Wednesday, November 30, 2005

20 October 2005 The Daily Dosage

Day #18 of ‘The First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally (Uremqi to Kashgar)’

Today Kashgar! And only 42 KMs. Away! We’ve pedaled 1,378KM/ some 680 miles to date!

I’m up at 0600, make tea, take a hot shower (good), and am organized before most even think about awaking. Must be my military training!

I take my things (plastic bags full of my traveling items, from clothing to food) downstairs to the lobby to load, and clean my chain, the derailleurs, etc.

I’m cleaning my rear derailleur when I discover a ‘wobble’ in the cassette! Oh, what’s this, as I don’t like things awry, especially a key part as this. I examine it further and take the rear wheel off to have a better look, having to turn the bicycle upside down to do so . I try to tighten the nuts on the hub with my tools, but they’re too small.

I go to Mamat’s room upstairs and luckily he’s up and ready to go. I explain the situation, and ask him (try to explain) I need an adjustable wrench. But, the hotel has no tools or all, or they don’t know where. Probably the maintenance man has them stached and the women don’t know where to find.

Mamat decides to take me to the local ‘bicycle repair shop,’ a short walk away. I take only the rear along. But, you must understand in this part of the world, a ‘bicycle shop’ consists of a guy on the street, with some tools, who repairs mostly flats. Oh, well, one has to trust to get lucky.

The ‘bicycle repairman,’ a Uyghur man, his ‘shop’ a stool on the dirt next to some tools, and a few parts. After hearing Mamat’s explanation, he has a look at the wobbling (side to side motion) geared wheel, cog set, or ‘cassette’ it’s called (in English). He decides to take it apart, dropping the greased nuts, washers, parts into the dirt. I quickly pick them up and put them into his dirty towel. I suppose this is one of the differences between how I think and how a Uyghur bicycle man in Artoush thinks—light years apart! He ultimately can’t repair and puts it back together again—I’m not surprised. We give him 2 Yuan, or $.25 cents for his time. What to do?

I see what is the equivalent of a bumper sticker that reads, ‘Open your mind!’

We return to the hotel, where I put the wheel back on the bicycle. I ride around the block a couple of times, shifting, and everything seems good enough. I decide we should go on to Kashgar, which is so close now. I’m hoping there will be a more sophisticated bicycle repair man there .

We load up and are on our way by 1130A.M., in no particular hurry with such a short distance to go. Mamat, stops several times for various items, me to buy more film.

Out of Artoush proper, we join ‘our friend’ again, highway #314. And of all the 1,200 kilometers we’ve been on this highway, this stretch to Kashgar is the best! Here’s it’s a concrete super highway , with a wide bicycle lane. It’s even got grooves for traction (in case of ice, etc.).

All during this trip I’ve been amazed by Chinese highways and here’s an example! I suppose I’d expected some bumpy two-lane thing like in Nepal, but wow, Chinese highways are as good as in the U.S.! I’ve been pleasantly surprised all the way! Your tax ‘kwai’ (yuan) at work!

It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny day, our last on the road to Kashgar—the road rising up to meet us! I’m so grateful! ‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!’ It’s been a bicycle trip of a life time!

Ms. Fiets is sailing along fine too, no obvious problems caused by the wobbly cassette—it shifted fine. Even more amazing about this bicycle… This is the first problem of any kind on this trip . Thank you Brian Gravestock , Melvin de Vries, and Gregg Vann!

Mamat stops often, videotaping whatever. I think to rest, however, as I’m sure by now he’s ready to have it over! Me too!

To the west, in the distance, mountains with snow capped peaks (in Krygyzstan). I think maybe the Tian Shan. At this point Kyrgyzstan can’t be but 100 kilometers distance. In between us and the border, however, some very desolate (barren) looking hills.

After some 2.5 hours, we have to climb some hills on the north side of Kashgar… Our last ‘up’ of the journey. Up and over we go, a grove of poplar trees and an irrigation canal to our right. We sail effortlessly (10 kilometers) down hill into Kashgar. Progressively, there’s more and more traffic.

Once actually in the city, we stop and enlist two Uyghur boys to take our picture with Mamat’s digital (see in ‘Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org). This congratulating each other for having made it!

My first impressions of Kashgar… Anti-climatic of course. The real thing never matches your fantasies . I had been told it had been ‘modernized’ by the Chinese and looked like any other Chinese city . They were right for the most part.

We stop at the Ida Kah Mosque, some 600-years old, as Mamat has to get a picture. And it’s impressive, set back from the street some 100 meters. Here, in the vast plaza before the Mosque, a throng of Uyghur people, praying, buying, begging, selling, and driving their donkey carts (bouncing up and down). This, of course, sets it apart from other Chinese cities, including Uremqi.

On to the hotel that ‘elder brother,’ had arranged for us. Mamat, who has never been to Kashgar before (like me) stops to ask for directions to the hotel. I follow, of course.

I notice the traffic, seems as bad as Uremqi. I had hoped for a smaller, quieter, more quaint city, but no such luck! More honking madness! Ah, modernity even in Kashgar! I’m five hundred years to late… At least in this body.

We turn left at the city center (Centrum) intersection, this dividing Kashgar into quadrants: west and east, north and south. The eastern part mostly Uyghur, and the western part mostly Chinese (the twain hardly meeting).

We pass ‘People’s Park’ (one in every Chinese City) with it’s huge Mao statue across the street to our left (north).

This is the largest statue of Mao I’ve seen (some ten meters high), and it belies the fact how threatened the Chinese feel here (Uyghurs outnumbering them). He is gesturing to ‘his people,’ something like, ‘Let’s go forward!’ I have several photographs of Mao Zedong statues in the Gallery, at www.cyclingpeace.org

A couple blocks more and we are at our hotel. Or, so we thought… Somehow the first one is connected to the second, around the corner, and that’s ours—confusing. All but a 100 meters, and we walk/push on the sidewalk at this point, Kashgar’s main bus terminal across the street.

Here at the Kashgar Tiannan Hotel, we’re ‘home!’ At least me, as Mamat will be returning to Uremqi in several days.

We check in, unload, and walk our bicycles to a locked cage, some fifty-meters distance (back at the first hotel building). The man (clerk wants me to line it up with the rest), but I say no (they don’t understand expensive bicycles with no kick stand). I lean Ms. Fiets perpendicular against the wall.

Back in my room (for 100 Yuan per) I discover a bath tub! I’m amazed as this is the first one I’ve seen in China, and Kashgar no less. I fantasize soaking for days! But, guess what? No ‘kai shui!’ So, I opt for doing my ‘bucket bathing’ with the hot water from the sink tap.

It’s a small room, but comfortable. And the TV service here has CCTV 9, or the English channel. This the first since Uremqi. Welcome back to ‘un-civilization!’

The ‘First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally (Uremqi to Kashgar)!’ successfully completed!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Next, October (06) join us on a ride from Kashgar, to Uremqi, to Altai City!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

19 October 05 The Daily Dosage

Day #17, and should be entitled, ‘Elder Brother!’

Today it’s 110Km to Artoush, the Krygyz ‘capitol’ of Xinjiang, this city a direct link between China and Krygyzstan, the border only 200KM / 120 miles distance. Of course, I didn’t know anything about Artoush when first cycling there.

We get a slow start, as I’m aching, and Mamat has pretty much ‘run out of gas!’ We stop many times, not that I’m against this. I like to stop and look too! It was a beautiful morning, clear, sunny, cool, with the mountains ‘right there’ to our right.

We crank 70 KM to lunch, this is six hours. This in a village, we glide into from the top of a hill (Mamat now way behind).

At the bottom or the hill, some modern buildings, a factory no doubt, and I mistake for the town. Here I rest, waiting for Mamat to catch up. Two Chinese men run out from the factory, having spotted me. They give me grapes to eat, very friendly, very encouraging. I give them my ‘flyer’ in Chinese to explain. Mamat arrives and we’re off to eat, finding out the actually town is still another 3 KM… It’s always further, when you want it to be right there!

It’s 1330 hours when we stop at a Uyghur ‘restaurant,’ where Mamat orders mi fan for me. But, I wish he hadn’t as they go and buy and it takes forever to prepare. In the meantime, he has already eaten.

Here, however, we are ‘celebrities’ of course. And here we meet ‘elder brother.’

Of course, Mamat wasn’t able to explain, but using his mobile he indicates that his older brother is nearby. I’m surprised, as I have no idea about this. It seems ‘elder brother,’ a business man (fabrics) was at the cotton factory across the street. But, Mamat gets many false reports… First he’s coming, then he’s not here, then he’s on his way, then he left earlier. I’m confused.

But, while I’m eating ‘elder brother’ (Arsilyn) shows up, and looking a bit like Mamat. And what a kind man, just like Mamat (I’m sure this quality running in their family!). He buys lunch for us, and when I go to a ‘ducan’ (store) he pays, plus he’s set us up in a hotel in Kashgar. I give him my material, we take photographs, shake hands, and we’re off now at 1500 hours / 3P.M. We’ve been there one hour and one half. Of course, before parting company I thank Arsilyn for the police during the ‘boron,’ and all his courtesies. He gives me his business card. We’ll meet up again in Kashgar.

The Asats of Hami (the city southeast of Uremqi) where they’re from, quite a family. (Note, their mother a renown Uyghur poet we’d seen interviewed on TV while on this trip. I’m wanting to have her poetry translated into English.)

Off in the desert again, it’s suddenly stunningly quiet after our lunch. There are fewer vehicles on the road too, for some reason…?

It’s another 40KM to Artoush, and we roll along up and down now as #314 traverses some hills (the ‘limbs’ of the mountains to our right).

The light, the Fall light extraordinary in the afternoon. I’m always aware of the sun light, it’s different shades, moods, intensity, and color.

Mamat has been renewed, and now has more energy (I think he’s sensing ‘the end!’).

We pass a lake (several in this part of Xinjiang) to our left, a marsh to the right complete with mosquitoes.

With the sun sinking behind the hills to the west we arrive at the beginning of Artoush, set on the side of some hills.

I remember having to crank up to get there. But, these aren’t seriously challenging ‘ups,’ just slight inclines. However, after some 1,300 kilometers, and desiring to find ‘the barn,’ any up annoys you. Your mind is programmed in a certain way. I remember in Uremqi, the Chinese Group that had cycled to Kashgar before us… They said it’s ‘all down hill from Korla.’ So, when you hear something like this, you mind ‘programs’ just that! They were nearly correct! What they meant was after Korla no serious mountains to climb.

The only serious hills we climbed on the entire trip was the eastern ‘shoulder,’ of the Tian Shan on the third day (‘Up, and up forever!’). However, taking this longer (1,400KM versus 1200KM) route, and avoiding ‘Tiger pass,’ (a 5KM pass) made cycling to Kashgar from Uremqi in October possible. I had originally planned to crank over Tiger Pass, that is until I found out it was 5KM in elevation, and in October snow bound.

We stop just at the ‘outskirts’ of Artoush, at the fork of ‘business,’ #314, and the ‘bypass’ #314, where Mamat begins asking about hotels. We take the ‘business’ route into the heart of the city.

