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When I grow up I want to be…

This is the story of a little Uyghur girl who wants to be a dancer like the older girls…

On my travels I’ve met a few people who I’ll never forget… one such person was a Uyghur little girl called ‘Malia’ that I met at Gaochang near Turpan in the region of western China known as Xinjiang.

Gaochang was once an important oasis city along the Silk Road on the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert. You can take donkey rides out to the centre of the ruins to have a look around. The site is pretty impressive, and way bigger than Joahe – another ruin worth visiting in this part of the world.

On the walk back myself and a friend Neil stopped to wait for everyone else to catch up and were approached by some Uyghur kids trying to sell trinkets. One little girl, called “Malia”, spoke some English and she was delighted when let her use my pen. She asked me for some paper as she wanted to write something for me – I had none, except for a photocopy of some Uyghur and Chinese food phrases. This would do as far as she was concerned and she seemed to be really proud to be able to write her address down in ‘pinyin’ Chinese – quite what she thought I was going to do with it I do not know…

Neil gave a young boy the local style cap he had bought in Turpan the day before – the lad was well happy and I’ll never forget his face – the look of disbelief that he could keep it. The local men in this part of the world where hats, and I think that boys probably don’t have them until they are old enough, so I think that is why he was so happy.

I traded my pen with Malia – upgrading from pen to keyring – a very strange assortment of items were on this keyring. A small bell, a little plastic ‘happy’ Buddha, and bizarrely an ear spoon for getting wax out of your ears!

She told me that she wanted to be a dancer (like the older girls in the photograph below) and she posed like a dancer for me to take a picture – I wonder if she’ll ever get her wish!?


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