Ah, yesterday Spring was in the air! Today, it snowed, and for most of the day! So, today winter returned pleasing me (I love snow!)!
And what a snowy, slippery and event packed day it was! I lead an interesting life! An example… Today in Kashigariadi!
I first go get online with Gulshat (the young Uyghur woman who clerks the ‘Business Center in the ‘International Xinibagh,’ this where they offer the Internet). Nothing is working, however! I can’t upload images , and I don’t have the file (‘The Daily Dosage’) I need on my removable drive. It’s frustrating!
However, at www.nytimes.com there are two very valuable articles about what’s happening in China. If you want to know, all I have to do is go all the way to N.Y.C. to learn about ‘next door.’ After two frustrating hours, I depart to visit my Chinese friend Hu, and tell her the good news about the elder Chinese cyclists, how much I enjoyed yesterday.
Except, I fall down the stairs just outside of the hotel. I don’t injure myself, but it’s so slick I can barely stay on my feet.
In Asia they do nothing like spread salt or sand for better traction. You’re on your own in Asia (caveat emptor 10X in all ways). And there’s no such thing as tort liability!
I fell a couple of more times on the icy concrete, before making it to Hu’s office at CIT (Chinese Information for Tourists). This, no more than fifty meters from the Internet place (inside the ‘International’ building).
I have a strange conversation with Hu, my Chinese friend! No, she can’t accept any invitations to eat out, as she’s a strict, strict vegetarian. O.K., ‘Plan B.’ I’ll buy her a gift (she’s been a big help to me). And I shouldn’t be late for the cyclists next time! Actually this was her fault as I waited yesterday at the hotel, when the elder group waited for me on the street (they called her… ‘Where am I?’ ). Note: Meeting people in modernity, even with all the latest hi-tech gear, the most challenging of things! I’m her ‘older brother, she my younger sister,’ she tells me upon departing. Even though her computer is ‘slow,’ I can use it any time!
I walk on to Eversuns to have lunch. But, again, it’s treacherous going. I’m carrying my package for Michael Butler and my camera (in case). Of course, I have my backpack. I’m always carrying stuff, the ‘Missouri mule,’ I am.
Eversun’s is slow as many stay home in such weather. I call Ali and we’re to meet at the Pakistani Café at 1600 hours. I call Jason and ‘Yes, there’s an English Corner’ meeting at Kashigar Teacher’s College tonight beginning earlier than normal, about 1700 hours.’ I tell him I’ll try to make.
On to China Post, and/or Indy’s Café… I have many tasks today. I also plan to call Rotraut in Germany via telephone. I need to clear up some confusion!
I’ve been to China Post one time already trying to mail this package to musician friend Michael in Nashville. The first time, ‘no good,’ I have to pack better. So, I spend days collecting old newspaper.
At China Post, sorry again, newspaper is unacceptable as a packing agent. I think because maybe a fire hazard…?
Off I go to the Digital Photo Express to turn in a roll of film and have an image printed for me. I want to give it to Zhang Lei at the Bank of China. She’s been such a help, and not only that somewhat solicitous (and I don’t know how to deal with this?). This is the photograph of me and Mao, that ran with the article in the ‘Kashgar Daily,’ newspaper.
But, when I get to DPE I discover the image hasn’t made it onto the removable drive. Yet, another time when files don’t transfer. Also, and worse, I’ve damaged my camera in the earlier fall down the stairs. The lens cover and UV filter smashed. I’m lucky, however, there appears to be no great damage to the zoom lens itself. This is the second time I’ve broken the UV filter, and every time it costs $20U.S. (one of the more expensive things in China, camera accessories).
I try to get the damaged filter off, but can’t even with the ‘needle-nosed’ pliers they loan me. I turn in my film for processing, and buy a replacement roll. I’m about to depart when the Chinese owner returns. He’s able, with much effort, to get the filter off! And thank God with nary a scratch on the actual lens. Tomorrow, when I return I’ll buy another filter, etc.
Off to Indy’s and to call Rotraut. I want to have Indy deal with the package, or at least tell me where to find the proper packing material.
