Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Lantern Festival (元宵节)

The fifteenth day of the Chinese lunar calendar (农历) is the Lantern Festival, which, this year corresponded with the 17th of February. By this time I was feeling well enough to go out, and so that night I road my bike across the river with a couple friends to see Linfen's firework display. They shot off a good amount of fire works but the smoggy-ness of the night mixed with the glow of street lights detracted from the experience a little. But it felt so good to be out of the house and I can't complain too much because I managed to watch them from a very privileged position. Me and my good friend, who goes by the English name of Altair (a story for another time), were allowed to pass through the police line with the help of our military friend whom I know as Super Laji(垃圾), or Super Trash (also another story). Anyways, to make a long story short I ended up wedged between these two SUV's with obviously very important people inside. There was also a whole lighting and stage setup to my left (see the last image), which is where many of Linfen's leaders were watching the show to the sounds of music playing. Super Laji told me this was not an appropriate place for a foreigner, so I pulled my hat down low and my scarf up high and tried not to wander far from the place where he had left me. My pictures mostly look the same because of it but it was the closest I've ever been to fireworks before (look at picture number 2, you can see the smoke from the launch site, and I was only using a 35mm lens) and I was only about 50 feet away from the most important people in town.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Festival in Bed (过年在床上)

Money! …wait, that doesn't look right.

That's better.

Pow. pow. pow.

I think it actually cleared my ear out a little bit (You'll understand if you read below).

On the train back from Wuhan I had the most awful pain in my right ear. My guess is that the lingering congestion from being sick prevented pressure from being released and then the Chinese woman sleeping next to me stabbed me with a knife. Well maybe not that last part, but it sure felt like it. I was only able to get 2 hours of sleep on the train (it was overnight), transferred in the morning and arrived back in Linfen around noon. I was completely drained, but a few of my friends picked me up at the station and took me out to get some lunch. And that began the beginning of my two week sickness that resulted in the pile of medicine you see above. That bottom one I even had to take through an IV for 3 days. Aside from my ear issue, which had a similar feeling to when your ear doesn't "pop", I had a constant fever for about a week that would flare up once or twice a day, a splitting headache, aching sinuses, and all kinds of nastiness coming out my throat and nose. It was miserable, I mostly slept and when I was awake enough listened to audio books (I got through 5 of them!). What made it worse was that I was sick over the Chinese Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year, whatever you want to call it). I only felt well enough to make it out of the house for part of new years day., and aside from listening to the constant bombardment of firecrackers and fireworks, this was all I got to see of the holiday that tends to linger for about 2 weeks (hmm what a coincident). Fortunately on my outing I had my hand at lighting some firecrackers and I ate lunch with my friends family while also spending some time visiting another. For a few days I lived solely on PB and J, oranges and the soup my friend brought me. Everything was closed even if I wanted to try going out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crazy English Wuhan

Mr. Li Yang himself beig "crazy" (i.e. BS-ing his way through the lecture)

After spending a few days back in Linfen another teacher and myself road the 16 hour train down to Wuhan (武汉) to work at a week long English Camp hosted by Crazy English (疯狂英语). Now most people outside China probably have never heard of Crazy English, but its founder Li Yang (李阳) is pretty famous here in China. There might be a few good tips you could pull out from his methods but mostly it's an over priced camp (somewhere around $300 to $450 a person) to run around yelling, yes yelling, fixed phrases. And did I mention that the food was awful, well it was. And to my great disappointment the camp wasn't even hosted in Wuhan City. We hide to ride a bus nearly two hours to this so called hot spring resort place. This place looked like it was a remnant from the 1970's or something – faded paint, everything in ill repair, dirty – but in fact the place was built in 2006. Only 5-years-old? I said to myself, I mean when we arrived half the lights in our room didn't work, some days there was no pressure in the shower and the hot springs were more like bath water. But I managed to make it through the week despite not being able to leave, catching a cold – probably from malnutrition, and having to spend my birthday working.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beijing Wandering

The last few images from my Winter travels. The first four were taken at the Forbidden city (故宫), the van was one of several installed in the outside shopping area at Sanlitun (三里屯), and the last was taken at my favorite pizza joint The Kro's Nest, but i think now it might be called Tube Station Pizza. Anyways this last one is at the Workers Stadium location (there's three restaurants) and they had this sweet hockey jersey, I really wish I knew where I could buy one.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Great Wall at Jinshanling (金山岭)

Getting to and from the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall wasn't easy and I must admit I was a little nervous of being stranded out there almost 100 miles from the city.We bought tickets from the Sihui long distance bus station (四惠长途汽车站) bound for Chengde (承德). Now jinshanling is a long ways out from Beijing, much further then I realized and the bus took the slow route trying to pick up more passengers along the way. We road the bus for 4 hours or something before the bus driver finally dropped us at the turn off for the place. From there it was still 2 and a half miles to the entrance, and even though we had tried to get an early start, it was nearing 4 o'clock and the sun was quickly sinking in the sky. Luckily a little van drove by and for 20 yuan we hitched a ride to the main entrance. The place was nearly deserted aside from a ridiculously drunk Australian man (or at least that's what his accent sounded like to me) shouting curse words at the Chinese people trying to help him. All the gate employees were staring and laughing and one remarked "he's drunk" to me as I paid for the tickets. we then booked it up to the wall racing against daylight still not exactly sure how to get back. Unfortunately we were only able to spend about 30 minutes atop the wall despite the 8 plus hours round trip it took traveling. But the internet did not lie in stating that this place was far better then the Badaling (八达岭) and other super touristy sections. Plus our late arrival was oportune for the evening light. The sight was gorgeous and we were perfectly alone to enjoy it.

On our way out we mistakenly took the wrong path and out of concern for time ended up crawling down a path carved by water run off. Once we passed through the exit we started walking down the road munching on a few crackers I had the foresight enough to buy at pit stop the bus had made. About ten minutes into it I was able to flag down another car, I tried to bargain but ended up paying another 20 yuan to get to the end of the road. There, for 30 more yuan, they convinced me to drive to a nearby town where they said flagging down a bus would be easier. After trying to persuade me to pay them another 400 yuan to drive all the way to the city they dropped us just inside the boarder of Beijing proper in a place called Gubeikou (古北口), no where near actual Beijing City mind you. Here we waiting for about an hour an a half warding off shady mini vans trying to get our business and watching darkness slowly set in. That 400 yuan wasn't sounding so bad about then and my girlfriend wasn't looking too happy, but eventually a bus came and for just over 100 yuan the two of us made it back to our hotel safe and sound.