|East to West:|
Apr. 21: Zhuzhou
Apr. 22: Xi'an
Apr. 24: Urumqi
|East to West:|
Apr. 24: Urumqi
Apr. 25: Kashi
Apr. 27: Kashgar
Apr. 29: Taxkorgan
Last red dot that meets the blue line is Islamabad, Pakistan
Blue line is projected future journey post-Islamabad
So my sister and her boyfriend are STILL marking time at the border between western China and Pakistan. I hope they get out soon. This is their 4th day in Taxkorgan (in Xinjiang province), waiting for the first border buses. I think it's because of the weather in the mountains, they only have the border open from May to October.
They spent three months teaching English at a college in Hunan province. Since before April 21, they've been on the move westward.
Her first email from Xi'an said:
"In light of SARS disease we decided to flee china! The chinese govt. does its best to suppress information, but from what we can gather it is rather serious, and cases have appeared in our city. We know that when the news says 10 people have died, it means 100; if they say 100 it means 1000, etc. Some borders are already closing (vietnam has closed its border). We decided not to take any chances and are on our way out. we've chosen the northwest as the safest and least travelled route."
They are not sick, and have gone way past the incubation time without any symptoms, so they are safe in that regard. I just hope they get to over the border without being stopped. If they can get to Islamabad they'll be home free.
At least they've really enjoyed seeing parts of China with a different ethnic, cultural, and political atmosphere. In the west most people are of Turkish ancestry, and far out-number Chinese. The second they arrived in Urumqi (circled in purple
on both maps, capital of Xinjiang province), people were much friendlier and less stressed out.
The further west you go, the fewer people you meet who speak Chinese. She's picking up some Arabic already. She already speaks about six languages, so it's probably easy for her to pick up another one.
I've learned so much central asian geography in the last 12 days, from trying to track her progress (by train and bus) from town to town on the map. I'm sort of envious that she is getting to see parts of the world I'll probably never see (although our whole family did live in eastern China for a year as children).
But on the other hand, I don't think I'm as hardy as she is; I wouldn't be able to put up with the conditions on the road, the itinerant lifestyle. But I know she's having fun, and I'm happy for her. She wants to go live in Turkey for a few years. We'll see if she and her boyfriend can get jobs there.
As a geek, I am so fascinated by how many internet cafes/bars there are around the world. She's found one in practically even town where the trains/buses stop. She says that's because no one has private computers in their homes.
Since she has no phone and since phones are expensive anyway, she emails me almost every day with updates, and then I call my parents and update them. Email rules!