Going home...

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hawaii lately. It sounds kind of silly because I’ve never actually been there, but I’ve been saying to friends since I was a kid that I was going to live there when I grow up. I think I’d make a great citizen of Hawaii; I grew up on an island, I’m a fan of Hawaii 5-0, I’m eager to learn Pidgin and I want to become a surfer. I have a fondness for shave ice, and enjoy hot weather, swimming pools and beaches. My dream career (besides cold noodle stand operator) is surfer by morning, shave ice vendor by day. I’ve even looked up graduate programs at several schools in Hawaii. They’re not very highly rated, but for an excuse to live in Hawaii, does it matter?

I’m going home in ten hours. I’ve been trying not to count the time all day. Finals week was tough as usual, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the American university system and grading on a curve. Each class has an exam, and each exam requires a good long cram session. I’m taking seven language classes and three culture classes. I’ve written four fairly good sized papers in the last two weeks and started an online science class. Everyone I’ve met here wants to take me out for a farewell dinner and give me small gifts to cram into my overstuffed suitcase. I’d love to have dinner with everyone, but the fact of the matter is that I just don’t have the time. The most important dates I had crammed all into two days. Yesterday I went to lunch with a student and a couple of hours later went to an SU hosted banquet. Today I ate breakfast with one friend, lunch with another and dinner with yet another. Despite this there are still a number of people I would have liked to see before I left. Even if we aren’t best friends, saying goodbye gives me a sense of closure for this year.

I’m happy and I’m sad to be leaving. I’m really excited to get started with my life in Seattle again. Living in China feels like I’ve been living in some sort of alternate universe where everything back home remains exactly the same. It’s hard to believe that my house has been remodeled, my sister had a baby, and my friends have made all new plans for the upcoming year. I’m excited to start school again, although I’m worried that credit transferring, language assessments or something else will not turn out as I like and end up requiring more time from me. I’m also excited to start working again, but am dreading the application, interview and first day of where ever I end up.

I started videotaping China this past week. I suddenly felt a bit of regret that I had not taken any footage of day-to-day China, and wanted to make up for it. I also regret that the journal I tried to keep barely passes page twenty. There’s just so much you can write about and so little time to do it! How do I explain the oddities of China life or the aspects of living in China that grate on my nerves? How do I explain just how delicious and fun it is to try new foods, or just how strange some of our travel adventures have been? What about culture? We talk about cultural differences all the time here, weird things we run into or situations we can’t get out of. We can talk endlessly about China while in China, how am I supposed to share all my thoughts on paper? That was fun, this is weird, I really hate it when they do that, it’s delicious!

Having an entire year to think about future plans has left me feeling up in the air. Perhaps if the time were short I would just make a decision and be done with it. Do I want to stay in China? Yes. No. Do I want to come back? Yes. Do I want to go into business, government, language or none of the above? Yes. No. And then, what about sign language?

I have ideas like moving to Hawaii and opening a shave ice stand. When it comes down to the reality of my idea, I can see myself doing it but not for a long way off. Real life things like money and grades and resumes and jobs and experiences and contacts tend to get in the way or alternate the course. But then, just maybe, I’ll graduate and meet someone who is willing to teach me the secrets of the shave ice business and surfing. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.


My last adventure on my last full weekend in China

We've been talking for weeks now about making a trip out to the small city of Lezhi for a visit to a traditional soy sauce factory. We read about it in a book somewhere and it sounded like fun, if not a little weird. Last time the group decided to go, the bus hit a motorcyclist and everyone ended up turning around. The blood and guts ruined all the excitement for us.

After discovering that there are in fact two Lezhis, we opted instead to make a trip to Zigong, home of China's salt mines.

Our first stop was the salt museum. It wasn't too exciting, but I did get some nice pictures:

One of our professors made the trip with us, and after the museum visit he insisted that we find Zigong's most famous traditional mine. The Shenhaijing mine tourist trap was located in the middle of a sprawling mass of currently operating salt mines. Rusty pipes and cinderblock buildings surround the tiny complex. We forked over twenty kuai for an English speaking guide (versus ten kuai for one that only speaks Chinese). She first took us to the standard "famous pictures of dignitaries who have been here" room and told us over and over again that we must "enjoy the photos."

