Tuesday, August 02, 2022

China Take 2 - States Review

 August 1, 2022

hi all....i am getting in touch from my mom's place in the US.....i have been here for my summer break....it was a stressful trip to get here, and it is proving to be a stressful trip to get back to china for another year of teaching....due to all of this stress, I will be finishing my contract in china this year and then not returning....."where will I go?" you ask...."your guess is as good as mine", I respond :) 

I do not know if it is time for another teaching break, as this teaching gig I have had in china has been ok, not awesome....some great things about the school, some not so much....i do have great science colleagues and am glad I will get to work with them one more year....but china's stance on zero covid has shadowed everything about this post....from school, to life, to china....so it might be time for a break.....again....

the month I have spent in the states has been restful and restorative...just what was needed by me....so that is a great thing....i have enjoyed seeing some people (although not many due to trying to stay negative), going to the jersey shore for a few days (eating my favorite pizza), daily walking in nature and reading, reading, reading.....i have taken a complete break from school....which was necessary.....but now I am getting ready to return, as long as this flight I am scheduled to take does not get suspended like my last flight.....keep those fingers crossed that this will happen....

i will include one or two pictures here from my trip to the states...plus, some pictures from last summer....because I never did a real update for my trip to Yunnan province....which was one of the best trips I have taken in china....ever!!!! i was on a food tour with folks i knew and folks i now consider my friends...it was amazing....pictures will be below.....

thanks to all of those who checked in with me in February, when i wrote a short update about my frustrating times in china.....now that i have been outside of the country, i am in a much better space about returning and finishing my contract....i just needed to reset my china filter.....i am hopeful that i will be allowed to at least travel IN china this year....people did that over the summer, but we'll see what happens during the school year....they will not change their zero-tolerance covid stance, so i am not really expecting there to be much different from last year in the upcoming year...but i will do my job and then leave on good terms, i hope :) on with the pictures....enjoy & as always, feel free to contact me to say hi or ask questions.....happy summer/winter :)


we started our food tour in Dali, a town in the Yunnan Province of China.....there were lots of fresh food markets along the way and I was so excited to see mangosteen for sale...plus, I loved the way this woman measured my fruit to determine how much I owed her...if you have not mangosteen...you should...it is amazing (nothing like mango by the way)!

this food dish was for 7 people....it was humongous and we did not finish it...you ate the things on this tray with your hands and would take some of the rice and eat it together....there were mushrooms and tofu and peanuts and noodles and three kinds of rice and fresh veggies....and much more...it was a ridiculous amount of food and so very tasty!!!! we knew at that point that this trip was going to be amazing!!!!

we did a breakfast tour the next morning and went to a special coffee shop in dali....where we had yunnan coffee as a pour over....the barista was a pro and made an incredible cup of joe 😀 the town was quite cute and I really liked this wall of one of the buildings.....


from dali we traveled around the lake it was on, Erhai Lake, to a farm to go make rose pastry....this is a delicacy of the area, and yes, it is made with rose petals.....i had a small amount, but one of the secret ingredients of the pastry was lard....not really something I eat....i of course had to taste it though...the farm was our first glimpse into the phenomenon of selfies in china....most tourist places or places trying to attract tourists, have now set up tableaux to take your selfie with....the a-frame you see above is one of those places.....but the scenery here was spectacular, so I can understand why they do it....

here is another view from the farm...the mountains are the cangshan mountains to the west of the lake...it was a spectacular day and we came to realize that the scenery in the yunnan province is simply amazing!!!

the next town we stayed in, just north of dali, but on the same lake, was xizhou...this town was quaint and filled with amazing food, especially xizhou baba - which is a bread you have with breakfast, plus it had a famous cultural center....this town was populated by the Bai people, another group within china....this was the view over the rice paddies from the cultural center....wow!!!

this is a drawing of the famous Bai round building in the middle of this town, along with the character for double happiness, used when discussing love & marriage....it was everywhere in this town :)

as we were wandering around xizhou, after our incredible dinner, we ran into this woman...she of course asked us if we had eaten, as is customary in china....most people ask that before they even say hello....it is a way to be gracious and to ask how someone is doing....she had so many textiles and was quite a lovely lady.....

this is what the buildings looked like in the center of xizhou....you will always see the color red in towns, because red is the lucky color of all of china....

in order to leave xizhou, we had to cross this bridge...this is called a moon bridge, and is used by pedestrians only....they can have one, three, five, etc, half moons to cross over....never an even number...the reflection of the sky in the water was just perfect....you can see my friend shannon walking over the bridge...

from xizhou we went on a bike ride around part of erhai lake...it was an amazing day, as you can see from the picture.....this was a place I stopped and chilled for a bit because of the wild flowers, clouds and the mountains...i loved it....

