Tuesday, April 25, 2006

25 April 2006

On the verge of departing for the Taklimakan Desert, some interesting things in Kashigar…

For example, yesterday… Something things good, some things not so good… And such is the nature of Duality.

First in the morning… We (Tom and I) went to the ‘Wind and Rain’ Net Bar as usual…

We were in our private room, working side by side, the masses yelling and screaming outside, some watching a porno (a Chinese girl strapped to a table being gang raped), many smoking cigarettes (wrong kind of ‘tobacco’), and many sleeping (use as a hotel—as less expensive). The typical ‘scene’ at the Net Bar. Note, if the computers and Internet connection weren’t so good, I wouldn’t ever partake of again !

After about an hour, Tom went to his Chinese food stall to eat his Chinese breakfast. I stayed working, as I don’t eat breakfast, beyond a piece of fruit.

They next thing I know is a Uyghur boy is sitting next to me, staring. This is not unusual, as they’re fascinated with me. I say, ‘hello,’ and ignore him. But, he indicates he wants to try on my glasses. I say, ‘no, no, no!’ but relent. He tries on my glasses while I try to ignore him and work. The Uyghur minority, like children to me, and dangerous children. While I’m staring at the screen, doing the usual, he steals my camera, without me knowing such (I had it out on a ledge next to me).

I continue to work unknowingly… When I check he’s gone, and I’m glad.

Tom returns. About the same time two other Uyghur boys (employees of the Net Bar) appear, one I know, ‘Unoose,’ with my camera/case! They explain they’ve run down the thief and recovered it! Proudly, they had it over! I’m stunted. First to have it stolen under my nose, and secondly, to have it returned before I know it’s missing! When I gain my senses, I thank them profusely and give them 30 Yuan (RMB) / $4 U.S. They accept without much of the usual ‘fight.’

Now, most have used the word ‘lucky,’ to describe this event, but I don’t. ‘Luck’ is just a word, but the common definition (some unexplainable good fortune) doesn’t apply. I know what happened… I know ‘we’re’ protected! I know that when people steal from us, unpleasant things happen to them, the Spirit on our behalf. Or, the item is returned, as was yesterday.

We do much good with this camera, taking photographs of people we meet, and then returning to give to them, which they cherish. I’ve discovered this is a wonderful gift to the less fortunate (mostly Uyghur street people). They have few if any photographs of themselves and/or their children, and they are very thankful when you show up with the photograph .

Note, I spent almost six months returning one photograph of two children to their parents, this in Urumqi (see photograph of Tom and the father with photograph, in the Gallery).

Yesterday, after eating at Orda’s (our favorite Uyghur Restaurant) we walked to my bicycle wash, and gave some photographs I’d take of a Uyghur girl, mother, and grandmother. They weren’t there, but their neighbors knew about this, and I knew they’d pass them on.

Thus, the Spirit (‘energy’) wants us to continue to do so… That’s why the camera was returned. What are the odds, of a camera being returned, before you even know it’s been stolen? Huge! Especially, huge in China, Xinjiang, where Uyghur boys prey on tourists (they stole the bicycle pump off Ms. Fiets)!

But, we are so grateful for having the camera returned! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Grateful! Grateful! Grateful! Master! Lord, and God!

Another event that made the day unusual… I was walking to eat at Orda’s, after our session at the Net Bar. This, maybe two kilometers east on Remindong Lu: past Peoples Park, the Ferris wheel, and the lake. I do this so as to give money to the street people (trust me, there are many). We (Rotraut and I) probably donate 100 RMB per day, to all those who need.

I came across a Uyghur man, who I had given to before, his style interesting, as he’s generally crying for help! When he saw I’d thrust 5RMB / .60 cents U.S. into his hand, he was overcome with joy, grabbing me in a hug, repeating ‘Rackmet,’ (‘Thank You!’) over and over. I could have done without the hug, as these people don’t bathe, and his ‘aroma,’ lingering…

I will leave you today with the tenets of Taoism ‘in a nutshell:’

The Way gives birth to one,
One, gives birth to two,
Two, gives birth to three,
Three, gives birth to a myriad of things.

Man follows earth (or should),
Earth follows heaven,
Heaven, follows the Way (Tao),
The Way follows Nature.

Invisible and inaudible,
Mystical indeed is its imperceptibility, joining
The three purities:


Know its workings, observe its profundity, pure indeed is its tranquility, forming the principle of the Way of heaven, earth, and man!

The Way is both the source and the law of all things.

When there is mutual respect of both the subject and the object there is oneness (harmony)!

This source gives birth to existence from non-existence, and to non-existence from existence (Duality). The union of the two is innate.

For Taoists purity is the principle, non-action the essence, and spontaneity the application!

It is a life of truth, and a life requiring the absence of Ego!

Monday, April 24, 2006

22 April 2006 – Kashigar

“On ‘Promises!’ (for Ovi ezine)

‘The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have PROMISES to keep, and miles to go before I sleep!’ Henry David Thoreau

And what are the ‘promises’ Thoreau is talking about? The ‘promises’ to himself to really live! To discover! To find out! To take ‘the road less traveled!’ (Robert Frost). To become who you really are, this is the task!

Why else do we live? To buy a new boat? To have children? To make a million dollars? To travel? To live materially? God forbidden if we do, as it’s a wasted opportunity, a wasted life in my opinion. And granted… ‘The woods are lovely,’ and inviting, this material world, but to live on the surface of things is to hardly live at all.

