June 30, 2004

people suck

so it's not enough that this has been a shitty week of ronda leaving, and my working hours going to hell, and me staying at work way to late, but now i find that my blog is getting spammed.

so it's not enough that on average i get about 120 pieces of spam a day in my home email account (about 3500+ spams a month on average.) now i'm getting spam on my blog.
even though i haven't updated my blog in a while, today i logged in to update a spelling error that ronda pointed out. (i normally spell check entries, i just forgot to spell check the heading and so i made a stupid spelling mistake that got highlighted in bold, go figure.)
when i logged in i saw that there were two new comments on my blog.
one was asking if i wanted a bigger penis and included a url to a site with an obnoxious name that clearly indicated it could help in this area. i promptly deleted it.
this caused me to inspect the second new comment much more closely. the second comment said "hey man, i just found your blog, this is really cool!" and it was signed with the name cilias. now most people don't know what cilias is (and don't need to) but if you're like me and you get 3500+ spams a month, then you've seen it before. it's another name for viagra or other penis enlargement "supplements." normally the name of the person who posted the comment is the link to an email address or such, but in this case the poster had actually embedded a link to a web site selling the pills. so this was a cleverly disguised post that most people wouldn't recognize as spam, that included a link to a web site selling pills.
now why on earth would anyone do this you ask? because when my web site gets indexed by google, it will record these links and boost the rankings for the web site that the links point to. basically, by doing this they are trying to influence search engine results.
also, they are not doing this manually. they have written programs to do it. these programs search the web till they find web blog software that they know about. then their programs know how to post comments to articles on these blogs.
i have to say... this really, really, REALLY, i mean *REALLY* pisses me off. i think the death penalty should be illegal. but i think spammers should be deported to countries where it's not. actually i think they should be deported to countries where first they can be tortured horribly and unspeakably for a long period of time until they beg to be killed. and then they should be tortured for another few more years before they are killed. fucking scum of the earth. i really hate people.

June 29, 2004


ronda left today. i dropped her off and went to work. it sucks and this is gonna be a shitty week.

June 27, 2004

hookin' up around the world

it seems that where ever i go around the world, i usually meet up with leann there. leann is one of the polish posse and she was staying for three days in beijing before hopping on the trans-mongolian express and spending a month making her way to moscow with her parents.

pretty damn cool in my book. she was in beijing for three days and we finally managed to meet up for dinner. we, once again, went to sichahai/houhai to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner with ronda and leann's parents.
the great part is that while traveling i've met up with leann in more random locations than any other friend. looking back we've hung out in poland, rome, paris, and now beijing. (ok, the list isn't that long, but she's definitely in the lead compared to all my other friends.)
after dinner we went to a rooftop bar where we sat outside in the heat and humidity and drank beers for a while. around midnight her parents went back to their hotel and me, ronda, and leann went to a different bar to sit around for a couple more hours talking about all sort of odds and ends.
her trip sounded absolutely great. she had planned the entire thing (which came together really at the last minute, with tickets arriving the day they were leaving) and included many stops on the way. a week in mongolia, time in russia, etc. i was quite jealous.
when ronda was talking about coming over here we discussed ideas about going to inner mongolia or xingjiang, none of which i was sufficiently motivated to really plan out and make work. (ok, xingjiang would have been impossible given time constraints, but inner mongolia was a possibility that never panned out.)
it was also really good seeing her here and hanging out with her and ronda. i hadn't seen her the last time she visited san francisco, so i had a lot of catching up to do on the state of her life and what she was doing.
also finding out about friends, family, and posse members back home from a familiar face (and not over the phone or email) was really great.
we only hung out for one night, but it was a really good time and i'm glad that we managed to meet up.

i'm a stupid sucker

and i know it. today me and ronda went for horse back riding outside of beijing. it wasn't the greatest experience. i really should have known better than to think this would have been a good idea.

