Tuesday, July 28, 2009
On Monday I taught the kids Red Light, Green Light and Duck, Duck, Goose. After touching all the kids’ heads, I caught some type of cold so if you guys could pray for that, I would appreciate it. Today (Tuesday), I did my best to play with the kids but afterwards I just felt the cold in my body and couldn’t do anything but sleep. For dinner, I went to a restaurant separate from the team so I could get a nice big bowl of wonton soup with dumplings on the side. I stuffed myself, which is a hard thing to do in itself, all for 24 yuan ($3.53)!!! Then I just walked down our alley, stopped at the local Australian bar to talk to Ned, the owner of the bar, and now I am back at our hotel, ready to get some rest so I can kick this cold out of my system.
Hopefully feeling better,
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I think I’ve decided that I want to live here in China, or at least live here for a while and just chill in the Beijing lifestyle for a while. It is so cool! Or maybe I just want to travel. I’ve met so many cool travelers here and I want to be like them and travel the world for a while. Plus, I can’t get all the cheap massages that I want! So today we went to the zoo and had a blast seeing all the pandas. I do have to say I was a bit disappointed by the lack of care for the animals. The tiger exhibit was filled with water bottles that visitors had thrown in the area and the tigers just slept and didn’t care. I guess I have to say I’m also disgusted with the lack of care from the visitors as I saw most of them feed the animals human food like bread and chocolates. I will say that is was cool to be able to pet some zebras today but I think they only came up to me because they thought I would be feeding them something. While I was there, I had to take a look at the wolves because they are my favorite animal (hence my nicknames and email addresses are named after wolves). When I got there, the wolves looked malnourished and scraggly as hair was falling off and they were just not what I was expecting. The pandas were the only exciting part of the zoo and even they were sleepy. Oh the joys of going to a zoo where animals are mistreated.
On a lighter note, after the zoo we went to this clothing market right next to the zoo where it was packed with shoppers. Kyle and I looked at suits that could be custom made for about 500 kuai, which is about 75 US dollars. Then the next adventure happened to our team. We expected to meet at a designated place at 5:30 pm. What we didn’t know was that the shopping plaza/mall closed at 5:00 pm. When they started shutting off of 4:55 pm, most of us met at the designated area except Pauline and Sabrina, the two people we were most afraid of that would get lost. We searched for them all over the shopping mall and couldn’t find them. Then we went outside to look for them and we started to panic. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted them so Kyle and I dashed over to them before they caught a taxi back to the hotel. Turns out, they had been locked out of the plaza and couldn’t get back to the meeting area. Our whole team was freaking out for a while but I couldn’t help but think that crazy things like this happen in Beijing, and that’s why I love it so much.
Friday, July 24, 2009
So I had thought it would only be fair for me to tell you a little bit about my food experiences since, as most of you already know, food is a passion of mine. We’ve been mostly eating Chinese food (duh) but our team has really been craving American food so they sneak out to get some McDonald’s ice cream every now and again. Me, I’ve done my best to stick to the basic Chinese/ Mongolian/ Asian cuisine to stay true to my word. The other night, we actually went to this really famous street market where they have all kinds of exotic foods. Although it was expensive, I had some very delicious dishes such as snake, locusts, and last but not least, SCORPIONS!!! Finally, revenge on the animal that ruined my junior prom (as most of you know but if you don’t, you can ask me later). It was actually very tasty! Most people got two sticks of scorpions because they were so good. Then today happened and my team decided they wanted to try this famous Tex-Mex restaurant in Beijing. I was less than thrilled to eat American food in China but I didn’t want to upset the team by saying I did not want American food so I humbly obliged. It was basically what I expected from an American restaurant in Beijing, less than impressive food and very high prices. Since most people left their dishes half-full, I scarfed down the rest of their plates and left fully stuffed. Hopefully it will be our last trip to an American restaurant in Beijing.
