Xin­jiang trav­eler finds home in Beijing

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG - By Gao Bo in Beijing Con­tact the writer at gaobo@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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

GAO BO / CHINA DAILY

Maranjan Meturson now works as a waiter in a Xin­jiang-fla­vor restau­rant dec­o­rated with Uygur style in Beijing.

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