The coolest part of seeing Shenhaijing was seeing where the salt is boiled down from the brine. This part of the tour, athough neat, was only set up for tourist's sake. The pillars of salt sat in one corner of the room, and we were all invited to taste it. Then we were hurried to the gift shop for some overpriced bags of table salt.

By far the best, best, BEST part of the day was the famous Zigong dinosaur museum. I'm pretty sure most of the bones in the place were replicas, and the open air dig site looked suspicous too. The place even tried to knock off Jurassic Park, take a look:
But unlike at Jurassic Park, the gift shop was only too happy to sell some dinoham.
In the middle of the museum there was an electronic dinosaur who for five kuai would poop out a dinosaur egg. I didn't have any money, but I conned Sarah into buying one. It took several tries to get an egg out, but in the end it was totally worth it.

We also found these funny named dinosaurs:

And while there I gained some architechteral inspiration. When I grow up I want my house to look like this:


It's been a long time!

Wow, I didn't realize it had been so long since I've written last! These past couple of weeks have been crazy, and the next couple of weeks will be too. I'm taking final exams next week and am trying to finish up three papers, pack, see all my friends and go home! I leave here on the fifteenth, so I now have less than two weeks left!

Despite the short time I'm still up for some Chinese adventures, although my motivation is waning. Last week Sarah, Deborah and I decided to go and get a "cupping" massage. We all went out to dinner and while we were talking, someone began to discuss the funny bruises they had seen on one of the locals. We'd all heard of "cupping" before and seen the marks on people to know it was more than just a crazy Chinese myth. Suddenly it hit me-- we had to go and try this before we left China! I turned to Sarah and mentioned the idea, thinking we would put it off until another date when we had summoned up sufficient courage to go. Another person at the dinner table piped up and mentioned a massage place nearby where they had been once. Before any of us could chicken out, it was agreed that we would go as soon as the meal was done.

Stuffed full of Chinese food, we waddled on down to the twenty-four hour massage parlor. The place itself was kind of shady, the front room was full of massage beds laying end to end. We were taken out the back door, and then up to a small apartment that had been converted to a massage parlor.

The massage itself wasn't bad. It definitely wasn't a massage for comfort, it hurt. The cupping was preceded by a treatment called "gua sha." Basically, after the massage the masseuse scrapes your
back with something that looks like a shoehorn. He scrapes long
enough that after a couple of minutes, we all had stripes across our backs that still haven't healed. After this was completed they brought out glass bulbs
which they lit a fire inside to suck out the oxygen. About a dozen
bulbs are placed on your back suctioning up your skin and leaving HUGE
round bruises. Sarah and I returned home that night and looked in the mirror; we looked like victims of torture.

Despite how the pictures look, it really wasn't painful. It was awkward and weird, but definitely not painful. I woke up the next day pretty stiff and sore, and we've all been wearing tee-shirts instead of tank tops to hide the extent of our injuries.

We rode home from the 24-hour massage parlor in a massive lightning storm. Perhaps God was trying to tell us something...



I bought this a couple of days ago. I'll just post the pictures here and let you all check it out yourselves. I've been trying to find a watermelon knife for several months with no luck until last week.

I'd venture to say this is my greatest purchase in China. My new watermelon knife actually has several functions. Although the
label says it's only for watermelon (right next to the company slogan,
"Resist the Germs!"), I think Sarah and I have found several other
creative uses:

Thanksgiving- No longer will you have to lean over your guests to
carve the turkey at Thanksgiving. You can handle this family tradition
from the comfortable distance of two feet.

When grandma comes over and needs a little help carving her steak you
won't have to get up and walk over, just whip out the watermelon knife
and presto! It's taken care of.

