02 December 2007

Kashed out in Kashgar

Actually, I've had a very interesting time in Kashgar, but the lingering effects of bacterial illness compounded with the continuance of my tendonitis (and dancing-induced pain in the right knee) have made it a rather mixed experience. Surrounded as I am by delicious Uighur food, I can eat none of it--no, appetiteless, I am confined to antibiotics luckily brought along--as, likewise to my chagrin, the temperatures plunge below freezing, and I am left unable to walk and in contemplation of having to miss out on Annapurna in Nepal, which I surely oughtn't do with a bad foot, it being a 21+ day venture into sparsely villaged, roadless countryside. On the plus side, I am currently using my new couchsurfing friend Guleya's computer. Guleya, a Uighur-speaking Uzbek whose quite traditional Muslim family is being kind enough to allow me into their lovely, carpeted home, has been a delight and a great help to me. She has served me tea, bowls full of chocolates and dried fruit, plates of enormous Uighur naan bread, and a bowl of pomegranates and apples--and yet I can eat none of it. I think I've had nothing but a bagel-like thing and a few oranges in the last three days. Yesterday, we attended the going-away-from-Kashgar party of another couchsurfer named Cindy, who is an anthropology graduate student studying Uighur language and culture. She was going to host me, at first, but she's not allowed to have guests, and it would have been too hard sneaking me past the dormitory guardian. Instead, I went to her party, where I at least got to enjoy traditional Uighur music--an intangible UNESCO World Heritage don't you know (I didn't know). And that was a saving grace, because there also were heaping plates of paradisaical food placed before me that I couldn't touch. That's right, people, I, Steven J. Syrek...


God pity me. God help me.

Funnily enough, my dormitory room (finally got the toilet fixed) has been host to at least four independent Japanese travelers, naturally a delight, who are also naturally doing things I could never dream of. One guy was a cop and quit for I don't know how long, perhaps two years, to travel and has already been to about 20 countries in 2 weeks or something, sneaking past border posts and whatnot so he could get into, i.e., Tajikistan. Another guy was in the midst of the same, I forget all the envy-inducing details of these hardcore Nihonjin types, and recently left for Urumqi on the same train I took to get here, except he's going by hard seat--hard seat for 23 hours!--whereas I, the sissy, went by hard sleeper. Well, he's only 24, and I've done things like that. I think my hard seat days are over (though a 35 year old French guy staying here does the same, curse them all). There's also a young Japanese woman, but she's very quiet and seems loathe to speak to me in that Japanese loathing-to-speak-to-foreigners way to which my Japanese readers can attest. Oh well. A new arrival is a recent Kyoto University graduate, soon to be Tokyo University grad student (International Development), who, at the age of 23, has just ridden his bike from Dali, through Yunnan and Tibet--the really hard part of Tibet--in winter--to Xinjiang--illegally--all of which is insane. On his way to Kyrgyzstan, I reckon. And you people worry about *me*?? Please, what I do is nothing. I might as well give up, I'm so lacking in the spirit of adventure. But I am not really so down as that. It's only a mood brought on by my restless stomach, refusing to give quarter to my unrested body. It gives me hope in the possibilities of life to hear such people's tales and exploits. People tell me all the time how they couldn't do what I'm doing. And yet, I'm hardly doing anything given what other, more robust, more ambitious, perhaps wealthier people than myself are up to. And it pains me to admit that, given the constraints of space, I've really only told you but half of it. If that.

To quote a description of the Kashgar bazaar, which I think is as much applicable to travel, and experience, and life in general (translated from the Chinese), "Let's join into the crowd and taste the pleasure."

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