All journeys have secret destinations of which even the traveller is unaware.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Home a month

Sorry for the lack in posts, but China blocked Blogger for the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary and it was still blocked when I left China June 11. I've been home a month today. Am I happy? Yes and no. I missed my family and friends, drinking water from the tap, eating food that hasn't expired, Target, carpet, bath tubs, etc. However, I really liked living in China. I definitely had some adjusting to do-people staring too much, the awful food, no bath tubs, limited hot water, and Baoding smelled in the spring and summer, but was cloudy all the time in the winter due to the coal factories. So, there were ups and downs. I love Beijing though. I think if it was easier for me to come back and forth or family/friends to come visit me, I could live in Beijing long-term. I really miss my students. We've been keeping in tough on Facebook and e-mail, but it's not the same. I plan to go visit next summer for my junior's graduation.

I've been busy since being home. Today is my 10 year class reunion and my friend from Ecuador is visiting. We're going to Las Vegas on Monday, which is exciting. I haven't been to Vegas and I'm looking forward to playing poker with the big boys. The week after Vegas, I'm headed to New Mexico, which I'm also looking forward too. It should be very relaxing and I plan to eat at Little Anita's every chance I get. I've been dreaming about Little Anita's since January.

I also have a new "life plan." I think it fits me. However, I'm quite fickle, so it may change at a moments notice.

Friday, 8 May 2009

In the spring

Baoding is much more pretty in the spring. However, the weather is already too warm for me. It was almost 90 degrees here today, but I admit I prefer warm weather regarding my shower. It's so much better showering in the spring/summer than in winter. Now, my water stays hot much longer and even when it cools down, I don't mind.

Next Friday I'm going to be super brave and have one of my wisdom teeth extracted in Beijing. Fortunately, I was only born with 2 wisdom teeth and they're both on the right. Well, the lower one has been causing excruciating pain pretty much since I've been in China. I went to the dentist while back in the US, but the oral surgeon was booked. Anyway, the tooth is really up, so I figure they can just pull it. I'm actually looking forward to it. It's been hurting so much and I haven't been able to eat on my right side for months. I'm a little nervous about going by myself, but I'll be happy when it's all done. I figure since it's just one tooth, maybe it won't be too bad. I know quite a few people who have had teeth pulled and they didn't think it was too traumatizing. Besides, I really can't imagine it hurting much more than it does now.

Since they've been working on the road in front of our university, the guys found a human skull. I thought this was interesting and being an historian, I'm curious as to why there was a skull buried underneath the road. It doesn't rain much, so I doubt rain could have moved it. Anyway, I stole these pictures off of Josh's Facebook page. When I heard they found the skull, I went to go look for it, but couldn't find it.

Curtis and the skull

Around Beijing

Sunday, 3 May 2009


Granted, Kansas isn't the most beautiful state, but after spending a holiday weekend in Beijing, it definitely is more beautiful to me. I miss the wide open space and a state population of 3 million as opposed to the Beijing population of about 7.5 million. I had a great time at my hotel and eating lots of American food, but time spent out and about in Beijing and at the train stations was exhausting. I admit, patience is not one of my virtues. However, I don't like to get mad often-I figure there's no point, especially here in China since they can't understand me anyway if I do say something to them out of anger. Plus, I don't like feeling out of control, so I try to keep things in check. However, everyday something challenges my patience.

Today, it was a variety of small things. I requested a late check out at my hotel since my train wasn't until 4:30 and I was going to go eat beforehand, then go to the station. I called the reception Saturday and asked to check out at 1:30 and they said no problem. Then today, the manager calls my room at 12:30 wondering when I was going to check out and I explained, he said no problem. This didn't bother me, until I went to leave. In order to use the elevators at the hotel, you have to swipe your hotel key. They must have deactivated my key when I supposed to check out because my key wouldn't work. There was a phone, so I called the desk and explained that my key wouldn't work and she said "ok" and hung up. So, I didn't know if "ok" meant she would fix it or if I was supposed to take up residency on the 9th floor of the Marriott. I waited and waited, tried my key again, no luck. Finally, a bellman came to help me learn how to use my key. Good grief. 1) If I didn't know how to use a hotel key-how would I have gotten to the 9th floor to begin with? 2) If they want guests to leave-they should lock them out, not in. Then, the concierge wrote down the wrong directions for the cab driver to get to TGI Friday's. We were around the right area, but driving on some back road and heading in the wrong direction. Luckily, I know my way around the Jianguomen area, so I was able to direct him in the right direction.