On a happier note, I have gotten some of the best massages of my life here in Beijing. I’ve gotten foot massages, back massages, and even head massages. Actually, the head massage was so good, I fell asleep twenty minutes into it. Kyle had to physically shake me to wake me up from my deep slumber. Tonight, I had a sixty-minute foot massage. First, they put your foot in a green tea bath to warm the feet up. Instead of just sitting there while your feet soak, they massage your back and neck while you are soaking your feet. Then, they dry your feet off and give you the best 45 minutes of your life and I heard your feet feel good for a couple of days. And I got it all for only 38 yuan, which is about $5.59. Now that is a deal my friends, a deal. More good news, I made friends with a vendor at the Pearl Market and they helped me find places that would give me stuff for the best quality and cheapest price. I went to one guy who was selling the previous vendor some scarfs for 200 yuan. Then I walk up and tell him Emma referred me and he brought the price down to 20 yuan. I still bargained with him and got a couple of scarfs for 12 yuan a scarf. Can’t wait to tell you guys what happens over the weekend.
Today was Sunday and we finally found a church to go to after talking with one of the interns at Compassion for Migrant Children. It was an International church in Beijing and people from all over the world were there. When I looked into the audience, I saw Asians, Africans, Middle Eastern, Whites, all worshipping together. I think this was what I wanted to see and what John Perkins and many other Christians want to see happen in America. There was only thing that really bothered me about the experience and that was you had to show your passport to verify that you were actually a foreigner. This was to insure that only foreigners were going to church and not Chinese citizens. Basically, foreigners can worship God and Chinese citizens can only worship in government run churches. Now, it’s not the church’s fault because it is forced upon them by the government but it bothers me that the Devil can work in such evil ways. Why aren’t we as Christians sending lawyers or politicians to fight this act? What exactly can we do to fight this atrocity? I don’t really know at this point but it is something that I was thinking that towards the end of church today. The bigger theme here is how can we reach the people of China without interfering with government policies? There are definitely avenues for that as our translator is Chinese and she is a Christian. Besides that, the service was really contemporary and nice. The people that I talked to after church were very fun to talk to and it was comforting to hear how God was shaping their lives and how He was using them in China. I am convinced that God is trying to show me something right now and whatever it is, it is big!
Anyways, after that amazing morning we went to lunch with the intern, Esther, and went to this foreigner mall that had a Starbucks and Coldstone. I refrained from eating or drinking those delicacies as I am trying only to eat and drink Chinese/Asian food while I am here. After lunch we went to the Pearl Market where they have fake everything from Rolexes to Coach bags and etc. I think every salesperson in the place either yelled at me or held my arm to being me to their station so they could sell me something. I actually had to walk outside to take a deep breath, and then I stepped inside and was a whole different beast. My first buy was alright but then I became a bargaining machine. I got a ton a stuff (gifts for my friends) all for under 25 US dollars. After all my purchases, I felt almost felt dirty with all the tactics I used to bargain. I lied, cheated, yelled, called them bad names in Chinese and all after this amazing morning of God showing me reconciliation between races. I guess that is the world of Chinese shopping but maybe next time I won’t lie as much… hopefully. Tomorrow is the first day of camps so I will be getting a good night’s rest.
This day has been filled with crazy and fun adventures. So we arrived in Beijing by bus at about 4:00 a.m. and we took some taxis back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we couldn’t check into our hotel until 9:00 a.m. so we just sat around and we all wished we could get into our rooms to take a shower (it had been about 3 days since our last shower). Luckily, I remembered that some of us had left our luggage at the bus station and since the buses in China don’t drop you off at the bus stations, we had to go back to the bus station to pick up our luggage. So Tracey, Robin, Lauren Kosasa, and I volunteered to go get the luggage while the rest of the team checked into the hotel. That’s when the adventure started.
It was raining as we started our trek to the subway so we knew that the subways would be packed. The subway was decently busy but it wasn’t till we got to the main line that we saw how busy it actually was. There were several lines forming to just get onto the subway itself. Right after we were let into the line, they blocked other passengers to enter the area until traffic had let up. When the subway did come, it was already packed and only a few people actually got onto the subway. Then people on the inside and outside used their hands to physically shut the doors of the subway. After about three or four more subways we finally were able to squeeze ourselves onto the subway. Then the inevitable happened and the subway stopped between two stations. I was already sweating like a pig and the guys around were definitely violating my no-no squares. After about a couple of minutes it started again but then stopped again. We finally reached the next station but we still had four more stations to go. After more unexpected stops along the line, we decided to get off the subway and to just take a taxi to the bus station even if it was more expensive.
