May
03
2010

Qufu, China

bya Gabrielle at 12:32 AM

I always seem to start out my posts with, a few something or other ago, Phil and I did this or went here . . .  I suppose I just take too long to actually get whatever it is that we did posted. I’ll try to get better at it.  Now that Phil and I can use both of our computers at the same time, that may actually be possible.  Hooray, for wireless!!  Right now, I am enjoying  a wonderful three day vacation because Monday is Labor Day.  In years previous, it used to be a week long vacation, but this is the first year it has only been a day – at least I think that is right.  I really don’t know why they changed it, but I suppose they had a good reason.

Last weekend, Phil and I decided to change up our scenery a little by going to Qufu.  The city is famous because Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, was born there.  He also taught there and of course, that is where he was buried.  See the map below to get an idea of where it is located in China.  Qufu is only about two hours north-west of Linyi by train.  When we went to buy our tickets a few days in advance, I had no idea how much they were going to cost, but was pleasantly surprised to find a soft seat only cost 24 yuan.  I saw another lady with a ticket to Beijing and her ticket said 113 yuan, but I don’t know if that was for a soft seat, hard seat, or standing only.  Yes, they do sell standing only tickets.  Those were the only ones available to us coming back.  I get to that later.

Qufu Map

Getting to Qufu wasn’t a problem at all.  Phil and I had to battle the crowd on the train and peel back our sardine can to breath better, but that is a train in China for you.  I was just happy to have seats.  When we first got on, we did find that our seats were already occupied, but once they saw our tickets, they got up.  There was no real place to put our backpacks, so we had put them in our laps.  That was fun.  At least it was only a two hour ride.

Five or six stops later, one of the girls we were sitting by said, in English, that we had arrived.  The train only stops for a minute or so, so you have to book it to the platform . . . except in our case, there was no platform to walk out on to.  The car that we were in had stopped short of it and we had to jump down to the gravel.  It wasn’t that far, really, but with a big backpack on, it felt farther.  When I landed, the weight of my bag nearly made me fall flat on my face.  While we were walking to the platform, the train station employees kept telling us to step away from the train . . . but there wasn’t much space between the train and the wall, so they yelled at us until we got to a point along the path that they deemed safe.

It was about nine at night when we got to the Qufu train station.  When we walked out front, there were no taxis or anything.  For a moment, we wondered how we were going to make it to our hostel, but then a little old woman walked up to us and asked where we needed to go.  She pulled out her cell phone after we told her and we could hear her telling the person she was talking to that she had some foreigners that needed a ride.  A few moments later, a taxi showed up, and off we went.  The guy didn’t use his meter, and I really didn’t care.  He only got an extra five or so yuan.

The only thing bad about some hostels, is that they have a curfew.  After getting to the hostel, checking in and getting a bit settled, we only had an hour to find some place to eat.  When I asked the lady at the front desk if there were any places open, she smiled and said that maybe if we were lucky we would find something.  I guess we were lucky.  Just down the street, we found a fast food chicken restaurant called CNHLS.  I have no idea how you pronounce that, but I heard another foreigner calling it Knuckles.  It sorta looks like that . . . I guess.  The restaurant was a lot like KFC or the KFC look alike, Dico’s.  The food wasn’t bad and it was cheap.  After we got done eating, we ran back to the hostel, and luckily got back before they closed their doors.

Chinese Chicken Chain - CNHLS

We awoke the next morning to beautiful weather and birds chirping.  The sky was actually blue.  This made me very happy.  Below is the picture of the courtyard at the hostel where you can eat or chill.  It was very nice.

Qufu International Youth Hostel

The first thing  on our to do list was to visit the cemetery where Confucius was buried, along with the rest of his descendants.  Apparently, people are still being buried there today.  After seeing it myself, I told Phil that when I finally kick the bucket, he is to convince the people of Qufu that I am distant, distant relative of Confucius – it was just that pretty.   I’ll stop with the chatter for a bit, so that you can enjoy the pictures.

Horse drawn carriage.

One way to travel around Qufu.

Entrance to the Cemetery

The entrance to the cemetery.

Path with very old trees on either side.

Path leading into the cemetery.  Lots of old trees on either side.

Pretty blue bird with a long tail.

These birds were all over the cemetery.  So pretty.

Purple flowers every where.

We must have come at the perfect time.  These purple flowers were every where.

Up close with the purple flower.

Here is what one looks like up close.

