Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Busload of Clowns

Fun weekend. Other than Liz not feeling well, but that meant that I got her egg McMuffins myself instead of both of us going to get them. While trying to order food still makes me unhappy (although they generally manage to get the order right), I found that I was very happy to have gone out that morning this weekend.

Busses in Shanghai are scary. Very, very scary. I thought that it was because they can get away with it, 'cause what police officer is going to pull over a bus filled with that many people. This weekend I learned that I was wrong, for as I headed into McDonalds, I saw the policeman wave down a bus, and the driver get out for a chat.

By the time I'd left with my order, several passengers from the bus were standing around joining in on the conversation.

Sadly, I have yet to pick up any Chinese, much less enough to know what was going on. I figure that it probably was something like the driver running a light, and the passengers being unable to poke their noses in to find out what's going on.

But for my Chinese skills, it's possible that he was simply trying to hire some people as clowns for his kid's birthday party next weekend. If only I knew more Chinese, maybe then I could have been a clown.

Of course, next weekend wouldn't work anyway. It's about time we make it back to the states, even if it's just for the week, for Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2008


HuangShan (the Yellow Mountains) was a great trip for us, even though it was more strenuous than Liz thought she could take. The photos we took don't do it justice, with the clouds covering the mountains and filling the valleys.

The ride to and from the mountains were adventures themselves. We took the overnight train, getting a couple of hard bunks to sleep on in a train car packed with Chinese people traveling. I think I'm getting used to all of the stares that I get, generally, at least. I didn't get used to the idea of squat toilets in moving vehicles, however.

After the train we had to ride a bus to the mountain itself. Another exciting journey, with the bus driver seeming to prefer the left side of the road, toward the oncoming traffic, to the right side of the road where the other cars heading our direction were traveling. We survived, though, and the threat of rain on the second day led us to buy a cheap poncho (so I could cover my camera) which we never had to use.

Legs were aching already by the time we reached the cable car, sadly. That was probably about a couple percent of the mountain walking we had to do that day. After trying to keep up with the group for a while, though, we decided to head toward our hotel on our own, and just meet up with the group later--we had cell phones that worked atop the mountain, so meeting up wasn't a problem.

Or wouldn't have been, had we been able to actually meet up. Prior to leaving the group of our own accord, we managed to lose the group as they took a path while Liz and I stopped to rest. Liz called, we tried to follow directions, and wasted half an hour looking for everyone else amid the mass of people on the mountain.

After much hiking, some Oreos, and passing by "Christmas Man" (since the Chinese guy that kept yelling it at some white-bearded man didn't know the name "Santa"), we arrived at the "four-star" hotel atop the hotel. The heat in the room almost worked, and at least we didn't have to share rooms with a dozen other people, as we would have in the three-star. And didn't sleep in the freezing cold as the people we saw in tents did.

The second day was much easier, more downhill walking, and some of the best views we saw on the trip. A little bit of touring in the afternoon, being told they didn't have shaved ice drinks at the place we stopped for refreshments, and then we had to find our own way back to the train station. Unable to find a cab, we did get approached by a rickshaw that charged much too little for the work he had to go through to get us to the train station.

It wasn't until several hours later as we were finally boarding our train that we realized we'd missed five calls from Liz's father and three from our tour guide.

It was a great trip, the food was surprisingly not bad, and the weather was nice. But it was good to get home and rest our aching legs.