Saturday, April 30, 2005

good times

hey, remember that time we went to the crappy dive bar in china, with all the really cheap warm beer, and ending up playing some "dare" type game with a group of chinese people, and clark had to spit beer in some random chinese guy's mouth? yeah, that was really weird.

update on today's shaoxing trip (with pictures) coming soon, i promise.

Friday, April 29, 2005

"i have nothing! absolutely nothing for sale!"

yo, sorry i haven't rapped at you in a while, but really nothing at all new has been going on around here. the weather has turned hot and humid, and so we're all just sort of lazing around the dorm or anywhere with air conditioning, which does not include this internet bar, so i'm gonna keep it short. most of the action has been on the home front anyway, but with room draw and course registration finally over, it looks like i'll have more time to focus on the neverending problem that is my summer plans.

tomorrow we're all heading out to shaoxing, a city about an hour from here that has some cool historical sites, and is also the birthplace of Lu Xun, who is china's most famous modern author (and whom i am willing to bet none of you have ever heard of). so hopefully i'll have some pictures and such for my next update.

in other news, if any of you have the opportunity to watch a movie called "taking lives" staring angelina jolie, run for your lives, because it is the biggest piece of crap i have ever seen. that is, aside from that b movie that durrell and i watched in our guesthouse in longsheng, that had something to do with christian warriors on huge trucks battling sick people that looked like those sand people from the first star wars, and there was some princess or something. man that movie sucked. but "taking lives" is also bad.

Monday, April 25, 2005

they may be very small, but there are a lot of them

this morning my conversational chinese class took a trip over to a nearby elementary school to watch a first grade class and then talk to some sixth graders. We each had about ten sixth graders bombard us with questions, most along the lines of "do you use chopsticks when you eat chinese food" and "who is your favorite chinese movie star," but the crafty little devils also slipped in questions about chinese relations with japan and taiwan, which i deflected with the classic "it's a complicated situation, and america definitely does not want to fight a war with china."

because the chinese are infinitely amused by all things having to do with foreigners, the local hangzhou television station sent over a reporter and cameraman to interview us. they interviewed me, among a few others, and asked fairly innocuous questions, such as "what do you think of hangzhou?" and "what do you think of chinese students?" but then they asked me what i thought of chinese music, to which i answered, "i actually don't like it, because i really like american rock music, and china doesn't have any rock music." (which they don't! they use the word for rock music, yaogun, to also describe the horrible pop music that they listen to. i actually don't know how they differentiate between "pop" and "rock" music in china. it all sounds the same to me.) the reporter quickly responded, "ha! ask one of your chinese friends to show you, and you'll discover that china has lots of very good rock music." so that is the story of how my attempt to criticize modern chinese music was whitewashed by the state controlled media.

this past weekend was pretty low key as everybody decompressed from their spring break trips. jeff from shanghai came down to visit us provincials on his way to huang shan, and we showed him what i hope was a good time, even though the weather kinda sucked. the west lake area was as crowded as i've ever seen it, and with the may 1st holiday (international labor day) coming up, it's going to be absolutely silly down there. i can't wait.

that's all the news for now. i'm off to figure out my classes for next year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

spring break southern china 2005! wooo!

so it looks like i have the jump on durrell on this post. i'll leave all the messy details to him because he likes to write about that kind of stuff apparently, and i'm also very tired from sending just writing a family e-mail on the same subject. also these crap chinese computers are starting to piss me off.

in any event, durrell and i skipped down to guilin (limestone rock spires), yangshuo (more limestone rock spires and a whole freaking lot of westerners), and longsheng (dragon backbone rice terraces). we had two days of sunshine, both in longsheng, with just about corresponds with everybody else's pictures of guilin and yangshuo, where it always seems to be cloudy.

yangshuo is one of china's highlights, according to the lonely planet guide, which now rules over the city with an iron fist. all those hotels and restaurants and trips included in the guide are booming, and those that are not have signs saying that they damn well should be in the guide. i was very glad to get away from the place, and all the grungy foreign backpackers (like us) who couldn't speak a single word of chinese (unlike us).

