Category Archives: One year Asia

Ausstellung Bremen Vegesack

“Geprägt durch ihre vielen Reisen und einen einjährigen Aufenthalt in Asien hat die Künstlerin einen ganz anderen Blick auf unsere Gesellschaft mit ihren Begehren, Normen und Emotionen bekommen. Die gewonnenen Perspektiven und Fragestellungen kommen in Bildern, Objekten und Skulpturen zum Ausdruck.”

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Shiva`s evil plan

Compassion with a strong and gender divinity, our Lord Ganesha, for that we all make mistakes. Actually a tribute to our great Lord Shiva, the father of destruction!

Preface

Hinduism seems to be one of the most complex religions there is. But in fact it`s not.

There might be over a million Deities existing in all, and to at least a dozen of them Hindus pray regularly. There is a particular God or Goddess for every occasion to worship. But, no matter how deep you want to dig into Hinduism or not, the basic thought, of the order of the world and all energy existing in it, is really simple.

In Hindu belief, there are three main powers, characterized through the three mightiest Gods: Brahma, who stands for creation, Vishnu, who is responsible for preservation and Shiva, who brings destruction. These three powers keep the world and all its beings moving and in order. Creativity, continuity and change. Birth, life and death. Not one could exist without the other.

Now, there are still many other Gods. Like there are many other important things in life, apart from creation, preservation and destruction. Things like health, wealth, loyalty, fertility. So there is basically a single God for everything humans could wish for. A single God, people can pray to when they feel they need to.

One of the most popular ones is Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is said to be the “Remover of obstacles” and also called the “God of wisdom”. He is prayed to at the beginning of a journey, for clearing the way of all problems.

Not as much known as Lord Ganesha himself is the fact, that he actually is the son of Shiva – the God of destruction. This is the story of a desperate father using his son to destroy mankind.

Ganesha on another mission

Lord Ganesha, the great and wise Remover of obstacles, the God of wisdom, was once on the beginning of another journey. He had spent much of the last time dealing with small tasks and had lost the overview about what was happening down there. It was time he paid another personal visit to mankind, to find out about their problems and helping to solve them.

Unexpectedly, this time he found many people unhappy and unsatisfied. Almost everyone was wining for something “more” they wanted to have and they were complaining about “so many things, which stand in the way”. Lord Ganesha was highly alarmed. That was him needed! But he was also overwhelmed by so much unhappiness he had never seen before. He didn`t have a clue, where to start and how to help them. Because this time, the problems of the people didn`t seem to be real and fightable. All the unhappiness Ganesha found lay in a haze of mysterious gloom. He was idealess. He sighed and sat down on a blanket on the floor.

Ganesha getting to know the Smartphone

Suddenly, he spotted some people walking down the road with a mysterious black tool in their hands – some holding it to their ear, some holding it in front of them, staring at it. He looked around and saw even more people carrying these strange objects. The people were walking, talking and laughing, attention-caught with these things, as if they were friends. Ganesha didn`t understand. So he asked someone.

„Excuse me, Sir. What are these mysterious things everyone is walking around with?“ The man didn`t look up from the tool in his hand at first, but when he finally did and recognized the Elephant`s head, he was excited that Lord Ganesha was speaking to him and replied „It`s a smartphone, oh great Lord. The best thing in the world!” Ganesha still didn`t understand. So he asked “But what are people actually doing with it? And why does everyone seem so keen on them?” Now the man realized, that Ganesha had never seen a Smartphone before. So he replied:

“Smartphones, oh great Lord, are the most useful tools of the modern world! People can solve every problem with them. You can talk or message to whoever you like, from everywhere. You can order whatever you want from wherever you are. You can picture everything you do and show it to anyone. You can share your whole life with all the people in the world, and you can find the whole world and all answers to any question in it…. Plus, you always got all your appointments neatly in order. I can tell you, it`s a hell of a great tool!”.

Ganesha wants a Smartphone

Ganesha was thrilled. His eyes began to sparkle. He smelled, this tool could be the clue to solve everyone`s problems and remove everyone`s obstacles in a much more efficient way. So he was sure he needed a Smartphone himself right away. “Where can I get one like this?” he asked the man. “Oh Lord, please, I would be honored if you allowed me to give you mine as a present.” Ganesha smiled and felt happy like a child on Christmas Day. Another man had witnessed the conversation and came offering his Smartphone as well. “Please Lord, take mine, too!”, “Yea, and mine!” shouted a third person, „And mine!“ yelled a fourth…. Ganesha took all of them excitedly, thanked the kind people and went straight to work.