Ribs- For that time when you must barbecue the entire rack at once.
Flames a little high? That's okay with the new watermelon knife. You
can seperate the ribs into portions from your lawn chair.

Besides these functions, it's just great to have a knife that cuts
through a watermelon in one slice. No more sawing action to get all
the way through, this baby makes one clean cut.


Marriage Market

In my Chinese culture class we discussed marriage and dating in China. Our teacher mentioned that at some parks small marriage markets are set up for singles to find potential suitors. Each "market" is set up by the parents. Advertisements stating things such as job, hobbies, and what that person is looking for in a mate are strung up along clothes lines just far enough apart for people to walk through the aisles.

The other day several of my classmates and I decided to take a trip to the People's Park; a large wooded park in the center of city. There just happened to be an activity day being held at the time. Nearly every corner was packed by crowds of people singing karaoke and dancing. Public exercise and dancing is big in China. I know of two places near my house where hundreds of people gather faithfully every night to dance. It's not much on style, mostly arm flapping and shuffling of feet, but it looks like everyone has a good time.

Anyway, the entire park was packed with dancers and singers. One crowd was doing a group sing-a-long. A small band sat on stools in the middle of the pack, while audience members shared song books.

At the marriage market, dozens of parents were milling around looking at future daughter or son-in laws. There were no young people. My classmate Deborah and I decided we would peruse the aisles for future husbands. I stopped and looked at one description just a little too long. An older couple walked over and in proud terms started describing their son to me. He speaks English, has a good job, lives in Singapore. This couple was so intent on telling me about their son that I literally had a hard time walking away. All I could think about was how sad it would be if my parents tried to sell me at the marriage market.

That night I called home just to make sure.

Life as usual...

There's a tower in Chengdu that looks vaguely like this: I don't have a picture of the actual tower, but you get the point.

Since the first time I saw this building I've wanted to go up in it. As I've mentioned before Chengdu is entirely flat, so finding a view is difficult. For months I've been bringing it up to people in hopes that one of us will remember to make the trek on a clear day. Finally I had the opportunity to ask a group of Chinese people whether or not they had been in the tower and how much it cost. Everyone stopped their conversation and just stared at me.

"Why would you want to go up there?"

"I don't think people are allowed up there."

"There's nothing for you to see."

"I don't think you can."

"Why do you want to do that?"

I was really startled! Did these people really mean to say that the television tower, with all the windows and come-to-me tourist appeal is actually off limits? Did they really mean to say the television tower isn't a tourist trap at all? Why in the world would you build it then?!

I have no conclusion to this story except to say that I have yet to go and try my luck at getting up.



Life has been rather slow lately. With my homecoming just over a month away, I'm finding myself increasingly anxious about the amount of stuff I need to finish, and at the same time losing motivation to do it. My weekend has dragged by while I sat on my floor and tried to finish a paper. I'm out of practice and the topic is boring. Inbetween the paper and surfing the internet, I found time to write up a script for a skit I have to perform in my spoken language class.

Other useless stuff is killing my time too. I'm still working my way through a large stack of classic novels I bought at a sale in Shanghai. English books are hard to find in Chengdu, and those that are here are both pricy and old. Why Chengdu bookstores sell only the classics I'll never know. Chinese students of English should be offered a selection of easier to read novels than those that even native speakers struggle with. Anyway, that's a topic for another time.

The most exciting thing of my week was the discovery of a HUGE cockroach in my house. It was nearly two inches long, the kind of thing you only see in movies. I've seen these things roaming the street before, they're a type of free-range roach. I saw it just as I was about to run out of the house for class. I realized I forgot my phone so I ran back in my room to find it. When I did, I saw the beast crawling slowly across the floor. After the initial shock (adrenaline rush turn into flight or fight mode) I grabbed a shoe and squished it.

I was in denial about it all morning. In class I reported to my friends that it was a "huge bug" that caused me to be late. I don't have cockroaches in my house. We're fairly clean and there's no other evidence of infestation. Whenever I do see cockroaches in China-- in hotels, buses, or in apartments, they're always the small kind. Like I said this was a free range roach, not a resident.

