Back to my Chinese Roots

A week ago marked the last class I had to teach in Beijing. I decided to take my last two weeks in China off to travel around a little and have some fun. I’ve been telling my friends in Jiujiang, the place I spent 3 weeks in, teaching, last summer, that I would definitely visit before I went back to the US, so that’s just what I did. It was definitely the most fun trip I’ve taken within China so far, thanks in part to the great crowd of foreign teachers I met and hung out with at Jiujiang University. Jiujiang is a city of 5 million people, yet most people who live here will describe it as a “small town”. In their defense though, I believe it doesn’t even qualify as one of the hundred largest cities in China. And after spending so much time in Beijing, it really does feel tiny.

Beautiful Lu Shan

The Chinese people who I thought I would stay with never invited me to stay in their homes, and in Chinese culture it is impolite to ask (because that would mean it would be impolite of them to refuse, and I might have ended up inconveniencing them), so I had to get creative. With less than 48 hours before my train left from Beijing, I logged into Couchsurfing, and messaged everyone on there who lives near Jiujiang, in Jiangxi province. All seven of them. Lucky for me, I received a quick reply from one of the couple of foreigners on there, and while he couldn’t host me himself at first, he connected me with one of his coworkers who was able to let me sleep on a mattress on the floor of her apartment.

One thing I love about China is their incredibly developed passenger rail network, and how easy and stress-free traveling by train is. On my way to the station in Beijing, I was stopped by a foreigner who had just arrived in Beijing and was totally lost. I helped her buy a map and hail a cab, and by the time I made it to the station it was just 10 minutes before my train left — yet that proved to be no problem at all. China has 4 main types of train — hard seat, soft seat (more spacious and luxurious than hard), and hard sleeper and soft sleeper. My favorite to travel on is the hard sleeper, because it is both a bed, and cheap. I forgot to specify that when I bought my ticket, though, and ended up on the more expensive soft sleeper. While definitely more comfortable, I was stuck in a compartment with 4 old men, who snored through the night and kept me awake. The last time I was here, the heat and humidity were more oppressive than the Taliban, so I only packed shorts and t-shirts, and unfortunately, the first day I was there was quite cold (it warmed up by the time I left though).

The next few days were filled with seeing old friends, catching up, and exploring the city during the day, and hanging out with the foreign teachers of JJU every night. Jiujiang has changed a lot in the past year, I’m gonna compare and contrast some things from my trip last year, and this time.

Last Year

I stayed in an apartment just up this street for the duration of my stay in Jiujiang a year ago. Walking just a ways up, you could find people selling all kinds of live fish, frogs, lobster, crawfish, etc, in bins, and chickens and ducks in cramped cages. It smelled really bad, and there were often two cars squeezing by each other on this tiny road that barely had room for both of them.

This Year

This year, the main thoroughfare next to the small street has been closed off to traffic and had been turned into a pedestrian mall, the storefronts have all been renovated, and the small road is no longer full of traffic and animals. There was a small foot massage place just up the road, that I always used to go to for their $3, hour-and-a-half massages… I returned to it this year to get another massage and see how they were doing, and it turns out the guy who owns the place and one of his employees (who also was there last year), got married. Speaking of weddings…

Last Year

My friend He Juan invited me to her cousin’s wedding last summer (they call their cousins their brothers and sisters though, it’s kind of interesting). This time, while hanging out with He Juan, she mentioned that her “brother” and his wife had just had  a baby, three days before I arrived. So we went to the hospital to visit the above couple’s new baby, who was, when I saw it, still unnamed.

This Year

It was probably the weirdest hospital I’ve ever been inside of. It was surprisingly clean, compared to some of the hospitals I’ve seen here, but what struck me as odd is how totally empty it was. There were no employees to be seen on the entire ground floor, nor were there nurses walking the halls or reception desks on the other floors. Also, the elevator was broken, so only the stairs were available. We went to the maternity floor, where every room had three women and their newborn children. There were no curtains or dividers between the women sleeping in their beds, and their children were kept in uncovered tubs, as pictured here. It seems like this would be an unsafe way to deal with a bunch of newborns, but on the other hand, it’s probably good preparation for growing up in one of the dirtiest countries.

