It’s been one of those days, a long day seeing as it started at 5am.  Breakfast at 7am (the best meal I’ve probably had since I’ve been here – vegetable soup was fantastic!) and the off to the infamous Yulin to deposit my passport. 

It was a long drive, 1.5 hours literally through the desert, the road is called the desert causeway!  One plus was seeing ruins of the Great Wall, as we speed by on the motorway.

Then it was going from room to room in some sort of immigration centre, having my picture taken (no idea why they asked me to remove my ear-rings) and generally sitting listening to my two FAOs chat to the immigration guys whilst they looked me up and down.  I’ve surrendered my passport which is hugely worrying, if anything happens I can’t get out of the country and if I have an accident no one will know who I am. 

Under the new regs, the Chinese Government have 15 days in which to keep your passport – this could only happen to me, but the end of those 15 days is the start of the Chinese Autumn Festival, so the estimate return date of my passport is 9th October – which of course means that I won’t be able to travel which means I can’t go to Xi’an to get essentials (deodrant!) and coffee and to generally have a bit of a break.  My FAO has requested my passport be returned sooner, but who knows….. it’s hugely disappointing to be honest, the thought of being stuck here on my own for a week is really depressing, I want a starbucks and to have a nice comfortable bed in a hostel.

Yulin was a really weird place – it’s massive, with a really impressive park area that it was nice to sit in whilst the FAO went to collect the car that he’d deposited for a work colleague at a garage for a service.  We walked through some sort of old town area, as usual 99% of the people had never seen a blonde western woman and I was grabbed again for photos over and over again.  One really random thing though – standing outside a shop, a chinese guy in his 50s came up and started talking to me and the FAO.  When the FAO explained I was from Scotland, the guy asked me about Scottish independence and whether I thought we should vote for it – translated by the FAO – now given the fact 99% of my students have never heard of Scotland, this was a bit surreal and apparently the guy had seen it on Chinese news.  He was really polite as well, shook my hand, said goodbye, all whilst a massive group of people were surrounding us.

Lunch was dumplings – first time I’d had them this time in China, they were good, but really heavy.  One thing I can’t get used to in China, as soon as you eat you get up and leave – this happened both at lunch and dinner tonight and it hurts my stomach a bit to be wandering around after a large meal.  Wander we did, down the never-ending stream of Chinese tat shops, until we were deposited in the park.

We were then taken to a “temple”.  Now I’ve been to quite a few temples in China over the years, I find them both fascinating and calming, but this was the weirdest temple I have ever seen – the FAO said it was 20 years old and it was like a temple theme park – there were bits all over the place, a lot of it was a building site, and each building was manned by a really old Chinese man.  Some bits of it were gorgeous, but the whole place was covered in dust and whilst some of the buddhas were beauitful, there were none of the offerings that are usually made, and it was like a really eery ghost town. 

We were also freakily followed around by two teenage boys and a random man with a toddler.  That was un-nerving, as I was trying to look at some Chinese calligraphy, the older man was so close to me I thought he was going to try and steal my bag,  I’m hoping that he was just fascinated by a fat blonde woman, but I won’t be rushing back to that place again,

Really annoyingly, as we were driving out of Yulin we passed a Watsons – similar to Boots/Walgreens…. I nearly cried, I could almost smell my deodrant – on the plus side I suppose I can get a bus to Yulin now and pray that I can ask a taxi driver to take me to Watsons – one day!

Driving back to Jingbian, we hit the most horrendous thunder/lightning and hail storm I have ever ever seen – the storm was right above us at one point and even the FAO was struggling to see what lane to drive in – not ideal given what Chinese driving’s like at the best of times!  We couldn’t even speak in the car the hailstones were battering down so hard, some of them were at least two inches in diameter but then just as suddenly the storm cleared and it was blue sky again…..

Supper tonight was in a restaurant in Jingbian whose speciality was tofu – unfortunately as I’d rather eat a pig’s ear again than tofu, it’s probably the one thing I just cannot eat.  I nibbled away at the noodles and found some potatoes 🙂 

So a long and tiring day, going from the early start to feeling like a zoo exhibit again – even sitting in the park I was randomly shoved babies into my arms, people suddenly say down next to me to have their pictures taken – I do wonder what these people say to their families when they get home and show them me!  I’m determined to try and get some mandarin lessons going next week, I feel so ignorant not being able to even exchange brief words with people.

Two classes tomorrow, then the weekend where I run the gauntlet of the toiletrie girls!  I need to do some lesson planning, but apparently next week there is some sort of holiday and I’m off Thursday and Friday – no one has officially told me this yet, as usual in China someone will tell me the night before no doubt!