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Honeymoon of Frans and Li-Xia
Part 2: Urumqi

Friday, October 15, 1993: Transfer to Urumqi

In the morning we had a very simple Chinese breakfast at the hotel for the price of ¥6, and took a taxi to the train station, which costed exactly ¥11.20. I was surprised to see that they have trolley buses here. I didn't see any traffic lights. If there would have been any they probably would have been ignored. You see the sweeping people walk even on the middle of the street.

At the station we met with a lady from a travel agency that hand us over our tickets (after we had paid for them of course), and then we went to the airport by bus. When boarding the bus, there was some confusion. Li-Xia was still out when I was standing in the bus wondering what I should do, when the driver wanted to take off, probably under the assumption that Li-Xia was some guide bringing me to the bus.

Around noon we got into the airport after our luggage first had been X-rayed. Check-in for our flight only started at 13:15. We had to pay ¥20 for some kind of insurrance for our suitcases when we checked then in. Then to get into the airport Li-Xia had to pay ¥30, and I had to pay HK$ 40. (Yes, in Guang Zhou foreigners often have to pay with Hong Kong Dollar.) We came through the second hand bagage check with out much problems. The man before me had to turn everything inside out. I could just walk on because of this after they had checked my passport.

In the large waiting room, I saw many abacuses in the small shops all round. Li-Xia bought some sandwidches and a wurst-roll for ¥10. Just before two o'clock we were waiting outside for the buses that would bring us to our plane after they had torn our tickets, when it was announced that the plane was delayed until three o'clock. Just before half past three we got into the plane, an Aeroflot Li-86. We entered the plane trough a stair under the plane. Inside the plane there is another stair leading to where all the seats are. It is a real wide body, nine seats wide. While we were waiting in our seats at the windows on the right side, I though I saw our suitcases stand outside. Then just before four o'clock, it was announced that everybody had to go outside to point out their suitcases. Li-Xia went outside to point out ours, which was not hard, because we indeed already had spotted them. It was after half past four that they announced we were delayed even more. At ten past five we had to fasten our seatbelts, but it was until 17:34 that we finally took off.

We arrived in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region around 20 past 10 in the evening. Our family had been waiting outside the airport for more than four ours. They had arranged a four-wheel drive with driver from the unit1 to get us from the airport. I the dark we drove back to Urumqi. What I remember most were all the tree trunks being painted white, and the many christmas lights that they hung outside the shops as a form of decoration. The main roads are really very wide. The car drove up to the apparment building where our family stays, so we didn't have to carry our suitcase far.

After we came home, we give all the presents to our family members, and showed them the many pictures of our wedding. Li-Xia's mother prepared a meal for all of us. They had prepared a special room for us as our wedding room2. Of course, with new red curtains and bed cover. The bed was a typical Chinese bed: wood covered with several layers of cutton. Rather hard for Western ideas, but I got used to it quickly.

Saturday, October 16, 1993: First day in Urumqi

We got up late. Although China convers at least three time zones, Beijing time is used in whole China. Urumqi lays about two time zones to the west of Beijing. This means that people get up around nine in the morning, and go to bed around one in the night. Typical working hours are from 10 AM till 2 PM, and from 4 PM till 8 PM. The Chinese take a two hour lunch break every day.

In the morning we were visited by "Grand Mother" Yu Rong Hua3, now 80 years old and a former colleague of Li-Xia's mother. Later on, the cousin of Li-Xia's mother, the only family they have in Urumqi, visited us. He is the one who arranged our tickets for flying from Guang Zhou to Urumqi.

After having slept for some time in the afternoon, we went to the big shop, just outside the unit. It is a rather big shop where you can buy everything ranging from curtains to TV sets, and from jade stones to mountain bikes. There are even tailors that will make clothes on request. A saw a lady with a wide broom walking around. On the broom there was a typical bike bell, which she probably would use to tell people to go out of her way. Outside the shops there were men shouting to be while waving with money4. Outside on the streets you can eat barbequed sheep meat spiced with cummin. Although, Li-Xia had been away for some time many people greeted her when we walked around the unit.

