Sunday, June 22, 2008

Out in the Weather

I rode my bike to work tonight through rain the size of small clear grapes. Each drop smacked at my eyes trying to claw their way into a socket and the brain behind it. I let out small protesting yelps like a girl half in panic half in excitement at an out-of-control party on a late night in June. It’s pretty interesting watching the Hudson squall and squirm in a blur under a storm of lightning and thunder with branches whipping at you. My newly acquired vintage road bike built when aluminum was still sturdy creaked and muttered but stayed strong and square against the wind and the need to get to work on time. I made it to work sopping wet dodging fallen branches and stranded people – my change of clothes in my backpack soaked as much as me. Fortunately a nice warm set of mechanic blue Dickies awaited me in my locker. So no socks but at least I’m dry and happy.

Before all of this excitement with the rain and the bike, I met with my new friend M. a medical researcher at Columbia University who is helping me to orient myself with the local Uyghur community. M. who is one of the few Uyghurs from China here in the city tells me that lately he has been getting tired of constantly hitting the redial button on his phone when he tries to contact his family in Xinjiang. Since March all telephone lines which lead to Uyghur homes have been hopelessly jammed. He says when he tells Han people about his father’s unending wait for a passport none of them believe him. “They just don’t know.” Uyghurs are one of China’s family of 56 nationalities but it doesn’t appear as they have much reason to be happy. Even if Uyghurs decide to become “ting hua” people who do exactly what they are told, they can be cut down in an instant as Rebiya Kadeer was not long ago.

I wonder how my friend E. enjoyed the CCTV version of the Olympic torch relay when it passed through Kashgar this week a few hundred yards from his home. Like the rest of the Kashgarliks, I’m sure he was locked up for safekeeping in the old town under the strict lockdown imposed by the Chinese security forces. The game goes on, but not everyone is playing. Mother China will not let all her foster children go out until she is sure they will behave as if they are good Chinese.

Read what my advisor Robbie Barnett has to say about it


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