Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wow... Aaaaand we're back.  After a long hiatus due to VPN issues the Far Easy is ready to go and chalk full of things to show you.  I've decided to just post things in the order of which they happened, so lets all hop in a time machine and go WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY back to the beginning of October.  In China, the first of October coincides with what they call "National Day" and a moon festival.  National Day is basically the Chinese equivalent of the Fourth of July... Not necessarily their independence day or anything, but a day to be with family or friends and celebrate being Chinese.  During the Moon Festival you are supposed to light lanterns and... eat moon cakes?  I guess?  Moon cakes are these bland, dense "sweets" in China.  I say sweets because nothing here is sweet, its why they are all so thin.  Its like sugar doesn't exist unless its in a foreign product like skittles.  During this festival my friend James, his girlfriend Xiao Hui and I went to a place called ShiDu to spend a couple of days.... Here are some pictures from that trip.

Lighting a lantern... first time ever, pretty fun

me and a monk friend of mine

Poling around a lake... kind of boring actually

The monks family owns a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant

And thats about it....


Did I mention....

I went....

Bungee jumping?

I've also got a video of it, but the internet is too slow here to upload, especially through a VPN.

Stay tuned for future posts.... On tap I have Vietnam, and Chinese New Year, among other things not quite as exciting.  Good to be back!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lesser Pandas, Great Pandas, Donkeys, oh my!

Sooo... Long time no see everyone... This is how my day started when Huan Huan told me that what I have known as "Chinese Hamburgers" are actually made of donkey meat... Gross.

Before leaving America?  I had eaten the regular chicken, beef, and pork pieces that all Americans eat.... Shrimp and.... that's about it...

Since leaving America?  How about... Chicken feet, duck neck, rabbit, cow liver, fish head, (which is amazing because fish in general was gross 3 months ago), scallops, pork neck, and DONKEY apparently... Oh the life that I am living... quite different from the past.

On the plus side, I have started eating vegetables regularly, including the occasional salad which NEVER happened back home.  Maybe thats why my energy level is up and I feel like a million bucks everyday!

After that bit of bad news I reluctantly head to the subway instead of crawling back into bed and crying the rest of the day.  This was a mistake.  The subway was A DISASTER!!!  This week is a national holiday and apparently 1 in 10 people in China rush to BeiJing... meaning more than one hundred million people pass through this city in a period of a week.  I have a video to illustrate this for you, but unfortunately the internet in China is too poor to upload it... You'll have to wait until I'm back in the States! (Or, more likely, forget about it 3 seconds from now... I don't blame you, I would.  Don't feel bad)

The subway in BeiJing is so busy, in fact, that the stop for the BeiJing zoo is closed.  We get dropped off one stop further than we needed, but no worries... there are signs everywhere:

As we walked towards the zoo, we found what MUST BE the  ONLY store that sells  exclusively Canadian products  in the entire world.. I mean....  Really?

Fantastic...  I hate to say that I just couldn't find a moment to pop in... Maybe next time.

Shortly after this, we arrive....

The BeiJing zoo!!  Much smaller than either of the zoo's in Dallas, but still... It's the pride of China and apparently one of the largest zoos in Asia.  It claims to hold over 600 different breeds of animals, with over 5000 animals in total.. To be honest, the only way this is possible is if they are including the attached aquarium which costs extra to visit.  Maybe they have 400 kinds of fish in there, because this zoo is small.

No matter, its not the size of the boat, its the motion of the ocean, am I right ladies?  (No?  Oh... Ok.. I have been lied to for years...)  The main attraction, of course, is:

The Giant Pandas!!!!!!!!  Before we get to the pictures though,  I feel it is important to point out that pandas are not actually bears...  They are closer to the raccoon than to anyone in the bear family.  At first, this didn't seem right to me until I saw this panda skeleton and it became clear.

It looks more like a rodent than anything ferocious!  That doesn't mean they aren't cute though!

Not to play the part of Ryan Seacrest about to announce the winner of American Idol.... but before I reveal my Giant Panda pictures, I must show you the lesser panda.... More like a cross between a three toed sloth and a fox:

Isn't he cute???  Ok... now, the pandas...

Wonderous!  For those of you scoring at home...  You didn't even have to leave your chair and I have only seen three more pandas in person than you (at most)... And I live in China!...Sweet!

All right... My friend Adrian:

Picture from a different day featured later
Was hungry.. so we hit up the local zoo food stand.  Let me tell you, the food was the same, and altogether different than what you would expect at home.  I feel like this one picture will sum it up for you:

Noodles... and a hot dog!  Its like China and the West all at once!  Wait... I'm sorry, did I say hot dog?  Look again.... I meant, DOUBLE HOT DOG!


