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Random Sunday Musings…

Random thoughts after three weeks on the road…

Back in Beijing and it’s now fall.  Fall is easily the loveliest time of the year here in the city of imperial dust.  Unfortunately, it’s also the shortest season.  How short? Last year I missed it because I had a meeting that afternoon.

Taking advantage of the weather and the holiday, YJ and I trekked over to Haidian Park for the first day of the Modern Sky Festival.  Coolest moment: braving a short cloudburst with 500 or so Chinese hippies as the band Sound Fragment (声音碎片) played onstage and took us through the rain and out the other side into a (rare) gorgeous sunset behind the Western Hills.

Least cool moment: As much as I (and others) like to complain about Chinese crowd behavior on the subway, in the mall, etc. One place where it kind of works is at an outdoor concert with festival seating.  In fact, the real douchebags pushing and shoving their way drunkenly through the crowd are usually the Lao Wai.

(Yeah, I’m looking at you drunk China newbie with the Jägermeister thundersticks shoving your way to the front midway through Second Hand Rose’s set.)

Funniest moment: Douchebag’s equally drunken Chinese girlfriend not once, but twice, being dropped on her head while attempting to crowd surf.  Fortunately, tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum had spent enough time in the Jäger tent that she was feeling no pain and was up and bouncing around like a meth-crazed jackalope within seconds each time.  How she’s feeling this morning though might be another matter entirely…

Finally a couple of quick observations from my trip out west:

1)      A lot of Uighurs do not like the Han and are vocal about it. My students kind of knew this going in, but were a bit shocked by how often they heard it.

2)      Han Chinese tourists in Xinjiang generally dress and act like they are on safari…which may in some small way play a role in the situation described above.

3)       The food was awesome.  Every night was like eating at Crescent Moon or Tumaris except that it was about half as expensive and the service twice as friendly.

4)      After Xian I was without Internet so I have a couple of posts stored up which I’ll put on the blog sometime later this week.  Xinjiang does have Internet and my students made ample use of the local wang ba to go online. Me? I find Chinese internet bars depressing in a kind of “Atlantic City casino with the old grannies sucking oxygen, chain smoking Merits, and pissing away their social security one quarter at a time” way.  (Lower the age, replace slot machines with World of Warcraft, Merits with Zhongnanhai’s, and ‘quarters’ with ‘education’ and you’re almost there.)

5)     Off to Brunch…

3 Comments on Random Sunday Musings…

  1. How was Dunhuang?

  2. It usually is quite surprising how easily and quickly one realizes how electric the interracial tension is in Xinjiang once one gets there. It doesn’t have to be ferreted out or uncovered; it’s tangible and permeates the air especially in places like Urumqi. I think the surprise generally comes from two things: first, the fact that everything we hear about Xinjiang is couched in quite sensational terms in Western media outlets, which leads us to instinctively (and rightfully, in my opinion) ask, is it really that bad? And second the insistent, unceasing buzz of government propaganda maintains vociferously that discontent is an isolated phenomenon held by 极少 splittest fenzi and eruptions of violence a la July of last year are when the gullible masses are deceived by those hidden Fu Manchus and their inevitable foreign paymasters. Again, most China expats and China hands take this also with a grain of salt but there is an element of truth in observing the persuasive powers of repetitiveness.

    But its real, and its real thick. In my experience Uyghurs tend to view Westerners in general – which I’m assuming that’s what you and your crew of students came off as in terms of physical appearance – as allies, truly because Uyghurs tend to associate the West with values they hold superior to the values being actuated by the PRC government in Xinjiang. This combined with the overall openness Uyghurs tend to have means that even short-term visitors will be quick to hear from Uyghurs how bad things are.

    Of course I have to put in an opportunistic, self-serving plug: if you, or particularly, your students were intrigued by the tense social configurations of Xinjiang it really is difficult to describe what one learns about the Uyghurs and the XJ situation if one is capable of speak to the Uyghurs in the Uyghur language. Of course, you could always let your students know, as Josh from Far West China has shown, there are several opportunities back in the state to pursue an interest in Xinjiang by studying Uyghur…….. 😀

  3. Rob Gifford also says as much in “China Road.” You guys had very similar experiences.

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