Jun
29
2010

Vacation Just Around the Corner

bya Gabrielle at 4:03 AM

There is no use in apologizing, so I’m not even going to try.  Let’s face it.  I suck at blogging.

I will however play the blame game.  The internet here just blows.  Some days it works and other days, well, it doesn’t.  What is a blogger to do?

Well, tomorrow is our last day and then it is VACATION TIME!!  A whole two months worth.  Why can’t we have awesome vacations like that in the States?  Oh, wait, we do, but you have to be teacher.  Hrm.  I suppose possibly being knifed or shot could almost be worth two months of vacation, but not quite.  :)

Our vacation is going to go something like this:

Linyi to Shanghai – Stay in Shanghai for 3 days, possibly see the Expo, get some good food.

Shanghai to Hangzhou – Spend a few days in Hangzhou, reminisce, eat some Dairy Queen.  Yum.

Hangzhou to Fuyang – Hang out with our good friend Jin for a few days and reminisce some more.  I am sure Fuyang has changed a lot since we left.

Fuyang back to Hangzhou – Catch a train or bus to Nanjing and see what Bo and Nashville have been talking about.

Nanjing to Guilin – We have to take a plane.  There is no way I am spending 24 hours on a train, even if it is a few hundred yuan cheaper.  Stay a night or hop on the first bus to Yangshuo.

Guilin to Yangshuo – Relax for a week and take in the sights.  Yanghshuo is mostly definitely the most beautiful place I have ever seen in China. Phil did say he would foot the bill if we stayed longer . . . so who knows how long we will stay.

Yangshuo back to Guilin – Catch a train, bus or plane to Kunming. I hear it is a pretty nice place.  It will be the first time Phil and I have been there.

Kunming to Dali – Once again, I have heard nice things and we have never been there before. It is always nice to adventure and see new places.

If at this point we aren’t completely broke, we may try to make our way to Qingdao, spend a few days there, experience Beer Street and then come back home to ever so wonderful Linyi.  If everything costs what we think it is going to cost, we are going to have to eat rice and noodles and nothing else for an entire month before we get paid again.  :)

Okay, moving on . . . Last weekend Phil decided it was time to have a new Chinese experience.  So, we went to the massage parlor down the street and while I got a standard oil massage, he got ba guan.  Ba guan is when the chinese take glass cups, light them on fire, and then stick them to your back – 16 of them to be exact.  They suck up your skin and break every blood vessel known to man.  After 5 or 10 minutes, they take them off.  It looks something like this . . .

Since I was getting a massage, I couldn’t take a picture of the glass cups on Phil’s back, but I took a picture of a friend who did it a week or so ago.  It was her first and last time.  I have no idea how she got the courage to do it.  There is no way in a happy hell that I would ever submit to it.

Song Hui and ba guan

And this is what it looked like after Phil had his little procedure.  It looks likes someone either sucker punched him over and over again or took a purple marker and went to town.

Phil and ba guan

A close up of the damage . . .

Phil - Ouch

And another . . .

Phil - Ouch - 2

I don’t think that Phil will be getting it done again any time soon.  And not because it hurt, at least he said it didn’t, but because he didn’t really feel he benefited from it.  It is supposed to suck out the toxins from your body.  They tell you not to take a shower for 24 hours afterward, but I am not totally sure of the reason.

Oh, and although this has nothing to do with vacation or self-induced pain, I thought I would post it any way.

There is an Australian in our building who has decided to turn the roof into his very own garden/farm.  He recently just added 4 baby chicks that he will either use for eggs or if they suck at that, he’s gonna eat them.  I really hope they are great egg layers.

Here they are . . .

Baby chicks

When he tends to the garden, he lets them out of their cage so they can run around.  They run so fast.  He says they are easy to catch and put back, but I don’t know if I believe him.

And the garden . . .

Roof garden

If I have internet connection during our travels, I will try my best to keep whoever it that reads this blog of mine up-to-date.  I can hardly wait.  This vacation is going to be a blast!

