What a wonderful day! I couldn’t have had a better Christmas present! It should be entitled, ‘Santa Claus, death, and a wedding!’
Saturday* I was privileged to accompany a group of 12 kind-hearted Chinese people, who gave of their money and time to play ‘Santa Claus,’ to a group of poor Uyghur children. This because I know Xhao Xu, who introduced me to ‘Indy,’ and her Café (an amazingly place)--for the past several weeks, one of ‘Santa’s workshops!’
Indy’s Café is also where I met ‘Judy,’ a young Chinese woman from Hubei Province (near Beijing). ‘Judy’ has been teaching English at Kashgar Teacher’s College, this part of her Master’s Program in ‘Comparative Linguistics.’ A young Chinese woman, she is as fluent in English as I am (lucky for me)!
The first time I was at ‘Indy’s Café’ one week ago, I noticed backpacks and boxes stacked in one locale, but I didn’t realize what this was… Now, I know. As they were gathering donated items to take to the children. The ‘idea’ of ‘Santa Claus,’ (Virginia) really does exist in the hearts of people! This in China, as well as Germany and America! In fact everywhere in the world!
Thus preplanned, we all met Saturday morning at Indy’s Café at 0730, for this was the day to ‘come down the chimney!’ It had been explained to me (via ‘Judy’) we would be taking a bus some 70 KM southwest of Kashgar to a Uyghur village. I was so pleased to be a part of this, as this group of Chinese people, a version of our ‘Loving Kindness Group’ Fund.
The first thing we did was stop for ‘breakfast,’ in a town called, ‘Shula.’ This town I am familiar with having cycled through it twice before, once on our recent trip to Opal. Here we had ‘polo’ (zhau fan), and the best ‘polo’ I’ve had in some time! Here we also acquired some local people, our Uyghur guides, one a lovely woman, and a TV journalist (complete with Sony camcorder).
Next stop was at the local village government building where we met the ‘Mayor,’ a young Chinese man. He shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to China!’ in English! On the building it reads in Chinese, ‘Serving the People.’
Then on to the ‘elementary’ school, a long drive down a bumpy dirt road passing donkey carts bouncing up and down, people on foot, motorbikes honking, bicycles, and flocks of sheep .
It all blends together in one color in this part of China this time of year, an ‘adobe’ brown, the sky, the land, the leave-less poplar trees, the houses. The people some relief, the men in their dark clothing and fur hats, and the women in fancy skirts (under which they wear ‘trousers’ or woolen stockings), and on their heads, scarves. The kids, dressed in ‘hand-me-downs,’ shivered in the cold! There was some snow on the ground.
We left the bus, and walked the last fifty meters or so, watching a group of young boys ‘hoe’ the hard ground, and other ‘duos’ (girls) carrying water in buckets on a pole.
In front of the school building the children (grades 1 to 6) had been gathered where they sung the Chinese National Anthem in Uyghur. While they went through their regular morning ‘drill’ (‘roll,’ etc.) ‘Santa’s elves’ (our Chinese group) unloaded the bus and laid out all the gifts. These ranged from practical school items like pencils and paper, crayons, paint sets, to clothing, to musical instruments (flutes) and other toys!
Gosh, the Uyghur children need clothing and shoes! I took one photograph of one boy wearing some over-sized and taped-together canvas ‘shoes.’ See this in the ‘Gallery’ at www.cyclingpeace.org
Then it came time to pass out all the items, each grade filing up, and receiving their gifts. So excited the children were! I passed out some pencils! I touched their heads covered with hats, honored to make them happy, if not forever, at least for one moment in time !
We passed out candy! We took many photographs, ‘shot’ video while the TV journalist ‘shot’ video of us!
At one point I wandered into a room to warm my hands. Here they had a coal burning stove. I took a photograph of something I hadn’t seen anywhere in China, a picture (painting) of Karl Marx next to a photograph of Mao (which is standard).
After the gift giving we took a group photograph, then the children were released to run and shout upstairs where, I’m sure, they examined what ‘Santa’ had brought them!
It’s at times like this, feeling so much, it’s all I have to do to prevent crying out, my heart in tears! If I’d had a magic wand, all the children would have all been transported instantly to warm and safe places filled with food, clothing, and the joy of ‘Christmas!’
We were then invited then to visit some of the poorest families in the area.
