A Tale of an Old Shoes Seller – Part 1

I just have to document a story about a particular old man we met in Kashgar. He’s very old and it’s clearly seen by deep wrinkles, wearing worn clothes, and with big hat, he’s regularly found sitting at the mosque yard by late afternoon selling old shoes. We have come across alot of people in Kashgar and some of them happen to leave a memorable mark in our heart and mind. This old man is included.

After a rest and intense shower and charging camera, we left the hostel to walk around town and find lunch. For the record, we realized that we hadn’t had shower since moving to the hostel, which was a day before we went to Karakul, so do the maths! Blame the weather too being too cold in the morning and at night and with us busy exploring Kashgar during day time, getting shower doesnt come as important anymore :P So when we’re back to hostel during afternoon now it seems the appropriate time to get clean and healthy again.

As usual when we walk across the mosque yard we’ll be passing by the row of shoe shiners busy polishing customers’ shoes. We stopped for a few minutes to watch as if it’s something really amusing to our interest. Maybe it is! Az says we have to try it out once.

And this time it seems our wish has instantly come true, coz when we left the shoe shiners a few steps ahead, we saw an old man selling used leather shoes (the old man in the middle, that is!). I caught a sight of a beige-colored pair and thought they should be women shoes (probably the only among all men shoes) and spontaneously pointed “I want that shoes!”. After seeing the size is okay and being told the price is only 10 yuan, I didnt think any further. We then cheerfully made our way back to the shoe shiners just to test them with this newly bought shoes!

There’s this gypsy-looking woman caught our attention for looking so skillful and quick dealing with her customer. I show her the shoes and it’s understood to her that I need a polish. So I sit down comfortably and let her do the magic to my worn leather shoes.

The cleaning-polish only took 5 minutes, for 5 yuan. The shoes are now clean again, but the woman doesnt seem satisfied with her work because dark weary marks seen clearer on a bright-colored leather like beige shoes which polishing alone wont get rid of the stains. She gave a sign suggesting to paint the shoes black, which we didn’t understand at first and refused, but she managed to convince us well that shoes will look better and the paint won’t run. She would do it for another 15 yuan, and thinking that our initial reason of buying the 10-yuan old shoes in the first place was only to try out the shoe shiner, I guess it wont give harm if they get worse anyway.

So the real magic begins! The woman starts putting a generous amount of black paint, not one but from many different bottles and polish them off with another layers of chemical liquids (many types!) which I guess to set the black paint at place. Then she continued putting some more polish (different colors) paste and brush the shoes to shine. It was almost 30 minutes of suspense anticipating the final product of this make over. We cant help but amazed that the whole procedure was done very carefully, comprehensive without any mistake. So ta-da! My old worn beige shoes are now transformed into a pair of shining new black shoes! :D

We spent the rest of the day walking by the small roads and explore other corner of the old part, before heading to the night market. And seeing how locals make a living, right at the street. Uyghur people are blessed with craftsmanship and it’s well preserved in their culture. At the street, we get to see people actually making Tembur body.

We have earlier come across traditional instrument shop where we got to watch a live play, this is yet another, although it seems more a souvenir shop. The significant ones should be the “Tembur”, the Uyghur sitar.