Archive | March 2014

More Kashgar!

I want to tell more stories about Kashgar because the city was very fun! We walked around the Old City; we walked through it; we snacked at street vendors; we ate at restaurants; we took lots of pictures.


My mom was going crazy taking photos in the old city. She took photos of doors and animals we saw along the way. We stopped to look at a sheep in the middle of the street and the cute children.  She was so absorbed in the interesting city that she did not notice that my nose was running. I usually don’t notice either so she reminds me: `don’t you need a kleenex, Mathalia?’ This time the other mom noticed and gave me a kleenex! So very nice! Then we stopped to make friends, take pictures and admire their sheep.


Another time we walked by an outdoor tea shop. The merchant wanted to sell us some tea so he took a bowl, started throwing in different ingredients and then mixed them up: `it makes you slim and trim,’ he said.  Morielle smelled it and my mom bought it to share with friends. He was funny!


We found a restaurant row very close to our hotel. Each night we tried a different one. Morielle wanted to practice her Uyghur: `What kind of food does this restaurant have?’ And then, of course, she got to practice her numbers when we paid the money.  The last night we went to a Pakistani restaurant and her Uyghur did not help us; her Chinese did not help us either! Finally one of the customers helped us: he spoke English to us and Pakistani to the cook.  The dinner was the very best we had had so far: meat, curry rice, and fresh Naan bread. Yum!

We took our time and lingered over our last breakfast in Kashgar: so many different kinds of food and so very delicious. We walked to the bus stop and from there to the train station. We were early so we called Matthan on Morielle’s very cool phone. We took turns talking to him: `we miss you and wish you were here!’


When we got to Aksu, it was dark and we were tired. Morielle found a driver who wanted to take us to Ala’er. He had a big car for the three of us and he gave his other customers to a friend who had a smaller car. He was very happy to take us back. It sort of made me sad because I knew that our time with Morielle was all most all done.



Kashgar: the coolest city!

We had another tour guide in Kashgar: Kamil, the boyfriend of one of Morielle’s students. He was very very helpful. The first thing he told us is that the taxi driver ripped us off: 80 Yuan from train station to the hotel! Just take Bus #12 and you pay one Yuan each.

He took us on Bus #12 to The Fragrant Concubine Tomb. He had never been there before. He thought it was too expensive: ten Yuan per person. My mom was very happy to pay for him so that he could experience this `tourist attraction’ in his own city. We had fun taking pictures and walking and talking. My Mom tried to ask good questions in English but mostly he talked to Morielle in Chinese.

My Dad and I took some pictures with our Griz Cards for the contest at the University of Montana. I bet that not very many people Have been to Kashgar! Morielle took a funny picture with Chairman Mao. My Mom was worried that she might get in trouble . . . but when she was done, some Han Chinese people did the same thing for a photo of their own!

I was hoping that Kamil would invite us over to his house for dinner just as Christy invited us to her house. I wanted to see inside a Uyghur house. Morielle said that they have lots of beautiful carpets. Unfortunately it did not work out but we had lots of fun with him on that day. He showed us the bus and he showed us where to walk in the old city.


On Friday we were on our own exploring the city. Everything was interesting on the street: baking bread in a big oven, butchering sheep, interesting shops and people. We walked to a big square and saw camels and donkeys and fancy carriages. We stopped to watch and learned something about what Uyghur people like to do: they like to have their pictures taken with the animals and carriages.


Mom, asked me: do you want to sit on a camel, Mathalia?

`No thank you’ but I liked taking pictures of the Uyghur children sitting on the camels.


Then we we wanted to visit the Mosque. Kamil had told us the day before that it was okay for us to visit but we had to cover our heads with a scarf. Fortunately my mom had brought lots of scarves. We used the bathroom mirror to get ready. Morielle  practiced her Uyghur when she asked for 4 tickets. They were so impressed that they let her go in for free! Very Cool: only three tickets!




Train to Kashgar

We got up early and ate breakfast at the hotel. Then we checked out of the hotel. It took forever because Morielle had misplaced the receipts and the receptionist wanted those receipts. Morielle had forgotten that Chinese people love pieces of paper! I don’t think she will ever forget because they did not want to give our deposit back. It was crazy. We were almost late for our train. It was rush rush rush!


And then at the train station, they found a mistake on Morielle’s ticket! Her ticket had the wrong Visa number on it. Her passport has so many Chinese visas it was a very easy mistake to make: into China tourist visa; convert to work visa; out of China; back into China tourist visa; convert to work visa . . . you get the idea. My passport has only one Chinese Visa so it was no problem.

We found our seats. And then we made friends with the people across from us. This means that Morielle talks Chinese and asks where they are going and how long their train ride will be: 51 hours! Then they ask her where we are from and what we are doing. `We are from America. I am teaching at Tarim University.  This is my `MaMa’ my Baba’ and my `Mei mei.’ I learned that little sister is `Mei mdi’ in Chinese because Morielle said it whenever we met someone new!


