- posted by jpl
Monday, July 11, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
most of january was figuring out what America meant, and Feb has been spent doing --- life things. moving my bed into my room and finding my church shoes (some of which are still missing).
i managed to get in a trip to the yurt with some of my friends and ski a lot! i suppose i'm finally back in the swing of things. it's great to be back in the land of big glasses of cold milk, central heating, carpet and my own car.
sami was beside herself when i first picked her up. she wiggled and wiggled and whined and sniffed, then went to find a ball for me to throw. i was worried that she would have some kind of adjustment period to being back with me, but instead we picked up where we left off and she's been great. again, it's nice to be home. although, i have to say i miss the low prices of China. America is expensive!
life isn't as interesting as it was in China - which means that i don't have a lot to share in terms of funny stories about a maid (dang! i miss having someone clean my house everyday) or face offs with crazy taxi drivers, etc. but, i'm quite enjoying the 'boring' life.
the best part about being home is connecting again with family and friends. i stayed connected via email and skype while in China, but there is nothing like hugging the kids in my family and being in the midst all of those i love.
this past weekend i was in Victor, ID in the shadow the Grand Tetons visiting my sister Holly, her husband Andrew and of course the baby - Summer. what fun! it's truly winter there. -11 on Sat. morning. wow! we didn't leave the house until 10:30, and only then because it was warmer in the sun. the day before holly and i skied at Grand Targhee. i've never skied this resort before. typically, it is quite foggy up top, but we had clear skies and 8" of powder. holly was willing to take some professional action shots of my fine skiing - you can see her work here - and i took some of her. my favorite is her hitting a tree. my siblings are my favorite ski partners, we had a wonderful day.
Summer is as cute as ever. she says enough words to communicate that she wants to wear her ski goggles and go to her friend's house to play. i haven't seen her since august so we had some good aunt/niece reconnection time. for the most part we just played and laughed, but about 20 minutes before i was to leave there was some drama when she head dived out of her play pen. that was the end of nap time.
it's wonderful to be home.
Friday, January 2, 2009
this will be the last time i write from the other side of the world. lisa and i missed a night of sleep on our 1am flight from bangkok to HK. just as i had closed my eyes for 2.5hrs of sleep they flipped on the lights and started serving dinner. who eats at 1:30am on a plane?? i just felt a slightly annoyed and then covered my eyes with a small white plane pillow that didn't do much to block the blaring lights.
we made it out of bangkok - and gladly as are really ready to be home. our biggest concern was getting into HK, taking the train to town to snag our baggage that we left in our HK hostel, repacking it so that weight was distrubuted evenly and then getting everything back to the airport and check in. all went smoothly, and now we are waiting and waiting to get start our journey via Taiwan to LA. needless to say we are both a little pale and don't feel the best, but it's a good way to start the jet lag process.
see you all soon! zian jian asia.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
since lisa and i had a few extra days in thailand (bangkok specifically) we decided to walk the city and figure out what was going on in our area. after much searching we found a lonely planet of bangkok for $9.00, a few tourist maps and went from there.
so far each morning has started with some good sized portions of pad thai and mangos + sticky rice with a bottle of fresh squeezed OJ - about $2.00. again, we have been sure to stick to our strict Thai food diet. the lonely planet claims that thailand has the tastiest food in Asia and now that i've tested that theory for about 10 days i'm going to agree.
new year's eve started with our breakfast, a good review of where to go how to get there then we started walking. one vague goal was to end up at the flower market, but mostly we wanted to walk around and see what Bangkok had to offer. along the way we found a tasty treat of ice cream in a bread bun, guava and several markets with lots of cheap stuff and food.
outside the Thai King's palace we walked into a small park flocked with pigeons. looking the part of a tourist with our camera and backpacks a thai woman came up to us and shoved small bags of corn into our hands motioning to feed the birds. "How much?" we asked - "No fee...." happily we threw corn for the birds and got lots of photos while they attacked us for the treats.
after our bags were empty we started walking off and suddenly the "No fee" became "No free!" = cost. since our price hadn't been negotiated up front lisa was annoyed that she had tried to gyp us and started walking away. while lisa and i were discussing the situation the woman got in-between the two of us and started demanding payment. when i protested and tried to move around her she blocked me and even jabbed me in the stomach a few times.
