Friday, August 1, 2008

A few hours at the police station

Nice encounters and unpleasant questionning

After an hour I wake up in a police station. Coming out of the mini-bus, I bump into the American man I met earlier, who is part of a group composed of his wife, their son and also of an Australian and his girlfriend from the Philippines who live in Lanzhou, and finally, an Irish woman with her British husband and their two daughters who are 5 and 8 years-old and also live in Lanzhou. I ask dad what’s going on and he tells me that we were stopped by a police control. They took our passports and are waiting for their boss to ask us questions. At the same time, I see a taxi arrive with three Texans that are philosophy students at the University of Texas. They are like us, in police custody. Of course, I ask them if they’re going to vote and all three answer: “yes and for Obama”. For me, that’s the right candidate. Today, my dream is to have an hour alone with Barack Obama; I could even go to Chicago to meet him if he accepts. An hour later, dad calls me and tells me that the bosses are here and the police officers know which questions to ask us. We walk through a corridor that looks like a mini corridor of death since we’re really scared of the outcome of these events. We arrive in a small room that looks like an interrogatory room in a Parisian police station. In the middle of this room, there’s a table around which are waiting a woman who speaks bad English and two police officers. They look at our passports and ask us routine questions that all the police officers on the planet ask. That is, from what I know from watching interrogatories in different police shows on television. The questions are random, the reason why we’re in China, the date we entered the territory and our departure date. While observing the room, I see behind the police officers a mini photo studio. Oh no, that’s not to have a picture taken in front of a monument or with celebrities. It’s to leave a good souvenir for these police gentlemen. The interrogatory over, two questions come up: the first being how will we find glasses for the eclipse, and second being how are we going to protect the camera from the eclipse (since we haven’t received an answer from the National Geographic)? We figure that we’ll have better chances of finding an answer on a full stomach. That’s when we see two Japanese dressed like adventurers arriving at the station drenched, as though they swam here. When we tell them we’re hungry, the police officers tell us we can go eat but only if accompanied by an officer who will watch us during the entire meal. We find a restaurant with separate rooms for each group of tourists. They give us one. Fifteen minutes later, the two Japanese arrive after having dried off and being questioned. I learn that having seen a checkpoint on the road, they asked their driver to go into the village alone and they tried to go around the police by swimming in the river in order to meet up with the driver in the village, but police officers dressed in civilian clothing stopped them. These Japanese are real troopers! During the meal, we cut the melon and when everyone has eaten well, I offer some to two groups next to us and they thank me. While eating, dad asks me to stop talking because apparently I talk too much and he doesn’t like it when we talk at the table, but that gets on my nerves. During the entire meal dad, who hates talking at the table, has to answer the police officer’s questions. The policeman, who is Ouigour, therefore Muslim, tells dad: “hurry up, it’s prayer time”. We go and dad understands that it’s to have more information about him, rather than a real call to prayer. He answers saying that he doesn’t do it. When we are finished lunch, we return with the police officer to the police station. The two questions are still not resolved. At the station, I talk with a group of foreigners kept at the station.

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