Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 26 - Baiyun Exhaustion and the First International Sugarcane Games

Day 26 – Baiyun Exhaustion and the First International Sugarcane Games

Breakfast was mostly uneventful at Starbucks on the island, except for a scary “demon dog” stray that kept begging at the patrons in the porch area. It had red-rimmed eyes and white dirty fur, and so it was tipping the scale to creepy rather than sad (and I ALWAYS have pity for dogs).

Being Day 26, I was getting a tad weary of the constant walking and exploring. And it all came to a head on this day. Going to Baiyun Mountain had sounded like a good plan the day before, but now that we were walking and taking incorrect buses and generally not taking a direct route (Josh got incorrect directions from the internet), Marlie and I were already complaining.

We finally arrived at the base of the mountain, and Marlie and I took the cable car while Josh ran up the stairs. We had a relaxing ride, though it wasn’t terribly exciting, or very long. Josh actually showed up about 10 minutes after we reached the top, sweating.

The Baiyun Mountain area was nice enough, but there were a lot of other tourists wandering, and it was all things we’d seen before (overlooks into misty forest, stairs up to numerous tablets with inscriptions), so we didn’t spend much time there at all. It wasn’t disappointing or anything, but it was maybe a little more boring than our other adventures. Marlie and I rested and talked while Josh did more stairs.

We returned to the hostel, and reunited with Matthew and Andy. They hadn’t done much that morning either, though we all became acquainted with the nameless French guy in our dorm we’d met the night before. We invited Frenchie to dinner (I never learned his name. Or if I did, I promptly forgot it), which we decided would be the Subway a short walk down the street.

There was more teasing of Andy’s “Ben-ness” and discussion of how Marlie was getting tiny bruises on her legs. We determined it must be gnomes, punching her legs in the night. Plans for the night were also made while we ate, and none of us wanted to venture too far, so we headed off the island to Bar Street again for the cheap beers at what had been Andy and Matthew’s hostel.

This time unfortunately there were no tables available for us. We met up with another female British backpacker the Blighty boys had met earlier and the now seven of us went towards the “rivah” where we sat on ledges and talked and drank cheap beer.

We got a little bored, and so I suggested a stupid game that I’d played in the winter at Beloit. You found a stick, or a broom handle, or something long and stick-ish. You spun around it, making yourself dizzy, threw it on the ground and then attempted to jump over it. A really stupid game, but hilarious to watch others attempt. We could NOT find any sticks anywhere near, and so (I believe) Josh suggested we buy a whole stick of sugarcane, unpeeled.

We called the event the First International (3 countries representing!) Sugarcane Games. It was a whole lot of silliness, and didn’t last too long, but it was entertaining while it lasted.

We finally got a table at the hostel, and we chatted together with a girl who had a checkered shirt like Josh’s (that he’d bought at Meters-Bonwe in Zhuhai). We spent a long time debating on whether it was EXACTLY like Josh’s. We got a bit hungry soon after getting the table, and so we walked out past all the bars, hoping we could find food at the later time. We did, finding a more “Kaifeng” feeling local area. We all got delicious noodles.

It was already long past the time ferries would be running, and so we had to take taxis back to the island, and then to bed.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Apologizes and a Quick Update

There's been a whole lot of nothing happening here, which is part of the reason I haven't updated. (That doesn't make sense, I realize...) I know I still have to finish the epic winter travels (I realize that it's ridiculous I haven't updated in so long) along with the few other things that happened about a month ago, including trips to Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Taishan. But I just haven't had the inspiration at ALL.

This week has been finals, and though I'm not TAKING them, I do have to listen, grade, and ask questions. So it's still just as tiring (if not more) than a normal 2-hour lesson. I just finished all of my Friday students' finals yesterday, since June 3rd will be a holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival. I don't understand WHY since the festival isn't on Friday, but Monday, (I believe) but I had to start their finals a week earlier than the other classes. So I've probably seen a lot of them for the last time, and that hit me while on the bus back to old campus.

I've gotten a few gifts; many Qing Ming-related, including a huge scroll with the entire painting reproduced. (Wow.) I'm grateful for some of the gifts, as they're not things I would have bought myself, and some will definitely be good to have in the future. Others... not as much. (Like strange plushies, or other decorative objects that are questionably tasteful.) Packing will be an adventure of sorts, since I have a lot of things to go through and decide what to bring home and what to just.... leave.