When I came back that afternoon I was determined to do a massive cleaning of the entire house. If any evidence turned up I was going to buy roach motels by the dozen and then spray the entire house with roach killer and let it settle while I went shopping. When I went to clean up the original "giant bug" it was still moving. That was the moment my denial changed into acceptance. There was a roach in my house and he was going to die.

Thank goodness nothing else turned up. I've been keeping a tight watch on things all week, and I've concluded that my roach came in through the window when I wasn't looking. Nothing to be worried about. Nothing.


Post office adventures

I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago when it happened, but I've been busy doing everything except blogging. As we leave in just over a month, Sarah and I have been getting things ready to pack and ship home. She bought a basket that she wants to send to a friend, but it's too large for a carry-on, and too awkward to check in. We decided that we would take her pile of stuff and my smaller pile to the post office to send it. We'd heard that if we send it the cheapest way home-via boat, then it would take two months.

The problem with sending stuff from a Chinese post office is that you have to buy the box from them and then have your things hand searched before they are sent off. This means that anything you want to send has to be small enough to fit in the post office boxes, and you must be ready to unpack for the search.

There's a post office about a ten-minute walk from our house. As with everything in China, sending our stuff was bound to take several trips over several days' time. We finally found an afternoon when we were both free to make the hike and buy the boxes. When we got there, we asked for a couple of their largest boxes. When the woman brought them out, we realized they were not large enough to send the basket. We explained that we wanted to send the basket to America and asked what we should do. At first they just stared at us, finally after some negotiations they agreed to mail the basket so long as we found a larger box ourselves. Fine.

The next couple of days were spent searching for a large enough box to fit all of Sarah's stuff. I was successful in packing what I wanted to send home into my smaller box, but still had some left over for another trip later. Several days after acquiring the box, Sarah and I took off carrying our loads down to the gate of the apartment complex. The boxes were so heavy that by the time we got there, we were drenched with sweat. Fortunately the complex guard guys keep a shopping cart at the gate for just such an emergency.

We hauled our stuff down the road, the shopping cart squeaking and people staring the entire trip. We pulled up the post office a while later and shoved the cart up against the side of the building to keep it from rolling away. As soon as we walked in the front door, the same woman from our last visit announced to us that they did not ship internationally. What!?

This is such a good example of China. She could have told us the first time that they don't ship internationally when we were buying boxes and asking about shipping to America! But no, she waited until we followed what she told us to do, took an afternoon off and made the haul. No amount of complaining would do the trick; they we're under no circumstances going to send the boxes. Needless to say, I was not happy.

A couple of days later we brought our boxes down from the apartment (again!), found the shopping cart, received the warning from the guard guys about not loosing it and started walking in the other direction to another post office about a mile away. Again everyone was staring at us. People slowed their cars to gape out the window, and those in the bike lane were nearly the cause of several accidents themselves.

We made it to the post office in one piece. Most importantly though, no one was killed along the way.

Sarah's box is obviously not standard issue and the woman balked when we told her we wanted to send it. She was certain that it was against the rules and could not be done. Rather than take the complaining method to get what we wanted we went on the offensive. We began to argue that because the other post office directed us there, they had to send it for us. She countered that they didn't know what they were doing and were just trying to get rid of us.

"But we believed them!" Sarah countered. We were not going to leave until something got done. We argued in circles for several minutes, she telling us there was no way, and us asking what then we were supposed to do. After some time passed and we still hadn't left, she gave in and agreed to send the boxes for us.

If I went to a post office in the US and was told I couldn't mail a particular item, I would just accept it as law. In China, my feeling is there's an excess of rules and nobody knows them. They'll tell you something is against the rules, but the feeling is clear that they are just making it up or are acting on a vague notion of what the rules might say. What is this?


