Wednesday, July 05, 2006


After finding a hotel at great personal annoyance (a.k.a. 6 hours of tramping the town getting turned down) it was time to explore Urumqi. Actually, no, it was time to sleeeeeeep. The next morning it was time to explore.
XinJiang, if you haven't done your research, is the "Uyghur automomous region" of China. Sichuan, the province where I live, is bigger than France. XinJiang, I kid you not, is slightly larger than all of western Europe.

And Urumqi is the capital. Han Chinese have been pouring in in recent years, but the whole province remains, for now, decidedly Uyghur. Again, Uyghurs are a stateless Turkic people of central Asia. There.

I spent a lot of time down in the Uyghur core of the city, where I was reduced to pointing and grunting like a tourist because no one spoke Chinese, only Uighur. So, I did the only reasonable thing for the next few days: I hired a Uyghur tutor. Actually, it was a language exchange. He wanted to learn French, and it would have worked perfectly, but for a couple of snags.
  1. I'm, sadly, a more dilligent teacher than him. So I have a feeling I gave better than I got.
  2. He understood "tutor me in Uyghur" to mean "you're my best friend, Copper"
  3. He didn't speak Chinese (hardly) so I was essentially helping him in English the whole rest of the time. Again, kind of a lopsided bargain for teaching me the numbers one to ten (a.k.a "bir to teut")
  4. Fellow students of his kept "just happening" to be hanging around at our meeting times and getting invited to join my class. Oh well.

Be that as it may, I am learning Uyghur slowly. And he IS a genuinely nice guy. I think the most of the Urumqi sights I saw can be summed up in pictures. Some are on flickr already, the rest will be posted in a while (hold your horses!) by Laura, my gracious and urbane blog editor while I'm on the road.

(XinJiang pictures only)

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