In the evening we were visited by the former neighbours, with their first daughter5, and their granddaughter Ni Wie Hua, now 11 years old.

Sunday, October 17, 1993

Today, we found all the old black and white pictures of Li-Xia. I went through all of them, and tried to sort them out. Many of the pictures were just contact prints, and thus very small. I very much enjoyed looking at all those small pictures. It was if I came to know Li-Xia a lot better.

Again we had some visitors:

Monday, October 18, 1993

In the morning we were visited by Mrs. Zhao, also a former colleague of Li-Xia's mother, who helped her after Li-Xia was born. After she left, Li-Xia, her mother, Xuan Xuan (the son of Li-Xia's sister), and I, went for a walk. We walked in the direction of the science museum but ended up in a park. Along the road, I noticed some ticket corners, which on closer inspection appeared to be phone boots. The people inside the ticket corner were just there to collect the money. Close to the park there were huge hand painted billboards along the road. Just inside the park there was a man sitting behind a wooden desk. We had to pay ¥0.50 per person. The man tore of four tickets, then tore the tickets in pieces, and dropped the torn tickets in the drawer of the desk. The park was very quiet. We did not encounter any other people except the people standing with some children rides. We let Xuan Xuan take two of these rides.

After the park, Li-Xia and I continues, while the others returned. The science museum was empty, but in the entrance there was a company selling hard- and software for the typesetting of Chinese text. The whole system costed about ¥3000.

On the way back, we saw how a new shop was opened with a lot of very loud fire crackers. I had to keep my fingers in my ears, to shield all the loud soundes. We also looked at the water fountains of a famouse hotel. Again something you would see more, these kind of fountains which operation a certain pattern of switching on and off all the different nozzles.

Just before dinner, the neighbours from upstairs came to ask for my size, because they wanted to give some wollen clothes as a present to me. In the evening and old colleague of Li-Xia's late father, came to visit us. Before they had already gave us some chinese tea and a silk shirt. Li-Xia talked with them for a long time.

Tuesday, October 19, 1993: Visting Lake Tianchi

We got up very early in the morning, and in my ignorance I ate some of the left over grapes from yesterday, without them being washed again. When we were bound to leave, I already felt a little strange, so I took some pills against diarrhoea with me.

Li-Xia's sister had arrange a car to take us, together with Li-Xia's mother, to the Heavenly Lake, also called Lake Tianchi. The driver was a lady, but she turned out to be good at zigzagging between the many big trucks on the road. Just outside Urumqi, I started to feel worse. And close to the next city, I felt very terrible. I decided to take a pill with some softdrink. That helped a lot. By the time we arrived at the Heavenly Lake around eleven, I felt much better.

Even before we got out of the car there was already an Uygur man shouting "Ride horse?" in English to us. Probably the only English phrase he knew. We would hear that phrase again, each time we met some on their horses that day. When we got out the car we looked over the Heaven Lake, which is at 1910 meters above sea level, covers an area of 5 square Km. At some places the lake is more than 100 meters deep.

The first thing we did, was to take a boat trip over the lake. Then we walked along the lake to the east. Li-Xia took a picture of me before the lake. Leaving Li-Xia's mother behind we climed down to a waterfall from where the water flows out of the lake. The lake is filled with melting water from the peaks surrounding it. Near the waterfall there was a nice concrete path leading further along the creek flowing from the waterfall. We climbed up, and together with Li-Xia's mother we walked back. Then about half way, we noticed the start of the official path leading to the waterfall. Li-Xia's mother took a picture of us, sitting on a rock.

The lady driving the car was waiting at some art/souvernir shop. We looked around, had some tea and food. Then in the afternoon, Li-Xia and I went on. We first walked uphill the mountain on the rightside. The area had visible signs of the many camping places of the Uygur people that stay here during the summer. After we went down we walked further along the right side of the lake. Then we searched for a proper toilet, which was hard to find. I also found a sign with some English text on it. It was clear that the person who painted the text, copied it from a piece of paper, as it had something like "|V" where there should have been an "N".