‘Promises, Promises!’ I think a play/movie by that title! What does it mean?

When people think of such ‘promises,’ they think mostly of some kind of integrity, and keeping (fulfilling) these ‘promises.’ Our parents tell us this is important. But, the most important promises are the ones we make with ourselves: ‘I’m going to…’ ‘I will!’

Don’t let yourself down, or you will forever be unhappy! Keep the promises you make with yourself, and you will be forever happy!

The one promise I made to myself, when I was young was, ‘I will never regret not doing!’ And I have kept that promise! And I am happy at the age of 66-years!

F.A. Hutchison
Kashigar, Xinjiang Province, China”

I don’t know if I’m lucky, but I do know I’m blessed--that the words I chant/pray every morning have come true: ‘…but fear not, for I have redeemed you, you called me by my immortal name, Ahya!’

And if you are interested, ‘we’ can teach you how to do the same… ‘Our’ morning ritual, with several key prayers! ‘In the beginning was the word!’ And true because we create our ‘worlds’ by what we think and say! The meaning we give to the words we choose—our world!

‘Deeply esoteric,’ is ‘our’ Tantric/Shakti Yoga practice! That’s the only way ‘we’ can describe it, almost beyond describing, something you have to discover for yourself. There’s no dogma or dharma. ‘We’ only suggest, guide, stimulate, if you are so interested to learn. For ‘you’ are the ‘creator’ of such. As A. Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge!’

Thus, you must discover there is no ‘I,’ or ‘you.’ Only, ‘We,’ and ‘them!’ You must overcome the Ego (‘I’) first ! This has taken me (and I still work on it) most of my bodily life! But, now ‘we’ understand! And ‘we’ will!

Prepare for your ‘Great Transition!’

‘We’ have learned the secret of the s/ages!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

16 April 2006

Yesterday, we went with the ‘1,2,3, Group,’ to a remote Uyghur village/school—this to donate our time and items for the school children. This kind of trip for the third time, but yesterday I had Rotraut and Tom along. I wanted them, particularly Rotraut, to have this opportunity to participate in this while she was in Kashigar.

We met at Indy’s Café as usual, and then boarded a bus to take us all ( roughly 15 Chinese, one American and one German) to this village, some 70KM northwest of Kashigar. I’ll get the name this time, as I had Tom along, my ‘helper!’1

We had the usual group along, which includes two young girls, but this time one wife, a mother, brought their young baby! And what a baby, one of the cutest little girls I’ve ever seen! It ‘winked’ at me!2

On the way out the usual introductions and performances (usually singing) in the best bus (with P.A. system) we’ve had yet! Plus, a Chinese driver who knew what he was doing!

This was the longest journey and the remotest village we’ve been to so far, the last 20KM on a not-so-good dirt road—we’re talking ‘way out there!’ Several times we had to stop, get out, and fill ditches with rocks so we could get the bus over! See photographs at www.makemagictogether.com / Gallery. Even Rotraut lugged some rocks, as we all ‘pitched in!’

This village so small and remote, some kids went running when they saw our bus, this to alert everyone of our coming!

I had alerted Rotraut beforehand to plan on giving something to the children, so we had gone to the supermarket the day prior and purchased much candy! Then at the school I gave my bag to Tom to distribute. I took their and the children’s photographs3. Of course, I’m not the only one, as they all have digital cameras.

I can’t tell you how poignant doing this is to me—seeing these children! There are special, so innocent and appreciative as to touch your heart (of course needing all variety of things). At one point tears came to Rotraut’s eyes. This when she saw a second older group coming out for their gifts. She realized she had given all the candy to the first group and she had nothing more to offer.

But, this was the first time we stayed after ‘playing Santa Claus,’ and had some classes draw with paper and pencils we’d brought. Note, I’m capturing each completed drawing on film and will be including them in the same album: ‘1,2,3 Group Santa Claus Outing #3.’ Additionally, I may start a WEB site, or include at www.makemagictogether.com If there’s any painting/drawing I’m interested in collecting (helping to distribute) it’s children’s art!4

Additionally, my Chinese ‘partners,’ had brought their portable computers! Wow! No one had told me5, but what a great idea! For these children it was the first time they’d ever seen a computer, and their expressions amazing! And these aren’t old discarded 386s, but the latest portables. For example, one man brought a Toshiba worth $2,000 U.S., this with large ‘letter box’ screen. Of course, they all played demonstration ‘movies’ which fascinated the children.

Miss Hu6, had brought her new Lenovo and was playing music while she demonstrated what a computer can do. All the kids crowded so close, she was forced to crouch on the floor!7

But, the time came to depart after the ‘group shot!’ We always take a ‘family portrait with the ‘faculty’ at the end of our stay. Then we boarded our bus to return to Kashigar.

The children were there waving goodbye! They had all lined up at the fence, smiling, waving, wanting us to know we’d made them a little happier by our visit.

This is incredibly touching scene when we depart, seeing their happy faces! I wouldn’t trade doing this, with the ‘1,2,3 Group,’ for anything I can think of, like climbing Mt. Everest8! These experiences with Uyghur children, my ‘summit experiences!’

