The Week in Review

Oh, what a week.   WELL…

Sunday, I woke up to Chat with Chris – expecting a casual ‘hey-o.’ I found myself quickly back on track, as if he’d rolled into Tucson for the night and my obligatory senses kicked on.  About 3 hours later I was beyond help and neither Dan nor Becci could help.  I spent the rest of the day sleeping off my early morning drinking binge.  Here’s a photo of what such an encounter can look like, when you’re video chatting with someone who is 12 hours opposite you.

Damage from a video chat with Chris
Damage from a morning video chat with Chris

Monday, we hit up the pool – YES!  and it was awesome.  YES! and I got to find out how my lungs are doing.  NO!  But impressed all of Hohhot with my ability to egg-beater my chest out of the water, float on my back, and jump into the water using the classic flying squirrel pose.  Dan and I also helped a couple of young wipper-snappers toss their buddy headlong into the pool, shirt, shoes, and all.  Becci gave a photo of herself to one of the pool cleaning staff, who proceeded to show it to all 400 people there.  The pool is awesome and except for an eye infection Dan may now have because of it, I’d recommend everyone visit.

Becci, Swim Cap, Style, Pool, Dan, Finger Point... Hilarity

Then, in the evening, in order to celebrate the weekend for those who still work regularly we went out for dinner, then drinks, and then KTV.  I don’t think I’ve had such an experience since my arrival to China, apparently this kind of all nighter is common.  However, by the looks of the photos I took.  I think I seriously progressed my age.  Fortunately I’ve been drinking green tea to reverse the effects.

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On Wednesday morning, while Shanghai and the rest of the center of the country enjoyed what scientists have proven has no correlation with misfortune, we enjoyed a partial solar eclipse.  I woke up at about 8 AM and rode my bike over to the local city square where hundereds of folks had gathered with telescopes, large informational signs, and bundles of sharp looking shades.    After milling around for a bit in an attempt to find out who i should buy my killer moon watchers from I ran into a student who I had taught the Monday previous (this is a perfect time to tell you I’m moonlighting).   His friend handed me a pair of super lookers and I was set, now with a sense of confidence in the crowd of many I relaxed a bit.

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John and David watching the solar eclipse

The student and I spoke casually while we both waited for the sun to peek out from behind the clouds.  However, once a foreigner starts talking with a local everyone starts talking to the foreigner.  It was fun.  I got to answer questions about all sorts of things and my words were authoritative.   I then took an interview with Inner Mongolia Television where I spoke about what was happening and then demonstrated the proper procedure for sporting the silver-solar-lookers, concluding with a “and that’s how it’s done.”  After the interview I enjoyed a series of photographers asking for various poses where I was to look either puzzled, or engrossed with the phenomenon and finally I enjoyed one last casual interview with a young reporter with the Hohhot Newspaper.  By this time the eclipse was about over and I was off.

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John and Yan Xiaoyan watching the solar eclipse

I got home and my computer notified me of the GREAT news.  Dan and I had one week left before our plane departs for Shanghai.  I high-fived myself (Dan was at work), sent off a slew of email reminders for our expected hosts along the way and started packing my things.

Thursday I woke up early and said farewell to my good friend Lisa as she boarded her train home (44 hours away) as it is now the summer holiday for college students all across China.  Returning to the apartment, our internet was shut off so Dan and I shipped our bicycles to Shanghai via rail, and then proceeded to spend the better portion of the day (11:45-9:00) at a hotel sipping tea and researching our accommodations for Hong Kong (which now may include a balcony at the top of a tower looking over Kowloon Bay from the edge of a hot tub next to some good friends [identities will be release upon confirmation])  We’ll see.  During this all day internet festival Dan produced some excellent post-cards, see the following post.

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Lisa and John after fish on our way to consume the worlds largest watermelon. Seriously HUGE!

Friday started in a fascinating way, with class at our local Mosque.  A student of mine had invited me to join her, so I attended a free class (classes offered throughout the summer to anyone) which was discussing modern Islam.  Today we discussed Islam in China.  The teacher was very passionate and reasonable.  She discussed the origins of the Muslim people in China, how they have been assimilated, distinct, troublesome, and integrated throughout history.  The discussion also include the observation of how other religions have also integrated, or disintegrated themselves in China.  We spoke after class about her beliefs and mine.  It was a delightful and encouraging conversation.  She finished, by describing her (and her community’s) goal to write and publish a series of Chinese children’s books based on the teachings of Islam, of which there exist only a few in print.  Her enthusiasm and motives for the project were, again, refreshing and encouraging.  A second class started soon after.  It was an Arabic language class, taught in Chinese.  While, initially I was not energetic about spending another two hours behind a man who routinely blew his nose into his hand and then waited while it slowly oozed off his hand and onto the floor, I stuck with it.  By the end, I was repeating sentences with the class.  Though I didn’t understand when the instructor asked me to do anything.  I felt like I had them all when it came to rolling my r’s.  A trick not many Chinese can preform.  Wo Shi XiaoChou.  I also found I could identify, or correlate, sounds with the script.  I was impressed with my progress in just two hours.  CIA here I come!