"How much?" i asked again, as i figured it was fair to pay her something. "300 baht" (about $9.00 US which is equivelant to $50 for a Thai), NO! i protested. more yelling to lisa who was telling me to walk and the woman jabbed me again. fortunately, i had a 20 baht (about $.75) in my pocket which i pulled out and shoved into her hand. she waved 40 baht at me and demanded that, but since she had tricked us i figured 20 was good enough. i brushed by her and as lisa and i walked off she yelled an explitive in English, to which i turned around pointed and yelled "Hey!"
on our journey we rode the river ferry that runs up and down the river that cuts through the middle of Bangkok to get to our destinations. eventually, we made it down to the flower market. streets and alleys and shops FULL of flowers and stuff for flowers and more flowers.
the Thai's use flowers, mostly marigolds since they are the color of the royalty, to make offerings to their spirit houses, offerings at temples and to tie anywhere they want good things to happen. it's a big business this flower thing. it was fun to wander around and smell it all. eventually we got hungry so we sat down at a street side kitchen and had some freshly cooked pad thai. yum.
at one point some young thai guy started yelling at us in English and pointing to his friend, "You very love him..." we laughed and on our way past them again i yelled back to him "No, you very love him!" i had to say it a few times, but he didn't quite understand my meaning -- always be careful when yelling out statements in a different language.
we made our way back to our neighborhood where the party was starting to build and it was only 6pm. set up at the end of the kao san road market street was as stage for the night's show. the front 2 rows consisted of what looked like living room furniture - for important people we assumed - then rows and rows of plastic chairs behind that. there happened to be some open seats front and center on the front row of the economy section so we sat down to see what would happen.
there was a show with lots of thai spoken that was then translated into English by a Thai guy who didn't know English. several dancers coming out and doing traditional thai dance - which was pretty cool. besides the mic occasionally getting some loud and high pitched feedback, the most exciting thing was the elephant parked off to the side of the whole production.
it was painted from head to toe and chained to avoid any incidents. everyone was mobbing around it taking photos of themselves touching the tusks. when someone gave it money it would grab the cash with the end of its trunk and hand it up to its trainer who was perched above its head. after everyone got photos of the front of the elephant the trainer had it turn around and written on its behind, in big letters, "Happy New Year Thailand."
part way through the show the trainer decided to take it for a walk down the middle of the market street that was now mobbed with people, people who were getting progressively more soused. somehow all of this was normalized - and i suppose it is as we are in bangkok and everytime i have visited this city i have seen more bizarre things than anywhere else in the world.
we made our way back to the hostel before things got really exciting. by 10:30pm we were stuffing ear plugs in our ears to block out the huge speakers that were blasting the roof off the bar next door and the guy who kept yelling 'whoooooh' at 30-90 second intervals. i vaguely remember hearing some yelling and blasts about midnight, but the ear plugs were the best invention every created as i slept better in bangkok than anyone else last night.
HAPPY NEW YEAR - whoooooo ,,,,, whooooo ---- whooooooh
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
there is lots to tell about our thailand adventures - we thought one of the most exciting moments was when our taxi driver to the airport , upon starting up the car, flipped down 2 DVD screens (front and back) popped in a karoke DVD and tested the re-verb on the mic "Helloooo, Helloooo, Welcommmme", before handing it to us. Lisa, myself and our two airport companions (two Europeans) groaned and laughed at the same time. 40 minutes of the Carpenters and The Eagles all the way to Bangkok airport. we didn't use the mic, but we did sing along once in a while.
the excitement got more interesting when i went up to the check-in desk to get our 1:00 flight to Hong Kong (so we could fly out tomorrow as scheduled) and they pointed out - very nicely because Thais are very nice - that the flight was today but at 1 AM not 1 PM. military time!!! who goes by that these days? we don't think like airlines and the military so we missed our flight.
