The Most Expensive Cup of Coffee in the World - Kopi Luwak
I didn't know if I would ever have the opportunity again, so I paid the $45 for a small cup of Kopi Luwak. It wasn't bad, but there's no way I'll ever pay that much again. At least the presentation was pretty.
Ever since this cold front moved in and took up permanent residence in Fuyang, my brain just hasn’t come up with anything good to write about. In truth it isn’t that cold. It isn’t any colder than a winter back home, but I need to blame my lack of creativity on something, don’t I? I keep looking through my pictures and I can’t seem to find one that I think is worthy, strange, or important enough to put on here. I do have the pictures of our trip to the zoo and a food festival laying around my computer some where. Every time I look at them my thoughts and words freeze and fall out of my mouth like a giant iceberg. I feel all dried up. I need some inspiration. Got any ideas, or want to hear about anything in particular? If you ask; I’ll tell.
So what do I do when I am not trying to get a blog up and running? I do what every other bored soul does when they have nothing else better to do. I surf the Webby.
And when I surf, I come across things that make me smile and laugh like the kitty cartoon up top. I sure do miss my little kitty back home though. It is so hard to convince a cat here to come any where near me. Most of the time they just jump in a bush and hiss at me. I don’t know why they are so timid. China eats dogs in the winter, but I haven’t heard anything about cat dishes yet. Speaking of dog though, I’ve started to see pictures of dogs in the windows of restaurants. Last night, I saw a poor dog chopped to bits in the kitchen of the restaurant we went to eat at when I looked to see what they had in the back. I pray that none of that ended up on my plate.
But onto brighter and happier things. When I went searching the Webby for some inspirational pictures to put on this particular blog, I came across a funny little cartoon site. If you get bored, want a good laugh, and foul language doesn’t bother you – you need to go here.
And for now that is all I have. I guess I will go back to surfing the Webby because I don’t have anything else better to do than stare at my computer screen.
When Phil and I get our lovely 3 week PAID vacation for the Chinese New Year in late January and early February, Xi’an will probably be one of our destinations of choice. We are trying to organize a trip that takes us in a slow, northen direction until we reach the artic cold of Harbin to see the annual Ice festival. We haven’t mapped out everything yet, and can’t until we know where we will be next semester. I will post about that problem soon, but I first want to show you something funny that made the news not too long ago.
For those of you who don’t know, Xi’an is a very popular tourist destination because of the Terra Cotta Warriors you can find there. Apparently, each warrior is an individual(so far as I have heard) and none of their faces are repeated. For the longest time, I thought the Terra-Cotta Warrior were the size of She-Ra action figures or maybe as tall as a Barbie doll. I don’t think I ever thought they were life size. Maybe I thought this because every picture I have ever seen has been an aerial view of the pit they all stand in or a super up close one like the picture above. So, I was quiet surprised to come across this article a few weeks ago. When I started reading it, I thought maybe it was a joke. I kept thinking, “How in the world could someone not see this guy? He could step on one for crying out loud!” Slowly I understood it, and felt really, really dumb. I can’t help that I am slow! But at least now I won’t show up in Xi’an looking for Terra Cotta Warriors who’s heads might have come up to my ankle. I can imagine what my face would have looked like when I actually got there and saw 5 feet tall creatures. Pablo(Ma Lin) must have been authentic looking as hell to blend in the way he did. I’m quiet surprised he got off only with a stern talking to and didn’t get carted off to a Chinese prison.
I don’t know how permanent it is, or if a Chinese official hit the wrong button on his computer, but after several weeks of my blog residing on what seemed to be a Forbidden Planet, the days of reading phrases like “The connection has been reset” and “The page cannot be displayed” are NO more. Please sing with me and do a little jig – China ain’t blocking me no more – do da do da!!!
I know this doesn’t really matter for me so much because I was able to access my blog despite China’s attempt to sensor me, but now anyone in China who might stumble upon my blog CAN. I guess the investigation of Blogger has come to an end(for the time being) and they don’t find me or my fellow Bloggers all that troublesome after all. Of course, tomorrow is a new day, and the Chinese might change their minds. And they probably will.
As for Thanksgiving, I haven’t seen a turkey anywhere. There are plenty of chickens and ducks to be had(with their heads and necks still attached) – and we might actually have to buy one if we want to have any sort of American Thanksgiving here in China. Without the simple existence of an oven though, it makes it a bit more difficult to make a variety of foods other than boiled or fried. The one thing I really want and know I won’t find is a Honey Baked Ham. My tongue wants to roll out of my mouth like a cartoon character just thinking about one. Hmm Mmm good. Eat some for me will you? Or better yet – send me one. I’d love you forever and ever! If any part of your soul wishes do such a thing and you really want to make my day – contact me and I will pass on my mailing address. Heh. Hey, it could happen.