Last Year

There’s this old Catholic church in downtown Jiujiang, which I walked by nearly every day last year, and every day, without fail, it was all locked up and I couldn’t go inside. I’m always fascinated by religion in China, because while it clearly exists, it’s not something that’s openly celebrated or even totally approved by the government. So imagine my surprise, when walking past it again this time around, the door was open, and there were workmen inside renovating the place. I walked in and asked if I could take pictures, and the guy in charge was kind enough to say yes, and even turn on all the lights for me.

This Year

It was a very surreal church. It had the same layout as any other Catholic church, but between the different art style, the christmas-type lights at the altar (see pic), and everything else, it felt more like a Disneyland-esque re-creation of what a Catholic church is supposed to be like. An interesting story told to me by one of the American teachers at Jiujiang University: he and some friends came to this church to check it out this past Christmas. Following the Disney motif, he said that there were robotic statues of Santa Claus playing saxophone and little kids dressed as Angels singing Christmas carols, along with a bunch of police officers (who were there to make sure nothing bad was said about the Communist party). My friend told me that most of the cops were respectful, but that there was one, sitting in the back of the congregation smoking a cigarette, which I think even in China is considered to be very disrespectful in a religious institution.

I had a taxi driver in Jiujiang, who kept silent the entire trip, until he saw a cop directing traffic, when he started cursing in Chinese and talking about how bad the police are. I think a dislike or a distrust of the police is something most people in this world have in common, and it is an interesting thing to bond over. Another time, I was standing outside of KFC waiting for a friend, and I was talking to this guy selling betta fish. He pulled out a bamboo waterpipe, and started smoking a cigarette through it. He offered it to me, and again, Chinese manners, I agreed to try his cigarette bong. Just at that moment, though, a guy in an army uniform started walking down the street, one of the street vendors let out a whistle, and betta fish guy and all his other illegal street vendor friends, who were selling rabbits, turtles, pirated DVDs, and cheap clothing, grabbed all their goods and just RAN away, leaving me there on the sidewalk holding a water pipe as a government official walked past. They’re legal here (for tobacco of course), but it was quite a surreal experience. I went and I found the guy in his hiding place in a nearby alley, and gave him his device back.

One of my goals for my trip was to find the woman who made my whole trip possible last year (and who without, I wouldn’t even be in China today). I had lost all of her contact info, and she didn’t check her email often enough to see my one-week’s notice that I’d be coming to her city. So I walked around until I found the old school I worked at. The school has changed a lot, too. Last year it was a bunch of very bare, empty classrooms, and was only for teaching English. Now half the school is for teaching English, and the other half for teaching music, and every classroom looks like a proper one now. I waited around for a little bit until my friend, Lily showed up… she was so surprised to see me there, it was a great reunion.

This whole trip was a blast, and it wouldn’t have been the same were it not for the many foreigner friends I made who work at the university. I met one guy there who actually graduated from the same high school as me, which was one of those “small world” moments, and his girlfriend, who went to a different high school but also grew up in Littleton. Other good times with them were going to the only authentic foreign food– Indian– “restaurant” (its in an open air vegetable market) in the city, hanging with a really diverse crowd– like 7 or 8 nationalities were represented. We also went to a “battle of the bands”, which was a really big deal, as Jiujiang doesn’t often have live music. There was a rap/beatboxing group, and some great punk music bands. We also went to a “secret restaurant”… it’s a restaurant that doesn’t have a business license, and it’s entrance is tucked away in a small, dark alley. The inside totally feels kind of sketchy, but the boss was a really cool, friendly guy, and the food was totally delicious!

For the trip back home, I made sure to buy the hard sleeper ticket, and I was lucky enough to be put in a compartment with a younger crowd, who I talked to and had a good time with. Unfortunately, a few of them were also snorers, making falling asleep difficult (once I did fall asleep, I was out like a light till we got to Beijing).