On the way back to Kashigar, we got off the bus and walked along the river for five kilometers. I was somewhat concerned about Rotraut9, but she made it in grand style! I was proud of her! She wasn’t really prepared or dressed for a tramp through ‘the woods.’10

On the other hand, it made my day! Being outside in the wilderness, seeing the birds, collecting rocks, the silence, the nearby hills, my idea of nirvana!

We’re having the time of our lives!

Tomorrow, or was it today…? I’m back on Ms. Fiets! I’m finally getting over my cold!

15 April 2006 (Income tax deadline day in the U.S. – ah, yet another reason not to be there: For an expatriate the deadline is July 15th)

A nice ‘treat’ came on Thursday came in the form of an invitation to see a performance of the Uyghur’s ‘Twelve Mukam.’ The ‘Twelve Mukam,’ is a historically famous set of songs depicting Uyghur life (‘The land of singing and dancing.’). Beyond that I’m only beginning to know about Uyghur music, which many westerners come to study.

This was in the main auditorium in Kashigar, and I was interested as the first live performance of anything in China. I’d gone to three movies in Shang Hai, but this was the first live performance, and I was eager to see how this would be organized.

First of all, a very impressive paper invitation. Secondly, we arrived early, probably a mistake, as we had to wait fifty minutes before the performance began. I had been wondering if Uyghur people could organize anything beyond a wedding and funeral (good at both). But, beyond being late I was pretty impressed.

It was introduced by a Uyghur man (lead singer) and a Chinese woman (who returned to introduce every act). There was only one snafu with the sound system, as the performance moved along with alacrity (for two hours)!

The music has an Asia influence, unlike China—the top-tapping kind (makes you want to dance). The dancing has a Middle Eastern and Russian influence. There was one ‘belly’ dance by a pretty girl who jerked her hips like a whip. The costumes are definitely original and authentic, so bright and colorful. The girls glided around the stage like moving flowers, their long braids whipping about, the boys athletic and shiny faced.

Several dances had the same ‘theme,’ that I noticed in Nepal, this when one girl is pursued by many boys. Always the girl playing ‘hard to get,’ the boys clumsy and shy! Generally, in more primitive cultures you have these naïve ‘themes.’ Of course, when the boy trips or is rejected, the audiences laugh!

Rotraut, being a ‘romantic,’ was ecstatic! She truly ‘loved it,’ and now wants to take home to Germany some Uyghur music.

Two distinctly ‘Uyghur’ characteristics… People walk right on stage and hand the performers bouquets of flowers. There was little applause after each dance.

There was too much talking in the audience. This annoyed Rotraut. But, as I tried to explain to her, with less sophisticated audiences, more talking! ‘This is not Germany,’ I told her.

That night was ‘Movie of the Week’ night at Indy’s Café. Indy had chosen an American-produced film entitled, ‘Mirror/Mask,’ a surrealistic dream of a young girl during her mother’s cancer scare. This not unlike ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ only to wake up with mother well! The FX were terrific, but a case where the parts didn’t add up to a ‘whole.’ What was it about…? Some type of ‘maturation piece’ where the protagonist, the young girl, learns something (of which I don’t know except maybe to appreciate more). This coming out of the Jim Henson1 organization. I noticed his wife was the ‘Executive Producer’ (watching the money).

Now, ‘going to’ a movie in China/Asia is different in the West. This was in English (not normal), with Chinese subtitles. And thus it certainly didn’t ‘hold,’ the Chinese people watching. The ‘attention span’ of people everywhere has been greatly shortened (over the past fifty years). People can’t concentrate for very long on anything, although Tom hung in all the way (Elia was interested but having to work).

Additionally, there are too many distractions when watching in ‘public’ circumstances (in all cultures). The Chinese don’t turn off their mobiles, and of course, there’s a constant ‘ring,’ of varying flavors, people departing with mobiles to ear. People don’t arrive on time, thus the coming and going. At Indy’s you can hear the music and people talking in the adjacent room. Since I’m a serious movie watcher, I’m going to use earphones next time. I had trouble hearing the English dialogue.

The ultimate solution for me… A computer with a DVD player. Then I can watch in the privacy of my own room.

Yesterday at Indy’s Adam came with his ‘Rawa,’ a string-Uyghur instrument sounding like the American banjo. He met R.B. and played for her right in ‘Hutch’s Corner!’2 She bought him a Tsingtao beer! I abstained!

It’s taken most of my life to overcome alcohol and drugs, now the next is sugar!

‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last!’3

13 April 2006

Ah, the tourists, like migrating birds, are back in Kashigar… Interesting… As soon as the weather is warmer here they come in their bright-colored clothes and backpacks. One, could spot them from a kilometer away! Even the aroma around them is ‘sweet’ (form bathing too much).

We’re launched a marketing plan for Indy’s Café (to capture their attention)! Turns out the brash young, American, Adam, had some good ideas for us, and has even played a balalaika and Uyghur instruments at ‘our open mic’ night (Tuesdays). So once again Haqi has to ‘eat his words,’ for being too quick to judge! One of my many foibles! Ah, always the Ego (I) the problem!

All the ancient and modern ‘religions,’ and/or philosophies are correct about this (although Christian/Judeo never mentions such), but the Ego (I) is the thing to overcome (control) in this life time! And you do this by becoming more conscious of it, and controlling (‘stepping on it’ the Buddhists say). Once the Ego is overcome, you begin to merge with the ‘All,’ or that ‘thing’ that has a thousand names! We call it the ‘Tao,’ some ‘God,’ some ‘Shiva,’ or ‘Buddha,’ here for the Uyghur people it’s ‘Allah!’ But, it’s all the same!

