I found out that on the way from Xi'an to Shanghai is a once former capital city of China named Kaifeng. The chinese history of the city didn't appeal to me so much but what did appeal to me was that it once had a vibrant Jewish community in the city. Unfortunately all that's left of the Kaifeng Synagogue is an old well, located on the present-day grounds of the No. 4 People's Hospital.
I had found a Jewish tour guide for the city but he was out of town when I was there. He offered up his dad for me to use but notified me that his dad spoke no English. It was better than nothing, so i said i would meet him at 9am. Before I met him I had the good fortune to meet Kaifeng Jason, the rickshaw man. Jason is a self taught english speaker and he drives a rickshaw for a living (among other things) . Fate couldn't have smiled more on my door. In a city where good English speakers were few and far between, Jason was a godsend. He had led tours in the city for 625 people before me, and carried a diary with pictures and testimonials. In a country where scams are abound, I was hesitant. But Jason proved amazing and beyond. He drove me around for the whole day (imagine peddling a bike with me in tow for 8 hours or so) and besides just showing me the sites, he also explained them to me in historical depth. Knowing I was Jewish, he catered the sites to more of the historical Jewish things. He asked for 200yuan for the day, and originally I said 150, but ended up giving 220 because he was so great. Did i mention he also helped me get my train ticket out of the city, something that would not have been easy. Jason, if you're reading this... you rock!!
For those interested in more detail about the Jewish Kaifeng history read this http://www.travelchinaguide.com/tour/jewish/03.htm and this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaifeng_Jews And for a more broad jews (youtais) in china read, check this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_China
we stopped to see an old church. the lady inside was very adamant about trying to sell me church merch. I couldn't explain to her that it wouldn't really be my style so I just went along with it, ooh'd and ahh'd and then left without buying anything
The site of the well that is all that is left of the old Kaifeng synagogue. The hospital where it is located was closed for the day so i had to get a janitor to open one door and then scale a wall to get the picture. mildly anticlimactic.
the most FOUL bathroom I have ever used. piss, shit, trash cigarettes and the stank of ammonia everywhere. nastiness, but another example of the unexpected that comes during travel or just during life
my hard sleeper to Nanjing. a not so comfortable and very different ride for me to take. I love being in a giant room with many people who don't speak english and all like pointing at me. actually, in seriousness I don't love it but i get used to it. plus it's fun to live a bit like other live. and actually, this is more upper class than many travel. (the standing room only for a 13 hour train ride does not sound like fun)