A Travellerspoint blog

October 2006

The Art of the Strongly Worded Letter

So, as my dear travel companion has explained, what you have on your hands here are a couple women with a word or two for some folks out there. We are afterall, at our essence, women of the strongly worded letter. So that we get it out of our system and stop dreaming about the many postcards we would send if we had someone to send them to, it seemed best to get the message out right here, right now. So here goes...

Dear Lonely Planet,
Your function and purpose in life, your calling as it may be, is to guide us through lands unknown. Putting street names on your maps would help. A lot.
Sincerely,
Two ex-buyers of Lonely Planet Guides
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Dear People’s Republic of China,
Stop spitting. No body has that much phlegm.
Yours Truly,
She who cringes at every hauking
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Dear Beijing Olympics 2008 Planning Committee,
There's a phrase in english that says one is “in over their heads” when they have committed to something that they cannot possible complete. This my friends, is exactly where you stand. It's cute that you have real people who sell you little paper tickets to use at the subway and yet more ladies to stand and take them, but having experienced the kind of chaos and backup that this causes when a little drizzle drives Beijingers underground, I can tell you that you're going to have quite a situation on your hands. Good luck with that.
Wishing you the best,
Concerned wanna-be advisors to the Beijing Olympics Planning Committee
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Dear Unattractive Socially Akward Western Man with Beautiful Asian Girlfriend,
One day she will learn enough english to know what kind of mess she’s gotten herself into. She may not leave you, she may not even tell you, but you can bet she will resent you for it. I'd watch what she puts in your food if I were you.
With Love,
Women of the West
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Dear Ming Dynasty,
I like what you’ve done with the place.
Sincerely,
Impressed Traveller
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Posted by Ivory 03:27 Archived in China Comments (1)

it IS pretty great...

Gone to see a man about a large wall

Yesterday my friends, we climbed a wall.

A large wall.

One might go so far as to call it great.

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The hike was amazing...it took about three hours, including several points where we feared for our lives. (I believe the exact phrase I continually muttered under my breath was "feet don't fail me now...")

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I can't begin to tell you how beautiful it is. It stretches on a far as you can see, breath-taking views from all sides.

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There was some construction happening on the great wall, mostly in the form of stones, shovels and donkeys. We had a pretty good time imagining conversations that must take place from those guys...something to the effect of "MAN! I got construction duty on the great wall again. That shit's never gonna be finished!"

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Maybe one of the few things in life that lives up to all the hype. Mao once said, "A man who has never climbed the Great Wall is not a true man." Though I tend not to agree with the Chairman on a number of policies, this may be an exception.

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A day I will never forget as long as I live.

(Many apologies for the overly sentimental nature of this post...I'll do better next time. I promise.)

Posted by lbassi 03:05 Archived in China Comments (0)

Women of Questionable Morals

An Overactive Imagination Goes to Work

There's a line in some particularly bad Leon Uris book that is something to the effect of:

"Kitty, you've become a woman of renown."
"No, Ari, more of a curiousity."

(Please don't ask why I can quote that off the top of my head...invariably the only answer is that no one will ever love me.)

One day while wandering through Tokyo, I declared myself a woman of curiosity. Here I am traveling the world, a woman without borders refusing to be contained by conventional stardards and expectations.

Sarah prompty mocked me. Something to the effect of "you're a woman with too much time on your hands you crackpot." (Point taken...)After this exchange, I revised my original statement to declare myself a woman of leisure. Here I am, no job, no one to tell me when to get up or what to do. I am, indeed, a definitive woman of leisure.

Except that I feel like women of leisure travel with money...they don't sleep on hostel floors using their towels as blankets.