Indy’s Café, which I love and enjoy going to, is on a side street, roughly 300 meters south of the main east-west street in Kashigar, Remin (People) Road. There’s always a ‘People’s Street,’ in a Chinese city! Today, this dirt street, where Indy’s Café is located, is awash in mud! I debate going around and approach on the paved portion. But, I have my trekking boots on, so I ‘walk on water.’
At Indy’s I discover ‘Jesu, Of Our Man’s Desiring!’ (my favorite Bach piece) playing over speakers! I’m amazed! Bach in Kashigar? I explain to Elia, the English-speaking waitress, about J.S. Bach. Of course, she’s never heard of, but this CD (Josh Groban’s ‘Live at the Greek’) turns out to be Indy’s favorite! I’m even more amazed! A Chinese woman who loves Bach! If I were twenty years younger, and not a celibate Taoist priest…
I ask about the package. I find out, it’s not newspaper per se that’s the problem, but the fact that it’s Chinese news (on paper) that’s a ‘no no.’ The Chinese Government doesn’t want you to know what’s going on here, so one of the rules is that you can’t send newspaper, even as packing, out of the country! I look up the word ‘stupid,’ in my English-Chinese Dictionary and point it out to the girls. They giggle!
Indy finds empty boxes and a Chinese coke container to use as light-weight ‘packing material.’ I ‘donate’ the newspaper to the Café.
I’m off again to make my international telephone call to Germany—this to clear up the confusion with Rotraut! I surprise her with the call, but we only talk for a few minutes (as is expensive). We are a mutual admiration society, the ‘Loving Kindness Group’ Fund! She loves me, and I love her! She’s coming for a visit in April. I can’t wait!
I head back to China Post, the third time in one day, and the fourth time total. Unfortunately, now it’s busy, the counter full of customers getting their packages wrapped. I wait and wait, while the Uyghur clerk patiently packs two boxes full of food (everything loose) for an Uyghur women (I chortle to myself silently). A Chinese man appears to my left and squeezes too close. This is when I begin to get pushy myselft (as I only have so much patience). I say something that he doesn’t understand but he gets the idea. It’s not what you say, but the way you say it that counts! People understand ‘energy!’
Finally, after waiting another fifteen minutes I find out I have to go upstairs and have them check the contents, as this is going to America! By now, I’m beyond being patient, I’m just curious to see how all this is going to ‘play out.’ I’m not giving up!
Up stairs is empty, except for two women in a back office. They go through the package, and ask questions. After packing and unpacking and packing this box so many times, it seems like a ‘Chinese fire drill’ (no water pressure)! Finally I get a verbal ‘O.K.’ I’m wondering, however, if I need some paper work to prove. No, just tell the people downstairs it’s ‘O,K.!’. So, I could have acted like I’d gone upstairs, returned a few minutes later and just said ‘O.K.,’ bypassing the check. Bureaucracies always have ‘holes.’ What’s the word for ‘stupid,’ again?
Now back at the packing counter they’re beginning to get the idea that the American man is losing his patience (must be my demeanor). Suddenly, the package is wrapped, signed, sealed, and I’m to deliver to another counter in the rear.
Here, I’ve been so many times in the past few days, they recognize me, and I get the ‘royal treatment.’ But, here I must fill out, not one, but two custom forms. The only good news is that while I’m doing all this I’m befriended by a female Uyghur doctor, who ‘just loves America.’ We chat momentarily about Uyghur music (I’ve explained that’s what I’m sending to a friend in the U.S.). She wants to know why I know so little about it. I respond with an invitation to teach me! Outside, she reiterates I’m to call her for a lesson (having given me her telephone number at the counter).
Feeling ‘desired,’ and free of the package I’m suddenly less disgruntled. However, it’s going to take ‘two to three months’ to get the package to Michael, as ‘surface’ meant via ship (I wasn’t thinking I was so annoyed.). Maybe he’ll get it by next Christmas! Maybe he won’t get it at all! And even surface cost 140 yuan or / $16U.S. (box fairly light too).