Ganesha at work

He started making phone calls, messaging around and searching the whole internet to find solutions for the people`s sorrows. He was very busy, night and day. He compared information and offers, made calls, searched, he gave his best. But somehow, not a single problem wanted to get solved, despite all the work he did. He started to get worried and desperate.

Shiva is pissed

What the great, wise Lord Ganesha didn`t know was, that he didn`t come on this mission by accident. His father, the great, mighty Lord Shiva, had sent him, because he was angry. A while ago, people had started always wanting more of everything and therefore people had begun to dangerously exploit the nature. The prices for food and products of life were falling, because no one wanted to pay decent money anymore. So they produced more and more of everything and exported more and more of it, but the prices kept falling. And the greed increased. So did the unhappiness.

For all that, people had taken so much water from the holy river Ganga, that there was almost no water left for Shiva to reign and play with. Shiva was seriously pissed. He was furious with mankind, because they always claimed everything for themselves. So he made an evil plan to destroy them. But none of these boring, upfront destruction scenarios that were known already – like floods, earthquakes and so on. Oh no! This time he was really angry. So, his plan needed to be subtle and the most evil ever.

Shiva`s evil plan

What he came up with, was genius. He decided not to attack the humans directly, but manipulate their souls and destroy them from the inside. His plan was, to silently destroy the humanity within and among men, so they would slowly destroy themselves.

Therefore he invented a small and apparently useful tool – simple enough for everyone to use, but complex enough to keep both smart and dumb people distracted for ages. It was a tool so useful, no one could resist using it, so useful, no one wanted to live without it anymore, so useful, no one wanted to spend a single minute without it anymore! That was when the Smartphone was born. People loved it.

Getting Ganesha out of the way

But there was Shiva`s son, the great and gender Lord Ganesha, who surely – sooner or later – would discover the Smartphones being an obstacle to people. Shiva couldn`t let his good-hearted son interfere with his plan! So he kept Ganesha busy for a while with small but frequent tasks and he hid the Smartphone phenomenon from him until it was time again for Ganesha to visit mankind on another mission of removing obstacles and solving problems. But the misery among the people was already so widely spread, that Ganesha didn`t know where to start helping them. In that very moment, Shiva let the first Smartphone cross his son`s way.

Ganesha loved it immediately and started using it, because he did`t know this tool. He had not seen yet what it did to the people and had never been disappointed by its promises. Also, the people had told him it was the most useful thing in the world. So Ganesha started to love Smartphones, just like everyone else. But soon he got addicted to them, and trapped.

The problems grow

Now Ganesha was so busy using his Smartphones for all the problems to get solved, he suddenly couldn`t solve a single one of them anymore! There were more and more troubles, problems and obstacles among the humans and even the Great Lord Ganesha couldn`t remove them. And because the people saw Ganesha using his Smartphones all the time, they were even more convinced it was a good and useful tool to have. Everyone, without a Smartphone before, got one now. Everyone, including Ganesha, got entirely addicted and absorbed in using Smartphones. Everyone now tried to always be efficient, to always do and solve things. And the troubles and problems of the people grew and grew.

The destruction scenario

Humans started fighting. Humans stopped talking to each other. Humans stopped sharing things of their real lives, because they were so busy sharing all kinds of things on the internet already. Everything they had, they wanted for themselves. And they never seemed to feel they had enough of anything. People got egoistic. People always had no time. And especially, they never had time to simply be happy. As the time passed, the human race slowly developed into a species of emotionless egomaniacs, with brains only still responding to the orders of their black little tools.

Shiva`s plan worked

Shiva watched the scenario with pure pleasure. He sat back in his dry bed of the Ganga River and grinned his most evil grin. His plan had worked perfectly! He laughed, a loud evil laughter, which should shiver the whole Himalaya for centuries.