Think about it! People die fighting over a word! It’s all the same thing! No, no, my ‘God’ is better than your ‘God’ (word for)! It’s unconsciousness! Jim, wake up! It all has to do with consciousness!

The Christians call it ‘Jesus!’ No, no, they don’t like ‘Buddha!’ But, the Buddhists and the Hindus allow for ‘Christ!’ Christianity, the most immature and insecure of the religions!

The Dalai Lama, when asked what his religion is said, ‘kindness!’ That’s what ‘religions’ should be about! Helping!

I notice that the Uyghur people in Kashigar don’t help their own kind (walk the streets of Kashigar and you will see). When asked about that, the subject is avoided… So much for their religion!

We’re not much into ‘religion,’ but ‘spirituality,’ but again, just a word! We’re a ‘mystic,’ and as a child knew better to get involved with religion, where a ‘middleman,’ interprets and intercedes between you and ‘God!’ I thought to myself, only 14-years of age at the time… No, I prefer to go directly to it! Thus, we became a ‘mystic.’ What is such? Someone who goes directly to the Source, without a book! Someone who develops a relationship with this ‘Source,’ with no help from a priest, minister, or other ‘guru!’ Someone who develops their own ‘religion!’

And this is us!

We are a practitioner of Tantric and Shakti Yoga, but a version of our own:

Our chant: ‘You are the Divine Lover and this is spiritual intercourse, supreme bliss, the union of compassion and wisdom, unconditional love!’

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

10 April 2006

It was two years ago this very day, that I met Rotraut Boyens in Husum, Germany (lost around Husum). I’ve written about this, so no need to go into detail, except she told me it was the Saturday, before Easter. I remember spending the next day, Easter Sunday, in a restaurant/bar with two German women. This, in Gluckstadt, Germany. At that point, I had a few more rivers to cross before getting into Holland. In the meantime, I luxuriated in Gluckstadt, thanks to Rotraut, Tim, and Petra.

Now, some two years later, here Rotraut and I are together in Kashigar, China… Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined. And thus, my life so interesting!

Today, I met a Chinese woman, who can help with my visa renewal! Again, how mysterious the ‘Almighty’ works. We’d been looking for a solution, and right under our noses… She’s a friend of Indy’s, from Kashigar, but working in Shang Hai. And guess who for…? The PSB, the Chinese Police. During our discussion she’d given me a hint on how to get a long-term visa: buy a house, and have a job! So, I’m considering buying something, rather than renting. The job comes with starting www.makemagictogether.com

Besides, this is a lovely, young Chinese woman who wants to help me/us… I’m so blessed as to hardly understand!

She told me a sad tale about a friend, getting an opportunity to go with her boss to the U.S. (on a business trip). The woman, her friend, is an English translator (her boss needed along). But, the U.S. turned down her visa application for three stupid reasons: She’s not married, has no house, and not much money in her bank account.

How stupid the U.S. Government has become, ‘dumbed' down’ in the Bush years (of hate and violence). But, I told her… Maybe your friend is lucky! This is not a good time to go to America! This is not a good time to live in America! I sympathize with all my America friends who are stuck there—they don’t know (no comparison)!

I’m fighting off a Spring cold (sat next to an open window at the Cyber Club in U.), this one in my lungs… Coughing, phlegm, and sneezing! It’s been a long time since I had a common cold (virus), and not liking it! Of course, I know how to get rid of it, but, Xu Tan (Tom), thoughtful soul that he is, found some medicine for my cough. Elia has the same infection, so we shared some with her today! So, we’re getting better!

It’s the polluted air in Urumqi! Now we’re breathing better air here in K.

I also met ‘Adam’ at Indy’s today! This a brash American kid, from New York State! He won some kind of scholarship, he keeps telling me about. He’s the kind that knows everything, so don’t bother telling him anything. Being around him I’m once again reminded why I don’t want to live in the U.S. anymore. I’m just glad I don’t have to be around people like Adam, at least most the time.

At Indy’s he was upset he couldn’t get a tuna-fish sandwich. Oh so sorry, Adam, I think you should return to the U.S. for such, and as soon as possible! It’s embarrassing for me to be around these kind of people, in front of my Chinese friends. How do I explain? I just ask them to forgive such behavior! I wouldn’t trade one ‘Tom’ for one million ‘Adams!’ No sir!

On the other hand, Adam, full of it, had some good ideas for the café (how to attract anglo tourists), and he’s even playing some music tonight, as a part of our ‘open mic’ series. Thus, you finally realize, you never really ‘get’ anything without ‘paying’ in some way!

After walking today, R.B. had to return abruptly to our hotel. She’s a side effect from some heart medicine she takes, that causes her trouble when travelling.

I could cure her heart problem so easily, if she had discipline (motivated). But, there’s the ‘rub!’ She says she’s ‘lazy!’ First, she’s overweight which stresses her heart. Secondly, her diet in Germany, too fatty obviously. If she could just change her diet and exercise, her heart problem will ‘magically’ disappear. Yet, she chooses to take a pharmaceutical drug that is basically a diuretic.

