Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bus Accident

Traffic here can be a little crazy at times, the rules of the road are viewed more as suggestions than a hard and fast thing that must be followed. I know that who ever can get their nose in a spot first gets the spot. I also know that if you can go faster by driving in the oncoming lane that that is totally okay.

As I am sure you can imagine this can cause a lot of accidents. But in city driving is normally so slow that accidents don’t amount to much. In fact earlier this week the bus that I was on hit a pedestrian. We happened to be going so slow that it really only knocked the man's shoulder, when he turned and saw a bright orange bus millimeters from his face, he actually laughed and kept on walking.

However later in the week another bus I was on got in a real accident (the car we hit was likely a write off). Unfortunately I was standing at the time. Buses fill up fast here and they have learned that seats are a waste of space since you can pack a lot more people on without them. So there is a single row of seats along the sides and the back, and the rest of the bus is left for standing room. Right at the back door is a solid pole which is my favorite place to stand if I can get it (my roommate calls it the ‘open bar at the back’). I was the only one standing (when you are packed like sardines there is nowhere to move or get thrown to when the bus makes a jerky stop), so there was no one to cushion the impact for me. I held on to the bar as the driver jammed on the brakes, I was still standing as we were jerked back the other direction by the impact of the crash itself. Eventually I bumped into the lap of some one sitting close by and slid to the floor. As you can imagine this old body really hurt after that sort of trauma.

33. Thankful for no broken bones
34. For an “open bar” to grip hard as we were tossed about
35. A few days that I could move my schedule and just rest and recover
36. Friends who bring take out home so I don’t need to cook or move around
37. To be feeling better enough that I am actually up for writing about it and laughing about it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Connections - Who do you know?

In Central Asia it is true that in most situations it is all about who you know. Connections are a key word in the vocabulary. A few weeks ago when my friend and I were traveling down south I was reminded afresh how important it is to have the right connections.

The sleeper bus we took pulled into its destination at 3:30 a.m., in spite of the early hour the bus driver allowed us to keep resting on the bus until 5:00 when he obnoxiously went around banging on all the windows to wake the patrons and announce our early morning arrival.

To avoid paying overpriced taxi fees we walked to the nearby hotel where I normally stay in that city. After waking up the desk clerk who was not expecting guests to arrive at the crack of dawn, we learned that there were no rooms to be had in the whole hotel. We walked around a little looking for a new hostel friends had told me about, but when we couldn’t find it we opted for the more expensive place close by (we were tired and dirty and willing to pay the almost $40US just to rest).

As we checked into the hotel I mentioned to my traveling companion that they didn’t fill out the right paperwork for foreigners to stay at a location. Which explains why less than half an hour later ( when my friends hair was still dripping from her quick shower), we were kicked out of the one room we had been able to find. The hotel staff felt so bad they tried calling around to other hotels that did have the proper permits to have foreigners. Sadly there was a convention of some sorts going on in town that week and not a single room to be found anywhere.

We left the hotel still weary and maybe even a little cranky. Across the street was a western café. The sign said they didn’t open til 9 a.m., but since we live in two time zone at the same time I wasn’t sure if that meant we had to sit on the front step for 20 minutes or for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Either way we feared that we would be back on the bus in less than 10 hours without a goodnight sleep in a real bed.

Twenty minutes later when the coffee shop opened we found the connection we needed. The owner of the shop heard our sob story and offered to help. She made a few phone calls and came out with the name of a hotel written on a scrap of paper. We grabbed our bags and got our exhausted bodies into a taxi. The lady at the front desk at the new hotel gave us a very uncertain look as we stepped through the door hopefully. I told her that my friend had made a reservation for us, the women sat stone still and giving me a look that said “I doubt it, we are all filled up”. I mentioned the coffee shop owners name and amazingly the women sitting across from me had an entire change in her countenance. She pulled out the paper and started the registration process.

One name was all we needed, we not only got a room we even got a discount for knowing the right person.

