Hello friends! It’s so good to be back in touch with you. Since our last email update, we have traveled from Yunnan to the wild west of China, a.k.a. Xinjiang. It’s a huge place with at least 2 deserts and big cities right in the middle of the desert, it seems. While plenty of Chinese people live there, it has several different people groups with the majority being the Uyghur (wee-gur). They speak a language similar to Turkish, eat Turkish, and look Turkish. We felt like we had taken a flight from China to Turkey.
We really enjoyed learning some Uyghur words and going around talking to people, trying to make friends. We visited some animal markets, plenty of bazaars, and ate our fair share of lamb kebabs and polo, which is a rice dish with carrots and lamb. Many of the people are farmers and drive donkeys back and forth everywhere. We think donkeys are great and would like to own a donkey and cart someday.
Our Xinjiang adventure took us from Kashgar (western Xinjiang close to Tajikistan and Afghanistan) down south to Yengisar and Karghilik, where lots of knives are made. One of the knife merchants was trying to sell Mark a knife. He showed Mark how sharp the knife was by shaving off part of Mark’s arm hair before we realized what was going on.
On our way south to Hotan we saw huge white mountains off in the distance on one side and desert on the other side. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, but actually we stayed in really nice hotels (3 or even 4 stars) during this part of our trip. Hotan is known for all of their jade. We were swarmed with jade-sellers in the market, but we’re kind of cheap and did not buy any of their $1,000 pieces of jade they had found in the river. Yes, there are rivers in the desert. After Hotan we took a really really long 21-hour bus ride straight through the desert north to Urumqi. We drove directly through the 2nd biggest desert in the world – the Taklimakan desert. Our bus was a sleeper bus with tiny little beds, but we made it ok. And we were privileged with an old Chuck Norris classic on the little TV screens, one of which was about 6 inches from Mark’s head. In this part of the world the desert is your bathroom. Our bus would stop in the middle of nowhere, and the men would go to one side while the women to the other to take care of business.
The people in Xinjiang were so friendly to us and we are so thankful for our time there. We wandered around their old towns and saw how people lived. Some of it is similar to long, long ago like the first century with donkeys, dirt roads and dirt houses.