Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guilt Trips Start Early

Our landlord and his wife came by the other day. The pretense was that she had never seen the place and was curious. The story seemed a little fake considering my roommate has been living there for almost two years. She wasn't home at the time so I let them in. His wife kept commenting on how nice the place was, how big it was. She said it was nicer and bigger than where they were living. At that warning lights started going off in my head. As they were taking their tour I quickly called my roommate to find out how long there was remaining to her lease...and report what was up. Her guess was that the landlord was going to try to raise the rent next time. We still have six months before we have to resign a contract, but around here games and guilt trips start early. I started playing along by pointing out flaws and problems with the place. They countered by commenting on its convenience and what not. They left after 15 minutes or so...but the game is on.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Korean Soap Opera Junkie

Uyghur people love to watch soap operas. They tend to be a lot cleaner, and a lot cheesier than American ones. The plot is always one of tragic or ill fated love that overcomes family oppositions or near death. In the end their love is always stronger because of it.

Sometimes when I am out with some of my old lady friends they will start talking about the characters on their favourite soap as it they are real people. In fact, I once asked what hospital a car accident victim was in so that I could go visit her, only to find out she was a Korean soap opera fictional friend.

The other night I had on the TV and accidentally got hooked into watching one of these unfolding plot lines. It was captivating....before I knew it I was hooked trying to figure out who was whose real son, and why he couldn't be with the the girl he loved. The hour was up quickly and so was my study break....only as soon as that episode ended the next one started. I didn't have to wait to find out what happened next. But hour two bleed into hour three and hour three into hour four. They just kept showing the same soap opera. Finally after five hours of sitting there (a wasted evening) the series ended. The next day when I talked with my local friends I finally felt in the loop. I asked if they normally play the whole thing back to back like that. I was surprised to learn that they had started that series Friday night and had played all thirty hours of it over the weekend. I guess I had only caught the last five, but now I know why some of my friends are so busy over the weekends and why they sometimes cancel our plans.....they are Korean soap opera junkies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Good Connections

In order for me to be able to appear on the TV Game Show, I had to obtain permission from the City Foreign Affairs Officer. Sadly the TV station didn't realize this until the day before it was to air, which caused us to have to do a lot of running around. In the end, like many things in this country, it all came down to who you knew. One guy's friend, knew a guy who went to school with the Head of the Foreign Affairs Department.

In order to fully appreciate what I saw that day you have to understand that most offices out here look pretty shabby. The floors are normally cement, the white wash on the walls (never real paint) is faded and covered in coal dust. They are ofter small little rooms crowded with three or four desks, each person working on an unrelated task. But the office we were ushered into was nothing like what I had grown to expect. It was almost equal to the size of my whole apartment...the floor wore a rich thick carpeting, one whole wall was lined with windows, another with bookshelves, and the other two looked clean and fresh. There was a whole living room area, with comfy sofas and such, and one large richly decorated desk, that could have sat six, but was really only the work space of this one Head Officers into whose presence we had just been ushered.

With the quick snap of his finger this high ranking official was able to get someone to work on our paper work. The TV station employees went out to make sure they got the stamped permission form that they needed,while this leader invited me to stay and drink tea with him. Talk about a good connection to make in a world that is all about who you know.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


My former teacher called me last week and asked me to do her a favour. I agreed only to find out that she needed a Uyghur language student to appear on a local game show program. I would be interviewed in Uyghur and asked trivia questions. Ugh, I was nervous. I don't mind public appearances and I don't mind speaking Uyghur, but put them together and the whole thing seemed a little over whelming.

There were two other contestants. The topic of the day was language learning. One of the others contestants was a Uyghur guy who was studying the majority language in University. The other was a majority guy, who grew up going to a Kazak school who was now studying Uyghur in University (the two are related languages). Both were able to speak much more fluently than I. The station had helped by feeding us some of the answers....but not all of them. I also had to sing a Uyghur folk song (for those of you who know me well you know I should never sing in public, much less on TV for everyone in our province to watch), and talk about some Uyghur proverbs. My former classmates came and cheered me on from the audience.

I ended up winning a Uyghur/English dictionary for my computer and a fluffy, white, lacy computer cover. Those are small compared to my new found fame. It might have only been local television.....but ever since I have been recognized on the bus and in the bazaar. The other day when I was walking down the street people started to sing the same folk song to me.

Do you want my autograph?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Foreign Face Fame

I am going to be on TV again. This time it is a Uyghur program and they are talking about language learning.....they wanted a foreigner who has studies language to add to the discussion. The whole interview will be in Uyghur and I am supposed to wear my traditional atlas dress. I am a little nervous but it should be fun. I guess it is activities like this that help everyone in town fell like they know me.