Now, a few days later...

My mom and aunt will be arriving IN ONE WEEK. And at this point, I am so so so close to being entirely finished. I just have to give the listening exam to my Nursing students (the others take their listening exam through computer, I had to create one for the Nursing students) on Thursday, grade them, and input their grades and send them off to my Nursing TA. DONE.

I have one more dinner with students tomorrow, which is nice to look forward to, and I will start packing the next day. I need to be as close to packed as possible before 8-ish pm on Sunday, since that's about when I'll leave to pick my family up from the airport in Zhengzhou.

So.. maybe you will see more updates from now until then? I hope I can find inspiration and power through the rest of those blogs...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 25 - Missions in Guangers

Day 25 – Missions in Guangers

The day began with us trying to complete the towel mission. I knew I would not be happy if I couldn’t shower without a towel for 5 days, so Josh, Marlie, Matthew, and I walked off the island and into numerous stores, trying to find towels. It took us much longer than it should have. We came upon a store called “Women & Baby Essentials” finally. SURELY there will be towels there! There were, but only after trying every floor and then looping the floor we needed the wrong way. But, success! We returned to the hostel and we ALL took showers. So after about two hours (there were only two available showers on our floor) we were able to head out for the day.

We collected Andy from the ferry (since he was still at the other hostel and had to come to our island) and took the subway to the People’s Park. (人民公园 ) The People’s Park is a park that seems to exist in every large city. The park itself was nice, but our wandering and chatting was far more memorable. It was more exciting to be talking with two cool new people. They told us how they gave nicknames to every city they’d visited together. Yangshou became Yangers, Hong Kong was Honkers, and Guangzhou became Guangers… there was obviously a pattern. When we told them we worked in Kaifeng, they misheard and only referred to it as Kung fu from there out.

This was also about the time that we noticed a LOT of people were playing a hacky-sack type of game, but with a crazy feather/rubber/metal contraption instead. And they were really freaking good at it. Very tight motions, and kicking from behind their back to the center of their 4-8person circles in parks. We thought it was neat, but didn’t make much note of it until later.

It was also when we noticed all the freaky trees like this, which seemed to have additional trunks growing from their branches. What?

Andy and Matthew told us of a tower, which they’d dubbed the “Sexual Tower” and their desire to see it. They tried to show us in the distance where it was, but it was never very clear due to the smog. I think the only reason it was a “sexual” tower was because it had a very appealing curve to it. So we took the subway in the general direction of the tower, to see if we could find it and climb it. We couldn't see anything, since we’d gotten ourselves in a very building-heavy area. We spotted a tall hotel, and so walked in and found the elevator and went as high as we could. The floor we got off on was deserted and a bit dark, and not exactly hotel-looking (more conference rooms and things), so we felt we were intruding somehow. We snuck around and found a window and saw we’d overshot the location by quite a bit still. Sad.

We happened to pass a pub called Elephant and Castle (on our way to the hotel), and went there for dinner and drinks. It was pretty empty, but we gave ourselves enough entertainment. We all ordered cheeseburgers (that were FANTASTIC) and the best Guinness I’ve had in China that they poured into iced glasses. I also had a Strongbow once I realized they had it as well.

While eating, we started teasing Andy about how he was similar (not really) to one of the other American teachers, Ben. Mostly because Andy liked Subway and oreos like Ben does. But we said to truly be like Ben, he would need a Chinese girlfriend, and so we dared him to hit on our waiter/bartender. She’d been very friendly with us already and spoke decent English, so the next time she came out, Andy asked if she wanted to play pool.

The rest of us made fun of Andy from afar and just generally heckled him. By the time we were leaving, we’d established that Jenny (her English name) was now his girlfriend and his one-true-love. JUST as we were walking out, we spotted a postcard of a rainbow-looking tower in the pub. Andy realized that was our Sexual Tower and asked how we could get there. Our mission could be complete!

