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Coming to you straight from Lily’s American Diner in Beijing, I know it’s time for a post because I’m seriously questioning my sanity. Lets start from a few days ago…

On Sunday I arrived to an incredibly beautiful day in Hong Kong, where I was flawlessly picked-up from the train station from Richard Kligler and whisked away to the beach oasis of Stanley. Richard and I spent the day on dueling laptops, chatting about our favorite things: tea, traveling, St. Baldrick’s, Hong Kong and the US. I got on facebook for the first time since May, and had a good time catching up on all your lives! Marcia made us a wonderful dinner, and I was entertained by Jill, Sean and Jet the wonder dog. Jill graciously offered me her bed, and I fell asleep with the waves crashing outside my window…I was feelin GOOD.

Monday morning I got up bright and early and headed to the visa office downtown. Although the place opens at 9am, there was already a line stretched around the corner at 8:45. Fortunately, I had all of my information together and had submitted all of my materials and was finished around 10:30. I walked around the Wan Chai/Central areas of Hong Kong for a while, and then headed back to Stanley. Again, more nice chats with Richard and dinner complete with jerk ribs and cornbread!

Tuesday, the real adventure of the past few days began. It was my plan to meet The Jacobs on the top of Victoria Peak, and Richard agreed to drop me off in the morning. I got a little confused about the Jacobs itinerary, and we had some trouble figuring out whether to meet at the bottom or top tram…which ended up confusing the heck out of Richard, who took a last minute turn onto the Peak Circuit. Now, a friendly passerby told us cars were allowed to drive around the 3K the circuit, but having walked the relatively narrow, pedestrian path before, I was immediately worried. You may remember the photos of this path from our previous Hong Kong post, which was one of David’ and my most memorable experiences in Hong Kong. Richard maneuvered skillfully between walkers, runners, groups of school children and a rock cliffs to our right and a 1200m drop on the left. We did see a few residences and hotels as we crawled by in the car, so it was obvious that cars sometimes DO make this journey. However, we were finally halted by construction halfway around the walk. BIG Oh No! We had hardly had enough space to drive forward, now we had to reverse out?! At this point I was a half hour late to meet the Jacobs, who had been calling me on Richard’s phone that was accidentally on silent. So…backing up we went. I CANNOT believe we made it through about five 30-point turns without scratching Richard’s Jaguar, but thank goodness. After an additional hour of ushering every type of walker by, including a group of nearly 200 French students, we made it to a turn-around and back to where we started on the peak.

Well, the Jacobs had left at that point and I was left to converse with their extremely English-limited tour guide. Fortunately, Richard the savior took me to meet them in Aberdeen, and we linked up for the rest of the day. I won’t go into detail about how the tour guide thought it was reasonable for them to spend 25 minutes on Victoria Peak and over 3 hours at Ocean Park children’s amusement park…but that day about wrecked every last nerve in my body. Fortunately, it was all made better by seeing the Jacobs and having an excellent day two of touring in Hong Kong together. We toured all the different markets, sign-laden streets and made it back to do Victoria Peak justice! David’s computer is really best for uploading photos and he’s meeting the Jacobs in Guilin now, so I will have to post more photos and details about the trip when he returns (or hope that the Jacobs will guest post!)

That night…more crap news. I got on the internet to find that David didn’t get his Z-visa, and would be running around furiously the next day to get an emergency extension from the security bureau to have any chance of seeing his parents. Already stressed about this potential, I also found out that the biggest Typhoon in years was scheduled to make a direct hit on Hong Kong on Saturday…the day I was supposed to leave. I immediately called the airline to switch my flight, but they informed me that I would have to fax or email a copy of my passport to them in order to change flights. Oh good, that passport that’s at the visa office? Excellent. So, after a brief break-down, I brainstormed with Richard about options. I would pick up my visa as early as possible, go straight to the train station/apparently a place to check baggage for the airport and buy tickets (wow, Hong Kong service is incredible!!!) and try and get on the only flight leaving through China Southern 4 hours later the same day. And, it worked. I was extremely bummed not to be able to meet up with Erin Manfredi to see Danny Boselovic’s big show at The Beijing Club on Friday night…but I thought it was more important to get back to Beijing.