ronda loves horses. she really loves horses. so i though that horseback riding might be a good idea. (it was a great idea in Hawaii.) turns out not.
we followed up with a recommendation from a local magazine here. when we showed up in the morning i got on a bus that was full of young college girls. out of about twenty people there was only two guys (including myself.)
we drove for about an hour and a half to get out of beijing to an area which was described in the article we read as "the grasslands." it really wasn't. as far as i can tell, it was a dried out lake bed that was subject to flooding. there was lot's of dirt, some grass, lot's of sea shells, and even some washed out graves where we got to see human bones (skull, jaw, femurs, etc.)
some of the horses were in decent condition, and some were clearly very underweight. all of them didn't have enough water. how do i know? it was almost a hundred degrees outside and there was no water in sight. when we came up, there were horses coming back from the "the grasslands", and they weren't given any water. we just got right on them and went back out.
when they took us out, what it amounted to was all of us on horses, and a little chinese person holding the rains and waking our horses for us. when the horses got out of line or tried to eat something or walked too close they would hit the horses with a whip. me and ronda extricated ourself from this sad group as quickly as possible. it was surprising to see that some of the people actually stayed in this type of a group for the whole two hours that we were out there.
ronda has ridden horses a lot, but i don't really have much experience. regardless, i was much better off without having my horse led around. we walked around the plain for a while, and broke into a trot here and there. at one point, with some instruction from ronda, i even managed to figure out the proper movements to prevent my ass from getting broken when my horse would trot.
there were two notable incidents that happened while we were out there.
one was that one of the straps holding on my saddle came undone. this required us both to get off our horses while ronda fixed the strap. not a simple task since our horses didn't seem to get along too well. getting back on was also fun.
then, on the way back to the "ranch", two people who were on horses and racing decided to race past me. of course this got my horse excited and it decided to join them. unfortunately my horse was not the most responsive horse to different reign movements or pressure on his sides. (perhaps this was because he had a bit that didn't fit, as ronda point out, and he had probably had his sides beaten too much to notice when a rider was applying pressure.) also we were galloping in the direction of home, and our horses had a very strong homing instinct. needless to say, it took me an unnerving while to get my horse to slow down.
before getting back we stopped for a while to just let our horses graze. then when we were almost back, both me and ronda dismounted, loosened our saddles, and walked the horses back. they were really friendly and ronda was very upset to let her horse go. my horse even looked disappointedly at me that i was leaving it. after we handed over the reigns, the horses were taken to other riders. (no water for the horses.)
after that we had lunch out there and headed back home.

June 26, 2004

disneyworld of china

so today me and ronda went to the disneyworld of china, chengde. chengde is about four hours north east of beijing. it's a city that qing long bombarded with temples.

basically, during his reign, qing long tried to appease all the leaders of assorted minority religions by building temples in chengde that were modeled after famous temples from their homelands. there are a lot of them. we didn't even make any pretense to try and see them all. instead we went to a handful of them.
the guide books indicate that you can easily spend an entire day vising all the temples. then, additionally, there is a gondola outside of town to go up to an impressive rock outside of town which supposedly looks like the instrument that chinese women use to beat laundry, but to a trained eye, looks much more like a giant phallus. finally, the last bit of attraction in town is the giant summer palace. (for when qing long got bored of his summer palace in beijing and _really_ wanted to escape the heat.)
so we decided to do this all in one day. we actually rented a car and got up at 5:30 am to leave town. or driver picked us up just after 6am and we headed out. we arrived around 9:30 and started cruising the temples.
once again, it was a day of a death by a thousand cuts, with way too many tickets to buy. according to our guide books, some of the temples are destroyed, so we skipped those.
the reason that i equate this place to disneyland, is not only are there a bunch of famous looking temples there, but many of them are noticeably fake. instead of actually being a Buddhist temple. it's actually a huge building with fake windows and filled in rooms. you can't enter the towers because they are filled in. and then in the inside of each is a classic chinese temple. so they only look like the temples they are modeling from a distance.
regardless, we saw about five or six of them. we were very burnt out on temples by the time we were done. the highlight was a 40m tall Buddha statue made from different types of wood with at least 40 arms. there was also a temple with all sorts of Buddhas in wonderful sexual poses. unfortunately we were unable to take pictures.
then we took a gondola ride to the giant phallus, but we discovered that you had to pay extra if you actually wanted to walk up to it and touch it. we were sick of ticket fees at this point so we decided to head back to the park.
of course once we got to the part we discovered that it was closing in less than an hour and the entry fee was twice what it said in our guide book. they wanted 90 yuen (about 11 USD.) at this point were were exhausted (since it was really extremely hot) and decided to head home.
one of the more interesting sights that we saw while walking through some poorer areas outside town between some temples was a large number of dogs in cages. i don't think that these dogs were being kept for pets. (i have had some tasty dogs in china, but i didn't have any in chengde.)

