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Diary, August 1996

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Thursday, August 1, 1996

The cheapest busses

Li-Xia and I took the cheapest kind of bus into the centre of the city. These busses have three nice things:
  1. They are very cheap. We paid 7 dollar cent per person for going there and back. You pay about 1.6 dollar cent for each stop you have to go.
  2. They are driving with the windows open, which is nicely cool compared to standing still.
  3. They are so packed that you cannot look outside, and do not have to worry about all the near accidents that you otherwise would have seen.


In one of the shops we went, all the girls standing with the racks of clothes were wearing some of the clothes on the rack itself. In that same shop there were also many girls eating their lunch, mie/noddles with some sauce, with chop-sticks from plastic bags.

Most shops still have one girl per rack or per 3 meter counter. And they have this funny way of paying: You get three tickets from the girl behind the counter, and with these tickets you go to a special counter where you pay. There they person puts some stamps on the tickets, after you payed, and returns two tickets to you. With this two tickets you go back to the first girl, who in the meantime has packed the things you wanted to buy. You give her one of the tickets in return for the goods, and you keep one ticket for yourself.

The weather

Today it was hot again. About 36 degrees Celsius, without any wind. In the evening we got some wind. Usually it is not this hot for such a long time in Urumqi. The strange thing is that many counties around Urumqi suffer from floods, while it has been dry in Urumqi. Some of the roads going outside the city are cut off by flooding rivers that are usually dry at this time of the year. Somehow if find it hard to believe that this taking place, but we hear reports about it from all sides.

Taking a shower

Just when I had finished taking a shower, I felt some cramps and had to go to the toilet. The shower and the toilet are in the same room. Half way, I had to request for a paper fan, because I felt too hot because of the humidity caused by the shower. So, there I was sitting, with a fan in my hand while emptying my bowels, having a little diarrhea.

The Olympic Games

Although we are in a remote area in China, this does not mean that people do not have cable TV. They can receive about 13 different channels, some even featuring English programs. Today the Chinese moved to the third place with respect to the overall ranking. The scenes with handing out the gold medals, and the raising of the flags, were broadcasted repeatedly on the different channels.

The Chinese are definitely proud of their achievements. The Dutch, coming from such a small country, did not win many medals at all. I am not aware of us having won any gold medals.

Friday, August 2, 1996

When I write this it is six o' clock in the afternoon. Li-Xia, Annabel, and Xuan Xuan are all asleep. Li-Xia's mother is making the soup with sheep meat, because Annabel likes it. Annabel has not eaten much since we have arrived. She has been drinking enough though. It still worries me a bit. I think it is a combination of the strange food and the hot weather that makes her not wanting to eat anything.

It is getting cloudy, and there is a little wind from the west. It seems as if the temperature has dropped outside. Inside it is still 29 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) with all the windows open. But because the house is facing south we do not get much wind going through the house.

Today we have stayed home. Li-Xia has been acting as a translator for a man from the Swiss, who lost his bike a week ago. He has come here by bike from the Swiss. Yesterday the police found his bike again. He also has some problems with his visa. He only has got a visa for 20 days, which has to be extended over and over again, if he want to continue his travels through China. Sometimes, I am afraid that people like him think that things go here like they go in Europe when they start out on a trip through Asia. When his bike was stolen someone asked him 500 Yuan (60 Dollar) for bringing him to the police, and helping him to report.


This morning, I have written some comments for the second chapter of ZatAoMCM. In this chapter Prisig made some comment about a certain joy that can be found in the monotonism and boredom of the daily life. Later on, I have been reading in the letter of James again, and then continued with Ecclesiastes. In Chapter 5, verse 18 it says: I did find some English books around here. Of course, books for learning English. Furthermore, some English book related to computers. Reference guide to Windows NT, for example. I wonder what is the use of that book around here. And finally, English literature works. I have been thinking about buying `Wuthering Heights' from Emily Bronte. I have no idea what the book is about, but think it might be interesting to read for some reason. It is funny to see how your can crave for reading something in a language you know, when you are abroad in a country where almost no one speaks your language, and where there is not much to do.

