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.

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