June 25, 2004

joining the masses

so today i joined another billion chinese people. i bought a bike. now instead of spending 15 minutes walking to work and 15 minutes walking to lunch, and 15 walking back, i can hop on my bike and be there in 5 minutes.

i bought a pretty cheap bike. it's a one speed. the seat was a little loose and i had to tighten it when i got to work. the brake was also a little loose and needed some adjustment. in the end, i got the bike, an extra chain lock, and three wrenches (you can never be too prepared) for 160 yeun (about 20 USD).
course the fact that it's a cheap bike shows. but it's good enough for a billion chinese people so it'll be good enough for me. (for the truly minimal amount of riding that i need it for.)
my only disappointment is that there's no chance of riding it without using your hands. when i lived in san diego, i used to bike to school and back, and after i graduated i biked to work and back. when doing this i would usually sit up strait on my bike with my hands hanging at my sides and just ride. it's a great way to ride since you're not hunched over. (not efficient though, since you've got more surface area and if i remember correctly, drag increases exponentially based of surface area at power of three... but i digress.) unfortunately the front tire on this bike isn't really strait. if you watch it you can see it moving from side to side. this kind of throws off the balance and makes hands free riding impossible.

June 24, 2004

lost in the rain forest

at least that's what the hike we went on today felt like.

i took the day off work and me and ronda decided to get out of beijing and try a hike. ronda read about the hike in a book that anup had left in his appt (my current appt) entitled, strangely enough, "hiking around beijing."

the hike started in Jiu Feng Park. from there we were supposed to have an uphill climb for a long ways, at which point we would reach the a ridge. we were supposed to walk along the ridge for a while and then drop down on the other side and talk to a town called jian gou cun.
we arranged for a driver and left early in the morning. the starting point of the hike was a little over an hour outside of beijing and our driver supposedly knew where it was. of course he had to stop and get out to ask for directions about four or five times before we got close. once we got there we had some trouble identifying the actually beginning of the hike. finally we found a place that matched the description in our book and the ticket prices also matched, so we decided to go for it. we told our driver to meet us four hours later in Jiu Feng Park.
so we started on our hike right about the same time that the rain really started. we followed a rocky and slippery path up the mountain. we encountered a few different people on the trail (who were all walking down) and we seemed to be on the right path. at least until we got to the first temple. after that we were totally lost. and there was no one else on the trail. we walked for about three hours up the mountain. after about two and a half we were resigned to the fact that we were on the wrong trail because we couldn't see any of the landmarks that the book described and we hadn't hit any ridges.
the book was pretty poor and provided hand drawn maps with distance estimates that said "it should take you one and a half hours." we never saw the mythical fire tower and the two power towers. we also saw really lush foliage that was dripping with rain and team coming up from the rocks we were walking on, which gave the impression that we were in a rain forest.
after about three hours we reached the ridge of the small mountain we were climbing up. (based of the estimates in our book i'm guessing that we had climbed about 1000m.) we were very tired.
amazingly enough, when we reached the top we heard human voices. the first we had heard in the past two and a half hours. i have to say, coming from beijing, finding silence for that long is quite an unusual situation. we approached two gentlemen sitting on the ridge, eating and drinking tea. they didn't speak any engligh (of course) but seemed to indicate that the town we were trying to find was down the other side of the ridge.
we started waking down from the ridge and wandered into the sunlight. all the clouds were backed up on the other side of the ridge and this side was sunny and hot. after walking down a considerable ways we didn't have any sight of the town we were trying to go to and were feeling *very* lost.
we turned around and headed back up to the ridge in hopes of being able to see our destination from there. shortly before reaching the ridge we encountered an old man and his son. once again we started saying the name of the town we were trying to get to and pointing. the man realized we were talking english and turned to his son and (i imagine) told him to talk to us. of course his son (who was probably about seven) looked confused and tried using the dozen words of english that he knew to help us.
eventually we concluded that we were on the right path and had to keep going for about another hour.
so we turned around again and headed back down the ridge. after a while we started getting into areas that showed signs of habitation. gardens filled with assorted flowers and other plants in bloom. even a stray donkey standing by the road.
eventually we made it to jian gou cun and i was extremely happy to see our driver. on the ride back i fell right asleep while ronda sat terrified as our driver veered into oncoming traffic at high speeds to pass other cars and trucks.
but before falling asleep, when we were leaving the mountains, we did notice lots of areas that look like there were land slides. after a while we also noticed lots of trucks and quarries at the base of these areas. it seems like they were blowing up some of these hills to mine them for rocks. we passed what seemed to be a few quarries, brick factories, and a cement factory. i guess this is where the raw materials come from to support the insane rate of construction that i see daily in beijing.