longsheng, on the other hand, was awesome. the place is a collection of minority villages, enormous mountains, and 700 year old rice terraces that stretch from the valley floor to the tops of some of the peaks. we spent a day hiking from the village where we were staying to another and back, during which point we were the only tourists around. because we had no map, only our wits, we had to ask every person we met if we were going to right way. most of them told us we were crazy to try walking ourselves, then immediately offered their guiding services. however, after some gently prodding most gave in and pointed the way. that night durrell got sick. i think it was from dehydration, but perhaps it was from the bottle of water he bought in some random house
that was covered with animal excretement when we got lost. who knows.

i am now back in hangzhou, and madly scrambling to finish this post before it starts raining and i have to ride my bike back to the dorm in the rain. below are pictures.

durrell and the trip leader on the day we got to longsheng. we decided to ditch the group of slow people from hong kong and go off by ourselves, and she, inexplicably, decided to join us.

durrell on the boat near yangshuo.

me free-soloing a 5.13b in guilin, which i later dubbed "total b.s."

durrell being directed in taking pictures by an old couple in guilin. the city is in the background.

that, i believe, is all.

Friday, April 08, 2005

pictures added

so i slipped that picture back into my last post. it should be showing up by now. and, as an added bonus, i included a picture of your favorite person (me) walking down a path in this bamboo forest/buddhist shrine area type thing yesterday.

note to elise: i finally got the postcard, but apparently there was a whole stack of mail in the mailroom that somebody forget to give to us, so i'm not really sure how long it took to get here. thanks all the same.

Elise you are my favorite nun, and I love you, and want to marry you, and make lots of babies, and stuff.

Elise come on down, you have just one the special prize. I don’t know what that prize is yet, because I have not bought it. But I am sure it will be around five dollars when I do buy it. That is a whole 40-Yuan. You won the special prize because you are the only one to care enough to write me a letter of some sort while I am here. My own family won’t even write me. Elise, I love you. I framed the letter and it is hanging over my bed right now.

While this weekend, Golze and I will be taking a trip to the beautiful province of Guangxi. I don’t actually know if it is beautiful but I have heard good things, like, Guangxi is beautiful. Are plan is to stop in three cities Guilin, Yangshuo, and Longsheng. So if you don’t hear from us for a really long time, send the army to this area.

On another note, I was cracking at this girl. And we were taking having a good time. And she reached up to scratch her head, right then I discovered that she had more hair under her armpit than I have on my head. I almost got sick on myself. But being the composed and calm young man that I am, I just swallowed the little bit of vomit that came into my mouth. This gave me a new appreciation for American girls, or just girls that shave their armpits.

On that note, I’m out.

And don’t forget, if you don’t hear from us, send the army.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

When Monkeys Attack

This weekend I went to my roommate’s friend’s house. My roommate’s friend’s name is Shan Ji. Four of us went on the Journey, My roommate (Hao Nan), Shan Ji, Huo Ji, and me. Shan Ji is lives in a small Nong Cun an hour outside of Hangzhou. The place that he lives is known its plentiful bamboo forest and its…ah, well its known for its bamboo forest. Oh, the place is called An Ji. We got to on An Ji on Friday night, and his mom prepared a wonderful dinner, using the local bamboo in many of the dishes. I must admit that bamboo taste pretty good. After, dinner we didn’t really do much but goofy around, because it was really. But, we did make a small trip to Shan Ji’s grandpa’s house, where I got to try for the first time, Qing Yuanzi. Qing Yuanzi are this small green balls, that come in sweet and salty flavor. Personally, I prefer sweet. So, after chillin at his grandpa’s for a little while all went back to Shan Ji’s house and played cards for push-ups. I ended up doing a lot of push-ups. But that’s ok because I am hella buff now. After that we just went to bed.

The next day, we woke up early to go hiking. But first we went to Shanji’s mom’s store to get some supplies. This is what her store looks like:

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And here are some pictures of the town.