I have so many fun stories from this short, one week vacation, but this post is already getting too long! You can click here to see more photos from my trip. And now that I’m back in Beijing, there’s just one week left in China, before heading home to The US. I must say, I’m sad to be leaving, but I’m also really glad to be coming home.

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New Cities, New Adventures

For my next visa run and mini-vacation, I chose to go to “Asia’s World City” – Xianggang, in Mandarin, though most people are far more familiar with the name the city calls itself – Hong Kong. While technically part of China, like Puerto Rico to the U.S., it still works for getting my visa stamped because, for all intents and purposes, Hong Kong is essentially it’s own country, called “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”. It has its own government, laws, language (Cantonese), and currency. Hong Kong’s money is awesome, it looks and feels like it comes from the future! The $10 bill is made of paper-thin plastic, and is pretty much impossible to tear with your hands.

 

Future money!

I first flew to the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which sits across a small river from Hong Kong. I did this because flying domestic is about half as expensive as an international flight. I took an illegal taxi cab from the airport to Luohu Railway station, which is where one can cross the border. During the hour long drive, I chatted with the driver, learning a few things about Shenzhen. He told me that it has the 4th highest GDP of any Chinese city, and it showed. Even though Beijing is #1 in GDP, Shenzhen seemed a lot cleaner and more modern, perhaps because it’s where many technology companies base their Chinese operations. It also reminded me a bit of Los Angeles, in that there were many palm trees and lush tropical plants. Going through customs was a breeze, I was issued a 90-day Hong Kong visa, and boarded the subway into the city. The whole process took about 15 minutes.

 

Hong Kong is pretty Fooking cool.

Hong Kong is an interesting experiment in what happens when East meets West. It was under British colonial rule until just 1997, when the British gave it back to China, and the influence of the United Kingdom definitely shows. Streets have names like “Nathan” and “Salisbury”, opposed to “Qisheng Rd” (the street I live on in Beijing). The architecture is most certainly British influenced, the streets are narrow, the cars drive on the left, and double decker buses wander the city streets. As a government, it seems to be much closer to a Western government than the Chinese one. Littering is punishable by a HKD$1500 fine (and judging by the pristine streets, it’s actually enforced, unlike on the mainland). The press is free – one of the first images I saw was coming in on the metro, on the onboard TV, was video of Hong Kong police fighting with protesters. Compare that to China’s “Jasmine Revolution”, of which no mention can be found in the news media there. The government is very preoccupied with the issue of public health… there’s PSAs everywhere reminding people that smoking kills, exercise is good, not to eat too much fatty foods, etc. The packs of cigarettes have images of lung and mouth cancer on them.

In a previous post, I mentioned that Beijing was a very international city. Well, I redact that statement – it’s only international relative to the rest of China. Beijing’s paltry quarter-million foreigners doesn’t even hold a flame to Hong Kong’s foreign population, which seems to be about 50% of the city. British, Australians, Americans, Africans, Indians, you name it, they’re all here. It’s also a very opulent city; I saw more Bentleys and Rolls Royces in the past couple of days than I have seen in my entire life up to that point! I even saw one big Rolls Royce with a custom license plate that simply said “CHESTER” or “FELIX” or some other similarly upper-crust sounding name.

 

A junk (that's what that boat's called) in front of the HK skyline.

The evening of my only full day in Hong Kong, I took the subway across the harbor (it goes underground beneath the water!), and caught a double decker bus up to “The Peak” – Victoria Peak, which offers amazing views of the city. The bus ride was an hour long, and I caught it at just the right time, arriving at the peak just as the sun was setting and the city began to light up. It was beautiful! I headed back towards my hotel, the luxurious Sheraton, and stopped at a bar on the way for some pizza and beer. Then I went for a swim (on the rooftop, no less) for the first time in six months, and took the nicest shower I’ve had since coming to China.

