More Dining at the Airport

So I’ve told you about the Mongol Restaurant, I thought I should also tell you about the other fine restaurants we frequently frequent.

The first is the Russians. As I’ve mentioned before, there are many flights in from Russia to our little Chinese countryside airport, and I’ve wondered why. I recently found out that the flights are indeed cargo. Evidently the area we are living in has a large textile industry, and the Russian planes are flying in to pick up clothing and textiles for import to Russia. Now that I think about it, I do remember seeing huge bales of what could have been clothes in one warehouse next to the runways. So the Russians fly in, wait a few days while their planes are loaded up and then fly back to Russia. Russians are fun-loving people and they gotta eat and drink, so an enterprising Chinese family (update – not actually a family!) opened a little restaurant/tavern to cater to all the Russian pilots. (And now they are very conveniently located next door to another goldmine – a whole bunch of Western flight instructors desperate for good, cheap food!) We call the place the Russians because there is Cyrillic writing on the windows, and the place is decorated with photos of the Russian airplanes and photos and notes from the Russian pilots. It is a very humble place and we have come to realize that while it is a restaurant, it is also the family’s (workers) home. They are a very sweet group of people. They have changed their menu to include not only Chinese and Russian dishes, but also more European & American style foods. (Several of the instructors have taught the chef how to make pizza and spaghetti, for example.) We eat there so often that we are starting to feel very at home there.

The Russian pilots are really interesting people. For me it has always been fascinating to meet Russians. I suppose it is because for so many years while I was growing up, Russia was the supreme enemy and communists were meant to be feared and loathed. I actually remember thinking that the Russians might one day bomb the US and that everyone would have to live in fall-out shelters. Many of the pilots that we meet at our hotel and at the restaurant are hard-core ex-Soviet Army pilots. They are all older and they have all probably seen some pretty hard times, maybe even combat in Afghanistan. One of them commented to us that he preferred the “good-old days” when he was part of the Soviet Army.

They remind me a lot of a friend that DH had in Costa Rica. He was an ex-Soviet military pilot who had been shot down in Afghanistan and managed to escape from the US led Afghani Mujahideen, although he has no memory of how. One day the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to Costa Rica and there on the front page of the newspaper, standing next to Gorbi, was our friend in his old Soviet military uniform. When we met him he was working on his immigration papers to the US. When the INS officials asked him what he had done while living in the Soviet Union, he told them he had flown airplanes with bombs that were, unfortunately, targeted to the US. He is now living happily with his wife and child in Dallas, Texas. Living the American Dream so to speak. He is a really nice and funny man and I am glad that the world changed in such a way that we could meet him.

The other restaurant that we like to eat at is called, at least by all the Westerners, “the Kwik-E-Mart.” (Because in addition to a restuarant, there is also a small room that sells a few food and drink items, like a convenience store.) Recently, someone translated a few of the all-Chinese menu items into English, which makes this place even more appealing. It is our goal to someday be able to speak Chinese and order food without problem, but for now it is a big help to be able to point at what we want and actually know ahead of time what we will be served!

The food at the Kwik E Mart is basic Chinese and it is decent. Our favorite dish is pork strips stir-fried with julienned carrots & peas in a fish sauce. Yummy… (Of course we can also order this dish at the Russians and the Mongols, which we have done for 3 days in a row now. We really like it that much, and I am not being sarcastic!)

These restaurants are no where near Western standards in regards to facilities. In fact, they are downright filthy. They would never in a million years pass a health dept. inspection back in the States. But the food is good.

These people are not wealthy and they make do with what they have. What they have may be old and nothing may match, but the service is friendly (most of the time, when they are not laughing at us) and the food is good and hot and reasonable priced. Can’t ask for much more than that. Besides, if we want luxury (and really, who wants to pay more than $5 for a meal?!) we can go to Beijing.


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