Three weeks. We’ve hit the end of the line. Today was a nice end to the trip.
The day started off with everyone in the group going to a special shopping street with Yoyo and some other Chinese kids. I chose to stay back at the hotel on account of being extremely tired and having to write my blog update from yesterday. As such, I hung out for a few hours and did just that. Around 11:30, I headed out to get some lunch and do something I’ve had almost no chance to do in Chengdu between the last two years: explore on my own.
I found a little hole-in-the-wall place about 15 minutes from the hotel. The menu was all Chinese, so I ordered off of intuition and basic knowledge of food characters. The waitress was very nice, though. I ended up with some cold spicy beef and a plate of lamb with noodles, which was not spicy at all. It was delicious and filled me up more than enough.
After that, I checked out the surrounding area, finding a spot I’ve never once noticed in this area (where we also stayed last year) that seemed to be a local hotspot, with dozens of restaurants and tons of tables outside for eating at. I wish we had one more day here so that I could go eat there. Next time.
After this, I got a flurry from Pete’s Tex-Mex and went back to the hotel. The rest of the group eventually came back. They wanted to go to the Sichuan Music Institute to just look around and also potentially buy some instruments in the area around the campus, as there were a multitude of music stores. I ended up checking out some guitars but didn’t buy anything.
After about maybe an hour there, we went back to the hotel and hung out a bit more. At 6:15, we disembarked for dinner. We ate, and then a bunch of us went to Peter’s (second time in one day) for desert. I got a Texas brownie. It was delicious. ‘Nuff said.
At 8:00, Zhenyan took us to her friend’s house for tea. This house was insanely nice. The guy is an interior designer, and as such had wicked nice furniture, include many items which were upwards of 200 years old. The tea was also delicious, nearly perfect. April showed up as well, and I got her email address. I also said goodbye to Yoyo and thanked her for everything.
So, with that, it comes time to say farewell to China once again. I have no doubts that I will be back soon. It was a great trip, and I want to say thank you here too all the people who helped to pay for it. I couldn’t appreciate it any more. I hope this blog is a sufficient way of saying yes to you.
I’ll see you all (well, a few of you) tomorrow! 再见中国。
What an exhausting day yesterday. Phew.
I woke up at 7:00 for the third day in a row. After showering (and drying without a towel; that was a bit of a chore) and packing my bags once again, I went downstairs to meet my guide. I left the bags in the hotel and took only my camera and swimsuit with me, preparing for a pretty taxing bike ride.
We walked a little down the street to a bike rental place. There, we grabbed two bikes with baskets. I ended up on a nice pink fixie and threw the swimsuit into the basket. We headed off.
Essentially, we just biked around the countryside in the region around Yangshuo. We went by lots of farms (there is not a single square foot of land there which is not either being cultivated in some way or a craggy mountain) and LOTS of rice. It’s amazing how much of it they grow, really. I want to see the stats of how many grains of rice you can get out of one plant, because it must be miniscule. My guide said that pretty much of it that they grow there is used only to feed the farmers with the occasional small amount left over to sell.
We biked to Moon Hill, which is the most famous single structure in the region. From there, we biked to a cave nearby and I got a nice tour of it while my guide waited outside. In the cave, we got to take a mudbath (in very cold water) and then jump into a hot spring, which was extremely relaxing. It felt great, and was also awesome to see the stalactites and such. To make things even better, I took my tour with the most fascinating group of travelers I’ve met yet. They were a family of Brazilians (father, mother, two daughers, two sons) who have essentially been everywhere. They used to live around Sao Paulo, then moved to Florida for a bit (they actually visited Vermont for a day while in New England on vacation), jumped all the way over to Japan for about five years, and are now living in Malaysia, taking a summer vacation to tour Asia. We talked for a while about a number of things, including their excitement in Brazil having the World Cup soon.