Strange happenings at ChuanDa

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I were taking a walk between classes. Our class break normally coincides with the break the elementary students take at the grade school next door. When we leave our classroom we are forced to wade through packs of kids on our way to get a snack or something to drink. The kids are pretty fun to watch. Their class break is preceded by the blasting of the national anthem over a loudspeaker. The older kids then march off to play on a track while the younger ones stay inside the school grounds for some "exercise." What they really do is flap their arms around and sometimes kick their legs to the sound of someone shouting off the count of eight over and over again. The counting is done with the help of a megaphone, and as though that weren't bad enough, music plays over the school's loudspeakers at the same time. I heard that their exercises are actually designed by Beijing, and every grade school kid in the country participates in the same workout. I can't verify the truth to this, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Anyway, this blog isn't about kids and flapping arms, it's about something else we saw while walking one day:

As we were walking, we began to hear a low rumbling sound in the distance. As we were walking past a particular alley way we looked up just in time to see a wild herd of college students running at full tilt in our direction. Nobody was stopping, old ladies were dodging out of the way, bicyclists were turning away from the crowd and people like me were looking for the nearest cover. All the students were wearing bright colored Sichuan University tee-shirts. Some shouted slogans as they ran past, and others carried large banners. What were they doing? No idea.

Living in China is interesting: although I'm seeing a world I've never seen before, my own personal world feels very small and confined. Parades and other happenings are always a surprise to me. My life and base of knowledge is so completely out of sync with the Chinese students that I just have to resign myself to the fact that I know very, very little about what's going on most of the time. I guess that's what makes it interesting though. If I knew everything that was going to happen, I probably wouldn't last very long here.



I've been working on that last post for over a week now, but everytime I tried to post it the entire internet nearly collapsed. When I'd finally finished writing I tried to add some pictures. About half way through the post, the picture button on Blogger stopped working. For the past couple of days I've been trying to get it to work with no luck. In the end, I posted it without everything that I wanted, averting a global internet disaster.




I've been putting off this blog all week just because I know it's going to be long and I have other things to do. The weekend is finally here, and although I still have a couple of midterms, things have slowed down for a bit.

Xinjiang was a ton of fun. We've been talking about going to Xinjiang ever since we walked into a Xinjiang restaurant and ate dapanji-big plate of chicken. The grilled lamb kebabs found nearly everywhere in Chengdu cemented the deal. We had to go.

In both October and May there is a week-long holiday in China. Nearly everyone has the time off, (although they are forced to work the weekends to make it up) and they often use it for travel. Traveling is insane; the trains are packed, the airfares are high, and the buses are stuffed to the brim with workers and students returning home. Although taking the train would have been cheaper, we couldn't afford to spend three days on the train each way. In the end, we opted to fly.

Flying to the capital of Xinjiang, a city that looks just like nearly every other city in China, takes well over three hours. We arrived in the evening, grabbed our bags and headed out to catch a cab. We'd been warned that cab drivers in Urumqi were notorious for their bad practices, so when we asked the driver to use the meter we weren't surprised that he ignored us and only after some badgering did he comply with our request.

After checking into the youth hostel, we headed out to the night market. Our guide book listed this as one of the only things to do in Urumqi, and added that it was not to be missed.

The night market stretched down a narrow road for about six blocks. Every stall sold some sort of kebab, and many more additionally sold noodles, yogurt, naan bread, and other treats. I love Xinjiang food...

The next morning we met up with some other foreigners we had met in Chengdu. They have been living in Xinjiang for nearly a year now, so they were familiar with the layout of the city and could give us some advice. Our first order of business was to take a trip to the train station. We wanted to get on a fast train to Kashgar. While we were standing in line, we met another European foreigner. He looked like one of those rejected by the West types. He was drunk, dressed in Hawaiian garb, and had a girlfriend young enough to be his daughter. We told him our destination, and he commented that ha ha, if we find Bin Laden, ha ha, we were not to turn him over to the Americans, ha ha.

No fast train tickets were left, the only train that we could get took over twenty-four hours.

