Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The people of Kashgar are members of the Uygur minority. These turkic people are conservative Sunni Muslims, who speak a dialect of Turkish. When I asked him about the similarity between the Uygur language and Turkish, one of my Uygur friends here said, "About fifty percent." Yesterday, he showed me around the "old town" area. The Uygur people are very friendly, but it is a bit hard to communicate with them, because they do not speak English, and although some of them understand a little Chinese if you speak slowly, most them cannot converse in Mandarin. And, of course, I do not speak Uygur, although I have mnanaged to learn a few basic words:

"Good morning." -- essalamu eleikum (surely borrowed from Arabic)

"Hello." -- yahshimusiz

"Thanks." -- rehmet

"Good-bye." -- hosh

This morning, I had an interesting conversation with some friendly folks from Canada--a mother and her daughter. Her daughter actually lives in Paris, but spent her childhood in Beijing. They have just come through Kyrgyzstan, and really encouraged me to see it.

Maybe some day, but for me, travel outside China is really kinda mafun (mendokusai). I have never used traveler's checks in my life. In China, I don't need to carry money, because I have a domestic ATM card. In addition to this, the exchange rate is not good. Naturally, China has had an interest in keeping the RMB low, because this has benefitted exports. But for someone like myself, working in China and being paid in RMB, this situation makes travel outside the country cost prohibitive. This situation may change after the news last Friday that China has tied the RMB to a basket of currencies, which surely means that it's value will rise against the dollar, which is falling against so many currencies worldwide. Traveling within China is generally pretty easy, but leaving the country really costs.

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