Today’s distance / ???????: 47 miles / 76km
Average speed / ????: 9.2mph / 14.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 07m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4491mi plus 280mi (?) / 7228km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 145m
Descent / ??: 115m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N44° 13′ 07.70″, E086° 22′ 24.40″
I awoke this morning with dew on my tent-fly and condensation on the inside, dampening my sleeping bag. I wasn’t worried. It was a mild morning, and the sun was already above the horizon when I finally dragged myself out of my comfortable coccoon.
Like yesterday, the indegestion/reflux started early. Painful burps that made me wince. I figure it must be fatigue. Since I left Shanghai, it has been more or less on the go all the time. I need some decent rest. I have had this happen before when I have pushed myself too hard.
The small city of Shawan is clean and orderly. The main shopping street begins and ends with a rare display of traditional Chinese culture.
On this street I found a small internet cafe. With the length of the days now being so long (6am till 9pm), I can happily spend an hour each day when possible to update the previous day’s events.
Half way through updating, the local police arrive to question me. I was tired. Not in the mood. Stop harrassing me, I thought. On the outside, I smiled stifly and answered their questions. They had found a local student to translate.
Normally at an internet cafe, you will be given a temporary IC card that money is loaded onto for use at that internet cafe. When you leave, you hand the card in, and you get the balance of what remains on the card back. The cost is usually about 3 – 4 RMB an hour (about 0.30 Euro).
At this particular internet cafe, when I went to leave and hand in the card, they told me that I had bought the card. Essentially, I had become a member of the internet cafe. I told them I didn’t need the card. They told me they didn’t need the card either; I had bought it.
The card had cost 15RMB (1.50 Euro). Not an amount to be quibbled over, really. But I was tired. I was still annoyed by my lack of understanding of the system in China. Still frustrated at not being in control of each and every situation I come across.
I raised my voice. Became angry. The source of my frustration not entirely due to the IC card situation. In the end one of the cafe memebers told me in halting English that I could use the card at any internet cafe. It has my details on it, he said. It will be easier to log in at internet cafes, he said.
I felt stupid. Angry now at myself for over-reacting over 1.50 Euro. The internet cafe’s owner gave the angry foreigner a bottle of green tea (value 1.50 Euro) for free to appease his frustration. The foreigner felt even worse.
I skated away suppressing an only just controllable urge to cry. I need sleep. Adjusting is hard work.
Just an hour later I arrived at the dirty, dusty outskirts of Shihezi City. I stopped in at a small store to buy an icecream. It was 12:30pm. The owners of the store and their middle-school aged son in his school uniform were eating lunch in the store. Will you join us for lunch? the mother asked.
Once again, I am faced with the intense roller-coaster ride that is interpersonal relations when traveling solo in China. One minute you are feeling ripped off and frustrated at the system, the next, you are humbled by the amazing generosity and hospitality of the people.
I accept, and enjoy a huge bowl of rice and pickings of tofu and fried liver.
Hunger and frustration sated, I skated onwards through Shihezi City. The streets were lined with coal dust. I counted at least three coal-powered power plants in the city alone. More on the outskirts.
I push on into the headwind that has been blowing all day. Dinner of spicy laghman noodles in a small village. The spices do not help my indigestion. I camp in a small thicket of young oak trees, my chest burning.