Lucky, in theory (a Burmese kidney-infection)

Have you ever had a kidney-infection? I do not hope so, because I can tell you it hurts like hell. Your brain is empty, apart from the permanent pain, the shivering and the desperate wish for it to stop. I am very glad though it wasn’t my first. Because when I felt the strange, slowly rising pain in my back, as we were walking just out of Nyaung-Shwe-village for some days of trekking and camping, I got suspicious. I knew I knew that pain from somewhere! It was not just the shitty mattress and the weight of my backpack. We sat down for the Burmese version of Spaghetti-Bolognese and I suddenly remembered that I´d had a light version of a bladder infection a week ago and hadn´t cured it properly. But I had thought it had gone away. I knew what nightmare was about to happen now. I told the guys I was with to go on and don´t worry because I was sad enough I couldn´t do the camping-trip now – I didn´t want to spoil theirs as well. They hesitated, but went after I forced them to. I tendered my back and sighed while I watched them and their carefree laughter becoming smaller and smaller in the distant of the dusty road, whirling sand swallowed their shapes eventually.

I sighed again and stood up, asked for the next doctor. There was one close by. I entered an open shack, looking like all the other shops and businesses at the side of the main road, only with a white desk and chair in the middle of the empty, shabby room. A very nice female doctor asked me to take a seat. I told her about my pain, my past bladder infection and supposed kidney-infection, and she listened carefully. By then my pain was already quite alarming and let me quite incapable of much complicated brain activity. We realized our common language was not enough to understand entirely. So she pulled out a dictionary, I looked up “kidney” and “infection” and showed her the beautifully written Burmese equivalent. She understood. She said it was likely to be possible. Yet she told me she had no “machines” for testing it and couldn´t prescribe medicine in such case. She wouldn´t have that medicine here, anyway. My heart sunk. My pain rose with every minute. Paralyzed me already. And now my help and hope faded away. She recommended to drive to Taungyii – the nearest bigger town – and see a doctor in hospital. I got scared. A hospital in another town is really far away, when you are in Burma with the syndromes of a kidney-infection. I didn´t have any energy left to do so. But apparently, it was the onliest choice. She said she was truly sorry, and I saw it in her calming smile and encouraging eyes. I realized that this was how things were in Myanmar. There was not always a doctor for everything immediately when one was needed. And I was probably still very lucky because I had, in theory, the money to pay a taxi to drive me to hospital, I had, in theory, the money to pay for medication…

Now traveling is no theory. Traveling is one of the most practical things you can experience. And when you do it well, you get sucked into the local circumstances and realities so much, you totally forget about your privileges and further options as a tourist. Which is mainly good. So despite feeling very weak, I asked around for a bus (which is in Nyaung Shwe village always a cramped pick-up with two wooden benches, bumping its way to wherever, at the speed of 50 km/h…). But as it was already 4 pm, people told me, the next one was going only the next morning. Don´t ask me why exactly I didn´t consider taking a taxi for 30 Dollars. I don´t know. It simply was a lot of money. Even in that situation, it seemed so out of place, spending that much money (five nights sleep in a comfortable hostel or 20 proper hot meals) on a diagnosis I already knew and could also have tomorrow while I was still able to fight the pain with a lot of painkillers. So that was what I did. I returned to the hostel, said I was back already because I was sick, and spent a fevered, shivery, restless night until I cached a cramped, bumping pick-up-ride, lasting two-and-a-half-hours of pure pain, in the morning.

