Saturday, January 21, 2012



Happy Chinese New Year = Zhu ni xin nien kuai le!

Monday is Chinese New Year! This day sends me through the cobwebs of time and right down Memory Lane to the Chinese New Year I spent in China, shivering on a wood platform covered in blankets that served as my bed while in Inner Mongolia!! (That's a link to a website about Inner Mongolia!!)

Inner Mongolia is the red part. The white part is the rest of China.
The story of how I wound up there might surprise you. I will cut through the "how I ended up in China in the first place" part, as most of you know that long history, and cut right to the shocking part of how I found myself walking along the frozen streets of Inner Mongolia.

This is a picture of me! Don't I look like I fit right in? Just kidding. It's not me. Had you going there for a minute though, huh?!

At the risk of revealing my age, I will say a combination of words some of you may have heard, but which probably sound archaic, like something from the past (like using the word "fortnight"): Chat Rooms.

Anyone out there even know what those are? If not, go ask your parents. :)

So, I was in a chat room one day and I met someone in Inner Mongolia. We ended up being Chat Room "friends" (this was waaaay back before you could be "real" "friends" with someone, which, of course, started with facebook. Before facebook we were only "pretend" friends, you know.) He would ask me questions off his English homework and I would tell him the answers. We talked for many, many months. When the time came for me to go to China (second time around), he invited me to come to his home. I didn't think it would actually ever happen.

Then, Chinese New Year came around. A whole MONTH off work...PAID! I was young and foolish (which I still am, just so you know...yes, BOTH young and foolish) and my plan to go to Mt. Everest fell through, so I decided to casually invite myself to stay with my Chat Room Friend and his family. One HUGE backpacking backpack and two plane trips later I found myself at the airport in Hohhot. My chat room friend turned out to not be some spycho and actually was just some 15 year old kid! Him and his family picked me up at the airport and the adventure began!!!!!

After staying in Hohhot a few days, we took the hard seat train to Baotou and we celebrated Chinese New Year the TRADITIONAL way with my friend and his extended family.

I learned how to make jiao zi,

ate the strangest food (from donkey, that is surprisingly NOT tough, to slimy boiled pig skin, among other things),

visited relatives in the countryside of BaoTou,

and even walked on the frozen Yellow River

(a river I had spent years dreaming of one day seeing with my own eyes).

It was magical. It was fantastic. I sat and listened to monks chant in a monastery. I went to a Buddhist temple. I watched fireworks (which were invented in China, you know). I had the best adventure!

From there I backpacked to KunMing, found my way to LiJiang and ended up back in KunMing. I spent the entire month backpacking, riding slow trains, fast trains, planes, over night buses, motorcycles, cable cars, and taxi cabs. I drank water from a golden ladle from a river that would make me live to be a thousand. I hiked Snow Mountain and waded my feet in the running water of Leaping Tiger Gorge. I walked down the Burma Road and went to the headquarters of the Flying Tigers. I walked through Sun Yet Sen's home. I slept in a concrete room, in a soft bed, on a bus, in a bus station, on a train, in a motel, in a hostel. I ate boiled bark.

Chinese New Year reminds me of adventure.

I love that feeling. :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012



2011 has been a good year. We look forward to 2012!