Our hotel quest here in Artoush was challenging, as we had to stop and ask at about six different ones, before finding the right one that could accommodate us for a reasonable amount. We ended up paying 80Yuan (‘kwai’) each, for a private room with a bath.

The hotel was right on the ‘main drag,’ but with a small lobby. We parked our bicycles right there in the lobby kinda in the way, so after unloading we locked them together. Most of the time, there was a storage room, or alcove under the stairs, or we got to keep them in our own rooms (in the cheaper hotels).

My room turned out to be not bad, with a separate bathroom and supposedly hot-water shower. But, the hot-water showers ‘advertised,’ rarely turn out to be. It did have an electric pot for heating water, however. This a boon to me, as the ‘kai shui,’ brought in thermos usually less than boiling. I like boiling hot water for tea or coffee!

After the usual, we took a walk looking for a laundry as Mamat wanted to have his clothes washed. I thought this was strange, as we were only one-day’s cycling distance from Kashgar, where he would spend one week (plenty of time to do laundry). But, people think differently. Unfortunately for him we didn’t find one, and went to dinner. Here I was able to eat polo, as this a Uyghur restaurant in a larger town!

Then back to the hotel for an early night, now eager to get to Kashgar, only 42KM / 25 miles, distance.

Note: we could have cycled all the way to Kashgar on the 17th day, but decided against such for several reasons. One, it would have been a 150KM day, and secondly I like to arrive in a new city (where I’m going to live) in the day time, as to orient myself. First impressions are lasting. If you arrive at night, like we would have, it would have been late, we would have been tired, we would have fallen into bed without really knowing where we were! Nor, the route into town. It’s important to me to orient myself to directions. Thereafter, I can get around much easier.

I’m a day (sunlight) person!

17 October 2005 The Daily Dosage

17 October 2005 The Daily Dosage

Day #15 of ‘The First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally (Uremqi to Kashgar, 05)’

I’m up at 0500. I made Nestle’s instant coffee (made sure I got ‘kai shui’ from the restaurant). Ah, Trueman, for a good cup of La Baguette’s coffee… Maybe in Shanghai somewhere, but certainly not in the rest of China!

Note: Trueman and brother, you should think of putting some La Baguette’s in Shanghai, as there’s (ironically) a large French community!

I dress, organize and start carrying my gear downstairs.

I clean (lubricate if needed) Ms. Fiet’s chain and gears (do this every morning). I’m in the midst of, when Mamat appears with his stuff. I tell him, because he takes less time loading (doesn’t clean his bicycle), to go eat, and I’ll be ready when he returns.

He’s back, before I know it, however. I finish loading and we’re off by 0700, the earliest ever! We must want out of this town badly as it hasn’t been the most pleasant time, finding the ‘police hotel’… The full moon, no doubt! But, I had some most interesting dreams!

A last memory of the police ‘compound,’ an olfactory one… They have a new-looking building, their ‘W.C.’ all proud and shinning. (Note, I took a photograph.). But, the smell so bad I opted to wait for the desert.

About 1KM from town, on a highway bridge (over the RR), it suddenly ‘strikes me’ I’ve left my cycling shorts in the room! I yell to Mamat to stop (he still near ahead). I tell to him I may have to return. I start checking my bags, only to discover I’m wearing them! Full moon energy again! Crazy!

It’s a bleak morning again, the sun, moon-like through the haze to the east. The ‘tagh’ (‘mountains’ in Uyghur) now very close to our right, in fact the ‘feet,’ coming right up to the highway. We’re up and down all day on their ‘limbs.’

We ‘boogy,’ as there’s not much to partake of. By 1100, in five hours, we’re done 50KM, a 10KM average (about normal for us, as we rest a lot).

We stop at a dismal truck stop and have ‘lunch,’ or Mamat does. The only thing available, the popular noodle dish (I don’t eat.). I ‘shuck’ and eat my ‘hua sheng,’ (‘peanuts’ in both Chinese and Uyghur). The owner, a former truck driver, has no hands-he wants to talk (they’re lonely in these small villages). All in the restaurant (town actually) surround us, so curious. Here, however, the unkempt children annoy me, begging for more candy and wanting to play with my camera. Some stern ‘Nos!’ discourage them.

We depart at 12 noon, another 50KM to our ‘sleeping village.’

We head out again, through some of the most barren (but beautiful to me) desert we’ve encountered yet!

About 1400 hours, we begin to see a black cloud approaching from the southwest. Suddenly ‘da feng,’ (‘wind’ in Chinese) is strong, and it isn’t long until we’re barely able to advance at 3KM per hour. It’s a struggle, nothing as daunting on a loaded bicycle as a strong head wind (I remember our first day out of Uremqi, October 3rd)!

Mamat, at this point, is way a head of me. But, it isn’t long before I see him returning and gesturing we need to take cover. Mamat seems to know what this is… ‘Buran,’ he says. I’m in agreement, whatever it’s called, as here comes like a tornado. We roll our bicycles down the incline (road grade) and into a culvert under the highway, just in time too! This is one of the dust storms (buran) that come out of the Taklimakan Desert, ‘as black as pit from pole to pole!’

In the safety of the culvert we unload our pads and sleeping bags, making ourselves comfortable, me thinking of camping there for the night. Mamat has other ideas. While I make tea, while he’s busy trying to call his ‘elder brother,’ on his mobile telephone. To do this he has to brave the dust storm. I take a short nap, snug on my ‘rug!’

It isn’t long, however, that Mamat informs me he’s contacted his ‘elder brother,’ in case we need help. Gosh, how did people ever survive without a mobile telephone? He has also suggested catching a bus. I suggested we camp there, but he’s not be into that.

We wait… Amazingly, within an hour or so the wind dies, and we decide to crank on! We reload everything, and Mamat helps me push ‘Ms. Fiets’ up the grade (difficult in the soft dirt) and onto the highway.

Back on #314, we watch as the ‘Buran’ passes from left to right in front of us, and into the mountains. There’s some raindrops, but the wind dies completely.

We’re cruising along again, having not gone very far, when a police car pulls up and stops. ‘Elder brother,’ says Mamat, indicating he called for ‘official’ help. I’m impressed with ‘elder brother’s clout! We take photographs with the police and I thank them profusely! ‘Xie xie! And ‘rackmet!’ (‘Thanks’ sounds like in Uyghur).

Now, with the storm passed it’s clear ‘sailing!’ It’s not long until we’re at our ‘sleeping village,’ sounding so mething like ‘Al Chay E.’ This village interesting as it’s right at the base of the mountains (compared to last night’s ‘oil and gas,’ stop on the flat desert).

The hotel here is reasonably good for 50 Yuan per (a double room with private bath) / $6 U.S. But, no hot water for a shower or any towels (I always travel one.). But, the cute Chinese girl, who manages the floor, is helpful. As I’ve said so many times now about hotels in China (Asia) , you get some things, but not others. I do a ‘quicky’ cold shower! Ah, healthier they say.

A few doors down from the hotel we have dinner at a restaurant, and I’m able to partake of ‘mi fan.’ On the way back to the hotel, a good store where I purchase brown sugar and milk powder, some batteries. There’s something I like about this village I like, most likely because it has some character set against the mountains.

It’s been an interesting day dealing with the ‘Buran,’ and not particularly over-taxing. After two weeks on the road, 100KM is a reasonable distance!

Below, in a hair salon / ‘flat,’ a part of the hotel, ‘Ms. Fiets sleeps’ with a Chinese woman!

I sleep alone upstairs! Well, not exactly ‘alone!’

We are coming together! Everything and everybody, everywhere! We are coming together!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

18 October 2005 The Daily Dosage

Day 16 of ‘The First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally (Urmeqi to Kashgar)’

We’re up and gone early, by 0730. It’s a lovely cold morning in the desert, the mountains to our right reaching out and touching us (their ‘feet’ coming right up to the highway for the first time on this trip). Best, there’s hardly any traffic on the highway! There’s nothing like being ‘out there’ in the early morning—‘alone!’

We head southwest on #314 (our old friend now), passing some interesting adobe structures on our right. Here a highway that heads south, and I’m wondering if this is the one that crosses the Taklimakan Desert, some eight-hundred kilometers before you reach some kind of civilization again (near Hotan).

We cranking along fine, but haven’t gone 2 KM when Mamat stops. It’s another rear tire/tube problem. This is the fourth one so far on this trip! It’s the tire this time, not the tube. It had worn completely through destroying the tube! Thus, I can’t say much good about Giant tubes or tires. On the other hand, I do know that Mamat had the wrong tire/tread for this trip, his tread for off road, rather than on a hard surface .

The only thing to do was to walk back into town, Mamat, having to shoulder some of his gear, as a flat tire doesn’t roll very well!

We return to the hotel, passing all the school children on their way. ‘Hello!’ they yell!

At the hotel, what to do…? Certainly, there are no bicycle shops with the kind of tire he needs. So, he first, after taking the tire off tries the tire man across the street. Maybe there’s a way to patch the hole with part of the old tube. Ah, there nothing, the man can’t help. Then I suggest a tire repair shop I have seen down the street. Here he has better luck. This man thinks he can repair the worn tire, at least well enough to get us to ‘Artush,’ our next stop, some 95 KM down #314.

I stay at the hotel, watching our bicycles and gear. While waiting I make tea, as we left so early I had no time to partake. I’m sipping my tea when I see Mamat talking to a taxi driver. What’s this? Seems the man knows where to buy another new tire! I’m amazed, as we’re ‘out in the middle of nowhere!’ Mamat tells me he’ll return in twenty minutes (I double the time, my usual rule!). He’s back in one hour (I should have multiplied by 3X) with a new mountain bike tire that has cost him only 20 Yuan / less than $3 U.S. I’m amazed! From where? Who knows! Mamat is unable to explain! This tire is more narrow, but is the proper diameter (26 inches)—a mountain bike tire. I now know after travelling the world, that you can get anything, anywhere! Sometimes!

So, it isn’t long until Mamat, now practiced at taking the rear tire off and putting back on, has everything back together again. We load up and depart, now 1100 in the morning.

So many kilometers down the road, about 1300 hours, we stop at a (yet another) unopened toll plaza to make clothing adjustments. The sun is now up and it’s warmed up, warm enough for shorts and T-shirts. Here Mamat partakes of the W.C. in the ‘Administration Building,’ and returns with the Uyghur caretaker.

I remember this man, as he was so friendly and kind (maybe just lonely). He could hardly believe his good fortune of two cyclists, one an American stopping to chat. I give him my bottle of 20% juice before we depart.

So many kilometers down the highway we pass a truck that’s flipped over on its side. This is the second truck accident we’ve seen, and three accidents total (the other a van). Here again, there’s a crew trying to salvage the goods. But, this time they’re less friendly, waving off any photographs (although I got some).

Here #314 is up and down (rolling hills) and with some wind it made hard going for Mamat (me too) . But, the mountains so near to the right consoling me.

Actually it’s wasn’t that hard a day, the weather ideal (except for a slight head wind). I think we did 95KM in 7:15 hours, or an average of 13KMPH, probably our general average for the entire trip.