our next stop was a place where we did indigo tye-dying of batik....we each were able to make our own kerchief.... this older woman was intrigued by me and my hips....she did not speak any english, but made it a point to poke me in the hips....so of course I had to take a picture with her....her embroidery on the pieces of batik was incredible....you can see some of the batik behind us.....

from making batik we headed off to shaaxi ancient town....most of the town has been refurbished and they are building a huge highway to get there easily.....i am glad we were there before that happened, because that will increase Chinese tourism one hundred-fold....shaaxi was a huge trading hub on the yunnan-tibet tea horse road....its main plaza had this incredible open-air theater....nothing was being performed, but the structure was beautiful....this town was known for all of the coffee places...so we enjoyed some yunnan coffee while here....

here is another one of the moon bridges to get in and out of shaaxi ancient town....the name of this bridge is the jade ford bridge....i am not sure why....


on our way out of shaaxi, we visited a library in the next town over....it was a bit random and had been built by a foundation...not really sure why they chose this town to build it in, but it was definitely a lovely library....

from shaaxi we headed to tiger leaping gorge....i was soooooo excited about this part of the trip, mainly for the place we were spending the night....it was in the gorge, with an amazing view....BUT unfortunately we were not allowed in the gorge (my friends shannon, josh and myself), because of somewhere we had traveled to previously, that was having a covid outbreak...luckily we were able to go to a hospital and get negative covid tests to see the gorge, but we were not able to get the results in time to be able to spend the night in the gorge....damn covid 😒


at least we were able to get to see the gorge...and it was crazy how much water was rushing past in the gorge...it was rainy and that increased the amount even more than normal...it was wild....


many places in china, like tiger leaping gorge, the Chinese will write wishes and prayers and dreams on these tags and hang them up so they will happen...i thought this was a great way to frame the river.....

they also had created these metallic wings in the tourist area for selfie shots...you can see the gorge better behind me in this shot...

the last stop on this tour was lijiang....the craziest thing we kept experiencing in these small towns in yunnan was all of the over-sized stuffed teddy bears....they were everywhere....you can see a bunch of them in this picture....who knows why????


while in liajiang we visited the largest local market and then went to cook some yunnan food that was famous in the area...here you can see some of the local vegetables....all very tasty, except the bumpy one on the right....this is bitter gourd....to this day I do not know how to make this taste good....soooooooo bitter 😂

I felt I needed to show the meat section of the market....here I am with some pork ribs....not something I would eat, but others on the tour did have the meat and fish along the way....my tour was vegetarian.. although I did taste some of the fish that were native to erhai lake and when they were the main dish of the houses we ate at....


i loved this picture of the women discussing the topics of the world...sisters??? friends??? relatives??? neighbors??? who knows....but I love their hats and that they did not pay the crazy foreigners any mind while discussing the stories of the world 😊

this is where we had a cooking class....with a woman named fancy....here I have a dessert that is composed of shaved ice, milk, fruit and sugar....very tasty....and she was a great instructor...we all really enjoyed the time with fancy 😋

this was the restaurant where we had our last night's meal in liajiang....again - lots of red lanterns for luck...the meal was super tasty and we were really sad the tour was coming to an end....if you are in china...the name of the tour group is the lost plate...it was incredible and if I get a chance to do another with them before I leave china, I feel that would be super lucky 


here is a shot of our entire crew.....these folks made this tour amazing....and it was so much fun sharing the different meals and many of us ended up in the same book club...such good folks 


we made it!!!!! josh, shannon and I made it to tiger leaping gorge after all of the covid testing stress....it was an amazing visit....just to see the raw force of nature and the water going through this gorge...i will miss these folks in china this coming year and feel very lucky to have gotten 18 months with them in Beijing....


this is a shot from my mom's birthday and the main reason I came back to the states for the summer...we had a great time celebrating my mom....happy birthday!!!!


where I live in Pennsylvania gives us pretty amazing sunsets....i watched many of them from my mom's place where much of my time was spent.....thanks for a restful and rejuvenating summer...i think it has been just the right amount for me to make through another year 😉


and it wouldn't be a post without me and beer....this is a beer from one of the brew pubs in Beijing I go to - jing-a - they have been in Beijing quite a while....this beer is one of their spring specialties - hawthorne sour - it was quite tasty....

so there you have it...my trip from last summer and a few pictures from my trip to the states this summer...again, I apologize for not sending this before, but it was a challenge for me to stay in one city for almost an entire year....it made it even more challenging to want to write this blog....i am hopeful I will at least see a bit more of china in the coming year, but am not sure I will get the chance.....fingers crossed

i hope you all have a lovely rest of your summer/winter....and keep those fingers crossed that my flight goes next week and that I am on it....hoping to not get covid between then and now.....remember to reach out if you have questions or just want to say hi!!!!
thanks for reading and have a fab day 😀😀
dani


