Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The One Where Obama Wins!

Been following the election really closely here.  I'm glad it's over.  I read Nate Silver, so I didn't have much doubt.

I was talking to one of my closest Chinese friends and she said this: 中国有很多声音说 奥巴马作为美国第一任黑人总统的使命已经完成,应该让罗姆尼上了.

"A lot of people in China say Obama has already accomplished the goal of becoming America's first black president, so now it should be Romney's turn."

It's interesting being in (one of?) the only country in the world that didn't support Obama.

Somehow, this being China and all, the conversation magically turned towards the Diaoyu Islands dispute, which I'm not convinced anyone in America cares about, let alone knows is an issue here.

No one here that I know has ever voted, or ever will.  Sometimes I feel out of place, and not only because my eyes are blue, which people haven't stopped pointing out for 16 months.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The One With Western Sichuan And A Failed Backpacking Trip

I took a trip a while ago to western Sichuan.  I don't have time to write about it, but it was fun––for the most part.  Bus rides that were supposed to take 8 hours took upwards of 15.  Hiring a driver turned out to be a chaotic experience that took me over the bumpiest roads and into secluded nomadic camps.  Sometimes the only place to camp was cement or worse.

It wasn't the most photogenic trip, but there was a lot of great scenery.  I traveled in with my friend Karen to meet a group of other volunteers that were coming from up north.  Our backpacking plans kind of fizzled out with the rain.

When there were blue skies it was beautiful, but I'll remember our driver, a Tibetan, who took Karen, myself and two Chinese people for an hour in his car to another city; then, when the Chinese got out of the car, he eagerly started talking to me about the Dalai Lama.  "I wouldn't dare speak about him to them," he told me, later shrugging off my disappointment when I found out among the entire police force in those Tibetan areas, there are no Tibetans with a badge.

I felt like I traveled all over and saw everything, until I returned home and looked at a map.  The place is enormous.

There's more to say and more to discover, but for now here are some pictures.























Kangding, the city I was traveling in, is really well known for the "Love Song of Kangding."

Friday, September 14, 2012

The One With Wanzhou's Glowing Review

We have succeeded, my fellow Wanzhou citizens!  All of our accomplishments and feats, our hard work and struggles, our history and future, have been concentrated down like dirty Chinese tap water in my Peace Corps-issued (mandatory) water distiller.  We have been placed on the map, and a map that counts!

Though our great city has been called a vast array of names (Yangqu to Nanpu, Nanpu to Yuquan, Yuquan to Anxiang, Anxiang to Wanchuan, Wanchuan to Nanchang, Nanchang to Wanhsien, Wanhsien to Wanxian, and finally Wanxian to Wanzhou), today we stand united under the name of Wanzhou, past and present, in the warm light of glory.

Indeed, as we all surely know, Lonely Planet has given us mention, nay, has immortalized us along with other great travel destinations––Beijing, Xi'an, Yunnan, to name a few.  Though our significance has not been deemed worthy of Lonely Planet's Guide to China, we must not allow such neglect to diminish what we have already achieved.  For, despite our absence in their guide to China, we have successfully, with great honor and prestige, garnered well-deserved acknowledgement in their immaculate version specifically published for China's Southwest.

It is there where we shall claim our legacy!  It is there where we shall declare our excellence!  It is there where we shall revel in eternal fame!

Thus, my dear readers, without further adue, I present to you, which shall be forever saved for further generations, that legacy:

Most morning boats moor for the night at Wanzhou (also called Wanxian), a grimy town that rises in steep gradients above the river.  Travellers aiming to get from A to B as fast as possible while taking in the gorges can skip the Chongqing to Wanzhou section...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The One With Jess in Yunnan!

I had a wonderful visit from Jess, covering a couple thousand miles of Southwestern China.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!

Hiking Wanzhou.

This is basically eHarmony in China, where parents write profiles for their children and hang them in a square in hopes of successfully matchmaking.  I talked to the guy at the table and he said it rarely works, but that it's fun.


Kunming's only attraction.



Lijiang's Old Town.  We got in and it was pouring down rain, but our taxi driver gave us an umbrella as we set off to lose ourselves in the labyrinth.

A "hard sleeper" on a typical Chinese train.  Compared to a few of the other options, it's extremely comfortable.



Lijiang from above.


Lots of delicious food, all quite different from what I'm used to in Chongqing.  I don't eat as well as this in Wanzhou.


This place is beautiful and picturesque on a cloudless day, but few of our days (none?) were like that in Yunnan.  We thought it wasn't the steep entry fee, so we walked away, until a lady told us the back entrance was cheaper.  Sometime during the ducking of barbed wire and climbing over rocks, we realized we were being smuggled in.  It worked!


Jess and Lauren, Marissa's visiting Peace Corps friend from Ukraine.  We hit a lot of the same areas around the same time since, ahem, Marissa stole my itinerary.


Food is not like this in Chongqing!

Tiger Leaping Gorge, beginning of the trek.



Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the steepest gorges in the world.


Some hikers told us not to do the hike because of landslides and bad weather, but we did it anyway.  It was pouring rain for part of the hike, but thankfully not this part.










A hostel halfway done with the hike.  A couple massive landslides happened the day before we set off, which is why some people discouraged us from going.  But if you check online, there are landslides pretty much every month.  We hiked the entire trail twice, going to the end and heading back, so it was a big hike because we thought we couldn't get past the landslide.  A few people we met on the trail showed us pictures of one, and it was indeed massive.  Even locals were shocked at how large it was.

Down comes the raaaaaaaain.


Shangri-La, in northern Yunnan with a lot of Tibetan culture and influence.  Wanzhou has little to none minorities, aside from my favorite Muslim noodle restaurant, where I eat almost every day.









Overnight bus...

...with that guy behind me who pays no heed to "No Smoking" signs.



We took a 24-hour train ride from Kunming to Chongqing on hard seats.  Some people have no seats.  And some people are less fortunate, like me, who get vomited on not once but twice by a sick child.

The last meal, where I got Jess some 干锅, and finally she thought Chinese food was spicy (since we spent most of our time out of Chongqing)!  She drank that entire water bottle within a couple minutes.

Definitely a worthwhile trip.  I'm glad someone from America no knows firsthand the parts of China that I live in.  Honestly, too many things happened to write about