A short train ride for us: only 8 hours. This was before we learned how much fun it was to play Muggins on the train so we had to make our own fun. I worked on my feelings book and took a few pictures. My mom wanted me to help her take pictures of people on the train but I just wanted to stay in my seat.


She left us and went along the train taking pictures of beautiful people. I did not go with her so you know what happened?! People started taking her picture! She was not too excited about that so after a few shots, it started getting pretty crazy on the train: mom taking photos on her camera; other people trying to get her photo on their iPhone.


This did not last very long and then mom came back to sit with us. Morielle said that her picture was probably already all over Chinese Facebook:  QQ.

Anyway, the taxi drove us through the city to our hotel. I was very excited about Kashgar!

Guatemala Again!

I am all signed up to build another house in Guatemala July 6-12!  I will build with my Aunt and Uncle’s Team Dakota unless . . . a Team Missoula comes together. I wonder . . .

It all started with my Grandma and Grandpa! They gave me a high school graduation gift: go to Guatemala and work! I built a house for a family.  We were called Team Casas: my mom, uncles, aunt and cousins, and some new friends.

Monday morning we packed Brandon’s truck with all our tools; leveled the ground, prepared the foundation and poured cement.

Tuesday the walls went up and we poured the cement for the front porch.

Wednesday we hammered up the siding, put in electric, and worked on the roof. I took some breaks and played games with the children. And I had Spanish Lessons!

Thursday we finished the house and had the Dedication.

Friday we went to Antigua just for fun. I went on a hike with Ron, Kay, my Mom and Uncle Jeff. We also went shopping and ate lunch at McDonalds.

Saturday morning we got up early and went to the airport. When I got home, I knew that I wanted to go to Guatemala again and build another house. I get to go again. I am excited.

Right now the plan is to go with Team Dakota but I want to ask my friends in Missoula if they would like to make a Team Missoula. It costs a lot of money: $8,000 for the house materials. And then each person has to pay $125.00 for room and board for the week; and airfare to Guatemala City: $700-$800 per person.  It is very expensive.

I get to go again because I am using some of my goat money to pay for my trip this summer! I was in FFA my Senior Year and I raised a goat, Kanga. I sold him at the auction for $2,400!!! I paid for my new chicken coop with that money and I used some to go to China and I will use the rest to go to Guatemala again. Newspaper article about the auction at the Fair. 

So, dear friends in Missoula, I wonder if anyone would like to join me with your time and/or money for a Team Missoula July 5-12, 2014?  If you are interested, please let me know by Saturday, March 29.

Hanging out with my brother!

hang out with matthan01

We picked Matthan up at the bus station for Christmas Break. He said `squeeze, Mathalia, can you squeeze your hug?’ I hope that I am getting better with squeezing my hugs. I had lots of practice with my sister while we were in China: she wanted lots and lots of hugs! Anyway, next week I get to hang out with my brother again: we are driving to Los Angeles for Spring Break!

In December he came to my violin recital.  I wore my Santa Claus hat. I played `Joy to the World’ and `O Come Little Children.’  Matthan was teasing me by playing with my hat. I am glad he did that AFTER I was all done playing.

We swam against each other at the Holiday Alumni Meet. We are both Alumni: Matthan swam for the Hellgate Knights and I swam for the Big Sky Eagles in High School. He did not really play a trick on me at the meet but he `high-fived’ me on his way back: he was almost finished and I was in the middle of the race!

One day Jourdyn came over to hang out and they invited me to go to The Hobbit movie with them.

`No, I want Yoga Class.’

My mom wanted me to change my mind:  `look at the schedule, Mathalia. You can skip Yoga Class today and go tomorrow.’

`No! I want Yoga Class.’

`Mathalia, don’t you want to go to The Hobbit with Matthan and Jourdyn. He is only here for a short time and now is your chance to do something with him and a friend.’

`No, I want Yoga Class.’

Mom kept trying  but Jourdyn heard me and said,  ` I think she really wants to go to Yoga Class.’

So I went to Yoga Class and they went to The Hobbit. My mom thought I was crazy. 

hang out with matthan04

We cooked breakfast pizza together with eggs from my chickens (this was before my egg-free diet). He likes lots of vegetables so we there was lots of chopping: yellow, orange, and red peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and potatoes. Yum!

We played Muggins with Grandpa and my mom. Matthan `mugginsed’ me a lot because I was watching him and not paying attention to my cards.  This is the same way I played Muggins in China: watching friends not the game!

When I showed him my chickens, they all walked out of their coop.  He helped me shoo them back inside. He was not so nice about riding in the car with me: he was always very quick and I am usually very slow. He beat me to the front seat of the car! I ended up sitting in the BACK seat the whole time he was home! 