The view from Victoria Peak

The next day, I had to wake up at the ungodly early hour of 10 AM (gasp), check out of the hotel, call my taxi driver, etc. A few hours later I was back at Luohu going through customs. I was asking people who looked like they were taking a flight if they were headed to the airport, hoping to find someone to split the cab fare with. I found one guy, but he said he was traveling with not much money and was just going to take a bus there. I went on my way, but when I saw him a few minutes later, I thought what the hell, I have to pay the cab driver anyways, so I invited him along for the ride.

This trip to Hong Kong was the first trip I have ever taken completely solo, without either someone going with me, or someone to meet me on the other side, and I realized that, traveling alone is kind of boring! Things are so much better when you have someone, anyone, to share experiences, good and bad, with. At this point, it had been 2 whole days since I had had a real conversation with anybody, so chatting with my new friend from London was a very welcome change. He lives in a small city in central China, where he is one of only two foreigners! That was fun for three weeks in Jiangxi, but I don’t think I could handle it long term, like I do in Beijing. Before we could set off, we had to find the taxi driver, who I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with trying to find each other. All I could understand the driver saying on the phone was “I’m wearing a black shirt!” and “I’m at the entrance!”, but there were dozens of entrances spread across a few different levels. Eventually, I gave up on trying to use my Chinese to find this guy, and handed my phone to a random stranger, who told the guy where we were. I’ve done this many times before when I was lost, and Chinese strangers always seem so willing to oblige me and help me out.

The drive back to the airport was fun, having someone to converse with. The British guy confirmed my suspicions that Hong Kong was just like London, and we talked about the cultural differences between central China and big cities like Beijing. He has to suffer with being stared at all the time for being white, I’m really glad that that doesn’t happen so much in Beijing. He also told me that he lived in India for a year, and proved wrong my misconception that Indian people use their left hands instead of toilet paper (and he lived in a rural village there). Other than that, the drive was mostly uneventful, except for something hilarious I saw: An old man standing on the side of the highway, holding a stick. Attached to the stick, by a piece of rope, was a tortoise, which was moving its legs as though it was trying to walk on air away from this man. I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish by dangling a tortoise over the shoulder of the highway, but it was good for a laugh.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture, so I illustrated it instead!

Chinese airlines are awesome. They remind me of what I imagine the golden age of the airline industry was like in the United States; they serve hot meals, even on the shortest of flights1, and the stewardesses are exclusively beautiful young women. They actually hand out free newspapers; I don’t think I’ve seen that on an American airline in years! On the flight back to Beijing, I experienced something I had never before seen on a flight… as we began our descent from cruising altitude, the stewardesses came into the aisle, like they do when they give the safety demonstration, and began to conduct all the passengers in some stretches and calisthenic exercises! It was hilarious to watch (and participate!), as everyone rolled their necks and clapped their hands to “yi, er, san! Yi, er, san!” [one, two, three]. I stopped the exercises long enough to take this picture, and then resumed with what must have been the biggest grin plastered on my face. Everyone else was acting like this was totally normal, but I’ve taken numerous domestic flights within China and have never seen that before.

1 Delta Airlines: Here, we hope these five peanuts and 2 ounces of soda will tide you over for the four hour flight!

Plane exercises

Welp, that’s it for this update! I’m still not sure what my next adventure here in China will be, so stay tuned! If you would like to receive my posts in your email inbox, simply go to the bottom of the page, and enter your email address in the box that says “Email Subscription”. You won’t receive any spam, I promise!

The rest of my Hong Kong photos can be found here.

