Kashgar’s Moment

Life in Kashgar is never short on adventures. From donkey carts to SUVs, Kashgar is a changing place. We’ve noticed the changes. Traffic feels like it’s doubled in the past 3 months. Modern restaurants are popping up and construction is on full swing. As everyone rushes to buy an apartment, as traffic laws enforce laws that motorbike drivers wear helmets the growing pains are evident. But looking forward, the city keeps bustling and newcomers from the ‘inland’ are discovering this fascinating corner China.

Despite it’s busy and changing traffic the endearing qualities of the residents of Kashgar are still evident. Once my husband and I took a taxi to the animal market and we felt like the driver had taken a large detour, driving around the city before arriving at the destination. When the taxi stopped we questioned him. Right away he started protesting. My heart sank thinking this might turn into an argument…instead we soon realized he was saying “it’s ok then, you don’t have to pay. The ride is free.” Both my husband and I were very surprised at his reaction and had no intention of withholding money from the driver. He felt insulted that we would accuse him of taking a detour and was ready to give up the fare to prove his innocence. We explained that we questioned him just so that we could be more familiar with the city and we were not sure of the roads, that’s why we asked. He assured us that if he had taken the other road the fare would have been higher. We paid him the fare on the meter and were reminded that there are indeed many honest hard-working people in this small city.

Another time we were riding a taxi taking my parents to the airport. Halfway there we realized that the driver didn’t put his meter down. Our hearts once again sank knowing that it is very hard to bargain after the deal has begun. When we pointed it out to him, we received the same passionate response as usual. But soon we realized he was saying “you are the guest, you tell me the price, you are my guest in my car, I will treat you well.” He agreed without any argument at our price and again….we were touched.

Kashgar is a small town blooming into a big city. When residents don’t look both ways before they cross the street and when you still can’t buy cheese in the supermarkets it’s easy to think ‘what a disaster’. But on taking a closer assessment it’s soon clear that not too long ago Kashgar was running at half the speed it is now. People didn’t look before they crossed the roads because there were hardly any cars. You can’t buy cheese because most people don’t even know what it is.

But Kashgar is already changing. What is now the outskirts of the city will soon be part of the city center. As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) puts it “They say it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. But since you never know when the right time is going to be, I think the key is to find the right place and just hang around. And if the right place is at the drugstore we can read comic books while we wait.”

Note: This article contributed to our blog from Gallery Cafe in Kashgar when they left from Kashgar middle of  summer 2011. We missed Gallery Cafe!

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