TGI Friday's was great-I love the staff and the fact that they know me. My server gave me another survey, so I could get 50 RMB off my next meal. Today, my meal, drink, and dessert cost me about $3 thanks to the other survey discount. And, on the plus side, he was cute and has an English name, Stone. Not great, but I've heard much worse English names.

I didn't have anymore "testing of my patience" until the end of the train ride to Baoding. Technically, my train seat is mine until the train pulls up to the platform and I actually leave the seat. Well, the train was full and some people didn't have seats, so this man took it upon himself to push those of us getting off in Baoding out of the way in order for him to get one of our seats. He made the mistake of pushing me and I wasn't having it. I'm tired of being pushed, cut in front of in line, stared at, and numerous other social courtesies that the Chinese do not abide by. Plus, when pushed me, he slammed my bag with my laptop in it up against the chair. My Macbook is like my kid and it doesn't make me happy when it gets abused. Anyway, the man did not get my seat or any other seat in our row until I was ready to vacate the area. Other than that, things went smoothly. I'm just all about organization and planning and China is not.

Overall, I miss Kansas and it's clean air, wide spaces, and controlled population.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Beijing Weekend

I'm currently laying on a super comfortable, king sized bed in my 4 star hotel. It's wonderful. In the past 32 hours, I have showered 4 times. Also wonderful. I love having a bathtub with unlimited hot water with lots of water pressure. I haven't stayed in Beijing longer than a day since I got back in February, so it was definitely time for a mini holiday. I've also been enjoying fine American cuisine. I went to Outback Steakhouse yesterday and today, I met Lindsey (also in Beijing for a holiday) at Pete's Tex Mex. I hadn't been there, but had heard numerous positive things. It was good-I'm a big fan of the tortilla chip and they have chips and salsa for an appetizer. I had plain bean burritos and a coke-Lindsey had tacos-all delicious and it was nice to try a new place. Tonight, I went to Pizza Hut and tomorrow is TGI Friday's. I often get slack about my eating habits, especially as a world traveller. I'm one of those people who travels thousands of miles from home and flock to the American restaurants. I rarely try the local cuisine more than once. I figure I'm 28, stuck in my ways, and 99% of the time I know just by looking at something whether or not I will like it.

My little excitement was bribing a cab driver in Baoding. I'm super organized and punctual and I left 45 minutes before my train (it left at 10:39). Anyway, even when traffic is super hectic, it only takes about 20 minutes to get to the train station, so I figured I had some lead way. However, I did not budget not being able to get a cab. With the construction in front of the university, cabs haven't been lining up in front of the main gate as much as they usually do. I checked the main gate to make sure, then I went to the East gate, then I walked down to the intersection and still couldn't get a cab. It was 10:15 and I was panicking a little because I didn't want to miss my train. When I went to hail one, it had people in it, but they were fortunately students at my university and recognized me as a foreign teacher. Anyway, I asked them if I paid their fare and gave him 50 yuan if he would take me directly to the train station. Usually, it only costs about 10 yuan for the train station, but paying 50 was worth every penny. We pulled up at 10:32-I had to book it.

