A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Well, I spent lots of time writing a post from Beijing, but lost it in the end :o(, so I guess I will have to try to catch you all up from the US, where I currently am (jetlagged or not!)!!

The trip from Xi'an to Beijing was a quite enjoyable one on a high-speed train in soft sleepers. In soft sleepers there are only four people to a compartment, and in this case, each bed had a TV and everything, though they didn't seem to work all that well. They were showing Wasabi (a really funny French movie set in Japan with Jean Reno that I'd highly recommend), so I was happy. Though Robin and I spent most of our time playing or old stand by, Gin Rummy, which she thoroughly beat me at, unfortunately.

If I thought Xi'an was hot, muggy, and polluted, Beijing took it to a whole new level. Now, those of you who know me know that I quite rarely get pimples on my face (which is the one single advantage I can tell of having really dry skin), but between the dust, pollution, and extreme heat and humidity, my forehead now looks like a mine field (though they have started going away thank goodness!).

Beijing, overall, was good. We had some issues with hotel rooms, but we eventually found a place to stay, but it was underground and the ceiling was leaking... We saw all (okay both) the required tourist destinations in Beijing/China, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. I think I preferred the Great Wall, as the Forbidden City is under serious renovation for the Olympics these days, and it was just too hot wandering around all the grounds without any AC whatsoever. At least no one in our party passed out this time, though my body did kinda crash (as I had not slept all that well on the train ride into Beijing), and I fell asleep on a bench for a bit. I think I got some wild looks...but I don't know, as I was asleep :o).

Overall, and this is giving it a second chance, I think Beijing isn't too bad, but I think I still prefer Shanghai. Though I did find Harry Potter 6, so that made me happy. Well, not the book, but finding it.

And now, I'm back stateside. It always surprises me what surprises me upon arrival back in the US. I'm always prepared to see lots of fat people, though this time I didn't feel as though I saw as many so it didn't seem so shocking. This time, it was mainly the cars that got me. There are just so many different types and colors of cars here. I guess I am just so used to seeing black or white BMWs and Mercedes, or turquoise VW Santanas (the taxis), that anything different is just a shock.

Tomorrow I continue down to Seattle, then fly back home. I'm excited!

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Well, I've made it to the end of this adventure. 15 days since I've left Kunming, and thousands of kilometers travelled. We've taken trains, buses (of every class), boats, horse carts, taxis, private cars, cable cars, planes, and even a taboggen, not to mention all the walking we've done, since we began. It's been fun, we've seen the extremes of China, and I've carried a lot of it with me :o). It's just so hard to pass up souvenir shopping here, I mean what's US$2 in the grand scheme of things?

Our time in Beijing has been mostly good. We had some problems finding a place to stay, which was mainly a problem because we had so much stuff, but we did succeed in the end. Yesterday we saw the Forbidden City, and today, continuing on our tour of overly touristy things to see in and around Beijing we went to the Great Wall. It's my second time. In case you were worried, it's still there, and there are still lots of vendors selling over-priced water. Some things never change. Tonight we're going to try to find some Peking duck, cause what else are you supposed to eat in Beijing?

Then we head to the airport tomorrow, which is supposed to take somewhere between 2-3 hours. Bleh. Luckily, we found the most recent edition of Harry Potter at the book store yesterday, and I've been holding myself from finishing it before tomorrow, so at least I'll have something to do. Let's just hope that the bus has AC--it's been deathly hot here (but maybe you're tired of hearing me complain about that?). Now I'm just aprhensive about returning to the US. I've been gone for almost 14 months now, and have always had more trouble with reverse culture shock than culture shock--believe it or not, America's just that weird :o). At this point, I think just seeing so many white people, or rather a real mix of people is going to be an experience. I'll keep you posted on my reactions.

Meanwhile, if you're in CO or the Pacific NW during the next month or so, I'd probably love to see you (assuming I know you ;o)), so drop me a line, and we'll try to hook up!


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm Impulsive

Okay, so, if buying Maurice wasn't a strong enough sign of this to begin with, it has now been 100% proven that I am an impulse buyer. Bad Jeff, bad Jeff. What got me this time? Well, a set of three two-and-a-half feet tall terra cotta soldier replicas. I think they weight about 6 pounds each (about 3 kilos was the exact guestimate) and are made of clay. They look cool, but I'm not sure what I was thinking buying them, except that they were less than US$2 each...at least I drive a hard bargain, right? I mean, most tourists pay about US$20 for one from what I can establish...Now it's just a question of getting them all the way back to Colorado.

Actually, we're on the last leg of our journey, so it shouldn't be TOO big of a problem. In case you haven't yet been able to determine my current location, my friend Robin and I are in the capital of the Sha'anxi province, Xi'an--the ancient Tang Dynasty capital and pretty much the furthest west you can get in China that "people" still consider "civilised." Note, Xi'an is in pretty much the center of the country, so that should tell you something.

