Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My last weeks in China

I know I keep saying that I’m done blogging because of finals and packing, but this week has been weird. If you’ve kept up with me this long I figured you might be interested.

Make a Rabbit Disappear

This week started with a rabbit. I don’t remember if I’ve told you about Hambowbow yet so let me summarize the situation. For my friend Judith’s birthday, some people came together and bought her a long haired rabbit. He looks extraordinarily Asian, complete with squinting eyes and a fu man chu coming to a point beneath his chin. He was named Hambowbow (the Chinese word for hamburger).
The real story started though when he was brought back to the dorm. Judith’s Korean roommate didn’t want a rabbit living with her. So instead, Hambowbow was sent to live with me for a few weeks. The Korean roommate would be going home then so the ball of fur could be returned to his rightful owner. Until then, the two of us, along with my Russian roommate, would have to get along.
This week though, we prepared for Hambowbow’s departure. The Korean was leaving in six hours and I was packing up the cage. The rabbit was playing outside my window, where a shared stone deck sat on the third floor of our dormitory. I jumped through the window and started the process of trying to get the rabbit back inside.
He didn’t want to. Hambowbow ran in circles around the deck, jumping for every lap he completed. Finally, in a last hop of freedom, the rabbit jumped in a small hole along floor of third floor.

And he was gone.
I just stood there for a moment looking at the place the rabbit had disappeared. I had barely noticed this hole because it was so small. But he was completely gone. I stuck my hand down the gap but it went down too far for me to reach.
Within the next hour we stuck a rope with a banana on it down the hole. Hambowbow loved bananas. But he didn’t even nibble on it. We also realized that the hole went straight down about thirty feet. Into a wall. Apparently, the deck had been built on later that the rest of the dorm so the Chinese left this hollow pillar in the wall. It was about two square feet wide and it literally went straight down to the basement.
With the help of some friends, we went to the bottom floor and deduced which wall the rabbit was trapped behind. I was pretty positive he was dead. I felt awful. But we wanted to make sure. I climbed up into the ceiling tiles of the basement and found a small crack (thank goodness for shady Chinese construction) in the wall. With the use of a headlamp (never leave for China without one) I could see the rope that had the banana on it. It was about ten feet away from me. And we knew that the rabbit would beneath it.

So we stole an American’s cane and an Italian’s sword. I attached another friend’s webcam to the cane along with my headlamp. We had created a probe that could be slid through the crack and look down to see if the rabbit was ok. Even in the midst of probably killing a friend’s pet, I still recognized that this was pretty cool. It was like something off of a spy movie.

After a few tries I was finally able to get a good look inside the hole. The rabbit was there, completely unharmed, and sniffing the banana that hung from a string. I flipped the probe up and saw the great distance between the hole’s bottom and top. I still have no idea how Hambowbow survived.
But his temporary escape from death didn’t help us for more than a moment. There was still the issue of the rabbit being stuck down a deep whole without a way out. And I had to use the length of a cane and a sword attached together just to see him. We decided to wait a night and talk to the people in the Chinese office in the morning. I threw some food pellets down the hole that night. I thought the rabbit might get hungry.
The next day we told the Chinese that there was a rabbit in their walls. They took it surprisingly well. I showed them the video I had taken with the web cam to show that the rabbit was very much alive. And I showed them exactly which wall the rabbit was trapped inside. For a solid two hours the Chinese people considered helping. They brought in janitors and construction workers, looked at the wall, scratched their heads, mumbled something, and walked away. Eventually, someone told us that they could do nothing. To put a hole in the wall would cost about 1000 RMB ($150). They didn’t want to waste that kind of money on a rabbit. And they assured me that the smell wouldn’t be too bad when the animal started to rot.