Saturday, October 30, 2021

China Take 2 - Update #3

 October 30, 2021

Hi all - Happy Halloween!!!!  I know, I know....it has been a looong time since you have heard from me, and for that i am sorry....i had a terrific summer here in china...but it was a bit weird because i was not allowed to actually travel out of country....this past week was my one year anniversary of being here in beijing and it feels a bit weird for me to have been in one country for a continuous year....not something i have done in a long, long time.....i did take the chance to travel all over china this past summer, hence why it was a great summer....but i have decided i need to be able to get to the states this summer to see my mom, brother, other family members and friends....so i have signed a contract for a third year, but if they say i cannot travel to the states come may/june, i will be breaking my contract....my bosses already know this, but i am hopeful i will not need to do that....all that being said...last summer was great and next summer will be in the states....

below are pictures from the first of the four trips i took...i am hoping i do not overload people with pictures, but china is a huge country, with different landscapes, an immense amount of amazing history and lots of fun places to visit and experience...this summer on my first trip i traveled the silk road from xi'an to kashgar....later i also visited datong, which is about 2.5 hours by high-speed rail outside of beijing...i also went to nanjing and shanghai...and finally, i did a food tour in the yunnan province from dali to lijiang.....all incredible trips with awesome people, sights and food/drink....this update will only look at pictures from the first trip and hopefully, i will get another update out soon....each trip just had so many highlights i cannot just pick a few pictures....sorry....so here are the images from trip number one...the silk road....xi'an to kashgar....enjoy :)


This first picture is not from any of my trips, but is from the last day of school with everyone from my cohort...meaning all of us who literally started online teaching for our school in august 2020 around the world, but made it into beijing by winter break 2020....it is a crazy group of resilient folks, who made it through one of the strangest years teaching....most of us have just signed a contract for a third year.....when you make it through a year like we did, you just don't want to look for a job again this soon....here's to us and all of the teachers that started a job in 2020 for making it through the chaos and coming out on the other side....

my silk road trip was HUGE....we started at the beginning of it in china and finished it just 100km from the tajikistan border....about 3800 km of travel...trains, planes, buses and lots of fun...this is a picture from the deserted city wall of xi'an...it was a super hot day and we were there in the height of the heat...but it was still amazing to see almost no one there...the tourism of china has definitely taken a huge hit from covid and keeping their borders shut....we rarely saw other expats traveling...but the chinese are making the most of it and traveling their own country...which is a good thing for the business...but just weird when you are used to seeing tons of tourists from around the world at the different historical sites...the chinese were also shocked to see us everywhere we went....our tour guides had to always explain that we worked in beijing and had been there and had not come from overseas....we also were traveling before chinese schools were out for the summer, which we benefitted greatly from...everything was a lot less crowded....

including the amazing muslim market and area of xi' an....this is bread we had later on the trip, but here is where we started to see it....also tons of fruits and vegetables....a delicious stop on the trip...

of course we visited the terracotta warriors...i had not been here since 2008, and some of it has changed... much more tourist-focused with pathways to follow and some more of it has been put together and cleaned up...but i was surprised at how much really wasn't different since i was last here....and yes, they are still amazing and incredible to experience....

this is a picture of the warriors as they piece them together...it is a complete jigsaw puzzle due to the site having been destroyed by the mongols who found it first...plus, some of the dirt above the burial site has crushed the warriors into pieces in places...but to see what they have put together is incredible, as well as to see how much they still have to go....the emperor qin shi huang really was dedicated to being protected once dead....each of these is full human height and individual for the soldier they were created of...so different hairstyles and facial expressions and jobs....it is amazing....and i am sooooo glad i got to see it again....

from xi'an we flew to zhangye to see the part of china i was most excited to visit....the rainbow mountains....i have taught them for many different classes, whenever i have had to teach about rocks and the rock cycle..so to see them with my very own eyes was a moment of pure magic....unfortunately we were not there on a very sunny day, so what you see is without the sun shining...just imagine what it could look like...the boldness of the colors....stunning.....

what you are looking at is sedimentary rock that is located where tectonic plates collided (55 million years ago)....making the rocks twist and turn and make these amazing layers seem like they are facing the wrong way....the reason you get the colors is because of iron and other minerals in the rock....the main red color comes from iron and it "rusting" but the yellow comes from sulfur in the rock as well....there are other colors here all from different minerals, but due to there not being much sunlight, you can't really see them....it is still a stunning place to visit and yes, i used one of my own pictures this year when i taught about the rock cycle and sedimentary rocks!!!!!

the further west we went, the closer we got to the gobi desert and animals and foods started to resemble things closer to a desert community...including camels...these are actually 2-hump camels - called bactrian camels....i am not sure i had ever seen a 2-humped camel...so i decided to take a picture with this one....nope, i did not ride them....i have been on a camel before and really did not enjoy the ride....