The cave tour ended around 12:30, so I got dressed back up again and we biked back to Yangshuo, about 45 minutes. We went to grab a bit to eat and then my guide showed me the local food market, which was very cool. Everything was fresh and local, with items ranging from live chickens to snail shells (they make stuff snails here which I haven’t tried yet but sound great) to tofu to tea to almost anything else you can imagine buying that can be grown/raised in their climate. Oh, and I saw dog for the first time. One of the stalls had a carcass that was hanging up to dry and behind the counter were several dogs in cages, ones they were raising to slaughter and eat. I still haven’t had the opportunity to eat it, though. I’m quite curious.
Following this, she took me back to the hotel, I gathered my bags, and we met the driver to take me to the airport. I flew to Chengdu and arrived here around 8:30 last night. Got to the hotel around 9:45 and ate dinner at 10:00. As such, I’m a bit tired and exhausted.
Today is my last day in China. I’m not going to do anything special, though. Just gonna hang out, explore, and then have dinner with everyone in the group. I’ll see many of you very soon.
My last regular day in Chengdu. It ended up going well.
As a start, I was no longer feeling sick. I got up at 8:00 and, despite some lethargy, was feeling overall pretty great. Firstly, I had to pack up all of my stuff as I would be leaving later that night. So, I did, and Yoyo and I left to go to the hotel everyone was staying at. I put my stuff in Zhenyan’s room and she gave me her key so that I could get everything later.
The plan for the kids was a “homestay,” but not really; that’s just what they called it. Basically, they spent the day together hanging out with April, Yoyo, and her friend, then went over to a family’s house for dinner, split up into three groups with different people.
I joined them for the bulk of the day. Firstly, we all went to the Kuanzhuai alley again, as Zhenyan didn’t tell April that the group had already been there. This leg was a bit short, but we quickly headed off to get lunch around 11:30. It was a restaurant that I vividly remember being in last year. I also remember some pretty crazy shenanigans erupting in there between Ben, a teacher, and Joey, a student. No, not angry shenanigans, just ridiculous stuff. I won’t explain it for their sake. Needless to say, I felt like every member of the waitstaff likely had a deep-rooted, furious hatred for Americans. Our food was good, though, so maybe I was wrong.
Following lunch, we all headed of (still together) to a teahouse so that we could play Majiang. Apparently the Chinese kids didn’t know how to explain it, so my extremely limited knowledge was used to teach the game to everyone. I got across the basics, but eventually, a non-English-speaking player came in and helped us out greatly. Eventually, we figured out some of the nooks and crannies of the game and placed ¥1 wagers to put on a little pressure. I have to get a set somewhere. It’s immensely fun to play.
We stayed at the teahouse for close to three hours. There were only two tables to play at, so the people who weren’t playing would be getting foot massages. I went last, with three others, and it was fantastic. My feet definitely needed that and I feel much more loose today. It lasted for a solid 45 minutes, as well.
After everything at the teahouse, we all split up into separate groups and went to people’s houses. I went back to Yoyo’s with four other kids. I stayed for about an hour and left at 5:30. From reading Peter’s blog update for the CVU kids, they had fun.
I took a cab back to the hotel, picked up my things, got a ride from Zhenyan’s friend Homer, who is a travel agent in Chengdu, to the airport and got on a flight to Guilin. I arrived here at about 10:40 last night and made it to the hotel around 11:45. I’m now settled in and ready for my first day in another Chinese city. Expect some awesome pictures tonight!
Got up around 10:00 this morning and did my routine. Come about 12:00, Jennifer got here and took me to the hotel where the group is staying at. I arrived, chatted with everyone, grabbed some lunch (basically a cup o’ noodles; ramen) and ended up deciding against going with everyone. They were all going to a school we visited last year which a.) wasn’t the most appealing activity, and b.) didn’t really seem like much fun for the still somewhat sick me. As such, I just crawled into Zhenyan’s room, turned on the AC, and watched TV. Their room got the Discovery Channel, so I watched a show about people getting savage animal bites, and episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive about a man trapped at sea for 76 days, and half of Moment of Impact, which was just a bunch of car crashes and similar stuff. Yes, it was all in English.
Eventually, the group arrived back at the hotel. I sat down with Zhenyan and her friend Wendy, who has organized a trip for me to Guilin from tomorrow until Sunday. She went over the itinerary, told me what I need to do for checking into the hotels, and let me ask any questions. Whether or not I would go has been up in the air this whole trip. It’s nice to finally have a set idea of what I will be doing.
