bit of pizza and soda for dinner, due to a little confusion on both sides about the size of things. The pizza restaurant was chosen because Y. said she liked pizza and we have had a lot of noodles over the past few days.

Y. and E. at dinner

When the sun goes down, it definitely gets a bit colder. When I looked just now, the temperature was listed as -9 F. There were hats and hoods and gloves being worn by the populace as we walked back to the hotel.

At each large intersection, which would be impossible to cross on foot, are underground tunnels which loop around the intersection, with two sets of stairs going up to each corner. It is very easy to get yourself turned around and we made at least one unnecessary trip up to ground level only to discover we weren't on the corner we wanted. It would probably be easier if one knew the names of the roads and could read the characters. Unlike nearly every other Chinese city we've been in, English (or even pinyin) translating every sign is not common. And yes, you do need to pass through security points as you go up and down into these tunnels.

The entrance to this tunnel is through the red hanging plastic there. If you look very closely over the roof of the black car, you will see a similar structure that is across the street which is another entrance.

Here is our hotel. The entrance is in the break in the white lights. Notice that Urumqi doesn't really have sidewalks. It has either very large streets or smaller streets which also double as parking lots. You can see this a bit in front of our hotel. This particular stretch is pretty empty by Urumqi standards. From what we've seen, most are parked up on both side (straight in, not parallel) with a single lane running down the center. Cars drive up down narrowly avoiding other cars and pedestrians.

Tomorrow is another paperwork day, and if we have time, we're going to try to hit the Silk Road museum. Y. continues to do beautifully. She had a good night's sleep and has eaten well. Thankfully, she is now seeming very comfortable with both me and J. At one point this afternoon, we were watching some TV and she was lying across both our laps and grinning happily.

Oh, one thing I forgot to share from yesterday. I think one of the things that helped turn things around for Y. when she was so sad was that I play piano. We were asking her teacher what helped Y. to feel better when she was sad, and the teacher asked Y. Y.'s response was that she liked to listen to the piano. It seems that there is a piano at the orphanage and Y. loves to listen to it. I replied that I would be happy to play the piano for Y. when we got home and Y.'s face lit up. I also said I could teach her to play piano. Y. was almost overwhelmed. It seems learning to play the piano has been a fantasy of Y.'s for quite some time. God knows what He is doing, huh?


Katie Coons said...

Thank you for posting! We are following your story and are just so thrilled for so many reasons! Love from Vermont!

Kristin Mueller said...

It's been so wonderful to read along on this journey with you. We are definitely praying back here! I loved the part about piano playing. Totally made me tear up. God is good!

Anonymous said...

I love the market photos. There are so many colors in the raisin family.

The piano part is so special. What a difference all the new experiences have to be.

Thanks for sharing,
Elizabeth L

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