As we neared our ‘sleeping town,’ a passenger train was pulling into the station. Mamat stopped to get some footage, I continued ahead. Behind us the full moon rising, and what a sight!

I arrived in the town and just where a bicycle lane began I slowed to stop and wait for Mamat. There was a curb, and I sometimes I put one foot out to steady and stand against, this without getting off the bicycle.

This maneuver I’ve done many times with my right foot, but the curb was on the left side, and using my left foot (unschooled) somehow missed it and fell hard to the left into a dirt trough, ass over tea kettle, and I can tell you it hurt !

When you fall, and I’ve fallen many times, it all happens so fast you hardly have time to react. This time I fell on my left arm and rib cage. Luckily no damage to Ms. Fiets. I remember lying there pissed off, and hoping Mamat was near to pull me up, but no such luck. So, I had to struggle up, kinda climbing out of a hole, Ms. Fiets on top of me!

‘Damn!’ I said to myself, my arm bleeding as I managed to right everything. No Mamat in sight so I went slowly into town none to happy with this turn (fall) of events.

We end up staying at another ‘truck stop no good hotel,’ but in pain, I didn’t really care. All I wanted to do was to lie down and rest, go to sleep if possible (although much yelling and screaming). But, it was only 40 Yuan for a room, I think matching the distance to the toilet—this in meters.

This was one of the few rooms (hotels) where I had Ms. Fiets right in the room with me (making it more convenient—don’t have to unload and carry up stairs). So again, some good things, and some not-so-good things.

I didn’t tell Mamat about my stupidity, and after the usual organizing in our rooms, we went for mi fan (no polo here) at an adjacent restaurant. Wherever you go in the world there’s always a TV playing--ugh! My quest in life… Find somewhere where it isn’t!

Speaking of ‘drama,’ I go to sleep hearing all the yelling, banging, and screaming of Chinese truckers gambling and fucking their whores. What a night, hardly able to rotate my body in bed, as by now I’m very sore.

To make matters worse I have to get up in the middle of the night and walk the 40 meters to the ‘out house.’ One time I’m startled by an aggressive dog barking at me, but at the same time awed by the full moon illuminating the nearby mountains. Some good…

During the night, I noticed Ursula Major rotating around Polaris. That’s how ancient people realized that Polaris was above the ‘North Pole.’ It doesn’t move… It’s always indicating ‘north.’ But, that night ‘The Big Dipper,’ first right side up, and then by morning having ‘dumped, all it’s contents out of the ladle’—upside down.

Ah, a Full Moon day, first the tire episode with Mamat, and then my ‘accident!’

Tomorrow, however, Artush, the last ‘sleeping town’ before Kashgar! We’ve come a long way, and the ‘First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally,’ is just about completed! (October, 2005).

And James B. has been with me all the way!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

24 November 2005 (‘Thanksgiving’ Day) The Daily Dosage

Ah, what a wonderful ‘Thanksgiving’ in Kashgar, and who would have ever thought! Instead of turkey I had pumpkin soup, fried rice, lemon juice, coffee and a free glass of champagne . My guest, my Chinese friend, Xiao Xu (pronounced ‘shou shu’) had potato salad, coffee and a free glass of champagne. All of this at a Chinese-owned restaurant named ‘Eversun Coffee,’ amazing me, as ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, ’ played via speakers! Such service, such smiles on the waitresses, such good food, such an ambiance, and all for 100 Yuan / $13 U.S. dollars. In the U.S., similar would cost some like $50 if you could find the lovely Chinese waitresses. I think I used the word, ‘pleasant’ when remarking to Xiao Xu.

Eversun Coffee, owned by a Chinese woman stunned me the first time I walked in with Nurmamat (a week ago). He had suggested this place to have the ‘English Corner’ meet (people who want to learn English) but immediately I thought, no, too upscale. I mean when I went to the ‘toilet,’ (‘He’s’ room), I was as shocked as the first time I went to the ‘Men’s Room’ at Greens in San Francisco (where I saw my first squat toilet). Here at Eversun, gosh… What a contrast! Absolutely as polished as in a five-star hotel in Sweden (smelling like fresh flowers)!

The Chinese owner has decorated the place with an exhibition of Uyghur paintings. There are English publications! In Kashgar, no less, where within two kilometers Uyghur men lie on the street dying! Sometimes I think I’m dreaming… ‘Am I a man dreaming…?’

I’m blessed that’s all I know! If I die tomorrow, know that I was blessed!

Blessed by people like (and listed in no particular order as there is no first or last, only hast):

Rotraut Boyens
Petra and Tim wherever you are?
Ganai Silver Wolfe
Teija Jokitalo
Beth Moorland
Zhao Yue, Samuel, and Yue’s (Stephanie’s) parents
Xiao Xu
James Zhu
Susan Fowlds
Rodney Guan
Dick and Jan
Mamat Asat
Peter and Marsha
Murat Hosain
Diane Fischer
C.M. Yogi, Vishu, my ‘family’ at HVPN
Kay Wilson
C. George Fitzgerald
Mitch Renner
Marty Yaslowitz
Michael Reis
Heidi Sue, how do you do?
Nurmamat
Payzullah
Jan Gaverick
The list goes on and on…
James Speer
Trueman Turnipseed
Mary Davis
Rose Rock (‘The light is with you, the light is within you!’)
I can’t possibly name all of you, so forgive!
Eric Kaldor
The de Vries in Holland
Hank Nadler
Subodh Gautam
Kishor and Bhuwan (two Nepali people living in China)
I know I’ll forget someone, and they’ll be disgusted with me!
Thankful? I celebrate ‘Thanksgiving’ every day!
My sisters three: Sally, Marylee, and Betsy
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!
Peter Schmitz
Lei Jian (in Hubei)… What a lovely man! Probably, besides Yue, my closest Chinese friend.

I learned today (courtesy of Xiao Xu) the Chinese idea of ‘heaven:’
1) An American salary!
2) A Russian wife! (I’m not sure about this, as I had ‘one!’)
3) Chinese food!

My idea of ‘heaven,’ is you!

To the Chinese ‘Food is God! Eating is culture!’ I would say that making noise is a close second! Talking, talking, talking! Yelling! Yelling! Yelling! Note: I believe all Chinese are hard of hearing!

My idea of ‘God’ is you!

But, I certainly have enjoyed the food all over China. I’m not so much into what they like, too exotic for me as I desire simple food. But, you can get anything here, including MacDonald’s type hamburgers! I never imagined ‘polo,’ the rice pilaf dish of the Uyghurs. But, I love it! Complete with a hot sauce (lada), vegetables, and garlic. Mine you, this is in China, so there’s every kind of food thought possible!

I learned that in Xiao Xu’s Province ( ‘Shandong ,’ where he was born near North Korea) mass produces chicken for MacDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. With North Korean labor, no less! How can this be…? Globalization!

I also learned some Chinese history. He’s 32-years old, and can remember twenty years ago (1985, or pre capitalism). He said there was little in the way of food, that most people subsisted on corn (only the rich could afford rice). There was no meat (the reason they’re so much into meat now). That the farmers, unmotivated produced little.

So, I guess the idea of ‘Communism’ just doesn’t work, kinda disappointing for me to find out, as ideally it’s a wonderful concept (sharing equally)!

Now, with Capitalism there is plenty, as everyone is making-money motivated! This kinda disappointing to me again. But, human nature (lack of consciousness) I cannot deny.

I must tell you there’s an abundance of everything here now. I just bought some bananas. This is pomegranate country. There is salmon on the menu at Eversun. I could have ordered a ‘tuna salad sandwich’ today! You can buy anything, eat anything!

So, capitalism does create plenty and variety, as it motivates people to produce. Of course, if you don’t have the money to buy you’re SOL like so many ‘low-end’ Uyghur people. It’s the same old story everywhere, the uneducated and unskilled, sink to the bottom.

So, be thankful there in the lands of plenty! Be grateful you ‘chose’ the right parents and got an education, and are clever enough to live well! Many don’t! In fact, the majority of people on the earth don’t!

That’s how I know I’m blessed! ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I!’

This Christmas!

Glad tidings of great joy,
I’m just a small boy,
In the hands of Thee,
The We of Three!

I live or die,
At thy whim,
Being ‘cut’ like a ‘gem,’
A precious stone,
I moan!

Great joy; glad tidings,
Like the writings of old,
They cannot be sold,
For money!

Tis a myth, this gift
To unfold!

Glad tidings of great joy!
This Christmas.

Love,
π˛ ∆‰ (my Chinese name meaning ‘Flying Happily!’ This thanks to James Zhu.)
This ‘Thanksgiving’ Day in China

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

20 November 2005 The Daily Do-saaaagee

Ah, life in Xinjiang Province, very different from the rest of China, very unusual…

I thought Nepal was exotic, with its erotic Hindu sculpture, saffron aromas, the sacrifice of goats, 500-year old gumbas, and strange clothing. But, Xinjiang… Even more ‘other worldly,’ both ancient (veiled Uyghur women) and modern (Chinese hookers).

Yesterday, we cycled up to Opal on highway #314 (same that Mamat and I came down on from Uremqi.), which, south of Kashgar continues to the Pakistani border (some 400KM / 240 miles). There were to be three other young Uyghurs accompanying me. Two Uyghur boys, Abdul and Nurmamat, plus one young Uyghur woman who didn’t make it (I was not surprised .) . But, maybe for the better, as in her place we were joined by three policemen who followed us all day long.

Opal, a ‘town’ of 20,000 inhabitants, is Maumed Kashgary’s tomb and museum. I hadn’t known a thing about him, but discovered the history of a much venerated Arab scholar and linguist.

Nurmamat and Abdul showed up at Seman Hotel right on time, 0800. We waited fifteen minutes for the girl, then I had my little ‘meeting.’

Just recently Kevin, a Canadian traveller, told me of a startling statistic… That everyday 3,000 people are killed on Chinese highways! That’s 1.1 million Chinese people every year! I suppose this is a way of help keeping the population down!

I think, in comparison, there are 100K highway deaths per year, or one-tenth the amount in the U.S. But, if you compare populations: China 1.2 billion version one-fourth that (280 million in the U.S.) something becomes evident. There are more highway deaths in the U.S., ‘per capita,’ than in China. In China, there’s one death for every 10,000 people. In the U.S. there’s one death for every 2,800 people.

I quoted these statistics to the boys (Nurmamat and Abdul) to make a point. As, to them, the insane traffic here in Kashgar is ‘normal.’ Of course, they don’t wear a helmet or light clothing at night (nor have lights).

I also explained I have ‘rules,’ when you go with me! Why? I said, ‘If either one of you is injured or killed while with me, your parents are going to come to me and ask me to explain!’ Of course, this never occurs to youth, as life just happens and not to worry! Anyway, I told them how it should be, and then we set out at 0820.

The temperature, when be began was about 02C or about 35 degrees F. I noticed frost on the ‘pumpkin,’ and that surface water was frozen. I remember my feet got cold in one pair of socks in my light-weight, hiking boots!