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After getting the supplies and seeing some of town we made our way to Long Wang Shan (Dragon King Mountain). When we got to the top of the mountain we saw this cute little monkey sitting in the middle of the road. But as the car we came in approached it, it ran up a tree. When the car finally stopped, I was like I got get a picture of a Chinese monkey. I have never seen a Chinese monkey before. Here is what the little monkey looked like:

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So we got out the car and took out some food to try to get the monkey to come to us. As soon as the monkey saw that we had some food to give him, it bolted right for us. But before he bolted right, I think he gave a signal to the rest of his buddies, because like 8 monkeys came out of nowhere, trying to get some food. As soon as we gave the first monkey some food the monkeys started to get aggressive on us. And demand more food. Here is one of the monkeys in his attack position:

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When, I was taking this picture I didn’t realize this was his attack position, I just thought that this is where he liked to hang out. If I had known that is where he started his attack formation, I would have run away like a little girl, which I did later. I never thought that Chinese monkeys all knew kung fu. So, when we gave the first monkey food, they saw that we were pulling the food out of these bright red bags. Once they realized where the food was coming from that is when they made their move. The first monkey attacked one of the red bags, doing so type of ninja back flip into a roundhouse kick sending our bag full of bottled water flying. And the rest of the monkeys began to attack us and tried to attack the other red bags we had. Here is a monkey attacking Huo Ji:

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The only monkeys that didn’t attack us were a mother and her child.

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These two were the only ones that I liked, just because they didn’t attack us. After learn that all these monkey’s ran away when you picked up a rock, we finally got them to get away from us or so we thought. As we naïvely began making our way up the mountain, we started to realize that we were not alone and that the monkeys were hot on our trail. Here the monkeys tracking us down like Navajo:

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I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but the monkey in the front is looking the other way to make it seem like he is not following us. I know what you are doing you stupid monkey. But after using some sticks and rocks, the monkeys stopped following us. When finally got to the top and saw that there were no monkeys around we decide to take a lunch break and enjoy the scenery. After enjoying a peaceful lunch break, we came out our hiding place to find this:

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A damn monkey waiting on a wall for us to come out. Lucky for us, this time there were only two monkeys. But because during the eating process some of the food that I was eating did not make it to my mouth, I had some left over food that hit the ground to give to the monkeys. With sticks and rocks prepared we began to try and feed the monkeys again.

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Here is Shan Ji, hella scared, trying to feed a monkey. After giving the monkeys all the food that hit the ground we went down to were the river was and looked at the cool scenery around there. The monkeys followed us all the way to the water and were like screw this, I can’s swim. And then they left to never be seen again. The area that we were in was full of waterfalls.

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The place was very beautiful. And because it was a hot day, my roommate and his friends all decided to go swimming.

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But because the water was flippin freezing, they only made it to as far as the waters edge. But to them it still counted as a nice refreshing swimming. I don’t know how that works out. But anyway, the scenery was cool and full of rocks, trees, and water. It was basically full of all the things that make scenery really nice. In honor of the monkeys, my roommate and I decide to take a monkey picture.

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After we finished climbing that part of the mountain, we decided to climb a different part of the mountain. This part of the mountain path was ridiculous. It seemed like when they were making the path for this part the mountain, they decided to just throw some rocks down and if the rocks made stair they were like cool good work, and if the rocks didn’t make stairs, they were just like fuck it, close enough. Walking on this path was scarier then the monkeys. Because the path was so bad we decide to make our own way up the mountain.

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It was fun going up our own way because; going up our own way was fun. I don’t know how to explain it, it was just fun. The path we chose was just walking on the huge boulders in the middle of the riverbed. Going up this was good because we got to see all the small waterfalls that the huge boulders formed.

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Going up the path was fun but going down was not so fun. That’s only because the rocks were slippery as hell and gravity ended up pushing me into the river. Fortunately only my feet got wet. After we finally getting down the mountain we were crazy hungry. We went to Shan Ji’s friend’s house for dinner. Her name is Zhang Xiao Yan. She lives in a more villagie part of An Ji.

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Her house was a small little Chinese nong cun type house. It was really cool. Right outside of her house she has a bamboo garden.

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And if you walk through her bamboo garden you can find a field of You Tai Hua (a yellow flower that they use to make oil for cooking). This is me hiding in the flowers, can you find me?

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If you have not been able to find me yet, I am in the middle. I know I blend in well. After exploring the fields around here house it was time to eat.

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The main dish in the middle used some of the bamboo from right outside of her house. The main dish was hella good. It actually was all good food. After dinner we just stayed and hung out for a little. And jumped over a wall in the middle over here courtyard. I mean what else would you do after dinner, but jump over a wall.

