Thursday, June 24, 2010

Village Dreams

Growing up I always thought I had been born in the wrong century. I wanted to be one of the girls on “Little House on the Prairie”. I wanted to live the idyllic country life. The only problem was I was viewing it with city girl eyes.

When my friend and I were in the country side visiting my sand doctor I realized that as quaint as it may be, I really value running water. I don’t like having to go out behind the shed and squat over a hole in order to go. When it is dark you can barely see where you are walking, I am always scared I will trip over a stone and land in the hole instead (gross). After you're done you were suppose to wash your hands in the stream that ran behind the property. The only problem is I couldn’t bend down that far.

I learned that wet ones may be a city thing, but they are a great thing to bring with you to the country. I came home with a new appreciation for a toilet you can sit on and an easy to reach sink. I learned that I have been spoiled by my modern city conveniences, and that I will never get to live my village dream. I also learned that I am totally grateful to not be Laura Ingles .

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cure for Arthritis

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned it before, but the province where I live has natural resources that can cure Arthritis. A pretty amazing coincidence considering that is what plagues me. When I moved here six years ago the first question people always asked me was “have you been to sit in the sand?” Apparently if you sit in the surrounding dessert sand for long enough your pain will vanish and your mobility will be restored.

While I have been to the city where these magical desert sands are located many times, I have never sought out this amazing treatment. Which has lead to loosing a lot of face in front of my neighbours (loosing face is the Asian way of expressing shame). To have to spend the last six years always answering “No, I have never tried it”, is very shameful. To them it sounds like I don’t believe in their cures, or that I don’t trust what they say.

So last week I took a few days off of my busy schedule to find lasting pain relief. My friends and I decided to stay in the official Sand sanatorium, where they have doctors and nurses on sight. The staff checked out my heart and blood pressure to make sure I was physically up to the heat. They also evaluated my arthritis and flexibility. The doctor was pleased to announce that there was hope for me. He said the sand could really cure me of my arthritis. I would just need to sit in the burning hot sand three times a day, every day for three months in the summer, every summer for the next 5 or 6 years. It is just a little time commitment.

When I asked the doctor if there was any point in my starting right now during the few days I had taken off of work. (I asked more for the photo opp of being able to show the picture to local friends and get points for having tired it, and to post it for all of you). But the doctor said it didn’t work. The sand is so hot you have to let your body get accustom to it. The first two days are spent just sitting on the sand for ten minutes at a time. It would take me weeks to get in as deep as this person and have my shoulders healed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Directions in a Small Town

I just got back from a trip to a small village about three hours from my home. I went with one of my Uyghur friends. Neither of us had ever been to this place before, so we weren’t really sure where we were heading. We found a vehicle heading that direction and got in, the driver himself was not totally sure, but we got in the car trusting that we were heading in the general direction. A few km up the road, another passenger hailed the car and jumped in with us. The driver asked this woman if she knew where to find the place we wanted. She started giving him directions that would only work in the country side.

“You know where Hajji Akmet lives? Two lanes over from him is Hajji Gulsidem. You know her house has the blue door. Right at the end of her property is the creek and that is close to where they are going.”

It was such a simple interaction, but it spoke volumes to the cultural value of the people. Akmet and Gulsidem are known throughout the community for their piousness. Both of them have gone to Mecca as a response to one of the five pillars of Islam. This makes them well known in the community. Even their homes have become geographical landmarks, right up there with the creek (considering the village was on the edge of a large desert I would have thought the mention of water was all the direction you needed). I couldn't help but notice how she assumed that the driver would know Akmet ( a man)’s house without any detail, but felt compelled to describe the equally religious Gulsidem ( a women) by the colour of her front door.

I tried to catch my friend’s eye to see if she found these directions as interesting as I did, but being Uyghur from a small town herself she didn’t even blink. As we walked around the village over the next two days I realized how hard it was to tell one lane apart from another. I began to realize that blue doors, and religious people were not just important to the spiritual life of the community, they really were the only way to find your way around.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hotter the Summer...

Summer is finally here. Temperatures are up at 37 degrees and Muslim women stay fully covered from head to foot.
The men on the other hand like to pull their shirts up under their armpits and let the the breeze blow on their expanding stomachs. You can tell how hot it is on a given day based on how high many hike up their shirts. The hotter the summer, the more exposed belly.
Thanks to my friends for posing for this photo, I still haven't got up the nerve to take a picture of men sitting around showing off his tummy. I am to scared that he will think I am hitting on him to even dare asking. But it is a common summer sight.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tactile Curiosity on the Bus

Crowded buses are not an abnormal occurrence around here. I have had my nose almost in men’s armpits, purses pushing into my bottom, high heels stepping on my foot and a million other things that break North American space and comfort issues. But they are also a great opportunity for me to express a strange fetish of mine. I have a severe case of tactile curiosity, I have to know what a material feels like, I have to touch it! I have positioned myself behind people wearing soft fuzzy sweaters, or fur collars on their coats, so that when the bus jerks I have the opportunity to bump into the person in front of me and touch or brush at the softness.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Radom Acts of Kindness

Saturday was my roommates birthday. Our present might have been rather unusual, but it was a lot of fun for all the friends who joined her in celebrating. In her card we wrote:

Happy 35th Birthday, Roommate! Instead of giving you a gift, we want to give you the opportunity to perform 35 random acts of kindness because we know that blessing others is what really brings you joy. All of these must be completed by the end of the day. We are including everything you’ll need to complete the tasks. Happy birthday, we love you!

Help 1 person make lunch.
Tell 2 jokes that make people laugh
Help 3 people hand out fliers on the street
Fix 4 things
Help 5 people get their pictures on Jess and Rachel’s wall
Provide entertainment for 6 yellow armband people on the bus
Write 7 notes of encouragement
Hold 8 babies
Help 9 elderly people
Give 10 kids toys
Pick 11 things up for people
Buy a refreshing beverage for 12 people
Take 13 pictures with people to print out and give to them later
Hand out 14 flowers
Give up your seat on the bus for 15 people
Tell 16 people that you love them
Say welcome to 17 people as they enter the store
Leave 18 local currency around town for other people to find
Clear 19 dishes off tables
Collect 20 bottles to give to the recycle lady
Give 21 local currency to beggars
Feed 22 fish
Give 23 hugs
Give 24 popsicles to troops, police, or other public servants
Pay the bus fare for 25 people
Tell 26 memories of people in the group
Bake 27 cookies to give away
Water 28 plants
Pick up 29 pieces of garbage
Teach 30 new English words
Read 31 pages of a book to the neighborhood kids
Tell 32 girls that they are beautiful
Give 33 pieces of fruit to kids as they come out of school
Say “hello” to 34 people
Watch 35 minutes of your favorite show

If you think our gift was unique, you should have seen some of the things her local friends gave her. We still don't know what to feed the salamanders, or whether one thing is a scarf, a night shirt or an outfit. But that my friends is another post for another day.