"Bus" to Taungyii

Taungyii was bustling. The whole city was an open market place, people were bargaining and screaming, car drivers pushed their horns. Tired and far from understanding what was happening around me, I asked my way from the bus stand to the hospital and finally arrived after half an hour foot walk at a middle sized, once-white building that looked kind of like a hospital. Mainly because it had a big red cross on its outer wall. When I hung over the reception, complete lack of energy, the young nurses – white caps on pretty faces – giggled behind their hands. Burmese girls always did, I think because they were shy and totally flattered to see and serve a foreigner. In the pale, morbid waiting hall people sat with worried faces in silence. Pain was tormenting me, but I was still a lucky sick person. Within five minutes I was sat on a white bed with an enthusiastic young male doctor asking me in fluent English what my problem was. I suspected that many of the other people had to wait longer.  After I had told him, what I had already told the doctor in Nyaung Shwe, he pressed my belly, back and side, asked for pain and, nodding, began to write down something. He wrote into a small, cheap children´s exercise book – which was meant to be the professional file for every patient here – diagnosis and treatment. After a log silence, still writing without looking up, he said “I prescribe you another antibiotic for seven days.” His fingers were carefully forming letters, phrases, signatures. I sat up. “Eehh, but you haven´t tested anything. How do you know it´s really a kidney-infection? Don´t you want to test anything?” – “Your syndromes speak for themselves” he answered, relaxed, looking up now. “You said you had a bladder infection. And you say you have taken Ciprofloxacin for five days. That antibiotic has, unfortunately, a habit of not being strong enough to kill all the germs in only five days. It seems that was the case here also. So your infection has not fully gone away. Now it is very important you take another kind of antibiotics, a strong one, for the whole of seven days so we can be sure all of it gets killed.” He closed the booklet, handed it to me, smiled and wished me all the best. And that was it. – Could it be that easy? Irritated I spluttered a “thank you” and went out of the room to the counter in the waiting hall with the nervously smiling nurse-girls. They pointed to their left, to another counter with a woman behind it. That seemed to be the pharmacy. I handed her my “file” and two seconds later she placed three single plastic packages of small pills on the counter. Next to it she laid a hand-written bill. Now I had a big problem!

In theory, I had a lot of money on my bank account. In practice, none of my credit cards were working on Burmese cash machines. We had already taken a lot of US-Dollars in cash with us into the country. It was said, that there were not many ATMs at all, and even if, it was not guaranteed, that it was really possible to get money from them. We had smiled at the overly-careful advices from the two-year-old travel guide after the ATM in the capital had worked fine. Yet we had what we thought would be enough cash for our stay.  But then we finally realized that it would get tight after all. Luckily we had a friend with us, who´s Visa credit card was working on some ATMs, so he lent us money. Still our financial situation remained tight. Sometimes the machines were working and sometimes they were not. And sometimes they had limits. When my friends had left for their camping-trip, I hadn´t thought about money. I had enough for the daily life, enough to pay for food and some nights in the hostel. I had not thought about “expensive” medication.

The bill said 35 Dollars. About the same that antibiotics would cost in Germany. – A fortune in Burma. Also for the standards we had immersed into. I emptied my purse on the counter – all my remaining Dollars and Kyatt put together, removing the money I would need for the bus home, another night in the hostel and some basic food. Left was half of the money I had to pay. Delirium and fever of a painful kidney-infection overcame me. I stood in a shabby hospital in a strange city, far, far away. Realizing, that it was Sunday and all the banks were closed. That my pain was killing me and I had no opportunity to get relieve. Simply because I had not enough money to buy medicine to cure my serious illness. And my friends were somewhere in the faraway bush with no mobile phones on them. I felt like in a proper, evil nightmare. For a moment I think I felt the desperation, that for many thousands of people must be constantly real. (Although I was still a very lucky sick person, in theory.) I was devastated. I broke down. I think I cried. But the woman on the pharmacy-counter was kind and smart (and beautiful), like many Burmese women are. She understood and tendered me, wordless. We had no language in common, so she showed me, taking a part of my money from the counter, holding it, and handing me two of the three packs of pills. Gestured, pills 11 to 14 would stay here until I would come back, bringing the rest of the money. I was baffled. I smiled. Bloody cultural civilization! People just stick to it like fat blue flies to the shit because they don’t know about alternatives. I would have never ever considered such an easy solution to be possible! In Germany, or other western countries, you either can pay for medication or you can´t. Ripping apart a prescribed dose, buying single tablets, is just not a concept to think of, for us.

Delirious nights

I took the packed pick-up home, happy now, relieved (even bought new pencils at the market on a dose of antibiotics and painkillers!), between all the smiling people transporting goods, belongings, market shopping, helping me onto my place on the wooden bench. Back in the cozy comfort of my hostel I again had shivery, fevered nights with bad dreams and often lay awake in pain staring at the lizards in front of my window. But it got better with a lot of sleep. And the pills 1 to 10. Then some warm tea. Then the western breakfast on the terrace (Pancakes). Then the beloved three-in-one-coffee-mix and when I could think again, I started writing. I didn´t stop writing for three whole days without a break. Sitting on the terrace, watching guests from all over the world come and go. And on the fourth day, after a huge thunderstorm, which I watched from my comfy shelter, anxious because of my boys out there, somewhere, they came back, happy as ever, with many stories to tell. And with money for my second trip to Taungyii.