Random tombstone.

Random tombstone.

Statue

I am not sure of the significance, but this one guy kept trying to throw some coins on top of the statue’s folded arms.

Confucius Tomb

Confucius’ Tomb.

Confucius' Tomb

Another view of the tomb.

Pretty Picture

I took a billion pictures while I was there, this is just one that I liked.

Twisted tree.

A pretty twisted tree.

More pretty pictures.

More pretty pictures.

No smoking.

The no smoking tomb.

Dry water bed.

Dry water bed.

After we finished walking around the cemetery, we decided to head back into town.  We went back to that “Knuckles” place and ate some more chicken.  After that, we waked around and did a whole lot of nothing the rest of the day.  And we did the same the next day, too.  There were more things we could have done, but I didn’t feel like shelling out money for some of the attractions, and plus, I was a bit tired.  I didn’t mind relaxing.

Phil and his Chicken.

Phil and his Chicken.  He loves meat more than me sometimes.

Qufu Park

A park we stumbled across in Qufu.

Yet another pretty picture.

This was at the top of a man-made mountain.

Crazy Wysteria

Some crazy Wisteria.

Chinese Mermaids

Chinese Mermaids.

Bee Beard

Found this on the back window of a car.  Weird.

Okay, last but not least, our trip home.  It happened like this.  We stood on the platform and waited for the train to roll up.  Of course, the place we were told to wait was not where the door stopped, so we had to run down to where it was.  The train was already stuffed full of people, so it was really, really hard to squeeze ourselves and our bags on.  A Chinese man kept yelling at everyone to squeeze harder.

Phil and I, before we left Linyi, had bought some folding chairs because we knew that we would be standing.  Our seats were almost useless because there was absolutely no room to put them.  After the train started moving and the people started spreading out into the aisles, we finally found a place in between where one car started and the other ended.  Let me tell you, it was one bumpy ride.  The cars constantly shook.  And every 5 minutes, someone needed to make their way through us, so we had to keep standing up and sitting down, much to the amusement of every person watching us.  We were the only foreigners in our section.

About an hour into our ride, a man in uniform came walking through our area with two Swedish people.  We asked them where they were going and they said that they thought he was going to give them seats.  I looked at the guy in uniform and asked if we were supposed to go with him, too. Our conversation was mostly in hand gestures because I had no idea how to say what I needed to in Chinese.  He told us yes, and off we went.  The four of us walked through 8 packed cars of young people, old people, and monks before we reached the seats they had provided us.  If it hadn’t been for my over sized back pack, it probably wouldn’t have been so bad.  When we finally plopped out butts down, I was so tired and sweaty, it was amazing.  I felt special, though, that they had made room for us.  I guess they thought that the foreigners should not be standing in the smoking section for the entirety of their journey.  I must say, it was a very nice gesture.

Standing room only on the train.

Fuzzy Phil.

Fuzzy Gabe

And Fuzzy, Gabe.  Not a flattering picture – AT ALL.

And that was our journey in a nut shell.  Can’t wait until we go to Qingdao or some other city near by.

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Oct
26
2009

Soft Sleeper Train Car to Shenyang to Beijing

bya Gabrielle at 8:00 AM

A long time ago, I posted a picture of what a soft sleeper train car looked like in China, but the picture was a little distorted and it was hard to gauge its actually size.  The video Phil took helps, but not by much.  I highly recommend forking up the money for one if you are traveling more than eight hours.  Even though I had a hard time going to sleep, it was nice to have a place to lay my head and be able to stretch out.

I was terrified that somehow the crazy snow storm that attacked Shenyang was going to freeze us on the tracks in the middle of no where and that we would ultimately starve to death because we didn’t have but a few snacks with us.  Thankfully, that never happened, because if it did, well, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.  :)

If you have plenty of time or you want to save money, trains are the way to go in China.  However, you can’t really plan ahead too much when it comes to buying tickets because they only sell them one or two weeks in advance.  I can’t remember how early you can buy them, but it is something like that.   If you wait too long, depending on the time of year, you may not be able to buy tickets and you’ll have to figure out another way to get where you want to go.

YouTube Preview Image
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Dec
04
2008

Dreaming in Chinese

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

I don’t know if other people do it, but I sometimes dream in Chinese.

It started sometime after I arrived in China.  I thought it was pretty cool, even though I didn’t understand all that was being said.  When people would talk to me, I would respond to them like I would in real life – a few key phrases or words to try and explain what I needed or wanted them to know. My vocabulary has always been rather limited.

