Location: shijiazhuang, hebei province, China
i recently joined facebook, and something called, tagged. these chat, make friends, live your life through the internet websites are now my life!
actually, i do see the sun and the trees very often. also, in class, my students are doing a debate this week related to The Little Prince, which we have been reading. (i typed that entire sentence without looking at the keyboard! and that one.)
they are debating whether or not keeping an imaginative child-like mind is proper for adults. generally the main argument for why adults should not be imaginative and pure is so they can deal with the serious problems of adults and the complicated society.
but if you use your imagination don't you see that there really are no serious problems, and society is only as complicated as you make it. for instance even though i really miss the clean world i am satisfied with the situation i am in. it is simple, it is comfortable, my bathroom smells all the time, and the sink is clogged, but i get to sleep in a tent and i don't have bills!
these are sacrifices. to travel around the city i take the 13 bus or the 58. it costs 1 yuan. an egg costs .5 yuan, or a wo moa. unfortunately, the dollar just sank again and is now 1 dollar to 6.99 yuan, down from 7.14. could it actually be a good time to have piles of chinese yuan?
the development bubble in china is unstable, so time will tell.
this weekend i am going to tianjin, east of here, to go camping on the great wall. the wall, which i have never seen, meets the ocean in tianjin. a whole group of foreign teachers, maybe 15 of us, are going.
now i am going. this afternoon i have been hired to be a model for a clothing store! wow, should be fun.
i just had an attack of laughter when rob walked into the room and stopped when he saw me sitting wierdly on my chair, wearing sunglasses, and drinking from a blender, while typing an email. yes, sometimes i am a friend of the bizarre. so in honor of that i have also posted a new picture of me eating oatmeal in my mosquito netting, tent bed. finally we got rid of the board and sleep on comfy mats at ground level. also, i stuffed a pillowcase embroidered with an elephant with a thick scarf, for a pillow. so now my spine can be straight while i sleep and dream of elephants. pleasures.
still, above all else, cheap fruit is the number one reason i live in china!
this morning after i read barack obama's speech about racial segregation and uniting people i decided he might really be someone who could help on a large scale. his words may be his strong suit, but we might need someone who can create inspiration through words. people have lost trust in the government and are taking change into their own hands, and obama not only engourages that, but wants to support it.
Location: shijiazhaung, China
its the middle of march in this northern chinese city. in the parks flowers are starting to bloom, even magnolia trees! today rob and i went out with our friend Lucy to take pictures of her for a job application she is sending in. searching for a job in china is a lot different then in the west. the employer wants to know your gender, age, height, weight, and even asks for a picture before an interview, in some cases. i hope lucy will fit the profile! she has been madly searching for something that suits her.
last week i decided to read a novel with my classes, and chose the Little Prince. the small book is filled with conversation topics and abstract thought that any person would be drawn to. so far they're liking it...
the weather has been sunny on most days with just one day of rain. the rain is acid so i do not try to fill up my water buckets for watering gardens (hahahaha). when i lived at my parents house i kept many barrels and small buckets under the eaves of the roof to catch the thick streams of rain. each time a big storm came i ran around the house emptying the overflowing smaller buckets into the bigger ones, then placing them back in their spot. i loved it, coming insie soaking wet, smelling like spring.
the dials on my camera have froze so i cant turn it on. there have been many camera malfunctions over the months so i am buying a new one. once i budget my summer plans i will see how much is left for a sweet camera.
recently my camera eye has come back, too, which is very incovenient! i want to take a tour of the city and photograph the life here in more detail. soon to be..
in vientiane, lao there is a museum of history that is not found in the US. it is filled with weapons, war pictures and stories of the 'hidden war' the US had against Loa in the 60's and 70's. during the vietnam war they spilled bombs all over this country and now they dont even help them clean up! australia and a few others are funding the dismantlement operations. the lao liberation army and whole villages went to school and ran their whole lives and their resistance to 'US imperialists and their puppet workers' (as they called them) inside caves in the north. lao has thousands of caves all over in the limestone mountains.
it was pretty shocking to see the pictures of torture and education camps the US built here, but i am glad i know it happened, finally. also, i am glad the people of this country dont hold any grudges against us! there were many people in the museum and we all looked concerned and agitated a bit by the graphic photos and blunt language the english translations were written in.
this city is also filled with monastaries, just like luang prabang. many of the monks are between ages 10 and 18. young boys are sent by their families to the monastaries since they provide the best education available in this country. buddhism only came to lao a few hundered years ago. before it was an animistic religion called Phi. many of the ethnic groups still use this, and worship many spirits. one group, sacrifices a cow each new year to thank the gods. a recent story of theirs said they did not want to give up a cow since it is such a useful animal, so they went to the market and bought fish but then the whole village got sick and they decided never to use fish again, only cow.
the way of life is so relaxed and simple. i noticed yesterday that all the loa people i saw were sitting in the shade, playing games, stitching, playing in the river, sitting quietly. and all the foriegners were running around shopping, finding tours, eating, busying themselves. it made me laugh and i decided to just sit and hang out instead of run around. then i met this little girl who played ball with me for a bit, until she started hitting me with a stick! then i just noticed the day was really nice and the mekong river looked very lazy, so a good quite sit would be the best thing.
speaking of the mekong, fishers have found an eel 50 feet long and foot and a half tall, and also, a GIANT fish 7 feet long and 7 feet WIDE! the river creates monsters. since i saw pictures of these i believe that the lockness monster does exist but is just good at hiding. so go jess (shes going to sotland), because if you wait long enough i think you will find it.
