An email from my dad to his friends and colleagues back home in Canada on his impressions of Xinjiang (and Matt!) so far....
Wish all are well.
We are really enjoying our visit here at Urumqi and are fine.
Bonnie and Matthew are in great shape and good spirit.
We arrived in Beijing after a long flight from Ottawa. Our friends (Xumeng's parents ---- Bonnie's old exchange student pal) were so happy to see us again.
They are excited to meet Anice since this is her first trip to China.
We stayed for one night before we flew to Urumqi on last Sunday( 4 hour flight).
Bonnie and Matthew greeted us with tears and joy.
They took us out to the market for dinner after unwrapping all the things that we brought for Bonnie (practically most of our 3 big suitcase space----need to replenish with local souvenirs).
Delicious noodle, mutton b-b-q, hot soup and sheep heart which I somehow could not swallow because it is quite tough skinned.
(We should have in the future a supper club meal of exotic delicacies).
Matthew took us on Monday in his field trip with his auditors to remote villages to check on the solar panels installed.
Fascinating to see how the local people live in their mud houses and tend the sheep and horses.
We then went on a jeep ride (Matthew bought a Beijing jeep last year, somewhat similar to the old Jeep and a Chinese army jeep clone) to the foot hill of the 4000 m + mountain, crossing streams, broken bridges, mud and gravel tracks until we hit into the forest where no more road exists.
Very exhilarating --- bumpy and rocky.
We took a bus to Turpan, 3 hours east of Urumqi, where we visited old historical sites, temples and mosques.
Stayed in hotel 1 night. We then toured a old village with beautiful valleys and cliff.
You would love to see this place which is only opened for visit last year.
Ancient Buddha grottos in caves on the side of the cliff overlooking winding streams underneath.
We had snack in a local family home seeing how they made raisins (this is a grape growing area).
Came back in the afternoon passing oil fields and field of wind turbines generators. Very worthwhile trip.
Thursday we started early in the morning on an expedition in Matthew's jeep to Yili, third largest city in Xinjiang, where Bonnie and a friend have started to help to establish an NGO project.
The entire trip turned out to be filled with danger, excitement, disappointment and finally happiness. The road started with paved 4 lane highway.
We attempted to cross the 4000m mountain pass but was defeated by snow covering road at the top.
We had to turn back and wasted 3 hours. The road then became a long stretch of construction bumpy ride passing small towns and villages.
We finally had to settled overnight in a small village.
The small hotel owner had to ask a roomer to go to another room to share with a stranger so that we can have his room (much obliged, he did not mind).
We left early and headed towards Saryam Lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains with stretches of gentle sloped grassland where in the summer, is covered with green and attended with sheep and horses.
But the excitement was before that as we had to struggled to bypass snow covered road .
The jeep got stuck and we had to dig it out with 2 local military guys stationed there.
They even cut the barb wire fence to free the jeep back onto the road.
Just as we thought that we would arrive in Yili finally, we were stopped by the police just outside of the city for speeding ----------- traveling 52 km/hr in a 40 km/hr zone!!! -------- $100 RMB ------ instead of appearing in court --------- Matthew's luck as this was his first fined ticket in China.
What a trip!!!!
We visited the local Uygur family (Bonnie's project) ---- Muslim religion ------- and had lunch ---- very interesting.
We came back today in the afternoon by plane (1 hour flight) and Bonnie and Matthew drove the jeep back ------- a better drive this time(they left at 7.30 am and came back at 8.30 pm) with still lots of excitements and frustration.
Now everyone is asleep and are getting ready to a more relaxing Monday while Matthew will go back to work.
We still have yet to discover Urumqi, visit Heavenly Lake,(another pretty site), Bonnie's school, Matthew's office, shopping at the markets, inspecting their potential wedding sites and more sight seeing and explorations.
Bonnie and Matthew prove to be quite a resourceful team.
Matthew drove the entire trip and Bonnie was the navigator with a GPS monitor.
We shall have more stories to tell in our next gathering and Bonnie and Matthew do wish all of you could make the trip in September for the wedding.
This is a beautiful country out here---------as Bonnie said, this is the Xinjiang spirit --------------- come, come,come.
We shall see you all back home (We leave here on Friday, stay with the friends in Beijing for 1 night and fly back on Sat.)