But, to each his/her own life, as they have the responsibility for… I never try to intervene, only to educate . We’re all different! I always tell people who ask… It’s your body, your life (or lack of), you do what you want (as long as it doesn’t affect me)!

My problem is constipation, caused by a fatty liver (too much alcohol/sugar when younger). If I could just stop ingesting sugar, I’m sure better I’d be for. But, I’m addicted in the same way R.B. is addicted. I don’t take pharmaceutical drugs, but I take a host of other things to help, herbs in particular.

And I’ve found something, that has made a huge difference! In fact, it’s dissolving the ‘moles,’ on my skin! Moles are the small black repositories of toxins that develop when the skin can’t excrete. But, Yigan Kang, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (herb combination) is dissolving them.

Now, my moles (I have many on my face) have never bothered me per se, although sometimes they itch. But, if you want to shrink them take Yigan Kang .

I got the word back from Xiao Xiao, the Chinese woman (English name ‘Stiphy,’ which I’ve never heard of) who works for the PSB (Chinese police) in Shang Hai (but in Kashigar on vacation). I basically have to become an ‘employee’ of our company www.makemagictogether.com and then I can change visa type, and get my visa extended for the length of my ‘employment contract.’ Additionally, the ‘trick’ is to buy something to live in, not rent. So, I shall be pursuing both of these. Ah, tricky business dealing with any government in any country. The ‘visa game,’ I call it (note earlier story about the Chinese woman the U.S. rejected).

We live in the era of ‘government,’ (lack of consciousness, when people think they need to be ‘ruled,’ or allowed such)—thus, the sad situation the people of the world find themselves in (as governments have become ‘predators.’ ).

My idea of utopia is an existence where government (nor money) isn’t needed, where consciousness is so high it’s not needed. Well, don’t hold your breath for this one! It ain’t happened in the last one million years of development… No chance, for another ten million years, but the human race will never last that long! So, the dictionary definition of ‘utopia?’ ‘No place!’

We had a meeting with Miss Hu, and got a better idea of our trip through the Taklimakan Desert. It turns out to be expensive, however, something like 2,200Euro, or about $2,500U.S. This because we want a car and driver with us all the way (some 3 weeks). Additionally, it’s also because we’re travelling like ‘tourists,’ something I rarely do (wouldn’t except for Rotraut). We have to budget roughly 2,000RMB 200E / $250U.S. for tourist sites and guides alone! China makes billions from tourism!

But, for Rotraut this is a trip of a life time, and basically she’s making possible… So, we will spare no expense. I may never travel this way again.

In the meantime, I do things like buy bicycles for Tom and Elia, and a portable computer for us to use on the road. We also have to buy some camping gear (tent, sleeping bag for Tom, stove, jacket for Rotraut, etc.), as we’ll be camping out at least one night in the Taklimakan Desert.

I’m still suffering from a ‘cold,’ and yesterday it rained , which didn’t help me much to walk around in! But, I’ m taking more and more of the stuff (called ‘Banlangen Keli’) Tom bought for me. Unfortunately, it smells like wet dog hair mixed in water and tough to get down!

But, we get more and more motivated the greater we suffer. I’ve swallowed many things in my lifetime, ‘figuratively,’ and ‘literally!’ Try, for instance, what’s called a ‘liver flush.’ This very good to flush out the gall bladder. You mix the juice from one lemon with a crushed bulb of raw garlic (to get the oil), and all mixed together in a glass of olive oil! Try getting that down some time! But, boy does it work well!

How has modern medicine become such a money maker (1 billion per year in the U.S.). Easy, they promise you the ‘magic bullet,’ (something that tastes good too). Something that doesn’t require you to change your life style (what good health is). You pay ‘out the nose,’ not to have to change, not to have to be disciplined, not to have to not whatever (like smoke cigarettes)! And thus they get richer, we get poorer, not healthier in the process! This amazing to me, that people can be so stupid! Then again, I once was!

Jim, I’m afraid it all has to do with consciousness!

Monday, April 10, 2006

09 April 2006 – back in Kashigar, at the Xinibagh Hotel

Where were we…? In Urumqi…

My Uyghur friend and cycling partner, Mamat had invited us for lunch in the best Uyghur restaurant in U., the name in English meaning, ‘favorable wind!’ I’ll get it in Uyghur language, but always this problem dealing with so many languages… If I don’t write the word or name down immediately, gone with the wind!

We had bought his wife and son gifts, as it’s the only way you can reciprocate with Mamat… He won’t let you pay for anything! I fight with him all the time about this, but because he can speak the language, the waiters and clerks listen to him and don’t take my money!

Can you imagine in the West where a friend would never let you pay anything, at restaurants, at hotels, at stores… Maybe sometimes reciprocal or ‘Dutch treat,’ but never all the time. This is the wonderful difference between the West and East… Here, generosity and integrity rampant; still a way of life! They will go the way of the West eventually (because of capitalism), you can see the ‘greed’ developing. But, for now, like America was long ago! I’m glad I’m here in China now, in another ten years not so nice!

Afterwards, sans Mamat, we walked to a nearby museum, the ‘Xinjiang Silk Road Museum.’ R.B. had mentioned a ‘Chinese Art Museum’ she wanted to visit, but Mamat had checked on it via telephone and not open at the moment.

