Xinjiang traveler finds home in Beijing
Beijing is the most recent stop for former Xinjiang resident Maranjan Meturson in his past two years of travelling almost all of China’s major cities. It is also where he would like to make his home.
Before he began working as a waiter in a Muslim restaurant in late June, the 26-year-old tried many jobs, including selling jade and stones at Panjiayuan market, the most popular antique market in the capital.
Wearing a hat to cover his curly hair in the restaurant, he looks more like an entertainer than a waiter.
His employer, who is also from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, has two restaurants and Maranjan moves between the two during peak lunch hours.
Each morning, he starts work at the smaller restaurant, which opened five years ago, and then transfers to the larger eatery for the peak lunch period.
“I have five Uygur colleagues here and dozens from different ethnic groups,” said Maranjan, who tells fellow staff members to call him Michael as he thinks that is easier for them to remember. “I am a newcomer, I don’t talk too much with them, but they are kind to me.
The larger restaurant, which has been open for less than a year, is popular with customers who go there to experience Uygur customs. The interior and exterior decorations all have Xinjiang features and the private rooms are named after famous places in Xinjiang, such as the Tarim River and Kanas Lake.
“The other Uygurs here are all cooks in the kitchen, so the customers always talk with me, asking questions about Xinjiang and letting me teach them simple Uygur words. That’s interesting. I like talking with strangers this way, ” Maranjan said.
The waiters work two shifts a day, from 9:30 in the morning to late in the evening. The staff all share an apartment a 20-minute-walk from the restaurant.
“Here, I don’t need to worry about accommodation, and especially meals. It’s difficult to find a job that offers halal food every day,” he said. “We six live in one room, and we get on well with each other.”
Every month, Maranjan has two days off, which he spends exploring the city.
“I came to Beijing and lived here for a period two years ago when I first left Xinjiang,” he said. “I thought the city was very inclusive. I love this place. I want to do something here.”
His family in Xinjiang all work for a State-owned company, and live in a residential area that is also part of the company.
He lived there for his first 24 years, before resigning his job in the company’s plastic factory.
“There was nothing wrong with the job, I just wanted to leave Xinjiang,” he said.
His family did not want him to leave his hometown but he wanted to travel further afield.
“I wanted to be a model, but couldn’t because I am only 175 centimeters tall, so I had to learn some skill to survive in the city,” he said.
Having been a photographer for years, Maranjan wants to improve his professional ability and to also expand his social circle, but this is hard as he has little free time to meet new friends.
“I want to meet more Uygurs living here, for I know many of them have done very well and I hope they can lend me a hand, even if only a small chance,” he said.
To ease his mother’s worries about his life so far away, he occasionally sends her money, usually 500 or 1,000 yuan ($80$160) at a time, even though she says she doesn’t need it.
Maranjan has two older brothers, one with a business in Hotan, in the south of Xinjiang, and the other who lives with their mother.
“I plan to bring my mom here next summer and rent an apartment for her. Then, I will find another job and try to earn more to support us,” he said, with a warm smile.
There was nothing wrong with the job, I just wanted to leave Xinjiang.” MARANJAN METURSON XINJIANG TRAVELER
Maranjan Meturson now works as a waiter in a Xinjiang-flavor restaurant decorated with Uygur style in Beijing.