Monday, November 30, 2009

Real Time

This blog is coming at you live, today, right now, from my own hand because ... I AM ON LINE!!! While I was home this summer I heard more and more people were being driven to take a Stay-cation because of the economic downturn. While people in my province are being driven to take a Web-cation. Some people leave the province for a weekend just to get connected. Right now I am in Thailand renewing my tourist visa and surfing the web.
The last two months worth of posts were sent to my mom in an e-mail that my friend carried out of the province. My mom has been sparingly posting on every few days. Which means the red in my hair had almost faded by the time that made the blog. Sorry there haven't really been any pictures, they are just too big of files to have some one send to my mom. While I am out I have another ten posts or so ready to go to mom. So even though it is currently the Islamic holiday of Korban... you likely won't hear about it for another month or two. Sorry.

We can connect some using a long distance dial-up connection, but it can be both slow and expensive (not to mention that it is a round about way and still not officially allowed, aka- illegal). So I have basically gotten out of the habit of getting on line. There are some days I really miss being able to look anything up at the touch of a button, but I have almost an extra hour or more everyday to work on other things because I am not tied down by writing emails and such.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Red Head

We get a little bored around here without internet to entertain us. I think for that reason more than any other, one of my friends finally talked me into using henna to dye my hair. I have dyed my finger nails several times in good Uyghur fashion, but I had never done my hair. Henna on black hairs gives it the faintest hint of red that reflexes beautifully in the sun light, but on white hair it is a shocking orangery red that looks more like it belongs on a cartoon character.
My normal hair colour is somewhere in the middle and I was always afraid, it could either look good or REALLY bad. One night my roommate and I decided to go for it and dyed our hair together. Our Uyghur teacher even came over to help. She mixed the dye henna powder with strong black tea, an egg, and a little honey and started to slather it on our heads. She then tied a plastic bag on top to keep it from dripping or drying out, and had us wear a head scarf on top of that to keep it warm. We had to sit like this for four hours or so before washing it out.
For the first few days it seemed like a little too intense of a red. But for the next few weeks every time I washed my hair I could see the water turned red and more and more colour came out. Now almost a month later Anne Shirley would be happy to know "it has settled into a real handsome auburn."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow Goes by a Dismal Pace

Macbeth had it right, sometimes it seems like tomorrow will never come, especially here where tomorrow really might mean next week, or a month from now. This culture is famous for its expressing time in shorter increments than what it will really take.

For instance people are always telling me they are 'on a horse' getting the job done. It means that they are doing it as fast as they can, or that they will be there right away. When I first arrived I thought this expression meant that they were only minutes away from having the job done, or right up the street in a taxi. I have since learned that if someone is 'on a horse' it will be at least an hour before they get there maybe more. In fact, I have started to use the expression. Some days I am still in my house puttering around when someone calls, I tell them I will be right there "I am coming on a horse". I hang up, finish my cup of coffee, have a nice hot shower, pick out my clothes for the day, and slowly make my way to the bus stop, nothing hurried.

They mean the same thing when they say "tomorrow". If you don't know something will be ready, or when someone will be back you can just put the person who is asking off by saying 'tomorrow'. Both you know and they know that it is really not going to happen the next day, but
it sounded like a good answer.

I was recently out with a friend and we were told an official we need to talk to would be back in two days. I was all excited to have an actual time frame. But my friend who is a local told me that I had to learn what times expressed like this really meant. I told her I understood that "right now" was in an hour or so, and that tomorrow wouldn't be until at least next week, but this lady gave us a qualified number of days so it must be true. "No," said my friend "in two days is just double the uncertainty of tomorrow, this person might not be back for a month or two".