I would have liked to walk to the east where there is a very steep and small path leading to a century old tinny monastery; just a single building. Or to cross the lake to the otherside where there are paths leading up onto the mountains, including the Bogda Feng the highest peak in the Tian Shan range, towering some 5445 metres above sea level. Although, I would have liked to stay some more days, we had to return. We were lucky to be able to go to the lake. If it would not have been warm for the time of the year, the lake could already have become unaccessible due to snow and frost.

When we came home, Xiao-Zhong, Li-Xia's brother was waiting near the gate of the compound7, where they were unloading a truck with Chinese cabbage. The cabbage is simply stored outside during the winter. He had just arrived from Alma Ata where he studies Russian, in order to become a translator for the many Russians that visit Urumqi for business.

I did not eat much at dinner, and started to feel worse again. During the evening and night my bowels emptied themselves completely. And after that I felt much better.

(The funny thing is that I got ill again when
we visited the Heaven Lake again in 1996.)

Wednesday, October 20, 1993

Today was a day of recovering. So we did not do much. We are now married for two weeks.

Thursday, October 21, 1993

Mr Ma and his wife came to visit us. He was a teacher at the school where Li-Xia taught Chinese for some year, and his daughter was in her class for some time. They told us about the situation in Beijing. Some of the children and grandchildren of leaders of the country have become extremely rich. They stayed for dinner, which consisted of traditional dumplings.

There was a notice outside saying that we might be without water for the coming two days. As a preventive action, we will fill our bath tube with water. When wanted to take a shower, the water heater didn't want to work because the water pressure was too low. Obviously, we are not the only one filling their bath tube with water.

Friday, October 22, 1993

This morning, Li-Xia, her mother and crossed the bridge over the big road to the other compound of the unit. Their we looked at their old house, where they lived for more than twenty years. I took some pictures, and saw the apple tree that Li-Xia's father had planted so many years ago. Their old neighbours saw us, and called us in. We also met with their son who is studying economics.

We also saw the office where Li-Xia did her first project after she got her bachelor degree in mathematics. We also went to the office of Xiao-Xia, Li-Xia's sister. While walking around we met several people who recognized Li-Xia and talked a little with her. On the way back we went to the big store. There are several people there who can make clothes from fabrics.

This afternoon on the market we met Mr. Ma and his wife. We showed him the stamp-stones8 that we got from Li-Xia's mother. He said that they look nice, but that it would be hard to cut them. We asked around on the market. There was a man who could do it for ¥70. There was another who said he could do it for ¥50 per character. Li-Xia's mother said she would ask around to see if she knew someone who could do it cheaper.

This evening we visited the opposing neighbours. We gave them some small gifts and showed them the pictures. The woman had been the head of the primary school of the unit, and knew some English words. While we were there the former head of the deparment for which Li-Xia worked during her first project and his wife came to our flat, so we had to go back to see them. They did not stay for long.

Saturday, October 23, 1993

Today morning we checked out the remaining old things from Li-Xia, and while doing this we found some many colour pictures from her.

In the evening, we went together with Li-Xia's mother and Xuan-Xuan to the apparment of Mr. Ma to celebrate the birthday of his wife. We had dinner together with them, and afterwards we cut the cake that Li-Xia's mother had bought. I looked at the many pictures of Mr. Ma, and even found a picture of us.

When we arrived home, some two former colleagues of Li-Xia's mother were waiting for us. One of them had been Li-Xia's kindergarten teacher. Her daughter is now Xuan-Xuan's kindergarten teacher. Yes, a unit is really a close community in which everybody knows everybody.

A little later, Li-Xia's former neighbour girl with her husband and her daughter visited us. Then we gathered all the things we wanted to send away by packet mail. We can send about 10 kilo for ¥150. Although it might take up to two months before it will arrive in the Enschede, it is the only way to get it there, as we cannot carry it with us.