Trip to Mongolia

I’m writing this (half of the) blog post at 4am, sitting in a Wang Ba (internet bar) in freezing cold Erlianhaote, China, right next to the Mongolian border. The weather report tells me its 0 degrees fahrenheit outside, but with windchill it feels like -11. I came here with my roommate Dustin to do what foreigners in China call a “visa run”: Even though my Chinese visa is valid for a year, I’m only permitted to stay in the country for 90 days at a time. So, every three months, I have to make a trip like this and cross an international border.
Dustin and I came here by taking an overnight sleeper bus from Beijing. I had never heard of a sleeper bus before, and I was surprised at how cramped it was and how tiny the beds were. Fortunately for us, Erlianhaote (Erlian, for short) is a tiny border town of only 16,000 people, and out of the 30 or so beds on the bus, less than ten were occupied.
The bus pulled into the station in Erlian at 3 AM, and we had many hours to kill before the border crossing opened at 9 AM. We took an extremely overpriced cab ride about 1 kilometer to the nearest netbar (10RMB per person… the real taxis in this city start the meter at 3RMB), and hung out there with a bunch of the kind of Chinese person who stays up through the wee hours of the night playing computer games at an internet cafe. That experience was interesting in and of itself. Erlian is known for two things, and two things only: the border crossing, and that some dinosaur fossils were discovered there. So the town has dinosaur statues all throughout (and the main road is called Konglong Dajie, or Dinosaur Street), with a park in the city center, surprisingly named “Dinosaur Park”. Dustin and I thought we could get some cool photos by heading to the park around sunrise and checking out the sculptures. Even though the whole town was maybe two kilometers across, and everything was easily within walking distance, we were taking cabs all over the place to escape the weather. We did get some cool photos there, my favorite being this one of me trying to climb a dinosaur:
After this, we were both feeling pretty hungry, so we decided to find someplace to eat. At this point, it was already 8 AM, and this is when we discovered that due to the extreme cold here, no place actually opens up before 9 or 10 in the morning. So we went to the train station to see if we could take a train back to Beijing (we couldn’t, they only run twice a week), and it still being too early for breakfast, took naps on the train station benches. At about 930 we finally ventured back out into the cold and walked past dozens of shops and restaurants before we finally found an open breakfast food place. We ate warm baozi rolls and warm milk tea, which totally hit the spot!
After breakfast, we had to find a jeep to drive across the border. For some reason, jeeps are classified differently for Mongolian border crossings than trucks and normal cars. We didn’t know where to find them, so we had to rely on a cab, asking the driver to take us to “jie pu che” (Jeep car). After some haggling over price, we hopped into a jeep stuffed with a bunch of Mongolian people. Between the 4 open seats, there were 6 people… one of the Mongolians riding in the hatch. I find it hilarious that sitting in the back of a car is a perfectly acceptable form of international border crossing here. The border crossing happened without a hitch, and now we found ourselves in Mongolia! We continued on for a few kilometers to the town of Zamyn-Üüd, which is even smaller than Erlian.
the border crossing
For the first time in months, I felt like a totally helpless traveler. As soon as the border was crossed, it seems no one could speak English or Chinese, so the language barrier was less like a barrier and more like a 20 foot high electrified razor wire fence. We walked into a good looking restaurant, but unable to communicate with the waitstaff or even read the menu, which was entirely in Cyrillic, we relied on the “point to a random menu item and hope for the best” method of ordering. I was hoping to sample some local Mongolian cuisine here, but I ended up with Spaghetti Bolognese, and Dustin got some kind of steak and mashed potato dish. In the middle of the meal, our jeep-buddies who we had spent the last hour or so with came into the restaurant, so we all moved to a bigger table and had a great time talking and laughing and eating together. The differences between Chinese and Mongolian culture are huge. Chinese guys are quiet, humble, and reserved. Mongolians are big, smiling, gregarious guys who love joking around and laughing REALLY loudly (and trash-talking about China and Chinese people, haha).
Some other interesting things about Mongolia: It’s a hell of a lot cleaner than China. The supermarket I went into was spotless, there was some, but much less litter in the streets, the restaurant felt a lot cleaner than Chinese restaurants. In China, they drive on the right side of the road, and in Mongolia, they drive on the left, so the border crossing is quite confusing as all the cars are crossing over to change directions.
That was a lot of adventure packed into a 36 hour excursion (24 of those hours being spent on a bus). I also think it’s amazing that I was able to travel 1000km and back and make an international border crossing, and do it all for under $100. I’ve decided that at some point in the future I’d like to go back to Mongolia and maybe spend a week in Ulaanbaatar.
再见!

Photos from Beijing and E’erguna

I’ve put some pictures of my travels so far up online. The full gallery can be seen here.