Then, quick re-cap of my night after arriving to the Beijing airport:
-Take train from airport to new apartment (after being kicked out/potentially robbed, David moved us in while I was in Hong Kong)
-Knock on door with suitcase…no one is home/no idea if David is on his way to Guilin or what
-Go to Starbucks to use internet and try to contact someone in Beijing.
-Computer is dead.
-Lovely employee says there are no outlets. (Umm, how do you make frappacinos? Someone helllp me!)
-Brief crying session in Starbucks.
-Walk to newspaper stand to buy money to re-charge phone.
-No cards left for China Telecom.
-Walk to another stand, guy over-charges me (do NOT say thank you to him!) and gives me card.
-Add money, try to call friend.
-RE-charge did not work.
-Phone blinks low battery.
-Stand, stare, want to die.
-Try phone again, it works! Betsy quickly gives me directions to her apartment, which I have never been to but apparently is unlocked, thank you second savior of the week.
-Find apartment, enter.
-Freak out dog, who pees all off the couch, twice.
-David calls, he’s home. Seriously? Ahhhhhh
-Meet him to get new key at the metro, he leaves for Guilin.

Happy Ending/Minor Miracles: David got his emergency extension and is in Guilin meeting his parents. There’s no heat or internet in the apartment, so I’m sitting in Lily’s (thank you Lily and Joe), re-telling a story I’m sure will be funny for prosperity but makes me feel like sharing with you is the only way to regain some sanity.

Nihao from Beijing,
Erin

*ps…Our new apartment currently has one empty room. For those of you that are interested in having a similarly stressful yet potentially life changing experience here, feel free to get in touch.

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Personally, I think we saved the best for last. On our second to last day in Hong Kong we took a Ferry to Lamma Island, which is known for its seafood restaurants, fishing villages and beautiful scenery. Upon arriving on the island we visited a typical Buddhist temple with tons of overpowering incense hanging in spirals from the ceiling, took pictures of funny tourist stickers, and I bought some tea at a small tea shop. Soon after we took a pretty nature hike around the island, and got to put our feet in the water.The dichotomy of beautiful Lamma island with huge smoke stacks in the background represents much of the feeling of China that I have experienced thus far. We also took photos of these great houses that were completely surrounded by lush vegetation, and look like little tropical hideaways. On our way around the island we ran into Angel and Javi, two very entertaining and vibrant Spaniards, who wanted our help taking a picture. We ended up speaking Spanish with these two for a good part of the afternoon, and their antics and strong northern accents had me laughing the entire time. We found out that Javi had taken a last-minute leave from the army to visit Angel, his long-time friend who was “working” as a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong for a week or so. Javi didn’t speak Chinese or English, so he was very happy to have people to communicate with for a while. Angel told us about his life learning French, traveling, and living currently in Los Angeles. We had an incredible seafood lunch together, complete with the best mini-lobster I have ever tried! Sadly, we had to catch a ferry back before they were ready to leave, so we quickly exchanged emails…but I haven’t heard from them. The experience definitely made me want to visit Spain again!

We took a nice, sunny, ferry ride back to HK island and caught the 6 Bus (with a bunch of hyper French teenagers) to Stanley. Stanley is a upper-class beach neighborhood outside of downtown Hong Kong that seems like an ideal place to live. In Stanley we met back up with the Kliglers, who had graciously offered to host us for the night! We got to meet Sean and Jill, the Kilgler kids, as well as the newest addition to the family…Jet, the Hong Kong dog. It was really nice to have a relaxing evening full of great home-cooked food and conversation with the Kliglers. I regret to inform you that we didn’t get pictures of the kids, the dog, or the apartment, which was decorated with incredible art from all over Asia. However, both the home and family gave me inspiration for the future. And of course…we toasted the end of the night with some good old fashioned Baijiu.

The next day was our last in Hong Kong, and we spent it leisurely in the town of Stanley. I bought a few souvenirs in Stanley Market, and we ate some pizza in one of the water-front restaurants. O yea, and I took a quick nap under the sun! After that, we caught the bus back to the metro, took the long metro ride to the HK/Shenzhen Boarder, passed through customs, spent the night in Shenzhen (where we managed to eaten some “Mexican” food), took a complicated bus from Shenzhen downtown to the airport, flew to Beijing, took a bus from Beijing to Tangshan…and taxied back to our apartment. Simple, right? Only for David the transportation wizard!

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