The next day I asked my teacher where I could add money to my gas card. She told me I had to take the gas card over to the bank by the Russian market. I walked into one bank and was informed I was in the wrong place, the second bank was no better, the third place I tried was a hotel… and then finally I found it. I next had to find out how much money I should be paying. Here you put an amount of money on your card ahead of time instead of paying a bill afterwards. I asked the people in line ahead of me, how much they were adding, and on average how long would that amount of money last.
I went home feeling pretty good about a job well done. I stuck the card into the gas meter and then tested out the stove… NO GAS.
The next day back in class I asked my teacher what I did wrong, why we still didn’t have any gas? She asked me what kind of noise the meter made… was it a beep, beep beep or more of a beeeeeep beeeeep? Sadly I couldn’t really remember. She suggested that maybe it was the batteries. But when I went home I couldn’t find the slot for the life of me. This time however I decided to go to a Uyghur neighbour's house to inquire about the batteries. My Uyghur grandmother told me her son always changes them for her, but she thought the slot was somewhere on the top.
It took a lot of climbing and searching, but I finally found it on the top, near the back. I changed the batteries and tried the stove again…. still NO GAS.
This time I called a friend on my phone, she suggested that I re-insert the newly paid up card. It worked… I’ve got GAS ( I bet you have never heard anyone say that with quite as much excitement as I just did).
This whole exercise did teach me the importance of turning to my local friends for help. So many times we come into this culture with our western ways and western solutions, trying to help the local people. But it is equally important (if not more so) to come into those relationships with humility seeking help, and letting them lead in even the simplest daily tasks, like getting gas.