A huge incense burner

National Day

I once again find myself in the frigid northlands of China’s Inner Mongolia, having returned to Alvin’s hometown with him. The very small city of E’erguna is a mere 15km from both the Russian and Mongolian borders, and Alvin (Chang Fusheng) tells me that it is the smallest population center classified as a city in all of China (the population is 80,000).

The city of E'erguna

My first and only full day in Beijing before we left for up here was a lot of fun. Sharing a hotel room with long time acquaintance and world traveler, Eck, we spent my first morning in the city touring about and doing some sightseeing: we took the subway from Wangfujing street (which by the way, has come a long, LONG way from the filthy avenue full of street food vendors and beggars that I first saw it as two years ago) up to the Olympic center to check out the stadiums. After that, it was a walking tour of the hutongs, Beijing’s old neighborhoods, which, while very beautiful and interesting, are a major tourist trap. We could hardly go a minute without someone shouting “HELLO! RICKSHAW TOUR?”, which more often than not were the only three English words spoken by the drivers. We opted to go on foot instead, and we spent 6 hours walking all over that section of town.



In the afternoon, Alvin and I met up with a solo traveler named Peter, from Canada, who had also arrived in Beijing the day before. I actually met Peter on an online travel board, when I found out we were both flying out of Vancouver airport just a few hours apart from each other. We wandered aimlessly around Wangfujing for an hour, checking out another one of the enormous shopping malls that seem to be a dime a dozen here, before taking the subway back up to Alvin’s school in Chaoyang district, where we ate dinner at a really good restaurant near his campus. I finally got to try Peking Duck, and it was indeed very delicious. After that, we went to the Carrefour supermarket to stock up on food and water for the thirty hour train ride ahead of us; and going to the supermarket was an experience in and of itself.


I once again saw all the bins of meat hanging out in the open air, only this time it was actually clean, refrigerated, and free of insects. I was most surprised by all of the American import products which are available: Progresso soup, Old El Paso refried beans, Hunt’s Tomatoes, along with all the classic American cereals… even Honey Nut Cheerios, king of all breakfast cereals. Also, they actually sell real, refrigerated milk there; all the milk I had seen before was served warm in a can, and didn’t even taste like the milk back home. One thing I found humorous was that all of the cereal mascots had been converted to Asian characters, as you can see here with Snap, Crackle, and Pop.


The thirty hour train ride the next day was made no easier by the fact that I’d done it once before. It was insanely crowded, as they sell standing room only seats (and it being the day before a major national holiday). Just to get to the bathroom you have to squeeze past, push, and shove your way through about twenty people… when you are in the most populous nation on Earth, you really can’t have any pretensions about your own personal space. The only way I was able to sleep in those really uncomfortable seats, hunched over on a tiny little table, was by drinking lots of beer. Oddly enough, thirty hours on a train feels like about the same amount of time as twelve hours on a plane.


E’erguna is cold as hell (in a frozen over state, of course), and the fleece pullover I brought was definitely not enough to keep me warm. Also, I forgot my hat in Beijing and didn’t listen to my mom when she said to bring gloves. Fortunately, I was able to buy a really warm hat and gloves for ¥10, a little over $1.50. I also got an extra jacket, a really nice leather messenger bag, and a beautiful leather wallet, all for under $50 total. The prices were heavily discounted as yesterday was National Day, China’s third major holiday after Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and Mid-Autumn day, which was just a week ago.

National Day is to China as the Fourth of July is to America, minus the whole thing about gaining independence. The People’s Republic of China was formally established on October 1st, 1949, and the government has given a week’s holiday to all the workers since then. Alvin tells me that a couple of years ago, the government tried to reduce the number of days off from seven to three, but the people wouldn’t stand for it, so they changed it back. The celebrations are more low key than we are used to… primarily families will just cook an extra special meal, and fireworks could be heard going off throughout the day. I watched Alvin’s dad kill two turkeys in the afternoon, and a couple of hours later we were eating them; excluding fish, that was definitely the freshest meat I’ve ever eaten.

