Monday, August 30, 2010

The List Goes On

61. Female Police officers because they don't leer and make rude comments as you try to register
62. Being able to register at a new house in under a half hour.
63. Finding an apartment that comes partially furnished with two beds, a couch, a hot water heater and a couple of desks. Now all we need to buy is a fridge.
64. People who invite me over for dinner, especially when an evening in their home feels like a mini vacation.
65. A landlord at our new apartment who seems fair and treats us like anyone else.
66. Cleaning ladies who, for only a small fee will clean away two years of dust at an apartment.
67. Packages! We got one this week from a family that use to live here. It was the best! They knew just what to send, since they knew first hand what you could not get out here.
68. Bus drivers that know me and will stop and pick me up, even if I am not at the bus stop
69. The material I have to teach this week, already having been translated into Uyghur
70. That I was able to get the Uyghur font program up and running again on my computer
71. Uyghur friends who call, just because they miss me and we haven't talked in a while.
72. New people who have moved to town
73. Skype conversations with friends and family at home
74. People who are willing to lend me books to read
75. Bread, fresh out of the bread maker
76. Quiet days of reflection
77. Other people who are willing to teach English corner
78. Getting over my cold
79. Books to read to children when you are babysitting. My friends had to go to the hospital the other day, during the three hours I watched the kids I think we read 20 story books (it was the only thing that would keep them quiet).
80. Slowly getting a better picture of the financial aspect of starting a company

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Can’t Tell a Lie

Aforementioned Ramadan is once again upon us, but the fast is more than just abstaining from food and drink while the sun is in the sky, it is a month that calls all Muslims back to a holier way of life. There are more beggars on the street, and I am sure they make more than double the money this month, since it seems everyone is stopping to give them loose change. A gift of alms during the month of Ramadan is considered to be even more generous.

Last week I learned another aspect of life that is affected by holiness rehaul of Ramadan. My friend and I were souvenir shopping for her at the market. While we were bargaining, one of my favourite sellers said. “That is the real price I paid for it. I can’t lie to you because it is Ramadan right now.” Wow, honesty is the policy only when you are not eating. I guess now is the time to go shopping.

(Yes, this picture was taken in 2005 when my family came to visit. I often use file footage instead of running around all day with camera in hand)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New People, Old Friends

What is the North American custom for meeting new people? I know it is sad that I have to honestly ask that question but I don’t remember. The other day this Uyghur guy I had known for the last five years or so introduced me to his new wife. I had never met this young lady before, but I automatically greeted her with a kiss on both cheeks. As we talked for the next few minutes, I realized I was holding her hand and she was genteelly rubbing my back.

At the same time there was another couple with us, who had just arrived from the States a few days before. They were unable to understand what we were saying and had no idea that we were just covering introduction stuff. As they stood witnessing our interaction I heard them say “Oh wow, old friends being reunited, how sweet”. I guess that much physical interaction is not normal for perfect strangers. The sad thing is two days later I can’t even remember the girl's name. Just like the women in this picture. I met them once, and they are already hugging me. I love meeting new people and feeling like I have old friends.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What A Week

A friend and I are in the midst of a lot of change. We are hoping to open our own “Language Consultation” Company in the next few months. The first step to opening a company is to find an office space, so that every receipt and documentation can be registered to that location. One of our friends was getting rid of her old office so we rented it from her. One step down only about a 1000 left before I am an official business owner.

I am also trying to move to a better location in town that will put me within walking distance of our new office space. I used a local apartment locater service to help me find a place. I wanted to find a place no higher than the third floor, and close to a main bus stop. Some of the places they showed me this week were ‘less than positive’. In one the kitchen was nothing more than a cement box, in another the walls were just metal dividers. After a lot of looking I finally found a perfect location today. It is a five minute walk from our office building, it has three bedrooms and it is fully renovated.

When renting an office or a home in this country we are required to pay the first years rent right up front. This is a lot of stress and change at the same time. While my responsibilities will be increasing I am afraid my bank account will find that this week has a definite decreasing effect on it.

Monday, August 16, 2010


38. Friends visiting from out of town
39. Guests that bring coffee with them
40. The chance to share more about life out here
41. People who ask good questions, that inspire thoughtful answers
42. Meeting old friend's babies for the first time
43. When the baby doesn't cry when I hold her
44. Learning a day later that the baby was crying because her first tooth was coming in, not because she met her Aunt Karen for the first time
45. People who are anxious to hear what I learned at the class I recently attended.
46. Diplomatic emails - and the thought that goes into writing them
47. When people comment on my blog or respond to my letters by email.
48. The rain coming and the pain leaving
49. That I am not under the same pressure to marry as my Uyghur friends
50. That my parents have never shown up at my door with a man in tow saying "We gave you long enough to try to find your own husband, and since you haven't found one, you WILL marry this man"
51. Being able to be the person whose shoulder my Uyghur friend choices to cry on.
52. Getting a good deal on office furniture for our new place of business
53. People who have started a business here before and willingly give us hints and share their knowledge on the best way to go about it.
54. That first drink of water after a long hot Ramadan day
55. Taxi drivers who know where they are going
56. Evenings spent cooking Western food with Uyghur friends
57. Earning the respect and trust of my friend's parents
58. Shop keeps that know me so well they give me a better price than most locals can get.
59. Decaf coffee at 10pm
60. Seat near the door on the bus

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flattened Figs

Out of all the fruit for sale on the street I always thought the figs looked the funniest. They are sold as flat round disks, not at all what I had pictured a fresh fig looking like.

Recently while I was at a friend’s house we were sent, by her mother, to go and pick figs from the back yard. Each one my friend pulled off the branch she would squish three times between her hands, it looked almost like she was spanking the fruit in order to reshape it.

After about the 5th time I couldn't let this strange behaviour pass without asking “why?” The answer I got was rather surprising. Uyghur, and perhaps all of Islam, have been taught that the enticing tree from which Adam and Even ate forbidden fruit was none other than a fig tree. The fruit is still seen as evil and in need of punishment. So each fig picked gets slapped three times for it’s involvement in the fall of all mankind.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Job Just Got A Lot Harder

The month of Ramadan has started again; this is a hard time of year to live in a Muslim neighbourhood. Whether or not, I as an outsider, choice to join in the fast or not, there is guilt involved in eating on the street insight of many hungry people. I often feel bad if I start to prepare my dinner before it dark out since it is like knowingly allowing the delicious aroma of my food to tempt them.

For the past month or so I have been helping fill in for my friend at a foreign run café in town. The means I go each day and spend a few hours sipping coffee or fruit shakes with the staff, and helping the local manager think through what needs to be done. Talk about an dream job, nice hours, and little responsibility.

But Ramadan at a café is even harder. Some of our staff is fasting, so they spend their day in the kitchen cooking food for other to enjoy. They smell the intoxicating smells that go with their job, but can not even taste the sauce to see if it is right. Ramadan fasting rules are quite strict actually forbidding water from sunup to sundown. This is murderous on a hot summer day in the kitchen with the oven and stoves going full force. So, out friendship I am not eating or drinking while I am there either. Trust me when I say a day at a café with no coffee in hand is less than complete. This month my job is going to get a whole lot harder.