My mom asked me: do you want to get up at 3.30 a.m. to drive Matthan to Spokane?


`Okay. Then you have to get up and be quick. We won’t wait for you!’

And I did. And they didn’t wait.

Mornings in Ho-Tan

The morning after our very exciting sleeper-bus trip through the Taklamakan Desert, Morielle’s student, Christy gave us a toys of  her city, Ho-Tan. First we went to the museum. There was another mummy there and I took a picture. I used `museum mode’ so there was no flash but the guard asked us not to take any pictures.  Oops! So we have two illegal photos: mine and one of me taking the pictures.

After the museum my mom asked Christy to take us shopping.  She wanted to buy some fancy cashmere yarn from XinJiang.  We found the yarn shop but no cashmere. Anyway, we had lots of fun along the way. Christy wanted us to taste  XinJiang food. Sheep stomach was the first thing we stopped to try. Christy paid for it and Morielle ate it! My Dad took pictures; my mom had a little taste; and I made a new friend.

On the way back to our hotel and lunch we tried some sweets: sweet bar with walnuts and other things I don’t know what they were. Every time we stopped to buy something, we made friends with the vendors and then we took lots of pictures. It was very fun for everyone. We were having fun because we were trying interesting things. And everyone around us was having fun because they were watching us.

Christy’s mom made us a delicious Sichuan dinner. They moved from Sichuan to Ho-Tan ten years ago. They like Sichuan Chinese food better than XinJiang food. So the first day we were in Ho-Tan we ate Han Chinese food for breakfast, XinJiang snacks and XinJiang kabobs for lunch and Sichuan Chinese food for supper.


Our second morning, Morielle wanted to hang-out in the hotel until it was time to go to the desert ruins in the afternoon. So I went out for a walk with my Mom and Dad. They were taking pictures and I was trying to keep up with them: I had to follow them AND I wanted to take pictures too. It takes a long time to take someone’s picture: first I had to ask with hand motions because I don’t know Uyghur or Chinese: I show my camera and point to them. Most people let me take their picture. I took the picture and then showed them the photo on the camera. Then my mom would take a picture of me taking the picture and another one together with my new friend.

We did not go for a very long walk but we had lots of fun, taking pictures and making new friends. We saw lots of interesting things along the way. My mom said it was easy to take pictures of people with me around because I am so cute. Not sure what that means. I do know that I like to take pictures and I like to make new friends. It doesn’t matter that we speak different languages.

Snow Days!

The snow storm that hit Missoula brought many opportunities to be flexible as my mom likes to say! On Thursday Coach Helen texted me on my phone and asked me to walk to her house: she did not want to get stuck in the snow on Beverly Avenue. One Thursday morning she got stuck! Two nice guys stopped to help but she did not want to take any chances.

Friday morning Heather, at the dentist office, called: `Mathalia do you want to cancel your teeth cleaning appointment?’

`No way! I want the dentist!’

`Okay, please come in at 11:30 instead of 4:00.’


After we hung-up, my mom wanted me to change my mind: let’s just stay home in the nice warm house.

`No way!’

`Okay, we will go to the dentist but I am not driving. We could walk, ski or snowshoe to the dentist.’

`I want walk.’

Quickly I finished up my Friday paper work. Then, at my mom’s suggestion, I added some more clothes and she got the snowshoes out hoping I would change my mind about walking.

`No. I want walk.’

While I got ready, she went out to take care of the chickens.

It was very windy and lots and lots of snow.  Some sidewalks were shoveled but mostly it was easier to walk in the paths the car tires made.  My mom thought it would take us an hour to get there but I was quick!

Early gave us perfect opportunity for a `brush up’ on my teeth-brushing skills. Heather gave us a very cool model: not just teeth but jaw bone, skull, eye sockets, everything! We practiced in the bathroom.

Saturday was not quite so much fun: Oula Exercise class and ushering for MCT play, Peter and Wendy was cancelled. I was so disappointed! I did not believe my mom: `I want Oula” `I want Usher Meeting.’  

`I’m very sorry, Mathalia, but we are in the middle of a big snow storm.’  Well, I wondered if she was tricking me—maybe she just did not want to drive; I was willing to walk in the snow. So we called the Rec Center and I talked to someone there who told me that class was cancelled. And my Dad showed me on the internet that Peter and Wendy performances had been cancelled. Still I was very very upset.

My mom encouraged me to write some sentences in my daily notebook and circle `disappointed’ on my feelings page. She also suggested that I write about it in my journal:  `it is okay to be disappointed, Mathalia; we will hope that they will reschedule Peter and Wendy for next weekend.’  And they did! So I got to usher for Peter and Wendy on March 8 and 9 instead of March 1 and 2.