Saturday, August 3, 1996

Last night it rained, which has given some refreshment. Today the weather has been very nice indeed. We have gone to a small mountain close by. From there we had a nice view over Urumqi, and we could even see the Bogda Peak. Sadly enough the air pollution caused by some pipes on the other side of the city was also pretty evident.

This evening we have made Jiao Zi (dumplings) with the whole family. Typically something that a family does one there free day when they are all together.

A ping pong ball

Once there was a factory in Japan where they made ping pong balls. And one day a box of ping pong balls was produced which was just like all the other boxes, but this box was handed over to the prime minister of Japan, to be given as a gift to the Chinese prime minister. And so it happened that this box became the first box of ping pong balls given to the prime minister of China.

The prime minster of China was friends with one of the best ping pong players of that time, and he gave the box to this man. And because these ping pong balls were so special this ping pong player gave three of them to his old teacher, Mr Ma. Mr Ma gave one of them away to another good friend. And this friend after some years forgot about the ping pong ball, and she travelled abroad leaving the ping pong ball behind in her mothers home, where it is up to today somewhere stowed away, but no one knows where.

Sunday, August 4, 1996

Today, we have gone to a church around here. The church had three rooms on top of each other. On the third floor was the platform where the services was led from. The lower floors could follow the services by video. The church has about 3000 seats. Quite remarkable.

When we came home this afternoon, there was no water. This happens almost every week. The water has just returned at about 12 o' clock in the evening. Finally, we can use the toilet again, without having to worry to run out of water. They always keep some water in at hand for when there is no water. The electricity also has been shut of twice during the day. So far, we did not have any electricity drops in the evening, but I would not be surprised if it does. Three years ago, it did several times. In those cases it is funny to look at the window, and see people search for matches and candles in the opposing apartment building.

Tuesday, August 6, 1996

New road

They are putting asphalt on the road just in front of the yard we are staying. First, they lay a layer of rock, which is then covered with a layer of grind. On top of that they put a rough layer of asphalt, by hand. They have a truck dumping the asphalt in small heaps, and than people (many women) spread it out. The final layer is laid by means of a machine. It looks like these people work from early morning to late in the evening. I was surprised how much they had come, when we passed by this morning.


Text on shampoo bottle

In the toilet/shower room I found a bottle of Amola natural body shampoo. On the back it says at the bottom line: `London . Paris . New York' giving the impression it is a foreign brand. The English text on the back reads like:

Thursday, August 8, 1996

On holidays you do things that you otherwise do not do, and that do not have any purpose at all. The last days I have had this urge for going to walk around on the road. It is ready now, and it is being used by cars, bikes and people all at the same time, and in the evening serves as a market place. I just enjoy walking around, watching the people, and do nothing. Yes, this is really one of the good things of a good holiday: having nothing to do.

But there are still many things to worry about. Annabel has been keeping us awake during the night, and in the early morning. During the day others have been taking care for, borrowing her for some time. She is a beautiful girl, but especially around here, where there are only Chinese, she is even regarded as extra beautiful. Annabel is still not eating much, and today she got some diarrhea. I hope it is only temporary, but you never know with children of her age.

Friday, August 9, 1996

Tomorrow we are going to Lake Tianchi (Heaven Lake). We will leave around 9:30 and come back around 6:30. It is about two hours by coach, which means we have about 5 hours to look around. Seems to be sufficient.

Li-Xia found some more old pictures. Three years ago, we already took many of her pictures with us. At that time I was very excited to see all her pictures. Li-Xia looks very nice on pictures. Of course, this time the harvest was much smaller, but it is still very fascinating to see all the old pictures.

Saturday, August 10, 1996

Today we, that is Xiao Zhong (the brother of Li-Xia), Xiao Wang (his girl friend), Li-Xia and I, went to Lake Tianchi (Heaven Lake). (For me it was the second time.) A truly unforgettable trip. We left home around nine o' clock, to go the centre of the city. For some time. I had doubted whether I should go, because my stomach was not feeling nice. At half past nine, the coach left. I decided to sit near the window, so that I could take nice pictures and videos through the open window. Sitting at the window also meant sitting in the sun.