after a lot of coins dropped into bangkok pay phones, using some nice Thai man's cell phone and calling upon the assistance of several airport people we re-arranged all our flights to leave on jan 3rd from Hong Kong. besides the fact that all hte flights are full due to the holiday it would have also cost us an additional $350 to leave bangkok then and there.
our taxi back to our hostel wasn't nearly as exciting, and we got some strange looks when we checked back into the hostel we had checkout of earlier that day, but we have decided to explore bangkok and celebrate new year's 12 hours earlier than all of you on the Stateside.
the up side is that we have a few more days of vacation, bangkok just happens to be one of the cheapest places to stay and we can continue with our strict Thai food diet of mangos, pad thai and anything else we can get our stomachs around - although it would have been nice if our crystal ball could have told us ahead of time of they delay then we would've stayed on the island for 3 more days.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
for all of you who think you might be cold right now, beijing is a 1,000 times colder. we stayed there 3 days. it required lots of layers and purchasing of a few more coats -- hard to resist those knock off mountain hardware and northface jackets. the 3rd day turned out to be our trip to the wall day.
there are several sections of the wall that one can visit, the most popular, easily accessible and nearest is BaDaLing. not wanting to buy a guide book we went to a foreign book store and read / copied all the information we needed for buses, etc. somehow the book failed to mention that the last public bus for badaling left at 9:30am from the station. we arrived at the bus stop at 9:45am and after a lot of going back and forth with some chinese bus stop guy it was figured out that badaling was not in the works for the day. we took the next option to simatai - another, but less developed section of the wall, and much further away. fortunately, we were able to catch the bus out to the nearest city in the area.
for the most part i can ask directions and generally be told what the best route is, so when our bus attendant (a young woman who goes up and down the aisle collecting bus fares once you have boarded) said that we had to take a taxi from the city to the wall i accepted that this was the only option.
because we spent the morning running around beijing trying to catch the right bus it was close to noon by the time our bus pulled up to the city (which i can't remember the name of). the first stop some greasy taxi driver ran on the bus beelined for us and said "taxi"? i told him i was going to wait for the last stop. then i thought -- "maybe we have to get off sooner than the last stop for a taxi." so i asked again and the girl said that we could get off anywhere for a taxi and told us that it shouldn't cost more than 200 yuan for the taxi fare.
we got off at the next stop and started the taxi negotiations. in retrospect i'm pretty certain we were picked by the greasiest taxi driver, Mr. Zhang. at first he wanted 500 yuan, at which point i walked away in disgust. suddenly the price dropped and we agreed on 200 plus a 40yuan parking fee. next thing you know we were on our way to simatai.
on our way there Mr. Zhang mentioned that he knew of a farm house that would feed us lunch for around 5-10yuan each, were we interested in that? it was very clean. in-between all this he told us varying details of the area, since he was native, and some historical facts of the wall. we thought lunch at that price sounded decent so we agreed on the lunch option. (5-10 yuan is about $.75-$1.50).
arriving at the farm house about 1 hr into the drive we were given a menu from which i ordered a few dishes and didn't pay too much attention to the prices. the little farmhousewife was thrilled to have us as no one, and i mean NO ONE else was there. it was a cold but clear day, and NO ONE was there. after ordering she suggested that i replace my beef and pepper dish with a farm raised chicken dish. OK, but once again, i didn't ask price.
we wandered around the small 5 family village, talked with some of the locals then went in for lunch. i had invited Mr. Zhang to eat with us as it is customary to treat your driver to lunch in China. he readily accepted. the tofu was burnt, the greens dish was OK and the chicken was a whole chicken chopped into about 20 parts and stewed in chinese liquid something. it involved a lot of bones and picking to get at the meat. none of it was very good. Mr. Zhang ate everything heartily and then collected all the chicken bones to take home to his dog, or cat, i'm not sure which. at the end we were served 3 mantos (steamed buns), which i had not ordered and believed that they were complimentary.