Sunday, October 24, 1993

We decided to go to church and visit Li-Xia's "uncle" today. Just before half past nine, which is rather early, if you think about the two hour time shift, we left from home together with Li-Xia's mother. Because the church was building a new main building, they were meeting in smaller buildings all over Urumqi. We took the bus, and when we got out we still had to walk for a quarter of an hour. When we arrived at the building, there were already many people there and they were busy with practicing a song. Some lady guided us to the front. I felt very ashamed and had to think about James 2:1-3. Luckily, Li-Xia convinced the woman that it would be better to sit in the back, because she had to translate for me. We ended up finding some place half way the church. Around half past ten the service started, which took about half an hour. Most of the time was used for some preaching. The scripture reading was from the second half of Ephesians 1 and 1 Timothy 4:8-10. After the service was over most people left quite quickly. We stayed behind to take a little with the pastor.

From the church we took bus number 3 to the house of Li-Xia's uncle, which was not so far as I had expected. He and his wife were home. She immediately started preparing the dinner while we watched some TV and rested a little. The dinner was nice. I tried all the dishes, and liked about half of them. I did have some problems with a fish bone. The fish was baked alive, atleast, that is what I assume, because I had seen it swim in the kitchen just after we arrived. They did not have any water from the tap. So far, we did not have problems with the water supply at our place, probably because our house is in a lower area. After dinner we watched the video of our marriage. They were especially interested in the church service. (A picture of us and our family.)

On the way back we went to some shops. Some things are really funny about the shops. There are always so many people serving. They all have their own counter, or their own rack of clothes that they have to watch. Then if you buy something, they give you three tickets. With this tickets you go to some small counter surrounded by glass windows, where you have to pay. When you pay, the tickets are stamped, and you receive two of them back. With these you go back to the person who served you. In return of one of the tickets they hand you the things you bought, which they in the meantime have packed in a bag or some paper.

One of the girls that served us was eating watermelon seeds9, which she got from the pocket of the coat that she was showing. She just dropped the empty shells on the ground, to be swept by someone else.

The bus ride home from the center of the city only costed ¥0.30.

Monday, October 25, 1993

This morning we went into the city together with Xiao-Zhong, Li-Xia's brother. We first went to a book shop, but it was closed because they were balancing. So we went into a music shop were we bought two CD's. One with clasical Chinese music, and one with some dance music. Next we went to some other big shops. It looks like all the shops are selling the same kind of clothes. It is also the case that in each shop you see whole racks (two or more meters) with just the same clothes in all different sizes. You simply have very few choices it seems. When we came outside it started to rain. Xiao-Zhong offered to bring the away the film, and Li-Xia and I took the bus home.

In the afternoon, Li-Xia's mother prepared a special kind of dumplings for dinner. Then after dinner, Li-Xia helped me with washing my hair. And then it started to snow and he went outside for a short walk. When we went in there was about an inch of snow. We took some snow upstairs for Xuan-Xuan.

Tuesday, October 26, 1993

When we woke up, I did not feel very well. I did not eat anything for breakfast and stayed in bed. Li-Xia and her mother gave me some "thing" with Chinese medicine to hung on my belly by a robe around my nick. At lunch time, I ate some of the dumpling from yesterday that were fried by Li-Xia's mother.

After lunch we decided to go to the Red Mountain, a mountain in the middle of the city and for which Urumqi is famous. Xiao-Xia and Xiao-Zhong went with us. But before we went there, we first got the pictures. At the red mountain it appeared that the batteries of the video camera were empty. We took about ten pictures on and around the Red Mountain.

After this we went to some kind of building, five floor high, consisting of corridors with rooms on both sides. There rooms were rented by people selling clothes and other things. They say it is the cheapest place for buying clothes. I did not feel very interested because all the trousers were made of 100% polyester, which made them look very cheap. We also visited the bookshop, were I bought a map and two school books for learning how to write Chinese characters.