I always wondered why my mind didn’t pretend that I knew Chinese.  I guess it didn’t know how to fake the language.

Even after coming back to America, I still sometimes dream in Chinese.  It amazes me that in my sleep I can recall vocabulary words that I haven’t used in ages.  My most recent dream was rather entertaining, and I thought you would enjoy hearing about it – although I doubt you’ll find it as funny as I did.  I think it is hard to appreciate other people’s dreams because you lose so much in the explanation.  It’s like trying to turn a book into movie or vice versa.

In my dream, me, Phil, and Holy(our Chinese friend) were running away from some Chinese bad guys. We had been running for a long time, but the bad guys were still hot on our trail.  At some point we decide to hop on a train.  The train was headed to Hong Kong.  Well, once we boarded the train and left the station – my dream decided to go completely nuts.  The train, in its attempt to flee the bad guys, jumped the tracks and started traveling at very high speeds over mountains, valleys and streams.  It reminded me of a cartoon.  Somehow we managed to put some ground in between us and the bad guys and were able to rest for a while in our seats that I don’t remember paying for.

As the train started to pull into the Hong Kong station, we started gathering all of our stuff.  In real life, I probably would have been running from the bad guys with only the clothes on my back, but obviously, the same does not hold true for my dream life.  I had apparently crammed every single one of my possessions in numerous suitcases, pockets, and bags and had waited until the last moment to gather them back up.  This is not what I found funny though.  If anything, this part of my dream cause me panic and loads of stress.  What made me smile in my dream would have sent me into side splitting laughter in real life.

As the train pulled closer to a stop, I noticed that there were thousands and thousands of Chinese people waiting to board the train.  There were so many of them, that they had built stadium like seats in the station.  All of them were standing.  And of them were chanting.  Can you guess what they were chanting?  If you have ever been to China for any extended amount of time, you should probably be able to guess.

For some strange reason, every single last one of them was chanting “Jia you! Jia you! Jia you!”

For those of you who don’t know have any idea what “Jia you” means – there happens to be a YouTube video that will teach you all you need to know.  If my dream doesn’t make you giggle, the video should.

YouTube Preview Image

I have no idea what happened once the train stopped because I woke up.  I can only imagine what would have happened had I stayed asleep and the dream continued.  All I know, is that it was the strangest dream I have had in Chinese yet.

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Apr
08
2007

"It’s a Train Station in There!"

bya Gabrielle at 5:33 PM

So, there we were, sitting in Beijing’s soft seat waiting room hoping that we would be able to interpret what the loud speaker was saying in Chinese so that we wouldn’t miss our train to Shenyang. Every once in a while the word Beijing would flutter into our ears followed by a string of words we couldn’t understand and then Shenyang would register. The train station was packed and busy with people running from here to there and there to here. Somehow or another there were a few people, like the girl in the above picture, camped out and sleeping on the seats provided. All was insane as usual.

I heard a Chinese saying yesterday that is rather similar to one of our western ones, and it made me laugh. In America, when things get hairy and out of control, we commonly say, “It’s a zoo in(out) there.” This statement might refer to a busy shopping day, like Black Friday, or a simple trip to Wal-Mart to buy some groceries – which may or may not be so easy depending on when you go. Any time during normal waking hours is usually a bad time to go. And recently, vampire hours have made maneuvering Wal-Mart a task. :) I don’t exactly know why we chose the word zoo to describe how crazy things can get, but I’m sure it has something to do with how mischievous animals can be and how quick they can destroy a room if you aren’t there to stop them. Monkeys are espeically talented at doing said thing.

In China, it’s not zoos that people refer to, but instead train stations. If you have ever been to China or had to wait in a train station at any point of the year, but more importantly during major holidays, you can understand why completely. So, when things get a little out of hand here, and oh, they do, the Chinese say, “It’s a train station in(out) there.” Same idea. Same meaning. They just compare it to something different: Themselves. I find this especially interesting. In America, we pick on the lower evolved species that can’t defend itself, but the Chinese call themselves out. They have no problem admitting to the insanity they cause in train stations and bus stations alike when they all try to get somewhere at the same time. That’s no joke either. A sea of Chinese men and women will bombard the ticket taker as if the train is about to leave at any second, but the truth is that two seconds ago it was announced over the loud speakers that it was all the clear to board. They always seem to be in such a rush, and I can never figure out why. The insanity may be the worst in the actually train station, but things are just as crazy in mnay other places in China as well. I don’t get as stressed out as I used to over it. Now I just smile, and squeeze along with the rest of them like I’m one of the crowd.

