This afternoon I was uneasy about my planned excursion into the underworlds of the Chinese culture. I was rationed with one more day’s worth of food, no more vegetables, and I had to fend for myself until Friday when I would go to the Chabad House for some real food. Being that I was very hungry and I knew that if I stayed in the hotel room, my one day’s ration would turn into a one-hour ration, I decided to venture out into Xi’an on foot to find kosher food, namely, rice and vegetables.
Instead of going to the supermarket where everything was packaged, prepared, and not known whether it was kosher, I ventured on foot for around an hour into the alleyways where the common people live. It was interesting purchasing things in my broken Chinese, and I found that the Chinese were very patient with me, especially since I was about to give them money. I found the equivalent of a cucumber, but it was two-feet long and one-inch thick. I’ll be peeling those with my knife. I’ve had what I think these are before, but they didn’t have thorns and these are covered with them. I also bought corn on the cob which while it provides me almost no nutritional value, it still puts a smile on my face because I like the way it tastes.
After my purchases, I decided to make my way back to the hotel using the alleyways rather than the main roads because I thought that it would give me a glimpse into the real culture here away from the Xi'an tourist traps and the cheap junk markets. On that walk back through the alleyways to the hotel, I passed by children playing in what seemed to be a school building; when they saw me they ran towards me saying "hello" as one would talk to a bird. At one point, I realized that I went off course by the looks on the residents faces -- what is this well-dressed, bearded white boy doing in our village? One resident pointed in the direction I was going and signaled to me that the alley was going to end by making a T-shaped symbol with his hands. I thanked him and turned back and began to feel lost.
At one point, my ankles started to hurt from the shoes I was wearing. Luckily, I saw a taxi parked at the side of the road -- I wouldn't even call it a road because it wasn't even a dirt road; on his meter was 15.20Y, which means that he must have traveled a long way to come here to bring somebody home. Just my luck. I got into the car, showed him the card with my hotel’s name on it in Chinese writing, and he acknowledged that he knew where it was. He made his way out of the maze of the alleyways and pulled out of the side streets and onto a main street, and fifteen minutes later, I was back at my hotel’s revolving doors with a bellboy opening the door saying "welcome back sir." It felt good to be back.