Our life in Urumqi

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Blissful peace and quiet… sort of!

As all the world knows (or ought to, or will very soon) the mainland Chinese LOOOOOVE their mobile phones. They also love shouting. And chicken feet, but that’s a different post.

But surely, at one of Xinjiang’s most beautiful places; a fairyland lake of sapphire blue water surrounded by emerald hills, watched over by spectacular snowy peaks; an alpine region that earns complimentary comparisons to the European alps; a place totally, amazingly different to the hundreds of kilometres of red-rock deserts that surrounds it; surely, surely they’d just shut up and drink in the views.

Right? Right? Ummmmmmm, nope.

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This place ain’t for vegetarians!

As we’ve already commented, the Chinese are nose to tail eaters. Along with chicken breasts you can buy chicken heads and chicken feet at every supermarket. Like pork chops? They’re just beside the trotters and snouts. Like salmon? Well, you can only have thin slices of it at exorbitant prices. But, hell, we’re living in the most inland city this rock has to offer.

Aside from the weird stuff, there’s a vertitable feast of good meats on offer too. A favourite Chinese snack is beef or yak jerky. It comes is all kinds of flavours and is a perfect beer-time snack. The best tasting jerky is nothing more than thin strips of beef, cut from a joint, dried and put in a packet. Others come basted in spice mixes and are also fun.

Roast horse is my absolute favourite. We were invited to attend a Kazakh coming of age ceremony (well, asked to be entertainment as it turned out) and given a free meal afterwards. First thing out on the table: a huge lump of roasted horse on the bone. Brilliant! As the only guy in the group, it was my job to get my hands dirty and carve; something that gave me huge satisfaction. For those who have never tasted it, our equine friends come somewhere between beef and venison in the red meat stakes (pun intended). We should eat more horse, that’s all I’m saying.

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What the hell?

Okay, maybe starting this topic was a big mistake for two reasons.

1. I only have so many hours in the day and there is a LOT of weird shit I don’t understand here, and;

2. I’ve been in China six months, sure, but I reckon you could be here for years and still find there’s a lot that doesn’t make any sense from an outsider perspective. I’m a long, long, long way from expertise.

Nonetheless, here goes, a list of the top four differences between China and my home, as seen by me (NB: we work for a company dominated by Han Chinese and live in a predominantly Han neighbourhood, and so it is the Han way of doing things I reference below.)

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Who needs logic anyway…

In case the etymological study of the word ‘logic’ didn’t give the game away, this is a contribution from Ian. On a Bad China Day.

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Logic. The word has its roots in the ancient Greek logos, of which one meaning is to say or speak. In the thinking of Heraclitus, who first used it in a technical sense, it meant something akin to Truth, alethia. Nowadays, however, it denotes a systematic approach to something, a manner of saying or doing things that confirm to a logical, that is, comprehensible and easily verifiable truism. It is this wordview, this paradigm, that signifies Western technological thinking more than any other. And it doesn’t apply in China.

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Kashgar, Tibet, Nepal, India…

It’s a simple enough plan, the one we have. Finish working here in the wild north of China, sometime towards the end of the year. Then, go from China’s second most sensitive region (Xinjiang) to the most sensitive region (Tibet). We’re hoping to get there by a little known and little used road that has the charming distinction of being one of the highest in the world.

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