So, Happy Thanksgiving to all. And thank you China for taking me off that awful planet. It was a dull and musty place. And if you could avoid sending me there in the future, I would be a very happy expat in your lovely country. And even happier if you could put some Honey Baked Ham in the Da Ran Fa by 5:00pm tonight. Thanks!
I know I posted our visit to the Ancient Paper Making Village some time ago, but I wanted to share the rest of the pictures that I took that day. Now that we are using this slide show thingy, I can post them a lot easier than before. You can’t see them as up close and personal as before unless you actually click on the slide show and go to Sky Album, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices. I’m sure that I will include single pictures here and there in future postings, but only if I feel they are deserving. Heh.
If you like, you may go here or here to read the original post about the paper making village visit. I don’t see any point for reposting what happened that day. It was pretty much a we went, we saw, and we left. Paper is paper after all. I will try to get back to regular posting soon. After a week long PAID vacation, teaching is taking more out of me than usual. Hopefully, the weather will get better and Phil will get well so that Phil and I can run off and see what the surrounding areas of Fuyang have to offer before we have to leave prematurely. More on that later.
Place cursor over slide show to see the titles of the pictures. I believe that slide shows are going to be the way of the future for my blog. It seems to be much easier and less time consuming than adding only five pictures at a time to Blogger. This in turn will make me very happy, for I have about a billion pictures that I have taken, but not yet posted because Blogger is slower than dirt in China. These pictures, as the previous post would suggest, are from our trip to the largest cave in Asia, the FuChun TaoYuan. It wasn’t as big as Carlsbad Caverns, in Carlsbad, New Mexico, USA, but there weren’t any bats or their guano, so it’s a winner in my book. Like most of China, pictures don’t do this place justice. For those of you with over active imaginations, I suggest that you use them here.
I really enjoyed this trip. It was nice to get out into the country side of China and away from the constant construction of Fuyang. Unlike some people who come to China, Phil and I decided to go here by ourselves. Chinese people are always asking who we are taking with us and are usually surprised when we say no one. Because we are American and don’t really know Chinese, I think they assume that we are going to get lost or ripped off and sometimes that happens, but we get to experience more or the “real” China this way.
For instance, the only thing we knew when we left on Thursday was that we wanted to go to the cave, but we had no idea how to get there. We knew there was a bus that could take us close to it, but then we didn’t know where to get on it. So, we hopped in a taxi and told them we wanted to go to the bus station where we could find the bus we needed. Either he didn’t know or he wanted to make some money because he immediately told us for 110 RMB he would take us there. I really didn’t feel like trying to find the bus, so 110 RMB didn’t seem that much to me. Off we went. The country side of China all sorta looks the same. You see the same run down home over and over again. The same poor woman hanging her clothes out to dry. The same little garden. It’s a bit dismal to see that much poverty in a 30 minute taxi ride.
It really makes me appreciate what we have.We’ve got a better apartment than most of the people who are native to Fuyang. When we do have guest come over, they are always commenting on how comfortable it is or how big it is. We actually have hot water and windows that close and aren’t just holes in the walls. Our floors are hard wood and not a slab of grey concrete. When we wash clothes, we just throw them in a washing machine and hang them up to dry. In the apartment right next to us – everyone washes their clothes in the same water troff. The same troff that they use to bathe in as well. But for some reason they have cars. I will never understand how the poorest people can live in the crappiest house, but then have one of the nicest cars. Someone needs to do a study on that for me.
But, I digress. We got to the cave just as the cab man promised, although he did make us climb up a hill to the top of the mountain that he said we take us up to the entrance. For a small second, I thought that he had dropped us off in the middle of no where. Up the hill we did find the entrance, thank God. We thought we were the only ones there because it looked deserted, but I liked it better that way. Big crowds turn me off. We ended up having our own private tour with a woman who spoke about 30 words of English – which is better than nothing I guess. She was very nice, and walked us all around the cave trying to think of English words to describe the formations. We humored her and tried to make it look like we understood.