With that happy thought in mind, I asked them if I could try and save him. I knew that the crack I had put the cane and sword down could be widened. They told me that I could make as much damage as I wanted as long as it couldn’t be seen.
So once again, I climbed up in the tiles. This time with a hammer and chisel. And I started hacking away at the wall. Since I’ve never been in this situation in America, I can’t say that this would never happen. But I cannot imagine a university at home letting a foreign exchange student hack away at a pillar in their walls. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.
As I started, I found a large pipe that held my weight so I could sit. It was useful as I spent the next nine hours widening a crack in a cement wall. I couldn’t see anyone but from what I heard we had a whole crowd of students beneath me, moving the stones and cement that I threw down. Italians, Americans, Russians, Dutch, Germans, Koreans, and the occasional Chinese person were all helping. About the sixth hour I was exhausted, and an energetic Dutch girl named Charlotte climbed up into the ceiling with a hammer in her hand and started joining me. I would have preferred my roommate who could probably have just punched the wall down, but we needed small, spry people to climb up into the tight tiles.
Charlotte was like a breath of fresh air. Literally, she made the gap big enough so that we had more air going through it. Within an hour, we had a five foot hole made that I could slide down into. It put me into this abyss section that went another ten feet to my left to the column that the bunny was in. We had knocked up so much dust that I could barely breathe. Charlotte continued to make the whole larger behind me in order to fix this. I pushed my feet on one wall while my back pushed on another and slowly moved toward the rabbit’s cell. Once again, even in the midst of a bad situation, this felt pretty cool.
Eventually, I got to the rabbit. With my headlamp back on my head I was able to see the grey ball of fluff down a hollow column to my left. I was too big to get down there so I called to Charlotte to get something that we could get him in. Judith took a sand bucket and filled it with smashed bananas. Some people attached it to my rope (never leave for China without rope) and passed it into me. I unsuccessfully tried to bribe the rabbit into the bucket. Instead of going in, Hambowbow just nibbled on the edges. After thirty minutes of eating the bucket the rabbit walked out of sight.
I couldn’t find him. There was a stone that had come loose at the base of the hole and the rabbit had walked through into another crack. And that crack led right beneath me. I gave a yelp at my sudden good fortune and slowly slid down the mini canyon to pick him up.
But the rabbit ran from me. Me, the guy who was trying to save his furry tail. He ran back through the gap, back to his original column. At this point I considered leaving the rodent in the hole. But I’d already caused so much damage and missed a day of class. Too much of an investment. So I took the bucket, swung it over into his hole and started smacking him with it. I yanked the rope, pulled the bucket a few feet high, then dropped it back on his head. Within a few minutes of being continually beaten across the face, the rabbit ran back to my section. I grabbed him around the waist and threw him up to Charlotte. She grabbed him like a pro and passed him out to growing international crowd.
Somehow, he was alive. The only damage he suffered was a sprained ankle and some sticky fur. And I think the latter was from me hitting him with a bucket full of smashed bananas. All in all, I’d say that this day went about as well as it possibly could have.

When I was younger, I always wanted a pet rabbit. I thought they would be fun to play with. But no, I was wrong. They jump down nearly endless holes. They run from you when you try to save the. I spent nine hours in a ceiling and three in a wall. I think I’ll stick with dogs from now on.

Korean Sports Meet
Friday I went to a Korean sports meet. The first event involved kicking our shoes off our feet at great distances. The person who kicked their shoe off the farthest got a gift certificate to a Korean restaurant. I didn’t know this was a sport. But the Koreans took it seriously. They all wound their foot up with pure concentration and released their shoes at the perfect time.
My own shoe, like many of the other westerners, actually went behind my head. It looks like I’ll continue paying for my Korean food.
After the shoes flew, we had dodge ball, soccer, and foot volleyball competitions. I chose to compete in the foot volleyball. My trip to China was the first time I’d ever heard of this sport. Basically, they mixed soccer and volleyball together and created volleyball with your feet. Our team of westerners finished in dead last but it was a great experience. Why don’t we play this sport in the states? I think I’ll try to start a group when I get back.
After that I had to go to work so I missed most of the other events. I got back a few hours later, just in time to see everyone doing a relay. It involved balloon popping and running in circles. Oddly though, most of the Koreans were uncoordinated. They all appeared dizzy and were giggling as they tried to pop the balloons. I asked one of my friends who was competing what was going on. Through half closed eyes and a goofy smile on his face he told me that two events ago there was an alcohol drinking competition.
I’ve been to a few sports meets before. But this was definitely the first where alcohol was on the same list as soccer and a footrace. The Korean athletes staggered to finish until one, a friend of mine named Gook, finally popped a balloon. He won a plane ticket to Korea. I guess if you really want to win the prize you have to be dedicated to get it.

