2006.04.18 Urumqi

David & Abdu-Shukkur
David & Abdu-Shukkur
Whatever photos accompany this and my next few entries won't be new. Once again my camera has gone missing somewhere on the streets of Urumqi.

The first time this happened, just over a year ago, I tried to convice myself that it had merely fallen into the snow. I don't like the idea that I could be pickpocketed. After the replacement I bought for last year's camera went missing last week, I guess I have to admit that there's something more going on around the streets of Urumqi.

The expense of having two cameras stolen stings, but what I find more disturbing is having to reconcile that people do operate at this level. Inequity and poverty are rampant across this country, though I have to wonder what rationalization is going through the heads of somebody who is stealing from somebody else. Perhaps it is easier to somehow perceive a foreigner as a deserving target, but all of my local friends have also been victims of petty street theft in the past. Everybody I know who has owned a bicycle here has seen it disappear. Cash, mobile phones--all my friends have first-hand experience with these vanishing.

Other than the stolen camera, life goes well. My social calendar is full. Meengday and I have been seeing more of each other, which has me yet contemplating my status as language-leech. A couple nights ago Tiffany and I took a late evening chatting and chilling at my place: wine from Europe, animated conversation, and nutty nuggets.

Nutty Nuggets was the term my family used for a particular snack we made when I was a child. The recipe is simple: knead peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk together until it tastes good. Roll bits of the dough into small balls on a sheet of waxed paper, then leave them in the freezer long enough to firm them up and add a little edge.

Tiffany's family didn't have any such pet name, referring to them plainly as peanut butter balls. I do recall cutting in sunflower seeds as a child, otherwise our ingredients and preparation processes were identical.

School goes well. I'm not only making it to class regularly, but managing to prepare enough in advance to feel like a good boy. I've also started informally auditing a Persian class which started up at Xinjiang University. The other students are largely faculty, with a smattering of graduate students in the back of the classroom. I wonder what they make of this guy who keeps showing up, taking notes in English. I'm on familiar terms with a few of the faculty who attend the course, such as my calligraphy instructor Abdu-Shukkur, so others probably realize that I am somehow affiliated with the school. I just don't care about doing things the right way. I could go through proper channels, formally getting permission to attend from somebody, somewhere. After two years experience in Urumqi that strikes me as the wrong way to go about getting things done in China.

The Persian class is taught entirely in Uighur, I'm thrilled to find that I can follow along and understand most everything. I did take some Persian at the end of my undergraduate years, which helps, but think that I'd at least have a basic grasp of the course content even without that.

Despite that the class is doing great things for me in two languages, I am considering dropping it. After three weeks it's just arriving at that point where I'll have to put some effort into preparing for class. At the beginning of this semester I made a deliberate decision to not take Uighur courses. Previous semesters I found that I gained little ground with Chinese as studying Uighur always took priority. This term has been good in finally beginning to make progress with my Chinese. I haven't decided for sure that I'll dump the Persian, only that I will do so if I lose momentum with Chinese.

The other courses go well. My level of Chinese calligraphy is still embarassing, I'm not putting the time in I should at home. However, my private lessons in Islamic calligraphy keep getting better. Now that I'm a bit more conversant in Uighur, Abdu-Shukkur and I have been able to finesse finer points of my art. We're also chatting more about topics in general, which is fun. Within a week or two we should finish up the current script he's teaching me: rayhani. We've decided that after we finish up rayhani we'll craft calligraphy pens together from scratch for the next session. That idea excites me--it just feels very right, somehow.