A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Smoking in China

My friend sent me a link to this article about smoking in China, and I thought I'd share it with all of you. It's, unfortunately, a very real description of the current situation of smoking in China. The truth of the matter is, cigarette factories are a state-owned business that makes the government TONS of money. The government doesn't provide healthcare, so they don't have to worry about that. And, it helps with population control (sorry if that's too blunt, but it's the case). So, the government encourages smoking. As if the air here wasn't bad enough...

Anyway, you can check out the article, In China, cigarettes are a kind of miracle drug by following that link.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Time Warp Baby

As you might recall, since I did mention it on this site a while back, my mother and two of her friends (who also happen to be colleagues) came and visited here in China. My mom was here for almost three full weeks. One of her friends, Sherry, for two, and her other, Ever, for just under one. It was a good trip, of course, and I really enjoyed introducing different parts of China to them.

Much to my mother's chagrin, the only thing that I really posted about the trip on my blog was that I was relieved it was over. Now, I know that she took it in the way I meant it, that I was relieved to be able to relax after being "on" for three weeks, and not that I was either a) happy she was gone, or b) didn't enjoy the trip. But nevertheless, I felt it is only right to add some more about our trip on my blog.

Rather conveniently, at about the same time I decided this, Sherry e-mailed me a great PowerPoint presentation of her/our (we weren't together the whole time) trip to Asia. I think it's well worth sharing, and I think it's particularly interesting to have "fresh eyes" on China (actually, that was one of my favorite parts about having my mom and friends here, is that I got to see China for the first time again). And so, I'm happy to invite a "guest blogger" to my blog to help me describe my mom's China trip. I hope you enjoy!

I have linked to the presentation here for a download. Note that it's a fairly large file, and will therefore take a while to download. You might not want to risk it if you're not on high speed, unless it's really worth it to ya!

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Vignettes a la Haiku

Okay, so the last post was less of a vignette, and more of a, well, diatribe I guess. So, in order to make it shorter and more vignette-like, and also because I'm currently teaching poetry to my students, I thought I would share some Kahsgari haikus for your reading pleasure.

Vignette #2: Outside Kashgar

Poplars line dirt roads
A dry wind rustles the leaves
The mosque stands empty

Vignette #3: On the Abakh Hoja Mauseleum

Hojas of the past
Engulfed in the cool marble
Holy sepulcher

Sun beats green tiled domes
Seventy-eight rest in peace
Dryness permeates

Vignette #4: On the People's Square

The packed square surges
With vigor of vibrant youth
Happy Children’s Day

Vignette #5: At a Restaurant

My Lonely Planet
Held by a Uighur waitress
New understanding

Vignette #6: The Bazaar

Grabbed by forceful hands
A vendor peddles his wares
Chotchkies overwhelm

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Vignette #1: The Plane

Well, I’m back in one piece…amazing, I know. And an interesting journey it has been! It’s really unfortunate that I was not able to connect to the internet again during my time in the “Wild West of the Orient” (okay, so I just made that up, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?) because there is just sooooo much to talk about. So, since I can’t keep a train of thought for more than, say, two minutes, I thought I would take a vignette approach to this post. They’re not in any particular order (especially not chronological), but I think you’ll appreciate them anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

Vignette #1- The Plane from Kashgar back to Urumqi

It’s 8:20AM in the morning. Well, rather, it’s 6:20AM in the morning XinJiang Time, 8:30AM Beijing Time. The sun is already high in the sky, but the air has not yet absorbed any of its warming rays. After having checked out from my hotel in the former Russian Embassy, I decide that I have some time before my flight, so I go searching in vein for XinJiang-style bagels, but not before I check on how to get to the airport via public bus. After walking for twenty minutes without finding bagels (it was still too early really), I hop the bus to the airport. It being China, the bus didn’t go quite all the way to the airport (too logical), so I had to trek in the last little bit to the terminal. Of course, nothing was clearly marked there, so I couldn’t tell which door to go in, and once inside I couldn’t find the check-in counter. Eventually though, I found it, though I was running late. They had already closed the computer for my flight (of course there were still like ten people to follow after me, so it was a good thing they closed the computer down so early!), so they issued me a ticket by hand, and told me to rush up the stairs for the security screening.

There, the guard, afraid to talk to the foreigner (probably because he doesn’t think he can speak English), grunts at me to get me to finish my security screening (I had already passed through the metal detector, he was wanding me). Wand. Grunt. I give him a weird look. Grunt. I turn around. Meaner grunt—apparently that wasn’t what he wanted. I turn back around. Grunt and nod of head. I fish the Peptol Bismol chew tabs out of my pocket and wonder to myself if he’s happy now. Approving grunt. Hand pushes me. I figure that means turn around. Wand, wand, grunt. Assuming that means I’m done, I step down from the platform and collect my things.

