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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Strange bounce

This will be a short little entry today. I have arrived in Urumuqi. The day is sunny and the red mountains surrounding the town, peaking up from between [oh, the puns!--ed.] and above skyscrapers kind of make the place feel like a desert Denver, except that the signs are in Chinese, Russian, Uigher, and Arabic scripts. I have yet to walk much through the crowds so I don't know what the mix will be like in terms of actual people. I have heard there are many more Han Chinese than anything else here, but we will see soon enough. The bus, at least, was a full mix of Uigher and Chinese, with some looking as if they were straight from Central Asia. The best was a young girl with dark skin and thick eyebrows who was wearing a sunshine-bright yellow dress which blew around her as she did a little twirl in the wind at our rest stop. There was something simple and beautiful in that, something that can be recognized across the world as the movement of a happy child out on a perfect Saturday afternoon.

Anyway, the main purpose of this is to give another idea of the random ways in which the travel pinball bounces.

I wrote earlier about squat toilets and the rather unhygeinic conditions of some. I also mention that oftentimes there are no doors on the stalls, and this was the case at my last hotel. Not to get into too much detail, but I am rather regular in my morning calls of nature and so there I was at about 8 this morning after a half-hour conversation with Natalia. A guy walked into the bathroom looking for the shower, and because of the way the bathroom is set up, his eyes were drawn straight to where I was crouching.

"Sorry," he said. "Do you know where the showers are."

"Down the hall."

He started to turn away and then turned back.

"Hey," I said. "Good to see you again."

"You too," he said.

It was Jan, the German I had met in Dunhuang. He and his girlfriend had arrived on the morning bus from Turufan and were staying in the same hotel (that part was no surprise as I had told them I was staying there). Had he not come across me while I was taking a crap, though, or if the stall had a door, we may never have known we were there at the same time.

We went out to breakfast, and now the couple is considering heading up north with me when I leave Urumuqi on Monday night or Tuesday, depending on schedules. So things go.

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