i'm a wanker

so today i learned that i'm a wanker.

i got an email from one of my co-workers, michael today. he let me know that i'm a wanker. apparently, his mother had discovered my web log and read some material that she shouldn't have.

i re-read through the material and i couldn't find anything objectionable, but regardless, michael didn't want his full name on my blog. (so at his request i removed his last name.)
that said, this brings up more interesting issues.
up to this point i've been including people's full names in my blog. why? my blog is for other people to read (so i don't have to tell the same stories over and over), but it's also a permanent record for myself. i'm archiving the pages and perhaps, some day when i'm senile, i'll go back to read it, and perhaps i'll even enjoy it. (since i'll be senile and i won't be able to tell the difference between good writing and bad writing because i won't remember examples of either.) i hadn't really thought much about including peoples full names, but i guess they could object. of course i don't think i'm writing anything objectionable, but apparently opinions differ.
that said, i'm not sure if i should change my current blogging habits. i find it interesting to throw this information out there and see what comes back around. anyone else got an opinion on this?
well, michael's complaint also got me interested, so i googled for his name, and low and behold, on the third page of results, there it was. highlighted on a page called "Home of the Innane." (course the title of the page was not what michael objected to. :)
i also realized that up until i set up this blog, my web pages wouldn't be indexed by google because i had set up my web server on a non-standard port to avoid unwanted inquiries. but web setting up this blog i decided it would be a good idea to start running a more standard web server.
well, i'll just have to see how this develops. i still have no idea how long this blog will live or what content will reach it in the future. it's all just a time wasting experiment.

June 22, 2004

play it again sam

so in an effort to make sure that ronda will have a good time her second time around in china, i've decided that she should repeat the past and visit the places she's already seen and not liked.

