Category Archives: Season 1

Singing in central Park, Urumqi, China

China Ah… the sound of China!

When visiting Urumqi, I walked in the central park: People’s Park.

Well it really is People’s Park… mid afternoon, on a sunny Tuesday, lots of people were hanging out, playing Mah-jong, chatting, playing music, or just spitting around… despite the important mix of both Uigurts (the local central Asian ethnics) and Hans (the real Chinese), the park was predominantly crowded with ‘Chinese’.

By a pond, in the shade of a temple-like guinguette a band was playing and singing typical music (the one you can hear in a Chinese restaurant for instance) to the ears of indifferent passers-by and bystanders alike… A woman, a spectator, took part and was slowly waving her arms and body to the gently rhythm of the annoyingly saturated sound…

The scene was worse a bit of sound recording and a picture for the memory… I knew I was in China!

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China Steel and Tin Workers in the Streets of Urumqi

The soundtrack could have been composed by Bjork, but it’s authentic!

In the streets of Urumqi, Uighurts workers make furniture, tools, ovens with steel and tin. They perform their art right outside in the street. I found the show spectacular, and stopped to admire, and record. Play the attached sound above, and watch the slideshow!

 

Yak!

China Mal Bazaar, the animal market in Kashgar

Lots of animals, many people. Sounds, smells all mingling in the heat and the dust.
Sellers show their stock, byers inspect, both haggle. There’s always a group of people forming around the negotiation, they all take part, and wait for the best moment to place their offer.
In the sound recording below, you can hear such a group haggling for a mule. The mule has also its word to say…!

Going to Irkenshtam, enjoying a friendly conversation in Russian, and a nice beer

Kyrgyzstan From Bishkek to Kashgar, an Epic Journey to Get Into China

After finishing editing the Labrys interview and sending the file to my friends at Homolab, I was at last ready to leave Bishkek. On top of the first week when I entered Kyrgyzstan, I had just spent another two weeks in the capital. Enough! I’d had a good time and was happy with the work I’d done, but a fortnight at the Sakura guest house, I had enough! Besides, the nights were getting cold and the days shorter. It was as if the changing weather was urging me to move on. Continue reading

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Kyrgyzstan Interview with Labrys, the gay and lesbian group in Kyrgyzstan

Labrys is the main LGBT group in Central Asia. Created in Bishkek in 2004, they are a fully officially registered organisation, and operate in the region with of the help and financial support of international NGOs.

Syinat Sultanalieva kindly accepted to do this interview with me for Homolab. This audio is the full interview.

EDITED 01.10.2012:
Labrys expressed concerned about some content in the interview that could jeopardize the safety of some people. In response to their request, the interview was edited and a few minutes were scrapped.

If you would like to know more about the topic, here are a few interesting links:

LABRYS:
Labrys
Labrys Facebook Page

ILGA Asia

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights is in Kyrgyzstan

We Do Exist: Gay Men and HIV Risk in Kazakhstan (Open Society Foundations)

Statement on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (May 18, 2012 from the US embassy in Bishkek)

Rider leaning on the side of his horse to grab the carcass

Kyrgyzstan Audio Feature: Kyrgyzstan Independence Day

What a day!

By chance I was in the capital for Independence Day, on the 31st of August. Twenty one years of independence. I decided to do my first special audio feature. I’m not entirely happy with it, but it’s my first one, so be indulgent! But if you want to make comments or give advice, your are more than welcome!

Seperating the cream and the milk

Kyrgyzstan Hike and Yurtstay at lake Kul Ukok

From Kochkor, there are two main options for trekking: Lake SomKul or Kul Ukok. The first one is rather large, and further out. It’s possible to go by car, horse riding, or trekking, by the long road, or the short trail, from the Kyzart pass reached by car. Smaller, more isolate Kul Ukok can be reached in one day from Kochkor on foot.

SomKul seemed to touristy to me, and I didn’t want to set off for a long trek, or anything costly (taxi to Kyzart). So I decided to go to Kul Ukok!

The road out of Kochkor to the next village, then the track, the trail up to the lake… it was a really long day. I walked for about 8 hours. I was totally exhausted when I reached the lake. The yurts were on the other side… Two kids on horses came to meet me, and I rode a horse for the first time of my life to the yurt. I witnessed the life of nomads, milking the cows, herding the horses, sheep, and goats, preparing dinner while the sun was going down with the temperature! After dinner, I went straight to bed, buried myself under tons of blankets in the cold yurt. Very bad night.

The next morning, after a simple breakfast, I took some pictures while desperately trying to wake my body up. I really had to leave, thinking I could not face a second night by the lake. Too cold, too dirty, too expensive (see the article CBT greenwashing of tourism).
Although my body was tired, and lacking vitamins (or just proper food), I started ascending the 3500m pass to the next valley, back down to Kochkor.

Long way up, I was struggling. I started to fell altitude sickness. By the time I reached the pass, my legs were shaking… I took only two pictures, one to each side of the pass, and started going down. Again, very long trail down, for long hours. I made stops and naps on the way… I reached the first village after 6 or 7 hours walking. I was lucky to be able to stop a van with a family going to Kochkor, and I got my free ride back. I went straight to bed…