Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our first moments in Xi'an

Our flight out of Beijing was pretty simple and we arrived late in the evening in the Xi'an airport. We wanted to travel overland, but given the brevity of our trip and our inability to sleep on bumpy overnight trains, we opted to fly. The flight gave us the added opportunity of meeting in the airport with our great friend Tom Stader as his flight arrived within 30 minutes of ours. He was just flying back to Xi'an, his home base in China, after giving talks at both a TED conference as well as at the Swiss Pavilion in the World Expo in Shanghai! He has been traveling quite a bit helping to support his ever-growing NGO The Library Project. We've supported them over the years, I designed that logo ;), and it is just amazing to see how well it is doing now and moreover, the great impact it has, but more on The Library Project in a few posts.

Once at the airport, Tom helped us snag a cab for a great price and we headed into town to help fill all of our hungry bellies, kick back, and relax our tired bodies with a few drinks. We grabbed some really fantastic street food cooked by a perfectly surly and shirtless grill master outside of Tom's apartment building. Our meal consisted of spicy yet deeply flavored crawdads, skewered chicken wings, skewered beef slices, pickled cucumber salad which was unreal, marinated tofu disks, and a few bottles of local brew. It was yet another moment when the Chinese street food more than delivered! It was dirt cheap, and I'm salivating just thinking about it now. You had to eat the crawdads with supplied plastic gloves. I should add though, the gloves for the crawdads were great for keeping some of the hot oil from getting all over you, but it was better in concept than practice since the hot oils would just eat through the gloves. By the time you were done cracking your crawdads and pealed off your gloves, your hands would be saturated with the savory oils. You just had to remember: DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES until you could really wash your hands. Not just typical China, "damp them in a bucket and then dry them with the old rag" wash them, but soak them and use hard-core soap wash them. Any less and you'd be crying for weeks. I'm sure there is no regulation in the amount of spice they put on those things. They were delicious, but that heat could really really build up.

While we were hanging out at the street stalls, we had our first of the many Xi'an encounters with expats from around the globe. Our friend Tom is very well known in the area, and given the small size of the expat community, it was very frequent that we'd run into some of his fellow compatriots. That night we ran into all sorts of folks, mostly teachers, from South Africa, England, and the US, a few were even from Chicago and Ohio which made for some funny common stories from our younger days in the Midwest.

We wondered all around the North-West corner of town visiting a few hot spots after our food. One had a rocking band with a bassist that outside of that setting would have looked very mild mannered and demure, but with her band and bass, she tore it up. In the last stop of the night we spent some time getting to reconnect with our old friend Tom and to learn more about Eugene, a teacher from South Africa, and Erica from Ohio at a very colorful bar with a rather hilarious drink menu we didn't end up testing. It was a really great way to be welcomed into our new stop in China!

Next up, with the rising of the day's sun, we get our first experience with Xi'an's "fog"!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds absolutely unreal!!! Keep the posts coming, I love them! :) Miss you guys! xxxooo ! Mel