actually, this wasn't really my plan but it's what happened. since i hadn't yet seen the forbidden city (after living here for a couple months, just like any good local) ronda decided that we should see it and that she wanted to go back.
i finally, and a little reluctantly, agreed. i would probably have to see it before leaving anyway.
so we struck off to tianaman square to see mao first. this was my second attempt to see mao and it failed. first off, we didn't have any type of id on us and there were signs indicating that you had to carry id. then we also had backpacks on, and there are no bags allowed. we saw someone else try to go in and the guards indicated that they should leave their back pack on the ground near the entrance, where i'm sure it would be waiting for them when they got out. they intelligently declined the offer.
as it turns out, weeks later, i learned from someone over some drinks that there is a large bag check across the street, and these days no one really check for id.
regardless, we felt thwarted and decided to stumble on past mao to see the forbidden city.
the forbidden city was pretty impressive. you don't actually get a feeling for the size of it till you leave it and climb the hill in Jiangshan Park just north of it and look back at it from there. (which we did after we left.)
the entrance area consisted of extremely large plazas where an emperor could inspect his armies. moving back it got more interesting as we entered the living quarters, which housed different museums, exhibits, and a starbucks. the starbucks was the latest addition to the summer palace since ronda was there last so she was pretty anxious to see it... and she wasn't disappointed. to add the the western aspect of the palace, many of the signs describing things has a tag line at the bottom: "Made possible by American Express." i had no idea that american express was around back in the days this was built.
we wandered around the palace, sitting down in different areas, and reading different storied from our respective tour guides. (lonly planet and the rough guide.) in the end we didn't spend nearly enough time there to do the place justice and we missed many a museum inside. but to do so you'd really have to dedicate much more time than we were willing to.
one of my favorite areas was a small are surrounding a temple in the center back. it was filling with interesting shaped rocks, old contortionist trees, and a tiny temple at the top of a bunch of rocks which made me immediately thing of "the old thunder mountain railroad" at disney land.
this small area was at the norther most end of the forbidden city and after we walked around it, we left and went to Jiangshan Park park. after wandering around there we went west to beihai park to wander around and see the white pagoda.
visiting the white pagoda was the standard chinese park/temple/exhibit experience of "death by a thousand cuts". what i mean by this is that a lot of paper changes hands before you reach the pagoda. first you need to buy a ticket to get in to the park. then you need to but a ticket to get into the temple around the pagoda, then you need to by a ticket to walk up the stairs to take you to the base of the pagoda. oh wait, you want to go into the bell tower now? that'll be another ticket.
i have found this type of experience to be the pretty standard fare for visiting anywhere in china. if they can quarantine off any area and have a reason to believe that people might pay for admission they will. even if you thought you already did pay for admission. perhaps they are trying to discourage people from actually getting all the way to their desired site so they will buy the postcards?
once we reached the pagoda, we were considering vising the north side of the park but there was thunder rolling in the distance and rain was threatening so we decided to call it at day. we grabbed a taxi to head home, and we stopped by South Beauty (another favorite restaurant of mine) to make a reservation for dinner for ourselves and a few people from work.
we got home and it dumped rain for about an hour. this was great because afterwords it was no longer overwhelmingly hot and stuffy outside. we actually had a pleasant walk across the rain soaked streets back to the restaurant for dinner.

June 19, 2004

the messiah arrives

finally, after what can only be described as an unendurable and excruciating sentence of solitude in purgatory, the messiah has arrived in beijing. i rented a driver (car included) and picked up ronda from the air port.

she was doing surprisingly well for having left SF at 1am and traveling for over 24 hours. i was overjoyed to see here. i took her back to my apartment to get settled.
we had almost a full day to ourselves, but we didn't really go anywhere. we only went to my favorite dumpling shop down the street for guo-tie (pot stickers) and then to sichahai/houhai for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.
unfortunately, ronda had pulled her back at yoga shortly before coming over here she was in quite a bit of pain. since advil wasn't really helping the situation we decided to made a go at the local pharmacy where the staff looked a little upset that they would have to be dealing with people that didn't speak chinese. in the end we walked out with some red pills and white ointment that later experiments demonstrated to be effective.
so this is ronda's second time to china, and she didn't like it much the first time around. it's one of my goals to make sure that she enjoys this trip much more than her first.

June 13, 2004

more tourister 3000

this would have been entitled tourister 2000 (which i personally think sounds better), but times have changed, centuries have passed, and upgrades have been released. so i'm making an active effort to keep with the times.

even though i was really tired today from hiking yesterday i met up with fintan and sean to see the biggest tourist attraction in beijing (at least according to my lp tour guide.) No it's not the forbidden city but the summer palace.