Adrian was wiping the ketchup off with a napkin and had no idea how to fit the two hotdogs in his mouth.. actual quote:

"Why not just make one hot dog with the same weight as these two hot dogs?  No wait, [forget] that, why not just give me two hot dogs?"

It's China, we may never know....

After Adrian found a way to choke those down, we went and saw the penguin exhibit... it consisted of some metal penguins for everyone to take pictures with....

We also saw the shark exhibit:

I literally jumped into its mouth and hung for a second until Huan Huan and Adrian yelled at me in a terrified manner that the entire thing looked like it would collapse... Leave it to me to almost break the BeiJing zoo.

After that?  Not much... Adrian left and the two of us went to a hibachi place for dinner...  It was so much the same as home, and so much different.  For instance, most of us go to hibachi not for the amazingly delicious food....  We can make much better tasting food at a much more reasonable price in our own kitchens.  In China?  They sit you down around a cooking grill and then.... cook your food elsewhere and bring it to you.. What the f***?  I mean, our meal was only like $40, but that is a lot here and I WANTED the show... apparently not in BeiJing.  With that said, where in America have you gotten Caviar atop some fancy egg thing that I forgot its name for an appetizer??

And the soup?  In the States, you get water.. with salt in it... maybe some green onions.... and if your LUCKY a mushroom or two...

In China?? Well, I'll let the picture do the talking:

Yes, thats a clam... and shrimp... AND GREEN ONIONS!

All told, for less than the cost of a hibachi dinner in America, we got the above-mentioned, rice, a wierd cucumber and peanut appetizer, plus this:

A plate of vegetables, chicken, beef, pork, steak, and scallops, plus two beers and sake....  Grand Total?  238 yuan, or about $38.  I love China.

That was the end of my night... I have much more to tell you guys, including a story about bungee jumping, but I lack the pictures to back it up and thus, must wait...  I will leave you with the following pictures to whet your appetite though:

Mountains different than any I have ever seen, but beautiful in their own right

There may or may not have been some Bungee off of that platform

I promise, I am jumping... you just can't see my feet.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Autumn and some random musings

Autumn has set in over Beijing almost overnight.  At this time last week the heat and humidity were going full bore, and now I need to start carrying a jacket in the evenings.  The seasons, like most things in China, change quickly.  It truly is a magnificent place with mysteries around every corner, many of which make your eyes get really big as you try to comprehend the thinking behind the things you see...
There is a hallway on the first floor of my apartment building that has a spot where the tiles keep breaking.  There is a hole in the concrete beneath these tiles, and they shatter due to someone dropping something on them on a regular basis.  You would think that the way to fix this would be to fill in the hole, and then replace the tiles... but the powers that be at my apartment building just continue to replace the tiles.  The latest replacement tiles don't even attempt to match the surrounding tiles that fill the rest of the building.

I went with a different Chinese friend to her college campus to have a look around.  As she was showing me around, we came to a statue of Confucius looking as wise and impressive as you would imagine.  Confucius is surrounded by flowers.  Sounds nice right?  Well... its not exactly a flower bed...  And its not even flower pots.  Confucius is surrounded by little flowers still in the plastic potting you would buy at Home Depot or Lowes.  My friend says this happens year round, except the winter, and when the flowers die, as they inevitably do due to lack of adequate moisture, they are just replaced.  It looks tacky as hell, and they have to buy hundreds, if not thousands, of flowers a year.  How hard would it be to buy some more permanent potting?  Or, if the school knew it was going to put flowers around him, build a flower bed...

I have seen a grown man on the side of a busy street squatting to go number two.  I have seen a mother helping her 7-10 year old boy up onto a trashcan so he can use the bathroom.  This trashcan happened to be right in front of where people exit the subway at one of the busiest stops on the line. (its the final stop, everyone has to exit)
Shopping in China is nothing like shopping at home.  They have supermarkets and malls, sure, but they are generally overpriced.  Instead, this is where you shop:
 Its fairly awesome, except that they try to rip off foreigners because they think (or know?) that we are stupid.

China seems to be 5 or more years behind in fashion and activities as evidenced by:

Roller Blading

Notice the crocs....

Did you know that Playboy has expanded into the clothing business in China? 

 One last little nugget...  I have lost 28 pounds since I got here.  The following are two pictures... One taken in the states before coming, the other taken about 5 minutes before posting this.

I still need to lose another 10 or so pounds, but its a vast improvement.  So much more energy!

Anyways.. the following are pictures from the college referenced above.  The campus is quite different than campuses we have in the US, as you'll see.

The main building

Machines to work out with outside... mostly used by the old

Outdoor ping pong