After talking over the trip to Guilin, we all went out to get dinner, which was at the esteemed Peter’s Tex-Mex Grill. This place serves the best American food you will ever find in China and was our go-to restaurant last year, as it is basically right across the street from where we stayed. I indulged in a bowl of chili, plate of nachos, vanilla milkshake, and “Texas brownie.” After feeling like a starved African child for the past 48 hours (which was by choice, so don’t worry about me getting proper nourishment), it felt amazing to just fill my stomach with whatever delightful pleasures I could. I still feel full and it is, to put it simply, fantastic. Yum.
After dinner, we retreated to the hotel. Shortly after arrival, however, the power went out. This was at about 8:00. Around 9:45, I left, with the power still out. At this point, I don’t know if it’s back or not. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.
I may not have Internet access in Guilin. I still don’t know. As such, if you hear nothing from me tomorrow night (morning for anyone reading this), then don’t worry. All is well.
Two weeks in with one more to go. The trip is flying by.
I woke up this morning feeling… alright. Yoyo’s “sister” (really cousin, but the Chinese call said relatives siblings) Jennifer got me up around 11:30. I showered, got dressed, and did all the normal morning stuff. I didn’t eat anything, though, as I didn’t feel hungry. After some more resting, we left the house around 1:00 to go to, unbeknownst to me, Happy Valley. Unfortunately, the cab ride was atrocious and just made me want to puke. Thankfully, though, my stomach was void of all substances except water. When we finally arrived, everyone (Yoyo, Jennifer, another kid named Nick, and Nick’s boyfriend) got lunch at KFC. I passed on food.
While everyone was eating, I said I felt horrendous and needed to go home. Jennifer said she felt a little sick, too, so went out, hailed a cab, and went back to the apartment. This was a good call not only because I was sick, but because I had been there earlier in the week and wasting money on a ticket again would be a bit pointless, especially considering that I wouldn’t be able to do any of the rides.
When we got back, I hastily went back to sleep. After some rest, I wrote my blog post for yesterday and went back to bed. Later, I woke up and just hung out in the house with everyone. Yoyo was back home, as were her brother and sister (biological siblings) who are 9 and 3, respectively. We all sat down, watched some TV, and the kids were playing around with balloons. Still, though, I had a reeling headache, despite taking Excedrin, drinking lots of water, and resting.
At about 7:30, we ate dinner here in the house. It was good to get some food in my stomach. I went for very light things, keeping to rice, some veggies (not sure exactly what they were, but they tasted good), and chicken soup. So far, it’s still in my stomach.
My head still hurts a bit, but not as much as earlier. I think I’m slowly regaining clarity. Let’s hope that tomorrow I feel better.
For the second year in a row, I have missed the Fourth of July while abroad in China. This time, however, I did see some Americans while walking around and just had to wish them a happy holiday. They echoed me and for one of the few times in my life, I felt some sort of national identity. When I’m in America, I rarely feel connected to my country. However, once I come over here, I get a sense of pride in my country. If you throw aside the politics and everything else that sucks about the U.S., you’re left with something that I am happy with being a part of. Enough patriotism, though…
My plan yesterday was to meet up with Mark, a kid we met last year, who has been in Shanghai for a while and just got into Chengdu. There must have been some sort of miscommunication, though, as he ended up spending the day with some other friends. As such, I used it as another R&R day. Honestly, I have no problems with that. It’s great to have time to sit back, relax, and reflect on the trip so far.