In the evening we thought about all the people we had to visit in Beijing and all the other things we had to do.

Wednesday, October 27, 1993

This morning we were late with getting up. I took a shower. Then at some moment there was a power failure. We were thinking about going to the shop to ask someone to make a traditional dress for Li-Xia, but when we went down the stairs we met three of our neighbour's wifes who came to give us their present. Of course, we went back and invite them in. Their present was a coat for me. After they left, Li-Xia and I went to the geology museum of the unit.

In the afternoon, Li-Xia wanted to go shoping together with her sister in the city center. Xiao-Zhong and I decided to walk around a little. We took bus number one to the end, and walked around the park behind the hill and then we decided to walked home from there. By the side of the road there were some people selling large posters for about ¥8 each. We also went into a building, which used to be a museum before. We walked around it, and looked at a large meteorite which was put there on display. Then we went inside the building to discover that it was one big furniture shop. I saw some nice pieces of furniture, and the prices seemed to be reasonable. We also went into some other small shops where they sold silk shirts for ¥178 and silk coats for ¥360. Finally, we went to the gem-stone shop right on the corner of the road (on the right hand side of this picture). I saw some chopsticks for ¥15, which looked like a nice kind of present for someone in Holland.

When we came home, there was no electricity. A little later, Xiao-Zhong and I went to catch Xuan-Xuan from kindergarten. When we came back they electricity was still gone. When it became dark, Xiao-Zhong lit some candles. Li-Xia and Xiao-Xia were delayed because all the buses were full. After they had come back, the electricity came back to normal.

Thursday, October 28, 1993

In the morning, Li-Xia and I went shopping. We bought two silk coats for ourselves. The one for Li-Xia costed ¥350, mine costed ¥320. When we came back, Li-Xia's mother had our stamp stones carved with our names. She managed to get it done for ¥70. They look nice.

For lunch we went to family Sun living. The had prepared a nice lunch for us. Mr. Sun prepared the sheep meat according to the local tradition, by frying them on wooden sticks above a charcoal fire outside on the balcony. They had prepared many other dishes, including potato in melted sugar. We also got some presents from them, including to bags of nice tea.

In the afternoon, Li-Xia and I went into the city and we bought our tickets for flying to Beijing. Li-Xia's tickets including airport tax and insurance costed ¥900 altogether. I had to pay 1455 FEC for the same ticket. We also went to the post office and bought a box for ¥8, which we want to use to send some of Li-Xia things back home.

Friday, October 29, 1993: Visiting Turpan

Around nine o'clock in the morning, we left with the four of us, Li-Xia, Xiao-Xia, Xiao-Zhong, and I, to go to Turpan, which the Chinese pronounce as Tulufan. Turpan is about three hours driving by car. We crossed the railroad going between Urumqi and Xian a number of times and we saw several trains. I counted one passenger train with 18 carriages and a cargo train with 56 carriages.

We drove past several lakes. One was a salt water lack with a salt factory on its shore. After the lakes we drove though a pass along a river, with high mountains on both sides. There were the river was wider there were many trees in the river with yellow and brown leaves. This made me think about some of the picture books by Shinzo Maeda. This was about half way the trip to Turpan. From the pass till Turpan we only drove through an empty and plain without any vegitation. Although we were only driving about 60 km per hour in the FWD car, we were bounching on our seats most of the time. The first thing we saw, when we came close to Turpan were the building used for drying the grapes. We went to look at a underground canal, the so-called Karez, which are dug by man. There are many of these kinds of canals, which provide the city with the water needed to grow all the grapes.

The next thing on our trip was an ancient and deserted city. Around the year 100, the generals of the Han dynasty build a strong fortress on a plateau surrounded by the gorges of the Jiahe river. You can still see the remains of the buildings made by mud, because there is almost no rainfall in the Turpan depression, which at its lowest point is about 150 meter below sea level. I guess that the plateau is about twenty meters above the rivers. Because I was a foreigner, I had to pay almost as much as the three others together.