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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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Nov
08
2009

Last Night in Our Shenyang, China Apartment

bya Gabrielle at 1:25 AM

We really didn’t stay in Shenyang long enough to get to know the city as well as perhaps we wanted, but we were there just long enough to make our apartment feel a little bit like home.  And that is why it made it even more frustrating to repack everything we had previously shipped as well as all the additional goods we purchased since we arrived.   Some of the stuff we bought seemed like too much trouble to ship, so we left it.  We probably could have found a way if we had more than one day to move down south, but since we were stuck with the fixed schedule, neither me or Phil cared if we lost out on a few 100 yuan.

Our apartment was small, but it was decent.  The bed was soft and the room was bright.  It didn’t have the greatest view in the world – we had a series of train tracks outside to look at – but we  could see the city all around us since we were on the 15th floor – technically 14th.  4 is a bad number in China.  Sounds too much like the word they use for death.  Our bathroom wasn’t too shabby, but when you took a shower you had to make sure you were done by the time the number on the water heater got to 32 or so or else you would be stuck with cold water.  With me having such long hair, 32 always seemed to get there way too quickly.  It was always like a race against a ticking time bomb, and I always seemed to flipping lose!

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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.

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Oct
24
2009

Trapped in the Beijing Airport

bya Gabrielle at 11:29 AM

I don’t know how I ever forgot to post this particular video.  I mean, it isn’t a ground breaking video or anything, but it did make me laugh when I watched it for the first time in a long time.   As I mentioned in my last post, this was our third attempt trying to get to Shenyang. What was supposed to be an easy hour and a half flight, turned into 14 hours of hell.  It would have been one thing if we had waited in the lobby for 14 hours, but most of our time was spent on the tarmac, cramped in a small plane, filled to the brim with passangers.  I suppose the craziest thing was that we actually took off for Shenyang at one point, got half way there, and when they found out there was no room for the plane to land, we were forced to go back to Beijing.  It was at that point we decided to give up and go home and figure out another way to Shenyang,  but before we could go home, we first had to get our luggage back.  That was another nightmare all together.  Below is the video Phil took as we waited for Richard’s(Yuli Guo) luggage to be found.

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Oct
23
2009

Driving in Snow in Beijing, China

bya Gabrielle at 10:30 PM

Flipping through my Chinese videos, I found a few that I had never shared before and decided to upload them for your viewing pleasure.  The first video is of the freak snow storm that hit us when we were in Beijing waiting to go to Shenyang.  You can read all about that special story here, here, and here if you have no idea what I am talking about.

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Oct
04
2009

Singing in Yangshuo, China

bya Gabrielle at 8:00 AM

Every now and again, I type random words into You Tube’s search engine hoping to come across an interesting video.  I stumbled across this one not too long ago, and thought I would share it.  The little girl is just too precious.

The video was filmed in the most beautiful part of China that I visited – Yangshuo.  It’s one of those places that you have to see to truly appreciate.  No picture or video do the landscape justice.

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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.

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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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Aug
17
2008

Another Day with My Camera

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

Gabrielle

Me. Yes, I am vain.

Weird Creature

Some weird creature.  If I wasn’t lazy, I’d zoom in on him for you . . . but I’m lazy.

Tree and Fence 2

If I ever learn how to operate my camera properly, then I maybe I can learn how to take pictures with proper exposure.  I’m talking about the blanket of white behind the tree.  Grr.

Artistic Weed

Me trying to be artistic again. Yes, I took a picture of a weed.

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Aug
16
2008

Trip to Atlanta Part 3

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

Pictures.  Not a lot of words.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain.

Bubble at Stone Mountain

A bubble.

View of Atlanta

Atlanta.

Sky in Atlanta

Blue Sky.

Gum Tree 1

What is that?

Gum Tree 2

A gum tree, of course.

Lights at Stone Mountain

Firework setting.  Glow sticks.  Cool.

Lights at Stone Mountain 2

More coolness.

Phil at Stone Mountain

One handsome man.

Fireworks Stone Mountain

I snapped this at the right moment.

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