it was a blazingly hot and humid day (again) and apparently this was the place royalty went to when they wanted to escape the heat. unfortunately, in my not so humble opinion it offered a absolutely no respite from stifling atmosphere.
since all of us were pretty worn, we weren't really driven to make the full rounds of the park and see everything. we spent a considerable amount of time just wandering through through the forested areas. the abundant stairs to the assorted temples were greeted with sighs and groans. after wandering around the north side and finally seeing cixi's famed marble boat, we took a short ride across one of the lakes in the palace. during this ride the humidity finally hit 100% and it started to rain. this managed to clean up the air and cool things down a little bit.
we wandered around a bit and marveling at the prolific writings of quing long (which could be found on every temple, sculpture, and paining imaginable) we finally decided to leave and head to Sichahai/Houhai.
now comes the part where i got pissed. i got scammed for about five bucks. i really shouldn't get upset, but i did. we got a taxi from outside the summer palace. it had a 1.20 yuen sticker on it when we got in.
for some background, taxis in beijing come in different denominations:
- 1.20 yuen/km - basic cheap cabs
- 1.60 yuen/km - sometimes the drivers are more cluefull, sometimes they are assholes, yymv.
- 2.00 yuen/km - your living it up.
- unmarked - negotiate your rate ahead of time.
i normally take 1.20 or 1.60, whatever is available when i'm looking for a cab. this time there was a ton of cabs waiting and i took a 1.20 because it looked like the best 1.20 cab i had ever seen.
normally 1.20 and 1.60 cabs have a steel cage around the driver with bars and possibly plexiglass covering the bars. they are also really small. sometimes they have a disinfected sticker on them, but i was never able to determine if this meant that they were disinfected once at the factory after they rolled off the assembly line or at some later date.
this cab had no cage, comfy seats, and was actually a nice car. we got into the cab and the driver seemed really nice. i pointed on a map where i wanted to go and said the name in my broken chinese. he pointed to the map and showed me the best route to get there which i agreed with. it seemed like a perfectly negotiated ride.
on a side note, during any cab ride in beijing, i always use my decent sense of direction to try and make sure the cab driver isn't ripping me off and driving in circles. a couple months in a city also help with getting to know your way around town.
my frustration started about 3/4 of the way through the ride fintan pointed out that the meter was reading a really expensive price... about twice what i was expecting. then i realized that this guy had no official laminated taxi license sitting on his dash like all the other taxis normally do. a close look at the meter indicated that we were being charged 1.88 yuen/km. i looked back and the 1.20 sign was gone.
at that point i realized that when cabbies walked up to you holding the 1.20 sign trying to indicate that they had a cheap ride, what they were really telling you was that they had a removable sign that would disappear once you got in the car. (probably courtesy of his friends.)
i was really pissed. fintan and sean were trying to convince me that it wasn't worth getting upset over a few bucks, and they were right, but i was pissed regardless. i do believe that this is the first time i was aware of being ripped off in china. it's probably happened before, but at least at that time i was unaware of it.
in the end i didn't really do anything about it. i yelled at the driver a little in english and paid the stupid fee. i didn't want to start an argument in a language where i couldn't fully express my rage. of course doing this just means that the driver will keep doing this and piss of other people, which leaves me mad at myself.
to get over my anger at the driver and myself i engaged in the normal american distraction of consumption. we went to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants that has an unbelievably good mutton dish. then we went to a bar with outdoor tables to sit for a few hours, sip beers, and shoot the shit. a nice way to end the evening since we were all pretty exhausted.

June 12, 2004

it sure is a great wall

that's supposedly what richard nixion said when we saw the great wall in 1972. well, saturday was my first time seeing the wall and i'll have to say... it was beautiful, impressive, daunting, and tiring.