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fake ID

The other day while sitting outside chatting it up with a bunch of my new neighbors the topic of my arthritis came up. They all suggested that I move to a more southern part of our province, because the dry weather would be good for me. I tried to explain how protective the government was, and why it was hard to obtain permission to live there. One guy suggested that I just wear a head scarf wherever I go and no one will notice (yah, right I have tried that before). I asked him what I should do when I go to a check point and the police wanted to see my personal ID card, and all I had to show them was a Canadian passport. His solution was "Don't worry, I know a guy who could make you a fake ID card...for a price, of course."

Now I never had a fake ID to sneak into bars or anything...but students that do in North America the worst thing that can happen is that they are kicked out of their choice party location for the night, the card is confiscated and they have to buy a new one. If I was ever caught with a fake ID card here I would likely be kicked out of the country and never able to return. The risk really isn't worth the joy of living south.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blanket Making Outside

Since I have moved into my friend's house across town I realize I no longer know all of my neighbors. I had lived on campus for almost three years and spent a lot of time becoming part of the neighborhood. In order to once again establish this relationship with the people about me I have been taking my cross-stitching and crocheting outside. I sit on a stool and wait till people walk by and ask what I am working on. I am making both projects as wedding gifts for friends. It is a great way to start up a conversation and get people use to seeing my face around the area. I have been taking my stool and sitting in different places up and down the street.
Sadly the weather is starting to change and it is getting chilly. The blanket my roommate and I are making is sadly granny squares, which are too small to really keep us warm as we work outside. Within the next week or so I will have to find a new way to meet my neighbors, or freeze trying.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Working the Gossip System

I mentioned in my last post how my neighbors talk about me behind my back. It is not out of malicious motives, it is mainly just out of curiosity. Last year when my roommate's fiance came to visit I learned how to spin the stories in my favour.

After watching Hollywood movies most people out here assume that most North American have loose morals. I have to dress more conservatively and intentionally not spend time with single men outside in order to fight this stereo type and still have my neighbors see me as a 'good girl'. That is why i was worried about what they would say about how much time her fiance was spending at our house. I knew they would notice the times he was coming and going. If he happened to stay really late one night or came early in the morning, before they were at the post watching, I was scared of how they would repeat the story. So I went outside a few days before his arrival and joined the older ladies on the bench. I said "Oh my roommate is so excited; her fiance is coming to visit in a few day. He is going to be staying at the hotel here on campus, but she is already making all of his favorite breakfast foods in know there is no kitchen in the school's hotel rooms. So she is hoping he will come early every morning and eat at our house. It has been months since they have seen each other. My guess is that they will sit in the living room and chat until late in the night. I think the hotel shuts the door at 11 o'clock or midnight. My guess is he will head back right at the last minute. It is so cute to see how excited she is."

For the rest of the week when we walked by you would hear things like "who is that guy?" "oh he is engaged to the one girl, he came to visit and is staying at the hotel here on campus".

I won! I knew they were to gossip about us, but I was able to put my own spin on what was being said.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Known Everywhere

I really feel at home here and often can be lulled into the illusion that I even look like I belong. I will be sitting on the bus heading to my destination when I realize the whole bus is starring at me and that I am the only person with light hair or white skin out of the forty of us packed like sardines on the bus. Add to that my slight limp and I am surprised with how many people know me, or at least know about me. I have gone into stores and had a shop keeper say they know to deliver my stuff to the University campus. Other times I have gotten in the taxi and the driver asked if I was heading home, they also knew to head towards my school, a few guys even knew to go right to my building since they said they had driven me in the past. These people are not really stocking me, but it does feel a little creepy at times.

The best was when I went south a few weeks ago to talk to the office about the fact I won't be working there, and collected my stuff that I had started to send down. I was walking down the street with my friend and we could tell that the three ladies coming toward us were totally starring at us. I nodded and smiled at them. As soon as they had passed I heard one lady say "oh that girl goes to ....." and she named my University. This city is a twenty four hour train ride from where I live at the school, and yet this lady recognized me. I didn't know whether to be scared or impressed with how many people feel like they know me, or like to talk about me behind my back.