Technically Not in the Mafia

I was talking to my Russian roommate the other day about Qingdao. He’s lived here for a few years and knows the ends and outs of the city. At one point I asked him about the Russian mafia. I figured since he’s Russian he might know about these things. And one of my friends from the states said there was one in Qingdao. Ivan fell over laughing when I asked him this. “I’m the closest thing to the mafia that this town has,” he said in a thick Russian accent. I laughed too for a moment and then stopped as I realized what he said.
“Wait, have you been in the mafia?” I asked, suddenly thinking this might be a question you should ask your roommate before you agree to live with him.
He paused for moment and thought about it. After a bit he shook his head and said, “No, not really. I’ve done a little bit of lower level stuff back in Russia, but nothing big. Gangs, mostly.”
“Gangs?” I asked, still feeling like I should have been able to check the “no” box on a gang member roommate before coming to school.
“Not really gangs,” said Ivan sensing my worry. “We usually just lived in one spot of a town and played a lot of sports together. It was more like a team.”
I kind of gave a sigh of relief.
“—And occasionally we would require the local businesses and people to pay us a protection fee. Just little stuff like that.”
I sucked my sigh back up. I thought this was the best time to change the subject. I asked him why there wasn’t a Russian mafia in Qingdao. He told me that the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai had them but that it was hard to bring them into China. Foreigners have so few rights that they are not protected by the law.
He then went on and told me about a story where some guy came up and fought him in a restaurant. From what Ivan said, he knocked the man unconscious and waited for the ambulance to come pick him up. The police later expected Ivan to pay for the hospital bill. Ivan threw his hands up in disgust when he told this part of story. “In China you start a fight, you get your face bashed in, and you want people to pay for it. Terrible country.”
And looking back as I write this, I can’t help but think that I’ve given a false impression of Ivan. Don’t get me wrong, all of these stories are true, but the kid is definitely much deeper than he lets on. I think he is my closest guy friend living in China. With Florian back in France and the other Missouri State guys on a different schedule than me; I end up spending a lot of time with him. He’s opening a gym here in Qingdao in a week. And he’s already promised me free entry. I’m going to check it out this week. It has truly been a pleasure and an experience getting to know him. And he hasn’t even asked me to pay a protection fee yet.

Gossip Girl?
We have a new laoshi (Chinese teacher). Her name is Laoshi Dong. She is only twenty-six years old and is very enthusiastic in her teaching. Furthermore, her English is great. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to learn Chinese when someone can explain it in English.
Today, while we were in class, Saeroom, a girl from Korea, told the laoshi that she watched Gossip Girl this last weekend. This is a TV drama about rich kids who do terrible things to each other to get what they want. Real classy media.

Anyways, Laoshi Dong smiled and said that she also watched Gossip girl. Soon, every girl in the class, all from different countries, admitted to watching this show. In Chinese they started comparing the relationships, and the people, and the clothes. Soon, we started learning words for sunglasses, earrings, and pearls. We were literally learning from Gossip Girl. And now I know enough of the language that I couldn’t just tune them out. It was awful. There has never been such a painful class.