The entire trip is made through the desert. At times you can see ruins of some homes or a small town just off the horizon. At others, dusty mountains tower over the tracks. The ride was hot. Every hour or so, we would open the windows to let fresh air in. About ten minutes after that, a Chinese person would come along and close all of them. Sometimes it was justified; the wind would blow and all the passengers would suddenly be covered in a layer of dust. But most of the time it wasn't justified. It was hot, and the open windows helped a lot. This opening and shutting of windows went on all day, all evening, and all the next day until we finally pulled into the Kashgar station.

The hotel we were booked into claimed to be the sight of the former British consulate in Kashgar. It’s hard to know what to believe, the place looked just like every other building in China, and the interior was most definitely a hotel. The hotel was comprised of several cookie cutter buildings, all with different names. The building we stayed in was called the Qinibagh, the one across the way had the word “International” written in English, and the word “Friendship” written in Chinese.

Because we’re all poor students, we opted for a three-bed cheap room. We didn’t know this until we got there, but the place we were staying in was under construction. It was obvious when we walked in the doors that something was amiss. All the lights were out, and you could hear workers banging around with their hammers and things. When we stepped off the elevator, we very nearly walked into a bucket of paint. Everyday we had to walk over piles of newspaper on the floor, duck hanging wires, and avoid piles of debris to get to our room. The electricity was iffy, the wall had a hole in it, and the water only had two temperatures: scalding and ice.

We decided to check out the night market and see what we could scrounge up for dinner. As usual, everything was delicious and we got to try several things we’d never had before. On our way back to the hotel, Sarah and I passed a shop that was selling fur hats. The best ones they had were hats made from sheep. Not wool hats, sheep hats. I tried to resist buying them, but the urge was too great. I’m sure you’ll agree they were a worthwhile purchase!

Our last stop before turning in was at a small stall near our hotel. The vendor was making a drink out of yogurt, honey and ice, which he mixed expertly by flicking his wrist causing the drink to splash up and back into the small bowl. While we were drinking, an English-speaking guy approached and introduced himself as a tour guide. I thought he was going to try and sell us one of his tours, but nope, he just wanted to warn us to eat something hot afterwards otherwise would be spending the whole night puking. With that friendly reminder, he trudged off into the night.

Our first full day in Kashgar was spent at the morning market. The city isn’t very big; everywhere we wanted to go was within walking distance. The morning market was a covered market, and nearly every stall was jammed with prayer rugs and hajib scarves. We spent a lot of time just wandering around looking at all that could be had. The biggest mosque in China is located in Kashgar and in order to visit we were told that we would have to cover up. Even though there was a huge selection, most of the scarves weren’t that pretty or just didn’t suit our tastes. The women in Kashgar dressed differently than the women in other parts of China. Some women wore more rustic looking traditional clothes, but more often than not, the women were wearing gaudy, loud, neon colored, sparkly dresses. I couldn’t figure it out; here these women were going about their daily routine in ugly sparkly dresses! I wish I had taken more pictures of this; it was way too funny.

After making all our purchases, we decided to walk to the mosque. On every street corner, people were selling fruit and spices that we don’t see in the rest of China. There was a ton of pomegranate merchants, most of them making juice out of the fruit with large, spiky contraptions.

The mosque itself was rather small. At the entrance there was a sign talking about how wonderful China is for allowing freedom of religion, and how the minorities all sought unity with Beijing and the country at large. This kind of propaganda was everywhere in Kashgar (which ironically is home to the largest statue of Mao in the world). Xinjiang is not one of China’s happiest places, but yet if you believed everything that was written, you would think it was paradise.

We booked a tour with our hotel to Karakul Lake and the Stone Castle. Included in the tour was a “home visit.” Also included was a stay in a yurt at the lakeside. The guy who booked our tickets had a friend who let us stay at his place, bypassing the tourist yurt-motel area and the accompanying fees.

The next morning we got up early and drove several hours to a small town called Tashkurgan near the border of Pakistan. On the way, we had to stop and go through a Chinese checkpoint. No pictures were allowed, but vendors had already sought out the lonely spot and were selling their wares.

