Monday, May 29, 2006

28 April 2006

We’re on the train from Kashigar to Urumqi, having just departed 20 minutes ago (1407)…

In this compartment (car #6, berth 37-38), what the Chinese call a soft-sleeping berth, it the ‘lap of luxury!’ The cost from ‘K-town’ to ‘U-town’ is 529 RMB or roughly $60U.S. for a 1,600KM, overnight trip. What would this cost in the West? Much more! But, whatever the cost here in China it’s worth it. I’ve done the ‘hard-seat’ number (cattle car) and trust me, at my age this is the way to go for many reasons. For one thing you can close the door and block the noise (incessant in China). Other amenities include more space, lights, hangers, hooks, music from speakers, and a carpet on the floor. You can always tell 1st class in China, there’s carpeting. The lower the class, the more primitive the flooring. We also have our own controllable, air-conditioning vents (it’s warm now in southern Xinjiang, maybe 32C). There is also an electrical outlet, which means I can use this old Toshiba, once again—to write this (a first for me, writing with a computer on a train). Most laptops have a battery, and this one does too, but only good for one hour at best.

One wonders how many times I’ve pounded on these Toshiba keys, maybe a million! But, they’re still working, like the John Cameron Swayze Timex watch of old! Toshiba, it’s hard not to buy another one, they are so durable! I’ve had three so far! The problem… ‘Windows,’ the software!

And what a send off from K-town we had! All of our friends accompanied us to the RR station: Miss Hu, Indy, Elia, and in Xiao He’s Santana, the one we’re so familiar with now (having traveled 4K KM in the Taklimakan Desert). In addition, my favorite mountain climber of the ‘1,2,3 Group,’ was waiting at the RR station as he works there. And because this guy has some ‘clout,’ we were definitely treated like ‘VIPS!’

First, we couldn’t carry anything (I’m getting royally spoiled!), secondly we were taken to lunch and it paid for, then we were escorted onto the train. Imagine all your friends taking off work for three hours, this just to see you off on a trip! They might say wish you well at a party, but to take off from work so long…? I doubt it! I’ve never been treated as well as I have, as in China!

What a week in Kashigar! This between returning from our driving trip, and now on the way to Shang Hai. There was much to do, from getting online, seeing friends, to cycling.

I was desperate to get back on Ms. Fiets, as hadn’t cycled for one month. So, every day we (Tom,’ Elia and I) went for a ride. Ah, strange that being on a bicycle gives me such pleasure…

I’d had the major parts replaced with Malaysia Shimano (at the Giant Bicycle Shop), and was interested to see how well it worked. Pretty good, but not as good as Melvin de Vries in The Netherlands and Shimano from Japan! Melvin’s a bicycle genius! And Holland ‘heaven’ for bicycles! But, even in Holland they buy Japanese Shimano!

All three of the rides we took weren’t less than 40KM, and one with ‘Tom’ alone was grueling (60KM in two+ hours). I found out I wasn’t that far out of shape, and only my lower back became sore. Ms. Fiets… She did pretty well with her new gear! At least the pedals don’t turn when you walk her!

To me, sitting in an automobile for hours is more grueling than riding a bicycle! But, most people don’t understand! Automobiles are the illusion of power and freedom, and the advertising works with the unconscious.

I long for when we will run completely out of oil, and that day is coming… I probably won’t be around to see, but it’s coming. In the meantime, the honking madness of Asian street traffic—Kashigar the worst!

The best hot-water showers in China are in the Xinibagh Hotel in Kashigar! But, nothing is perfect! In my room the TV didn’t work, nor the bed light. They promised to fix, but of course it wasn’t. I didn’t really need as I didn’t have any book to read (like reading in bed).

But, the disturbing noise! Same old problem! ‘Rucha,’ next door, her doorknob sign said it all: ‘Do not disturb!’ the ‘not’ being crossed out! And they do!

First, in this particular building at the Xinibagh, the washing machines are old and make a terrible racket. One wouldn’t mind if at 1000 in the morning, but at 2200 hours? On the ‘spin’ cycle they vibrate the building. You think it’s an earthquake!