the farmhousewife was cute and excited when she brought us the bill for 200 yuan!!! about $30us. after a moment of not talking i started asking the details as i was in more sticker shock than i've been in in years. i can get a bowl of noodles that i can't even eat all of for 5 yuan in the city ($.75). sure enough it was all priced as advertised. the chicken just happened to be 88yuan and the mantos had been ordered by Mr. Zhang without him consulting me at all. it was at this point that both Lisa and I's blood pressure almost shot out our ears as we realized that our driver was taking us for a ride in more ways than one - we are convinced that he got a hearty kick back from that meal, along with a bag of chicken bones.
the drive to the wall was 10 more minutes and he offered to buy our wall tickets as he had a special "lisense" that got us in cheaper. i have since learned that drivers get a kick back from this arrangement. even though it was cheaper for us we didn't want him to get anything else off our dollar.
it was cold as cold! so we took a little, and slightly scary, cable car to the top where we then hiked up and enjoyed as much of the wall as we could in 1.5 hrs - while warding off little farm ladies selling picture books and t-shirts of the wall. they followed us the whole way up and back. it was a cold day to stand on the wall and not sell anything - cause NO ONE was there.
still stewing about the driver's inability to hide his dishonesty, i inquired 2 different times as to how much the parking fee was for a taxi and it turned out that it was only 5 yuan. it was at this point that i began to lose it and started composing the biggest ma (scold/yelling) i could come up with for Mr. Zhang when the face off time came, cause it was comin'.
after a quick consultation with lisa and then finding out that there was a 4 yuan bus leaving for town at 4pm (we had 10 minutes), we decided to pay Mr.Zhang 1/2 his driving fare and 5 yuan for the parking fee = 105yuan. because i knew what would happen i was dreading it, but i was more mad than i've been in - probably my lifetime - so i decided to go through with our plan.
lisa ran to catch the bus and i shoved the money at Mr.Zhang and i started making my way across the parking lot for the bus, loudly declaring that he cheated us and i was not going to be riding with a schister such as himself. i was surrounded by 3 of his comrades who tried to wall me in from going to the bus, but i pushed through them an marched on. the march was quite the parade - me yelling about him cheating foreingers and how could he represent Chinese people that way and them yelling that there was no way that we were going to take that bus!!!
lisa was already glued to a seat in the 4th row and about 15 other local Chinese were waiting to ride back as well. i got boarded in a yelling heat and plunked down next to Lisa. my companions followed, also yelling. they started calling me all kinds of things like that i had agreed and i should pay the whole fare no matter what, they were going to call the police, etc. i was yelling here and there to go ahead and call the police, that he cheated me on lunch, and over charged me on the parking fee and i wasn't going to ride back with a ...... you know how it went from there. lisa sat next to me refusing to move, not understanding a word, but getting the idea - every once in awhile i would translate. she just kept saying "there is no way i an riding back with him."
this went of for about 10 minutes and when it became apparent to our fellow busmates that they were now impacted. they started encouraging me to get off the bus and resolve the matter so they could get back. NO!! then the attendant yelled at us to get off, and just ride back with Mr.Zhang - "would you ride with someone who cheated you?!" i yelled back, NO!
from the back of the bus came 2 older women who had seen plenty of these face off's in their Chinese lives (as this is often how public conflicts are handled), so they jumped in and started negotiations. "Give him his fare and we can all go," they encouraged me. NO! i pulled out 40 yuan cause i knew that i had to help him save some face otherwise it would go on and on and i personally wanted the ordeal to be over. he refused, so the yelling and negotiations continued. after the bus driver yelled at me to get off and we refused the diplomats in the back leaned over my seat and said that if i gave him 60 yuan he agreed to leave. i pulled out another 20 yuan handed him the wad.
THE SECOND he accepted the money all the bus riders pushed Mr.Zhang and his comrades out the door and the bus driver started up the bus to take off. once the doors were closed i apologized profusely, took off my face a few times while they warned me more than once to not ride with those "black people" (the chinese term for bad people is black people for a black heart). i told them i just didn't know that there was another option, etc, etc.
it was quite the day. we saw some of the best sections of the wall that i have ever visited and it was topped by a real Chinese face off - something i haven't done in a long time.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Merry Christmas! Once again the day is here, that magical day when special things happen. I woke early this morning, as I always do on Christmas, and walked out the front door of my Thailand beach bungalow to the scene in this photo. It’s a Christmas miracle. I guess I am on Santa’s nice list this year.
