Archive for the 'Travels' Category

Hangzhou 杭州

Posted in Life in China, Travels on November 5th, 2006
Xihu sunset

During the National Holidays, I traveled to Shanghai and Hangzhou. I should have known that traveling during the National Holidays is nuts — imagine a holiday that has no tradition of barbeques, or family get-togethers, or presents; all people do on this week-long vacation is travel. Nearly 1.3 billion people simultaneously deciding to uproot themselves and sightsee. Absolutely brilliant.

Hangzhou especially was a frothing mass of humanity. The city is famed for its beautiful lakescapes, which have supposedly inspired emperors and poets alike. My first vision of West Lake, however, was marred by a small child unabashedly leaning over and peeing into it.

One experience salvaged my impression of Hangzhou though. I wrote a story based on that one experience for my writing class. I’m quite proud of it, since it’s my first fully developed story in Chinese. To those who can’t read Chinese, it involves a hike in the hills above West Lake, a chance encounter with an elderly couple, and the lesson learned from a night of moon cake and tea on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Moon festival.

Interestingly, in discussing this assignment in class, our teacher brushed upon the topic of sensitive (敏感)subject matter. His suggestion to new writers: “Say whatever you want, but be extremely careful what you write down. Once you write something down, you can’t take it back.” In China, it seems, a slip of the pen is worse than a slip of the tounge.


West Lake on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival.


刚到杭州的时候,我感到有一些失望。人人都说杭州很漂亮,鼓舞了许多诗人和皇帝,但是我对杭州的第一个印象是讨厌。那时 是 国庆 节,所以观光客很多;想去西 湖散步也去不了,因为人太挤了。杭州的路也确实是一个瓶颈,交通拥堵问题特别严重。此外,在街上、湖上,到处有垃圾。杭州看起来很乱七八糟。



我问这个老爷爷怎么走出去。他意味深长地笑一笑,回答:“噢,我知道你在找什么。我们一起去吧。“ 我们跟着这对儿灵活的老夫妇爬到山顶。从那个平静的山顶,我们可以看到整个西湖的热闹景象。城市的灯好像满天星斗的镜子。

老奶奶从她篮子里掏出一瓶子茶和一些月饼。虽然只有两个月饼,她说:“你们三个人好好儿吃吧!我们老头已经在这里过了好几个中秋节。现在你们也可以享受我们的故乡。“ 她说的话对我触动很大;虽然我们都是陌生人,我们都受到她的母爱。

我问她:“你们有孩子吗?“ 她仰头对着天说:”对啊,一个儿子,但是他很久以前到上海寻找更好的就业机会,现在不是加班 就是出 差,连跟我们一起吃顿饭也 没有时间。“ 老爷爷说:”我们两个不算是孤独的人,但是有时侯我们真怀念他。“ 这句话对我有深刻的印象。我想起来我的父母,我想起来我的奶奶,想起所 有的家人留在纽约。我认识到我也怀念他们。



The view above West Lake at night.

YeSanPo 野三坡

Posted in Life in China, Travels on October 11th, 2006

My friend Clifford recently pointed out the nature of the word ‘play’ in China. Play, or 玩 (say wan), is ubiquitous. Little kids running around after school — they’re going out to 玩. Old people playing cards or mah jiang — they like to 玩. Young people drinking themselves silly and dancing — oh they’re just 玩-ing. Plaything — 玩艺儿 — encompasses everything from dolls to fireworks to condoms. And of course, when you’re grudgingly coming back to work/classes on Monday, your colleagues ask you, “Was your weekend good play?”

Below are pictures from a weekend trip to “play” at YeSanPo (野三坡), a small village a little outside Beijing.

JuMa River


Rocket Launcher

Rocket launcher in front of old town

Scorpion Man

The Scorpion Man. yum.

Horses on mountain

Horses just chillin

Smiling horse, smiling me.

Me and my horse, Xiao Baaaaaii

Long road ahead

The long road ahead.


Rachel rocking the fireworks.


Firework twirlers.


Firework light writing anyone?


This only looks dangerous.


This is dangerous.

Images acquired on a bus ride from Ambato to Guayaquil, Ecuador. 08.08.06

Posted in Travels on September 12th, 2006

-Rust iron spokes sticking out of the roofs of half-finished houses. Some are short and trimmed, like stubble, while others are long and flexed, like laden bamboo stalks. Nearly all the houses — even the most well-off — seem to have them poking from their tops, so that you can see directly into their skeletal foundations.

-Young boys playing in a homemade boxcar, debating who would wear the battered silver helmet and command the hill.

-Cloud tendrils creeping down a valley, viewed from above as our bus zooms around the mountain top.

-Whipping around the edge of a valley, a quilt of farmed plots. Massive vertical strips of land, some black – just plowed – and some golden green – ready for a corn harvest, it seems. The steepness of these strips is amazing, they swath the land hugging every curve and hill as if the earth were a woman. Cows, horses, and llamas dot the countryside.

-A Quicha woman trekking through the hills, who looks up just as the bus rounds the corner. She is old, cane in hand and brown fedora fixed upon her head. A fleeting burst of bright pinks and greens among the shrubbery. We lock eyes briefly, and then she continues collecting wood as I crane my neck while the bus drives away.

-A sign in a dusty village: “Discoteca: Una noche en Nueva york.”

-A Quicha mother and child standing on the other side of the bus. The baby is no more than a month old, its head the size of my first. Its eyes are wide open and rarely blink, as if perpetually terrified. It scrunches up its face, but its lungs are still too weak to cry.

The mother seems old, probably much older than she actually is. She’s dressed similarly to the other women on the bus – a dark blue or brown skirt in a heavy wool fabric pleated multiple times at the waist, no elastic, just a woven belt tied several times over (coin purse hidden amongst the folds). Stockings or knee socks end in scuffed loafer shoes. An impecably white blouse is tucked into the skirt, and then covered by a bright green wrap with looping gold embroidery around the edges. Coral red beads with gold accents adorn her wrist, neck, and ears, and a brown heavy felt hat with ribbon band and feathers tilts precariously off her head.

-Streetside graffiti: “Roldos for Presidente,” “¡Cynthia Presidente!,” Che Guerva face stencil and “¡El Socialismo!”

-Various odds and ends sold by vendors walking up and down the bus:

“habitos” – peanuts, corn, and potato chips, caramelos, mandarin oranges, water, cola, coconut juice, music CDs, gum, inspiration books, fresh lemon juice out of peeled lemons, hot corn on the cob, yogurt pops, ice cream, cheesecake flan, empanadas, popcorn, medicinal herb powder, kebobs, CDs complete with impromptu concert, drinks in plastic bags, chicken meals in bags, and lamb – a whole lamb carcass brought onto the bus and hacked off right in front of you.