Friday, July 31, 2009

Things I miss

So I have only been home a week, but as I was watching my pictures flash by on my screen saver this afternoon I realized there were already a number of things I miss. I think what it really boils down to is that I miss a world where the most usual sights seem like they should be normal. It really is a wonderful world where the following do not seem strange:
A big load on a little bike

A donkey cart at the front gate of a major university

A bird carried on the bus

A little lamb following Mary through the department store.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Man Hug

I am always surprised by the little cultural things that freak me out when I return to what should be my home culture. This time it was the hugging.

I am use to physical contact with Uyghur woman... in fact sometimes they are a little more touchy- feely than I am use to. It is not unusual to sit on the couch holding hands with a Uyghur girlfriend... sometime she is holding one of my hands and using her other hand to stroke my knee or pat my back. This sort of interaction is normal... even expected between female friends. Every time they greet each with an embrace and a kiss on both cheeks. Women often walk down the street arm in arm, or swing their hands like school girls. I remember finding all this physical touch stuff hard when I first arrived, but now it seems normal. In fact when I am back in Canada I often wonder why my friends sit on the opposite side of the couch, or why they just give me a quick embrace as a hello greeting.

My teacher and I are close friends and often sit with our arms around each other

Men, on the other hand are a totally different story. I went to church with my parents the other day and was shocked and slightly uncomfortable with all of the men who wanted to give me a hug. I know it is totally normal here, and doesn't carry any extra connotations... but when I go for months with out any physical contact with the opposite gender ( I don't even shake hands with guys out there in public), it really threw me off.
Me keeping my distance from even some of my closets Uyghur guy friends

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Safe - In Canada

If you follow the news at all you may be aware of the fact that in recent weeks the Uyghurs have been making the front page. There were riots in the the northwest area of China, as Uyghur people responded to other violence in Guang Dong province. This was more than just a retaliation from these events, but a culmination of years of frustration over not having their own country.

As a result of the recent violence among the Uyghurs the government where I live also decided to shut down Internet activity and block international calls in hopes of preventing this incident from spreading to some of the other Central Asian countries where Uyghurs live (Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India).

The university I attend took further precautions this week by sending all of their foreign students home for summer vacation. They did not want to be responsible for us while school was not in session. So on Tuesday I was called into the Dean's office and told that I had 3-5 days to pack up my stuff and return to Canada. Students are invited to return for their studies at the beginning of September.

Friday morning I jumped on a plane and after more than 28 hours of travel I called my parents from our hometown airport. They had no idea I was coming home (since I had been unable to really contact them), and I think they really liked the surprise of knowing I was here.

My return plans are still uncertain at the moment, as I had already notified the school that I do not plan to continue my studies in the fall, but instead pursue a business opportunity. The paper work needed for my work visa is also currently on hold.

I did dye my fingernails with Henna the night before I headed out and told all my old Uyghur lady friends that I hoped to be back before all the colour grew out and my nails turned back to normal colour (that gives me about 2 months).

Sunday, July 05, 2009

International Freedom Festival

Growing up on the Windsor/ Detroit border, the beginning of July was a double celebration of freedom and Independence. July 1st is Canada day, followed a few days later by Independence day. The two cities combine their firework budget and have the biggest display imaginable off of three barges in the middle of the Detroit River. They purposely use to have this display on the 2nd or the 3rd so that it officially fell on neither countries birthday, but celebrated both. We even had a jingle to commemorate the event; International Freedom Festival, Nation to Nation, Friend to Friend.

This week I once again tried to get as much play out of the holidays as I could. All of the Canadians in town met on Wednesday night and had a great time. We let off fire works ( left over from Lunar New Year), drank Tim Horton's coffee and sat around reading the you know you are Canadian when list.

You know you are Canadian when...

  • You stand in "line-ups" at the movie, not lines.
  • You're not offended by the term "Homo Milk".
  • You understand the sentence, "Could you please pass me a serviette, I just spilled my poutine".
  • You eat chocolate bars instead of candy bars.
  • You drink pop, not soda.
  • You can drink legally while still a 'teen.
  • You talk about the weather with strangers and friends alike.
  • You don't know or care about the fuss with Cuba, it's just a cheap place to travel with good cigars and no Americans.
  • When there is a social problem, you turn to your government to fix it instead of telling them to stay out of it.
  • You get milk in bags as well as cartons and plastic jugs.
  • Pike is a type of fish, not some part of a highway.
  • You drive on a highway, not a freeway.
  • You know what a Robertson screwdriver is.
  • You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers.
  • You know that Thrills are something to chew and "taste like soap".
  • You know that Mounties "don't always look like that".
  • You dismiss all beers under 6% as "for children and the elderly".
  • You know that the Friendly Giant isn't a vegetable product line.
  • You know that Casey and Finnegan are not a Celtic musical group.
  • You participated in "Participation".
  • You design you Halloween Costume to fit over your snow suit.
  • You have an Inuit carving by your bedside with the rationale , "What's good enough protection for the Prime Minister is good enough for me".
  • You wonder why there isn't a 5 dollar coin yet.
  • You brag to Americans that: Shania Twain, Jim Carrey, Celine Dion, Michael J. Fox, John Candy, William Shatner, Tom Green, Matthew Perry, Mike Myers, Neve Campbell, Pamela Anderson Lee & many more, are Canadians.
  • Like any international assassin/terrorist/spy in the world, you carry a Canadian passport.
  • You use a red pen on your non-Canadian textbooks and fill in the missing 'u's from labor, honor, and color.
  • You know the French equivalents of "free", "prize", and "no sugar added", thanks to your extensive education in bilingual cereal packaging.
  • You are excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada.
  • You make a mental note to talk about it at work the next day.
  • You can eat more than one maple sugar candy without feeling nauseous.
  • You know what a toque is.
  • You have some memento of Doug and Bob.
  • You know Toronto is not a province. (...yet)
  • You never miss "Coaches Corner".
  • Back bacon and Kraft Dinner are two of your favourite food groups.
  • You actually get these jokes and forward them to all your Canadian friends.
Then yesterday, July 4th, one of my American Friends decided to have a party with some of her local friends. Since she needed help cooking dinner for the 12 guests she had invited, and because I could sing all of 'The Star Spangled Banner', I was once again invited to join in on a US Holiday. We made Sloppy Joes and watched Independence Day, the old Will Smith movie in the National language.

So Happy Birthday to both Countries. Even living on the other side of the world I get to celebrate the International Freedom Festival, Nation to Nation Friend to Friend.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Waiting Game

Some of you may know that I am once again in the process of trying to move south. I say once again because I tried it three years ago to no avail. Sadly we can't just live where ever we want or where ever we find work in this country, we need to get a hundred and one stamps of government approval first.

I have already been offered a job in a city that is about a 24 hour train ride from here. Not only have I been offered the job, I have signed a contract and rented an apartment. The job is with a Uyghur handicraft export business. My roommate and I went down to check it all out the beginning of May, but to agree to work for them and finding a home was just the beginning. Now the waiting game starts.

The company is in the process of getting my paperwork done. They originally anticipated that it would be ready by the end of June, which is why I had hoped to be in Canada already ( I have to go back to my country of origin to change from a student visa to a work visa). But paper work takes forever, the company keeps sending me updated spread sheets with an estimated time as to when they should be able to get me the stamped paper work I need to take home with me. At first it was moved to the first week of July, then July 17th, next July 27th and just yesterday they sent me an email saying likely not until about Aug 5th. I can't really buy air tickets home until I have all the local government approval. So I wait.

My friend and I at the office down south, standing in front of one of the carpets that I will be helping to export.