Now the water at the apartment is out, our kitchen sink drain broke, and our internet is still offline.  Irritated, I’ve escaped to another hotel lobby to sip tea and answer emails.  Plus I needed to debut what you might expect in your mail box in the very near future. – Dan just got a call.  Our bikes are in Shanghai – we are pumped!

Cycling on Monday

Couch surfers showed up promptly in the morning, four of them.  A bit surprised, I had confidence they’d turn out to be good ones.  So far, they are.  After getting them all settled Dan and I dawned our outfits and loaded our bags.  Today we’d make another test run, this time not for time or distance but for strength.  We loaded our bags to the brim and added a little for good measure and headed north, up the hills.  One and a half hours later (including a long break to take a photo) we were at the top comfortable and ready for more riding.  What a pleasant surprise.  25 minutes later we were back at the bottom with a top speed from John at 56.0 kph and a top speed from dan of 57.8 kph.

There is a reason we bought bikes early.  Primarily we wanted to train, but truthfully we’d be stronger if we trained on our mountain bikes.  The important part of having bikes a month early was to test the components, break the bikes in, and make changes to the set up.  Today, we were happy to have failures.  Once back in the city, Dan hit a small cut in the road from construction and his bike came to a dead stop.  The deralur (sp) hinge had snapped and threw the mechanism into his rear spokes stopping the bike.  The impact of another cyclist into the side of Dan didn’t help the situation either.  Confused with what had happened we pulled aside and righted the chain and deralur and limped back to the Giant store.  A bit of negotiating convinced them that less than 300 km shouldn’t have component failures and they agreed and replaced it.  We hope to not run into that issue again.

We also accomplished getting a good photograph for our friends here to keep and to pass out to friends along the route.

A Chinese Haircut

Here’s the story…

…It was the fifth of May, el Cinco de Mayo, and Dan had decided that he was willing to go vogue and embarked on this several hour adventure in the seat at a Chinese salon. While the pop music of the salon has been overdubbed, hopefully this short film conveys the experience well enough for anyone who would also dare give up ultimate control over their sense of style for an afternoon.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Project Loki

Project Loki, as named sometime after we started work on it, was a work put together in less than three days and with a supprisingly minimal amount of man hours.  It was well focused and executed.  We only sustained minor injuries, and, as WE believe, yielded fantastic results.  I hope you enjoy & please share.

P.S. .. someone ask Franti if I can use his song for this.. I forgot to mention it last time we spoke.

In Other News:

Dan and I acquired our bicycles today, ordered saddle bags, planned our detailed route, and have confirmed another couple of hosts along the way.  More news to come as we create it.

Neighborhood Fishing

A while back we set out on a plan to enhance our neighborhood, now that it was finally spring time.  I’d say we accomplished our goal, 60%.  That’s more than half.  There’s still hope, but then again, winters are harsh here.  I who knows.  Perhaps turtles will find a new home beneath the public waters.

August Update.

We’re closer to knowing our specific plan for the end of our stay here in China and as you may know it involves two bicycles (or one tandem bicycle), close to 2000 km of Chinese road, and my mustache with the possibility of a penguin suit or many multiples of dozens of California Flags.

I'm ready to GO!

Here’s the scoop:

After a short sit down and a long (more than necessary waiting period) with our school they finally understand our time line.  Essentially, we are quitting one month prior to classes ending and this upset them more than a little.  However, ‘surprise’ shouldn’t be a word they use when telling the story.  As eager and enthusiastic employees, I consider ourselves as open and honest individuals who strive to speak our minds when someone is listening.  And a yearning for adventure coupled with a semi-long list of grievances turned out to be a perfect mixture for my rational psyche, so we quit.  :)  And I feel great!  However, in an attempt to not land the company in ruin, we’ve negotiated a plan which will condense our final two months of teaching into one, July.  This in many respects will be hard, frustrating, and generally a nuisance, yet, in many respects too, it will be refreshing to find the time I’m using here productive.  Instead of a steady on/off schedule, with breaks for little more than a rest and a bit of travel, we’ll now have a heavy load, followed by a delightful vacation and journey.  And so it goes, as my lame duck attitude slowly filters through my teaching becomes better and my energy level increased, followed closely by my happiness.