Eventually, we came across a large tour group, and somehow joined them. If we hadn’t have met up with them, I’m not sure we would have seen the rest of the park. After the tour of the cave, we hopped on a little train that took us through another cave. Before I got on though, the Chinese man I was going to sit next to pointed to the seat trying to tell me that it was dirty. I pulled out one of the tissues I carry around with me and tired to clean it. The seat wasn’t dirty. It was just stained. The conductor of the ride didn’t realize I hadn’t made it on yet and started off without me. I had never heard some many people cry out at once that I wasn’t on yet and for him to wait. Of course, whatever they said was all in Chinese, and I don’t really know what they said – but I bet it was something a lot like that. Thankfully, the ride stopped and I was able to get on. I really felt like I was on the cart ride form Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. If you have seen the movie, you should understand a little of how that ride worked. On the plus side, there was no one chasing us through the tunnel. Heh.
On the other side was a bunch of stairs waiting for us to walk down them. I’m glad it was down and not up because I was in no mood to walk up anymore stairs. China is littered with stairs. It’s amazing. No wonder all of the Chinese are so thin and fit. So we climbed down the stairs and played a little on a playground we came across. It was pretty big and reminded me of a playground I used to play on as I kid. Like Phil said in his post – the adults were playing on it, too and enjoying themselves. I heard lots of the women squealing like little girls and the men were laughing at them. It was a site to see. After that we went down to the lake which looked nothing like the picture on our ticket, but, eh, the view was nice even though it was completely overcast and hazy. We tried to leave at this point, but got chased down by one of the leaders of the tour group. She asked for our tickets and made us follow her down to the boats. I’m glad she found us because we got to enjoy a bamboo boat ride around the lake – which was bigger than I thought. The only down side was all the dead fish we saw floating in the water. Poor fish. After the boat ride it was time to go home, but there was no taxi that we could pay 100 RMB to take us there. We stood at a bus stop for a while, and after two or three went passed without stopping we started to worry.
At this point in time it was about 4:15 in the afternoon and it was getting dark pretty fast. There was a Chinese man standing at the bus stop too, so we tried to find out which bus we needed. After a lot of “bu dongs” we finally understood that the next bus wouldn’t be around until 5:30. That was all fine and dandy except that it was getting cold and the rain was bound start falling eventually. We decided to walk. This is when we realized how far out in the middle of no where we were. I probably should have panicked a little more than I did, but I didn’t. Everyone stared at us as we walked by their houses. We were probably the only white people ever to walk down that road. Finally, I saw an older woman looking at us with a lot of interest and seemed like she wanted to talk. I told her that we wanted to go to Fuyang and Phil asked where the bus was. She said some words that we didn’t quiet understand and before we knew it, she had waved down a white van and we were on it, hopefully going toward home. Not long after we got on the bus it started to rain just like I had feared, but we were in a nice warm van, so I didn’t care. We were afraid for awhile that we were going anywhere but the place we wanted, but about 30 or so minutes later – the van/bus stopped for us and the driver said it was our stop. We made it home AND we knew where we were. It was a flipping miracle. So, I close this post with this . . . Cost of a Taxi to the largest cave is Asia – 110 RMB($13) Two tickets to get into the largest cave in Asia – 196 RMB($29) Two pictures beside some pretty formations – 20 RMB ($3) Getting on a van that you don’t really know where it is taking you – PRICELESS
Here’s a nice pano of Fu Chun Tao Yuan. It’s a lake next to a huge cavern. I’ll let Gabe post the cavern pics and what not. Gabe took the pics for this pano. For 120 RMB you get a tour through the cave, get two pictures taken, ride a small train through a cave, play on an old old playground, and go on a bamboo boat ride. I’m gonna make this post short and sweet…
The old old playground is made for adults, too. I’ve found the Chinese adults play just as hard as the kids.
Bamboo is great for a lot of things, but boats??? Well, it worked, kinda . . . My shoes will dry eventually.
Finally, what do you call being able to slightly converse with an older Chinese woman with a thick Fuyang accent, explain that we’re stuck in the country side looking for a bus, her understand, and wave down a strange looking van/bus immediately to take us back home???
This information comes from a frequent visitor of mine named Erick. Because China hates me, I couldn’t go to his blog, even through a proxy for a good while, but now that I am not being blocked anymore I can easily visit his blog as well. So take THAT you big, mean evil Golden Shield YOU! So, thank you Erick for giving me a good laugh. A laugh a day keeps the Commies away! Heh. Heh. Sorry, I had to do it. Those wondering about the good laugh can either go here to read it or just let your eyes follow down the page.