Ah, “It’s a train station in(out) there”.

I’m turning Chinese.

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Apr
06
2007

Good Morning, China.

bya Gabrielle at 6:15 PM

I’ll make this short and sweet.

Since I was unable to really sleep on our journey from Beijing to Shenyang, I was wide awake to take this picture. I wish my camera would work better under extreme circumstances – IE taking a picture of the bright sun through a window in a train that is traveling 120 KM per hour – but what can you do. I don’t think it came out too bad considering. At least you can tell what it was I was taking a picture of. The crazy part is that I took about ten pictures before I got this one. All the rest of them were blurry or too bright.

I miss the sun.

I haven’t seen it since the day after we arrived in Xiamen. It’s been rainy and craptastic ever since. It seems the sun is a seldom visitor in the south of China. Xiamen seems to be a lot like Fuyang in that regard. Even though it was cold, windy and dusty in Beijing, at least there was a big ball of fire on most days hanging above me in the vast blue sky. Heh. I guess I can’t be happy all the time. : ) The sun has to come out eventually,though. I’ve seen too many pictures of Xiamen to believe that it is perpetually overcast here. At least, I hope not.

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Apr
06
2007

Soft Sleeper Car to Shenyang

bya Gabrielle at 4:50 PM

As mentioned before, in multiple posts, we had to take a train from Beijing to get to our supposed final destination of Shenyang. Instead of getting a soft seat like we did to go from Hangzhou to Beijing(which I will never do again), we were provided with soft sleepers. The above picture is of the car we resided in for the 8 hour journey.

For the most part, it wasn’t that bad. The beds were soft enough to get comfortable in, but because of the constant shaking of the train, I had a horrible time getting some shut eye. Phil had a similar problem, but Christine was out cold as soon as she closed her eyes. Not long after the train pushed off, Phil tried taking a 360 of the room, but only this portion of it turned out. It shows the majority of the room anyway. The room was itzy bitzy(don’t let the picture fool you) and was barely big enough to put all of our luggage in it. Thankfully, Richard decided to take a plane to Shenyang, or else we wouldn’t have had a bed to lay everything on. Phil and I took the top bunks and Christine and all of our luggage took the bottom two.

Each bed came equipped with sheets, a pillow and a little reading light. To get to the top bunks though, one needed to be super agile. There were no stairs leading up to them. Instead, there was a little foot hold and a handle to pull yourself up. It’s much easier getting up than getting down – at least that is how it was for me. But, as I have seen since being in China – even the elderly Chinese are pretty darn flexible. I saw an old lady sitting flat footed, like it was natural. I don’t think I can name one elderly person back home that can do that. I think it is all the training they do throughout their lives to use the toilet here. I will never understand how they do it or want to do it.

And that is the low down on the sleeper car that we stayed in. I’ll be posting about our experiences so far in Xiamen soon. I just want to go ahead and post the things that have happened recently before I forget them. I have a few more pictures that I have saved on blogger to get to before I move on to Xiamen. Plus, I haven’t really had many picture opportunities since coming to Xiamen. The weather did a 180 the day after we got here. It’s been overcast and rainy every day since. We are in the rainy season, so I guess it is something I need to get used to. I just hope we are spared a typhoon. I don’t want to have to deal with one of those.

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Apr
02
2007

Does the Dead Pigeon Come with the Apartment? (Shenyang)