Additionally, one night there was a terrible fight, screaming and banging for two hours (12M to 0200). This fight, we found out later was caused by some Chinese from Beijing who had had too much to drink, and as you might expect… a woman was involved! ‘Tom,’ called the police, but they made him hold up the telephone to hear the racket! They must get a hundred calls per night for ‘domestic violence,’ so this is their solution… ‘Let me hear it!’ They came!

The week went by at the ‘speed of light,’ culminating in a ‘going-away’ party for Rucha. This we had at ‘Bai Hua Cun,’ a Chinese restaurant.

I had invited two of my Uyghur friends, but they didn’t come. One, didn’t even call me to explain! The other I wrote about in a previous, BLOG entry.

But, we ultimately had 12 people, representing five different countries! That latter is what pleased me the most! China, of course, had the largest representaiton, but we had people from the U.S., Germany, Japan, and Pakistan too. No Uyghur people! ‘There will be spies!’

One of my reason d’tre’s is getting people together! And if any two groups in Xinjiang need to get together is the Chinese and the Uyghur. They’re like the whites and the blacks were in the U.S. fifty years ago! ‘Never the twain shall meet!’

But, the party was ‘grand,’ as everyone seemed to have a good time! When I host a party I’m very observant, and can tell instantly, mitigating if things seem not to be going well. But, I was pleased, as the various cultures, not only got along, but mixed well, learning about each other in the process. This is good!

If we could just overcome stupid (mostly religious ) customs, we’d be able to make some progress… We might even have a lasting peace (‘he ping’ in Pinyin Chinese, or: ∫Õ ∆Ω ).

Note, the sidewalks in Korla, and Luntai (we just passed through), are covered with tile inscribed with the Chinese characters meaning ‘peace!’ Is there any city in the U.S. that has the word ‘peace’ thousands of times on its sidewalks? If so, I’d like to hear which one? I’ve seen the words, ‘peace,’ and ‘love,’ (in public places) more times in China that any other country I’ve lived in!

Across from me, lying on her bunk, ‘Rucha,’ like a ‘beached whale!’ She’s terribly overweight still, even after I’ve walked her so much. On the other hand, she’s one of the most generous and thoughtful persons I’ve ever known. Maybe the two go hand in hand? She laughs at the ‘drop of a hat!’ They say fat people are ‘jolly,’ and she’s proven this is true! But, I wonder about the connection between ‘fat’ and ‘generous?’

Rucha’s constantly pleads being, ‘lazy!’

What is laziness anyway? Maybe the desire not to exert? I don’t know, I just know I’m not anything like ‘lazy!’ Had I been I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, on this Chinese train, the Taklimakan Desert blurring past out the window! I’d be back in Tucson, Arizona, selling real estate, or insurance. God forbid!

My life is about accomplishing things! I don’t know if this is bad or good—I haven’t done much? The Buddhists would side on ‘Rucha’s’ behalf, as they say all ‘striving’ is futile! But, I’ve learned that being in the ‘middle’ is best… A little ‘striving,’ and a little ‘laziness!’ But, in my case I have to work on being ‘lazy!’ And ‘Rucha’ has to work on being a little more motivated! She’s dissipated her body to the point of having a ‘heart problem.’

We’re on our way to eastern China, with stops in Urumqi tomorrow, and Xi’an on Wednesday. We arrive in Shang Hai on Friday, a six-day trip from Kashigar and Shang Hai, some 4+K KM.

There’s nothing much in Urumqi, as having been there, but Xi’an is new to both of us and the home of the world famous (all Americans know), ‘terracotta soldiers!’ This the buried legions of Chinese emperor, Chin Sh Huang. Since this might be the only opportunity for ‘Rucha’ to see, I thought we should stop for a day, and partake of.

Luckily, Tom’s older (pregnant) sister lives in Xi’an, and this makes it easier, as she has helped with information. We arrive Wednesday night late, on Thursday drive an hour to the site, and then return to catch a train bound for Shang Hai the same day. But, I can only imagine what this, most popular tourist site in China, costs. If the ‘Ti’anshan Mysterious Grand Canyon in Xinjiang Province cost 40RMB / $5 U.S., per. I can only imagine that the cost will be 200RMB / $25 U.S. for ‘teracotta soldiers!’ ‘We’ll find out!’ ‘Rucha’s response to any unknown situation.