It frustrates me so much here how often Chinese people refuse to even try speaking with me!! Am I really that intimidating?!

In any case, I make through security and am ushered out the door. I run down the steps and across the tarmac, wind ruffling my hair, to the waiting plane that is already mostly full. Upon boarding, I find I am seated in the same row (though across the aisle) of a family travelling with two small children. The balding, slightly comical father is having an argument with the stewardess about having to stow one of his bags in the overhead compartment instead of in front of him. “It’s convenient for you, miss, but it’s not convenient for us. Isn’t that so?” he inquires to the overhead compartment while stuffing in his bag.

A few minutes later as the stewardesses are walking by, one of the kids decides that she wants to be held by one of them. The stewardess picks her up and the kid seems happy. The father asks the stewardess if she would like to be their new nanny (note that the old nanny is sitting next to the mother in the same row holding the other child), and the whole back half of the plane has a laugh.

Directly in front of this family is another foreigner, a tall blonde who looks like a young Allison Janning (C.J. on “The West Wing” if that helps.)

I peer out the window to see a group of about five people running across the tarmac. Bringing up the rear is a somewhat portly Uighur/Pakistani/Ethnically Arabic woman in full head gear and high heels carrying a fake Gucci. I must add that this hijab isn’t just the wrap around kind where the eyes are open to the environment. No, this was a thick brown mesh (I’m assuming, I mean, how else could she see through it?) cloth just draped over her head. She looked like a brown ghost flittering over the tarmac towards the plane, the wind trying its best to blow her scarf off. She finally made it.

Among that group, one woman sits next to the other foreign woman in the row in front of me. With henna-died, red hair, glittery nails, and a fake leopard print shirt on, she looks like she’s trying to hard. Suddenly, she starts sobbing uncontrollably and rambling in Uighur. The foreign woman tries to comfort her, but doesn’t really know what to do, especially since she doesn’t speak Uighur. She tries coaxing her to speak Mandarin, but she’s too far gone.

Again, I look across the tarmac to see more passengers arriving. This time it’s special though. They’re not coming from the same security checkpoint as everybody else did. Rather, it’s an older man pushing a middle-aged man in pajamas on a wheel chair. The man on the wheel chair is clearly unconscious, or at least his head is lolling to the side in a way I’ve never seen a conscious person’s do. They hurry across the tarmac as best they can, but when they arrive at the plane, they face a new problem: stairs. Armed guards run out from the airport to assist, and a group of about five men carry him up the stairs on board the airplane. I tear up. The next I see of them, the old man is carrying the sick one on his back to his seat, where he promptly lays down.

He is not the only person in hospital garb aboard the plane, there is also an elderly man who is also in a bad way wrapped in blankets a few rows behind the new arrival. Even though he’s sick, he’s still wearing his white embroidered cap that marks him as a Uighur.

We take off, flying right over downtown Kashgar. I got some GREAT pictures (see my other blog Fun Fotos for wHeNeVeR to see some.). As we level off, the guy next to me, who has been in what I would refer to as my personal space for the entire take off procedure turns to me and asks me to trade seats. As I want to take pictures out the window, I try to find an excuse not to. “It’s too troublesome,” I tell him.

He tries to start up a conversation. He has a thick accent so I have a lot of difficulty understanding him. He clearly starts mocking me for it to the person sitting to his other side. He keeps trying though, obviously adhering to the belief that the louder he speaks, the better I will be able to understand him. All the while his elbow in my arm. “In China, the personal space bubble is smaller than in the US,” I say to myself, trying to ignore it. As he’s talking, spittle slips out between the gap of his front teeth. I try not to cringe as it lands on my arm.

I politely fall asleep. Tap tap tap. “What’s the temperature in Urumqi?” he asks.

I ask him how I’m supposed to know if he doesn’t? Again, I feign sleep, thinking it probably a bit too impolite to simply stick my earphones in. He starts up a conversation with the woman on his other side. We both notice as he pulls out his cell phone to check the time. The lady to his right gasps “Shouldn’t that be turned off during the flight?”

“Oh no, it’s fine to leave it on, you just can’t make calls during the flight,” he assures her.

“Well, the stewardess said to turn off all cell phones,” she replies.

“No really, it’s okay, isn’t it.” He turns to me for back up.

I roll my eyes and don’t really say anything. I once again try feigning sleep.

Tap tap tap. “Where’s that foreigner from across the aisle?”

“I do not know. I don’t know her,” I assure him. He persists.

“She’s from America like you.”

“Oh, how do you know that?”

“Because she’s a foreigner.”

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