 

China – Parallel universe

China is not very different to Germany. Woman dress up in mega short skirts and men try to show off with cars and generosity. Chinese people are mad keen on the newest technical devices and (what differs them from other asian countries) the majority has the money to buy them. They use high-speed trains, live in gigantic clean and modern cities and treat nature like they shouldn’t. They have few children and little believe in religion. Money and individualism appear to be the new priorities in life.

All this seems not very different to us. In theory at least… Still I call China a “parallel universe”. And that’s not (just) because they eat dogs, beetles and cat brains – you could theoretically find such habits in some Bavarian area. But for me China was even more alien than for example India, where they have a huge bunch of weird traditions and pray to Elephant gods… So why is it China is so similar but yet so different? I thought a long, long time about that question and came up with some answers eventually.

It feels like a parallel universe because the people’s minds are so different in many aspects. The Chinese culture seems to be one of few in the world which is not westernized at all. Not American-toned. That might sound strange at first. Like I described at our China trip this country is so big and mighty most people don’t seem to care too much about the rest of the world. And because China is, sadly, so shielded from it they don’t know much about it either. They have their own huge brands, products, pop stars, networks, traditions, habits – which are similar but still oddly different – they don’t orientate much on the western/american ones like most other cultures do. – The whole of Europe is looking towards the States, central Asia peers at Russia and Europe – everyone really seems always to orientate on the bigger and more “modern” culture to integrate some of their idols lifestyle into their own. China doesn’t. Because of two reasons: because they simply don’t need to and because they are not allowed to.

So what provides the parallel-universe-feeling is that China is an independent world-might with their own rules and habits. Even the most basic gestures (which are the onliest ways to communicate when you don’t speak Mandarin) are completely different to those you are used to from the rest of the world. Numbers are shown with the fingers in a totally different way and so are welcoming or negating gestures. If you don’t know the rules you are likely to become desperate very soon because it seems that all basic human communication doesn’t work with Chinese people just because it’s an alien code to you. Eating a raw carrot in public gets you great deranged stares (no one in China would ever eat anything raw) and when you give someone a big present he would just say a brief thanks and put it aside not opening it. Try for a lift and somebody even driving 80% of the way to your destination would just say sorry they can’t help you and drive off. One of the highest priorities of Chinese people is being polite and not loosing face which provides the base for (to us) weird actions and also shallow encounters.

When I sat together with an Indian woman my age who had four children and was devoted practicing Hindu rites we had topics to talk about and we saw and judged many things in life the same way. A Chinese woman though (I am sorry, but mainly appearing as girls) was always inapproachable for me. I felt I would never experience her real inner feelings. She would not speak out loud what she thinks.  Because everything in China was made to be at least a perfect facade. Everything in China had a beautiful, correct, neat and polished surface and you wouldn’t know if it was real or you were just bluffed. And so you wouldn’t know if a Chinese person said or did something just out of politeness or because he really felt that way. You wouldn’t know if that “old town” was really old or rather new build. You wouldn’t know if those smiling employees were truly happy or in fact very sad. You wouldn’t know if someone invited you because he really wanted it or because the politeness-codex forced him to do it.

China was a big strange riddle for me and even after over 3 months I felt I didn’t get any closer to the rules of that similar-appearing parallel universe.

Religion

Almost every country we went people were dead religious.

Hindus, (semi-)Buddhists, (semi-)Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Animists… People care about religion and it often determines their lifes – organizes what they do, what they are allowed to do, what they would never do, what their moralities are, what they wear, how they behave… And sometimes even who they are. Our friend Ulan in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, called his son Islam. Because he believed in it so much and wanted his son – given from Allah – to represent it.