Thus, the ‘slide show,’ I’m producing is entitled, ‘We’ll Find Out!’ We’re taking the 1,500 photographs I took during our three-week driving trip, and turning them into a ‘slide show,’ (like a ‘movie’ for the uninitiated) to be ‘saved’ and distributed on DVD. Thus, ‘We’ll Find Out!’ will soon be at your ‘local theater!’ Sorry… No sex or violence, however!

In the meantime, ‘Thank you very much!’ another of ‘Rucha’s’ favorite sayings. And she’s said this at least one thousand times since we picked her up at the airport in Urumqi (April 1st).

‘Thank you very much!’ to all our friends, from all of us!

Haqi (‘Rucha’ and ‘Tom’)
On the train near Kuqa.

26 May 2006

‘Guess who’s not coming to dinner?’

Oh, the poor Uyghur people, trapped in their tiny cultural ‘box!’

We were organizing a dinner party, a going-away one for ‘Rucha’—this as we leave for eastern China on Sunday (May 28th). I picked Bai Hua Cun, a Chinese restaurant, as most of the guests were Chinese. But, I invited a few Uyghur people and one Pakistani friend, Ali, as well.

One of my functions in life is getting people, of varied groups, together—always and forever trying! In the U.S. is was black and Native Americans with white people. In Nepal it was people of different castes. Here in China it’s minorities with the Han Chinese (the ‘Anglo Saxons’ of China).

Elia brought up the issue of the restaurant being inappropriate for Uyghur people. I said, if they don’t come for whatever reason, it’s a lost opportunity for them (meeting Chinese and foreigners).

I had invited one of my Uyghur friends, a young man who speaks English and needed to be at this dinner party as it would help his career. When I informed him we’d be going to a Chinese restaurant he was instantly reticent because of ‘his religion’ (just like Elia had anticipated). I tried to explain it’s good for the Uyghur and Chinese people to get together, that he could bring his own food, or just drink tea if that was the objection. Now, I don’t think food was the issue, as he revealed some sad things about his situation… He said ‘spies’ would be there! ‘Spies,’ at a going-away party for a German woman?

It seems the Uyghur people don’t trust anyone, this young man going as far as saying he didn’t even trust his parents sometimes! I responded with, ‘But then, what good is your religion?’ Of course, he couldn’t answer, as he doesn’t really understand his own religion. He just does what he is told. And sure enough the following day, after asking his parents, he declined.

Can you imagine not trusting your own kind, particularly your parents? My God, if this is what religion is all about, we’re in a ‘heap of trouble!’ Of course, I see this on the streets of Kashigar everyday—it wasn’t a surprise actually: And guess what…? We are in a ‘heap of trouble!’

It’s the ole ‘divide and conquer’ here in Xinjiang, and it works! The Chinese and the Uyghur people… Never the twain shall meet! Thus, the tension, suspicion, and resultant segregation (lack of opportunity for the Uyghur) continues! ‘There will be spies!’

What the Uyghur people need to do is ‘get in bed with the Chinese!’ Figuratively and literally! How great if they intermarried! And what would have been the danger of coming and having fun at a dinner party? Ah, they would have realized there not so different from the Chinese!

I’m disappointed in the Uyghur people! They have stolen things from me, they are unreliable, and now this. It’s no wonder they are poor, and suffering! The worst… They don’t take care of their own! All you have to do to realize this is walk the streets of Kashigar, like I have in the last six months! There are Uyghur bodies everywhere! There are Uyghur beggars everywhere! Worst, I rarely see Uyghur people giving them money! ‘Rucha’ and I, walking the streets, give Uyghur beggars at least 100RMB every day ! And when I mention this to my Uyghur friends, that they should take care of their own, nothing, no response… silence!

‘Silence is golden,’ as a rule! But it’s also, in the response to a question, revealing! It’s admittance that they don’t know what to do. or care, or whatever… So, the Uyghurs continue to suffer in south Xinjiang!

What to do?

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers!

What to do?

Perfect ourselves first, sacrifice for others, and don’t try to change the world! The latter… Up to God!

A slalom alaikum!

Peace be with you!

