Saturday, January 31, 2009

the only downside to listening to weird girl music is that it takes a while to hear real girls screaming outside.

 we couldn't find her once we made it down 13 floors. the three (drunk) men who were with her were there though, stumbling back inside, so i'm hoping that she's okay and safe.  i hate worrying that i could have done something more. usually at home i think i would call the police, but here i do not know the number, and i do not know how to say 'there is a girl screaming at three men around her who might be hitting her but i cannot tell'.  we all know my intense desire to be a great superhero, so who really knows what would happen if i could speak competent chinese?
the original title of this blog was going to be:
amy's first trip to the p.s.b.
and would have continued something like this:
    on the second day of a three day trip, amy and her friend heidi arrived at the town of xiahe (also known as labrang), a small town in gansu province. they took a hired car there, driven by a funny tibetan man.  while in labrang, the girls hoped to check out the monastery, the prayer path, and maybe eat a yak burger before getting a night's rest at one of the many hostels in town. the next day they planned to catch an early bus to lanzhou, the capital of gansu province. 
none of this was to occur though. five minutes after driving through a military blockade, the girls found themselves surrounded by people, all (kindly) telling them that they could not stay in town. used to crowds and false (or changeable) information, they paid their driver and made their way into a nearby hostel, where the reception woman regretfully told them that she could not house them for the night because xiahe was currently closed to weiguorens (foreigners). still feeling like there was some way they could work around this inconvenience, amy and heidi found their way back onto the street, eyes open for another hostel in which to plead their case. really- they just wanted to stay for one night. 
back on the street, a mere 10 minutes after arriving in town, the police were rolling up- two cars waiting for them.  an english speaking officer addressed them: "my dear gentle ladies, please get into the car, we would like to ask you some questions at our office". so they hopped in. really though,  who closes a county to foreigners? china. that's who. 
the p.s.b. was very nice- they just asked a few questions that the girls answered vaguely, took some information from their passports, explained that xiahe was currently closed to foreigners and that there really was no way that they could stay (even for the night) and then drove them out of town. on the way out, their english speaking officer pointed out the heavy military presence in the town (columns of soldiers marching in unison, in riot gear), but clarified that they were there just for precaution. really, everything else looked very peaceful and orderly and holiday-ish: the stores were closed for chinese new year, the children were out playing together, and monks were walking around in droves.  the girls were dropped off outside of the military-manned checkpoint and were told to wait for the next bus- it would take them to linxia. "please, come back in the summer", their officer said, "we would be glad for you to visit us". and, if they can make it, they will. 
and that was all. it was a little nerve-wracking, but there was really no way we could have known. they just closed the town at the start of chinese new year- a precaution taken because of the rioting that occurred in march in this region of china. and linxia had amazing meat sticks, so it was fine. i am looking forward to making a trip to labrang in the summer. even though i was thrown out of town, i was totally invited back. 
our three day trip went something like this:
xining to tongren- bus
tongren to our friend's village- car
back to tongren- car
tongren to xiahe- car
xiahe to linxia- bus
linxia to lanzhou- bus
lanzhou to xining- train
there will be photos later. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

i like korean pop music now and i can't stop listening to wonder girls (nobody)

apologies are in order. i have been busy and lazy and i keep getting distracted during my computer time.  i'm officially sorry that i've been so lax on my blog posting. hopefully this will not happen many more times. 
apparently my new year resolutions were this:
-work on my posture
-realize how blessed i am
-get really good at apologizing (i'm not sure i'm actually good yet, but i've been practicing a lot)
-feel like i am unstoppable and unbreakable and do silly things
-keep realizing how young  i am 
the first one was the only one i actually thought about seriously, and the rest are just things that seem to be happening with alarming regularity. 
what are your new year resolutions?
a few of you may have heard that i went on vacation in the early part of january. sara and i had been planning to take this time for a few weeks of vacation, and  it was probably the best thing that could have happened.  all we knew was that we wanted to go somewhere warm. after doing a little bit of research, we figured the WARMEST place in china would be sanya, the southernmost tip of hainan island. it is referred to as "the hawaii of china", so we were looking forward to the beaches, the foods, and not having to wear 3 layers of clothing at all times. 
i am pleased to say that we experienced all of this and more, thanks to the fantastic people we met along the way. 
this is a quick overview:
- take a train from xining to chengdu
- hang out with cool kids in chengdu (eat the best hotpot in the world)
- take a plane from chengdu to sanya
- meet more cool kids, get a ride from them into town
- meet up with our couchsurfing host and get shown our apartment. 
- meet the turtles!
- eat seafood, barbeque food, and other delicious things (like our new favorite fruit)
- dance a lot with our new club kid friends
- make friends with musical old men- play and sing (sara is a wonderful violinist)
- happy new year with friends from the airplane- sing with new friends from the philippines 
- eat more. sightsee a little. walk around a lot. 
- sit on the beach. tan. get sunburned. swim a little. commandeer comfy beach lounges.  
- go to a fishing village. 
- get put up in a few hotels by our awesome host who is living in sanya to rescue sea turtles. 
- do some interviews for our host. 
- film a turtle video. hold a turtle on my lap. 
- catch train from sanya to guangzhou.
- hang out with our friends in guangzhou
- go to hong kong via fast train. 
- eat sushi, samosas and delicious street food.
- see some art galleries 
- walk in and out of various places with fabulous fashion (but it was all 'tai gui le' (so so expensive))
- meet a fantastic older woman who has had such a full life. 
- eat at mcdonalds
- find the arts and crafts area of town
- go to the bird and flower markets
- eat at many many pastry shops. 
- get a little homesick for xining. 
- catch a train back to guangzhou
- see our friends again
- catch an early morning flight back home to xining.
here are a few photos from the trip: 
train train train. 27 hours. 
everyone likes chengdu.
all children in chengdu are cute. and sweet. 
the turtles who stole my heart. there are four of them. guess the names. 
we got to feed them. i got pinched by a crab for the first time in my life. 
this is my dream fishing boat. 
sara loves the baby turtles. 
so do i. there were so many of them!
sanya from the deer turning back statue. 
delicious seafood dinners. every night. thank you ocean. 
the love tree. it's real.
 sitting at the beach. 
hong kong is actually called 'meat city'
this is how we knew we weren't in 'china' anymore. 
beads, bangles and glitter. and ribbon. rismondo's dream street. fabric, too. 
hey big buddha. (biggest ever sitting bronze buddha)
samosa city. chungking mansions.
modern art? thanks hong kong!
peter, you could come here, too!
we came for the sushi. honestly- we got off the train, found a sushi place, and ate there every day. 
so. that was our trip. maybe i will regale you with in-depth stories later- if you really want to hear about something, let me know. 
for now, i will be teaching monday thru friday for the entire month of february. 5 days a week is tough- especially with the baby (7-11 year olds) students, but i'm hoping that i will emerge with no wounds and amazing patience. and really smart students.