Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm not a married man, I don't know why there is blood on the sheets.


Free Time in the Morning
2pm Cultural Exchange
4pm Idkah Mosque
6pm Bike Kashgar
8pm Dinner
11pm Plane

During my AM freetime I slept, tried to go to an internet bar (and failed) and went out to hot pot for lunch. The hot pot was a lot of fun, although literally quite hot, and I think it may have made me a bit ill (I haven't been able to even think about mushrooms since).

Around 2 we checked out of our hotel and went to the People's Square for a "cultural exchange" with some students from Kashar Teacher's University. We basically had to make small talk for an hour. It was a bit awkward, but it could have been much worse. We split into groups of 4 Americans and 4 Kashgar students. We did most of the talking and then on the way out this girl who didn't really speak at all attached herself to me (in a creepy way) and kept pressuring me to call her and hang out whie I was in Kashgar and to continue calling/writing after. But she doesn't speak! English or Chinese! It was pretty weird. But otherwise our talk went fine, and Kashgar students are like students anywhere, except for the misconception (that everyone in China has) that we all have guns in the US. They also refused to talk about marriage or dating (it was too scandalous at such a young, 20-26, age).

After that we went to the Idkah Mosque. It's apparently the biggest Mosque in China. At first I found that hard to believe since I was envisioning it as an indoor facility, and the building was quite small, but once I realized it was an outdoor mosque things became much more believable. The place had a lot of pretty foilage and the buildings were painted pretty colors or were covered in centuries old mosaic artwork. Aside from the holiest prayer room, the rest of the prayer areas had at least one open wall, or just a lean-to like ceiling. There were also a bunch of pools on the property where, in ancient times, people would gather to wash themselves before prayer. Now one is just a fenced in pool and the other is filled with flowers. The front entranceway is a brilliant yellow and has a minaret on either side.

After our visit to Idkah (which, by the way, means festival - "id" and square - "kah", there was a huge open square outside the mosque) we went to a bike rental place to pick up some bikes. Once everyone was fitted for a rental, we too to the road and biked the outskirts of town. It was really interesting how quicky the area became rural. Literally a five minute bike ride out of downtown we were surrounded by farms and tons of little stucco-looking neighborhoods. It was like old town but on a country scale. I tried to take some pictures while biking, but I don't think I did a very good job at capturing the feeling of the area.

There were these streams with intricate dam systems that ran alongside the roads (sorta paved) and then each house had it's own drawbridge over them to get inside. Some homes had dams that would divert the streams to work as crop irrigation. I saw some kids swimming in one and a woman getting water from another. I thought those dam systems were so clever.

After biking we went out for diner. Because it was our last night in Kashgar, our tour guide ordered the area specialty, an entire lamb. I'm not quite sure how it's cooked, but it's served whole and then hacked up in front of you. The whole thing was pretty nauseating, but the meat eaters seemed to really enjoy it (though not quite on the chuanr level).

Next, the airport. At the airport I used the worst bathroom I have used yet in China, which is saying something, because I have used both trough and no door hole. This one had such a horrific stench - and there were fies - and - oh my God, I feel like I still smell like it. It was so dirty.

After a few games of tag and MASH, our plane finally landed around 2am and we were told we had to be up at 7:30am. Ugh.

Day One in Urumqi

8am Breakfast
9am Cultural Exchange Dance Lessons
11am Visit music museum at the school
1pm Lunch
3pm Museum
Free Time

This morning the hotel treated us to a "western breakfast." This means: tons of bread, flat fanta, warm milk, horrible coffee, assorted jam, fried eggs, plenty plenty of spam, and cucumbers and tomato. It was quite the spread. The egg was good though, I forget how little protein I get here. I also forget how reliant I've become on caffeine.

The dancing cultural exchange took place at the Xinjiang Arts University. At first it was a bit intimidating. We went into this dance studio and about 20 girls demnstrated various types of traditional Uygher dance. It really reminded me a lot of Kuchipudi. Then we paired off and tried to learn the dances. I don't think I did too badly. After they taught us some moves, they asked us to teach them an American dance. Somehow I ended up leading the electric slide. From there we just launched into some general dancing and shared our favorite middle school dance moves. They were really interested in learning hip hop, which made Reggie's pop and lock ability really popular. On the whole, the dancing was fun.

After dancing we went to the school's music dept. to learn about Uygher insturments. There were a lot of guitar and cellos-like items.

Lunch was pretty much the usual fare, except for these corn fritters, those were pretty interesting. The boys also had make-your-own-chuanr, meat on a stick over an open flame is incredibly manly.

Then we went to a museum on Xinjiang history. There was a lot of really interesting stuff. The first exhibit had a section on each of Xinjiang's ethnic minorities (kind of like the native american museum in DC). The second exhibit was on prehistoric era Xinjiang through the Qing Dynasty. There was some interesting stuff on religion, and I learned about a new religion that I'll have to research. It was an early Christian sect. The final exhibit was on Xinjiang mummies. The desert is so dry that these 3800 year old mummies are perfectly preserved (hair, skin, everything) with no mummification process. It was really cool.

The rest of the day wasn't really thrilling. I did find a prostitute's wallet, and everyone (from the police to the prostitute) was overwhemlingly shocked that I returned it. (In case you were wondering, I assumed her profession based on appearance and the contents of the wallet: wads of hundred dollar bills and countless condoms).

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