bya Gabrielle at 7:27 AM

The dead pigeon chilling above Christine’s squatting toilet. How cool is that?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I said that we found a dead pigeon in our co-workers apartment the day we arrived in Shenyang. Being the picture taking Queen that I am, I couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity. As important as the fact is that we actually found a dead pigeon in her apartment, I think the story of how we found the pigeon is just as important. So I will stop delaying and get to the goods.
We arrived at the train station right on schedule – 7:00 am sharp. If it hadn’t been for everyone getting off the train,I don’t think we would have known it was our stop. No one called out “Last stop” or “We’re here” but when we noticed we were the last ones remaining in our car, we decided it best to follow the crowd. Outside we found Richard and a full entourage of Chinese men waiting to help take our luggage to the cars waiting out front of the station. We of course had too much luggage for just one car, so they had to flag down a taxi or two. I took my computer bag and let them do what they wanted with my suitcase. I waved goodbye to it just in case it went in the taxi and the taxi never went to where it was supposed to.
I was impressed that the principal of our new school, Mr. Zhao, showed up to shake our hands. The only person who met us in Shanghai when we landed was some woman named Cherry who really had no knowledge of the school in Fuyang. She just happened to be the person in charge of making sure we got to Hangzhou to get our paper work in order. So, to see the principal the first instance that we stepped on Shenyang soil made it seem that we were having a promising start. This was an assumption on my part – and we all know what assuming does. As we walked the principal told Richard in Chinese to tell us in English that the train station had been built by the Japanese. Shenyang’s history is long, and since I’ve never been a history buff, I would be wrong to try to describe to you how the Japanese came to reside in Shenyang. If you’re interested, I think http://www.wikipedia.com/ says something about it. But, anyway, on with the story.
The ride to our apartment wasn’t a very long one. After about 15 minutes the car pulled in front of a run down set of apartments. We all sort of looked at each other and hoped that the inside was a much better story than what the outside was telling us. The snow storm that had hit a week earlier was still quite visible. Snow was piled up sky high on either side of where the cars had once been parked. Needless to say, it was quite hazardous walking to the foot of the stairs of our apartment building. I told Phil and Christine(our new friend and co-worker) that the outside of our apartment in Fuyang looked like total crap, but that the inside turned out to be awesome. They laughed and said not to get my hopes up.
Christine’s apartment was on the first floor and ours was on the second. We waited behind Christine as they opened the door for her. Her front door was quiet old and looked like it was ready to fall of it’s hinges. It had definitely seen better days. As they opened the door, someone motioned us to follow them up one more flight. We were able to peer in the door as we walked past it and what we saw made us cringe. “Well,” Phil said, “this is exactly what I expected when I came to China.” What he expected was the worst possible scenario and if the apartment looked like the little piece we saw, then this was the worst possible scenario.
Half way up to our apartment I heard Christine yell, “No, Richard . . . this will not work! This will not work at all!” She said this with so horror in her voice that I no longer had any idea what to expect as they turned the key and opened our door. It didn’t take long to understand why Christine had made such a fuss. I think maybe less than a second.
Our apartment was dark and dirty beyond words. Phil later said that he could hear his mother say in his ear, “Oh, Philby, no,” and that is how he knew that the apartment they were trying to provide us was truly the pits, and quiet possibly hell.

There were several inches of dust covering every surface that we could see. Dust bunnies ran like tumble weeds across the floor as our luggage was dragged in and laid down. I was speechless. Phil was speechless. There was nothing that we could say. We were dumbfounded. Shocked. I tried blinking, pinching myself, in hopes that it was just a bad dream, but it was real. All to real.

We didn’t have a refrigerator. There was no table or chairs, or any other furniture for that matter. I couldn’t see a stove at first, but we found one sitting on top of a bucket on the “balcony”. We would have had to squat to use it and would have felt quiet primitive doing so. It reminded me of one of those portable stoves that you take camping with you, except that this wasn’t a campground. This was supposed to be our home. I only peered in the bathroom, afraid of what I might find, and it didn’t look as bad as the front room, but of course, I only took a peek. The only place that could have been deemed a home was our bedroom. For some reason this particular part of the apartment was bright and somewhat clean, but it was far from homey. It’s just sad that the only thing nice we could say while standing there was, “Hey, at least we have a TV.” I don’t even know if it worked. We weren’t there long enough to found out.

Christine came running up the stairs and was very articulate about how much she detested the place and made sure to let everyone including Richard and the principal. We just nodded in agreement and decided to watch the show. We were still in shock. That’s when we found out that Christine didn’t have a western toilet and that there was a dead bird right above it. Now, squatting toilets aren’t as bad as they seem, but being western, it nice at least to use a familiar toilet after a long days work. When it comes to birds – both dead and alive – they sure as heck don’t belong in the bathroom. Richard tired convincing that the bird was fake. I knew better. I worked long enough at Carolina Wildlife Care to know the difference between a fake and real tweety.