so jarrett arranged a driver for us for the whole day saturday. the driver had a huge red flag car (a chinese luxury car) that had the most leg room i've ever seen in a car that wasn't a limo. the cost for the entire day was 800 yuen for the four of us. (that's less than $100USD.)
me, jarrett, sean, and fintan climbed into this monstrous car at around 8am and headed out to jinshanling. jinshanling is one of the most remote and undeveloped section of the wall that people commonly go to. it's actually outside the beijing providence.
we got to jinshanling around a quarter to 11. the good part is that there was a huge parking lot for busses and cars and it was compleatly empty. while walking up to the start of the wall we didn't see any other tourists. (the downside to this was that the hawkers stuck to us like flies on fly paper.)
our goal was to walk from jinshanling to simatai. a 10+ km walk that would take us past 32 watch towers. simatai is supposedly the most beautiful and rough section of the wall. (rough as in really steep and no steps, just damaged section of the wall where you're walking on sand and loose stones.) when we started walking the sun was blazing down on us, it was about 38C (100F), and i had over four liters of water strapped to my back.
it was a brutal hike with many stops to apply more sun screen. we encountered many other people on the hike (including a french tour group that was having a wine break) but only four other people who we met were doing the same hike that we were doing. (all the others were doing shorter hikes.) of course, there were hawkers along the whole route (usually hanging out in the watch towers) who would offer you coke and ice water.
the scenery around the wall was gorgeous. there were rolling green hills on both sides of us. the wall itself was impressive. the sections near the start and the end of the hike had been extensively restored (IMHO) and the steps were in great condition. but the middle section had a compleatly different feel. there were quite a few watch towers that were just half standing crumbling husks. if there were stairs then they were usually very uneven. in some sections there were huge stairs that took you strait up or down at ridiculous angles. for some of the watch towers you simply had to walk around them. (unless you wanted to climb 12 feet strait up the face of them to a door.)
the best part about the watch towers was that they were usually really cool inside with a breeze blowing through them. so we stopped in quite a few of them to catch our breaths, drink some more water, and much on some food.
the wall followed the ridge of some small mountains so there was a lot of up and down walking. looking down from the wall you get the impression that anyone thinking of invading china past this wall would have to be compleatly insane.
so the entire hike took us about four and a half hours. at the end there was a large valley that had a small suspension/rope bridge across it. after crossing the bridge we were in simatai. the wall doesn't stop there though. the wall continues up at a stupid steep angle right out of the valley. when you look up at it you can see that it runs along the top of a ridge with very long drops on either side. the views from there were probably more impressive that what we had seen on the section that we hiked, but at that point none of us were ready to start climbing again. we all decided that we'd leave that section of the wall for the next time we were in china.
from there is was a long walk along a road next to two reservoirs to get to the parking lot where our driver was waiting for us. luckily there was a zip line right near us that would take you sailing at hight speeds over the entire first reservoir, at which point you would take a small boat across the second. the price for all this was 35 yuen (about $4 USD.) since we were all really tired and sore there was no way we could pass this up. i have to say, it was a pretty exhilarating ride with my feet dangling at least a hundred feet above the reservoir.
after getting back to the car i immediatly tapped a bottle of er guo tou and started passing it around. this impressed our driver and some of the locals immensely. they were so impressed that one old lady offered me a couple green peppers for free. (i kindly turn them down.)
after a long ride back to the city we went to a duck resturant for dinner that our driver had recommended. the duck there was absolutely great and our driver joined us for dinner. we had an expensive bottle of bijou (52% liquor) that cose 168 yuen. we also had one duck, about four other plates of food, two desert plates, and a bunch of beer. all this cost us less than 500 yuen (less than $62 USD.) this meal at the fancy and famous beijing duck resturant would have easily cost over 1200 yuen. and the duck here was just as good or better that the duck there. i can safely say i'll be comming back here a few more times before i leave beijing. to top it off it's really close to where i live.
needless to say after all that walking, drinking, eating, and drinking i was _really_ tired. so after dinner i went strait home, took a shower, and passed out. i must have been asleep by 10pm.

June 11, 2004

the wheel is still turning

but the hamster is dead. when i got home this evening i was greeted by a small slip of paper taped to my door. the paper was covered with chinese characters but i was able to recognize three critical things on it.

the first was my building number.
the second was my appt number.
the third was the stamp i saw on each page of my police registration paperwork.
sigh. more police fun.
so i guess it's worth mentioning that i moved apartments. this past week i moved into anup's old apartment since it's quite a bit nicer than my old one. (it's in the building right next to mine and i don't have much junk so the move was really easy.) while this seemed like a great idea at the time i may come to regret it.
i had jarrett translate the note for me and basically it says that the police have been by my place a bunch of times and i haven't been there so i should come to the police station to register.
either i'm really unlucky, or the police have someone working for them in the building who let's them know when it looks like people are moving in or out, or both.
so i guess it's time to contact maggie (the admin) to get the long and painfull registration process started _again_...

strangers always talk about

the weather. and it's miserable. this entire past week it's been about 100F (38C) _every_ _single_ _day_. i feel like i'm melting when i walk into work or walk to lunch. the days have been: 8AM == 80+F, 9AM == 90+F, 10AM == miserable until 9PM == 90+F, 10PM == 80+F.

thank god the humidity has been around 25%. dry heat is survivable. if it was humid i would have already booked my ticket out of here. of course when i check the weather report it's supposed to continue like this until next tue. then it will be in the 80s with thunderstorms. sigh.
blake tells me that it's a wonderful summer in SF with temperaturs in the 70s.
that sounds great... exactly what i want to hear.
so basically i'm wearing shorts and sandals into the office every day. the strange part is that aside from me and the two other americans in the office (bev and jarrett) no one else wears shorts. and most of them bike into the office. you think they would have noticed that their director (bev) is wearing shorts and that it's really not necessary to make yourself more miserable than you already are in this heat. a'well... i'll write it off to a cultural difference.
as i side note, i think my skin is about 10 shades darker then it has ever been in my entire life.

