Tajik wedding

Yesterday Xiefei met a girl on the bus who invited him and me to attend her cousin’s wedding in Tashkurgan. So our destination for the day was this town, about a 140 km further away in the direction of the frontier. Instead of waiting for the early afternoon bus, we decided to hitchhike from the morning, even before the yurt owner had woken up and got breakfast ready.

We were first taken by a Tagik lorry, later by a Chinese truck, and the final stretch was on a pickup where our bags were hastily stacked on sacks of aubergines in the open back, ready to be whisked off in a fast curve.  We put up at a hostel and immediately got in touch with our friend. We were invited to a delicious zhuafan lunch with yak meat in a private house. Then we took a walk to the grassland where quaint wooden gangways were set up over the marshy land.

Tashkurgan looks very Chinese, sporting ridiculous architecture, disproportionately wide boulevards for no traffic at all, and the usual cold feel. However, its soul is not Chinese at all, being the head of the autonomous Tagik prefecture hosting the country’s approximately 50,000 people of this ethnicity.

Reportedly, the official version of history found in schoolbooks is that this district was united to China after a certain princess pledged her allegiance to the celestial empire. But in a murmur my informant confessed that people ask themselves why they are ruled by Beijing.

The wedding started at 8. In the yard of the bridegroom’s house people were dancing to the sound of two flutes, a trumpet and a tambourine played my standing musicians. Men and women were wearing the traditional dress. We were let into a room where Han Chinese men, the bridegroom’s colleagues, were sitting around a low table. Being the only foreigner meant that I was invited to successive toasts with each and everyone. The dangerous shots were of the spirit I hate the most: baijiu. Recalling the smell of the drink is enough to make me nauseous. After too many toasts, each time accompanied by the wish gānbēi!, I managed to scramble out of the room and observe the dances again. But by that time I was irremediably smashed.

The next morning in spite of arriving at the bus station as early as possible, the bus tickets were sold out, and we had to share a taxi to Kashgar. My head was all right, but the spirit had burnt the inside of my stomach and I felt very queasy. I skipped lunch, only drank some yogurt and ate a morsel of bread. In town the night market was in full swing again, but I mostly felt alien to an appetite for food. I forced myself to gulp something down to keep going and my eyes tried to spot the most inoffensive-looking food on offer. The spices in those noodles were nevertheless another hard blow to my stomach.