At four places the road was broken. At one place a bridge over a river was gone, because of a severe flood which took place two weeks ago. Which meant we had to go through the river, which had dried up completely again. But at all four places it meant: dust, dust and dust. Reason enough to close the windows.

We arrived at about 12 at the gate. There we had to buy tickets, and wait for the engine to cool down. The last part we had been driving in first gear, and most of the climbing still laid ahead of us. So after about half an hour we started moving again. But because it was so crowded the coach could not make it to the top, and had to stop at about two third. This meant we had to clime the rest by feet. Immediately, we were surrounded by Uygur people, offering their horse to be rode on. We prefered to walk by ourselves. At that moment, I started having cramps again.

A little after one, we reached the top of the road and saw the Heavenly Lake, which is at about 1900 meter above sea level, and about 100 meter deep, and from which you can see the Bogda Feng, a mountain of more than 5400 meter high. We decided to walk along the lake. Then I started to feel more and more horrible, the cramps returning about every minutes. Luckily, we found a western toilet, so I could flush my bowels. I immediately took some Inmobium, an excellent medicine to bring your bowels to a rest, and we sat near the edge of the lake under a tree, and had lunch (for me only some mineral water), and took some pictures, of us sitting on a rock in the lake. We also watched a cow eating the remainders of a watermelon. Cows were walking around freely. A handy garbage disposal system.

From there we walked back to the top, and walked to the other side, visiting a water fall, from which the water flows out of the lake. There was a nicely paved road (of concrete) to it, but when we arrived at the water fall, it turned out they were building some kind of pavilion (Chinese style) in the middle of the river that flew from the water fall, which I found rather distasteful.

Just before five we found our coach back, and not much later we went back. And because the sun had turned, I was sitting in the sun again. Around 8, we were dropped off about one block from home, and walked home.

Monday, August 12, 1996

Culture shock

Today, I have been suffering from culture shock. Culture shock consists of three phases:
  1. Being amazed by all the new things.
    When you just enter a new culture (or environment) there are so many new things to experience, which make you delighted. You are spend so much of your time thinking about all the new experiences that you forget to worry about anything.
  2. Missing the old things.
    But when the initial amazement wears of, you start focussing on all the things which are different, and you start missing all the things you were used to at home. Often you can crave after some kind of food you had in your old culture.
  3. Integrating old and new.
    Finally, comes the time when you have accepted the new things, and they have become as natural as the old things.
I have never stayed in another culture long enough to reach the third phase completely. It seems as if these phases occur at different speeds for different things. Today, I got upset with the lack of quality. For example, the pictures which we developed turned out bad, while they said this was the best shop for developing. But that is just one example. We had heard rumours of a McDonald's being established here in Urumqi. Today, I wanted to search for it again. But as they do not have phone books here, such a search is very difficult. The others did not want to assist me. I really would like to eat a hamburger, some fries and drink a coke, as some things that meet the western standards of quality.

This also made me realize how much we are spoilt in the west by the constant high quality of everything around us, and how comfortable our lives are. Life is much harder around here.

Tuesday, August 13, 1996

Today the weather is a little colder. Usually, it is not so long so hot as it has been here in the past weeks. Yesterday evening there was some cold wind. Inside it is still rather hot. Annabel and Xuan Xuan are playing outside together with Li-Xia's mother. I just took some video.

It seems as if I am having some problems with my stomach again after two days in which everything seems okay. What worries me most is that it is difficult to trace the source of the problems. Was it an ice-cream I ate yesterday? Or is the Mineral Pot, which filters the water, and add some minerals, not reliable anymore? Or is it just some food that had turned bad?

Saturday, August 17, 1996

Yesterday, the temperature suddenly dropped about 15 degrees Celsius, as a result of turning winds. This must be a typical Siberian cold wave coming in from the North, which will sweep over the whole country within a few days. This might also mean that the temperature in Beijing might have dropped a little when we arrive there next Monday. Now the temperature is still around 30 degrees Celsius, which is no fun with the high humidity they usually have there.

Yesterday we went to visit the ``grave'' of Li-Xia's father, which is the place where the ashes are stored, one square box in a cupboard at the provincial graveyard. Someway it is special that his ashes are allowed to be stored in this graveyard, as not everybody is given this honour. We also looked at some stone graves to which we might transfer his ashes. This kind of grave, much looks like the ones we are used to in the West. It is obvious that the Chinese have stronger traditions around the burial of the death, than we in the west.