This museum was more of the history/culture of Xinjiang Province, things related to Marco Polo’s ‘Silk Road.’

Most of this we walked through quickly, as there was much to do that day, the penultimate day before departing, but there were several memorable things in this museum. Like being the only ‘tourists’ in the museum (two floor, thousands of square meters (it was small and cramped but vacuous)!

One item we discovered, a bell which Xu Tan and I rang! I love bells, gongs, chimes, etc.—the sound! This one was heavy and with a low sound! The sound of a bell, ‘clears’ the air of negativity and brightens the mind.

There was a large, life-like sculpture of a primitive and ancient camp site. A ‘fire’ blazed with people gathered for food and celebration (see the photographs at www.cyclingpeace.org / gallery). The men had long rod-like, erect, penises. This I thought interesting, as maybe the life-like sculpture depicting some fertility rite.

We discovered that Xinjiang has many extant, life-size, stone figures, many up around Altai City (in far north Xinjiang near the Russian border).

There were enlarged photographs of a Uyghur boy being circumcised. Note: There were three overtly sexual things in this museum, all of which R.B. and Tom, didn’t notice (or if they didn’t want to comment).

The last, a metal sculpture, I was very much interested in as it depicted the male-female union of compassion and wisdom. When I tried to explain this to R.B. and Tom, no response. I guess they might not know how to comment on such… What do you say to a sculpture of man and consort in sexual union (with people you don’t really know)? Especially if you know nothing of the mythology of such. So, I ventured no further down that ‘road.’ But, I think the sculpture is from India. I haven’t seen anything like this in China before discovering it in this museum.

On the way out they asked us to sign their ‘guest book,’ and here I commented on the erotic sculpture by mentioning the ‘union of compassion and wisdom!’

We took a taxi up to the Giant Bicycle Shop. One of my tasks was to purchase some helmet ‘inserts .’ These no available in Kashigar. At the bicycle shop we ran into Mr. Zhou, the leader of the ‘Urumqi Elder Bicycle Group!’ This the second time in one day, as had run into him on the street. What are the odds in a city of four million inhabitants? This is the man we’d met at his flat to discuss forming a similar group in Kashigar, and wanting a version of the Urumqi organization’s flag. He’d given me his own which I have proudly on Ms. Fiets!

Here at the Giant Shop, I also ran into the Chinese man (Mr. Zhou’s associate) I’d cycled with to camp out in the desert last August. I didn’t recognize him right off the bat, but he did me! (For some reason people always recognize me—a white face in a sea of Asian ones!) And he went on and on about that trip, which took us up into the Gurbantunggut Desert (begins 100KM north of Urumqi). This was a wonderful experience for me, the first time camping out in China, plus in a place so remote, there was no sound but the birds and the wind. There were wild egrets, that I tried to photograph, but could never get close enough (see attempts in www.cyclingpeace.org / gallery.

They, the two Chinese men that I had gone with, spent the night in one of the abandoned yurts. I slept outside (under the stars--no tent), on a pallet of some kind of wooden fence pieces. The most amazing thing was we just happened to camp out on a full-moon night! I’ll never forget it, the moonlight, the sky, the experience! I watched the moon traverse the sky, getting little sleep in the process.

Anyway, all the Chinese man could talk about was the fact, I wouldn’t eat anything but ‘zhau fan’ (rice pilaf) during the trip (2 days). It’s funny what people remember! But, we laughed about it! I’m always happy to make people laugh, for whatever reason!

Then on to the final task of being in Urumqi, finding my Uyghur family, the one I’ve tried to deliver a photograph of their children to, for almost one year! Stupid the first time, I was there, but without the photograph. Then I had left the photograph with Dilmurat in his flat when going to Shanghai! This time I had it, but wasn’t sure where their house was, really a shack, on a main Urumqi street not far from the RR station. But, I found it and delivered the photograph to a man working there (I hope some relation)… He seemed to remember, but the children and the rest of the family not there! I just hope the mother gets to see, as a stunning photograph of two happy children (I took a photograph one day as passing by.).

Note, if there’s one gift you can make to people in Asia it’s a photograph of them. They love it, probably not having one!

The next afternoon, we departed Urumqi on the train, taking #946, the ‘fast’ train which departs at 3:50 in the afternoon. Because of R.B. we had booked a ‘soft sleeping berth,’ which I’d never been able to afford before! But, wow! What a difference, and from now on, that’s the only way for me!

First of all, there’s only four, rather than six berths and a door you can close (shutting out all the noise and noisy people). Secondly, there are other amenities, like an electric outlet for computers. Ultimately it’ simply more comfortable, with less people (50) per car to contend with (100 in a hard-seat car). So, from now on, regardless of the cost!

I also discovered this is the way to meet ‘government people,’ as they ride ‘first class.’

We met a most interesting Chinese man and woman travelling to Korla and Aqsu (two large cities on the way to Kashigar). They both work for the ‘Testing Department’ of the Xinjiang Provencial (Chinese).

The man is a practicing Buddhist, who tried to teach R.B. sitting meditation. I wish I’d had a camcorder as it was a delightful moment (she was too tired). Additionally, he’s the only Chinese man (so far) that has mentioned the forbidden two words, ‘Dalai Lama!’ His ‘master,’ lives in Sichuan Province, and he knew the ‘good way!’ I got this Chinese man’s name and contact information, as he wanted me to visit Yunnan, Sichuan, and Qinghai Provinces, places where ‘Tibet’ (had extended to at one time), and places he said were ‘very, very good!’ Ironically, he was fond of both Henri Bresson, the photographer, and Frederich Nietzsche the German philosopher. Who would have guessed? He could even sing a song from the Beijing Opera. I think he a most unusual Chinese man!

