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Archive for the ‘Geography’ Category

The figurative dust kicked up by my transition from the US to Xinjiang has settled, so to speak. I’ve already confided in a friend of mine that I really believe, after four weeks here, I can safely say I’ve settled in, made a “home” (though we’re all still is waiting for a beautiful Uyghur carpet), created a job routine, and forged connections with my students. This is a good thing.

However, as the figurative dust settled, the real dust rose. Weather.com describes the current weather, which started about two days ago, as “Widespread Dust.” I couldn’t describe it better myself. While I know from some of the veteran expats of Korla that there is a such thing as a “Dust Storm,” a phenomenon that is apparently forthcoming, this gentle cloud of dust that has blanketed the city is a new enough experience for me to be tickled. The violently howling wind and the BB-pellet swathes of high-speed sand are absent for the time being, but still, the dust is everywhere, just floating. If my mind were stubborn enough, I may be able to convince myself its really, really small snow. Anyways, what do we do when there are millions of tiny particles loitering in your breathing air? Bust out the ultra-sensitive, expensive photography equipment, of course!

The sand filters the sunlight unlike any other light-hampering weather I’ve encountered. I’m sure a physicist could explain this is scientific terms, but all I can say is that the way the light colors objects and the way the sky is tinted is “unnatural,” to me, in that my world has never been illuminated in this manner before. The sun, too, is different, a perfectly defined, perfectly white circle, dimmed enough so I can break the ancient elementary-school-science rule of never look directly at the sun. Unfortunately, the picture I took doesn’t capture the circle-ness of the sun too well, but you can see, everything is sort of… blah. Still, if we’re on the subject of weird weather, this situation still takes second place to the hellish apocalypse scenario given to us back at USC when I think every single tree in Southern California was on fire. At least here in Korla it’s not raining burning ash.

So, when the desert is roused from its sleep and is aggressively invading all openings, be they on inanimate objects or living things, what do the Chinese students do? They hold their high-intensity, all-student-body exercises in preparation for sports day, of course! So when I trotted outside to take a picture of the incoming dust cloud, I was blessed with the oppurtunity to take pictures of my students in action. Apparently, for Sports Day, the sophomores and juniors have been assigned grade-specific activities which they must partake in (flawlessly! This is China!) when the actual ceremony rolls around. Ergo, they are practicing every day. The sophomores get to do this awesome activity which I can only describe as “synchronized, simultaneous mass jump rope.”

The juniors, my students, get to do this stupid activity which I can only describe as “a three-legged race with a lot more legs” which looks silly even when they’re doing it right. When they mess up…well, it’s pretty funny.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the actual Sports Day when everything is polished to perfection… although I’m definitely going to miss the hilarity that ensues when one person in the human chain tumbles over. Just like dominoes, but I guess such an activity does impart a distinctly communist moral. More pictures from the sandy day and Sports Day Practice here.

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Hi there!

My name is Vincent. Unlike most of my childhood friends, I kept on digging, and digging, and digging that pit, knowing that someday, I would make it to the other side. And now, I’ve made it to China.

In a bureaucratic sense, anyways. I’m actually in Indiana, heh heh, but today, after a months-long, uphill battle with Chinese officialdom, I finally received the paperwork I need to apply for a Chinese work visa. In two weeks, I’ll be working at 农二师华山中学 and will be an official, card-carrying worker bee under the 新疆生产建设兵团外事局。 The former clump of Chinese Characters is the name of a middle school. The latter translates to “The Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.” Like all things Chinese, it’s got an obtuse, ceremonious name that doesn’t translate well into English, but the XPCC, or “Bingtuan,” which is actually a weird paramilitary army slash economic powerhouse, has a very interesting history that may come into focus as this online journal matures.

For now, suffice to say, I am going to be an English teacher at a middle school located in Korla, an oases city on the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert which itself is located in China’s northwestern most region. Here’s a thousand words:

That’s where I’ll be, in the heart of China’s “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” That ovary-shaped patch of brown under the pinpoint is the Taklamakan desert. Even though I haven’t been to this particular city yet, I think I can saw with confidence that it’s an interesting place. I do know, for example, that it’s almost as far from every ocean as physically possible given the configuration of the continents. I know that this city straddles the ancient silk road. I know that a city that is roughly equidistant from Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and India should provide a delightful cultural cocktail very palatable to someone with budding anthropological aspirations like myself.

In addition to these simple facts, I hope to know even more once my 1-2 year stint in this part of the world is over. The purpose of this website is to record that process, and to share it with friends, family, and passersby.

So welcome to “The Outback of the Orient!” I leave for Korla in two weeks. I hope you check back soon.

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