At 5:30, I went to meet Yoyo and April as they were done with school. We then met April’s mother at a very nice restaurant and some dinner. This was one of the better meals I’ve had. All of the food was delicious. April’s mom also ordered some wine for us, which, here, I am allowed to drink. I have a feeling that it may have pushed my body over the edge, though. More on that later…
After dinner, Yoyo and I went home, as did April and her mom. I called Mark and we, along with some other friends, went to get some tea and just talk a bit. Mark and I caught up, although I’ve been able to keep in touch with him more easily than anyone else, seeing as how he uses a Canadian server to access Facebook in the country (which is fairly illegal and could be bad if he is found out, but it’s his choice). He is an aspiring movie director, and has apparently been helping out filming TV commercials. I didn’t get the full details, but it sounded like some sort of internship. I asked him where he had traveled in China since last year. The list was far too long for me to even begin here, but he’s been to basically every province. He’s also been to America, spending a few weeks in Oklahoma at a high school there.
After that, we headed back to the apartment, where I started to feel deathly ill. My stomach was in knots, my head was killing me, and I felt generally horrible. I threw up all contents of my stomach, drank some water, and tried to get to sleep. It was a rough night, to say the least, and I’m still feeling the effects of it. I’ll write more about today when it’s over, though.
After spending a week with Feiyang, it was time to say goodbye this morning. I woke up at 8:00, packed everything up, showered, and geared myself to head out. He gave me the amazing gift of a whole wheel (that’s the most appropriate name I can think of) of pu’er tea in an equally amazing wooden box. Pu’er is a very famous tea that is notable for aging very well. The longer you let it sit, the better it is. It’s the fine wine of teas, so to speak. Whenever I first drink it, I won’t be able to help but feel guilty for it.
After this, we talked for a bit and he showed me some more photos from his America trip a few years ago. At about 10:00, April and Yoyo came by to pick us up. We snapped a couple photos and I headed off.
I am now at Yoyo’s home. Earlier, I figured that I couldn’t end up anywhere nicer than Feiyang’s apartment. I was wrong. Yoyo’s house has marble floors, plants and flowers galore, and is just overall beautiful. It’s nicer than most places in the U.S. When we got here, I met her mother and shortly thereafter her father. They are very nice people.
After settling in, we headed to her grandparent’s house to eat lunch. I was absolutely astonished at seeing what car I’d be riding in. Yoyo has a younger brother and sister, the latter of which rode with her dad in a very nice BMW. I rode with Yoyo, her brother, and mom in… wait for it… a convertible Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 Kompressor. We popped down the top and it felt great in Chengdu’s balmy weather. They asked me if I wanted to drive it at some point while I’m hear. Let’s just say that I’m touching that car (or, quite frankly, any car in China) with a ten foot pole. Eek.
At lunch, I realized that this family is far more outgoing than Feiyang’s. The father said he thought that his English was better than my Chinese, so throughout the afternoon, we had a bit of a showdown. I think I ended up winning in the end. They asked me if I liked Japanese people. I responded by simply saying “Zhongguo ren” (Chinese people) with a thumbs up followed by “Riben ren” (Japanese people) with a thumbs down. This seemed to please everyone.
After lunch, I went out with Yoyo and her cousin (who she refers to as her sister), Jennifer. We first went to see a movie. This time, it was no cartoon. The film was entitled Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It’s a very difficult story to explain, and was difficult to follow considering that 80% was in Chinese (the rest English), but overall I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think it’s slated to come out in America soon. I’ll have to watch in with English subtitles to figure out exactly what I was watching.
After the movie, we discussed what to do next. Yoyo suggested bowling (after several minutes of gesture-communication) and I was all in. We spent about 30 minutes looking for a taxi but failed horribly. As such, she called her dad, who was busy playing majiang, and a family friend came over to pick us up. When we got to the alley, we realized it was closed for whatever reason, so we chose just to go to dinner (at this point, it was about 7:00). They took me to a place called “Good Wood Coffee,” which was was this strange assortment of American and Chinese food. None of the Chinese dishes looked very good, so I decided to, once again, go with spaghetti. This time, it tasted good but was different from an American spaghetti. It was almost akin to a lo mein, which I found pretty humorous, actually. Our Chinese food is lo mein and their American food is lo mein. Now, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was definitely not authentic spaghetti, I’ll tell you that much.
After dinner we spent another half hour looking for a taxi, which we found eventually. We went to a bar near her home which had karaoke and hung out there for a bit and came back to the apartment. Another great day.
