Ping Tracker

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Leaving Lanzhou Again and Update

So, yeah, I've been kind of distracted as of late, as far as the blog is concerned. I had a few days of work, met up with some of my high school friends, and oh, yeah ----



Which kind of left me totally broke....but luckily, I was able to get an advance on a paycheck, so I am no longer destitute!

Everything's coming together - I've got my plane ticket, and my work visa will be on its way back at the end of the week, so that's great! Then I'll have a student visa, a tourist visa, and a work visa...I'm on my way to getting every kind of visa China offers! hahaha

So, anyway, I found this video that I hadn't put up on the blog yet, and I figured I would put it up for your entertainment/information/education/whatever you want to call it. As you guys know, I was in China from June 13th-July 9th, and this is the final video I made before I left.

It's not much, but here you go....YouTube and Youku! (I actually have another video coming up soon!)

Hotpot, downtown Lanzhou, friends, some traveling, some great food and new experiences - it was a productive and fun trip overall. I wish I hadn't been so terribly ill during it, but oh well, that's what happens when you travel.

Being back just brought back some great memories and happy times, while at the same time creating some more great memories. I've got a few more stories to tell now, and I hope that you guys have the patience to read even more about China as I experience it. Now that I'm at home, I'm spending more time savoring being at home and spending time with my friends and family, so I won't be posting much.

Thanks so much for reading my stuff, you guys! I've gotten a couple more subscribers lately, and I really appreciate them following me. Remember, you guys can always subscribe via email or just follow me from your Blogspot account.

Feel free to leave comments anytime you want, and share any interesting posts/stories - I've got some of my favorites in the tab menu up top, if you want to check them out!

Until next time, my friends!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

About Huan, China (Videos and More)

Today, these videos come from Huan County, Gansu Province. This is the hometown of my best friend, Benjamin Xi.

It is a really great little town nestled in the mountains of southeastern Gansu.

As you can see on this map, it's in that weird little fin that borders Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the southeast of Gansu.

Huan is one of my favorite places because it's one of the places that is pretty much untouched by Western influence, or at least as untouched as it can be. There are no McDonald's, no KFCs, no Pizza Huts, Starbucks, foreign investors, foreign teachers, foreign firms or anything like that. It's a completely Chinese city, and that's cool. Lanzhou is pretty much a Chinese-only city, but the number of foreigners in the city has definitely increased in the past few years. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing - I'm just saying it's a trend. I'm not one to really make that kind of call.

I visited Huan last year as well, and it's still pretty much exactly as I remembered it.  It's still a great place that's way out of the way of most foreigners.

Huan is a very old city, with parts of it dating to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) and before, including this wall.

Amazing, yeah?

 It's crazy, nothing this old stands in America and as someone who studied and has a degree in History, it's beyond amazing to be able to see and touch something that's been around for so long. 

I'm not knocking America for being too young or anything - it just hasn't had the chance to stick around for that long yet.

Seriously though, how cool is that?!

One of the things Huan is famous for is its embroidery, particularly its handmade insoles. It may not be famous abroad, but in China, Gansu is the home of artful embroidery. This photo on the left is an example of it, although not a great one. Unfortunately I am away from the pair I was given by Ben's mom -- it's much more beautiful than this one. This one's only so-so.

The amazing thing about these is that they're totally made by hand. The firm inside is basically extremely hardened dough (that will never cook again), and the outside white cover is handsewn.

Then the fun begins.

It's all done by needle and thread. One needlestick and colored thread at a time. Ben told me that the pair I was given took about 300 hours of solid work. Wow. 300 hours - imagine putting that kind of time and energy into something that you'll walk on and ruin.

I didn't wear mine. They're too beautiful.

I can't wait to go back again - the people of Huan are hard-working, friendly, very hospitable people. The only complaint I have is that their dialect is hard to understand, but maybe that's because I'm just a white boy who can't speak enough Chinese to understand......


That's about all I have to say about Huan County at the moment - maybe when my friend Benjamin comes to the States, he can write something about his hometown for you guys! Until next time! My comment section is always open for you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chillin' at Lanzhou University of Technology (Video)

I've still got some videos to put on here, but here's one that I made during the first week of my trip.

During me and Rob's trip to Lanzhou, we did a lot of the stuff that we wanted to do. We ate some great food, saw our old friends, played ping pong and badminton, and soaked in the atmosphere of relief and relaxation.

The school year was coming to an end, so most people were finishing up their tests, and the ones who were done were doing absolutely nothing - my favorite activity haha. 

It was great to settle back into the routine of seeing everybody, going to places like the Yellow River, the new soccer field at L.U.T., and not doing much, but just enough to make us really tired at the end of the day.