We went a route that had never occurred to them, out Seman Road to highway #314. This I had discovered this one day while cycling around. Because I’m constantly exploring I know the Kashgar area, in one month, better than many natives (like the little girl who couldn’t find the Seman Hotel).

We’d hardly gone any distance at all, when all I’d said in the meeting had been forgotten! They probably didn’t understand my English. So, I took to ‘reminding’ them (in English) when necessary! In situations, where I’m ‘responsible’ for people’s lives, I have no patience for ‘stupidity!’ I told them, ‘You don’t like my rules, you don’t have to go with me!’

So, on and on we go, me leading to set a ‘pace.’ I had explained about this, how if you go slow in the beginning you’ll have energy at the end. This is foreign to youth, as in the morning, ‘fresh out of the barn, the colts’ want to run.

In several kilometers, we’re out of the city and onto marvelous ‘concrete highway to ‘heaven,’ #314 , which eventually goes all the way to Pakistan.

It was a lovely morning, clear, crisp, here at 38 degrees north latitude, with the yellow leaves falling from the ‘Hai Hai Tilak’ (poplar trees).

I thank God for being able to do this, having the legs, the heart, the mind to be cycling with two boys in Xinjiang Province, China. It’s a wonderful experience with all the ‘challenges,’ with all the ‘pain,’ with all of having to deal with the ‘otherness’ of these, very different cultures. But, that’s the thrill of it to me! That’s what my life is all about--challenge!

We pass over the ‘Red River ,’ (in English) on a new #314 bridge. They said the Uyghur name of the river, but I can’t remember it.

I did learn the word for ‘beautiful,’ or ‘A-Cry -Luck’ (as least as sounding to me)!

In fifteen kilometers we pass thought a town called ‘Shula.’ It seemed like a good place for me to live, or so I thought until partaking of Opal.

Both the boys had told me that Opal was 60KM distance, so based on that I had planned out the day. But, it turned out they were wrong. It’s actually 48KM. I know these things, distance, elevation, grades, as important when travelling long distances on bicycles.

Another ten kilometers and we pass through a ‘village,’ then out into the barren desert and onto the ‘steps’ of the Pamir Mountain range.

We stop opposite the Chinese Government’s ‘jamming facility,’ and I take a photograph of them, my two young Uyghur cycling boys, Nurmamat and Abdul.

When we are about to take off again, Abdul happens to mention that we’re being followed by the police. Oh, I think, how interesting… I wonder why? He also mentions that we were followed a week ago when he took me through the ‘Old City.’ Gosh, I’m wondering… Why didn’t he say something about this before now?

I asked him how he knows? He says he’s always very alert, watching for such things. I think it must be because he’s Uyghur living in Kashgar (paranoid for good reasons).

So, we go on, and I start checking behind me, and sure enough there’s a black VW Santana with it’s trunk lid up (they’ve brought along a bicycle in case) always stopping when we do.

We stop for a rest, and I suggest a ‘game’ I’d like to play with ’chatter boxes:’ ‘Remaining silent por dinero!’ One of my rules was that there was to be no talking while cycling (at least in the city). I’ve told them, if you want to talk, we’ll stop and talk as long as you want, but on the highway this is distracting/dangerous! Of course, in one ear and out the other (there had been nothing but talking all the way). Plus, I try to explain one of my main reasons for cycling into the country (out of the city)… To get away from such incessant chattering, and other noise! So, I tell them I will pay them 10 Yuan for every one-half hour they are silent! They laugh, of course.

I suggest Nurmamat lead, then Abdul, and I’ll bring up the rear. We take off, and it isn’t long before Nurmamat is way out in front of us (going too fast of course). Just the opposite his buddy Abdul has ‘run out of gas,’ slowing considerably. I begin to worry about him making ‘120’ kilometers! Abdul is riding a version of a geared mountain bike, but of course, poorly maintained (chain oily). Thus, he’s not shifting much. The bicycle doesn’t really fit him either.

Abdul’s style of riding must be inbred Uyghur as it reminded me of Mamat on our trip down from Uremqi. Cranking wildly in the beginning, then slowing down to rest… So much for ‘pacing!’ Old habits (inbred) die hard!

Actually, both bicycles didn’t fit either boy. Mamat, fairly tall, is on his one-speed he purchased for 150 Yuan / $20 U.S. It’s basically a city bicycle. Abdul needs to raise his saddle but he can’t (it’s extended as far as it goes).

Oh, well, we’re on the road to Opal! My bicycle, ‘Ms. Fiets,’ is performing well as always, even with the rear hub ‘problem.’ What a great bicycle! Of course, at 65-years of age, I need every advantage. The boys, they don’t know the difference!

We pass a Uyghur ‘cemetery’ and I teach them the word in English. Basically, these trips are ‘English lessons!’ Both boys good students of English! I also learn a little Uyghur, but they’re better at English than I am at Uyghur.

At about three hours, they say we’re near Opal. Of course, I’m always glad to reach whatever destination, but I can’t believe we’re there as if 60 kilometers distance, we’d still be another hour away. I keep telling them, Opal is not 60-kilometers from Kashgar. They ask me how I know. I tell them I keep track of distances and time, and knowing what we average (in terms of KMPH) it isn’t hard to figure out. If Opal is 60-kilometers, either we’ve been ‘flying’ or it’s still another hour away.

Sure enough it isn’t long before we arrive in Opal, still with the police on our tails. It’s taken three and one-half hours, and I know it can’t be 60 kilometers from Kashgar.

Abdul knows where to eat, as he’s been through Opal (on highway #314) with tourists on his way to Karakol Lake (he works for the Kashgar Caravan Travel Service Company) many times.

We have a wonderful ‘polo’ (Uyghur rice pilaf dish) lunch sitting outside in the sun.

Nearby a uniformed Chinese policeman of some rank eats with his family. I go and give their young daughter a piece of candy, hoping our ‘shadows’ will see this. They’ve parked maybe fifty meters beyond us, always vigilant.

After eating I take a photograph of the boys, then wanting then to turn and photograph the police car. But, the boys advise against this.

Full of contradictions, they ask me if ‘I’m afraid,’ when I tell them we need Chinese boys along on these trips too. I believe it’s me with just Uyghur people that attracts police attention .

Youth just doesn’t think very well! I’m wondering now how I got this far, as I was stupid and unconscious as they come!

I pay for our lunch, some 20 Yuan or $2.80 for three people. Abdul informs me this guy/restaurant always charges tourists more. I explain that he should! I compare what a similar meal would cost in the U.S. or 7X as much. I tend to be ‘parabolic!’

After lunch we crank a couple of kilometers to the site of the tomb of the famous Arab linguist, Mahmed Kashgary (spelled differently on every sign)—our reason for coming to Opal. It’s up a lovely, poplar-lined lane! Here, because we’re higher in elevation (than Kashgar) the poplar trees have all lost their leaves. But, ah, the winter light… Lovely,’ ‘A-cry-luck!’ I love winter!

At this point one of the policemen is tailing us on a bicycle, no doubt the youngest and junior, while the older (senior) ones sit and have lunch. I’m now wanting to confront this guy, in some jocular way (putting him on). In a very loud voice something like, ‘Oh cool! A Chinese guy on a bicycle, maybe you’d like to join us?’ But, again the boys are against such.

At the site, park actually, it costs 12 Yuan each, which I pay. This along with 10 Yuan to Nurmamat who was silent for one-half hour.

It turns out to be a ‘75-Yuan day,’ for me, as I always contribute to the street people (wherever I go). And trust me, the Uyghur people in south Xinjiang Province are in desperate need!

Here at this park, commemorating this Arab linguist, the Xinjiang Provencial Government has done well. The first thing you see is a ten-meter high stature of Mr. Kasgary. Please see all the photographs of this day in the Gallery at www.cyclingpeace.org

We push our bicycles up to the ‘concession’ area (I’m sure in the summer this place is loaded with people—there are many stalls for feeding people.). Today, however, in November, we’re three of maybe a dozen more visitors.

We lock our bicycles, me to the ‘W.C. sign.’ We want to partake of the museum, but it’s closed. Only the tomb is open, we’re told. Note, they have to call some ‘higher up’ to bring the keys.

On the way up we stop to partake of a sign (all the signs in English, as well as Chinese and Arabic). This telling of an ‘uplifting’ (I explain this word to the boys.) story of Kashgary asking his spiritual teacher where he would eventually be buried. The teacher replying where his walking staff touched the ground and a ‘Hai Hai Tilak’ grew! And sure enough nearing the age of 97 such occurred (according to the story). The tree adjacent, now withering from being one-thousand years old. Note, this guy Kashgary lived during the Norman Conquest (1,000 to 1,100). Is the story for real, and this the tree…? Doesn’t matter, as the story is meaningful (a myth).

We climb up a long stairway (reminded me of climbing the stairs up to Swayambhunath in Kathmandu). At the top. the tomb is perched on a hill in the distance, views of the Pamir Range.

Here, in order to enter the tomb, we have to take off our shoes (again reminding me of Nepal) . Inside it’s, well… The kids are interested, but me… ‘If you’ve seen one tomb of an Arab linguist you’ve seen them all!’ Besides, I know for sure his ‘crypt’ is empty! But, it’s obviously important to venerable some people (this guy was from a Royal Arab family).

Outside reading one sign I discover the meaning of the word ‘Kashgar.’ I’ve been asking people, but none have known. The boys, who were born there, didn’t know either. I photographed it.

We walk to a view point, out on a hill. Here a panorama of the entire area including the adjacent Uyghur cemetery (where the ‘rich’ are buried according to Abdul). Abdul also knew of a short cut to climb up to another higher view point (complete with a fancy structure to sit and rest, shaded from the sun).

We climb a concrete pathway with stairs, going up another 100 meters. Here an even better view of the area, complete with a caretaker watering some young trees with a hose. I remember thinking, nothing could grow here without being watered. Behind us, some barren hills, looking like piles of chocolate ice cream.

Returning, Nurmamat wants to climb down the hill. I explain how to do with without falling. Abdul and I take the path. But, on the way back we discover this was also the site of a Buddhist monastery (see photograph). Note, the Buddhists were all over what is now Xinjiang Province in the 3rd to 9th Centuries.

Back at our bicycles, I notice another caretaker has been ‘so kind’ as to douse my bicycle with water! Strange, I think. Is he angry (envious) at the obvious opulence of this ‘Ferrari,’ or just watering the plants behind and not every thoughtful. On the way down and past him I shout, ‘Rackmet,’ ‘Rackmet !’

At the gate, our ‘shadow’ has returned to the vehicle in Opal, as they know the highway is our only way to return to Kashgar. When we turn onto the highway, sure enough, we see them waiting for us.

Now heading back to the ‘barn,’ the boys are fresh and eager. Abdul takes the lead, me in the rear wanting to observe. Sure enough our ‘escort,’ isn’t far behind, always stopping when we stop to rest, or to ‘W.C.’ it.