People often asked us what religion we believed in. Mostly we said we were Christians, because everything else would have been impossible to explane with only 15 words of the same language. Philipp, who grew up being catholic, felt very attracted to Buddhism since years. Therefore he was quite happy to wear his Buddhist necklace he got himself in India on the journey. One day in Kashgar, when he passed the most populare mosque in town after the friday’s prayer he got into talking with some guys. Then there came some other guys. They asked him what religion he believed in and wheather he was a Buddhist. He answered (like he always did) with a friendly smile that he was “a little Buddhist”.  But they told him with a grim look “it is not polite to wear this (grabbing his necklace) in front of a mosque”.  Because discussions about religion are always a very delecate topic he managed to change it and soon went away….

So naturally you have your thoughts about your own religion and wonder about others. You spot and observe the “strange” ways of people practising theirs. And you have your thoughts and feelings.

I moved out of church, having been evangelic before, because what my religion told and symbolized was not what I felt I believed in. I mean, come on… A bleeding, abused guy on a deadly cross who is supposed to symbolize that we should always remind all our sins because he died for them? What a motivating thing to believe in! Especially when you come across comparisons like the rich and colorful Lord Ganesha who removes all of your obstacles!

But what did I believe in? Certainly a lot! Plus I loved many trivial, daily things that result from religion. Like woman wearing skirts. People having collective prayers. Not eating meat. Not harming living creatures. But seeing people living in partially radically restricted ways to follow their believes and obliged duties? It’s easy to understand how it works for the others but at the same time it isn’t understandable at all. Sometimes people suffer a lot although they pray every day and they are the most devotional people. Their lifes often don’t work out the way they wish for although they would have deserved it so badly. But aren’t they still the happier people after all? Are we (western people) maybe so unhappy because be don’t believe in anything anymore? No guardian god, no protective and sacred familylife, no moral doubtlessness, everyone just on his own with his misery, fighting for his way.

I have not found “the one” religion for myself yet. But I have been inspired a lot by many different ones and taken a lot from them home and to my heart. Moralities. Believes. Superstitions. Habits. I try to worship every plant and every insect and every day I go to sleep I pray to Ganesha to remove all the obstacles from my way and a silver Buddha face is glowing wise and guarding over a candle in my room.

The Uyghur train

Because trains in China are not nearly as cheap as expected I decided for the third class instead of second for the whole way from Chengdu to Kashgar which means a seat in a big carriage instead of a soft bed in a six-person compartment for three days and three nights for exactly half the price. It was a great as well as a stupid decision. I would not do it again but I am grateful to have made the experience once.

The first day and night were great. All was very quiet. I met some nice Chinese students and the conductor was friendly enough to even show us an almost empty carriage in the evening where we all could take three seats to stretch and sleep quite properly. I visited Philipp in the sleeper section several times and wandered around. Because it’s common anyway in China to always provide hot/ boiled water for tea plus on the train everyone eats instant noodle soups at least three times a day (I’ve seen mothers entering the train with two gigantic plastic bags filled only with pots of noodle soups!) there is always plenty of hot water provided on Chinese trains. In every compartment is a big tank with a burning fire underneath or even small cans where everyone can get hot water at any time. It’s (the onliest) drinks and food.

On the second day it became a little more crowded (mainly with Han-Chinese people because we hadn’t entered Uigurien yet) but still there were seats available and we could walk around, chat and eat a lot of noodle soup! In the evening there were less spare seats so I had to sleep on only one, sitting.

After our one day stop in Urumqi we entered the train again the next morning. Philipp went into one end of the train for the sleeper and I into the other – the third class again what I now felt for the first time immediately! My carriage was so packed with families, tons of luggage and loudly discussing people that not a single centimeter was spare anymore. It took almost an hour until they all had settled and I could claim my seat (because it of course was already taken). Almost all people were Uyghur, only a few Han remained. The cultural difference was obvious on the first glance – different faces, different clothes and after the following 24 hours I couldn’t deny it: different manners. The nice Han couple who spoke a tiny bit of English helped me to translate to the Uyghur woman who had taken my seat that it was my seat and slowly and grumpy she moved from it.

I felt uneasy because most of the people were looking stern, no one was smiling at me, the westerner, the invader, and the family of the banished woman was angry anyway. I visited Philipp in his nice and peaceful sleeper compartment were classical music was played over the loudspeakers. But soon a conductor came, controlled our tickets and told me fiercely to return to “my class” immediately. We explained to him that I only wanted to have lunch with my “husband” and would return afterwards and he replied grimly we should hurry then.