The train ride (some 23 hours) was memorable as this was both Tom and R.B.’s first on a Chinese train, and going to Kashigar. Out the window to the south, the great Taklimakan Desert (we’re going to go into to from the south), to the north, the Tian Shan (mountain range).

It was the best train trip I’ve had so far, but happy to see Elia’s smiling face as we climbed down out of car #6. And with a driver to help with our luggage.

Ensconced back in the Xinibagh Hotel, I told my Chinese friends, I feel like I’m ‘home!’ Amazing!

Om Shanti!

∞Æ ¡˙

Saturday, April 01, 2006

31 March 2006

Yesterday, what a perfect example of the ‘Lion-Lamb-March Weather Myth,’ being true! These are the kinds of things I’m am a close observer of…Nature. I don’t watch the weather report on TV. I observe the sky, the clouds, the birds, the trees… They’re a much better prognosticator, if you’ve observant.

Thus, the 1st of March I observed the weather in Kashigar, which was mild, warm and Spring like. I made a note to do the same at the end of the month, as in ‘If March comes in like a ‘lamb,’ it departs like a lion,’ and sure enough it happened that way this year in Xinjiang Province, China. March came in like a lamb and left like a lion! A storm blew into Uremqi and dumping a couple hundred millimeters of snow! This reminding me of how, at the same latitude in Colorado halfway around the world, it can do the very same thing (late winter snow storm). It started with rain in the morning, but turned to big flakes coming down most of the day! I loved it! Now, the hills west of Uremqi covered in a new clean white dress!

‘Snow,’ in Pinyin Chinese is ‘yue,’ the given name of my friend Ms. Zhao in Shang Hai. But, try to pronounce this…? In Chinese, ‘¬? Maybe… Again, the daunting part of learning the Chinese language… ‘Yue,’ being a homophone , can mean several things like, ‘learning everything,’ depending on how it’s pronounced.

‘Yu,’ (‘yue’ without the ‘e’) means ‘rain’ in Pinyin Chinese. But, it too has many meanings depending on the pronunciation—‘yu’ another homophone.

Thus, my Chinese friend, James Zhu and I are writing a book about the Chinese language entitled, ‘Chinese, the Language of Homophones.’ Think about it, and a fact that initiated my interest… 1.3 billion population, only 400 syllables in the language! That’s one syllable for every 3,250,000 people! Whereas, English has thousands of syllables. Thus, no need for so many homophones!

I find the Chinese language interesting, even though I can’t speak/write it very well! Maybe too late for me to learn at 66-years of age! The number ‘6’ lucky in Chinese—maybe the reason for my having such good…?

By the way, with no ‘religion’ (per se) in China, the Chinese tend to be very ‘superstitious’… Interesting… If no ‘religion’ in a culture something else, in this case ‘superstition.’ People always have to deal with the unknown, something that governments, no matter how hard they try, can’t eradicate. People have to find some way to deal with the unknown.

We’ve (Tom #1’ and I) have been having a wonderful time in Uremqi.

Speaking of ‘superstition’… Was I ‘lucky’ to meet him, or was this by divine order. Chinese people would probably describe it as ‘luck,’ but I believe the latter. He’s the young ‘assistant’ I’ve been looking for, for the past twenty years! Someone, bright, reliable, even caring. He does everything for me, spoiling me of course. He wants to carry all my burdens, take care of all the details… He won’t even let me pay him (although I do)! I’ll soon grow dependent on him! ‘Where’s Tom? ’ When he wants to carry my packages, or backpack, or whatever, I try to explain to him, ‘I appreciate very much all your help! But, what if you’re not there? In the meantime, you’ve weakened me. If you’re not there to carry whatever, I’ll be less inclined, or unable to do so myself. So, please, let me carry and do whatever! When I’m too old, then yes, I’ll need your physical strength!’ He understood, a very bright and handsome young Chinese man!

Girls, you’re missing out (check out his photographs at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery ‘Tom in Uremqi’)! Xu Tan, is his name in Chinese, and originally from around Xi’an, one of China’s most well known cities because of the Terra Cotta Soldiers (Museum now).

I’m very impressed with the Han Chinese, of which Tom is one… The ethnic groups, not so much: same old cultural ‘problem’ when working with them: more interested in ‘singing and dancing,’ than being on time—basically unreliable! All of this based, not on prejudice, but on experience, having been in China almost one year.

What have Tom and I been doing in Uremqi, besides preparing for Rotraut’s arrival on April 1st? Just having fun, basically! Of course, there are some tasks: giving money to beggars on the streets, getting my Toshiba repaired (ah, success!), shopping for another computer, getting online (at Cyber Club), eating, meeting friends (or trying to), taking care of all the things I had on my list to do in Uremqi. One was speaking to my Chinese friend Mike Lei’s son’s class .

So, last Wednesday, Mike drove Tom and I to the ‘Uremqi First of August Middle School.’ I was to give a ‘lecture,’ to some English classes (although one is never quite clear after a Chinese explanation). We were early and walked around the campus, more like a ‘Junior College,’ than a ‘Middle School,’ for one thing with an enrollment of 10,000 students!