From there we drove through to the otherside of Turpan, to the famouse tower of the mosk. The tower is almost 37 meters high. After taking some pictures we went back to the city and had lunch in a local restaurant. The food was quite spicy. The extra dish of meat we ordered was much nicer. We paid ¥55 for the five of us (including the driver). I took some pictures of the road outside the restaurant. During the summer time, this road is covered with grapevines overhead. They alread had took done the vines, and only the empty bars and strings were left. As there was not so much to be seen of the grapes, we decided to drive back home. On the way home we twice met with other people from the unit. Both times the driver stopped to talk a little with the people we met. After we passed the mountain range, we stopped at Dabancheng, were we bought some special kinds of nuts. They are called Dadou, which means big bean. These nuts/beans are grown around this city, which is known in whole China because of a song that tells how beautiful its girls are. We also brought a visit to the toilets, which consisted of a room with some holes in the ground. They made us pay ¥0.10 per person. On the last part of the trip, we all felt tired.

(Reference to this trip)

Saturday, October 30, 1993

Today, Li-Xia, Xiao-Zhong and I took many of our gifts to the post office to send them home. There was nobody for the customs office, but we could still send our gifts. Altogether it took us one and a half hour. First we had to put everything in a bag that we had bought in the post office. After the bag was sewed it weighted 9.94 Kilo. Li-Xia had to fill in some forms including a list of all the items in the bag. It costed ¥150 to send the bag as surface mail to Enschede.

The rest of the morning we looked around some shops. After dinner, Li-Xia and her mother went to the bank and did some shopping. I stayed home and slept a little. Later in the afternoon, Mrs. Sun, her daughter and granddaughter came for a visit. Also two old colleagues of Li-Xia's mother visited us. One of them is 75, the other around 65. They are both Christians, baptised only last year.

Sunday, October 31, 1993: Taking pictures

It was decided that we would have some pictures taken. Almost the whole morning was needed to select the clothes, get dressed and get everything ready. When we arrived at the shop we wanted to go, it appeared to be closed. So we looked around for another shop and found one. The person taking the pictures did not look very professional and was using a simple 35mm camera. There was also a problem of a black background curtain being too small. In the front of the shop there was one of these automatic film development and photo printing machine. I was afraid that was the only tools they had for printing the pictures.

At dinner time, the Xu family visited us. Li-Xia's mother had made the special food again. We all helped making it. Mr. Xu is a professor in geology at the technical university here in Urumqi.

Monday, November 1, 1993

This morning, my stomach started to act wierd again. I went to the toilet for four times in a row. We decided that I would take an Inmobudan pill. After this, I slept the rest of the morning.

At lunch time, I got some birthday presents. I got a medal with an ox on it from Xiao-Zhong. Xiao-Xia gave me a dark red sweat-shirt. Li-Xia gave me a small wooden ox as a present. I am born in year of the ox according to the Chinese calender, which consist of a cycle of 12 years each with there own animal. This year is also the year of the ox. I became 36 today. For the Chinese the multiple of 12 birthdays are considered special.

Today, Xiao-Zhong went to get the pictures from the shop we went to yesterday. They all turned out very ugly, as if we did not feel at ease when they were taken.

In the afternoon, Mr. Ma and his wife visited us. I got from them a kitten in needle work on a piece of silk in a frame. The special thing is that you see the kitten on both sides. Of course, we had a special dinner with the whole family and our guest. Afterwards we also had some cake afterwards to celebrate my birthday. During the dinner and the evening, Mr. Ma took many pictures of us, hoping to take some nice ones for our wedding album.

When in bed, Li-Xia and I talked a long time about my birthday party last year. That day, she was the second one that I asked which cake she liked best. I told her about my mothers apple cake, which had not arrived yet. She answered: "I wait for the best". But she also thought about something else when she said this, namely, I wait for the husband God will give me. She felt very peaceful that day.

