Sunday, September 30, 2007

Going to Gansu for the National Holiday

Reports of daily life at home in Chengdu will follow people, I promise, but for now, it's the 0ne-week National holiday, and so I'm leaving for Gansu province for 6 days. I'll send an update from there too, of course.

FYI # 1 before I explain further: I've been fasting for Ramadan. For the religiously challenged, yes, it's currently Ramadan. I'm not Muslim, but I've done Ramadan before and I like it, and it's a good opportunity for me to study the Qur'an and pray and learn about Allah. So there you go. Fasting entails no food or drink between sunup and sundown, for one month. Generally Muslims will have a large meal together (iftar) after sundown, but since I have few Muslim friends here, I've been breaking the fast alone most days, so it's been a pretty lonely Ramadan so far.

Lanzhou (兰州) the capital of Gansu (甘肃) is 22 or 23 hours away by train. I'm going with Reshalati, my Uyghur friend (above) to see her patroness' 5-year old son, who attends the only Islamic elementary boarding school in China. Kind of a complicated story. But we'll be trespassing on the hospitality of all sorts of friends of the aforementioned rich Muslim lady, which may very well be awkward, but will at least be nice in that I'll have people with whom to break the fast. Most people are Muslim up in Gansu. Hui, which is the category made for Chinese Muslims who don't fall into any specific ethnic minority. Reshalati is Uyghur, for instance, which is an ethnic minority group that is almost 100% Muslim, speaks Uyghur, not Chinese, and look very different from "Chinese". This woman and most people in Gansu are Hui, which means they speak Chinese, look Han, they're fairly "normal Chinese" ethnically, they're just Muslim.

What else we'll do up there is actually at this point a mystery to me. I have the feeling we'll be more or less at the mercy of our hosts. It should be interesting, and I'll let you know how it's going.

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