The Stone Castle is located just outside Tashkurgan’s small downtown. A total of maybe a dozen buildings housing grocery stores and restaurants were all that was there. In the far corner of the town was the ruin of what we were told was Stone Castle. I really have no idea what this fortress was; I’ve searched the internet and haven’t turned up anything useful. Needless to say it was fun poking around and looking at various rocks and animal bones at the sight. Sarah and I both found cool rocks, something we’ve been doing since the beginning. From the castle sight, you could look out into a valley where a dozen or so yurts were located. From my spot on the hill, I could see a small soccer game taking place and people outside all engage in various activities.

That afternoon we were taken for the home visit part of our tour. I was dreading this part of the trip, the whole thing sounded hokey and contrived. I wasn’t disappointed. We were led by our tour guide to a mud house down at the edge of the valley. Several women sat outside in traditional clothes working on some crafts. Another women held a baby (I’ll show you the picture in the next post, I don’t want to horrify you all when you’re half way through the blog!), and a small boy stood shyly by his mother. The oldest women invited us inside to take a look around and ask any questions if we had them. It turns out that they were the perfect, China-loving, communist family. On the walls of one room, pictures of all the past communist leaders were displayed lovingly. The visit went from awkward to really, really awkward when the tour guide decided to stall us until the hour was up. Finally, we left.

That night we stayed at Karakul Lake. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves as to the beauty of this place. Several hundred feet down the shore was the yurt motel. This is where I thought we were going to be staying, but because of the tour guide agreement/shady dealings we ended up staying in someone’s home. They cooked dinner and breakfast for us, and made up beds when it was time to sleep. When we first arrived, we asked where the bathrooms where. The tour guide laughed.

The next morning the ladies who made us breakfast treated us to the obligatory sales pitch. They laid out their jewelry and hand made crafts, while the tour guide acted as interpreter. Even though the price was jacked up, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to refuse these ladies. I’m such a sucker.

A little later that morning one of the yurt neighbors came by trying to sell us sheep hats. Along with the sheep hats he had some made from unknown animals. I asked what they were, but he didn’t seem to know. One hat looked particularly familiar. When I was a kid, I owned a tabby cat named Silvia. This hat looked just like her! I know it’s a little gross, but at the time I thought it was hilarious and so I asked the guy if he had any others. He then invited us to his house where we sat and waited for his brother to go and get them from another yurt neighbor. I’ll let you all know I bought two of them, and they are kind of gross.

We stayed at the lake one night, and the next morning headed back to Kashgar. Again we spent the day checking out the sights of the city, although this time we made a special stop to a Taj Mahal-style mausoleum. That night we stopped again for a bowl of yogurt/ice drink. As soon as the vendor saw us, he put a cassette tape in a small player and began to play Uyger pop music. Then he wanted to dance. The small benches were pushed away from the stand, and the music was cranked up. Then he began to dance. Soon a crowd had gathered and he was inviting us to join him. The dancing included a lot of walking in circles and arm waving, but it was a ton of fun. After everyone had joined in the dance at least once, it was time to close up and go. The crowd dissipated after a number of goodbyes, and the bill was paid only after a short argument with the now drunk vendor.

In order to make our plane in Urumqi, we either had to fly the night before or take the sleeper bus. Sarah, Ben and I opted for the sleeper bus. Carly, who is much wiser, opted to pay the airfare. To be fair, the sleeper bus wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, although it didn’t stop enough and you couldn’t get up and walk around. The beds were too short for me, so I slept with my legs sprawled out into the aisle. The bus has three rows of bunk beds, each about half the size (length and width) and a normal twin bed. I was in the middle bottom bunk, with the television just above my head. The kung fu movie and karaoke wasn’t the worst I’ve seen in China, but it was bad. I’m not sure I’d travel this way again, but as all things in China are, it was an adventure.

We made it back to Chengdu in one piece, and I packed up and sent the cat hats home a day ago. Xinjiang was awesome, but I’m happy to be back.