There was a lot of discussion. Richard and the Principle talked for a long while, and every now and then Richard would ask a question. Meanwhile, Christine had disappeared and I had no idea where she had gone. At one point, Richard said, “How was your apartment in Fuyang?” Phil said, “Better than this.” I said, “I’ve got pictures.” They went back to talking in Chinese. When Christine hadn’t come back in the room I decided to go try and find here. I looked in her apartment, but no one was in there. I went down to the ground floor to see if she might be out there, and that is when I saw here dragging her 20 KG suitcase back out to the road and throwing it into the car we had come in. Christine was obviously not staying. I ran over to her and asked what in the world she was doing. “Go get your stuff,” she said. “We’re leaving.”

I ran back upstairs to find Richard and the Principal still talking everything out. Christine wasn’t too far behind me. Richard asked if it was OK to stay here for the next few days until they found something more suitable. Christine’s response, “NO!” Our response, “….” He then continued to say that the school thought since these conditions were OK for Chinese people, that it certainly should have been OK for us. I’ve met a lot of different types of Chinese people – poor, middle class, and rich beyond numbers, and none of them had something quiet like this. There was a lot more talk, some bargaining, and eventually Richard or the Principal gave in and said that we would be taken to a hotel for the night until better apartments could be arranged.

And that’s what they did. They drove us down the street and walked into a few hotels until they found one that would take foreigners that didn’t have passports(Richard had taken ours to get our resident permit). The one that they picked out for us was better by leaps and bounds than the apartment. We would have lived there if it hadn’t been for the inability to take hot showers. Besides that one detail, the place was great. I didn’t think it possible, but I think that the bed in the room was actually softer than the one I use back home – and that one is pretty darn soft.
And I guess everything that happened beyond that doesn’t pertain to this particular post. I’ll have other stories about Shenyang up soon.

Until then
– G

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Apr
02
2007

The Road We’ve Traveled.

bya Gabrielle at 6:11 AM

Ah. No more planes, buses, trains or automobiles. I never thought I would despise traveling so much or enjoy the pleasures of home like I do now. It’s so nice to know that my home will be nice and stable for the next three months(at least) and that it won’t have wings, tires, shake, or have the possibility of crashing. We’ve only been here four days now and I’ve already dug my feet into the ground and started growing roots. It’s either going to take all of the men, women, and children of China ripping me up and dragging me out or a fierce typhoon to make me leave Xiamen.For those of you who have just arrived or missed some of the posts that talked about our crazy trip that bounced us all over China, let me bring you up to speed. For those who know all about it, take a look at the map above and get a good idea of just how far we’ve gone is such a little amount of time. I know think I can say that I have been to more places in China, than I can say I’ve been in my own country. There is something wrong about that, I think.

So, if you take a look at the map above, you will see a whole bunch of black lines going from one corner of China, one city at a time, to the other corner of China. Now you can understand my hatred for traveling. I think anyone would have a sour look upon their face if they had just gone through what we have. I’m just a little sad that I didn’t make it any further west. I mean, if you are going to bounce us around China, you could have at least bounced us in all of the cardinal directions! :)Alright, hopefully, this final explanation of everywhere we’ve been will not become any bigger than it has. Every time I’ve thought its come to an end, something else has happened. This time though, I think the insanity has finally settled to the bottom of the ocean and won’t be tempted to show it’s evil face again.

From the top:

Fuyang to Hangzhou – by bus – 1 hour
Hangzhou to Beijing – by train – 14 hours – soft seat
Beijing to Shenzhen – by plane – 4 hours
Shenzhen to Hong Kong – by “train” – 1 hour
Hong Kong to Shenzhen – by “train” – 1 hour
Shenzhen to Hangzhou – by plane – 2 hours
Hangzhou to Tunxi – by bus – 2.5 hours
Tunxi to Huang Shan – by bus – 1.5 hours
Huang Shan to Tunxi – by bus – 1.5 hours
Tunxi to Hangzhou – by bus – 2.5 hours
Hangzhou to Beijing – by plane – 2 hours
1st attempt Beijing to Shenyang – by plane – 2 hours of sitting – Freak snow storm
2nd attempt Beijing to Shenyang – by plane – Flight canceled
3rd attempt Beijing to Shenyang – by plane – 14 hours of sitting for a one hour flight
4th attempt Beijing to Shenyang – by train – soft sleeper – 8 hours
Shenyang to Beijing – by train – soft seat – 9.5 hours
Beijing to Shenyang – by plane – 1 hour
Shenyang to Xiamen – by plane – 5.5 hours (delay and stop-over)

That’s about 70 hours of traveling and is probably pretty accurate, but I wouldn’t doubt it if it was actually more. I’m probably missing a bus ride or something in there somewhere. The worst part about it is that the only places we had actually planned on going after our contract was up in January was Huang Shan, Beijing, and of course Shenyang. It is true that we got to see a lot of China, but almost everywhere we went, we were trying to get important things done so that we could stay in China for the following semester. Because of that, we missed a lot of cool things in the cities that we were able to go. Maybe I will win the lottery or something, and be able to go back and enjoy them all at a much more leisurely pace. Heh, that would be nice.