Before we completed our quest, we stopped at another bar near the subway called the Hilltop Bar and sat outside playing Circle of Death (which we had to teach to our Brit friends) for an hour or so. Also at some point, when Andy, Marlie, and I were all in the bathroom, our MALE waiter told Josh that “your friend is cute”, and throughout the night our waiter had been a bit ambiguous, as Andy had been fake-hitting on him and generally we were being silly and so we still have no idea WHO he meant was cute. Andy, Marlie, or me. I suspect it was Andy, because that would be the funniest.

And NOW it was time for our Sexual Tower adventure. The Elephant & Castle pub had given us superb directions, as we exited smack dab at the base of the tower. AND IT WAS SO WORTH IT. It was dark by then, and so it was beautiful and rainbow-colored like the postcard. The whole area was filled with lights and lasers and it was a perfect adventure.

We had to pay 50 yuan to get to the middle C deck, on a super speedy elevator (my ears popped), and we didn’t quite want to splurge the 200 something to get to the top. This was about when we learned that the Sexual Tower was actually called the Canton Tower, and had been built for the Asian Games that had recently taken place. So it was a very NEW tower, and also the tallest one in the world. (It surpasses the CN Tower.)

We took lots of ridiculous photos and what Matthew called “awkward tourist poses” (what do you do with your arms? Your hands? If you start thinking TOO much about it, it gets seriously awkward.) Or yelled things like “do a meerkat pose!”- and ran around on the deck, seeing the city from a different height and angle.

We returned to the hostel after about an hour of being generally very silly, and were probably a bit obnoxious on the subway, since we were all high on endorphins from completing our mission of the Sexual Tower, and also bursting out clapping and singing the Korean pop song, “Nobody” by the Wonder Girls.

None of us were in the least bit tired, so we took a detour to the 7/11 for snacks and sat by the “rivah”, chatting. Andy had purchased oreos, and we teased him further about his “girlfriend” Jenny and that he was secretly Ben in disguise.

NEXT UP! A day partially without our Blighty friends (aw- also, another of their terms), new additions to our dorm room, and the first International Sugarcane Games.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 24 - Where are the Bars?

Day 24 – Where are the bars?

Breakfast was bread, courtesy of Dr Ying, along with some instant coffee and bags of coconut candies, which I took far too many of, as I still have a lot of them even now, four months later.

We bussed our way to the train station, grateful to be getting further away from the horror of Macau and the disappointment of Zhuhai and on to Guangzhou. After a very long city- bus ride to what looked like the middle of nowhere in a sandy wasteland. But it was actually the train station. It was just very very new and still under construction. We stood in line on wooden planks that were half-heartedly covering the sand to buy our tickets for Guangzhou. (I know, I just personified wooden planks, I don't care.) We had to wait an hour or so, and I got a little antsy… as you can see.

Though that could also be due to the fact that by that point we’d seen at least four mothers lift their babies above garbage cans, holding their legs against their stomachs, and trying to make them pee or otherwise relieve themselves into the bin.

God, China, WHY. WHY do you do things like this?

So that very obviously made all of us extremely uncomfortable, and we went to the complete opposite side of the waiting room where there were no garbage cans, or bathrooms, just a plain nice wall where I could swing my arms around.

The tickets we’d gotten for the train were for standing room only, and the first, and hopefully the last tickets I’ll get of the kind. I was quick, though, and put one of my bags into an unused corner near the door and sat on it as a makeshift seat. Hooray! I think it was around 45 minutes, maybe. I can’t remember. But long enough that I knew I wouldn’t want to stand the whole way and get jostled by train movements. Sitting was best.

We had been unable to reserve any hostels in Guangzhou the night before, as hard as we tried, so I’d written down at least three addresses of hostels. Thankfully, Guangzhou has a subway system, and so our first attempt was on Shamian Island.

WE SUCCEEDED on our first try! We figured that since karma was seriously out to get us in Macau/Zhuhai that something HAD to go in our favor. And now it was! The hostel was just a short walk from the metro, had dorm beds, AND we were able to book 5 nights. Such serious success after two infuriating days.

Finally we were able to unload our gear, and we had a decent dinner at a nearby restaurant called Lucy’s. I got the enchilada, since I am always craving Mexican food (and it is lacking in China), and it was alright.