So, let’s talk August.

Our last day in Hohhot will be the 29th.  That night we’ll take a plane into Shanghai where we will hopefully have a package awaiting us, full of two bicycles.  We’ll assemble the bicycles and collect any necessities that day as well as rest a bit.  The 31 we’ll pack our things and start riding.  We’ve assembled a comprehensive list of supplies and put together a reasonable itinerary (of which we’ll post so as to be prepared for another Mongollon situation-see previous entry under Arizona).  We anticipated doing a mixture of couch surfing and road side camping along the way.  We’ve got a road atlas, a compass, and the requisite Chinese language skills to a) read the majority of signs, b) ask for directions, c) call a friend who will remotely act as an interpreter.  I think as well put all the pieces together we’re going to be quite prepared and quite energetic to get going on the road.

Hopefully, after we depart Shanghai, some 25 days later we’ll arrive in the wonderful city of Hong Kong for a bit of touring, relaxation, and sight seeing.  We’ve scheduled our flight back to the US from Hong Kong for August 27 (hopefully that wasn’t suppose to be a secret, because now it’s not).  I arrive in Los Angeles 3 hours later.

It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long of a trip.  Hopefully I’m not forgetting to do anything while I’m out here…. I’ve already brushed my teeth.

Sidecar fun.

Imagine … no, believe this all happened.  Now close your eyes. (hopefully someone is reading this aloud).

Your buddy had this box in his driveway.  It’s a big crate looking thing.  It’s all wooden.  He/she’s standing there with a crow-bar and saying, “go ahead, open it.  have a look.”  The temptation overwhelms you, you’re soaked.  You look up to find it’s raining.  It’s been raining, but you hadn’t noticed, you just thought you perspired a lot.  You tear away at the crate.  Your anticipation catches up with your sense and you mash your finger.  The blood diluted by the buckets falling over your head only remind you of the humanity in all this emotion.  The box finally falls open and you wake up a week later, still wet with excitement.

You get a call while you’re at work.  You make a few promises about meeting up after and completely muff up the time.  You’re off by an hour and your phone rings reminding you of your mistake for an hour.  The minute strikes and you are in and out of the elevator like an Aerosmith quickie.  The taxi delivers you right to where you last left the box and there she is.  Waiting, as any good friend would.  There are some negotiations, but at last you’re a priority, so you’re one of the four.  A seat at the front.  The green metal wraps around your body, almost form fitted.  Your knees are on your chest and seem to pulse with each heart beat, but this seems all too natural.  Once started, there is no undoing.

The Chinese motor runs loud, and it’s close to your ear.  The road runs below your feet, only inches away.  Bugs fly through your teeth, and the wind whistles through your ears.  It’s tough to imagine a better hobby.  It’s truly fantastic.

First ride in the moto-sidecar through Hohhot.

Really it was a great way to see the city on a warm night. Four little ducks sitting on a fast moving bike.  Thumbs were going up all over, I couldn’t keep track. & every taxi driver was our new friend.  Dan now needs to have a serious talk with some friends of his regarding legitimacy. Because I proclaim it Bay Area Perfect.

Hiking Through Hohhot

Perhaps we’re at the end of our rope, or perhaps we’ve finally found something else to hold on to in life, but Dan and I have begun and maintained a nice streak of extracurricular activities that shy away from visiting various clubs and bars and sucking down the worthless beer of China just for giggles.

Finding great joy in the hills and mountains of Hohhot, this is one place we are finding ourselves on a frequent basis. In the last three weeks, we’ve managed to get out of the city 5 times while still showing up to work and successfully recruited a group of eight in last weeks adventure upward.

In conjunction with these walks into the hills, we’ve also enjoyed a vigor for interacting with our community via good works and lots of smiles. For us our actions are justified through ChinaClown – for the rest of the community, it seems our actions are justified as foreigners. Our most recent endeavor was met with a standing ovation as we serenaded the lonely and bored trinket vendors of the resounding gorges park (a place of sand dunes) with a classically flamenco ukea-john show. Previous interactions were equally welcomed and enjoyed.

On all accounts, our ventures have been duly documented and if not for the untimely dismantling of ChinaClown.com I would be working on and presenting a number of short films in tribute to each of these activities, however as it is, I will be again spending my time building a website.

Look for posts to come regarding:
– Fishing with Neighbors
– Sand Dunes & Camel Races
– Hiking & Caving with Friends
– A Ride into the Hills and Back
as well as many more songs and videos…

Until then, be safe.