Bao Jiaozi
This last weekend Judith and I were invited to Ma Laoshi’s (our other teacher) house to make dumplings (called jiaozi in Chinese). This was my first time to be invited to a Chinese household. Ma lives with his mother and father in a small apartment. We also got to meet his niece and younger sister. They prepared bowls of chopped meat and vegetables and small dough patties. We were instructed to use chopsticks to put the ingredients from the bowl on the dough. Then we wrapped (called bao in Chinese) the dough and pinched its edges.
According to Ma’s niece, my bao jiaozi skills are bu hao (very bad). But they tasted delicious. Also, it was just interesting to be with Chinese people in their home. They are so hospitable. And they have these turtles that they keep in a bucket. They are fifteen years old and each the size of my head. This wasn’t the highlight of the day, but definitely interesting.
Also, after much practice, I think I know how to make my own dumplings. They won’t look very pretty, so I’ll need to concentrate on the taste.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Beacon

I mentioned once before that when foreigners come to China they usually experience a near-continuous abundance of illnesses. And I’m just another statistic. Last week I got hit with some kind of stomach bacteria.

I’m not really sure where I could have gotten this bug from. After all, China, being known for its cleanliness, has so few places where one could get something like this. I mean with street vendors who pick their noses, babies pooping on the street, and raw meat being prepared on dirty tables, what are the chances that people would get a little sick? Also this week, I learned that a large portion of street food meat is preserved with formaldehyde. That’s the stuff they put in dead bodies to keep them from rotting. I’m going to spend more time at the western restaurants for the remainder of my trip.

Anyways, I got sick. I couldn’t move from my bed for most of the week and I wasn’t able to hold down food either. I haven’t checked yet but I’m guessing I’ve lost about twenty pounds during my entire stay in China. Part has just been from the change of diet but most has been the sickness. That’s a lot of weight for me. I’m not exactly the kind of guy who’s going to be on the Biggest Loser anytime soon. Losing twenty pounds of me is like taking off a leg.

So that worried me a little. Finally though, after about six days of this stomach stuff I had my first hunger pains. And they were strong, healthy ones. That was worth a trip out of bed to me. It probably would have been smarter to follow my mom’s advice she use to give and eat something small, like crackers, but I was wound up about being hungry. So, I decided to eat at the least Asian place in China; McDonalds.

Like most of America’s finer culture (rap music, Justin Bieber, ect) fast food is becoming a big part of Chinese society. McDonalds, or as it’s pronounced here, My-dong-laow, is practically as native to this country as it is to ours. So I rushed out the door and started walking towards the McDonalds closest to my school.

It was a cool night and a thick fog had settled on the ground. I could only see about ten feet in every direction. Also, at this point I realized how dizzy I was from the lack of food I had eaten during the last several days. So I was staggering down a foggy Chinese street, all gaunt from a week without a meal, my arms slightly raised to keep my balance, and searching for McDonalds. I must have looked like something out of the Walking Dead.

Furthermore, I was giggling uncontrollably as I tottered down the road. Like a crazy person. The whole situation was too much. And I was just imagining what commentators would be saying had they been there. “Watch the American as he marches deep into the cold unknown, only wanting one taste of the Big Mac he has been so adamantly searching for.” I’m so stereotypical.

Then, to make it all the better, I took a moment to look up and figure out where I was. And there, in the distance, like a beacon of hope were the golden arches hovering in the sky. Because of the fog they looked like an angelic creature hovering in the distance, just far enough out of reach that I put my arms out to try and touch them.

And then a motorcycle honked and I realized I almost crossed a busy intersection without looking at the through-traffic. And I just stood there, not really caring about danger, just the big yellow arches. Surely this is proof that McDonalds is going to kill us. One way or another.

So I got my food. It wasn’t very good. And it made me sick. Next time I go a week with a stomach illness I’m going to start back to solid foods with crackers or bananas. Somehow, even in China, moms are usually right about these kinds of things.

