Same Old

Zong-Zi Snacks for Sale
April 30, 2008

Urumqi feels about the same as when I left it. Prices and places around town all seem about the same. For some reason I expected that familiar restaurants and shops would have closed, menus changed. Everything is pretty much as I recall. I suppose I was away for only eight months.

I've spent the past couple weeks visiting with friends. Fausto is one of the few foreigners who I saw regularly that is still here in Urumqi. He's continued our tradition of organizing regular Ultimate Frisbee gatherings on the Xinjiang University field. It was Fausto who designed the logo for our informal band of disc-throwers, "U.U.U." the Urumqi Ultimate Union. Last year we printed up and sold hundreds of shirts with his design; I'm happy to see the Frisbee tradition continuing on.

Among my local friends, there has been lots of news: some happy, some sad. On the happy side, both Bahar and Mahira are mothers now. I've not yet seen either of them, but we should get together at least once before I leave China.

As the city is still much the way I remembered, my mood is similar to how it was while I was living here: certain aspects make me want to stay on longer, others make me wonder how I spent any time here at all. The streets are still filthy, people still spit publicly everywhere, the traffic remains hopeless. Other times, I bask in the vibrant mix of cultures and languages out on the street, or happily attempt to fathom how a delicious, filling meal at a nice restaurant can yet cost under $1 USD.

I quit the sublet I mentioned in my last entry. The apartment wasn't that bad, but it wasn't that cozy or well-furnished. I found its location inconvenient, in the heart of campus--a long walk to any main road. Perhaps I'll take on another sublet somewhere, though I may just bounce around, crashing at various friends' places.

Where I stay in Urumqi is a moot point at the moment. I'm off to see folks in Beijing; I'm at the airport now. Usually, times I visit Beijing are an extension of some period of transit when returning to or leaving the country. I'm making the trip wholly for fun this time. This excursion should be something of a Xinjiang foreign-student reunion. Tiffany moved to Beijing a couple months ago to look for work. Logan left Xinjiang University, finished up her Master's in the U.S. and is now studying in Kunming. I should be seeing several other people I know in Beijing as well.

I'll be back here in Urumqi in exactly one week.