BEIJING, China (Reuters) — The Chinese appear not to have warmed to a “free hugs” campaign aimed at cheering up strangers by hugging them on the street, with some huggers even being hauled away by police for questioning, media said on Monday.The campaign hit the streets of Beijing, Changsha and Xi’an over the weekend, with participants opening their arms to embrace passers-by and brandishing cards saying “free hugs,” “care from strangers,” “refuse to be apathetic,” the Beijing News said. In the capital, police moved in and took away four huggers briefly for questioning, baffled by their wacky, Western-style activities on a busy downtown shopping street. In the ancient capital of Xi’an, home to the terra cotta warriors, no more than 20 people, mostly children, had volunteered for the free hugs in two hours. “Passers-by showed interest and curiosity, stopped and asked, but most of them walked away after hearing the explanation,” Xinhua news agency said, quoting a local newspaper. “Embracing is a foreign tradition. Chinese are not accustomed to this,” a man named Li, a Xi’an citizen, was quoted as saying. The ancient city of Changsha, capital of Hunan province, fared better, a local affairs Web site reported. “Though some people refused (to be hugged), I hugged 20 people in one minute,” one girl was quoted as saying.
The Free Hugs campaign started in Australia and gained fame with a music video this year.
We went walking around Fuyang about a week ago just to see what we could find. We strolled through some open markets and walked around some random shops and we found what one in China comes to expect . . . random, mostly useless and cheaply made stuff – at least for the most part that is. Every once in a while, we’d come across something interesting and make a mental reminder to come back for it.
In certain sections of town, it is just a long line of stores full to the brim of scrap metal, random pieces of computers, random opened TV’s with the parts strewn everywhere and so on. Just think of the most crappy Yard or Garage Sale you have ever been to and that is what many streets in Fuyang are like. Seeing this stuff made me realize why all the things back home marked “Made in China” suck so bad. See, the Chinese don’t make crappy things just for us. They make crappy things in general because they don’t feel like spending the extra money to make it a little nicer. Or maybe it is something else, but regardless, you have to be very careful as to what you buy because it may be used, broken, or on a timer as to when it will become useless. Back home there are only certain “Made in China” things you have to be wary of. Here, you have to worry about everything from shoes to anything electronic – including batteries. I have a friend, and fellow blogger, who wrote a funny segment about it. You can find it here. I thought it was funny, but most of the things I read on his blog make me laugh – and that is a good thing Trey, I promise.
But all those things aside, I finally found some postcards after days of going from one store to another asking if anyone had them. It’s a chore looking for things in China when you don’t speak Chinese. Usually I find the Chinese word for what I want in my dictionary that I carry around with me, and point to the word when I get in their shop. If they have it, they take me right to it. If they don’t, I hear the word “mao” which translates into “sorry, no dice”. So, then I say to them – “Zai nar” which translates into “where the hell can I find it then”. Then the pointing begins followed by a slew of Chinese words I don’t understand. I say thank you and head off to the next store to repeat what I just said again.
The postcards were in the very last place I looked because I didn’t think they would have it after I peered in the window. This place was dusty, old, and full of boxes. It looked nothing like it would have back home. I mean, it did have a counter, and people were standing behind it waiting to do their job – but the place looked like it was 20 years old and had never seen a duster. But I figured, what the hell, I want to find postcards, and that means I have to ask everyone – even if it is the shadiest Post Office I have ever seen. Yes, this place was a post office. A China Post to be exact. I walked in and started my shindig. I pulled out my dictionary and pointed the to the word postcard. She looked at me like my hair had just got fire. I kept pointing to it hoping that something would go CLICK in her post office mind. It didn’t. So I flipped to the word buy and pointed to it. She looked at it and started chittering to the girl at the next register. The girl chittered back, but nothing happened. So I pointed to the word buy, flipped back to the word postcard and did that a few more times hoping that those two simple words would somehow make a light bulb go off in her head. More chittering. Then some more. And then some running. The girl at the other register took off behind closed doors and was gone for some time. I guess she had to ransack the place to find them. A few minutes later she came running back out holding 4 bundles, yes, bundles of postcards. I hoped at that moment that she didn’t think I was going to buy all of them. She plopped them down on the counter and chittered some words that I couldn’t understand. I pointed to the postcards and said four(si). I got that famous blank stare for a second and then the great bright light lit behind her eyes. She counted out four, told me how much they were(which was very cheap), and I finally had my postcards. I was a happy woman. It is amazing how something so simple can totally make your day. I skipped all the way home.
Oh, and by the way, the reason there are pigs on all of the postcards is because 2007 is the year of the pig.
***Please do note that none of pinyin has any of the proper accents over them. Shoot me.
Time to post again. This time Xbox to Jamma audio. We learned how to hook up video to our Jamma cab from the Xbox, but now we need a cheap way to do Audio.