And after all of that, there isn’t much more to say on that subject. I guess that chapter of my life is over and it is time to move on to the next one. As crazy as this chapter was, I sure got some crazy stories out of it – that’s for sure. And even though the experience at the time frustrated the living hell out of me, I know that I will have a good laugh when I’m 60 and sipping sweet tea on my front porch. . . .”Hey, Phil, do you remember the time we got bounced all over China.”

I have a feeling that Xiamen is going to be good to us.

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Mar
19
2007

Just What Have I Done, God?

bya Gabrielle at 2:20 PM

Where do I begin? How many times have I had to say that? And how many times has it meant that something else bad has happened? Too many.

As my last entry stated, we’ve had to go back to Beijing. (Insert a stream of bad words and a few huffs and puffs of pure frustration.) We arrived on Sunday evening after spending 9.5 hours on a train. We were supposed to have gotten soft sleepers, but all of them had been sold out or at least that is what our support staff said. They had to buy us some soft seats instead. It wasn’t too bad. The train was nicer than the others we have been on. It was a double decker for one and the soft seats seemed much bigger than usual. I think it was a new train. We were lucky because the seats facing us weren’t taken so Phil and I each had two seats to ourselves. I tried to sleep, but it wasn’t possible. Instead, I started and finished the book I had brought with me – Thief of Always by Clive Barker. I haven’t been able to read too much lately with all the insanity that has been going on. So that was nice. I miss reading.

Once we fought our way out of the train station we hunted down a taxi. We found one sitting on the side of the road with the cabbie and a few of his friends chillin beside it. We told him that we wanted to go Er Wai and his immediate response was 100 kuai(yuan). That was an insane an offer considering we weren’t that far from the school and that he was a taxi and had a meter to go by. We told him that was too expensive and he dropped it to 80 kuai. Again we told him it was too expensive and decided to go find another taxi driver down the street. He stopped us and said 50 kuai. That seemed like a better deal even though it was a little more than it probably would of cost. Whatever we paid was going to be paid back, so it didn’t matter, but being ripped off is just wrong! We took the 50 kuai offer and off to WECL we went. I tried getting a receipt of some sort, but the cabbie kept saying sorry that he couldn’t. I gave up and we got out. It seems that so few Chinese our legit. That bothers me.

No one at the dorm speaks English, so we had to call Richard, his Incompetentness, and tell him that we were there. He told us to call Joe, his lackey, and that he would let us in. So we did. The person that answered the phone was not Joe, but instead some poor Chinese man who didn’t know what I was saying. I hung up and told Phil to try. This time an angry Chinese woman answered. Phil hung up. I tried calling back Richard, but his phone was busy. I waited a little while and called again. It was still busy. I did this countless times to continue to get the Chinese message of, “Sorry, the subscriber you have called is busy.” Phil and I sat down on the couch trying to figure out what to do when Joe came into the lobby. I guess his Chinese instinct told him someone was looking for him. He didn’t even know we were there yet. He got the key and took us to our room, brought us some health forms to fill out and left us to our favorite place in the world(you can hear the sarcasm in my words, right? – Room 110 – our on and off again home for the last month or so. This time though, they changed our sheets. They thought Beijing had released it’s grip on us too, but they had been fooled as well.

Starving after our long journey, we went to the closet and fastest place – McDonald’s. We stuffed ourselves and then made our way back home. We had to go to bed in order to be able to wake up at 6:00 am. Joe had told us that we had to meet him in the lobby at 7:00 am so that he could take us to get our health exam. Like the good Chinese man that he is, Joe was and our driver were there right on time. When they want to be, they can be Kings of Punctuality. We entered Beijing’s rush hour and began our journey across town. After 30 minutes of nonstop stop and go, my eyes began to droop. I layed my head of Phil’s shoulder and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. I awoke almost 45 minutes later to find that we still hadn’t arrived. I didn’t think we would ever get there, but not long after I woke up, the driver pulled over and we hopped out.

