Strangers on a train find com­mon cause on jour­ney of en­light­en­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

Ev­ery day at 2:01 pm, a train de­parts from the sta­tion in­Urumqi, the re­gional cap­i­tal of the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion. Dur­ing its 28.5-hour jour­ney south, it stops at all the ma­jor cities and coun­ties in the south of the re­gion, in­clud­ing Kash­gar and Aksu, be­fore ar­riv­ing at Hotan, its fi­nal stop.

We rode the train on June 9, and saw­peo­ple mix­ing freely in the car­riages, ir­re­spec­tive of oc­cu­pa­tion or eth­nic group. Many of the pas­sen­gers dis­cov­ered there was much they could learn from each other dur­ing the long trip.

One of them was Gul­mina Yiliham, who was head­ing home to Hotan. It was the third and fi­nal part of a long jour­ney home for the sum­mer va­ca­tion from Hangzhou, cap­i­tal of East China’s Zhe­jiang province, where she has been study­ing qual­ity con­trol at a univer­sity for three years.

The 22-year-old stu­dent found her­self shar­ing a sleeper cabin with us, and Xing Shuzhen and her 7-year-old daugh­ter. They were trav­el­ing from Shan­dong province in East China to visit Xing’s hus­band, who is a busi­ness­man in Kash­gar city.

To pass the time, Gul­mina and Xing be­gan to chat. They dis­cussed Gul­mina’s life as a Uygur study­ing out­side Xin­jiang, es­pe­cially the things that trou­ble her when she is far from home.

“Ev­ery­thing is fan­tas­tic. I’ve made many friends from all over China and seen many new things. Un­for­tu­nately, ev­ery time a ter­ror­ist at­tack hap­pens in Xin­jiang, I can tell that peo­ple feel tense around me. It’s not a good feel­ing,” Gul­mina said. “The media should just call them ter­ror­ists, not ter­ror­ists from Xin­jiang.”

Xing said she un­der­stood, and ad­mit­ted that sev­eral friends had cau­tioned her be­fore she left Shan­dong. “I’ve been com­ing to Kash­gar ev­ery year for the past three years now. I don’t think there is any­thing to worry about. The warn­ings of­ten come from those who have never set foot in Xin­jiang,” she said.

Gul­mina said most par­ents in Hotan want their chil­dren to study at univer­si­ties, and spe­cial mea­sures have been put in place to pro­vide greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents from south­ern Xin­jiang. Tra­di­tion­ally, young peo­ple from the area be­lieved that start­ing their own busi­ness at a young age of­fered far more promis­ing prospects than go­ing to school.

As the train ap­proached the desert of south­ern Xin­jiang, the sand be­gan to seep through the tiny gaps of the closed win­dows. “I can’t be­lieve I ac­tu­ally miss the sands of the Tak­li­makan,” Gul­mina said, adding that she will re­turn toHotan af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

Ali­jonMetkasmu, a 20-year-old law­stu­dent at Zhe­jiang Sci-Tech Univer­sity in­Hangzhou, was trav­el­ing to his home in Yu­tian county, Hotan pre­fec­ture, for the sum­mer va­ca­tion. His par­ents are farm­ers, and they do ev­ery­thing they can to sup­port his ed­u­ca­tion, he said.

The train fi­nally stopped at Hotan af­ter a jour­ney of 1,971 km. When Ali­jon dis­em­barked he was warmly wel­comed by his fa­ther, who had trav­eled over from Yu­tian, the county seat. “I am so proud of you,” said the 40-some­thing farmer, with tears in his eyes as he hugged his son.

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