2004.09.28 Urumqi, China

Michael, Nisagul, and Rahila

It's been just over a year since Michael and I met up in Karachi, beginning the Asian legs of our journeys. Appropriately, he and I are together in the same city once again. Last week he traveled across western Mongolia then down to Urumqi via a brief stay in Kazakhstan.

He's staying in the spare bedroom of my flat. I've decided to defer attending my new Chinese language courses until I'm done hosting him. Even without a guest around, concurrently studying two languages keeps my schedule full. I have been making it to all of my Uighur and calligraphy lessons during his stay, so figure that's good enough. Right now Michael is away with Nisagul, spending a couple days to take the same trip I did a month ago, visiting Turfan. It's a perfect situation--he wanted to visit the ancient city, I can use his time away to catch up on studies and update this website. As a mathematics major in her final year, Nisagul has a major case of senioritis so didn't need much encouragement to skip class.

Over the weekend the three of us attended a circumcision ceremony along with Nisagul's friend Rahila. The boy of honor was seven years old, a distant relative of Nisagul's. I understood little about it, other than that the ritual is still an important rite of passage in Turkic cultures today. Approximately two-hundred people crowded into a banquet hall to feast and dance. The event wasn't that unfamiliar, rather along the lines of a western wedding reception. However, I'd certainly be curious to know more about the other ceremonies which were carried out beforehand.

Midway through the evening Nisagul performed a solo dance routine. She had previously told me that she danced "hip-hop" but I presumed that out here in Xinjiang that term must have a different meaning. Perhaps it was a catch-all word for any popular dance today, I reasoned. Nope--to my surprise, Nisagul can definitely move. In contrast we all spent the next day shucking corn to turn into cattle feed out on the farm where she grew up.

Rahila and David Shuck Corn
It's fun showing Michael around Urumqi and introducing him to my existence here. When we were here together last November neither of us had much of a sense of the city. He concurs that the iced mochas at the Eversun cafe are superior to those available in Seattle. I hosted a night of game playing with some of the other local English-speakers a few days ago: we could have just as easily been hanging out with friends back in the U.S.

I have the first week of October free from classes. Chinese National Day means a break for the entire country. Michael is going to continue his journey westward; I'll accompany as far as I can. We already have visas for Kazakhstan so I know we'll be going at least as far as Alma Ata. I have long wanted to visit Samarkand, though don't know the logistics of a side trip to Uzbekistan. It should be possible, but don't want to be away from my courses for too long.