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Goodbye Kashgar

We woke up early the morning of our departure from Kashgar, and walked down Seman road. Not far down, we found a crowded and very local restaurant, which unlike most places in the area, was bustling with activity. We walked in. There seemed to be no free tables, and the staff, speaking no English, just waved bowls of lamb chunks and pilaf at us, scattering bits of rice and belching in Uighur. We tried to communicate that, first of all, there was no place to sit, and secondly, that we would like to see the menu, so as to select perhaps something other than this most dubious looking pilaf, bowls of which they wielded with such abandon as to devalue it in it our eyes.

Despite this, we were swiftly and gruffly seated at a table with a couple other fellows, just finishing their bowls of pilaf. Before we could open our mouths, room-temperature bowls of pilaf were placed in front of us. It was only then that we realized the thing before us was the dish being consumed by absolutely everyone in the restaurant. It was no doubt the house specialty, and perhaps the only thing on the menu. So eat it we did. And it was great. Also, some of the most savage tea of the trip was delivered to us, pot after dented, steaming, pot. We spiked a few of ours with packets of Nescafe, much to the chagrin of the proximate clientele. During our meal, a cab driver pulled up, parked his car in the middle of the sidewalk, and sat down at our table. In no time, the tea was once again refreshed (most of which he poured into a thermos for later). Simultaneously, without his ordering at all, a bowl of pilaf was placed before him. He ate the entire thing, payed and drove off, all in the space of five minutes, never removing his large dark glasses.

As were were finishing, the owner of the place came out and sat down across from us. He started making conversation using a combination of Manderan and gesticulation. We exchanged business cards and stickers and in no time, the entire staff of the restaurant had encircled us. The crowd was so thick that some stood on tip-toes to see over the shoulders of those in front. The owner was forced multiple times to command members of the circle to go back and work on the pilaf, or to chop tomatoes on a giant stump nearby, which they had stained a to bloody rust color. We were offered cigarettes redundantly by the staff. All the while the owner leaned back, smirking ever so smugly, just sitting with us and eying his restaurant like a lord eyes his lands. After we felt we had given him the appropriate amount of lounge-time, we thanked him heartily, shook hands, and stepped onto the train back to Urumqi.


  1. Dad/Mark | July 12th, 2008 | 9:27 pm

    A particularly sweet little story.

  2. Woody | July 14th, 2008 | 3:31 am

    Thanks. I think I’ll post some pictures with it now that I’m back in computer-land.

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