Why Not

Today I felt pretty well so I went to the main market in Qingdao. I had paid a seamstress to create some clothes for me. She did a really good job on making a sports coat and a vest. However, she didn’t understand that most college boys in America don’t wear their pants above their belly button. And I haven’t covered a chapter in my Chinese class that uses either the words ‘belly button’ or ‘out of fashion.’ So I may come home dressing a lot more like my father. 

Also today, as I was out buying some food for my friend’s rabbit (I’ll tell you later), I came across a barber shop. I’d wanted to get a haircut for a few weeks now and this guy was offering one for two dollars. So he asked me what I wanted. I shrugged and told him to make me look Chinese. I figured it’s just hair. Worst case scenario I’d shave and it’d grow back in a few weeks.

So he cut my hair, and he did it very well. As he did I started looking at pictures of all the Asian models hanging on the walls. They had all dyed their hair bright colors of red, purple, and orange. And I asked the barber if he could do the same to my hair. He nodded and brought out some red paste. He didn’t put it everywhere but he put in a good amount. And it didn’t really turn my hair red. More of a maroon, much like my home university’s colors. It’s funny how these things work out.

So now I have maroon hair. When in China, dye your hair like the Chinese do.

Ham bow bow

My friend Judith had her birthday a few weeks ago and a group of us pitched in and bought her a pet rabbit. She really wanted one. So we went with her and picked out a long haired, gray rabbit, complete with his own Fu Manchu. He looks very wise. She named him Ham bow bow, the Chinese word for a western hamburger.

Unfortunately, Judith’s roommate is Korean. And most Koreans don’t do rabbits. This particular Korean didn’t do mice, cats, dogs, fish, and generally all animal life either. So keeping Ham bow bow in the picture was already posing some difficulties.

Thus, I became the owner of my very own rabbit. He’s sitting in a cage at my feet as I write this. Don’t worry, I let him out frequently. He just peed on my bed though so I thought it would be a good move to let him finish his business away from my personal belongings.

I almost have him potty trained. Almost. The occasional event like what he did on the bed happens. He has this weird obsession with finding white things in my room and doing his best to change their color.

I try only speaking to him in Chinese. I figure a Chinese rabbit should at least be spoken to in his home’s language. He’s a pretty good pet and he’s definitely growing on me. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with him when I leave.

Ivan the Merciless

My old roommate and dear friend, Florian has packed his bags and left China. He developed a pretty serious case of asthma and his family wanted him to come home. He was a great guy and I plan to visit him if I ever go to France.

In his place I have been sent Ivan. He is Russian. Already this worried me. The Russians living at Qingdao University have been responsible for a long list (more like a book series, including an afterthought prologue) of crimes that have happened, one including a fire extinguisher. They are also known for causing trouble late at night and getting into fights with the locals. So I’ll honestly say I had my stereotypes about Russians before Ivan arrived. This wasn’t fair to him.

But then I met the guy. And he was huge. And let me try to explain this the best way I can. I’ll use myself as a measuring tool because I assume most of you know my general size and shape. If you took seven of me and tied us all together you might start to see the volume of Ivan. He looks like the cartoons where they blow up their muscles with a basketball pump. This guy is a beast. Also, turns out he’s training to be a professional cage fighter. He knows like six kinds of martial arts. His trainer has just come up from Australia and they’re out everyday getting in shape.

So not only is this guy Russian, but he could probably kill me in multiple ways. Once again, I’ll let you all know that these details made me very wary of the situation. This wasn’t fair of me.

And sure enough, Ivan turned out to be a great guy. For instance, he sometimes brings me McDonalds when he has breakfast in the morning. I tell you what, in my book there’s no faster where to tear down a stereotype than with some hash browns.

Also, he wants to open up a gym here in Qingdao. And he’s invited me to come take a few lessons and train with him. I haven’t lately because I’ve been so sick but it definitely seems like a good opportunity. Furthermore, he’s never once sprayed me with a fire extinguisher or tried to punch me in my sleep. In fact, because he wants to stop snoring so loudly at night (and I would like this too) we have made an agreement that I can throw any object, animate or inanimate, so the bunny is now an option, in order to get him to stop. What more could I ask for in a roommate than someone I get to throw junk at?