Actually I lied earlier about having complete success. The one thing the hostel did not have were towels. And so we had a quest for towels (only I never vocalized it as a quest, but I definitely thought of it as one), and we checked the 7/11 (HOLY CRAP, a 7/11? I don’t have those even at home) but there were none to be found. So it would have to be a quest continued the next day because we had far more pressing matters. That of taking the ferry off the island (I need to mention how thrilled I was that we were on a hostel, on an ISLAND) to the famed Bar Street we read and also could clearly see from our side of the river. Look at that! It’s so enticing! Shiny lasers and tents and lighted PIRATE SHIPS.

We were hopeful and it was about 7 or 8pm so we figured we could just bar hop. Amigos was our first try, directly across where we disembarked from the ferry. We all got margaritas that were far too full of tequila and salt on the rim, but we finished them nonetheless. I, incorrectly (and knowingly), assume that by default, margaritas should be strawberry and frozen because of how taco nights work at my home. Having a salty lime one is always a disappointment.

The next bar was one called Riverside 88, where I got a ridiculously strong whisky sour (I don’t think I ever found one I liked well enough on the trip) and the others I believe got Tiger, a beer from Singapore which still tastes like every other blah light/East-Asian beer I’ve tasted.

And then the bars stopped. We walked around the area and found nothing. We backtracked all the way back to the ferry and heard what we were thinking, “Where are the bars?” by two guys behind us.

They told us they’d already explored the street in the direction we hadn’t gone and they’d found nothing but the cheap beer at the hostel they were staying at. We told them it was the same for the opposite direction. So we came to the mutual decision to return to their hostel and get cheap beer (4 kuai!). They were to be our buddies for the rest of Guangzhou, or rather, Guangers.

Matthew and Andy both come from Norwich, England and have known each other from at least university we gathered. And they were both hilarious people- for the next few days we coined or they shared with us an absurd number of terms, which I’ll scatter throughout the next few blog posts.

We stayed at their hostel, laughing and talking absurdly loudly, and convinced we were definitely the most awesome people at the hostel. The people inside were only in pairs, or silently on laptops, or more calmly drinking a beer. We were outside on the porch, being awesome and hilarious. Eventually we ventured back to the bars we’d abandoned earlier, though they weren’t a lot more “happening”, though with our new friends they were a lot more fun. At some point in the night, they’d decided they would switch hostels the next day to ours, because clearly sleeping on an island is cooler. And it would be easier to hang out later if we were sleeping in the same place.

Next up! The Towel Quest continues, Andy falls in love, we make our best awkward tourist poses, we find the Sexual Tower, and play lots of Jasper. All to be explained soon!

Day 23 - "The Beautiful Zhuhai"

Day 23 – “The Beautiful Zhuhai”

So the only reason Zhuhai was in our itinerary of cities was because we had a connection through Marlie’s mother. One of her students is Chinese, and we were invited to meet his parents in Zhuhai. So Marlie got ahold of Dr Ying and her husband. Dr Ying was not what were expecting. She was much older than we thought, for one, and she was painfully Chinese. The day consisted of us being led around like children. Or rather, grandchildren. It wasn’t… awful, but it was a little stifling.

We met them in a KFC in the downtown area, and once we met Dr Ying and her almost entirely silent husband (most likely because he didn’t know any English) she didn’t stop talking. Her husband would really only ever respond by taking sips out of his water bottle that he’d fashioned a straw through the cap.

She went on about the “Beautiful Zhuhai” and how we were lucky to see it. None of us could agree with that statement. There wasn’t much of interest in Zhuhai, and proof of that I think was the lack of hostels. Clearly it isn’t a place that is popular to visit.

But we saw the famed Lady of Zhuhai statue, which, I suppose, was nice, but not worth the visit. Dr Ying took far more photos than we did. We also visited some strange area with an island in the middle of a huge lake, but we only walked across the bridge and back before going to dinner. The dinner was a mess of a place. It was hot pot and a buffet at the same time, which is way too much “do it yourself” service than I think is necessary. There were lots and lots of people and noise and food and smoke. A little overwhelming. We were able to shake her after dinner, but only after riding the bus with us back to our hotel (at least 15-20 minutes out of the way for her).

