"Posh Posh! Posh!" The boy, barely 10 years old and riding bareback with a proud grin on his face, thundered past the AsiaQuest team members, driving a restless pack of wild horses to market.
At the end of a tiring, 2,500-mile journey by air from Beijing, the AsiaQuest team and their equipment were "deep in the heart of the immense Kashgar Bazaar," in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on the western rim of China, says team biologist Christina Allen.
Horses -- and every imaginable item, from bolts of silk to Roman statuary -- has been traded there for more than 2,000 years. As the human population grows and becomes more "civilized," however, this market, too, is changing. "Even three years ago, hundreds and hundreds of horses would be traded here each day," Allen says. "Today, only 15 or 20 will be sold."
On Tuesday, the thousands of 5- to 11-year-old children around the world directing AsiaQuest voted for the team to leave the exotic, fertile Oasis that is Kashgar. They sent the team, on their bikes, into the Takla Makan Desert, the "Sea of Death," where deserted cities are still buried in the 105,000 square miles of sand.
"In the Chinese way of thinking," Allen says, "everything that is light has a dark side, everything that is good has a bad side, and the sides can never can be separated, but must be accepted together." What good will the team find in the Takla Makan Desert?
Everyone is welcome to follow Allen and the rest of the AsiaQuest team on its adventures along Marco Polo's route on China's fabled "Silk Road." All you have to do is log on to Classroom Connect and follow the links to AsiaQuest. Your educational adventure starts at http://classroomconnect.com.
Remar Sutton will report on AsiaQuest's progress over the coming weeks.