What to do now, as I’ve got the package on the way (at least)! Only a couple more tasks, but I realize I’m low on cash. On my list is to purchase another pair of inexpensive trekking pants ($3U.S.) I need more. So, I stop at a Bank of China ATM . Next door I purchase some food-grade hydrogen peroxide (I use as a mouth wash) in an apocathary (another word for ‘drugstore’).
Note: My ‘spell checker,’ says this word (‘apothecary’) is mis-spelled, but has no suggestions!’ If only computers hadn’t been invented by human beings! So, please, one of you ‘human beings out there,’ correct me!
At the clothing stall, I purchase my pants, as in the meantime, I’ve managed to rip the seam in the seat of the ones I’m wearing (getting drafty). I would have changed there, but these places never have any ‘changing/fitting rooms/closets.’ Note, one of the challenges of buying clothing in Asia… You can never try garments on, at the same time you can’t return them either (if you don’t like). So, you better make damn sure they’re right and what you want before you hand over the cash…
It’s now 1540 hours, and I have just the proper amount of time to walk to the Pakistani Restaurant where I’m to meet Ali (my Pakistani friend). I’m also dropping off some books for the female Uyghur proprietor (a woman I met when in Kashigar the first time).
When I arrive, and right at 1600 hours (I’m rarely late for anything, anywhere), the place is empty except for a Uyghur man who recognizes me (and me vaguely him). The TV is blaring a Uyghur or Pakistani movie! I’m happy when he lowers the volume!
I sit and order two cups (they’re small) of Pakistani ‘cha’ (this the spiced tea a la Nepal and India). Note, one reason for going to this ‘dump!’ But, he’s a kind man, like most Uyghur people. The female owner a Uyghur woman I’m helping learn English (the books).
While I’m waiting another man walks in I mistake as Pakistani. Where’s Ali? Not even a telephone call!
If Asians, at least Uyghurs, Pakistanis and Nepalese ever want to know why they’re $ poor, I can explain! Money has to do with profit, profit with productivity, productivity with efficiency, and efficiency with being able to perform the simplest tasks, like showing up for a meeting (and on time). These three ethic groups can’t seem to do this, so it’s no wonder to me!
The cha comes at the same time my attention is drawn to the music behind me (coming from the TV). It catches my attention, so I turn around and discover a male vocalist on TV speakers, backed up by many musicians (a small orchestra). I listen intrigued. It’s a haunting ballad, no doubt about lost love! I ask the man who’ve I’ve mistaken for Pakistani. I ask him, gesturing, ‘A Pakistani man?’ ‘No,’ he says, ‘Uyghur!’ The music continues, me taken with such. When it ends I ask the man the name of the group. Turns out to be (I had him write it down.), ‘Abdul Rahim, and the Uremqi Orchestra!’ So, now when I’m with Dr. Sanam, I’ll mention I’m fond of Abdul!
I order more cha, another two cups, hoping Ali will arrive and drink one!
Instead of Ali, Elvis shows up… Don’t tell me my life isn’t a ‘movie!’ Elvis, a Uyghur friend, seems to hang out here at ‘Alice’s Res-ta-rant !.’ Although he’s always telling me he ‘sees me at a distance,’ and diverts to join. Today he has some ‘big news,’ as he’s getting married. I’m intrigued, as months ago he told me he, at 35-years of age, was looking for a wife. At the time he hadn’t said anything about his first wife!
Interesting… the Uyghurs, who are all Moslems, have a high divorce rate… The Chinese less, as the husbands have ‘lovers’ (concubines in China).
Is there a connection between religion and divorce? I believe there is! Which one is the ‘opium,’ however?
He also reveals some things about himself, which engenders him to me. I had thought other of Elvis!