We both got to learn a little something about the process of graduation for the seniors. The seniors take their applications for graduation to get approved and signed for, and once they're approved, they have to rent their graduation caps and gowns, then they're off to take pictures with all their friends! The pictures are a big deal for them, because it's the last chance for them to all be together for a long time. Each department hold their own special farewell party, and people cry. The emotions are the same as any graduation anywhere, but the process itself is very different. Hooray for learning!

Me, Rob, and all our friends shared meals, activities, laughs, mutual confusion over Chinglish, and now, some great memories.

See you guys next time!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Cave Homes of Gansu Videos!

Hey, guys!

I finally finished putting together my second video about visiting rural Gansu (赵台,in the country) and staying in a cave home with my friend's relatives. It was a rare opportunity, and I'm really happy that I got to experience it. Hopefully, I'll be able to go back soon!

For those of you who don't know, I visited an area in rural Gansu Province with two of my friends to visit some of their relatives. They live in some of the most beautiful (and remote) countryside I have ever seen. I was blown away by the difference in our lives, and I think about it every day. Please watch these videos. There are embeds from both YouTube and Youku.

This was my original video about going there - I'm sure some of you have already seen it, but I thought I'd put it up again anyway so you guys could watch them in order. As always, it's on Youku and YouTube! Thanks for watching! I'll have more to say on the second video! Scroll down!


The second of the two videos is the one that deals with the underlying reality and what I was (and am still) thinking about in regards to the experience. I hope it'll give you something to think about! Please watch them and enjoy them - it's not a huge investment of your time.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Watch ALL The Videos! Haha

Hey guys, I've finally put up a number of videos from my China trip. I've got six of them up on my YouTube account, and I will be putting up another two or three at least from the trip.

I hope you guys like them, and I'm looking forward to all of your comments! I'll be weaving them into posts in the future, as well as putting a couple in right here.

Here's the first one about my travel to mountains of Gansu! This is part one of many! You can find the other videos already up on my YouTube - my YouKu account is still processing stuff.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Cave Homes of Gansu

One of the things that I was looking forward to the most on my trip to Gansu in June was the prospect of going to a remote mountain village and staying in a cave.

Yeah, a freaking cave. People do actually live in caves in China - it's not just those stereotypes in the Middle East.

That's it there on the left - it's not just a giant hole in the side of a cliff. They've made it into a home, believe it or not.

They cut out a door-sized hole and a window-sized hole into the side of the mountain, and just burrow out a decent-sized hole, round it out and make it work, and then - BAM - time to move in!

For some reason, I didn't take a picture of the inside - but I do have a video clip of it included in the video below, if you are so inclined to watch it.

The cave itself was pretty nice - it was cool although the weather outside was nice. There was a big bed, wallpaper, a dresser, a TV, and all the other "fixings" for a home. It wasn't this big scary unlivable place - it was rather nice.

Where is this place, you might ask?

It is called 赵台 (Zhao Tai). It's in the  countryside.

I just know that we drove from Huan County (环县) for about 5 hours to get there.

5 hours of the craziest, bumpiest, and scariest roads through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen.

This is the stuff that I had only read about in books and seen in National Geographic.

Terraced mountains literally surround the caves that me, Elena, and Ben are staying in.

The signs of the harvest are everywhere.

The few people that have chainsaws or weed-eaters are letting them loose in the fields, but the rest of the people have their scythes and are at work under the bright glare of the noon sun.

Wheat and apricots are what's being harvested now - the potatoes, corn, and other foods still need some time.

Life here is fundamentally different from life as I know it.

There are no shops nearby, no paved roads, no sound of car horns, no street vendors, no........well, anything.

It's just quiet, clean mountain air and the sound of the goats, donkeys, and other animals that Ben's family raises. Life revolves around the land, and there is little money to be had, and little to spend it on.

It's so different from the money-driven, ambition-fueled society that I have spent my entire life in.

Life here is hard, but I feel like although these people are poor in material ways, they are rich in family and rich in life.

They were so caring and hospitable to me, and it was easy to see that they cared deeply for one another.

I just wish I had been able to better enjoy the moment. I was pretty sick at the time, and I couldn't do a lot of stuff. But I did what I could, and I cherished the time that I spent in this place.

How often do you get to lose yourself in the mountains, be moved by spectacular scenery, stay the night in a cave home, witness (and participate a little bit in) the harvest, be surrounded by new people who nonetheless care about you, and also become buddies with a donkey?

I don't know about you, but that's not something that happens very often to me.

As I said in one of my videos, I'm very grateful to know Ben. He's let me see a side of China that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to see, at least not easily.

I want to take this chance to thank him for that, even though he will probably never read this post, if any posts that I put up on here.

Thanks, Ben.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Back in the States

Wow, what a ride!  Hey everyone, I'm back in the States! I'm still suffering from jetlag and I still have yet to catch up on my YouTube subscription and put all the pictures on Facebook, but I'm pretty happy.

Life in L.U.T goes on - a lot of my friends graduated and are moving onto the next step of their lives.