we got up really early one morning on the trip to watch the sunrise at the gobi desert...it was actually a full moon the night before....so the image above is the full moon setting over the desert....the hills you see are all sand dunes....amazing!!!!

here comes the sun over the desert....tons of folks were racing to see the sunrise on a camel...i just wanted to watch the sunrise and see camels....i did not combine them...it was an early, but beautiful start to the day :)

this is shot of me with one of our guides....hassan...he was our uyghur guide in urumqi....the reason we are having watermelon in this spot is because this is where we had to have a covid test along the side of the road....it was really hot and the medical folks running our test site felt bad for us because we were in the heat for about an hour trying to get the tests done.....things here in china are quite regulated and at this point this was my 4th covid test in 36 hours....china has a zero-tolerance for covid and is doing everything its power to not have covid here....has it been successful???? i am not really sure...we are having a slight outbreak again and are up to around 30 cases now...one thing i do know is that it certainly has put a damper on my traveling life....


one of our most beautiful stops on this trip was at heavenly lake outside of urumqi....what a beautiful day and view...we did not climb to the top of the mountains but had a great cable car ride up and down one of the peaks to get this shot....the red messages in the foreground are all wishes people have left there....most tourist stops of china will have a spot where you see these sorts of messages....people leaving wishes and hopes on red wooden cards...or wooden cards with red ribbons....red is the color of luck here in china....

here is a shot of me with the tasty bread at the night market in urumqi....it is a very meat based culture, but the bread more than made up for it for me...yummy!!!!

when we finally made it to our last stop - kashgar, we headed west along the karakoram highway to see the beautiful Pamir mountains....we stopped along this lake by the side of the highway....besides seeing a baby camel! the other side of the lake was sand dunes....the landscape in this area of the world was just so surprising and mind blowing.....at this point we were about 100km from the tajikistan border....

we also had chinese lunch in a yurt by the highway and mountains....we were told this was next to karakul lake, but in the end i do not think that was the truth, as that lake is located in tajikistan, and we definitely did NOT cross a border....we are not allowed to leave china afterall....well....you can leave, but it is super difficult to get back in....so i am actually not sure what lake we saw...but it was pretty....

we were in kashgar the day before the celebration of 100 years of the communist party in china...so this was a group in front of the gate to the old city, recording a song and dance for the big video from around china the day before the holiday....kind of weird when you think about what is happening in that part of the world with the indigenous groups....i am pretty sure majority, if not all, of these folks were han chinese...not indigienous...but you never know.....even though this area of china is mostly indigenous chinese...like the uyghur people.....

walking through kasgar's old, walled city was like walking in a muslim location....the markets and alleyways and people - both in dress and in stature....it was wild...it didn't really feel like i was in china....here is one of the stalls of the market...if you look closely you will see a ton of different types of raisins...it is amazing how many different kinds there are....who knew?????

this is one of the uyghur music stall owners....he was playing a traditional uyghur guitar called a rawap...he took no notice of us and was completely enjoying his day...it was terrific....

another site we visited was the tomb of the fragrant concubine of the qianlong emperor....this was in the afaq khoja mausoleum in kashgar....it was said she was allowed by her father to become the concubine of the emperoroonly if he promised to return her body to the family tomb after she died.....he was so smitten by her beauty that he actually agreed to the stipulation and did return her body to her family mausoleum...it was similar in shape to the taj mahal...but nowhere near the size...plus, it had amazing green mosaic on the outside....we were there before any other tourists and had the place to ourselves....very peaceful....

this had to be one of the final shots of this set of pictures....even if it was not at the final stop....we found a map that showed the length of the silk road and here you have all of us that traveled together on this trip except one friend....you can see me all the way to the right at xi'an and claudia all the way to the left pointing to our last stop of kashagr...approximately 3800km/2361 miles.....it was an amazing trip filled with excellent travel partners, history, interesting people along the way and amazing food and drink....another trip of a lifetime for me and i am grateful for being able to do this trip this past summer......


but of course the last picture of the trip had to be me with a chinese/uyghur beer....rather light in taste, but really cold because our awesome guide hassan called ahead and had the restuarant put the beer in the refrigerator....most times the chinese drink their beer room temperature...but this day was around 39C/102F in temperature and i had already melted once.....the food in the uyghur restaurant was some of the best on the trip.....just amazing!!!!

again....i am sorry i have not been in touch with an update in a looooooong while and hope to get the second installment of summer out in the next few days.....we'll see...hope you have all had a good start to your fall/spring....the colors here in beijing are popping....we have a lot of trees that go yellow and lots of ivy on the buildings in places that go red...so it has been rather nice....we also have had a lot of blue sky days in the past two weeks...for which i am thankful for after some of the rainiest july, august, september and start to october months....thanks again for your patience and if you have any questions, please send them my way....

Happy Halloween and Peace Out...Dani