Our “Bread” Car: Setting off on our Third Day of Travel
We woke up early and set off to the Russian border towns that line northern Inner Mongolia. The hours of travel often consisted of us sleeping on each other in the morning. Then in the afternoon we would have lively conversation filled with stories, games, and riddles. Our conversations were in half Chinese, half English. I always seemed to be laughing endlessly from our conversations. I am really glad I road-tripped with my classmates!
Before hitting the border towns, we stopped in a small town and ate the most delicious 馅饼 (meat-filled pancakes) and then dropped by a forest. The branches were frozen with thin slices of ice that looked like small, white butterflies. That with the contrast of the freezing river and bright sun was a beautiful site.
Frozen River and Ice Butterflies on the Branches
After hours of telling stories and watching the tall of snowy hills gradually transform into plains of yellow grass, we finally hit the Russian border. We stopped by the river that divides the two countries and looked onto Russia. I imagined the map of the world and Russia’s gigantic mark on it. I always imagined the East part of Russia as a desolate, snowy place. As I looked at Russia from Inner Mongolia, I realized both sides are about the same: small villages, snowy winters, and pretty landscapes. However, I never thought about the mixing of cultures at the borderlands. While we visited the border towns, the people didn’t look Chinese or Russian, rather in between the two.
Looking into Eastern Russia
We stopped in a village outside of Shiwei district and walked around the area. Dare, Xuezi, and I took a long walk along the river. It was soothing to be in a tranquil place. The sound of the rushing river, the frozen top crunching against the icy shore…the wind brushing against the last remaining leaves…cows mooing…birds singing. We got back into the van and started our drive to that day’s final destination, Enhe, another China border town. While driving there, I looked out the window and took a picture of the scenery:
Horses Grazing on the Yellow Grass, Russia in the Background
The land changed dramatically from our previous days. Now it became flat fields of grass and dirt with cows, sheep, and horses grazing them. I wonder what it looks like in the summer? I will definitely have to come back during the summer season. After a couple of hours, we made it to Enhe. We found a quirky married couple who owned a small inn. The husband was a talker and the wife was a kind women that said: “You pay whatever you can afford.” The husband did not entirely like what his wife said, but reluctantly agreed. We really appreciated the thought.
While the husband stoked the oven that would heat our rooms that night, we walked around the Russian town, talked with locals, and watched the sun set over the village.
Sunset over Enhe Village
After watching the sunset, we walked back to the inn and prepared for dinner. The wife set up a hot pot night for us. We all fit in the spacious living room/dining room and ate Chongqing-style spicy hot pot, as well as conversed with them. At the end of the dinner, I sat next to Sun Aiyi (Aiyi means “aunt,” a polite address to a women much older than you) and talked about her family and life in Enhe. Her grandma was from Russia, traveled to China, and then lived in Enhe. Sun Aiyi’s family has lived in the same place since then. Her daughters are all married and moved across the country with their husbands (Sichuan, Guangdong, and another city). That night, I drew a card for her and made everyone sign it. She loved it.
Dinner with New Family
After dinner, we prepared to go to sleep. While the guys were sleeping, Dare and I stood outside in the brisk air and stared at the stars again. The Milk Way was especially bright, as well as the thousands of stars around it. We chatted and stared at the night sky for a long time. For me, the Milky Way is special. I rarely see it…so when I do, I can’t take my eyes off it. It’s similar to my relationship with the ocean. I don’t want to leave it…
That night I could not sleep. Dare and I were sharing a bed in the room with the oven, so it was a bit hot. I got up, wrote in my journal, and then walked to the outhouse in the back of the yard. At 4am, the stars were even more exceptional. I had never looked at the stars that late. The Little Dipper had moved to the middle of the sky, circling around the north star. Orion was halfway through his cart-wheel and Cassiopeia’s crown was balancing on its side. I wish I had seen such beautiful night-scapes when I was younger…but I guess it has led me to appreciate them more now.
I finally fell asleep at 4:45am.