When we got outside, it was pouring rain and almost everybody had an umbrella except us. We didn’t need them because we were Seattlites, right? We found a street with tons of taxis and try to flag one down. However, almost every taxi either said they were off duty or picked up other passengers. I was quickly discouraged and slightly frustrated that we couldn’t get a taxi to pick us up. Soon, all I could do was laugh at myself and our little group as we were soaking wet and couldn’t even get taxis to pick us up. That was when I realized the reason we couldn’t get a taxi was because we were soaking and that we would make the taxi wet. As soon as we realized this, an unsuspecting taxi pulled around the corner and I just jumped into the front seat. I honestly don’t think he realized how wet I was or how wet our group was. He just asked where we were going and started driving on his merry little way. I was looking out the window when I felt a hand rubbing my shoulder and then I saw the driver squeezing my shirt. Then he started yelling at our translator to get out because we were getting his taxi wet. At this point, I said we wouldn’t and he reluctantly drove us to the bus station. We got there, got our bags, and managed to use the same maneuvers to get into another taxi. However, this driver was more observant and noticed we were wet without having to grope his passengers and told us to get out. We offered him more money and he said that we had to double whatever the meter put out. I think we were just so exhausted at that point that we accepted his demands and we finally made it to the hotel with our bags.
It rained almost all day so our team stayed inside and had a lazy day instead of sightseeing or shopping. At night, the rain had stopped and Kyle and I set up an appointment for a 40 minute head massage. On our way, we saw an Australian bar and so I popped my head in and watched some cricket with the guys there. Then I just started talking with the guys there and met this one guy Matt who has been teaching kindergarten in China and went to Miami University. He stops by our alleyway quite often so I will probably see him again. Going into bars and talking with the local people is probably one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. You just meet so many interesting people and you get to hear their life stories too. Anyways, I’m getting pretty tired from that head massage I had so I am finally calling it a night.
Right now I am sitting in our hotel lobby listening to some DMB (just for you Zach) after our team’s exhausting but adventure filled trip to Inner Mongolia. Let’s start our recap back in Bao Tou where we first spent the night in Inner Mongolia. After we slept in our sketchy hotel that reeked of smoke (all the hotels reek of smoking), we traveled to the Gobi Desert, which was amazing. We rode camels, ATV’s, ziplines, sledded down the sand dunes, and just played in the sand. It was nice because it wasn’t too hot but still had that desert feel. When we went out to the desert part of our tour, we rode this army truck thing that took us over the sand dunes like a roller coaster. The camels weren’t that mean but when we were riding them I think the camel behind me decided to chew on my shirt because after we got off the camel, I noticed some of my shirt was missing. After all the fun we had in the desert, we had a meal and show as the tour place put on a traditional Mongolian wedding. It was very touristy and when you go somewhere touristy, you can always bet that the food will suck. At least the desert part was exciting and now I can say I’ve been to the Gobi desert.
After our day in the Gobi desert, we headed to the Grasslands of Inner Mongolia. We first met up with this guy my sister met in Inner Mongolia who owns a hostel and tour business. He took us to his hostel and we met so many cool people from Holland, France, Vienna, etc. I really enjoyed talking with them and seeing where they have been and what they were doing in Inner Mongolia. I wish we could’ve spent more time with them but we had to head out to our overnight stay in the Grasslands. So we took a minibus out to the Grasslands and passed like 30 touristy places. As I crossed my fingers that we wouldn’t stop at a touristy place, we stopped at this very small place with a house and two yurts (traditional Mongolian huts). The mom of the house came out and showed us our beds in the yurts and then we got out to ride horses. We all rode our wild Mongolian horses as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. It was so beautiful and so serene that I didn’t want to ride back to our huts. Our guide, Eric, was really nice and had just graduated from college with a major in English. He was very helpful and showed us all the things a traditional Mongolian family would do in the Grasslands. That night, we had a very special meal that included a rice porridge and bread that they would only have once a year. Then we went outside and barbequed chicken on a stick which was so good, I had about twenty sticks. The rest of the night was spent playing games and admiring the multitude of stars that were present in the middle of the Grasslands (which is basically the middle of nowhere). In the distance, we could see the touristy places shooting off fireworks but I was enjoying the solitude that we had in our traditional Mongolian family.