Many were playing basketball (now with Yao playing for the Houston Rockets in the U.S., very popular), table tennis, and I saw one group of girls playing ‘Blind man’s bluff!’ I suppose there are computers in the school, but these kids don’t need expensive toys (the hoops have no nets). I noticed the tables for ping pong, ‘nets’ made of metal (to endure no doubt).

We entered the main building, a huge modern structure, where we were to meet the ‘Head Master.’ There we were greeted by Chinese students on each side of the door, one side female, the other male, bowing simultaneously as we passed. Can you imagine this in the U.S.? Such respect?

I followed Mike up and down many stairs, and into many hallways. Finally, we were ushered into the Head Master’s office, a commodious affair of some import (very well furnished with art on the walls). This middle-aged Chinese woman, smartly dressed in long skirt and short hair welcomed me in good English! She explained about the classes, which I had imagined smaller, but should have guessed… Everything is large (‘big’) in China!

When the time came we walked down many more halls and climbed more stairs until I was directed into the ‘standard’ classroom, but this one packed with teenage students (male and female) dressed in their ‘workout’ uniforms. It had a podium on a dais, with green (not black) board.

Wow! Suddenly I was faced with over 60 young Chinese, all eager to hear from me! ‘Luckily’ (I wonder if this is the proper word?) I have much experience teaching, and so no problem. Once I’d been introduced, I told them about me, my cycling to China, why I was there, about America as they’re very curious and soon there were hands up, wanting to know. And their English was good enough in most cases to understand. The only problem I have is hearing them, so I either went to them, or asked them to come closer.

They were attentive and respectful, and most unlike any class in the U.S. where you have to demand or cajole teenage students to listen. Best of all they asked intelligent questions.

One I won’t forget… This after my explaining about me: Why I wasn’t married and have no children of my own. That what is important to me is ‘freedom,’ not a family of my own. This struck a ‘note’ with one boy in the back, and he came alive. He explained that I must be ‘the God,’ and came to write such on the board. I was amazed, as he articulated that he felt the same way, but no one understands him! What a moment! I was so pleased as this is what I’m trying to do, empower youth--to help them express themselves, no matter what!

And I was honest about America, the war in Iraq which I oppose, and the reason I will never be returning (to the U.S.). Of course, this amazed them! ‘What? Never return to the land of your ancestors?’ Unheard of, as they can’t fathom such! Why? I tried to explain, but mitigated it by saying I am ‘bored’ with American culture (the truth).

I explained my diet, and the fact I’m a vegetarian. All of this they probably had never heard before from any adult, an American no less!

One girl asked me if I knew about Mao Zedong? Actually, I may know more about him than they do, as when I mentioned ‘Mao’s ‘Little Red Book,’ none seemed to know. However, my host knew, Mike Lei, but he’s 43-years of age (can remember the old China). I also mentioned Deng Xiaopeng (to me the ‘Father of Modern China’).

I explained I am a Taoist and about Taoism! Again, amazing to me as I’ve discovered I know more about Taoism than most Chinese (at least the multitudes). No one had heard of Lao Tzu! However, when I drew the symbol of ‘yin and yang’ on the board, they recognized it, exclaiming loudly!

About Confucius (different word in Chinese) they seemed to know little. Then explaining one of his tenets, that: ‘People should not talk while eating!’ they didn’t know how to respond (as they probably can’t fathom). Thus, I acted out young, modern Chinese rushing about focused on their mobiles while eating and talking simultaneously! Of course, this got a laugh!

I’m combining-describing both classes here, but there were two separate, the second a walk from the first. Actually, I appreciated the second class better, but I can’t tell you why… Maybe they were more attentive, and maybe there were better questions.

One student asked me about acting, if I was a good ‘actor?’ I responded by saying, ‘You’ll have to be the judge, as I’m ‘acting’ now!’

But, two classes 45-minutes in length each is enough for this old man. Teaching, ‘acting’ in front of people requires much energy! So, when music played in the hall outside, ‘the bell’ indicating the class was over, I was glad!

But, here’s the difference between classes in the U.S. and China. Had this been the U.S., there would have been an explosion out the door, at the first sound of the ‘bell!’ Here, they didn’t move until officially ‘released,’ by the Head Master.

Students in China have been trained to be respectful of teachers, and/or speakers, and I so appreciated. You go ahead and teach in the U.S., I’ll teach in China any day and for free! Note: Mike Lei had asked me about wanting a fee for my time. But, I said ‘no thank you,’ of course, honored to be asked.

And the most amazing thing of all of the experience! At the end of the second class I was literally ‘mobbed’ for autographs! This has never happened to me before , thus somewhat disconcerting, as I didn’t know what to write. Then I got the an idea and wrote the following, maybe twenty times or more, ‘YOU WILL SUCCEED! HAQI’

Back in the Head Master’s office she gave me a small gift, a pen (knowing I am a writer!). Her parting words to me, ‘You are always welcome back here, at ‘Uremqi First August Middle School!’ I told her I would return for more, this after renewing my visa in June (one never knows about renewing visas in any country).

How wonderful the Han Chinese are! I am happy in China, particularly Xinjiang Province!

(‘Haqi,’ one of ‘our’ many names!)