I went back and, of course, my seat was taken again, this time by someone else of the family. At least thirty people were standing in the hallway anyway because there was not nearly enough space. I decided to stand some time on the corridor where people were smoking. The train was moving through endless desert, only the mountains on the horizon changed their shape sometimes. After some hours I wanted to sit down but the whole family was now sleeping on the seats and tables so I didn’t want to disturb them. I was slowly running out of water but the big tank at the end of the carriage was empty already. I stood on the corridor, watched the desert passing by and waited. After a while people were getting hectic and voices rose. The whole carriage was grubbing and moving and suddenly I realized why: A man pushed a medium-sized silver tank which was obviously filled with water and all woman started relentlessly fighting their way to get to it in time. I followed them but waited politely of course until I realized that there would not nearly be enough water for everyone. So I started to push my way through as well but as it got to brutal I decided to get my water later from somewhere else. Mistake!

When I wanted to visit Philipp again and fetch some water I only made it to the next carriage. A big grumpy asshole of conductor stepped into my way and wanted to see my ticket. When I showed it to him he pointed and said “Your place is there. Go back.” I said “I need some water.” He said “Not here”. I said “But my husband is in the sleeper, I have to see him.” He said “No. You have third class ticket. You stay there.” He was just big and mean and I was pissed and returned to my class. I was worried because I was hungry and thirsty and I was afraid of all the unfriendly people and afraid of the upcoming night. Luckily Philipp visited me later to see how I am so I asked him to bring me some water to my “prison”.

I was standing and smoking patiently on the corridor until it got dark and I got tired. I decided it was time to finally claim my seat for the night. The family had sat and slept on my seat until now so it was my turn now. I stood in front of the big lazy woman on my seat, pointing, showing, asking her to leave. But she wouldn’t move. I thought she hadn’t understood me so I asked the Han couple again to translate her. They did. But still she wouldn’t move. The whole family was staring at me and she kept ignoring me. I was furious but what was I supposed to do? I didn’t want a fight with the grim Uyghur men of that family and I couldn’t even ask the conductor for help. So I decided to just ignore the bold behavior and sleep on the floor somewhere. The onliest problem was: There was no space! People were already sleeping on the floor of the corridor and even under the seats! There were only tiny spaces to sit in the smokers corridor. So I sat and tried to sleep somehow and realized that Uyghur country was an area with different people and different rules. Maybe the rules of fighting or resigning.

Uigurien – trapped in the giant’s golden belly

No Uyghur person ever spoke completely openly to us about the relation of their “ethnic minority” (though majority in Xingjiang province!) to China or their feelings about it. Still they told us a lot about the history of their culture and some of them were clearly hurt and felt mistreated in their individual culture by the powerful Chinese politics. And when already the facts told the unfairness of the situation they seemed to get scared and only gave hints by saying they didn’t want to talk further, we should see for ourselves…And we did.

We nodded to our friend Arslan who was studying in Chengdu and now visiting his family in the 3000 km away Turpan – one of the old important towns on the ancient silk road. We looked outside the window of the train winding through thousands of kilometers of desert, spotted a huge oil refinery every now and then in the middle of nowhere and resuming what he told us.

It had always been the Uyghur people living in the great desert land between Urumqi, Kashgar and Hotan. They had been invaded by almost every bigger dynasty or civilization since then. They “have been” Mongolian, Arabic, …. Now they all had to learn Mandarin in school and where still always treated as something worse everywhere in China and got the worse jobs. The area around Kashgar had always been their country. Still it almost never had officially been their country. They were a banished culture and were never given the chance to be an own proud country.

The oil rafineries belonged to rich Han Chinese people from further east. Arslan told us there was three times as much oil hidden under the Xingjiang desert than in the United States. A while ago the cities in Xingjiang (Kashgar and Urumqui) province had a 60 percent majority of Uyghur people. But the Han Chinese in this province are now allowed by the government the exception of getting more than one child so they can expand their influence through population.

We experienced many Uyghur people skeptic or even bitter and not very friendly to foreigners which we excused and understood because we imagined every stranger must appear like another potentially dangerous invader to them who might want to take something away from them again. From their deeply hurt and repressed culture.