XBox to Jamma Audio
There’s a cuple ways to do this, but I always strive for the easiest and cheapest mix.
Let’s take a look at where we left off. I made a better diagram of how we hooked up the video.
Now we need a cheap easy way to hook up the audio. Well one might think at first, just hook up the audio pins from the Xbox a/v cord to the Jamma board. This of course, is wrong. The audio from the Xbox is not amplified and a typical Jamma cab has no audio amplifier.
Ya could build a small audio amplifier circuit, but this is too much of a pain in the ass I think. I did it the easy way. Go down to your cheap computer store or thrift store, and pick up some old computer speakers with a built in amplifier (ie. with Volume Control).
Once ya got the speakers it’s time to do some wire splicing. You should have an “audio in” plug that normally hooks up to a PC. This must be spliced and hooked up to the Xbox cable pins.
It’s stereo so you’ll have a wire for the right speaker a wire for the left and a ground. Right is usually red, left is white, and ground is black. Just wire the right and the left together and make it mono. We will call the left and right wired together “audio+”. Your Jamma cab is probably mono. The ground will be called “audio-”.
So wire your audio+ to pin 14 and your audio- to pin 15 on the Xbox a/v cable. Oh by the way you may have noticed I’ve placed jumper wires between pins 1 and 14, and 2 and 15. Pin one is the right audio+ and pin 14 is the left audio+. Pin 2 is the right audio- and pin 15 is the left audio-. So the jumper pins just make the Xbox cable mono.
Next ya cut off the speaker without the audio amp built into it. We won’t need it.
Open the speaker with the audio amp. You’ll see two wires going to the cone speaker itself. One will probably be red or white and the other will probably be black. Cut these wires and remove the speaker. The black is usually the audio- and the red or white is usually the audio+. Solder the audio- to the speaker- pin on the Jamma board and the audio+ to the speaker+ pin on the Jamma board.
Lets take a look at the hookup with the audio and video hookup.
Now ya should have audio and video on your Jamma cab. Controls should be easy to hook up. But if you need help I’ll probably post later and show ya a cheap easy way to make some arcade controls for our Xbox to Jamma cab.
These pictures are also a wee bit old, but I need to post them before I forget why in the world I took a picture in the first place. This is the entrance to a park in Fuyang called Dongwu. It is a rather big park on the outskirts of town. It’s really quiet here. There aren’t as many taxis or cars honking their horns. In fact, there are so few that it is easy to forget that you are still in Fuyang. If you look closely, you can see a building in the distance. It doesn’t look that far away from this picture, but it’s on top of a rather large mountain/hill. Even after 8 months of walking all over Columbia, I had a difficult time walking up what seemed like the never ending stair case.
That was okay though. It gave me an excuse to stop and take pictures on our way up. The Fuchun River is hiding in the distant haze. When I took this picture, it had been hazy in Fuyang for days. I was beginning to think that I would never see blue skies or the sun again. I wish that we had climbed these stairs on a better day for the view would have been better than it was without so many clouds. I wish that because I don’t think I can make myself climb up those stairs again. I’m such a lazy butt.
A little bit further up and on the other side of the mountain is the grand ole city of Fuyang. If you look really closely you might actually be able to see it through the haze. Hehe. I must note that it’s not always like this in Fuyang. We’ve actually had some nice days recently. The one thing that I have become aware of since I’ve been here is that I never notice the sun. I guess that has something to do with the blanket of grey that drapes itself over Fuyang and most of China. Pollution just plain sucks here. I’ll be eager to take a big breath of air when I get home.
Under construction. We climbed all the way up to this building to find nothing but a building. The view was nice, but whatever used to be inside the building was gone. The only thing it had to offer was dust bunnies. We sat up here and rested until it started to get dark. Right before we headed back down the lights for the building came on. It made it very beautiful. At night, even from where we live, we can sometimes see the lights shimmering on the mountain top.
What a place to live, huh? I’m sure some of the people living in those apartments get pretty nice views. Most of Fuyang is flat, but we are pretty much surrounded on all sides by mountains. I don’t know why, but it’s not until I actually get up on a mountain and look down that I realize that that they are there. Phil and I are thinking about buying a motor scooter – sorta like a moped. It would make exploring Fuyang a lot easier. Then I could drive up most of the hilly sections of Fuyang without losing my breath or my energy. But we have to make sure we have the money for that.
I still have to post the zoo pictures. I promise to get to them soon. I found out tonight that I don’t have school all week. That means I will have all sorts of time to fiddle with blogger. Until the, later.