So I was wrong about Ivan. I know he’s a Russian who resembles Rocky’s nemesis (ironically also named Ivan) but that doesn’t automatically make him a bad guy. Judging anybody isn’t right, especially when you don’t even know them.

At this point, I’m really trying to refrain from ending with something completely cliché about books and their covers. Perhaps, never judge a Russian cage fighter by his cage. Or maybe, don’t judge a Russian cage fighter until you know why he’s in the cage. I don’t know. Something might stick later. For now, I’ll just say that he’s a swell guy with a heart of gold…and fists of torment!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011

To my friends

I know many of you have suffered during the last few weeks and I want you to know that I’m thinking about you all.

I heard about the tornado while I was eating in a hostel in Xi’an. A Brazilian man who knew I was American asked if I knew of Joplin, Missouri. When I told him I had he showed me a series of pictures from around my home, displaying the destruction.

I can’t tell you how much I want to be with you right now to help physically but at the moment I am limited to thoughts and prayers. You are a strong community and I know you can overcome any hardship that comes your way. Continue to put your faith in each other and your faith in God.

I love and miss you,


The Wall- Xi’an

Sorry I haven’t messaged in awhile. I have been traveling throughout central China for the last week. I visited the ancient city of Xi’an. This is the home of the Terracotta Warriors that were discovered near the tomb of the first emperor of China. The most ancient part of Xi’an is surrounded by a wall and a moat. This has been the capital of several Chinese dynasties. So a few friends and I went to the wall. We rented bikes and traveled around the middle part of the city. It took about an hour and a half but we got to see the majority of the city. Also, there was a post showing where the Silk Road started. This is where the eastern traders started their long trek from Asia to Europe. It was one of the first real cultural exchanges between west and east.

Terracotta Warriors

The second day in Xi’an we visited the Terracotta Warriors. We went with a tour group that the hostel arranged. Our guide was a Chinese woman named Jah Jah. She quickly told us that her English name is Lady Jah Jah. So we went with Lady Jah Jah to see the ancient statues. They were created for the first emperor so he could have an army during his afterlife. At least 8,000 of the clay statues have been uncovered and more are expected to exist. All of the warriors have a unique face and equipment. Lady Jah Jah told us that the artists made the warriors faces in the same likeness of their own. That way their work would never be forgotten.

Another interesting fact is that most of the emperor’s tomb has not yet been uncovered. The Emperor’s chamber for instance, is still hidden in a mountain. The main reason for this is that he filled his tomb full of mercury. People can’t get inside. The government though has said they plan to break into the tomb within the next ten years.

The Muslim Quarter

On another day in Xi’an we went to the Muslim Quarter. It seems that the farther west you go the more religious tolerance exists in China. So there are many Muslims in this area. The quarter though, is a market that has all kinds of shopping and bartering. During my trip to Beijing I tried to barter but I didn’t speak any Chinese. And the Chinese love to mess with foreigners. I’m sure I was constantly scammed. But now that I have a fairly decent vocabulary under my belt, bartering is great fun. On some items I was able to knock the price down about 80%.

So I did a lot of shopping for a day. I don’t normally buy many things in the states but when you can get custom-made chess boards and hand carved masks for fewer than twenty dollars, it’s hard to say no. And there’s no greater feeling than getting a better price than a native Chinese speakers.

Also, I went to see one of the ancient puppet shows that are famous in Xi’an. This is a form of entertainment that was used for the less wealthy people during the first dynasty. It was interesting. The puppeteer came out in the beginning and told us that the story was about “monkey and pig.” Honestly, I didn’t see one monkey or pig in the entire show. Instead, there were two puppets that fought each other with sticks for about ten minutes. It was definitely an experience. But I’m glad we’ve upgraded to more meaningful entertainment than plot-less stories with endless fighting. Like Transformers. 