After over 10 days of fun (but intensive) travel through China, Lisa and I made our way to Hong Kong on 12/22 for a night’s rest before heading to Bangkok. China makes the ease and efficiency of Hong Kong look like you’ve just gone to heaven. Due to space constraints everything in Hong Kong is small. Think of the largest closet in your house downsize that by 1/3 and that was the size of the hostel room we stayed in at the Chung King Mansion in downtown Kowloon (the main land section of the city right across from Hong Kong island). Somehow, we fit ourselves, 3 large suitcases, 2 backpacks and a camera bag in there for a night. I spent the afternoon making the trek across town to China Air to purchase a re-issue of my return plane ticket while Lisa rested. That evening we made our way through the maze of the Chung King Mansion to the Taj Mahal restaurant for some of the Chung King Mansion’s most famous Indian food, we walked around with the rest of Hong Kong who was out Christmas shopping, then talked our new friend Ramsey into keeping the 3 suitcases at the hostel for the week and went to bed exhausted. Beside that we didn’t do much in Hong Kong.
The next morning we were up and at it and out the door by 7:30am headed for Bangkok. Our goal was Koh Samet Island a small 6k long island just off the southern coast of the upper gulf of Thailand. Our transportation to our end destination - bungalow on Koh Samet - went like this: HK subway – airport shuttle – flight – shuttle bus – bus to coast – taxi ride (in the back of a mini-truck on small benches) – ferry ride – taxi truck (again) on a horrible dirt road – walk to our resort. We arrived almost 12 hours after leaving our hostel in HK. Waiting at the end of it all was a snug beach front bungalow with A/C lots of space and a toilet that you have to throw a bucket of water down to flush. After some of the best pad thai in the world and 2 mango shakes we were here to stay for a week.
For Christmas Eve we slept whenever we felt like it, floated around in the warm ocean water, ran our feet through white sand the consistency of fine flour and generally marveled that we everything had worked out so well for us. Our resort is packed into a small stretch of beach with about 7 other bungalow resorts. It’s one of the smaller beaches so we are sharing the place with a small amount of Euros and that that is about it. Because of the Bangkok airport shutdown 3 weeks ago the typical high tourist season for Thailand isn’t happening this year. It’s sad to see so many of the bungalows empty, but it’s working for us.
Lisa found out about our place after digging through several internet sites and finally found a blog detailing this particular place. Based on that information we had a friend of ours, Margo – who speaks Thai – call ahead and make a reservation for us at the Candlelight Beach resort. We weren’t sure they would hold the reservation as Thais on these islands tend to be very laid back and not too organized. But there was Lisa’s name was on the calendar for a beach front with A/C and hot water and here we are in a perfect place for a week.
For Christmas Eve dinner we ordered up lots of pad thai, basil fried shrimp, 4 mango shakes and a big bowl of tom ka (coconut based soup with chicken lemon grass and all that other yummy stuff that Thais put in their soups). We were so stuffed we had to take a long walk on the beach to work it through – life is certainly hard these days. When we got to the end of our beach stretch, about 15 minutes of slow walking, we sat on some beach chairs and watched Christmas fireworks, listened to the waves lapping and enjoyed the warm night air.
My only Christmas wish is that my family could be here with me. I love you all and hope that your Christmas is filled with the love of Christ and happiness. During this time in Asia I have been reminded over and over again of the love that the Lord has for each of his children individually. I pray that you feel that yourself and also pray that governments that restrict the practice of His gospel will change their policies in order to allow the knowledge of Christ to be preached freely. This would be the biggest Christmas miracle of all.
