Saturday, August 22, 2009

Down the street from here is a large yak market. They're standing in a small square, maybe 100 of them, and people keep tying colourful ribbons around their necks. Just down the street from that is a similar crowd of goats, small ones. Sometimes small children come up, start petting them and then try to give it a hug, and the goat wriggles out from the pack into the open. Someone will then herd it back into the pack.

Speaking of herding, I have now seen enough to say that you should always grab the bull by the horns. That's one of those cliches that's true, unlike the idea of a free lunch (I got that at the school where I taught for a year).

The yaks and goats aren't the only ones producing solid waste on the sidewalk. It's very common in rural China for small children to wear onesies with holes for convenient toilet-going. I've already seen three small children going for it on city streets. I've seen them do number one on the street in Korea (facing traffic at that), but number two is more involved. Also seen on the sidewalks, multiple times, is breastfeeding, not-so-discreet for the women.

Seriously, Yushu is an entirely Tibetan town. Many people I've talked to speak Chinese as badly as I do, and others refuse to speak it all together. A woman at the restaurant last night only moved her lips when I asked her about her baby. I met a Tibetan monk last night at the hotel who speaks excellent English. He spent close to a year in prison when he snuck into Nepal without a passport. For this he was beaten and tortured, with the scarred body to prove it. His stories of the torture faced by other monks and nuns made me look away every time.

After about a week in the middle of nowhere, I'm more than ready to get back to places that have laundry, clean toilets and where things are marked. I once read that grocery stores are not marked in Greenland because there's no need; everyone already knows where everything is. Northern Sichuan province and this town in Qinghai province are similar. You literally have to poke your head into every single building, some of them open holes, others barred by a thick curtain as though protecting a heroin den on the other side.

That said, I can't say enough about the spectacular wilderness I've seen. You can look for kilometres and sometimes see nothing but grasslands and mossy mountains that look like FieldTurf. It's hard to get lost because ever since I left Chengdu five days and over 1,000 km ago, there has been one road. The road is usually dirt or gravel, sometimes fourth-rate pavement, and it is always bouncy and always rattling. The shaking, bouncing and cacophony, not to mention the cigarettte smoke and accompanying altitude, make the bus as horrendous as the outside is beautiful.

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