We were pretty tired, even though we really hadn’t done much that day. We prepared that night for our final destination, Guangzhou.

Here’s a picture of the infamous Dr Ying and us with the Lady of Zhuhai in the background.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things from the past few days (and weeks!)

Okay I lied, I got on a tiny blogging frenzy. Here's another. More journal-y as well.

We recently found a new proxy program, and this one can actually let me access youtube without the frustrating “false” complete loaded videos like the other one did. (Hit refresh, loads 10 seconds, “done”, refresh, 5 more seconds, “done”. UGHHH) So I’ve been catching up on Vlogbrothers. So Vlogbrothers is a video blog that Quinn introduced me to last year, and it's comprised of two brothers, in their thirties, that have been vlogging on youtube for close to 4 years now. I’ve seen all of them. I caught myself up sometime last year (when she told me about them), so at least I don’t have over a year of videos to plow through. More like 3 months or so (with 3x weekly updates of 4 minutes).

The Vlogbrothers are… pure awesome. They’re John and Hank Green, and John Green is maybe the one you’ve heard of, if at all, since he’s a young adult author. He wrote the Printz-winning Looking For Alaska (very good), Paper Towns, among others. But what makes them so enthralling is that they are both undeniably, geeks. Nerds. Dorks. And well-educated and well-spoken. So it’s no wonder that I love watching their videos and the oft times crazy things that they do or discuss in their (normally) four-minute videos. If you want some entertaining, thought-provoking, but still sometimes silly youtube videos that aren't full of the usual mindless drivel that google-owned site pumps out, try Vlogbrothers.

But that’s one way in which I’ve been filling my time every day for 300MB worth of bandwidth (around 1-2 hours of waiting to load, watching, approx), since this program only gives me that much every day (for free, it’d be more if I paid. I do not want to).

I’ve also just gotten hooked into the Stieg Larsson trilogy of The Girl… /Lisbeth Salander. The Dragon Tattoo just got reaaaallly interesting last night and I spent far longer reading than I meant to. (And then was woken by the musicbox as you’ve already probably read.)

I also have about 50 books on reserve, just waiting to be sent to my library so I can READ THEM. I’ve collected titles over the months I’ve been here from all sorts of sources and recommendations and they range from crazy topics. Like Carl Sagan, the periodic table, fossils, zombies, immortality, programming, fantasy novels, fiction, and Chinese memoirs.

My productiveness seems to go in waves. Sunday I was incredibly productive. I finished a blog, was able to upload all the photos (not always an easy feat), corrected ALL the homework for the last two weeks that I was behind on, inputted the data into my spreadsheet, and cleaned my apartment. It’s a nice feeling, getting things done.

The great majority of yesterday… I watched 10 or so vlogbrothers videos aaand changed the design for the lesson plan powerpoint. That was about it. I did eventually finish planning, but… it took a lot of mental teeth-pulling.

And after a few weeks of serious mental and emotional anguish (that I don’t really want to reveal publicly (unless of course I talked with you about it), but just trust me when I say I was having a crappy few weeks), and some good discussions with a few people, I think I’m actually truly ready to handle the last few months here.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Noise of China

Short tiny tiny blog.

This morning I was awoken by noise. Not the usual Thursday morning "HUUUH HAAAA" of the comrades shouting and exercising or whatever it is they do. (And it always comes at 6:15 or so, which is about 20 minutes BEFORE I NEED TO BE UP. And I hate it. Thankfully Thursday classes are almost always good ones, so this isn't so bad.) Oh no no no. It was about 9:30 (no morning classes today) and I was gently awoken by a girlish, piano... sound. It was like one of those lame SUPER girly music boxes that they have in movies. That kind of music. Oh, but guess what. It played.... and played.... ALL. FREAKING. DAY.

The last I heard it was around 5pm today (during a break in songs). Over 12 HOURS of the same goddamn annoying music. And it was coming from Da Li Tang, so it was far enough away it wasn't BLARING, but it was juuuust loud enough to be infuriatingly present.

I played my music as loudly as possible until lunch, and then after my classes this afternoon so I could drown it out.

It's gone now (10pm) and I oh so hope it doesn't return tomorrow. Please please please.