Well, today was a pretty big day. Last night, Feiyang and I planned that I would go into school with him in the morning (yup, he has classes on Saturday) and play basketball with one of his friends before playing with more people later on in the day. All expectations I had ended up being shifted. He told me that his friend couldn’t play (for whatever reason) and so I would hang out at the house for the morning. I later got woken up around 10:00 (I was a bit sleepy…) by a phone call from him telling that I would get to fulfill one of my hopes for the trip: to learn to play Majiang (Romanised as Mahjong). He said that I should meet him at noon outside and he would take me to them. After quickly whipping up my blog from yesterday, showering, shaving, and packing all my stuff up, I headed out to find him.
He took me to his school, where I met with three friends of his, all of whom know how to play the game and were fairly good, at least from my observation. We first went to grab a bite to eat and headed off to what seemed to me to be a teahouse to play the game. For those who don’t know how it works, I won’t give the full explanation here, but essentially it’s like a western card game. You get thirteen tiles and through drawing and discarding, you try to make certain sets and matches. I definitely have to find a set of tiles to bring home. It was tons of fun.
After playing for about two hours, we headed back to the school where I met April and her friend, Yoyo. We then found Monkey (April’s boyfriend) and his friend Ben, who was then with his girlfriend, whose name I didn’t catch. Our original plan was to play some basketball, but the weather wasn’t great and we figured it would be better to just do something else. After seeing how busy the movie theater was, we decided to head to a KTV and do karaoke. It was much more fun in this small group, except one thing…
Apparently April doesn’t like Ben’s girlfriend in more ways than one. They got into a little fight and eventually Ben and she left. It was a bit of a “wtf?” moment for a while. Eventually, though, it got more fun. They belted out some Chinese pop songs while I took on John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and Britney Spears, among others. Overall, it was fun.
Side note: I haven’t met anyone in China with a bad singing voice. It’s a little astonishing. Anyways…
After karaoke, we went to dinner. Monkey really wanted some Peking Duck, so we headed to one of his favorite restaurants to eat. It was a pretty good meal. I have to say that Beijing’s food is nowhere near on par with Chengdu’s. It’s a totally different style. There’s much more salt and significantly less spice. There’s more to it than that, but those are my base observations.
After dinner, I told them I really wanted to go to this bar which had a concert that night, which we also went to last year. I did my research on the Internet, and it was called “Little Bar.” So, we headed there. When we arrived, however, it was an entirely different place. I get the feeling that there are two Little Bars in Chengdu. As the one I saw online had a metal concert advertised for tonight. Where we ended up was a small, comfy lounge/bar. It was still a pretty cool place, but there’s no way in hell it could ever host a concert. I was thinking of a place along the lines of Higher Ground. Where we ended up was more of a Three Needs. Hmm…
Anyways, we hung out there for a bit, played some dice, ate some snacks, and another of Monkey’s friends showed up. His name was, from what I heard, Larry. We talked for a bit about stuff. He apparently spent half a year in Edmonton, Canada. Still, however, he had never heard of Vermont. In fact, not a single Chinese person I’ve met has heard of the state. We really need to work on our PR…
Anyways, I got back home around 11:00, and Feiyang and I talked again for a bit. He is very into his fixed-gear bike, and today he had what I can only call a “meet.” Essentially, he and some friends got to together and competed in some races and small skill events. Unfortunately, he fell off at one point and acquired some injuries. These were so bad that he apparently had to go the hospital. No bones were broken, but he has some pretty bad scrapes and cuts, along with a shirt that was torn up a bit by the pavement. Fortunately, he’s totally fine. He showed me pictures from the day. It was cool to see. The bikes are all painted different colors and some of them look damn cool.
Tomorrow, I am leaving Feiyang’s home to go to Yoyo’s house. He leaves on Thursday to go to Beijing and take some tests. As such, he said he will have very little time to spend with me between now and then. So, he thought it would be best for me to go someplace else. As such, I gave him my gifts and email address. We’ve already decided that when he comes to America (I guess he’s going to Penn State for college) we’ll have to meet up somehow. This Summer, me in Chengdu. Next summer, him in Burlington.