Friday, May 26, 2006

30 April 2006

FOR THE NEXT 22x (days) OUR TRIP AROUND THE TAKLIMAKAN DESERT/Xinjiang Province, China:

After much planning, we (Rotraut Boyens, ‘Tom,’ Xiao He, our driver, and me) departed Kashigar to investigate the Taklimakan Desert (southern Xinjiang). NOTE: ALL OF THESE ‘JOURNAL ENTREES’ (formerly known at ‘The Daily Dosage’) IS AFTER THE FACT, THUS IN PAST TENSE.

We loaded up Xiao He’s ‘Santana’ (Volkswagen) with all we thought needed, including camping gear. It was too much as always but Xiao He squashed it all inside his trunk somehow. But, we had to keep our backpacks up front with us.

Toby Wheeler, our American friend from Alaska, saw us off giving us a parting gift of some ‘nan’ (Uyghur flat bread). He and his friend ‘Indira,’ were visiting Xinjiang, China from nearby (500KM) Biskek, Krygyzstan.

We’re off at 1000A.M. right on schedule. Ah… ‘Prior planning pays off!’ An old Army admonishment! And so true!

We took highway #315 east, bound for Hotian, via Yarkand (Sarchen in Chinese ). The highway, in contrast to #314 (we cycled down from Urumqi to Kashigar last October), is in disrepair, thus bumpy. Xiao He had to slow way down (at my ‘suggestion’).

About 50KM southeast of Kashigar is ‘knife village,’ (I call it as can’t remember its name.). It’s where are made the famous Uyghur knives. Not interested in knives, I can’t tell you much about them, just know there are for sale everywhere in Xinjiang Province .

Not too long after ‘knife village’ we passed a lake on the right. Then the desert! There are deserts, and then there are deserts, and this part of the Taklimakan is one of those… We’re talking not much of anything, not even sand dunes, just flat nothing, too barren to support any flora! An endless hazy brown as I remember.

I never knew there were so many shades of the color brown until I came to Xinjiang Province.

Thus, the landscape becomes ‘brown bleak,’ when the ‘chamal ’ (desert wind) blows… The feeling of being in a gray-brown cloud, as there is no horizon (earth and sky blend together).

After two hours of driving we stopped for a break, and it so happened this by a rushing canal (brown water). But, I feasted on the sound! Rotraut sat in the shade, ‘Tom,’ the ‘rock hound,’ searched the bank for rocks, and Xiao He, got bored. I did the ‘W.C. number’ behind an abandoned adobe ‘house.’ Just before departing I took a photograph of the group with some Uyghur men who had grown curious of us.

Yarkand, only 180KM east of Kashigar turned out to be a ‘city!’—similar to Kashigar, but even older. If you’re a ‘city,’ you get a Bank of China branch. If you’re ‘old,’ that means an ‘Old Town’ (Uyghur section).

After several tries we found a very good hotel, set back from the madding streets. This hotel wasn’t approved for foreigners, but they took a chance and we were glad as it was quiet, clean, comfortable, and inexpensive (80RMB per)—it had a good hot water shower for one. We ended up staying two nights as I was trying to recover from a cold.

We also partook of the history, visiting the tombs of Uyghur royalty. Amanisahan for one, the woman (‘great Mukam master and queen’). She lived from 1526 to 1560, and is acclaimed as being the one who collected the ‘Uyghur Twelve Mukam ,’ which China considers, ‘one of the priceless treasures of Chinese culture.’

We also visited, on a very warm day, the adjacent ‘cemetery of kings’ which began in 1533, this after ‘buring’ (burying) the Sultan Saidhan, the founder of Yarkand (Saidiya Dynasty, 1514-1682).

Next door is the Altan Mosque built by Sultan Abureshidhan, the second emperor (son of Saidhan), the Mosque completed in 1533A.D.

But, as always what thrilled us were the street children in ‘modern’ Yarkand. Additionally, we were invited into a Uyghur house, and offered tea. This an example of the kind of hospitality the Uyghur people display. Can you imagine walking the streets of New York City and being invited into a person’s flat? I’ll take Xinjiang (China) you can have New York City!

Back in the hotel without English books, I took to watching Chinese television. On the ‘Movie Channel’ I watched a Chinese movie. I also discovered that the U.S. corpo, Johnson and Johnson (New Jersey) is one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, 08.

China is being ‘anglicized!’ via TV. And if you think America is the bastion of capitalism, you should visit China!