Location: luang prabang, Laos
it is pouring heavy rain and all the tourists are either on the internet or drinking coffee in the cafes. the town has two main stretches where all the guesthouse, food, etc. i bought a whole fish on a skew that had been barbequed on a grate over a large metal bowl filled with coals. it was stuffed partly with lemongrass making the meat sweet and perfect. traditional lao food is sticky rice, which goes back 1,100 years of more. you eat it with your fingers and it doesn't leave any residue. its a white rice. the textiles here are woven on looms under the stilt houses in most villages. each area of laos has patterns specific to their area, colors, and material. lots of silk and hemp.
i visited a village famous for its orange pottery, wood/ash fired in an underground kiln. no glaze. i sat down with one of the men and felt the clay, it even felt fresh if you can imagine clay feeling that way. it is dug from a pit right behind the "studio," and none is ever wasted. it is outdoors, also under the stilt house. by far the cleanest, most dust free studio i have ever seen, and filled with pots. the wheel head is made of wood, about 2 feet wide, big enough to throw 30 pounds of clay or more since the largest pot was made of at least that. a tall, open cylinder, like the base of a djembe drum. the pots are made like this: put a small pancake of clay on the wheel and spin it. trace a centered circle in the pancake and cut away the extra. make a fat coil, 1 inch diameter, and while the wheel spins add it to the base. then add another coil on top of it until the wall is as high as the potter needs. use a thin, wet rag to smooth the walls and thn them out into whatever shape. i dont know about air bubbles, it seems like all the squishing while putting the coiles on got them out, because the clay was not wedged before starting. all the tools are made from wood, very rustic looking, basically a stick that had the right shape for the job. worked very well.
from that village we walked two miles to another through jungle and farm land, passing loads of water buffalo, and small thatched huts until reaching the river and crossing in a boat back to luang prabang.
the rain is just the right time to catch up on writing since friends and family all want more and more, please tell me everything, they ask. everything is more then this keyboard has the ability to handle. there is hardly any repetition in travel life and each day my eyes touch whole stories worth of experience. its over stimulating at times. i think i released a lot of that type of feeling yesterday by running myself tired up a small mountain next to the waterfall you see pictures of. i took off my shoes so that i wouldn't slip as easily on the clay jungle ground and huffed and puffed until the top where i ate a big piece of pineapple and mango with my hands, very juicy and delicious. then i waded across the river and ran down the other side. for a part of it i put my shoes on and i started slipping all over the place so i took them off again. i dont know if there is a shoe as good as feet. at the bottom i went swimming in the blue water and by golly was i happy! waterfalls are beyond the most wonderful place to be. especially ones you can swim up to and even behind! this one also had a rope swing, but im not keen on those; other swimmers dropped and laughed and i just did some made up synchronized swimming moves.
near the river along the path, the lao government has donated land to a bear and tiger rescue center. they have built 2 sturdy fence enclosures around an area of the jungle for 20 bears and one tiger. these animals were rescued from poachers trying to sell them for their medicinal parts. the gallbladder of bears is removed for the bile which is used in chinese medicine and the bones of a tiger is an aphrodisiac. in all of southeast asia there are bear farms where the animals are kept in small cages and forever attached to catheters excreting bile. black bears of southeast asia are heavily threatened, but the tigers are basically extinct.
i love hearing people speaking so many languages all around me. many french, german, and isreali people.
im hoping we can hire a boat tomorrow to go south on the mekong river through some remote areas of lao. the river is so peaceful and has a huge advantage over bus travel. hopefully can get to vientiene, the capital, that way! only twenty more days of this trip left, it seems too lose to over. but my mind has been thinking up many new lesson plans for my students, and i am excited to teach soon. i cant wait to see more of this country though, more of the people and their traditions.
my clothes are taking days to dry with the cloudy, sporadically rainy weather. the dormitory had a man staying with a horrible sleeping disorder of scratching and grunting, keeping me up all night. the crafts and textiles here are so brilliant, unique and so cheap that i have to keep myself from overflowing my backpack with scarves, pillow cases, blankets, purses..... i want to buy presents for everyone, but it is impossible to carry! hiring a tuk tuk to take us places is so much cheaper then going with a tour, and hooking up with a tour that needs more people and will charge much less to fill the extra seats is also nice. im keeping my money bag with me always and sleep with it under me, under my matress at night. a good thing because they'll have to lift me to get to it, hahaha! overly protective, yes, but so many people lose things and i dont want to go to any embassies right now.
whoa. gotta run
Sometimes hostels are a haven of peace for the mind. the hump in kunming, china has done it right. relaxing music, porch chairs, ping pong tables, great company of other travelers. seeing new places requires so much walking, by the end of some days my feet are aching and the streets of chinese cities are the worst place to be when your mind is tired.
So much has gone on since my last writing here. I was still in Shijiazhaung.
I cant think back too far or the memories of what i saw where get all jumbled, a symptom of moving through places quickly and seeing SO much.
My favorite thing about Kunming is the delicious fruit on the streets, especially the pineapple. Also, how it is much quieter then other chinese cities. cars dont use their horns to express there every move. many of the horns in trucks and cars are surely in the illegal decibal range going by american standards.
The sun! wow, the warm air and the sun.
Recently i have been visiting other schools in china looking for possible new jobs for next september. when i first got to china i knew i could not live in shijiazhaung for a long time. it is a bowl of smoke and with respiratory problems being china's number one killer, i dont want to be one of the victims. so the perfect way to get excited about a new job and new location is to see the schools and meet the administration. rob and i have been offered every job we walked in to ask about, at middle schools, universities and private language schools. even lacking showers and wearing dirty clothes, since our pronunciation is ideal, they want. it is weird, but i really do love teaching here, so i am extremely excited about all the possibilities.
i have been looking for a pair of pants for a couple months without any luck. there are no pants bigger then a size 6 since chinese people are so small. maybe 8's. i will have to ask my parents for a pair of pants i left at home!