But, we can’t come to the wedding because it’s to be held (in two weeks) in a ‘military town’ (Shuli, about 30 KM southeast of Kashigar). Something about ‘foreigners’ getting in trouble there…? But, for whatever reason, I’m happy, as weddings are not ‘my thing!’ I’d rather attend a funeral, as they are to me! More children! That’s what we need, more children we can’t feed! More children with no futures! Anyway, I’m happy for Elvis, as this is something he desired. But, now I know he’ll not be able to go cycling with me on his new bicycle! Once a man falls ‘in love’ with a woman, forget it—they’re pretty much lost to their friends. I cite my friend Jim, who was recently remarried! I haven’t heard from him since!
By now, it’s time to go to ‘English Corner,’ at the Kashgar Teacher’s College. Ali has not shown or called! Elvis departs with me, and tells the Uyghur taxi driver where to take me (none of them speak English, few even Chinese).
I arrive at KTC, about 1645, again right on time! I’m dropped at the gate, and have to walk up the long street to the building where ‘English Corner,’ is ‘held’ (met, or however you want to describe this phenomena ). I like being around young people, their energy, and there are hundreds walking to and fro. Spring, in spite of the new snow,’ is in the air! You can ‘smell the sap rising!’ These ‘kids’ are cute too, doing their thing, hustling about, playing basketball, talking with friends, running hither and yon—‘poetry’ in motion!
At the building there is already one Uyghur women waiting! She turns out to be…? Well, I should have written her name down, this cute 18-year old Uyghur girl at ‘English Corner’ for the first time.
All these kids, particularly the women, are shy, yet motivated enough to pursue. Additionally, I know how to put young people at ease (being an acting teacher). Here, however, I’m an English teacher!
Within an hour I’m surrounded by thirty young people! Where is Jason I’m wondering? I’m the only English speaker, so I’m glad I came, lest these kids would have no one! I make a commitment to come every Wednesday evening. But, I’m being selfish, as I get more out of it, than they do!
These kids, mostly Uyghur and a few Chinese, are all very polite, solicitous, and eager to learn--respectful and gracious besides. It’s not like teaching in the U.S. where most of the time, students don’t want to be there (learn) and/or bored and fall asleep on you! These kids hang on your every word! I care about these kids, and want them to succeed!
When it comes to a discussion, why I have no immediate family (God forbid they all lament), I give my now standard spiel. First of all, I’ve been married/divorced twice, but no children. ‘Ohhhhh, sorry,’ they intone as if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer! Especially the women!
But, this is what I respond with, always confounding them. ‘My family is just a little bit larger than yours! It includes all the people in the world! My country is just a little larger than yours, as it includes all the countries of the world! You’re now part of my family!’ But, oh, don’t I want to have children of my own! ‘No! thank you! What do I value? ‘Freedom!’ ‘Ohhhh!’
Just to my left a young Uyghur man speaks up! ‘I disagree with you!’ he says proudly! I encourage such, defusing his argument in the process. I know how to handle such, not about to argue with him. But, I want to tell him, but don’t, go ahead and have many wives and many children… We’ll talk in 20 years, and you can tell me what you’ve learned!
All these Moslem children inculcated with ‘the party line!’ They don’t really know, just like I didn’t when I got married (for the first time) at 22-years of age! Who can at such a young and tender age? I’m just glad I didn’t grow up in a Moslem household!
At 1900 hours, after standing/speaking in a hallway for two hours, it’s time for me to depart. No other English speaker has shown, and I’m ‘spent,’ from the ‘stimulation!’ They as me to define the word! They’re a bright and eager group, the kind I love to sacrifice for. But, again, it’s a selfish endeavor, these ‘English Corners,’ as they make you feel like some kind of celebrity!
On the way, a young Uyghur woman wants to know more about me, about America, where I come from. Earlier I had told the group my ancestors are basically from the U.K.; Scotland. I explain how America was settled by people sailing from Europe, the U.K. I use the analogy associated with Uyghur people who are of Turkish origin. Ah, she understands!
It’s so rewarding when you see ‘the light go on,’ in children’s minds! I suppose it’s the reason some of us love to teach!
I fall into bed at 2100 hours! I’ve been up since 0500 hours, a 16-hour day full of snowy living (dealing with) in Uyghur/Chinese land!
People ask me all the time, what I do? I tell them… ‘As little as possible!’ Today, an example!