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After jump over the wall a couple of times, it was time to leave. We all went walked back to Shan Ji’s. And ate some more of those Qing Yuan Zi. This time I helped out in the kitchen. Here I am helping keeping the fire going so that the Qing Yuan Zi could get steamed.

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Actually I only did this for about ten minutes before I got fired. I guess I was not keeping the fire hot enough or something. After losing my job, I went to go play mahjong. I must say that since I have came to China my mahjong skills have increased.

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Because I was kicking their ass in mahjong. It was not until, the freshly made Qing Yuan Zi arrived did I start losing. That was only because I was distracted by the food. But after Mahjong was over we all went to bed for the night.

The next morning Huoji and I woke up late. Because we woke up late, my roommate and Shan Ji had already gone somewhere. So Huo Ji and I did some exploring on our own. We found a pretty cool tea field and a Chinese bamboo mill. Because in China trees are not so plentiful, they use bamboo instead of wood for a lot of things. And also the bamboo industry in China is big because, the giant panda’s love their bamboo. Here are some shots of the tea field and the bamboo mill.

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After doing a little exploring it was time to go. And we got a ride back to the city part of An Ji. We just hung out there until it was time to leave. And that is pretty much my weekend.

On a completely different note, Golze and I finally played shuttlecock. Let’s just say that it ended with me, as the Chinese say, trampling him.

Monday, April 04, 2005

i'm just gonna throw this out there right now: picking tea leaves is interesting and fun for about 15 minutes. after that, bending over in the sun digging through bushes for the perfect tea leaves for eight hours a day gets a little old.

let me put this in some context here. on saturday morning most of us piled into the good old zhejiang university of technology tour bus and headed out into tea land. first stop was the national tea museum (one of many around the country) a bit out of town. there was a fairly interesting tour of the sites, with an introduction to the types of chinese tea (seven i think: green, red, black, oolong, yellow, white. so i guess only six). apparently, china is the only country in the world which regularly uses more than one kind of tea as part of its culture (i.e. japan: green; england; black; america: iced (i'm not kidding on this last one, the chinese actually consider it a unique kind of tea inveted by americans)). after that, we wandered around the grounds for a bit before lunch, which was really nice. I feel like all the flowers around here bloomed on friday night. today was the first day of really nice weather, though it was still sort of that perpetual haze that seems to envelop hangzhou.

after lunch, we trucked quite a ways out of town to a tea farm. hangzhou is famous for its dragon well tea, but the most famous is the west lake dragon well tea, which really describes nothing more than its proximity to the lake. that stuff is really expensive, many hundreds of dollars for half a kilo. so they certainly weren't about to let a bunch of foreigners tramp through their tea bushes (that sounds sorta dirty).

the place we went to was better anyway. instead of west lake dragon well tea, they grew zhejiang dragon well tea, which is exactly the same thing. we got to see them treat the already picked leaves, which they do by roasting them for about 20 minutes in a sort of big pot. then they store the leaves for about a month, when they are sold. we got to drink some of the freshly made stuff, not the best, but it's really amazing the difference between the crappy tea i bought at the supermarket and this stuff.

we were also treated to a rousing presentation by a pre-eminent professor of tea (you can major in tea in china), who was this tiny old dude and we couldn't understand what he was saying at all. awesome.

then we headed out to the fields. i asked our guide, another tea scholar, whether all the pollution was having any effect on recent tea crops. he said yes, but the problem was people messing up the fields, not any water or air pollution. i looked at a pool of sludge and garbage that we walked by on the way up to the fields and decided that i don't know what to think about that. out in the fields our guide showed us how to pick appropriate tea leaves, then we went off to do the work. after a while i wandered back, only to find that everyone had moved on and i was all alone. but never fear, i found them, and then we bothered some real tea pickers and gave them the leaves we picked. only one of mine was not up to snuff, so i guess i have what it takes to earn 8.50 a day picking tea leaves in china.

below is a picture of the tea fields. stuck in the middle was a family's ancesteral grave site. this is the time of year that everybody visits their family sites to make offerings, set off fireworks (of course), etc.

that is all. hopefully i'll squeeze out another one of these before durrell and i take off for break.