Last entry

This might be my last entry to be added to this on-line diary inside China, as we are thinking about leaving this laptop computer behind when we go to Beijing. Now we getting closer to leaving, we all start to feel more at home. Even Annabel has started to eat normal amounts of food again, and even enjoys some of the typical Chinese food.

I have been reading through ZatAoMCM again. Must be my third reading. It is a good book, although I feel that his solutions to the problems we are facing in this world are rather limited, and somehow do not touch on the real problem of evil. Of course, this is due to the fact that I do not agree with his world view. Nevertheless, I think the book is a great piece of art, and I enjoy reading it. I also have been thinking about how to integrate all these philosophical thoughts with my own Christian believes.

Taking pictures of Annabel

One problem with taking pictures of Annabel is that she always laughs after the picture has been taken, but not before.

Monday, August 26, 1996

Yesterday, we arrived at Schiphol, Amsterdam. Today, I spend most of my time reading emails. I am home again, but find myself a stranger at home. Is seems I forgot many things about my own place. Or is this just an effect of jet lag?

Tuesday, August 27, 1996

Today, I found a nice page about artificial languages. Many people are not aware that one of the major languages of the world is very regular in many ways. This language is the Turkish language.

The socks of Annabel

I just wanted to take my handkerchief out of my pocket, when I got a small sock inside-out in my hands. Yesterday evening when Li-Xia gave Annabel a bath, she asked me to clean out Annabel her shoes and socks because they were full of sand from playing outside. After I had done this I brought back the shoes. When Li-Xia asked me where I left the socks, I did not know where I had left them, and looked around for some time. I must really have been very tired yesterday evening, as a result of eating dinner and the jet lag.

Wednesday, August 28, 1996

This morning, I suddenly realized that Li-Xia does not have a single official name. According to her Chinese passport her name is `Lin Li Xia'. The Chinese put there surname first, a thing that usually causes confusion when Chinese come to Western countries. A Dutch custom is that when a woman marries she adds the surname of her husband to her last name. The Dutch authorities would consider her official name to be `Li Xia'.

Thursday, August 29, 1996

It has been raining almost the whole day. A typical Dutch day, I would say. Luckily, I am inside drinking some tea.

This morning Annabel was screaming again when I brought her to child care. Yesterday it was the same. I am afraid that she has to get used to it again. In the past weeks she received a lot of attention from first of all our family and friends in China, but also from many other Chinese, who often called her Yang Wa Wa.

Why Elvis is god. . .

From Susan I received the following email:
from somebody's signature:

" Jesus said: "Love thy neighbor."  (Matthew 22:39)
  Elvis said: "Don't be cruel." (RCA, 1956)

  Jesus walked on water. (Matthew 14:25)
  Elvis surfed. (Blue Hawaii, Paramount, 1965)"

		- anon, from "Why Elvis is god"
(At least the original author believed in the that Jesus was God incarnated.)

Friday, August 30, 1996

I made some Makefile for processing a document with LaTeX, makeindex, and tib. It looks like:
paper-t.dvi : paper-t.tex \
	      paper-t.ind \
	cp -p paper-t.aux paper-t.aux.old
	cp -p paper-t.idx paper-t.idx.old
	latex paper-t.tex

paper-t.ind : paper-t.idx
	makeindex paper-t

paper-t.tex : paper.tex
	tib -d /home/db/xxxx/REF -p /home/db/xxxx/REF/INDEX paper.tex : paper-t.dvi
	dvips paper-t.dvi
The trick is in the files compare-paper-t.aux, and compare-paper-t.idx, which compare the newly generated paper-t.aux, and paper-t.idx files with the old ones. In case there are no changes, the new files are replaced by the old ones, preventing the latex command to be executed again. The compare-paper-t.aux file looks like:
if cmp -s paper-t.aux paper-t.aux.old; then
   echo "paper-t.aux is the same"
   mv paper-t.aux.old paper-t.aux
   echo "paper-t.aux was modified"
   rm paper-t.aux.old

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