Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chun Jie.

As I was awoken by a solo performance of firecrackers today (one achingly lit at a time for an hour), I think it's safe to say that China's largest holiday season, Spring Festival, has finally begun. The fireworks will continue through the end of the month and beyond; people will be traveling in droves around the country; markets and grocery stores will be flooded with people buying ingredients for the week's feasts.

As previously mentioned, my Aussie friend Jared and I will be traveling to Hainan, a small island off the southern border of China. We look forward to renting scooters or motorbikes and touring the mountains, minority villages, nature reserves, and beaches for the week.

Surely some unforeseen disasters will crop up, so if you enjoy reading about miserable things happening to me, don't change that channel.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

3 months and counting.

Today marks my nine-month anniversary in China. I've already begun planning these next, predictably-tumultuous months, complete with upcoming trips to Hainan (Jared and I are planning a Motorcycle Diaries-esque tour across the beautiful beaches and H'mong villages on the island during Spring Festival), Pingyao, and Hong Kong. I've alerted my boss to my departure on April 15--news that was not received well. I've eked forward in planning a tour of India at the end of April. And, even more hesitantly, I'm tiptoeing around meters of red tape blocking me from starting an alternative-certification program to teach high school English stateside in the fall.

Despite my lack of internet (1.5 weeks has passed now without service in my apartment) and the dry chill that ravages my very core, things are well here. I'm looking forward to leaving, but I'm already waxing nostalgic about my experience here.

A China: Part II might (have to) be in the works, so my trip home may be less of an anchor drop and more of a sand-bar beaching. We shall see.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Er Ling Ling Jiu.

Despite solar calendar observers' propensities to spend New Year's Eve in a haze of sour mix, sound-makers, and sadness, I spent my the last and first hours of 2008 and 2009, respectively, in a nongjiayuan (translation: "peasant family farmyard") on the edge of the JianKou section of the Great Wall.

I practically invited myself along with some friends for the voyage--a feat of bravery I have never attempted before, and yet it is somehow more acceptable for expats to do this, according to Cyndi.

We arrived at the Chinese version of a bed-and-breakfast (complete with three delicious meals cooked by the owners of the nongjia) at around 9PM, gazed at the uncanny masses of stars in the sky, lit fireworks, drank some Veuve Cliquot (most of my fellow NYE-ers are employed by embassies, multinational corporations, or are otherwise independently wealthy), and enjoyed the solitude of the village.

After a restless slumber on a kang bed (a stone slab heated by ever-dying coal embers underneath), we set off on a four-hour hike along a more "wild" part of the Great Wall. While most sections of the Wall have been restored with new, even stones and even handrails in some parts, JianKou has been left to nature's devices. Loose stones abound; weeds and trees have wormed their way into the cracks, making hiking somewhat treacherous. At one point, we had to climb a 10m-high vertical section which had probably collapsed many years ago.

I am so thankful for this crisp, clarifying beginning to my 2009. 2008 was nothing short of amazing in all aspects; I worry that I have spent all of my karmic collateral on one year and that the Year of the Ox will be filled with death, destruction, and bad haircuts. Nevertheless, I will approach it with the doe-eyed hopefulness I approached 2008.

Xīn nián kuài lè, everyone.