I'm in Xinjiang! If you don't know, that's the far northwestern province in China. It's barely Chinese, it's more Central Asian/Turkish. Most of the people out here speak Turkish languages such as Uighur, Kazak, or Kyrgyz. I don't have a way to post pictures at the moment, but when I'm back in my own apartment then I'll have loads to put up.
This trip started out with loads of travel. I left Nashville on the afternoon of Tuesday the 7th and arrived in Xi'an on the morning of the 9th. I spent one night with a friend there and on the 10th my friend Angelyn and I hopped on a 34 hour train to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. I've been on long trains before, but this one was special because we only had a seat, no bed. Usually you can upgrade once you get on the train but for some reason there wasn't a single bed available the entire 34 hours. Needless to say, we were quite exhausted with jetlag and two nights on the long train. We got off the train for about 4 hours and met up with a friend's mom. She had gotten us more train tickets to Kashgar, our desired destination. At noon on the 12th we went to board our final 23 hour train, only to find that it was cancelled due to bad weather. Since at this point we were on the edge of the second largest desert in the world (I read that somewhere), I assumed this meant a sandstorm. It turned out to be heavy rains. Weird. So I stood in line for 3 hours to return our tickets and we made our way to the bus station and ended up with beds on a 22 hour bus. Because of a rockslide and the same bad weather that stopped the train, our 22 hour ride turned into a 41 hour ride, but that was okay because at least we got to lay in a bed for those 41 hours. On the train we would have been stuck with seats again.
That adventure got us to Kashgar on the 14th, just about as far west as you can go in China. I'm pretty sure if I stick my arms out and twirl around in a circle that my hands will pass through Kyrgystan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, India, and maybe even Russia. That's how close I am to all these countries. Two nights ago we went to a mountain lake and spent the night with a Kyrgyz family in their yurt (huge tent). At that point I was only a few hours from Pakistan and India, and even closer to Kyrgystan and Afghanistan. But I'll save that story for another time and put up some pictures with it.
In a few days we should be taking a bus straight through the middle of the desert back to Urumqi and then going to Turpan for some desert adventures. So far no sand dunes. Now I'm off to retrieve my laundry, hunt up some breakfast, and figure out where we're going today. Salaam!