Tuesday, November 2, 1993

This morning, we went to visit the "grave" of Li-Xia's father on the state graveyard of the city. (One of Mao's brothers also has his grave on this graveyard.) Because Li-Xia's father served the government, he earned the right to have his asses being kept here.

Before we could go into the building, we first had to pay the guard for the keeping. It was different than I had expected. The rooms were filled with almost square cabinets, each of them filled with an urn, some private items and little cards. Li-Xia placed the card she had send some time ago to her mother. We also looked at some of the others. I have to admit that in way this is nicer than what we do in Holland.

On the way back, we were dropped off in the city. We went to a special shop, but there was a power cut, and because of this there were candles burning everywhere in the shop. Very romantic.

Mr. Ma and his wife visited us again around dinner time. After dinner, he again took many pictures of us and the others of the family.

In the evening we also had a power cut at home. It is funny to see everybody in the opposing flats starts looking for candles and lighting them.

Wednesday, November 3, 1993

This morning, before we got up, two old colleagues of Li-Xia's mother came to bring a visit. One of them was very interested in the Dutch money and studied the bills with great intensity. Later on the morning, another 78 year old lady came to visit us. She left before lunch because she had to look after her grandgranddaughter.

In the afternoon we rested, and I spend some time thinking about my possible research project with respect to diagram recognition. I wrote some descriptions and also thought about some general concepts. When Xiao Zhong came back with the developed pictures, it appeared they were not so nice as we had expected. They were dark, and printed to light. It looks like the flashlight of the camera is not very strong. But also the printing was poor. Most of the day we did not have electicity.

For dinner we made a real Dutch dish: Califlower, potato and meat. After dinner, Mrs. Wang, and old friend of the family and a former colleague of Li-Xia's father visited us. Around nine there was a power failure again.

Thursday, November 4, 1993

In the morning, some people from the institute came to visited us. They told us of some problems the had with the computer attached to one of their ARL spectrometers. We decided to have a look, and visited the office where Li-Xia did her first project after she got her Bachelor degree in mathematics. The computer was a 22 bits PDP-11 running RSX-11m-Plus as the operating system. They thought that something was wrong with the disk. I discovered that the start-up procedure did not work properly for some unknown reason. It also had an TK-50 tape drive of the model that we also used to have in our office (with my company in Enschede). Luckily RSX has the same kind of command structure as VAX/VMS, so I could do something with it. In the end I managed to modify the start-up procedure such that it would print out some diagnostic information. We made a printout and promised to send it to the main offices of ARL in the Swiss. They already had contacted some ARL offices in Hong Kong, but had not received any reply.

Then they invited us for lunch. It was a large lunch. Before any hot dishes were brought in the table (with a typical round rotating disk in the middle) was already filled with cold dishes. Of course, they wanted me to try something from each of the dishes. After some time they started to bring in the hot dishes one-by-one. When about fifteen dishes had been brought in, piling up on the disk, they called the cook, to tell it was enough.

Friday, November 5, 1993: Saying fairwell to many

Because tomorrow early, we will fly to Beijing this was going to be a busy day with many people coming to see us for a last time. We first went to the nearby shop. We looked at some camera, but did not feel they were very good. We did buy a magnetic Go game and some caligraphy brushes, ink and so on.

In the afternoon we went there again to collect some clothes that were made for us. We had to wait sometime, and when we came back, there were many people waiting for us. People kept on coming and going the rest of the day. By the end of the day, Li-Xia and I both felt a little tired and confused. I played a some game of Go with Xiao Zhong and lost it with 60 points according to the Chinese way of counting. Xiao Zhong labeled me as a beginner, which is true of course.

(Continue with Part 3)


  1. Unit: In China most people are part of a unit. You have small and large units. The larger unit are sometimes divided into sub units, also called "small units". Often units have their own shops, restaurants, first aid hospital, schools, day care for little children an such. In the big cities, units are like small villages within the big city. The unit is responsible for supporting you. They provide for such thing as scholing, work, housing, and a pension. Because it is difficult to change unit, except for such cases as marriage, most people stay their whole life with the same unit.