Merry Christmas from Koh Samet!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
December 18, 2008
The time came and the program ended and now I’ve been on the long road of China since last week. Lisa (my friend who arrived on the 8th) and I spent the 2nd week of December in Nanjing wrapping up the program, eating good food and shopping as much as was possible in-between. We visited the typical Nanjing sites: Sun Yat Sen Memorial, Nanjing Massacre Memorial, walking around the neighborhood, etc. It’s a lot of fun to have her here as all that has become normalized to me is new for her. We went into a grocery store to pick up food for our train trip to Xi’an. She wanted a drink so I led her over to the drink section of the store to choose something, “WOW!” she exclaimed upon seeing row after row of bottles full of everything from milk fruit juice to cans full of soupy peanut beverage.
Getting out the door was as crazy as ever. Down to the last minute I was packing and stuffing and throwing un-necessaries away. While cleaning out my locked drawer that had held all my important documents I pulled out some plane tickets that for some reason in my mind were receipt tickets from my flight over here. After a glance I put them in the discard pile and shoved them into the kitchen garbage. It wasn’t until 8pm that night, after barely making our train out of town because a taxi wouldn’t stop to get us and getting finally settled on the sleeper bunk for the night that the voice of my travel agent came into my head with the strong reminder that there were “paper tickets” and DO NOT LOSE them. In a split second my brain searched all over remembering that moment, that one moment when everything could have gone a different route. Instead I was stuck on a train between Nanjing and Xi’an with no way to figure out how I was going to get home.
Hoping my maid had put off doing the final cleaning I called her in a frantic. No, she is responsible and reliable to the core – the trash had been emptied already. She jumped on her bike at 8:30pm and rushed over to see if the garbage cans had been taken out for the truck. Somehow one of my students got involved given that my maid didn’t know what she was looking for. After 3-4 calls back and forth by 9:45pm my destiny had been decided – of all the inefficiencies of China apparently the trash pick up is not one of them. They must come once or twice a day! The tickets were gone to some Chinese trash dump and I tossed and turned all night on a sleeper train running the scenario over and over in my head – very helpful for a good night’s rest. Once we arrived in Xi’an I called my BYU travel agent and after working her magic I now have an electronic .jpg of my tickets and only have to pay $100 US to have them re-printed in Hong Kong. I figured it was better than a whole new tickets home.
We did the whirlwind tour of Xi’an given we only had 2 days to see the place. Somehow in a 36 hr period we managed to – see the Terracotta Soliders, roam the Muslim Market, walk around on top of the Xi’an wall, attend church at the Xi’an branch, visit the adoption center and eat as much Xi’an food as possible. Again, it is fun to show Lisa these places as it’s all new to her.
After Xi’an we boarded our next sleeper train for Beijing. Arriving at 7:30am was about the time everyone else in China was arriving in Beijing so the line for the taxi’s was backed up far enough to be quite annoying. Dragging 3 suitcases, 2 backpacks, a camera bag and a few bags full of food and misc we made our way to a public bus that took us to our hostel, The Red Lantern Hostel for Backpackers located in the back HuTongs of Beijing. A Hu Tong are the old neighborhoods of Beijing consisting of courtyard style homes built out of grey brick and decorated with all kinds of traditional Chinese home decore. A lot of the Hu Tongs have been effectively razed over the last 10 years due to push to re-build/develop Beijing, and also due to the fact that many are dilapidated beyond repair. In all the times I’ve visited Beijing I haven’t roamed what is left of these remnants of Beijing traditional life. The hostel we stayed in I specifically picked because it was in a Hu Tong and it provided the experience we were looking for.
After checking in we walked through these narrow bustling streets of pedestrians and bicyclists peering into local shops and ordering up some Beijing breakfast. We turned several heads of course as this area isn’t typically visited by foreigners (except the hostel visitors). Mr. Li, the hostel’s cabbie, loaded up our suitcases on a 3 wheeled cart and pedaled us over to another building where we would be staying. He told me that the area were staying in (Xin Jie Kou Nan Da Jie) had been designated for Hu Tong preservation. I was glad to hear that. Our hostel was great, comfortable and one of the Hu Tong houses. It’s was a true Beijing experience. Check out photos for my adventures thus far. And stay tuned for the drama of the “face off” we had with our taxi driver to the Great Wall.