The next morning I woke up to the crow of the family’s rooster and found that I was the only one awake. So I went outside and watched the sunrise, wishing I could have a cup of coffee that I have been craving for a while. It was the most enjoyable sunrise that I have seen in a very long time. Then I talked with the son of the family and Eric and soon the rest of the team woke up to the crow of the rooster and the guard dog barking. After breakfast, which included fresh lamb, we walked around the Grasslands and then came back to this well that had ice-cold water in it. After more games, it was time for us to leave this very special place and to get back to the city so we could catch the bus back to Beijing. If I ever get the chance again, I am so coming back to the Grasslands and living here for weeks on end. The Mongolian family was so nice and it was just so peaceful to sleep in a yurt and to enjoy the countryside of Inner Mongolia. We took another sketchy bus back to Beijing but I was able to get some sleep this time because the guy next to me wasn’t snoring that much and plus, I was beat.
I can’t fully describe all the stuff that has happened in the past couple of days but I hope I have given you a glimpse. Maybe I should just move to Inner Mongolia and leave with a traditional Mongolian family for the rest of my life. The one food that I could not get enough of in Inner Mongolia… meat on a stick! I know it sounds somewhat sketchy but the barbeque the meat and then add spices that make it the most delicious thing in the world. I had lamb, chicken, chicken gizzards, kiwi (the bird). I’m going to try my best to recreate the dish next year in my apartment. I can already see that this entry is getting really long but I just wanted to let you all know that this is an amazing trip and I can’t wait to talk to you all later.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Last night was the most interesting night that I have had in my entire life, no joke. Our team decided to take a night train to spend a couple of days in Inner Mongolia. Let’s start yesterday afternoon when we went to the bus station and I had to carry all my luggage to the station only to check it at the station so I didn’t have to carry it all around in Inner Mongolia. Then we had dinner and proceeded to get onto the bus that would take us to Inner Mongolia, which is about a ten-hour drive. When we stepped onto the bus, there were people already in our designated seats. Tracey, our translator, told someone in charge and only some of them moved but the families stayed and that was fine with us. Okay, so the bus was super hot, crowded, and smelly! This is for Josh -- my farts wouldn’t be able to penetrate the smell of this bus (I know!). After I had found my bed (it was a bed bus), I climbed in and quickly found that I would not be able to fit. Luckily, I was able to drape my legs over the side and thought that I would be able to sleep comfortably that way. We then started our journey and took a surprise detour to pick up some unexpected passengers and cargo (very sketch). The extra passengers slept right below me so I had to put my legs back into the uncomfortable amount of space I was given. After about two hours of driving, we took another unexpected restroom stop, or so we thought. First, we went outside where it was almost pitch black and walked to some dirty bathrooms. If you guys didn’t already know, bathrooms in China are basically holes in the ground. This bathroom looked like they had just dug the holes and it already had piles of poop in it. There was a wall that had pee stains on it so I figured that was where I should do my business. This stop smelled worst than the bus did and we couldn’t wait to get back on. However, we were told that our driver decided that he was going to eat dinner so we waited another 45 minutes before we got back onto the bus. Our team decided that we were in a ghost town since there were dogs howling all around us and we saw cats that were there one second and gone the next. After our driver finished his meal, we scampered back onto the bus and fell asleep on our dirty beds. It was probably the worst night of sleep I have ever had since the driver thought it was appropriate to honk at every car around him and then jerk the bus to avoid hitting cars. When we finally arrived to our destination, it was only 4 a.m. so we stayed on the bus till 6 a.m. Since we were in the city, there was nonstop honking and people yelling at each other at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Plus, the guy next to me snored louder than my dad and Snorlax combined. When it was finally time to escape our bus confines, we walked off the bus and into a crowd of competitive taxi drivers. They all offered us lower and lower prices and we picked the best one but then the drivers started yelling at each other and some of them started fighting. Tracey told us to get into some taxis and so we did and we escaped the scene quickly. Now, I am at the hotel and am so glad that I was able to shower and clean myself after that bus ride. I don’t know if I can top your night in the clothing donations bin Chris but I feel this was close.
If I could describe my sightseeing experiences of Beijing in one word, it would have to be “hot.” All of the days we have been here, the weather has been hot and humid. When we hiked the Great Wall, I was already dripping sweat after the first two steps. This past day was full of some “hot” experiences as well. The first place we visited was the Summer Palace, which was humungous, but it was still so humid out that I was constantly sweating the entire time. At one part of the Palace there were some old ladies dancing. Being the experienced dancer that I am, I joined in their step and had mastered their choreography halfway through the song. Needless to say, the old ladies were impressed with my skills and wanted me to dance some more but we had to move on so I politely declined their offer. Our next stop was a touristy section of the Great Wall that almost resembled Disneyland. There were so many street vendors selling souvenirs and everything was way overpriced. Our group then rode gondolas up to the top of the Great Wall, took some pictures, then rode a 2 mile toboggan ride down to the bottom again. It was so much fun but a totally different experience than the other day at the Great Wall.