  2. A Chinese wedding consists of having a kind of warm-up party in the room of the new couple. Usually, newly weds live in a room in the house of the parents of the groom. Only in case they are lucky they can have an appartment for themselves, but this is rare. After a couple has requested permission to get married, they start preparing their room. A new beginning should start with new things, and as red is the colour of happiness and luck, it is the predominent colour used.

  3. How Chinese names should be written in English is always a source of confusion, because the Chinese put their surname first.
    In the past Chinese names would consist of three or four chinese characters. The first character would be the family name. The second character the so called generation name. All the people of the same generation use the same generations name. Each family has list of usually twelve generation names. According to your generation name, far family members would address you in the proper manner. So it could happen that some girl of Li-Xia's age, would call her grandmother, because the girls generation name was two further than Li-Xia's. Usually, generations follow each other slower in the richer branches of the family. Nowadays the generation name is no longer used as a result of communism. However the older people still know it.
    Then the third and fourth character would make up your official given name. In the far past these names where picked on forhand. While in the West it is a tradition to name people after their grandparents, in China it is considered very bad to share a name with any of your ancestors. A child was not always given a name at birth immediately because of the fear that the child might die early.
    In China people address each other with their surname. Within families and friends they use their given name. In case a given name consists of a single character it is sometimes repeated when used to call someone. That is why my nephew is called Xuan-Xuan. People also feel free to pick another name for themselves, or use a special name to be used inside the family. For example, Xiao-Zhong, which literaly means "Little Chinese", is often used for the smallest child in the family, both boys and girls.

  4. There are at least five currencies used in Urumqi. First of all, the Chinese Yuan, which is used by the Chinese for their daily shoppings. The foreigners should officially pay with Foreign Exchange Currency (FEC), but in 1993 they were often allowed to pay with Yuan as well. A few years later, FEC was abandoned. Then most Chinese like to keep their personal savings in hard currency. For this both Hong Kong Dollars, and, preferably, US Dollars are used. And because Urumqi is about 300 Km from Alma Ata, there are also a lot of Russians, which use Dollars or Roebels.

  5. The fact that family relationships are very important in China, is reflected in the many words that the language has to denote family relationships. The Chinese language uses a different word for each grandparent. Daughters and suns are numbered in the order they were born. There are different words to denote older and younger siblings. When women marry they become part of the family of their husband, and because of this different words are used for uncles and aunts which are part of your family or not. For the uncles they also differentiate between the older and younger brothers of your father. There are also more words to denote cousins, nices, and nephews.

  6. The Chinese concept of family is much broader than our concept of a family. Li-Xia's so-called "uncle" is really the cousin of her mother. Also because he is the only relative in Urumqi, he is almost consider equal to a real uncle. His wife has a cousin living in Beijing, and because she is married with someone also having the surname Lin (which is not so special as the Lin is the sixteenth most common surname in China), they are also considered as family. They happen to come from the same area in China as Li-Xia's parents.

  7. Most units consist of one or more compounds. Most compounds have a gate. Usually there is someone watching the gate to see who goes in and out. These are usual retired man, who earn a little extra money this way. Often it is only a symbolic function, instead of being a real guard. Most often they greet visitors and give them directions where some family is living. The unit Li-Xia's family belongs to, has two large compounds.

  8. Stamp-stones. The Chinese put stamps on everything. Stamps almost have the same importance as signatures in the Western world. Many Chinese have a stamp-stone with their name carve on it. They often use it to stamp their name in books and such that they own.

  9. Watermelon seeds. The people in Urumqi are very fond of eating water melon seeds. You can buy them everywere on the streets. They say that you can recognize the people from Xinjiang because their teeth have two small gaps there where they use them to crack the seeds. And this is true indeed.