I don’t what it is about Chinese people, but they are always in a freaking hurry. As soon as we got out of the car, Joe took off for the front door of the “Inspection Building”. He ran up the stairs, threw 1300 yuan reception desk lady, and rushed us like we were on fire from one room to the next. It was like he was being timed or something and if we stayed there too long something really bad would happen to us. This is how is always is when we go somewhere with a Chinese person in the lead.

The exam was much like the one we got in Hangzhou – fast and stupid. It took 30 minutes for the both of us to get a ECG, blood drawn, our weight, height, eyes, and pulse checked and to get an x-ray of our chest. They didn’t even check my eyes. The “doctor” just pointed and said, “Ok?” I could have had the worst vision on the planet and he would have never known. I know why we had to come back though. Every time you get a new visa, you need a need health inspection. It has something to do with the rules. Even though we had one in Hangzhou six months ago, it doesn’t matter. And the reason it had to be done in Beijing, is because we are being registered as Beijing teachers at Er Wai even though we won’t be teaching there. Why they are doing this – I have no idea. I’m just shaking my head and praying this all works it self out.

Joe took us back to Er Wai after our health exam was over and told us we could get some sleep. I decided to go to the WECl office and see if I could find any of the teachers I’d met previously. I knew that they would shocked to see me since they thought I had finally left for good and was Shenyang at least for the next 4 months. When Gloria and Donnie walked in and saw me they did a double take. “What in the world are you doing here?” They asked with great big shocked expressions on their faces. They couldn’t believe everything that had happened. As Gloria put it, “I’m flabbergasted.” They all were. Heck, so am I. So is Phil.

After telling Gloria and Donnie and their family everything that had happened since we left I decided to go take a nap. A few hours later our cell phone rang and woke me up. It was Richard. He wanted to know where we were. He said that all of our documents should me done by Thursday and that we could probably go back to Shenyang this weekend.

And this is when all the S**T hit the fan. This is when I looked up at our white ceiling and said, “Just what have I done, God? Tell me what I have done wrong so that I can fix my ways. Please, God, tell me, and I will stop whatever it is that displeases you.”

Because we have no students to teach in Shenyang(Phil actually has one student) and because they won’t be getting them any time soon, Richard has decided that it is best to relocate us all the way down to the city of Xiamen. This means that we have to go back to Shenyang and repack everything that we just got done unpacking. We seriously just finished making our new home “home”. We only just got there a week ago and now we have to leave. And our poor adopted fish, Pi Jiu(Beer in Chinese), what will we do with him?

I don’t think Richard even has room for us in Xiamen. At last check, Xiamen had more than enough teachers to operate the WECL school there. They’ve already started their semester. I have no idea what this means for us or how in the world we can start teaching students who already have teachers a month into the curriculum. At least Richard is paying for everything. I guess I can be thankful for that much. And, on top of that, Xiamen is a very pretty place in China to be.

I’m actually a lot more calm than I was when we first found out. It’s all more frustrating than anything really and to be bounced around China like we have just adds to it. I know that nothing in China is easy, but this is becoming quiet ridiculous.

There are only so many times that you can act like a duck and have the water run off your feathers and back into the water before you really start losing your mind.

I think I lost my mind today.

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Mar
15
2007

You Won’t Believe This

bya Gabrielle at 10:40 AM

We have to go back to Beijing.

Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, an idiot named Richard forgot to mention that we needed a new health inspection. The original one that we got in Hangzhou doesn’t seem to have done the job. So, in three hours we have to get on the 8 hour train and go back just to have someone draw our blood, take our pulse, and make sure we aren’t dying or have any infectious diseases.

I’m am so pissed off.

Richard had a month to remember that we needed to get this done. I can’t believe that he waited until we got here to realize that this needed to be done.

Well, in the middle of writing this we have gotten word that there are no train tickets available to Beijing tonight, and there won’t be until Sunday. On top of all this, we are technically illegal. We entered the country on the 13th of February and we had 30 days to get all of our paper work in order. Today is the 15th. You do the math.

Anyone have a safe house we could stay in if things turn real ugly?

And the craziest thing is that we don’t have our passports in our possessions because they needed them to get our resident permits. Because we don’t have our passports, we are forced to take the train when the plane is the most obvious choice to get back to Beijing. I just can’t believe this. I really can’t.

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