Immediately after ending class on Friday, we threw our luggage into the school van and headed for the Xi’an Railway Station. Fortunately our overnight train was an updated model, and the ride was very smooth and comfortable.
We arrived at about 7:30am on Saturday in a very brisk Xining, capital of Qinghai province, high up on the Tibetan Plateau 7,000ft). Of course seven out of eight students were dressed in shorts, and more locals than usual (so 90% instead of 75%) were staring at us. Our guide Frank was waiting for us and he shepherded us to a breakfast of rice porridge and fried dough. From there we headed to Ta Er Si, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery about 30km from the city center. Frank was an informative guide, but he’ll be most fondly remembered for turning our tourist van into a bona fide party bus, leading us in karaoke/dancing to the biggest Chinese pop songs, the lyrics to which most of our students have mastered, too!
On our way back into town, we stopped at Northwest China’s largest mosque, which is an interesting mix of Chinese (interior) and Arabian (exterior) styles. Frank, a Muslim, proudly introduced us around to his friends at the mosque and chatted on end with our Jewish group members about the commonalities of Abrahamic religions. After a forgettable lunch, we headed to a minority village of the Tu people, which really doubled as a front for selling the local wine (wrong audience!), but in the end we were treated to a song, dance and fashion show. The last component of the show was audience participation, and who but Karun was chosen to participate in a Tu wedding ceremony and was duly married off to a local bride!