I'll be home in a little over 5 1/2 weeks. I can't believe how quickly this time in China has gone by. I can still remember getting off the plane for the first time in Beijing last August.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Crazy busy week

It's Wednesday and I'm exhausted. This week, two of my classes end and my new class begins. Starting next week, I have it really good-4 day weekends and a little holiday to Beijing next weekend. I'm looking forward to my 4 star hotel stay. Anyway, since this is the last time I will have half of my juniors and the sophomores, after the final, we have a little party. As a result, I have been doing lots of baking. I made over 120 peanut butter cookies with a toaster oven for the juniors and 3 mixes of lemon bars. Plus, we had lots of fruit and dip, chips, drinks, etc. It turned out well, but baking and hauling all of the food to second campus wasn't fun. I'm now starting to bake everything for the sophomore party on Friday. Even though I'm excited for 4 day weekends, I'm sad I won't have these students anymore. I'm happy I was able to have the juniors both semesters and get to know the sophomores.

I went to Beijing last Saturday. I can't decide if it's a good or bad thing that I'm known at quite a few stores and many of the American restaurants. At the Silk Market, since I've bought so many paintings, the painter has learned my name and gives me free gifts (which are very cool). At TGI Fridays, my server recognized me and gave me an online survey to fill out to get 50 RMB off my next meal. This is an awesome deal since my meal/drink is only 56 RMB. So, next weekend when I go, my bill will be about $0.90.

Waiting for the train in Baoding

If I lived in Beijing, I would live in this area. It's by all the Embassies-it's quiet, clean, lots of trees, close to Western restaurants, and Jenny Lous (the imported food store)

The last of the junior poster presentations.
Even though you're not supposed to have favorites, I do. Out of the junior guys, Miles is my favorite.

Iris (super cute presentation)

Dylan (also super creative)


One of my Chinese best friends, Cassie


Summer (Jane Austen was a popular topic)


Friday, 17 April 2009


Well, the time is flying by. However, this has been a long week. I'm really glad it's the weekend and I'm headed to Beijing. I think a day of eating American food and shopping will be good for me. I'm going to TGI Fridays for chicken strips and french fries-I haven't had any since I left the States. I'm having serious withdraws.

I hung out with an American couple from another university this week-we met at the train station. We went to Sandy's for dinner. I think Sandy's is the favorite restaurant for all Baoding foreigners. Other than the staff, the restaurant was full of foreigners.

We all got together for dinner at Josh's Friday night. The others like a dish called "hot pot." Basically, you have a pot of boiling water with spices and such and you add meat, potatoes, vegetables and eat it. It's not a stew, you eat it with chopsticks. Anyway, I don't like it (shocker), so Josh kindly made me chicken.

The group eating "hot pot"

Garfield and Neville

Justin and Neville

Garfield with Garfield








Monday, 13 April 2009

Magnet for trouble

Originally, I was happy about the construction in front of the university. They're re-doing the road. It's much less crowded and more quiet without all the honking. Anyway, students made a path through the construction site to get to the other side. There are apartments on the opposite side of the university. So, my trouble magnet followed me today. It was crazy windy and blowing cotton and dirt all around. It looked like the perfect weather for a tornado to me, but they don't have tornados here. I took a cab home from the 2nd campus because of the wind. Since the road is under construction, the cab driver had to drop me off across the street and I would cut through the construction area (which I had done numerous time). Sure enough, as soon as I clear the passage through the fence on the side of the university, the fence crashes down on me. I was trapped underneath, it was about the length of 4 cars. A bunch of students had to come help me. My knees are bruised and scraped, but that's about it. It was mortifying though-it's bad enough being constantly stared at for being white, but being white and squished under the fence?!?! times.

Other than that, things are going well. We (American teachers) had Easter dinner. It was delicious-I hadn't ate that much food in one setting since I left the States. I made a banana cream pie from scratch. That's right, I had to make vanilla pudding from scratch. It was definitely an experiment. It turned out ok, it didn't taste/look like Carriage's banana cream pie. I think my pie had too many variables going against it. For one, I needed corn starch, but had to substitute flour. Also, I used powered milk and it called for whole milk or cream. Then, I had to use "dream whip" for whip cream. No matter how much I beat the dream whip and let it set up in the fridge, it still doesn't get as thick as real whip cream. So, as a result, the whip cream was super runny.
The road in front of the university

A couple of days before the fence tried to snuff me.

The aftermath

Little Easter party with my sophomores

More Junior poster Presentations: Nala