31. People who are connected and willing to help
32. A good night sleep in a clean hotel room

Monday, July 26, 2010

1000 Gifts

Recently I came across a friend's blog, she was taking every Monday to list things she was thankful for. As I read I realized it was not her alone, but a group of bloggers who were part of a gratitude community. After a really hard year filled with a lot of upward struggles I wanted to join them in expressing a multitude of thankgs giving... so here we go:

1. Fresh starts
2. Tears - that bring healing
3. Friends who care about all parts of my life
4. Wise women and older mentors who can speak truth into confusing situation
5. Fans on a hot summer day
6. Internet so we can connect with home again
7. Hospitable people
8. Brainless movies
9. Buttered microwave pop corn from home
10. Friends who call just when you need a reason to get out of a hard situation
11. Other people who bake for you when you are suppose to be playing hostess
12. Uyghur language Study buddies- that help you go over the stuff you never learn in call
13. Read aloud time with my roommate and all I learn from her insights
14. Getting new books that other people don't want any more
15. Wear bright Uyghur Atlas fabric, the colour is enough to cheer anyone up.
16. Dinner with hardly any cleanup
17. Finding an apartment for friends
18. Nice police man and a good landlord
19. Care packages
20. Colouring Books
21. Eggplant kabobs
22. Friends who care enough to listen to me try to explain what in on my heart in Uyghur
23. When my friends clothes don't fit them and they give them to me and vis-versa.
24. Bright summer sunshine
25. private rooms in restaurants were you and all your friends can have an emotional break down.
26. People who know more about computers than me.
27. People who are willing to look into my computer when it suddenly crashes (like yesterday).
28. Strangers and friend's blogs that encourage me with the list of things they are thankful for.
29. My brother found a wonderful women to marry - sorry I missed the engagement party.
30. Having enough of both of the languages spoken out here to be able to get tasks done.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dream Interpretation

I may never be able to join the psychic network, but over the last few weeks I have had more and more practice in how Uyghur people interpret dreams.

One night I dreamed of eating Nan- the famous Uyghur bread (okay so my dreams aren’t really all that detailed or involved). All night as I laid in bed trying to fall back asleep I could only think about was the warm, fresh taste of nan melting in my mouth .I swear I could smell the yeast rising around me. I told my friend the next day and she said that dreaming about Nan means that you are going to have house guests. When guests come Uyghur women are stuck in the kitchen for days cooking and serving food. So dreams of food only seem fitting to the fate that awaits them. Sure enough four days later Emily came to stay with us for two weeks. Sorry Emily I never baked you any fresh nan as a fulfillment of my dream, but you were a very welcome guest.

One of my friends called me one day very concerned with how I was. We hadn’t spoken in a few weeks and she seemed worried that I was in trouble. I assured her I was fine, and while she seemed relieved she continued to inquire about what I had been up to. When I finally got to the bottom of her questioning I learned that she had had a dream about me. In her dream I was almost nine months pregnant. I tried to make some weak joke about how she must think I am some sort of loose women. Only apparently when Uyghur people see a pregnant friend in their dreams they interpret it as a sign of being under stress, weighing you down, bearing a heavy load. She had this dream right about the time I was trying to support a close friend through a personal struggle. I have to admit that I had taken on a lot of extra stress.

The last dreams meaning was totally different than what I would have understood. A young Uyghur woman I know was considering marring this guys she had just met a few weeks before (Uyghur weddings happen fast). After hearing gossip from others she had reason to believe he might not be as nice of a guy as she had been lead to believe. In fact, she had heard he might be cheating and sleeping around with other girls. One night she had a dream in which she saw him naked. When I heard this all I could think was ‘dirty’, but she seemed relieved by the vision. Why? You may ask, apparent Uyghur people believe if you see a person naked in your dream it is because they are pure. In response to this confirmation in her sleep the very next day she went to start to get her marriage license.

So what have you been dreaming about?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stomach Update

So I have to be honest I didn't make it through all five days of drinking my mud like medicine. I think drinking boiled orange and pomegranate peels, ginseng, and branches actually made my stomach issues worse. Oh well, I guess it goes on the list with sand therapy, as something I can say " I tried." The good news is my friend actually seems to be finding some relief.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Traditional Medicine

Last month I gave into the pressure of local friends telling me I needed to try sand therapy for my joints, this month I decided to let a friend take me to the Traditional Medicine doctor in hopes of finding a cure for my stomach issues. Yes, I have stomach issues. They are not something we discuss much in a North American context, but out here it is totally normal to complain about your bowel movements . Ever since my friend and I drank some not fully boiled water almost two years ago we have had reoccurring troubles. Since we had mentioned it a few times to local friends we finally had one women insist that she wanted us to see a traditional Doctor, ironically it was her restaurant we drank the water from two years ago.