Unfortunately for me, my left knee (the tendon) is aching again, making it an unpleasant ride back to Kashgar. But, I’m at least as fast as the boys, now realizing they ‘have to chew the large bite they’ve taken.’ Coming up in the morning, it was Abdul that was slow and seeming to have trouble. Now it’s Nurmamat’s turn on the way home. He complains his ‘butt,’ is aching, so we have a discussion about the word ‘butt.’ They always want to learn more English, especially the slang!

Onward and into ‘da feng’ (wind) which has come up in the afternoon (from the southeast), and with it, the ride has become much of a ‘grind!’ Me, with my knee, Nurmamat now riding on the rack on the back of his bicycle (to save his ‘butt’) , and Abdul struggling back to Kashgar. But, of all three Abdul seems the best off.

We have to stop to rest too often. At one stop when Nurmamat says he’s thirsty I hand him my bottle of Orange (20% juice). He drinks, passes the bottle to Abdul, and then I partake. When Nurmamat, starts clearing his throat and spitting, I ask them what it is with men in China always clearing their throats and spitting? Nurmamat explains that he has a sore throat! Great I think, having drank from the same bottle. But, since I eat so much ‘samesuck ,’ I’m not worried. I also want to tell him, or ask him, is it such a good idea to exert, riding 100KM, with a sore throat? Ah, youth!

Onward, with the sun sinking to the horizon behind us.

By the time we reach Shula Nurmamat is way behind Abdul and I. Turns out he has stopped to purchase some food: bread and two bottles of juice. The boys eat, but I only drink my orange ‘juice’ (I can’t digest bread.). About to depart Nurmamat throws their bottles and some paper on the ground. I go and pick up this trash, putting it in his basket. They laugh! At this point I launch into my ‘lecture,’ about not despoiling ‘Mother Earth.’

With light fading I put on my rear flashing light. This will make it easier for the police to follow us.

Just before the ‘fork,’ into Kashgar (the old road which connects to #314), I tell the boys, ‘You go to the right into Kashgar, and I’ll stay on the highway taking the same road we came out on. I want to see who they follow!’

And thus, we parted at this point, almost completely dark now. I say a prayer for the boy’s safety! I continue on highway #314.

At the Red River bridge I stop to ‘take a leak.’ It isn’t long when I notice the black VW Santana passing me, possibly having lost my flashing light (as it’s on my backpack). Or, maybe it was too late when they realized and had no choice but to continue over the bridge.

Sure enough on the other side of the bridge, there is the VW waiting for me. I notice the trunk lid is closed so I figure the bicycle man followed the boys, the car tailing me. I almost stopped to knock on their window, surprising them with something like, ‘Seman Hotel, if you lose me!’ (pointing).

I find the lane, turn off the highway now completely in the dark. But, for some reason (‘dut’ ) I don’t put on the head lamp I borrowed from Xiao Xu. Here you risk a collision as there are many ‘ships passing in the night.’ Luckily I follow a tractor-trailer, using it as a shield.

Finally I’m back in the Seman Hotel compound, and put Ms. Fiets into the room behind the reception desk where I’ve been keeping it for the night.

Home again home again, jiggery jig! It’s been a ten-hour cycling day, not all bad, in fact for the most part good, but now it’s time to rest! I’m thinking 100KM has been too much for all of us, the old man, and the two boys. We need to build up to distance. Note, it’s been one month since ‘The First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally!’ when I have cycled any distance.

In my warm room the first thing I do is have some hot tea. Then I get into the peanuts and almonds.

I worked on processing my photographs for awhile, not all that tired. It was just my knee that pained me.

Amazingly, I’m in better physical condition at 65-years of age, than one 19-year old, and one 21-year old. But, it’s taken a lot of effort to get ‘here!’ (and Opal!)

I hope Mr. Kashgary appreciated our visit! I hope the police had a good time!

We’ll be ‘out there’ again next weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

17 November 2005 The Daily Dosage

Ah, yet another interesting day, in the life of many! At least I’m never bored!

I remember as a teenager vowing to myself, I’d never regret not doing, and I have lived up to that! I don’t regret a thing, except of course, dumb stupid things we do when we’re young… But, if not young and dumb, how can we become old and wise?

Of course, the problem accessing funds through the Bank of China, using my debit card, continues. Of course, the BoC person, Zhang Lei (English speaking person at the Bank) says it’s my bank there in the U.S. You watch, the Bank of Texas, will say it’s the Bank of China.

Of course, certainly no ‘bureaucrat’ ever wants to take any responsibility! Just point the finger at the other entity, objectifying the problem… It’s ‘your’ problem, not mine! Of course, when they have a personal problem, it’s a whole different ‘kettle of fish!’ ‘Help me, please!’ They cry!

People, in general, are so timid, protecting and living in their little safe boxes. I think, how tragic! At least I avoided that one and really lived, taking risks with my life!

To get involved with me, is to learn how to live! And there’s a huge difference between living and existing. 98% of the population of the world only exists, which means ‘living’ on the surface (surviving, but not developing)… Yet, there’s so much ‘below,’ or is it above?

Now, how to solve the Bank of China problem? Any brilliant risk takers out there?

I can always have money transferred, but that costs an astounding $70 U.S. or 11%. That’s almost 600RMB to get 5,000. I can deposit checks in my account, but they delay that two months!

Fucking banks, I’ve always hated them, and rightly so! The entire system they ‘stack’ against us! And we let it happen! We just sat there and did nothing, and now a colossal problem! Some of you may even understand what I’m talking about!

Nurmamat comes to hang out! We try to solve my German/Chinese couple’s problem… Obtaining a visa for Pakistan! We go to visit Abdul, and his travel company, the Kashgar Caravan Travel Service Co., Ltd. Unfortunately, there’s bad news here also… This travel company’s fee is 3,500 Yuan $400 U.S., and the process takes two weeks. Note, the nearest Pakistani Embassy to issue such is in Beijing…

So, the travel company and Pakistan will lose out on some revenue, as this couple will go to Tibet instead (on their own). It’s never occurred to Pakistani officials to open some kind of visa issuing office here in Kashgar, near Pakistan! What’s the word for ‘stupid,’ in Urdu?

As I recently expressed to Peter in Chengdu, ‘…injustice and stupidity are rampant in the world!’

‘What a life?’ as Marina would lament!

It’s O.K. if you’re a robot, or have no consciousness, you’re probably only concerned with the next meal, getting the kids to school, your career, or how to pay the rent, the football game on TV! Life never gets much beyond that (maybe a wedding and funeral or two), and that’s what I mean by living ‘on the surface,’ these people just ‘exist!’ They are ‘controlled’ by ‘the owners,; via TV as they’ve become addicted to it, or it’s something else like, movies, or music, or games, vices: cigarettes, booze, or drugs. ‘The owners’ make money off our addictions too!

Nurmamat introduced me to a very sophisticated restaurant today. I was pleasantly surprised! I was almost shocked to discover such in Kashgar. It’s called ‘Eversun Coffee,’ and I had a whole other idea based on what he’d told me. He had suggested it for the ‘English Corner,’ but no way… This is where the wealthy Chinese eat and drink! Ironically, a cup of tea, 40 Yuan / $5, but a salad costs only 18Y / $2 U.S.!

I’ll probably start hanging out there, as this is where the Chinese movers and shakers dine. The men’s toilet rivals Greens in San Francisco! Think about that for one moment… A restaurant’s toilet in Kashgar (where in 100-meters distance there’s a shit hole for ‘W.C.’) compared with the Men’s Room at one of the finest restaurants in the U.S. Talk about contrasts! I’m eager to meet the Chinese owner! He has oil paintings on the wall for sale, an ‘exhibition’ by a Uyghur painter. Several kilometers away Uyghurs vomit in the gutter dying!

‘What a life!’

And what a situation in this ‘Semen’ Hotel! I finally have solved the ‘mournful dog,’ mystery… This late-night wailing of off key voices (sounding like crying puppies)!

Toby had told me it was a Karaoke Bar nearby (this kind of out-of-date diversion still popular in Asia). I thought it might be a part of the hotel. But, I could never figure out where it was coming from, as it seems to vibrate through the concrete walls (keeping me up at night of course). Then I finally mentioned it to one of the desk clerks at Reception, and she explained. It’s a ‘KTV,’ (all over China) Karaoke franchise outside, but their facility/building ‘butting up’ against the hotel (thus hearing it via the walls).

When I complained about such, their solution of course, was for me to spend more money in a more expensive room across the hall. But, I’m not sure that would stop the sound. No thank you, I may look stupid, but this white face isn’t!

And no one wants to do anything, about anything! Just avoid it, and it will go away!

What to do? I’m moving out and into Xiao Xu’s flat (#341). This not ideal either (as nothing is in Asia), because of his furniture (and other things, like dirty), but it’s time to get out of this ‘Hotel California.’

For a foreigner, it’s a difficult situation in Kashgar/Xinjiang (thanks to the Chinese Government). Xiao Xu and I will have to go to the local PSB office and fill out a form, and get approval. If not, I’ll still be stuck in a hotel. Mamat didn’t come through with a flat (as he promised). Best not to expect anything from anyone (human)! By in large, they talk but don’t deliver!

On the good side of life, is Rotraut Boyens, who suddenly wants to come here and visit me (she’s always wanted to see the Taklimakan Desert). This possibly in April or May or next year 2006! I cherish this woman, as she’s the one that started the ‘Loving Kindness Fund’ Group by giving me money in a train station in Husum, Germany! She’d never seen me before, a total stranger! And Rotraut reflects that she’s ‘not a very good Christian!’

This is how Christianity works (negatively). They make you feel guilty for not going to church (to give them money). It hasn’t worked with me, however. As I give everyday to people on the street! This is my ‘Church!’

But, Rotraut, darling! You’re the best Christian I know! You’re a saint (not me)! We’ll start our own ‘religion’ together! You’re what Christ meant, when he said the generous shall inherit the kingdom of heaven!

Gosh, 2006, is upon us, now less than six weeks away! Who would have ever thought I would have made it to my 66th year! Ah, three ‘666s’ – so, Christians beware!

And I just thought how to solve the Bank of China problem. I send my debit (or take with me to Shanghai in January), give it to Stephanie to use in Hangzhou . She withdraws and then deposits in her account. Then she transfers the money into mine here for 01%. There’s only one concern, getting the card to her. So, I must go there in January. I will stop off in Uremqi a couple of days on the way there and returning. This a nice long (3, 4 days each way) train ride to and fro, unless I can find a good air fare.

But, I enjoy travelling by Chinese train… It’s restful for me, sleeping on a rocking train, watching the countryside go by! It’s a form of ‘vacation.’ I can get ‘mi fan!’ drink ‘Hutch’s tea,’ (fast if possible) read, think, write, sleep! You arrive in ‘Zentrum,’ (in wherever city) and can take a taxi anywhere easily (no long bus ride from the airport).

The only other Bank of China problem solution… Check out the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a private competitor. I will with Xiao Xu.

One must try to overcome evil, in any form! In 2005, it’s rampant everywhere in the world, the absolute ‘perigee’ in recent history. But, in 2006, we begin the upswing!

