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A lot has happened since our last blog update. We finished our teaching this past weekend, and got ready for our first really big trip (not counting our initial trip to China). We packed up our stuff and headed out early for the most Western city “in” China, which is, of course, Hong Kong. Monday started with us taking a bus from Tangshan to Beijing at about 8 am, then a train to the Beijing airport, then a flight to Shenzhen, then a bus from the Shenzhen airport to the border with Hong Kong, then a bus from the border of Hong Kong to the actual city of Hong Kong. All told it was about a 12 hour excursion, but considering all of the different portions of the trip, we were very pleased with how well everything worked out. We flew to Shenzhen because it was much cheaper than flying directly into Hong Kong, and it is the Southernmost city in the mainland, so it is easy to get to Hong Kong. And it was! We arrived late on Monday night with 2 suitcases and a backpack, with absolutely no real plans at all. We walked around for a bit in Kowloon without finding a cheap enough hotel, but after a while wandering around Nathan Road we found one for about $35 dollars. Step one complete, so now we could explore.

We went back out on Nathan Road aka the “Golden Mile” and quickly discovered how different Hong Kong was from other places in China. The city is an incredibly dense mass of skyscrapers (7,650 to be exact, #1 in the world) on both sides of the Harbor. The currency is not the Chinese yuan we have grown accustomed to, but is the Hong Kong dollar, which is about 8 to 1 to the US dollar. It is perhaps the coolest and most futuristic looking currency I have seen. There are also lots of Western looking folks in Hong Kong and you will hear people of all types speaking English. It is a little surprising at first to hear a very Chinese looking person say “Alright dudes, let’s roll!” in a perfect British accent, but that is Hong Kong for you. One of the Western folks we saw happened to look like someone that we thought was a former teacher at our school in Tangshan. We approached him and, sure enough, it was him! Being here for 65 days has only made me feel like the world is even smaller than I initially thought, because random occurrences like that happen a good amount of the time. After chatting with him for a while, my stomach was telling me that I needed some good, cheap, Chinese food. We found a real divey looking place that was filled with locals and had visible cockroaches in the kitchen (this was disgusting for us, don’t worry, we didn’t see them at first) and were ready for our 3-5 yuan dinner. Unfortunately we learned that these prices simply don’t exist in Hong Kong, because the cheapest thing on the menu was fried noodles for 35 HKD. Not a good deal even by American standards. My opinion of Chinese food is very positively influenced by the additional savings factor (I swear you can taste how much money you are saving) but this factor does not exist in Hong Kong. Oh well, its still pretty darn cheap. We ate our dinner and headed to the Temple Market which was nearby.

As you have read in other blog posts about markets in Beijing, (if not, welcome to the blog, this will get you up to speed) prices at the markets tend to start at a completely ludicrous level, slowly dropping through aggressive but not impolite haggling. The prices at the Temple market were not as outrageous as in Beijing, but still required some haggling (at least for me, unfortunately Erin is so “generous” that she doesn’t even attempt to haggle (which is where I come in)). The market basically had the exact same stuff as the Silk Market in Beijing, but people weren’t attacking you in an attempt to get you to come to their store. It was much nicer overall. The only people that are aggressive are the legions of Indian guys who try to get you to buy tailored suits, handbags for the ladies, fake watches, or drugs. After the market, we hit the hay, to get ready for Day 2.

Alright kids, that only somewhat catches you up with every detail of our lives, but I will try to post again in the morning about our next days adventures. They include me getting my head shaved in Hong Kong (donate to me for St. Baldricks!) Alrighty, bed time, here are some pictures for your amusement. To be continued…….

Despite being located in a major ecological danger zone, I want to wish you a Happy Earth Day! Fortunately for me, I can access most of the American “green blogs” from over here. Some of the blogs I really like are on the Mother Nature Network (MNN) site: http://www.mnn.com/blogs. No, I’m not getting paid to write this, so you don’t have to ask…but if you are interested in reading about things like saving money by greening your home, the 10 most toxic places to live, organic fast-food restaurants and easy explanations regarding complex environmental phenomenon, I would highly recommend it! Today MNN greatly enhanced my knowledge of one of my very favorite hobbies, using coupons and finding great deals, by way of the Coupon Sherpa! This site gives you practically any printable or internet coupon for major chains, and had some really awesome Earth Day promos and tips for making money in a bad economy on their blog site: http://www.couponsherpa.com/ask-coupon-sherpa/ *Not a sermon, just a thought. (-Name that pastor of McLean Bible Church for a Chinese trinket!)

Yesterday night David and I hosted our first dinner party in China, and it was a success! On the menu was vegetarian chili (canned goods thanks to Jenny Lou’s in Beijing) and rice, fruit salad, mushrooms in oyster sauce, fried potatoes and Chinese puff pastries for dessert. I made everything except the pastries, and it all turned out really well. David cleaned the house and decorated with our ever-growing variety of plants, and we fed 4 additional guests: Ada and Milly who work at the school, Ada’s husband Liu, and the other David teacher. We pumped some American jams through the computer speakers David bought for a few dollars, and continued our ambassador-ship of South Africa by showing our slideshow again. We also showed Christmas photos of David’s family to our guests, and they couldn’t believe how big the families were…and how much everyone looked alike, haha. Overall it was a really fun night, and next time we hope to serve pizza! It makes me feel more at home to be able to host events like this, and I hope we can invite more friends and students over in the future.

The comments didn’t load on the last set of photos, so I wanted to mention that the picture of 3 men includes Eddie and his Chinese business partner. The photo of David and David on the street is the “food street” that we eat at nearly every day, and the little pup is DoDo (little bean) who lives with his chef family on the food street and is one of the smallest full-grown dogs I have ever seen. The girl and boy on TV is my student who hosted a show, and the darker photo is inside the Tangshan “Toy Club.”

I managed to get a really bad stomach ache today for the first time since being here, after eating a great-tasting dish from the food street. The other David felt pretty bad after eating it too, so hopefully it was just a bad batch of food. Anyway, I probably won’t check in again until after Hong Kong, but I look forward to telling more tales!

Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart. -Confucius

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