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Hello, hello! I know you were promised a post from David a few days ago, but the poor boy has been running around senseless due to his visa and job, so you are stuck with me until I leave for Hong Kong tomorrow! I don’t really have the time to post tonight because I am supposed to be packing up ALL of my things to move into our new apartment across the street, but I promised change.org that I would blog about WATER today. The idea of this project is for all bloggers to raise awareness about a given issue on a particular day, to generate discussion and ultimately change about a pressing concern. I was also shocked myself to read that “Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. So without further ado, here are some more devastating facts about this issue:

1. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it’s no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.

2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.

3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.

4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that’s just one meal! It would take over 1.8 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.

5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using just 10 gallons to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.

Also, I recently asked a guy on The Beijinger for some Visa advice, and asked his permission to share his comical response with you; comical only in that these stories of ridiculous hassle are becoming more common the more I ask:

Hey . . In the end I went through a friend of a friend of a friend who happened to be a visa agent within beijing . . But man I wouldn’t recommend the one I used. They took my passport to another province where visa restrictions were more lax, but didn’t manage to get it to the police station in time before my visa expired. So there was some trouble there, but it was ok because everyone’s corrupt. I got my visa back after nearly a month . . but not before they tried to scam me for between 0 – 70000 RMB (it changed depending on what day and who spoke to them, i.e. myself or my chinese friends). When i got it back, it wasn’t the 12 month L visa I had decided to settle for, but rather a 6 month F visa . . with two months already expired . . Absolute nightmare. My friend convinced the person to return it without charge but it certainly wasn’t easy. these numbers may or may not help as it was a while ago now; *numbers deleted for privacy!
Still another teacher friend of mine got his 12 month F visa through a different agent, They flew out to Qing Dao from beijing, where a group of other foreigners met up at some office and collected fake working documents, then had to take those to the qing dao local constabulary and lie in person. Perhaps its more risky, perhaps not but at least you keep your hands on your passport the whole time.

So folks, do I stand a chance getting my own visa? Only time, travel, forms, endless lines and money will tell…tear.

In other news, Bank of America and a Chinese Bank combined charged me $16.50 to take out $149.50, including a $5 charge to check my balance. I went on an 8K run with the Beijing Hash House Harriers that was a fun way to explore the Beijing Hutongs, and we have done a lot more things that I will elaborate on next time!

So I can’t hyper-link most of these links because the internet is going so darn slow…so just copy and paste, okie? thanks.

*Check out this great menu translation, I have seen many similar.

*Just heard about this amazing story about two guys’ bike ride from Paris to Beijing. The photos on here are absolutely incredible, and they are hoping to raise money for an orphanage in Western China.

*I have been looking into participating in the China Charity Challenge Bike Ride in the future, they just got back from a tea tasting trip to Yunnan province, and despite my aching tailbone whenever I attempt to ride, I am really interested in joining. If you want to make the trip over here for this, let me know!

*And on one final note, all I want for Christmas is a chance to see McSteamy.

-Pictures below are from french toast I made in a Chinese wok and Apple Strudel in a pot, as well as the Tienanmen Area for National Day.

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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