Have you ever looked at a map and saw a road that just ended? While we were down south last time we saw just such a place on our map. An hour and a half outside side of the city we were visiting, deep in the desert there was a road, that just suddenly seem to stop at this small town. We decided to go exploring and see what was there. We actually found that the bus station had vehicles that made regular daily trips out to Tawakkul.
We chatted some with the other passengers and tried to figure out what we should see or do in their town. I asked one lady “So what is there in Tawakkul?” She looked kind of confused by the question and finally answered “Our home”.
She was right… that really was all there was. The town or village or hamlet was nothing more than two intersecting streets. They had two restaurants, a place to buy clothes and furniture, a school, a mosque and a cell phone store. We had walked the whole length of the place in a few minutes and wondered what we should do next (our adventure for the day was looking rather lame).
We ended up heading out of town (the direction where the once paved road turned into gravel and desert sand). The fine dust kicked up about our feet as we passed small homes. At several places you could hear the sound of a sheep or a cow greeting us as we strode by. Finally we came upon one home where the husband and wife were standing out front their door. In good Uyghur hospitality style they invited us in, even though we were perfect strangers.
Over a simple afternoon snack of oranges, eggs, sunflower seeds, and bread served with tea we learned a little more about their lives. The wife had lived her whole life in this small cross-roads town in the desert. She had never even made the 1 ½ journey to the city we were staying in. She was 34 and had been married since she was 16. Her oldest daughter, now 17 is currently expecting their first grandchild. As one of 10 kids she still sees her family all the time since most of them live in the surrounding farms. The bread she served us was a testament of how she spends her time and what daily life is really like. They had grown the wheat themselves and harvested it from their own farm. They had also used it to make their own flour and dough. The bread was traditional Uyghur nan that they had baked in a tunur night in their courtyard of their home.
Each bit of bread only served to remind me how large the culture gap was between the two of us. Her rough worked hands showed that she had never ripped open a bag of wonder bread and spread on heaps of Pb and J. I was sitting in her home half way around the world from where I grew up, her parents home was just down the narrow street. Even though we are basically the same age, she is a soon to be grandma, and I am single. Despite these contrasts we had a wonderful afternoon chatting and laughing.