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Wuddup wuddup, its been a while since I posted, mainly because nothing too exciting has happened. We haven’t gone anywhere except for Beijing which is growing commonplace now. Don’t worry though, we should have a flurry of exciting updates coming in the next week or so. We will be going to Xi’an, a “new, old city” most famous for being the location of the Terra Cotta warriors. More importantly, my friend Matt Busa will meet us there on his trip to China! So we are excited and hope that he can make a guest post about his experience.

Yesterday , I watched the highest grossing movie in Chinese cinematic history, and it was about the Tangshan earthquake (English subtitles). I think it is hard to imagine the kind of devastation that the city endured, but basically everything in the city was destroyed and the majority of people living here died. The movie did a very poor job of depicting this, as it focused mostly on one families struggle AFTER the actual earthquake. We really haven’t encountered situations where the earthquake was brought up, but I think the spirit of resiliency and perseverance is very strong with people from Tangshan. The movie was not very interesting, but what I did think was interesting is how much the audience talked during the movie. Cell phones were ringing CONSTANTLY throughout the movie, people were talking like they would anywhere else…it was a little strange. As you walked into the theater, which was the old-style with a balcony, they handed you a bag of tissues in case you were crying.

I have been practicing my Chinese more recently and am noticing improvements particularly with my listening and pronunciation. About 1% of the people that I talk to tell me that they can’t understand me, where before it was probably about 40%. It is also very easy to seem like you understand what someone is saying if you just grunt, probably the most common response to any comment or question. It has taken a while, but we are starting to think more in Chinese rather than in English, which is a big step. An easy example that happens all the time is if someone asks you a question such as “Can you speak Chinese?”, the English speaker would respond “yes” or “no”. In Chinese you say “Can.” It is very hard to not respond with the words yes or no, but we are both getting much better at it. I had 2 census workers come to my apartment yesterday, and when I opened the door both of their jaws actually dropped. It is was pretty funny, and I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t wearing a shirt, I was a foreigner not wearing a shirt, or just in awe of my incredibly chiseled physique, but they were so dumbfounded that they couldn’t even utter a sound. I told them 2 people lived here, both Americans, and that we are teachers, and they both had huge smiles and said that was all they needed. It is going to be hard going back to America and not treated with the same level of awe, but it will also be nice to just fit in, so what can you do?

Alrighty, as I said before, check back in a few days, we will have some updates with our travels and friend visiting (picture of him and his girlfriend below). We are almost at the 20,000 views mark too, so we will have to have a huge tonedeaftravelers post/pictures extravaganza when that happens. So get excited!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Bye bye everyone.

The Master said, “From a gentleman consistency is expected, but not blind fidelity.” (Analects, 15.36)

Whats up faithful readers! We just got back to Tangshan, but I will fill you in on the 2nd half of our vacation. Our last day in Guangzhou we wandered around the largest wholesale market in China. As I described before, basically the market consisted of one block of all chandeliers, the next toys, etc. The streets we were walking around were toys, then spices, and then, much to my dismay and disgust, shark fins. There was about 3 or 4 blocks of stores selling dried fish, with most of them being 50% shark fins. As Erin said to me, “I didn’t even know there were this many sharks in the world.” We didn’t even make it to the endangered species and pet portion of the market, but I am sure those would have been similarly delightful! We stopped in the mall which was 8 floors of the same kinds of things, mostly small souvenirs, then had lunch, then were on our way to Guilin. A random guy tried to kick me twice because I had my foot on the bench he was sitting on, and although I really wanted to pound him, I remembered Confucius saying “Let there be no evil in your thoughts.” So yea, Guilin.

Guilin is a city about the size of Tangshan, but is renowned for the karst peaks which are located all over the city. These strange shaped mountains are pretty different looking than anything you will see and Guilin is considered by many the most beautiful city in China. We also have been talking to a acquaintance from our high school, Robbie Fried, who lives in Guilin and has set up a Chinese language learning program for Western folks, the Chinese Language Institute. We saw the big sites to see in the city the first day, including Elephant Trunk Mountain and Seven Star Park. Guilin is a decent tourist attraction that has a number of foreigners visiting, so the culture is a little bit different than what we are used to (and appreciate) in Tangshan. Basically everyone is trying to rip you off in some way. It is a little annoying having to start the meter in most of the taxis that you get into and constantly having to tell people that you don’t want whatever it is they keep saying “Hello?” to you about, but its expected in a town that is so tourism dependent. It really is a beautiful place though, with 3 rivers winding through the city. We met up with Robbie and his girlfriend, Lauren, who took us to a hot pot restaurant which was easily the best we have been to, and followed the Chinese custom of not even giving us a chance to pay for the meal. It was pretty awesome though, and I must say I approve of this Chinese custom (since I am basically never the host = free meals).

We also hopped on a bus to Yangshuo, a much smaller town which was apparently not much of anything 10 years ago, but has exploded due to it being the end of the popular Li River cruises from Guilin. The town is gorgeous though, with karst peaks everywhere and a great downtown area filled with shops and restaurants. The restaurants were very Western, but had some of the best food we have had in China for a decent price. We had a Middle Eastern meal for lunch and then rented a tandem bike to explore the area, which was fun. I have never been on a double bike before, so I am glad I can cross it off the list of things to do. We biked around the town admiring the karst mountains and rice paddies, all the while sweating buckets. We spent the next day back in Guilin for July 4th, and unfortunately Erin got food poisoning and was barfing all night, but I still got to go out with Robbie and his brothers to celebrate at a bar in Guilin and shoot some heavy duty fireworks down by the river. It was a good time and Uncle Sam would have been proud.

With Erin back in fighting form, we decided to stay the night in Yangshuo, so back on the bus we headed. We met a lady who offered us a nice deal on a bamboo boat with her husband to head down the river, which was for me the highlight of the entire trip. Amazing scenery and friendly people waving and yelling hello. We walked around the town some more and ate some pizza at the Karst Cafe, which is a popular spot for rock climbers, and had some really good pizza and chatted with the employees for a long time. After some shopping/haggling, we were ready to call it a night. Fast forward through a day of traveling, and we are back in our living room. All in all it was a fun but hot trip, with Yangshuo being the clear highlight for both of us. Most Chinese people think it is way too touristy, but a place that gorgeous is going to be filled with tourists. Put in a bunch of bars and pizza places and the foreigners will follow. Thats all for now, happy 4th of July everyone, missing home but still liking it here. Enjoy the pictures!

The Master said, “A gentleman covets the reputation of being slow in word but prompt in deed.” Analects, 4.24

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