We went to the International Horticulture Expo too. My dad would be so proud. We didn’t really go for the flowers though. Instead we went because we heard the expo had pandas. I didn’t realize how rare pandas are in the world. There are only two zoos in America that have them at the moment and only a few others scattered here and there across the globe. So it was definitely a treat to see five pandas. However, after the initial shock of “wow a panda!” I started to realize that the black and white bears don’t do too much. I thought three of them were dead until one rubbed his belly. Then we saw some young pandas. They were only a couple of years old. These guys were sitting in trees reclining on branches when we found them. Once again, the only movement I saw was the subtle itch of a stomach. Still though, it was an experience that I will never forget.

After the pandas we got to see a final water show and boat show over a large lake. All the boats were decked out in flowers, lights, and bright colors. The whole event seemed a little out of place to me though. China, a country that appears to care so little about its environment held the International Horticulture Expo. I’m pretty sure most of the Chinese went to it because they had seen so little grass in their lives.

Zach’s Sock

I think I just found one of Zach Baughman’s socks in my laundry. I’m not really sure how it got there but I’ll be sure to take pictures with it around something stereotypically Chinese. Sorry, Zach.


After class this week a guy was waiting outside our building handing out fliers. He gave me one and began telling me about sailing. He said his company worked with sailboats and was offering a free ride to white people. I quickly explained that I had been white all of my life. He agreed and told me to come to his boat later in the week.

If this situation would have happened in America I would have walked away fearing a scam. But in China, things are rarely too good to be true. Instead, when someone offers you a free ride on a boat they actually want to give you a free ride on a boat.

So, I got to travel on the ocean around Qingdao and see the city and the mountains. It was amazing. I also realized why we were offered this opportunity. As we sailed around the harbor, the other Chinese people stopped what they were doing and took our pictures. They waved and got all of their friends to join. Pretty soon there was a small crowd of people watching us on our sailboat. We were free advertisement for the sailing company! In current Chinese culture, westerners are considered to be wealthy, interesting, and beautiful. Whether this is true or not the locals thought it was amazing to see us out on the waters.

I didn’t mind though. It was great to be in a boat on the ocean and learn how to move the sail so it can catch the most wind. In this situation I don’t mind being someone’s advertisement.


I stayed in my first hostel this last week. It was great. I have always heard stories about how dangerous and disgusting these places can be but I think ours was nicer than any hotel I’ve visited. True, we did sleep in a room with five people. But they, all being travelers, had the most appealing stories of the places they had visited. The Brazilian man I mentioned earlier went with us on several of our stops around the city.

The hostel itself was a mix between indoors and outdoors. Each of the corridors led from a set of rooms to a garden area that was covered with ivy. Also you could climb up to the roof and sit as you watched the city. It was beautiful

More importantly, there was a restaurant that had western food. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed bacon in the morning. I bought this bacon-esque Korean stuff that has a meaty texture but none of the taste. As sad as it is, I think the food may have been my favorite part of our trip.


My high school pupil has discovered context clues this week. I’m making him read articles in the local ex-pat newspaper. He’s quickly finding out that the meaning of most articles should only take up a few paragraphs while the rest is often fluff added for effect. He was able to find several lines where the same thought was repeated in different ways. I’m so proud.

Home in a month

I only have one month left in Qingdao and I’m honestly about ready to come home. This is an incredible country but I’ve quickly realized that it cannot compare to America. I think for the first time I’ve really come to appreciate that.

Before I go I’m trying to wrap up a few loose ends. All of my jobs need replacements and I’d like to travel once more. We’re looking at going to Inner Mongolia. This is one most northern parts of China. It’s next to the Gobi desert and I’d like to ride a camel through it if there’s the opportunity. I hope to send you more entries but there may not be time. I hope you all are well and I will talk to you soon.