Sunday, November 20, 2005

Muslim Chengdu

I visited Chengdu's mosque yesterday. It wasn't during prayer time, and so the one guy who was there just took care of my guitar for me while I got to roam around the whole place alone. It's the most beautiful building I've seen since I moved here. When I came down, he invited me into his office and we watched T.V. for a while, but I wasn't able to communicate to him that I needed a schedule of prayer times. Afterwards I ate at a Muslim restaurant and got to chat for a long time with the owner about the Muslim community in China. He taught me some Arabic greetings and introduced me to some of his Muslim brothers. One of them, from Xinjiang, played guitar. Xinjiang is the huge province that constitutes the entire West of China, contains 47 minority groups and is mostly Muslim. So we traded off my guitar for a while, just sitting on chairs in front of the restaurant.

In contrast to that awesome night, I was out at one of the foreigner(laowai) bars in Chengdu this week, not having a great time. Going out to bars/clubs occasionally feels kind of like this song (by Valdy):

(I admit it sounds dated, since by now I think folk and rock's differences are water under the bridge, but the feeling is still the joy of "rockin" vs. the real joy of fr****m and love, whatever the music.) Anyway, I left that bar but on my way home stopped by a campfire that some locals were having on the terasse of a bar that had closed up already. We drummed and played guitar around the fire and if you looked straight up, you could see the moon through the Chengdu pollution. So in the end, another wonderful night.


Andrew Heining said...

Love the song - and the update. I feel the same way about clubs and bars. Recently I've used the web to seek out classical concerts around the area - there's some good free ones over at the New England Conservatory, though I feel like a fogey going to them. It's tough - my roommates' idea of fun is hitting a bar for "some drinks." Ah, when did "some drinks" turn into paying 8 bucks a glass for stank-smelling idiot juice? I miss the Kool Aid days. (Well, not really Kool Aid per se, but the general aura surrounding its consumption)

Anonymous said...

Matthew my boy! Glad your Chengdusian peregrinations included an expat bar. I'm of the type that likes them; read Graham Greene's the Quiet American for a pre-rocknroll perspective on the perversity of expat watering holes in East Asia. Should be available in China, as the novel has the stamp of approval of the Vietnamese government, and is wildly popular there. But much better and more intimate are the expat lunch hangouts, where most people are not drunk. You might, BTW, wanna rephrase the last phrase in your parenthetic about the song. It contains the dreaded f-word. Perhaps I'm just still overly cautious from my days at the Saigon Times...
Keep folkin', my friend. Best- Brendan

Matthew said...

Thanks Brendan, I made a minor edit there, just in case. It's hard to know how careful to be as a laowai (foreigner) here. I'm actually more worried about the first part of the post, detailing my conversations about the dreaded r-word, with people from the X-province, which has a situation similar to T-place's (the cold T-place, not the island T) So I left stuff out, of course, but still.

Now Andrew, remember Daniel Johnston? Well the lyrics to one of his first songs were:
I'm drinking my life away
I'm drinking my life away
Even though it's only Kool-Aid.

PINKSandROSES said...

that's soo cool. i'm am having to live through you cause i don't think i would ever be brave enough to do something like that. i think the only brave thing i'm doing is moving away for a year to texas to go to school... yeah i'm a wimp.