China can be really refreshing in that there is no debate that things such as evolution and global warming are fact, as they are, but some of the other superstitions they have are simply baffling. On the train, an old lady sitting in our compartment said that she could tell by the style of clouds in the sky that the people that lived in a certain town weren’t nice people. Also, there’s a lot of belief in luck… they think certain people have innate luck and they’ll let these people do things like pick out their ducks eggs for them, in the hopes that they’ll get a higher percentage of female ducks to hatch.

Anyways, I’m having lots of fun here, and having experienced much of this before, China’s feeling a lot less like a foreign country and a lot more like my new home. Alvin’s hometown is very relaxing, and the fresh air is a relief, and the home cooked meals can’t be beat, but I’m excited to get back to Beijing to pick out an apartment and start finding some work. My friend Valery gave me some expat magazines containing dozens of things to do in Beijing on a nightly basis… I can’t wait to go try to win some money in a pub quiz or go to some of the crazy concerts they have here (there’s one thats Gorillaz-style hip hop as performed by puppets, haha).

Till next time,

再见

I’m On My Way

I spent the last couple nights sleeping on a gigantic, 80-pound bean bag at Chapman University in sunny Orange County, where my friend Phil attends film school. I had a ton of fun out there, and it felt good to get a taste of the college life, since I’m missing out on it right now. Even though we didn’t do anything notable or crazy exciting, just hanging out in the dorms and going to the beach, it was a great time and incredibly relaxing… and I certainly didn’t take the sunshine, warm weather, and blue skies for granted, as I probably won’t be seeing those for a long time 🙂

I love the carefree attitude that everyone seems to have in the dorms. When the roommates come home to find a hammock set up in the kitchen, rather than say anything about it or take it down, someone will just end up crashing there for the night.

On the drive from Orange County to LA, I saw both the Goodyear Blimp, in it’s parking spot, AND the famous Randy’s Donuts, which happens to be pretty close to LAX.

Right now I’m writing this post from the airport in Vancouver… definitely one of the nicer airports I have been in. The staff is very friendly (except for you, border control agent), and its interesting to note that none of the security in here is carrying firearms. Strangely enough, this makes me feel MORE safe, not less. When I try to watch certain Youtube videos, it won’t let me because you can only access them from the USA. That’s still better than China, though, where the government blocks ALL Youtube access.

Anyways, I’ll be in Beijing in approximately 12 hours. I’m pretty sure the plane is going to warp through time and I will get to see the end of this day and all the way through the night, and then land in Beijing at 2 in the afternoon on Monday (tomorrow). I’m totally excited and I’m sure it will be a blast! Keep checking back to see more of my adventures, and if you’d like to receive an email whenever a new post goes up, there’s a little box at the bottom of the page to do so.

再见 zai jian

PS- Some goals I have for when I’m in China:

1. Become immersed in and hopefully understand more about the Chinese culture.

2. Become fluent in Chinese, both written and spoken.

3. Have experiences and make great friends I will remember for the rest of my life.

4. Become more open minded about the ways other cultures do things, and try to understand why they think they way they do.

Back to Beijing

Towards the end of my most recent trip to China, two months ago, I was offered a job teaching English in a school to Korean students, and I decided to put my college plans on the back burner for a year or two and take it. So here I am, getting ready to head back to China’s capitol in less than two weeks.

Beijing West Railway Station

My plan is to live and work in Beijing for six months to a year, either getting a room in an apartment, or if I’m lucky, staying with a host family while I’m there. I’m still ironing that part out. After Beijing, I’d like to take the money that I’ve (hopefully) saved from working there, and continuing to travel around the world for a while longer.

I’ve created this blog to keep my family and friends back home aware of what I’m up to. I hope to share some cool culture, stories, and photos, and I’ll hopefully make some lifelong friends in the course of my adventure. (I had to choose between wordpress and blogspot…. but blogger is blocked by the Chinese government O_o)

Feel free to drop me a comment or an email at any time, I enjoy corresponding with everyone.