Coming together! Everything, and everybody, everywhere! We are coming together!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

17 October 2005 The Daily Dosage

Day #15 of ‘The First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally (Uremqi to Kashgar, 05)’

I’m up at 0500. I made Nestle’s instant coffee (made sure I got ‘kai shui’ from the restaurant). Ah, Trueman, for a good cup of La Baguette’s coffee… Maybe in Shanghai somewhere, but certainly not in the rest of China!

Note: Trueman and brother, you should think of putting some La Baguette’s in Shanghai, as there’s (ironically) a large French community!

I dress, organize and start carrying my gear downstairs.

I clean (lubricate if needed) Ms. Fiet’s chain and gears (do this every morning). I’m in the midst of, when Mamat appears with his stuff. I tell him, because he takes less time loading (doesn’t clean his bicycle), to go eat, and I’ll be ready when he returns.

He’s back, before I know it, however. I finish loading and we’re off by 0700, the earliest ever! We must want out of this town badly as it hasn’t been the most pleasant time, finding the ‘police hotel’… The full moon, no doubt! But, I had some most interesting dreams!

A last memory of the police ‘compound,’ an olfactory one… They have a new-looking building, their ‘W.C.’ all proud and shinning. (Note, I took a photograph.). But, the smell so bad I opted to wait for the desert.

About 1KM from town, on a highway bridge (over the RR), it suddenly ‘strikes me’ I’ve left my cycling shorts in the room! I yell to Mamat to stop (he still near ahead). I tell to him I may have to return. I start checking my bags, only to discover I’m wearing them! Full moon energy again! Crazy!

It’s a bleak morning again, the sun, moon-like through the haze to the east. The ‘tagh’ (‘mountains’ in Uyghur) now very close to our right, in fact the ‘feet,’ coming right up to the highway. We’re up and down all day on their ‘limbs.’

We ‘boogy,’ as there’s not much to partake of. By 1100, in five hours, we’re done 50KM, a 10KM average (about normal for us, as we rest a lot).

We stop at a dismal truck stop and have ‘lunch,’ or Mamat does. The only thing available, the popular noodle dish (I don’t eat.). I ‘shuck’ and eat my ‘hua sheng,’ (‘peanuts’ in both Chinese and Uyghur). The owner, a former truck driver, has no hands—he wants to talk (they’re lonely in these small villages). All in the restaurant (town actually) surround us, so curious. Here, however, the unkempt children annoy me, begging for more candy and wanting to play with my camera. Some stern ‘Nos!’ discourage them .

We depart at 12 noon, another 50KM to our ‘sleeping village.’

We head out again, through some of the most barren (but beautiful to me) desert we’ve encountered yet!

About 1400 hours, we begin to see a black cloud approaching from the southwest. Suddenly ‘da feng,’ (‘wind’ in Chinese) is strong, and it isn’t long until we’re barely able to advance at 3KM per hour. It’s a struggle, nothing as daunting on a loaded bicycle as a strong head wind (I remember our first day out of Uremqi, October 3rd)!

Mamat, at this point, is way a head of me. But, it isn’t long before I see him returning and gesturing we need to take cover. Mamat seems to know what this is… ‘Buran,’ he says. I’m in agreement, whatever it’s called, as here comes like a tornado. We roll our bicycles down the incline (road grade) and into a culvert under the highway, just in time too! This is one of the dust storms (buran) that come out of the Taklimakan Desert, ‘as black as pit from pole to pole!’

In the safety of the culvert we unload our pads and sleeping bags, making ourselves comfortable, me thinking of camping there for the night. Mamat has other ideas. While I make tea, while he’s busy trying to call his ‘elder brother,’ on his mobile telephone. To do this he has to brave the dust storm. I take a short nap, snug on my ‘rug!’

It isn’t long, however, that Mamat informs me he’s contacted his ‘elder brother,’ in case we need help. Gosh, how did people ever survive without a mobile telephone? He has also suggested catching a bus. I suggested we camp there , but he’s not be into that.

We wait… Amazingly, within an hour or so the wind dies, and we decide to crank on! We reload everything, and Mamat helps me push ‘Ms. Fiets’ up the grade (difficult in the soft dirt) and onto the highway.

Back on #314, we watch as the ‘Buran’ passes from left to right in front of us, and into the mountains. There’s some raindrops, but the wind dies completely.

We’re cruising along again, having not gone very far, when a police car pulls up and stops. ‘Elder brother,’ says Mamat, indicating he called for ‘official’ help. I’m impressed with ‘elder brother’s clout! We take photographs with the police and I thank them profusely! ‘Xie xie! And ‘rackmet!’ (‘Thanks’ sounds like in Uyghur).

Now, with the storm passed it’s clear ‘sailing!’ It’s not long until we’re at our ‘sleeping village,’ sounding so mething like ‘Al Chay E.’ This village interesting as it’s right at the base of the mountains (compared to last night’s ‘oil and gas,’ stop on the flat desert).

The hotel here is reasonably good for 50 Yuan per (a double room with private bath) / $6 U.S. But, no hot water for a shower or any towels (I always travel one.). But, the cute Chinese girl, who manages the floor, is helpful. As I’ve said so many times now about hotels in China (Asia) , you get some things, but not others. I do a ‘quicky’ cold shower! Ah, healthier they say.

A few doors down from the hotel we have dinner at a restaurant, and I’m able to partake of ‘mi fan.’ On the way back to the hotel, a good store where I purchase brown sugar and milk powder, some batteries. There’s something I like about this village I like, most likely because it has some character set against the mountains.

It’s been an interesting day dealing with the ‘Buran,’ and not particularly over-taxing. After two weeks on the road, 100KM is a reasonable distance!

Below, in a hair salon / ‘flat,’ a part of the hotel, ‘Ms. Fiets sleeps’ with a Chinese woman!

I sleep alone upstairs! Well, not exactly ‘alone!’

We are coming together! Everything and everybody, everywhere! We are coming together!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

12 November 2005 The Daily Dosage

Kashgar

Ah, one of those wonderful unplanned days!

We are coming together! Everything, and everybody, everywhere! We are coming together!

I had nothing to do in the afternoon and was going to cycle out of town towards Hotan on highway #315. But, in the morning Abdul, a Uyghur boy, called me (actually heard the ring ), and we met at 1230P.M. He is a friend of Nurmamat’s that had attended the ‘English Corner,’ with us last Wednesday evening. A bright kid, Abdul, the oldest of five children (three brothers and two sisters).

When I asked him about the ‘one-child’ policy of the Chinese government, he explained that’s only for Chinese in the cities. A Uyghur farmer gets to have three. A Chinese farmer two, etc. Having children in more primitive cultures is simply a practical matter. I can only imagine what sexual intercourse must be like for the women!

So, how is Abdul one of five, and how did his parents get away with it? Ah, the result in the fact that Chinese is over-populated with 1.2 billion people! It’s hardly controllable, except in Chinese cities in the east (where most of the Han Chinese are located). Out here on the ‘frontier,’ heck, we need more people (right?)! They have a fear of being alone when they are old.

Note, Abdul, full of good information, told me that the population of Xinjiang (18% of the total land area of China) has a population of only 15 million. The city of Shanghai has a larger population. Thus, 1/6th of the total land area (of China) has but .02% of the population. Maybe that’s the answer to the question how Abdul’s parents got away with having five children… They haven’t cared so much about the rule/limit in Xinjiang. ‘It’s way out there, and they’re aren’t many people!’

When we got into a discussion about marriage, family and children, I explained I’d been married twice and divorced twice. This is a concept ‘foreign’ to people in Asia. And when I told him I had no wife and no children, he said, ‘But, you’ll be alone!’ I tried to explain, ‘No, I’m never alone!’ But, here’s the difference (Jim) between people who are conscious and those not. To the ‘un’ you gotta have many children to work and the fields and then take care of you when you get older. Then you won’t be lonely. They can’t fathom the spirit is always with you, in fact, is you! They’re into talking bodies, and boy do they talk constantly (yelling, screaming, pounding, knocking, smoking, spitting, slurping… anything that makes noise, even smoking). They want to be surrounded by human bodies, and are they ever!

China is like a gigantic feng mi (bee) hive! Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing…

Abdul had come to my room some twenty minutes late, but what to do…? I invited him in but when I told him about what had happened to Payzullah , he suggested we ‘go outside.’ And since he has a bicycle I decided we’d cycle somewhere together. I didn’t know where… When he asked I said you choose! Come to find out he’s studying to become a tour guide, and this would be some more experience, taking an American around Kashgar. So, I told him to choose where to go.

We first went south and east, and I found out where the ‘Court House,’ is, and the fact that the west side of Kashgar is the ‘Chinese side,’ and the east side the ‘Uyghur side.’

We passed the Kashgar TV station, a formidable and new looking structure complete with big antenna on top. I made a mental note to get a tour of the facility, me being an old TV-kind of guy!

He also pointed to a building across the street, a Chinese government building with a large antenna on top! He said, ‘This is spy headquarters! Everyone knows about it!’ Isn’t it interesting… Something you try to hide is always found out!

Then we were in Jason Gero’s neighborhood and he asked me if I wanted to visit him. Needing a ‘W.C.,’ or at least to ‘semen,’ (piss) I said ‘Why not!’ So we went to Jason’s building where he called from a ‘pay telephone’ (not exactly in a booth, but on a telephone on a table outside of ‘dukans’ (stores). He found out that Jason was heading for the Police Station and not a good time. Then while we’re waiting a woman walks up who knows Abdul, anAmerican woman ‘to boot!’ I ask, and we find out that she’s ‘Bob’s wife,’ one of Jason’s ‘bosses.’ So, I’m getting to know many more of the expatriates in Kashgar.

I’m not about to ‘burst,’ so I ask Abdul where I can ‘semen!’ He takes me across the bridge, and points behind a wall. I go and am in the midst, when I notice a couple arguing nearby, the woman staring at me. I turn in the other direction, not completely ‘relieved.’ Ah, you can’t go anywhere without more people!

We ride on and north now to the ‘Old City.’ I’ve wanted to investigate the ‘Old City,’ the most ‘Uyghur’ part of town since arriving, but was waiting for a Uyghur guide. Abdul turned out to be perfect.

Where we started is the eastern most part, called ‘The Castle.’ I actually have taken photographs of this part of the ‘Old City’ without knowing. Then Abdul tells me some interesting history about this part of the ‘Old City,’ supposedly with houses one-thousand years old (these I will have to see)!

Seems Alexander the Great had sent an Army into ‘East Turkistan,’ (this area of the world called prior to the Chinese). When the inhabitants of ‘The Castle’ (Uyghur name… ) heard they fled, as Alexander’s Armies had a reputation for destruction.

So, when Alexander’s Army showed up they found only children and elderly people. Thus, ‘The Castle,’ was spared, and grew to what it is today.

I would really like to check up on this bit of ‘history,’ to see what’s true and then pass on to Abdul. I know how these kinds of stories are passed down orally, and there seems to be some elements missing…? I wonder, for example, if Alexander got this far north…? I thought he had stopped at what’s now India? Any Asian historians in my readers…? Trueman…?