Once aboard our lady the Yangjing, (China's definitive sea cruiser,) we declared ourselves sea women. We were, undoubtedly, meant for a life at sea, the cool wind flowing through our hair, the smell of salt and fresh air, out in search of uncharted waters. Carey Grant at our sides as we tearfully wave goodbye to land, though sure deep in our hearts that our fate was tied to the sea.
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And then we encountered what life is actually like at sea. First off, Carey Grant is not there. They also like to snack on a little something called Chinese porridge: this is lentals soaked in water. A life at sea also involves screaming children, bizzare human interactions and late-night karaoke. After a particularly terrifying night time view, we decided that perhaps we were not woman of the sea. We were woman of land. Land women.
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As time went on, we began to adopt the phrase for anything we took a particular fancy to. In the last 10 days, we've been women of...
-the hike (though the great wall proved otherwise)
-the walk (still in the bag)
-the mountain (I decided on this one after I used my Swiss Army knife to open a particular difficult bottle of mineral water. Sarah still claims that this does not count as a mountain-woman activity)
-the bike
-maps (ahh lonely planet...and yet how you mock us)
-public transport (we're actually amazing. We are the original women of p.t...)
-many tounges (although really only one tounge...kind of deflates the argument)
-meditation (well..one day perhaps...)
-positivity (err...well...one day perhaps...)
-regimented exercise (if food poisioning doesn't head our way again)
-concerns (we have a number of those...)

One day while struggling yet again with the crappy and incomplete information provided by our friendly neighborhood Lonely Planet, we decided to write them a strongly worded letter listing all of their shortcomings in great detail. As we continued to compose this letter and a number of other memos we felt the world desperately needed, it hit us.

Really, when it comes down to it, at are very core, the most distilled and central part of our souls...

We are woman of the strongly worded letter.

Take it away, Ms. Ivory...

Posted by lbassi 06:15 Archived in China Comments (0)

Good Morning Beijing

It's hard to believe it's been more than a week already since our ship landed in Tianjin. One does not exactly take China by storm so much as China fully takes you. I have to admit, coming to Beijing was not at the top of my very long mental destination list before I set out on this trip -- but I am so very thankful to be here (all consuming food poisoning incedent and all). It seems impossible to sum up what we've seen so far into a bite sized first impression paragraph -- but I guess that's the jist of it right there - it's the sheer unconceivable enormity of it all.
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In three adjectives, I would say that China feels incredibly raw, alive, and of a level of granduer for which there is no scale. As for the first two, they're more of feelings than describable sites or sounds or smells. China does not put on aires so to speak. There is no sensation that one is not seeing the country and its people for what they are. Somehow it simultaneously feels like a completely different world and yet very much like one I know well. Much more so than any other city I've visited abroad, Beijing has to feeling of the poorer sections of huge American cities like New York to me. It's the sensation that you are walking through it like a shadow unnoticed. There are no cars that will slow for your crossing, no people who will acknowledge your presence in que or your concept of personal space on a train, no bycicles that will share the sidewalk with you. Before coming many other travellers warned us that China would be incredibly rude and harsh to our senses. But there's something in it, maybe because I've been living in the south and missing the northeast for too long, that I find quite comforting.
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On a whole though, my first impressions have been most shaped by the breathtaking magnitude of it all. It's not just the size of the country (Beijing alone is roughly the size of Belgium I've read) or the hugeness and diversity of its population that makes me say this. It's the whole picture - it is a country whose "modern history" chapter begins in the 1500s; it is a vast land with an all consuming concentration of power that reaches every pocket of the country and exists even to this day (isn't it difficult to imagine in a country of this size that there could still be someone out there monitoring what I write in this very blog and sheilding its populous from corrupting media outlets like the BBC?); it is a land covered with temples, palaces, and various public works projects of uncountered proportion and scale which have been standing for longer than many countries have even existed; it is the fact that there are 1500 dialects spoken by just one of China's ethnic groups (there are 54 additional ethnic minorities, each with their own myriad of dialects); it is the breadth and rapidity of the country's economic progress over the past two decades; it is all of this and so much more that weighs on the outsider with this feeling of hugeness. It's a country that has always had, and continues to have, a grand vision. And more importantly, the ability to make those visions come true. It is truely awe-inspiring.
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Posted by Ivory 04:22 Archived in China Comments (0)

A New National Sport

The Art of the Luge...

Welcome to Beijing where the national sport is...spitting.

Spitting is actually a generous term...though I'm not sure I've ever used this phrase before, it would be more aptly described as "hauking a luge." (Unsure about the spelling there...) Though fines of up to 50 cents have been imposed on those caught spitting on the street, it still does not stop everyone and their mom from reaching deep down in their throat, summoning their phlegm forward and letting it rip. In fact, most people reach down 2 to 3 times before they actually release.

Some cities are alive with the sounds of birds chirping or cars honking.

Beijing? The retching sound of man summoning forth his bodily fluids.

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And it's only just begun...

Posted by lbassi 21:23 Archived in China Comments (0)

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