I think it was the first time ever inside a rural Uyghur house. This, an adobe compound shared with sheep and chickens, only one-rug lined room with coal heater where people lived (in any comfort).
Here the elder male, described his life of toil and hardship. All I could think to do was hand him the money I had in my pocket (some 7 Yuan). Then I was amazed as one young Chinese man, our ‘group leader,’ pulled out and handed him a 100-yuan note! This brought many smiling ‘Rackmets! ’ from this emaciated being, this thin face etched with years out in the fields. Maybe now, however, with some money he could buy some things he desperately needed!
The next Uyghur family, another 50 meters down the dusty road, was even worse off! The father had died, the mother lie dying, wrapped in blankets, the room filled with interlopers. I felt somewhat exploitive, although this mitigated as money was generously given here too, this time to the daughter, tears pouring down her cheeks.
I mean there are times when you just don’t know what to do! I staggered outside, away from ‘death.’
I remember looking around, at the squalor, an ancient bicycle turned upside down and decaying (wish I hadn’t run out of film). I thought to myself, the sheep are better off than these people. At least they ‘don’t know,’ and don’t suffer. They’re fed, and cared for, and then they give their lives so others might survive!
Oh, what man hath wrought!
We drove back to the village proper to partake of their Saturday ‘bazaar’ (huge open markets). And amazing to me, mostly the masses of people, bumping, and shoving, yelling, and selling!
A man sharpening an axe blade, from a spinning wheel spun by cranking bicycle pedals. Meat, parts of meat, innards, outwards, blood, guts, the stink, the twitching chicken dying on the ground, pantyhose, makeup, TV, knives, clothing, everything of man’s hand there to buy. I was overwhelmed! Candy made from wheat, donuts, kebab (of course) to buy, to eat, to wear, to use! One authentic donkey-cart, sad-eyed existence… The dead sheep, their heads hung from poles, smiled at us!
What has man wrought?
A Uyghur wedding! ‘Santa Claus, death, and a wedding,’ all in one day!
I hadn’t been to a Uyghur wedding. But, our Uyghur hostess, her nephew was getting married, and she invited us in for a moment. Here the adobe compound was filled with music and laughter.
The men danced, stuffing money in the young groom’s coat pocket. Other’s sprayed the dancers with chemical ‘confetti.’
This was the ‘men’s day,’ as these weddings are three days long, the first day the groom’s party, the bride no where to be seen. Then the bride appears on the second day! Then the third day the ‘couple,’ having had a Moslem ceremony goes to live in the groom’s parent’s house. Mind you there are only 22 and 17 years old!
You can imagine what it must be like for these ‘children!’ One day playing with their toys, and without a care, the next day all the responsibility of raising a family and taking care of their parents.
The Uyghurs, basically herders and farmers, are of a custom to marry young, beget as many children as possible to help with the hard work, and then the parents in their old age. Old customs ‘die’ very slowly, especially when the people are basically uneducated and unevolved.
Back on the bus, I suppose we were all happy we weren’t poor Uyghur farmers! It seems like a very difficult and unhappy existence, at least the ones we visited. We shared with each other what we’d all brought to eat, and it was a happy group returning from a successful trip to help some of those less fortunate than we.
I enjoyed sitting and talking with ‘Judy,’ my new Chinese friend. Such a lively, and positive woman. I learned much. She even told me a joke in English:
Seems George W. Bush needed a medical examination and went to the doctor. They took a brain scan. Seems ‘W.’s’ brain is no different than anyone else’s except, as the doctor explained, ‘There’s nothing right in your left brain, and there’s nothing left in your right brain! That’s what makes you different!’ I laughed, and told her I would pass this on to my friends in the U.S.
‘Judy,’ wants me to give her a new English name, one that is both ‘profound,’ and ‘beautiful!’ I’m working on it!
We arrived back at Indy’s Café about 1430 hours / 2:30 Xinjiang Time.
A meeting was held of all the participants, comments were noted, suggestions offered, what to do, how to help others, and how to sustain the group. Donations were taken to financially support. A name was decided upon: the ‘1,2,3’ group, as that Saturday was 12.3.5.
I can only say in conclusion, that I was so proud to have been there at the beginning, to share the experience and then write about it.
I’m wishing the group much success in the future, and I plan to support in whatever way I can!
To see the children smiling,
To hear them laugh and shout,
To experience ‘endings’ and ‘beginnings,’
This is what life is all about!
‘Flying (cycling) happily!’