Then a special treat for me, as Abdul knew how to cycle through this part of the ‘Old City.’ And wow! This is truly Kashgar to me, not the modern part. Dark narrow streets and veiled women with their children! Old, old adobe structures (the entire old section is adobe with some brick), that are probably hundreds of years old. Ancient weathered wooden doors with worn metal locks (opened/closed thousands of times). It was fascinating.

We stopped one place where Abdul has a friend. I parked next to piles of round (with lips) Uyghur bread (nan). I have an idea to turn this bread into Uyghur ‘pizza!’ Parked next to the bread is the ‘latest’ version of pannier bags on a ‘bicycle.’ I took a photograph (see in Gallery at www.cyclingpeace.org )

We pass many ‘metal-working’ shops where you can see artisans hand forging metal (iron) hand tools.

I noticed an old-fashion ‘blacksmith’ shop where a Uyghur man was putting a ‘shoe’ on a donkey. This is the kind of scene that thrills me (for some unknown reason, maybe my age). It’s like going back in time to another era!

We arrive at a modern street (ugh!), a broad boulevard, I’m familiar with. Abdul shows me where he works, the Kashgar Caravan Travel Company, Ltd.’

Onward we end up on my bicycle mechanic stall’s street, and also where I’ve bought peanuts (‘hua sheng’ in both Chinese and Uyghur). Abdul says this is a ‘tourist site.’ He points out a friends store where they make and sell musical instruments. The Uyghur people are very much into song and dance!

Where I turn left to return to the Seman Hotel, is a small alley way, this taking you into the ‘bowels’ of the ‘Old City’ again. I follow Abdul. This even more exotic because here the narrow ‘street’ turning so many directions and dissolving into a labyrinth . You can get lost in here. But, Abdul told me ‘the secret,’ of how to find your way out. It’s the stones they use to make the ‘street.’ If hexagonal in shape you’re going out eventually. If the old rectangular brick, it’s a dead end!

I stop at one point and give a group of children candy. ‘Hello!’ they yell at me! ‘All the children are mine!’

I’d love to live in the ‘Old City,’ partake of the ancient atmosphere! Although, I’ll bet a little chilly inside in the winter! The Uyghurs… Hardy people!

We end up on another modern boulevard and not far from the Xinibagh Hotel. But, we crossed, and stopped at a Uyghur Restaurant Abdul knows. I buy him polo with meat for 6 Yuan (but I have to argue about paying). Afterwards we part company, but not before we agree to pursue the ‘Old City’ on foot. He assures me this is the only way to really see it! This I’m looking forward to!

Abdul turns out to be a very bright (I explained to him what this ‘slang’ word means) kid! Just nineteen-years old I’m sure he’ll do well at whatever. He told me his parents have ‘high expectations’ of him! I think that helps motivate children when parents do, although when over stressed, it can also make for very self-possessed (nee unpleasant) personality!

All day the sky was a dull gray, but the activity like sunshine! And all unexpected!

Also, cranking back to the hotel, possibly the best ‘Chinglish,’ I’ve seen yet, an Ad on the back of a bus: ‘Our wild mushrooms can!’ Ooouuuu… I’m ‘dying’ to try!

I want to make a T-shirt that reads (in Chinese):

‘Chinese men all smoke the wrong kind of tobacco!’

10 November 2005 The Daily Dosage

Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China…

Gosh, there’s just mountains of stuff, food, things to eat, wear (from pantyhose to stocking caps, to three-piece suits), use in your house (TVs and rice cookers, stoves), things for every thing (comforters, uplift bras, running shoes, hiking boots, jewelry, sophisticated posters framed for your wall)! Gosh, I thought I was coming to some exotic outpost where you could buy a camel (plenty in the hills). Unfortunately, modernity has even taken over here! You can buy Camel cigarettes!

I’ve just walked around Kashgar to discover there’s everything here to buy you can get anywhere in the U.S. (or Europe), except one… I need a new bulb for my Maglite ‘torch,’ and they don’t have any! Of course, I could buy another flashlight, and probably will. No use having something whose parts you can get in Asia. Other than that there are ‘mountains’ of almonds, oranges, pomegranates, dates, apples, sweet potatoes. But, probably not turkey for Thanksgiving ! On the other hand, there’s roasted duck, and ice cream, candy, kites, ‘hacky sacks,’ the children play with (now a rubber-stranded looking thing like a dread-knot wig). You can buy the latest Japanese/Canon 3-chip digital camcorder for $2,500 U.S. There’s nothing you can’t buy in China. And of all places, Kashgar!

The Chinese are fascinated with automobiles too! I just saw a Citroen taxi cab! I’ve seen every expensive American and other manufactured SUV. The Chinese, in particular, love big black power machines! No wonder, they’re powerless! What has always sold automobiles is the illusion of power and freedom!

There’s an underground mall with stall after stall of clothing of every kind (silk long underwear), shoes, and everything else! I’m amazed! I thought I was getting away from it all!

I wonder if there’s any place on earth where you can? Maybe the ‘Artics,’ and maybe Greenland?

Iceland looked like you could buy most things there, especially lighting fixtures and warm clothing! Although I don’t think you can buy a water purifier (as in Iceland you can still drink water right out of the river untreated).

Walking around Kashgar this afternoon, I took a photograph of a young boy eating a slice of watermelon. All the children yell, ‘hello’ to me!

I met a 19-year old woman working in a stationery store. She spoke English to me! I’m going to get her to the ‘English Corner.’ Her name is ‘Ryhangul.’ Different name right? Uyghur names are definitely different than any I’ve come across before. I bought a glue stick and a pen there, both for a total of 6 Yuan or .80 cents.

Today I offered Shou Shu (the Chinese man who runs the Internet Café in the Xinibagh Hotel) a deal… Take everything (all the furniture) out of his apartment, clean it and I’d pay him 600 Yuan / $ 80U.S. per month (he’d wanted only 500) . He said, ‘Why?’ People can’t believe it when you want to be fair! If he does all this, and I get hot water, I’m duty bound to rent the place. But, it’s better than a hotel!

The Seman Hotel… Ugh! No hot water for bathing, Karaoke all night long keeping me up! Incompetent women on the floors. They can’t even put the cork in the thermos tight. They don’t clean my room, you have to ask. ‘No good hotel!’ I’m going to say when I depart! ‘No good hotel!’

Then there’s the unexpected! This morning I discovered one of the workmen in the basement, where I keep Ms. Fiets, had put his hands (covered with plaster) all over her—now I have white smudges on the bags, the pump, my helmet! Terribly annoying as I can’t explain why this is unacceptable. They’d laugh, these ‘children!’ I guess I should feel sorry for them.

Asians want to share, touch and feel, ride your bicycle and even fuck your wife (I’m sure). And they can’t understand the idea of ‘personal space,’ as they have none!
So, I’m going to have to be more careful about Ms. Fiets, protecting her from such nonsense. The offender (covered in plaster dust), with his son, wanted a drink out of my large juice bottle I keep on the bicycle. I gave him the entire bottle, hoping I’d make a friend. That’s all you can do. If you get too snotty with them, they retaliate. You’re dealing with Neanderthal mentality.

Gosh, what a hard lesson Asia is… So, different than the West, at least how they think. But, in many other ways, it’s exactly like—the material level!

We are coming together! Everything, everybody, everywhere! We are coming together!

There’s so many good things here too! The adventure of discovery for me! I just got bored in the U.S. With me familiarity breeds contempt, and I couldn’t stand seeing, hearing, experiencing the same things every day in the same way. Now, to some people, this is Nirvana, but not to me. I’m too curious about what’s on the other side of the hill, the mountains. What does that taste like? I need new aromas, to see the light in different countries, hear the birds of different places, watch them fly in a different sky! Basically learn about the world we live in, not just that familiar patch of ground.

But, the earth, the soil, the plants, rocks are pretty much the same every where, maybe slightly different, but basically the same. The brown, desolate mountains of Xinjiang, could be transplanted to Big Bend, Texas (U.S.A.), and no one would recognize any difference. Vice versa. Maybe the wild life would be different, but I’m sure one species could survive in either place. I know the camels of Xinjiang could survive in the Big Bend National Park. The wild cats of the mountains there in BBNP, in the mountains here in Xinjiang Province.

Although, they’d have to be protected here, like they are there in the U.S. (and other more enlightened countries). This is an example of consciousness (Jim)… There’s more consciousness in the U.S. about preserving animal species than here. Just like there’s more in the U.S. about personal safety and food quality.

Here in China capitalism is still to new, with a ‘gold rush’ mentality (like in the U.S. in the 19th century). This doesn’t have to do with intelligence, as they’re just as intelligent here as anywhere, it has to do with consciousness (Jim). This a ‘state of knowing,’ or awareness, growth, evolution, mental development (not physical). China is just as physically developed as the U.S., but they’re behind in terms of mental development. Material wealth, however, should bring that in time… The realization, that it’s not all that great, that there are other things, like preserving the Panda bears, rather than cutting down the forests they live in, that’s more important.

When we preserve a species, we are preserving ourselves!

Man is basically consuming the earth, and himself with it! If he ever wakes up to this fact, there may be hope that he will stop in time. Otherwise, we are simply doomed as a species.

But, I always ask this question… When the last homo sapien succumbs, will we have been here at all…? Think about this, before you say yes! Doesn’t it take human consciousness to perceive…? The rocks and animals that might survive… They don’t care if we were ‘here’ or not, and probably, if they could think about such, be glad that we’re ‘gone!’

Time, as subject, the concept of ‘time’ (I assume they mean ‘clock time?’… In the next issue of Ovi Ezine (out of Helsinki) is about ‘time.’

Thus, about ‘time’…

An interesting situation here in Xinjiang Province, China. There is the official Beijing Time all of China is set to, but out here the locals (most Uyghur and Kazak) go by what they call ‘Xinjiang Time,’ two hours early. And actually this makes more simple sense, as it’s closer to the actuality of the sunlight.

China, from east to west, is very much like the U.S., some 4,000+ kilometers from the Pacific Ocean to the western border of Xinjiang (Krygyzstan).

In the U.S., which has a similar distance from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans, has four ‘time zones,’ the time decreasing by one hour, roughly every 1,000 kilometers going west (as the sun travels—actually as the earth rotates)! There’s Eastern Standard Time, Central Standard Time, Mountain Standard Time (Colorado where I’m from), and Pacific Standard time, four hours difference from the ‘east coast’ to the ‘west coast’ (we call them). If it’s 10P.M. (2200 hours) at night in New York City, it’s 9 P.M. (2100 hours) in Chicago, and 8P.M. (2000 hours) in Denver, and 7P.M. (1900 hours) in Los Angeles. This better approximates having sunlight when needed: when children wait for buses in the morning, to when dad returns home at night.

The U.S. also adjusts to the seasons, and in the summer when the angle of the earth to sun is less, we ‘Fall back one hour, and Spring forward the same.’ Of course, some people don’t like this idea. I tell them… Put your watch on whatever time you like, I do!

