Friday, September 30, 2011


 There are lots of little eateries all over the place. Eating at these places are not for the faint hearted. No sooner have I swallowed a bite that I don't wonder if it'll send me to the bathroom. I was fine this trip. Hygiene has definitely improved in China, not that one should not still take precautions, drink only bottled water, or boiled water and eat hot food. These were cold noodles and I took the risk.
 It's some hole in the wall place.
They lined the bowl with plastic and when you're done eating, they simply peel the plastic off and reuse the bowl without having to wash it. It was a lunch of cold noodles and some pickled vegetables, very typical of food for poor people, cost 5 Yuan (about .80 cents). Food is cheap but not always delicious, mostly greasy and salty.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I start noticing the difference

 They make do with whatever they have. They make and build their own form of transportation, putting a metal container on motorcycles or bicycles and moving goods and people with them.
Here is a Uighur woman knitting while waiting in the parking lot.

Kids are everywhere, playing while their parents work. There is a hive of economic activity, goods are being moved constantly and as I spent time observing I realised this is a trading post for goods going overland to Central Asia. This was an exploratory visit for me. I want to link this part of China with Turkey, visiting all the places in between, in Central Asia. How and when I'm going to do it, I don't know. But by being in Urumqi, I feel much more confident that I can do it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


 The ever present Tianshan or 'Heavenly mountains' are always in the back ground. The Heavenly montains divide Xinjiang into half, the lush Northern part and the dry arid Southern part. There is snow on these peaks all year round. This area is home to a hosts of 'Turkic' people of whom the Uighurs form the majority. The Chinese army has a strong presence here because of recent unrests and fighting between the Han Chinese and the Uighurs. The Han Chinese have been pouring into Xinjiang for a long time and have turned this province into another Han settlement to the resentment of the Uighurs.
 It's become another Han settlement, much to my chagrin because it has lost its charm. There's cars everywhere and boxy concrete apartment buildings all over the basin. Construction is shoddy and of the worse quality. The hotel that we stayed in has a grand facade but its interiors are bad, water is always leaking in the bathroom, the hot water comes out in a trickle and I had a cold showere every night for 3 nights. The location was great and the price is even better. We got a lot for our money this trip.
 What really struck me when I first arrived was the signage, it's in 3 languages, Chinese, Turkic and Russian. It borders Russia and there is a lot of trade with Russia as well as the other 7 countries that borders it.

 I was surprised to see Durian fruit this far from the equator. I had to have some.

It's China but it's not China. Uighurs can be seen among the Han people. This is an interesting area.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Beijing airport, here I am, at 6am in the morning after flying in from Los Angeles. I left LA at 1.40 in the morning. It was a Sunday and there wasn't any foreign exchange on weekends. I found an ATM where I got some Chinese Yuan. Here is my next flight being readied for the 4 hour flight to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province or some might call Chinese Turkestan. This was my second trip to China, the first was to Yunnan province in the South, home to some of China's many minorities. Here I am on my way to the far Eastern part to see other minorities of China. I prefer the fringe dwellers of China, they are more interesting. Sophie wasn't able to make this flight, she was at that same moment desparately trying to get on another flight to meet up with me in Urumqi. I arrived in Urumqi at noon, she would arrive at 1 am. I was sleeping when there was a knock on the door. She finally got there. Sigh! I flew home yesterday but she went on to Hong Kong for the next few days.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just got back

I just got off the plane, left Beijing some 24 hours ago. This trip lack the 'wow' factor of other trips. Most people pay a lot to travel and most of the time they fib about how great the trip was. I'll be the first to admit, this wasn't a great trip. I'll be writing about it soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The way down

 Zac is holding a piece of Dortkilise which he wanted to bring home. I convinced him that he wouldn't be able to bring that through customs. I am touched that he wants a memento of the visit to Dortkilise. I'm sorry that he had to return it to Turkey where he found it. I don't have many physical mementos of the places I've been to, I have a lot of memories in the form of pictures.

It was easier coming down from Dorkilise, it was downhill all the way and we almost ran all the way. We tried to hitch but all the cars were full of family and grass. They have been up the mountain to cut grass and were hauling it back to their homes. We arrived back to Tekkale and found Cemil again who paid for tea and found a ride for us to take us back to Yusufeli. We had such a great day, one we'll not soon forget.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Goodbye Dortkilise

I told the boys rather abruptly, 'lets go.' I couldn't bear to watch the local family destroying the church single handedly and right in front of us. This place is so beautiful and so sacred. We walked down the hill and headed back for Tekkale. We came to visit Dortkilise, we saw it and our lives have changed for the better. We've become more sensitive and appreciative people. I've become more appreciative of a God whom I believe in, a God who created the world and said 'it is good.' A God who builds up and not destroy. I am so blessed, blessed beyond measure...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The next generation

 Here I am, teaching the next generation to love what I love, to appreciated the old and sacred places. They were such troopers, it was an opportunity not to be missed, to have seen the old world of the Georgian and the Armenian people. I've read a few books about the current Republics of Georgia and Armenia, their early days after the break up of the USSR of which they had been a part, was riffed with poverty and shortages. One book spoke of them as being 'marooned' in their own country because they can't afford to visit the West. A lot of Georgians and Armenians have never seen their heritage in this part of Turkey and many will never see it in their life time.

I know I'm really blessed to have come out of poverty and not be 'marooned' in North Borneo (now part of Malaysia).
Even as you read this, I'm on my way to Beijing, China. This was written before and scheduled for posting today.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The other side of Dortkilise

 Those ubiquitous Campanulas, thriving in the cracks on the wall of the church. They were so delightful but in time they will contribute to the destruction of this church, their roots go in deep in the fissures thus fracturing it some more. They are both delightful and destructive.

 It certainly doesn't resemble the old pictures of this church, with the fracturing of the integrity of the walls and grass now growing in those cracks.
I don't know about you, the reader, but I feel so proud as to have made the effort to visit Dortkilise. It was very satisfying.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Graffiti on the lower part of the walls abound. There must have been some gorgeous frescoes there before. One can see the stacking of the stone blocks in order to deface the frescoes higher up and to write graffiti. I saw the mother of the kids writing something on the wall, adding to the graffiti. It was very distressing to watch. It bothered me still today as I write this.