It's a pretty interesting, bustling city. It's definitely a big shock from Litang in more ways than one. First, it's freaking hot! I keep reminiscing to just a few days ago in Litang when I was freezing my pants, all three layers, off. But also, it's just crazy how developed it is here. It is also a fairly compact city with a population of over 6 million, so it just feels crowded.

It's probably a good transition point though, for we are leaving for Beijing tonight, which is bigger, more polluted, more populated, and hotter. I blame Robin for making me go there--I generally avoid it like the plague. Of course, I hear many people like it, so I suppose that I should give it another chance. I was there about three years ago at about the same time of year and spent my time rushing from air conditioned hotel to air conditioned car to air conditioned anything I could get my hands on. We'll see how it is this time.

Now we're off to explore the city wall. Hopefully we won't pass out from heat exhaustion!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Higher than Ever

Well, I know it's been a good long while since I last updated, but I've been busy...and in remote places. As we speak, actually, I'm at the highest elevation I think I've ever been outside of an airplane. My friend from the US, Robin, and I are currently sitting in LiTang in the Western half of the SiChuan province right near Tibet. How high are we? Well the high mountain park (which is mountain terminology for a high valley in the mountains, aka South Park, which does NOT refer to a public park!!!) is situated at about 4680m, or roughly 15,354ft! And this is just cruising altitude. If we want to go up into the mountains (the Himalayas) it's only up from here!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. :o) I guess it's been like a month since I last updated. That's because getting out of town was just crazy! Between judging an English competition that lasted 3 rounds (four nights total!), grading homework, making finals, giving finals, grading finals, finding a new apartment, moving apartments, and planning my summer, it's been busy!

As some of you know, or may have guessed from that last paragraph, I've decided to stay in Kunming next year. It was a tough decision between staying and going to Taiwan, but the university suddenly caved to my requests, so I decided to stay. One of them was the ability to move off campus with a living stipend. The university was quite generous, so I went off apartment hunting the next day.

In China, and I didn't realize this when I started, the real estate agencies charge a full month's rent to the renter for their help in finding a new place. I didn't have any other idea about how to go about it, so I used them, and when I found a place (which is really cool!) I had to bargain them down a lot! The negotiations for the apartment were lots of fun too. The rent started at 1800Y, but we got it down to 1508Y per month. Why fifteen hundred and EIGHT? Because the landlord kept insisting that 8 is a lucky number (which it is in China), so she wanted that in there. She wouldn't go down in either the 12 or 14 hundreds though because both 13 and 4 are unlucky numbers (four in Chinese sounds like the word death). Granted the apartment number is 804...guess having the eight cancels out the four or something. It's a walkup, which will be trecherous, but it's worth it for the view. Overall, I'm really happy about the place!!

To celebrate the new place, and also to bid farewell to some of the teachers, I had a big house-warming party on the 29th of June. I just barely pulled it off, as it was on that day that I moved into the house, and I was delayed by the fact that I couldn't get a bike/cart guy to help me move for a couple hours, and when I finally managed to find one, it started POURING (I'm not talking just rain here, I mean it was just gushing water!). But with the help of my friends Jean and Chesa, and the fact that nobody was very punctual, it all came together.

On the 3rd of July, my friend from both Fort Collins and Whitman, Robin, arrived in town. I wasn't quite done grading or moving, but with her help, we took care of it fairly quickly. On Wednesday I barely managed to get all the grading finished, and then we headed out of town on the night train to Dali. Our basic plan is to go from Kunming NW through Yunnan to Dali, Lijiang, and Zhongdian, then pass up north into Sichuan to XiangCheng, Litang (where we currently are), Yagong Grasslands, Kangding, and back to the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu. From there, it's trains to Xi'an in the center of the country, then on to Beijing.

It's a crazy long trip, but it's been fun so far. I've been to Dali, Lijiang, and Zhongdian several times, but this is my first time up into this part of Sichuan. We had good times there, including a great hike down Tiger Leaping Gorge, and connecting with a group of two Frenchies, to Japanese and a Chinese to go see Emerald Pagoda Lake outside of Zhongdian (where we walked the 8km's out trough beautiful scenery, though I got REALLY muddy). But, it's good to see something new, though I must admit that the bus ride between Zhongdian and XiangCheng was downright scary. We were on a cobbled/dirt road climbing through mountain passes in the fog and rain. Once we arrived and found a hotel, we grabbed some noodles and wontons for dinner, then hiked up the mountain a bit to go to a newly constructed Tibetan Buddhist temple. It was just awe-inspiring--I actually had to hold back tears at one point. The craftsmanship is excellent, and since it's new, it still in great condition. It was great. Then today, we made the 5 hour trek to Litang. In the Lonely Planet, they described it as the Wild West of Sichuan...it really is. We were walking down the street this afternoon and were just astonished at how much it felt like we were walking down the street in a set of a Western movie...though the architecture is a bit different. It's really cold up here (I'm wearing like 5 layers and I'm still cold), but it's worth it.

And now that I'm caught up, I'm going to go explore!

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