June 10, 2004

another one bites the dust

so today andrew has left us. it's been a great couple past weeks hanging out in beijing with him.

we had a going away dinner at bevs place last tue night. the best part is that he cooked the meal and it was great. bevs aie was there and was really surprised that a guy was cooking the meal. she also worked with andrew to help him with making some really great dumplings. there was quite a few people over and it was a really good time.
andrew was a very adventurous food eater and i'm sure my meals will be much more bland now that he's not here. i'll also won't be learning any more insults of foul phrases in latin.
the "rotation" part of the program is really kicking in for me now.
one of the next rotation people has also shown up. jarrett is here now and he's comming up to speed with the eating and drinking. he's also a native chinese so he has a home field advantage here. it'll be interesting to see how things change here as new people arrive.

June 8, 2004

the yanks are coming!

actually it's only one yankee that i'm interested in. ronda is comming later this month on the 19th!!! yay!!!

so ronda will be comming over to visit for 10 days from june 19th to the 29th. we spent a bunch of time on the phone last night and made the final arrangements. this will be great. i really miss my ronda. it's been a very long time since i've seen her.
ronda has actually been to beijing before a few years back and she didn't like it much. but i'm convinced that this time it will be different. everyone i've talked to was told me the city has changed dramatically in the past few years. also, i'm here. :) and since i've been living here i've discovered good places to eat, drink, and hang out at. this months
edition of "that's beijing" even included some articles about good equestrian places around and outside of beijing, so i'm sure well get some horse back riding in as well.
lastly, there is a massage place in the appt complex where i live, so if we're not out of town ronda can get a full body massage every day. (with the discount card it's only 50 yuen a massage... that's about $6 USD)
with all those options i don't see how she couldn't have a good time. :)
we've also started talking about the possibility of going to inner-mongoila or some other places outside of beijing. we need to start researching our options.

June 6, 2004

all work and no play

makes for a really dull blog. so i spent this entire past weekend working. pretty boring. since i was really burned out by sunday night i went to lush around 8pm to get dinner. they have a pretty good club sandwhich (the best one i've found in beijing) and coopers beer (from austraila... it actually has some flavor, unlike most the other beers here.) it turns out that sun night is open mike night, and since i was sick of working i hung around for a while.

the open mike night was pretty different from any i've ever seen. it was hosted by two guys on gituars who were playing songs and singing. things like sublime, ben harper, classic rock songs, etc. they were actually pretty good. also, most the open acts consisted of other people comming up and playing gituar and singing as well.
after about four or five beers i noticed that they had a small and delapitated drum kit on stage and i decided it would be a good idea to play along with some of the songs on drums. i talked to the guys running the show and they said sure. so i sat down for a few tunes to play drums. it was pretty entertaining. i did a pretty crappy job and eventually they told me that they didn't need any more drums.
i hung around for a while longer to suck down a few more coopers and then i headed home a little after 1am.

June 3, 2004

adieu, adieu

so anup has left us today. he's off to spend a couple days in south korea and then it's back to the bay area after being gone for over three months.

last night we had a farewell dinner at a really nice french-vietnamese resturant. the food was expensive and had small portions, but it was really good. anup was there with me, andrew, zhou yun, and yuan yi. much of the talk was about zhou yun and yuan yi pending trip to the states. anup is planning on taking them to tahoe, yosemite, and a bunch of other places. unfortunatly i'll still be in china while they are in the states.
so i'm going to miss anup. anup is a really motivated guy and if it wasn't for him i'd never have traveled around the amount that i already have. he's also a great traveling partner. anups travel plans seem to change on a minute-by-minute basis, always with new suggestions about where we could be going and what we could be doing. i love this type of traveling style. finally, he's a fun to hand out with and a great drinking partner (since he's always up drinking.) i've had a great time going around china with him and he'll be missed on future adventures.