Albert was right… It’s ‘relative!’ Clock time was ‘invented’ by man to synchronize (coordinate activity), making it more ‘efficient.’ I think the Swiss or English can be blamed for this, and most likely the military had something to do with it! If you’re going to ‘attack,’ you want everyone at the right place at the right time!

Here in China, the entire country is on Beijing time. That would be O.K., or better if Beijing was located in the center of the country, but it’s not. It’s located in the far northeastern part of the country. Thus, making for an interesting situation in Xinjiang Province some 4,000 kilometers west of Beijing. The sunlight versus clock time…

Here in Kashgar, in November, it doesn’t get light on Beijing time until 0900 (9.A.M.), and it stays light until 2000 hours (8P.M.). Somehow this doesn’t feel right to the locals, who have created what is popularly called ‘local’ or ‘Xinjiang’ time. This some two hours earlier than Beijing time. This more approximates nature (as most of them are farmers).

But, in the cities this creates an interesting situation when trying to meet someone… Thus, we always ask, or state which ‘time’ we’re referring to. If we say 3 P.M. (1500 hours) we always state ‘Xinjiang,’ or ‘Beijing.’ And if unsaid, we always ask, ‘Is this Beijing or Xinjiang time?’ Of course, all official and government offices (banks) are on Beijing time. So, you’re constantly having to figure out when to depart to get to the bank when it’s open.

I set my watch on local or ‘Xinjiang Time.’ Thus, I add two hours when figuring when to catch the train to Uremqi.

This would be a perfect situation to have the Omega wrist watch I owned in the Sixties. It had two ‘hour’ hands. I could set one to Beijing Time, and one to ‘Xinjiang Time,’ and then I’d always be ‘on time!’ Well, maybe… I have an idea to produce watches with two ‘hour’ hands in Xinjiang. We’ll call it the ‘Xinjiang Watch!’

One final note on ‘time.’ I’m a person that’s rarely late to a meeting, and always early catching public transportation. How can this be…? Well, for one thing I grew up with the discipline of ‘live’ television, and the military. Two situations where you’re simply not late, or big trouble.

I’ll never forget my boss (‘Doc. Hamilton) at KVOA/4 (Tucson, Arizona), my first job in television back in 1958. When I started directing the ‘new strip,’ he told me this, and I’ve never forgotten it, He said, ‘The News goes on at 5:00:00! That’s not 5:00:20, or 4:59:10, it’s 5:00:00! Understand?’

Thus recently when I taught over 400 acting classes at John Robert Powers (U.S.), I was never late once in four years! How can this be? My students would drag in, mostly late, and always with an excuse that usually had to do with the ‘traffic,’ parents, or boy/girl friends. I use to pose this question… ‘How can I always be on time riding a bicycle, when you’re late driving an automobile?’ More excuses.

It’s simple, and I can teach you how to always (or mostly, sometimes I’m a little late) be on time: First of all, set your watch ten to fifteen minutes ahead of the ‘official’ time. Of course, you know this, but after a while you forget and go by your wrist watch (fooling yourself). Additionally, when figuring how long it will take to travel some where, or to accomplish a task… Always double the time you first estimate. You’ll be surprised how often you show up on time (now), or are a little early. It’s easy! As ‘time,’ really… It’s relative!

Albert also said this, ‘That imagination is more important than knowledge!’

F.A. Hutchison (who’s got to go, or be late meeting someone!)
On Xinjiang time

16 October 2005 The Daily Dosage

Day # 14 of our ‘First Annual Xinjiang Bicycle Rally (Uremqi to Kashgar)’

I could title this day, ‘Where did you go?’

We’re up early, and at the Chinese buffet by 0700. I eat tofu and greens. By the time, we depart, again, masses of Chinese, all yelling and screaming (I believe the Chinese to be hard of hearing) had arrived! We get out fast!

We check out, some confusion at first, Mamat losing a receipt. Boy, paper work just as important in China as in the U.S. ‘No ticket, no laundry!’ We almost didn’t get our deposits back which are generally 100Y for a 100Y room. Of course, at the 10Y room, the woman barely gave us a key. What key? What do you want for 10Y?

Getting out of Aksu was a chore. We always seem to depart with the morning traffic, so the usual dodging of everything but armored vehicles. Pedestrians, who think they’re ‘armored,’ walk anywhere, any time, in any direction. It’s chaos! Donkey carts are many in Uyghur land, the drivers bouncing up and down to the gate of their ‘ass!’ Taxi cabs who rush around trying for fares, have resorted to honking all the time and loudly… So, it’s total and loud chaos, the locals, I’m sure, thinking this is normal! Everything is relative! The Chinese think they’re hearing is fine!

The weather is bleak this morning, so I have put on my down vest and long cycling pants. Mamat, who carries his ‘insulation’ under his skin, has purchased a vest in Aksu, but much lighter than mine (me with little ‘insulation’ under my skin). Later though, he’s pleased he’s wearing it as the wind comes up. Ah, ‘da feng,’ always out there coming off the Taklimakan Desert (to our south). And now more cold than warm.

We finally arrive at a river (?) where the old highway joins #314. We stop to do the usual. Mamat ‘shoots’ video and I take photographs.

Once on #314 smooth ‘sailing,’ but an uneventful morning… Just desolation on either side of the highway. The desert to the left of us, mountains (hills actually) very close to our right. But, I love this kind of terrain, reminding me of (again) the southwestern part of the U.S. Now, Mamat’s binoculars come in handy as I gaze up into the craggy, dry, variegated canyons of the ‘tagh’ (to our right-northwest).

We come upon a lake to our left, and Mamat explains, and we have a ‘discussion’ about fish. He’s surprised, since I don’t eat meat, that I will eat fish (well some fish). And it isn’t a hour later that we don’t happen upon some Uyghur men, standing on the highway with three, rather large, fish they’ve caught (no doubt in the lake). They look like Bass to me, as I’m sure the water in the lake is warm. But, when I try to explain ‘Bass’ versus ‘fish,’ to Mamat, ‘bil mi dim!’ There are photographs of these fish in the ‘Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org.

I had always wondered about Xinjiang, looking at a map of China, this huge area north and west of Tibet. I thought it was uninhabited… Boy, was I wrong about that! Only the moon and Mars are uninhabited! Thus, why we go…

Also to our left are the omnipresent RR tracks, and one or two trains (both passenger and freight trains) pass in both directions during the day.

I always count the cars, harkening back to when I was a child riding with my parents, and most of the passenger trains in China are long, from 14 to 18 cars, always with a baggage car and one engine. And Dick H. you’ll be glad to know the freight trains all have cute little ‘cabooses!’

We arrive at our ‘lunch village,’ and sit down with a Uyghur family. Mamat has the usual noodles and bread, I abstain completely drinking only coffee (the usual problem with my system). I remember the children here and the flies (too many). I’m not happy eating, and slapping flies at the same time.

Off we go again, and it’s a long afternoon of bleakness. We have to do 120KM today to reach our ‘sleeping’ village, this Mamat tells me called ‘Al Chal’ (Hutch’s Pinyin).

Finally at 1800 hours (6 P.M.), with light fading we arrive at this, out in the milddle of nowwher, ‘oil-gas’ town. In the distance you can see the gas burning at the end of chimney pipes. I’ve always thought this was stupid, as someday we’re going to need it.

Mamat, always vigilant about a hotel finds the ‘Chinese Hotel,’ but after one look he indicates, ‘no good!’ What to do? I think ‘no good,’ to Mamat is no place to charge his mobile telephone, as this is important to him (with wife and child). I’m more into ‘roughing it!’ I’m sure I’d slept at the Chinese hotel.

We cycle on through town, Mamat stopping frequent to inquire about other possibilities. We end up at the police station, where I become the center of attraction, after Mamat disappears. I wait and wait! I get a little uncomfortable when one Uyghur man, literally can’t take his eyes off me. They’re all so curious! They’re like children to me (the rural ones).

When the gate keeper closes the gate to this governmental complex, I push both bicycles out to the road, as I haven’t heard from Mamat. More waiting. More curious Uyghur people surround me!

I’m now getting perturbed and concerned at the same time as Mamat is no where to be seen. I’ve been waiting an hour, my imagination conjuring up all kinds of possibilities. Finally, I can stand it no longer, and thank God for my mobile (Stephanie) as I resort to calling him. When I get him on the telephone, I’m angry telling him, ‘You come now!’ ‘O.K., O.K.!’ he telling from my tone, rather than the words, that I’m not a happy camper! Poor Mamat took the brunt of my anglo ire more than once during our trip.

Some fifteen minutes later he arrives with a document, trying to explain about the police, and indicating I must follow him down the road. I have figured out that he’s trying to get some kind of permission for another hotel. I follow closely, as he’s not going to get away from me again. Me, in a strange town, where I can’t speak the language.

We push our bicycles about 100 meters, and go inside an office where there are three men, one Chinese policeman and two other Uyghur men. Mamat and they have the usual lengthy conversation, and I’m asked to produce my passport. This I do. More waiting. Telephone calls! We’re tired and hungry at this point, and me beginning to lose my patience! The Chinese man speaks with some other official on the telephone. We’re summoned to another building (back where we came from).

In the headquarters building he is called inside (now with what must be a dozen ‘officials’), and gone for another ten minutes… There’s so much waiting when you get the bureaucracy involved.

Then I’m summoned into a room with all these men. The boss man (Chinese), I’m glad to discover, is impressed having an American in his office. He’s all smiles and offers me a bottle of water. I’m also offered a seat. I’m asked for my passport again. More discussion Mamat explaining, Then more documents, and more waiting. Finally, everything is set and we have been approved to stay in the ‘better’ hotel right in this complex (I had no idea). I leap up and shake the boss man’s hand, thanking him in Chinese (xie, xie!).

We’re shown the ‘hotel,’ actually a guest house, I’m sure they use for ‘special guests’ only. That’s why all the ‘shuck and jive,’ as permission was needed to have an American stay there (I was probably the first). Now, suddenly I’m feeling guilty for having chastised Mamat. He was only trying to get us in a reasonable place to stay. He’s even paid for both rooms (as we sleep in different rooms). I try to make amends by thanking him for doing such.

We go to dinner, nearby. Here they’re watching a movie on a TV set when we arrive, then us eating (we’re more interesting than the movie). I can’t remember what country the movie was from, but a typical melodrama with some romance and much violence. I drank the broth from the usual, noodle, meat and vegetable bowl). Afterwards I try to buy Mamat’s dinner, but he’s too quick! Damn!

We lock our bicycles downstairs (outside) and carrying our gear upstairs, this always taking at least two trips for me.

Alone in my room, I do the usual arranging, unpacking, etc. I’m in bed before long, as the extra time with the police has made it an arduous day. First, 120 KM, (9.5 hours) then several hours dealing with the bureaucracy!

But, an interesting phenomenon. We’re alone in the guest house. The caretaker woman is below, and not into much service (no ‘kai shue’). The hall light is one of those activated by sound (Chinese love these). So, any truck that rolls by on the highway (we’re right on it), activates the hall light. In this case it’s so sensitive the wind could activate. So, all night long my room, because of a window above the door, is one moment dark, the next illuminated.

Full moon energy!

I manage to sleep some!