One thing I know I’m already going to miss is the pricing of stuff here in China. Like the other day, we had a full on dinner for ten people that cost about 180 yuan (about 27 American dollars). Then last night I got a 40 minute back massage for 6 dollars! I’ll probably be upset when I get back to the States and go to a restaurant that will charge 8-12 bucks for one person. Oh well, I’ll enjoy my cheap food and massages while it lasts.
The past couple of days have been filled with numerous sightseeing trips to all kinds of places that are famous to Beijing. Our tour guide Mr. Lee is very cool and he seems to know all the secret places to go. The first day of sightseeing included trips to the Olympic stadium and the Confucian Temple. The Olympic stadium was really big and it was so cool to think of all the events that had taken place there. We also went into the Water Cube where Michael Phelps took home eight gold medals. It was weird to think about all the athletes that performed there only a year ago and yet I could remember where and how they won their events, especially in the Water Cube and remembering how Michael Phelps won those races. Soooooo cool!!! The next day we went to the Forbidden City and Tienamen Square. The Forbidden City was packed with so many people that were pushing and shoving, trying to see one throne or table. It was like that would be the last throne they would see in their life and they all made sure they could get a good picture of it. Tienamen Square was not as packed but very cool to see considering the recent history of that area.
Today, we went to a non-tourist part of the Great Wall of China. Our tour guide has some connections and we were the only ones on the Wall at this location and it was not refinished or developed. Out team was walking on bricks that were at least 700 years old!!! We took tons of pictures and I took some brick with me, so if you guys want to touch 700 year old brick, I’ll have it back in the States. Then we got back to the city and had Beijing (Peking) duck which is a delicacy here and is quite tasty. Lauren Kosasa on our trip is a vegetarian and was somewhat disturbed by the duck’s head on our table. I probably didn’t help her uneasiness about the head when I took a bite of the head and neck (it’s really good, I swear). After dinner, Kyle and myself went to a massage parlor to get foot massages and boy where they incredible. The only sketchy part was when they put hot glass cups on our feet. I was just sitting there with my eyes closed, enjoying the massage, when all of a sudden hot glass is attached to my foot and it felt as if the cup was sucking my foot into itself. I was in shock but once the cup was removed, my feet felt soo relaxed, especially after hiking the Great Wall of China.
Before I end this blog entry (or email entry I guess) I wanted to touch on the conditions in Beijing. There are a ton of unsanitary practices in the area that we are at, like kids peeing and pooping in the streets or dogs doing the same thing. What I’ve been struggling with the most is the poverty and beggars on the street. I think I’ve always struggled with beggars because I don’t know if I should give them money or not and whether or not I should do something else. I feel like John Perkins put it best when he said if you give money to the poor, it will just end up in the hands of the rich again. Now, I do feel like we should be helping the poor but in what ways besides just giving them money? That’s what the beggars in China have stirred up in my head.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Lazily I woke up to the Seattle cloudiness this morning and looked at my clock – 6:30am! I still have so much time that I could be spending fast asleep before I have to be at the airport yet here I am typing this blog and without any coffee. When I opened my computer this morning to Safari, the headline on bbc.org read, “Scores killed in China protests.” That’s not exactly the first thing I wanted to see before I head out to China but after reading the article I found out the attacks were not in the region I will be at. Still, I would ask that you all would read the article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8135203.stm) and pray for those affected by this event.
Now, this is the morning that I actually leave and I am more than excited. Yet I feel somewhat different at the same time. I don’t feel the same excitement that I felt when I have traveled with my family overseas or when we go on a road trip in the States. I don’t feel the same excitement that I felt when I went on my missions trip to Japan. I’m not saying that I’m not ecstatic but it feels different to me. Maybe I am more nervous because I know that this isn’t some fun trip where I will just be traveling but I know that there will be experiences that I will be uncomfortable with and our team isn’t there just for fun but we have a purpose there. Whatever it is, I feel a different kind of excitement as I am still slowly waking up to this Seattle morning.
Well, I might try to get some more rest in or I might just start getting ready right now so I will hopefully blog again soon (if I have internet access) and I love all of you out there.