I had one run in with traditional medicine before. Once when I was in a black taxi (a.k.a random car that I talked into taking me where I wanted to go), the driver said he had studied traditional medicine and asked if he could show me. At first I thought it was his sneaky way of getting to hold the white girl’s hand, but after he grabbed my wrist he just held it like he was taking my pulse. After a minute he said “oh you haven’t been sleeping well because of pain in your shoulders. You take a lot of different medications and you have also had surgery on your legs and they have metal in them”. I was shocked and surprised that he could gather all of that so quickly and just from holding my wrist. His accuracy made me more open and willing to go with my friend and at least see what the traditional medicine doctor had to say.

The appointment with the doctor only cost us about $1.50. My friend went first; as he held her wrist he asked questions about her stomach and how often she was using the washroom. After a few minutes he had the secretary write up a prescription and she was done. I paid my money and stretched out my hand. He asked me what I was there for. I mentioned struggling with some of the same symptoms as my friend. He once again called out a prescription, but as you can see by the photo, based on what he felt in our bodies even though it is the same issues he suggested different treatments.

He told us we could fill our prescription in the other room. We would have to boil up the contents of what they gave us and drink it twice a day for five days (at least everything is all natural, mine is the one with the orange peel, dried red dates, and stick looking things). The doctor also said we were to avoid eating spicy or cold food (his definition of cold food is not based on temperature). The lady in the next room, in accordance with the tradition aspect of it all, actually rang our total bill up on an abacus.
Our medicine (mine is one the left)

Boiling it up

Reaction to the first sip

Realization that I still have to drink 9 more cups of the stuff this week

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Stress Relief

Sometimes all you need is a good laugh to get through a long day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Super Powers

Every good superhero has a power that sets them apart from the average guy. Some are born with these powers and some get them due to traumatic incidences. Superman can fly and look through things with his x-ray vision, Spider man can climb walls and shoot webs from his hands. Last week, while traveling around the desert (what many might call a traumatic experience) ,I learned about my own super power – the ability to pack everything I need for a week of uncertain travel in a small backpack. While it may not be right up there with crime fighting, I think most North American women would be impressed (or possibly shocked and appalled) to learn that I fit: clothing, pj’s, toiletries, books, and snack food all in that little bag.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Ode to the Sleeper Bus – The Continuing Story

In honor of reaching the big 300 post mark I thought I would fulfill a promise made in one of my first posts. Ahhh, the sleeper bus, really is an experience that is hard to capture with words. This past week I once again found myself enduring long hours of this mode of transportation. In five days my friend and I figured we spent a total of 55 hours riding the bus.

The friend travelling with me had just come from the US and so much of what we saw and experience was new to her, especially the bathroom situation. So like I promised way back in 2006 the following is a description the rest stops along the highways of Central Asia.

(Warning the following is not for the faint of heart, or for the germiphobe )

Most sleeper buses do not come equipped with a bathroom per say, some drivers will stick a bucket on the stairs by the door to handle emergencies if someone just cannot hold it the six hours between stops. When the bus does actually pull into a rest stop it is often just a shack with one side labeled men and the other women. Inside are half wall dividers between each stall, none of them have doors on the front. In each section there is a big hole in the floor that you are meant to straddle and squat over. (If you have seen the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire” than you have a fair idea of what can be clearly seen and smelled from each hole and I can save us both the disgusting details). That’s it. There is nothing else in this washroom. No flushing toilets, not sinks to wash your hands, no toilet paper or hand dryers. All there is, is a row of about 4 holes, and a smell that tells you no one has cleaned up in a long time. Sadly some ladies can’t seem to wait for a hole to become free, so you do have to pay close attention as you walk across the floor.

Because of my legs I can’t really squat all that well which, trust me, all of the locals notice. Since there are no doors I have had many of them gather around the front of my hole (as I am relieving myself) and comment to each other “she’s doing it wrong” or “doesn’t she know how to go the bathroom”. Since I speak enough language I have one of two choices, try to ignore the growing group of women who want to watch me go, or try to explain why I can’t do it right. Once, when choosing the latter, I had a woman who was so excited that I could interact with her that she asked on the spot if we could be friends. I have to admit that I was tempted to yell “I’m going poo here, can you just give me a little privacy, you are already seeing me in a much more intimate situation than most of my friends”, but I bit back my sharp retort and gave her my phone number.

The best thing about last week’s trip was that my travel companion had brought that anti bacterial hand sanitizer stuff which she willingly shared. I can’t tell you how great Bath and Body Works products smell in contrast to a stinky Central Asian roadside washroom.