Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

People of the Town 

A couple old Russian Chinese were talking about me the other day in the village. One of them said, "He looks like Stalin." The other one said, "Not Stalin, Marx."

Older people in the village generally address me in Russian, but when I answer them in Mandarin, they can carry on a conversation (albeit reluctantly). They seem to prefer Russian. The old-timers I talked to all told me that their mothers were Russian, and their fathers were Chinese. Most of them have not been to Russia, or came to China when they were very young. But they definitely prefer to speak Russian if given the choice. So they speak Russian with each other, and Mandarin to strangers and to the young people.

But generally, this is a very friendly town. I don't know how its going to be several years hence, though. Town folks have seen the youth hostel, and it seems everyone wants to get into the act. There are also new hotels going up. New buildings follow the traditional log cabin architecture so common in small Mongolian towns along the Russian border.

Of course, the most noticeable difference for someone coming from Beijing is the clear cool air. Most of the time, I tend to head for the western mountains in the summer time. But several students have told me I don't need to go that far to find cool weather. They are right. Partly right anyway. I say partly right because they are right about the climate. It is really nice. But in fact, it's not that much closer to Beijing. A little closer. But it is still quite a trip. I guess about 25 to 30 hours on the train just to get to Hailaer. Then a bus ride of about 5 hours. Two bus rides actually. So when it comes right down to it, the time taken to get to this location is almost the same as what it takes me to get to the Tibetan Plateau.

As far as climate is concerned, it has very much the same feel as the place I like to go to in the western mountains. But there is one difference. This is grassland. There is a lot of grassland where I usually go, too, but it is high grassland, and in Langmusi the Gansu grassland meets the Sichuan mountains. So there is a little bit of both. Here, there are hills in the distance, but it would take two or three hours just to walk to the foot of them. Up on the Tibetan Plateau, you are right in the mountains, so there is lots of hiking right on the edge of the village. This place is not as good for hiking. But it sure it pretty, and the youth hostel is much better than most accommodation i have had in the mountains of Western China.

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