And I got to stay home, cook food, catch up on mail, read Sense and Sensibility and talk to Morielle on the computer phone.

`Fun’ in Ala’er!

No movie theaters. No `cool’ places for students to hang out. On Saturday after our jet-lag nap, we walked to the Tarim River with Morielle’s friend Steven. Steven is an English major. His English is very good because he hangs out with foreign teachers instead of going to class! We walked a long time. I had to practice my following skills which was really hard because I was looking and looking: buildings, people, chickens on the path!. Nothing was boring, ever! It was hard for me to look  AND keep up. My Mom was not much help because she was taking pictures. My Dad and Steven helped me not get lost.

Then Steven bought a lighter. He wanted to build a fire.  Good idea. He must have known I was getting cold! He said  Tarim University students like to go to the river, build a fire, make food, hang out, and make their own fun. Steven showed us how to do it and it was easy. Lots of dried sticks and brush along the frozen river made it easy for us to build a nice fire. It was so fun! Steven told stories: Chinese stories and Morielle told Bible stories around the fire. Morielle wants us to send marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate bars in her Birthday package so that she can make s’mores with her students. Fun!

After the stories, we used the sand to put out the fire and then walked home. Morielle’s apartment was nice and warm. It gets very cold at night in Ala’er because it is in the desert. While we waited for supper Steven, mom and I played The Cat and Dog game! It was easy because we had only three players; I knew Steven very well because of our nice long walk; and his English is very good.

The next time we played The Cat and Dog game my Mom thought I had completely forgotten how to play. It was not that I did not know how to play the game but I did not know the new friends: Morwangul, Amina, Zunabu. I thought they all looked the same; I did not know their names; and they were always talking Uyghur helping each other with their English vocabulary:  dog, running, newspaper, mouth. I was enjoying getting to know Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz   friends  that I was completely confused about the game.

My Mom asked them to write down their names. They asked us to write down our names too: so many new people! I heard Zunabu ask for the card with the dog and the newspaper but when it was my turn I asked Morwangul for that card because her name was first on the list. Fortunately Zunabu was confused too so when it was her turn, she forgot to ask me for the card. I had another chance. This time I asked Amina for it: No, she did not have it. Then Zunabu asked me for it and she got it! We all laughed it was very funny.

Playing Muggins in China

The last minute my mom packed Muggins cards: I am so glad! People from different languages can play Muggins because you only need one word: Muggins! One day some of Morielle’s sophomores came over to visit us. They speak Uyghur with their families; they speak Chinese at the University; they are learning English.

Chatting with them in English was not going very well: too many questions, too many words, too fast.  Muggins was perfect! No explaining, we just started playing, `Mugginsing’ and laughing.

I did not pay attention because I was watching new friends. When my Mom or Morielle would say, `be careful, Mathalia,’  I was completely distracted. More friends came; they tried to help me but I was hopeless—too much fun to play my cards. I like to play out all my cards at the end but this time, I left them in a pile in order to eat homemade dumplings!

The next time we played Muggins we were on the train: we had said `goodbye’ to ZayNur and Morielle’s apartment. Twenty-one hours hard-seat on the train to Urumqi!! I was excited! My mom was worried. I don’t know why but she was definitely worried!

We found our seats and started to pass the time: we took pictures of our bench friends; they took pictures of us and put them on QQ (Chinese Facebook); we listened to a luggage argument. Even though I don’t know Chinese,  I knew it was not a discussion; it was an argument. Then we watched the cute little boy make his parents crazy: his dad took him back and forth to the bathroom; still he kept peeing on the floor. My mom did not see this! But I saw it; and I saw the hole in his pants. Morielle received a mysterious ghost text: I see you on the train.  Yikes!! Who is this?!  A stalker?  No! It was Wangxiao, a student, from her University. He was on our train and in our compartment!

Chatting with him and the train drama took 2 hours. Now what?  Muggins! While we went to the bathroom, my dad pulled down the suitcases and found the cards.

Lots of people watching the foreigners but no one wanted to play. Finally two girls joined us. We had to hold our cards in our hands because the table was too small. All the people watching helped me play my cards right; even my friend next to me helped me.  Finally it was down to me and my new friend. She won. I had so much fun!

We ate a train supper from the cart going up and down the aisle: two suppers for the four of us plus snacks from the bag. Then my mom, `Let’s see if the nice Uyghur family wants to play Muggins.’ We taught them how to play Muggins by using only one word: Muggins! Even with everyone helping me, I was still the last one out.

After that it was time for bed. No problem for me: I can sleep anywhere. In the morning we played Muggins one more time with Wangxiao. He liked Muggins so much that we gave him the cards. He taught over 100 people how to play Muggins during his Chinese New Year vacation!  That’s crazy!