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First Taste of Xinjiang

In Turpan.

sunny 48 °C
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Turpan, August 15th 2012

Xinjiang is an autonomous region but the largest province in China. Xinjiang is actually the home of Uyghur people, but many Han Chinese have migrated to Xinjiang, and as much as I've witnessed in Xinjiang, the Chinese government is taking all effort to make Xinjiang as Chinese as possible. Colin Thubron in Shadow of the Silk Road wrote that had Xinjiang been taken by Russia, Xinjiang would by now be an independent country, Xinjiangstan, like her neighboring countries. Well, that spells fate, I guess.

From now on, the rest of the cities I'm going to travel on will be all on the Xinjiang Region. The first is Turpan. As I walked the pavement road and watched the people, I felt like I wasn't in China. Not the China I used to know. I entered a small restaurant which had an Arabic signboard.

"May I have beef noodle, please?" I asked a girl whom I think is the prettiest girl I've seen through Xinjiang. She had the Chinese porcelain skin but the European round eyes. She merely took the best of each side.

"We don't have," was what I understood. Oh, aren't they on business yet because of the Ramadhan month like in Jiayuguan? But at the table behind her were two men having a meal.

"You aren't opened yet?"

Her father (seemed so) came out with tray filled with raw dumplings.

"Like that," she said.

"Okay, give me five of them."

I cannot repeat what she and her father said, but I understood that they meant I cannot buy only 5 pieces. They are selling 10 pieces the least.

"Okay," I replied.

Her father kept on talking. I got confused. What's the problem? I already agreed to buy 10 pieces. Did I misunderstood them? I looked at him, "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Duìbùqǐ wǒ bù dǒng."

Whatsoever he kept on talking. Aye, what is it do they want?? "I want to buy!" I said.

"Yes, yes! Just sit down!"

Is this the gravy? But with a kettle? Oh, it's tea. Very nice. Tea with ginger flavor. But why in a bowl? I was too thirsty to think. I helped myself with another bowl.

By the way, this girl had a little brother. His features were less sharp, more Mongolian. Can you see the boy's legs in the picture above? He sat there watching me like in a zoo. Ah, if only he were 20 years older, I would have been swept to my feet.

I counted. One, two, three, four... ten! See? I understood correctly, didn't I? Days later, through experiences in this Xinjiang Region, I realized that it wasn't my Mandarin that they didn't understand. It was the word "okay" which I had said between my Mandarin sentences. I should have said "Kěyǐ", I suppose. "Okay" maybe sounded like another word to them.

How about the taste? Uugghh... I struggled to swallow every piece. It's not the taste, but the smell. It had a similar strong "Arabic smell" like the martabak I bought in Moslem quarter in Xi'An. One piece after another I reminded myself that there's no more time to look for another restaurant and maybe all Xinjiang food smells like this. Oh, no!

I succeeded finishing 6 pieces and then asked the girl to wrap the rest for me. Tonight I'll continue the struggle. The dumplings cost 5 yuan.

Posted by automidori 01:00 Archived in China Tagged china xinjiang turpan

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