October 17, 2009
I’ve driven through
Some fun facts about
We have just stopped in Turpan, a city 200km southwest of Urumqi and the station signs are in Chinese and (what appears to be) Arabic. Some passengers have disembarked and I believe they are refilling the train’s water supply which went dry sometime this morning. No water for teeth brushing or toilet flushing, but these are not uncommon occurrences on train rides of 40+ hours. I have devised a system in which I wake up at 4am, before even the earliest of risers, and take care of my business then. No waiting in line for the toilet and no running out of water.
We have now pulled out of Turpan and are, once again, surrounded by nothing. Or everything. I can’t decide. The radio is broadcasting Beijing News and it cuts to commercial but not before playing a familiar jingle. It’s the music from
Our train has just passed a truck, one of few I’ve seen during the past hour of gazing out the window. There are at least a dozen men in the cab, which is covered by a large tarp. It reminds me of a scene from a movie in which immigrants are trying to illegally cross a border. One of the men waves at me (the train), which is strange. Chinese people never wave. I once explained to Ming how in
Later. . .
Turpan gave way to mountains, then vegetation, and finally to the sprawling oasis of
First, nobody stares at me here. Ever. Not even
Which brings me to my next observation, nearly every sign has both Chinese and Uighur (looks like Arabic) on it, some even have Russian. After months of Mandarin, it’s refreshing to hear something different, even if I don’t understand it. My only hang up is knowing when it’s appropriate to use Mandarin. Should I use it when addressing someone who is clearly not Han Chinese? Considering there’s a much better chance they’ll speak Mandarin over English, I’m going to stick to speaking Chinese and see what happens. Hopefully I won’t cause any hurt feelings.
Unfortunately, with all this wonderful diversity often comes resentment and unrest. I am unable to get very deep into the politics of the region, but perhaps we can draw some parallels between Xinjiang and
“When do you think you’ll have internet again?” I asked the hostel manager.
“I don’t know. Nobody knows. Maybe if things go well, after next year,” she answered cheerfully.
As if no internet wasn’t enough, there is military policing nearly every corner of the city, walking around in green camos carrying around clubs, batons, and guns (tasers?). Their presence makes me uneasy, but I’m out of here tomorrow. Word is I won’t be seeing them outside of