The campus was pretty busy when me and Robert  arrived - since the seniors were graduating, they were trying to sell all their books/clothes/whatever  to the younger students who might need them later.

The campus was in a mild state of chaos with all the noise from the student-turned-vendors, but it was interesting. We don't do that kind of thing in the States.

We went around all the places that I wanted to go - including Zhongshan Bridge.

This bridge is one of the key landmarks of Lanzhou - it was the first bridge built across the Yellow River in a provincial-level city. Built by the Germans as well.

It bridges the gap between the northern and southern part of the city and lies just beneath Bai Ta Mountain, which stands atop the mountain on the north side of the Yellow River.

The Yellow River itself is something worth noting. 

It's the mother of Chinese civilization, which is why it is still called the "Mother River," even today.

The Yellow River provides a measure of tranquility in this crazy little city - people take their pets down to the water, sit in little cafes, drink tea, do Tai Chi, and more. You'll find lots of couples, families, and elderly people along the river.

It was great to be walking along the river again - drinking in the cool breeze in the lovely afternoon. 80 degrees with no humidity and a slight breeze - wonderful!

Of course, what you look forward to the most is your friends. I couldn't wait to see all of my friends again. 

All of us together, sharing meals, taking walks, talking about anything from girls to guns to Chicago to the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" (which seems to be waaaay more popular in China than America). 


Life goes on in Lanzhou and at L.U.T.. Some time has passed, and while there are new faces, not a lot has changed around campus and in the Qilihe District of Lanzhou. The same hole-in-the-wall restaurants with the same waitresses still serve the same great food, the teachers still bring their children to the playground and soccer field to play at night, the students still do (or don't do) their homework, and time marches on without regard for anyone else.

It was a wonderful trip - I got to do everything I wanted to do and more. Keep an eye out for more posts, there's some cool stuff coming up!

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Didn't I Just Get Here?

Holy crap, I'm leaving tomorrow....that's weird, I feel like I just got here.
As a tourist of sorts, 3 weeks was a pretty appropriate length trip. It was short, but not so short that I had to rush everything. I got to do basically everything I wanted to do:
Go to Zhongshan Bridge and downtown Lanzhou
See the Yellow River
Eat at my favorite Bao Zi restaurant
Eat some of Lanzhou's famous Beef Noodles
Eat various other things haha
Visit Ben's family in Huan Xian
Visit the "Tiger Cave" town/village
Visit and stay in a cave home in very remote Gansu
Be surrounded by a terraced landscape of mountains at the peak of the harvest
See all my old friends
See you guys back in the States! Much love!

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tiger Cave and the Villages

Hey guys,

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately - I've been pretty sick and also pretty busy....kind of a bad combination. I've got some bronchitis.....crazy, huh? That's not really a summer sickness....after I got here to Huan Xian, there were a couple of hot sunny days, and then it rained for 3 days, and I guess my body didn't really like it.

I've been on meds, but they haven't really helped, but I went to a different clinic today. The guy who runs it is a friend of Ben's family and knows me, so he made sure I got the right stuff. I took the medicine just once and I can already feel my lungs clearing out. 

So....yeah, I haven't been feeling up to writing much. 

I went to a couple of little, little places in some remote areas. The first place I went was called 虎洞, or Tiger Cave.....that's probably the most badass name in the history of naming towns. The people I stayed with were wonderful and happy hosts. It's a beautiful place - surrounded by mountains with a river running beside the town and its roughly 2,000 people.

As far as I know, no other foreigner has been to that little town. Understandably, my visit caused quite a stir. As I sat in this one lady's one-room house, people (especially kids) would come by, look through the open door, say "Wow, there really IS a foreigner here......" and then leave......hahaha wow. 

Visit one house, leave, visit another house, leave, visit another house, and the cycle continues. It was really exhausting day.


The next day, I went to the real deal. I went to my friend Benjamin's birthplace - the remote mountain terraces of Gansu. It was a truly amazing place - it is said that the mountains enrich the body and mind and produce genius and well-disciplined people, and it's hard to disagree. The fresh, cool mountain air was so refreshing and the views were nothing short of truly awesome. A tranquil place. Really and truly awesome. 

And yet, as you take in the view, you realize that all of this beauty is the result of lives of hard and long labor in the fields. When you talk about people "working in the fields," this is it. One must be hard-working, disciplined, and committed to the work at hand. No one is lazy here, although it seems like the perfect place to be lazy. The weather is only the slightest bit hot, with a breeze most of the time, and the caves that the families live in are cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

As you take a walk through the wheat fields, the apricot orchards, the potato fields, you can hear the braying of the family donkeys and the bleating of the lambs. One of the donkeys developed a funny attachment to me - he was my buddy haha. 

Since me, Ben, Elena, and Ben's brother were coming, a special treat was offered to us. One of Ben's uncles killed a lamb and cooked it for our dinner - fresh lamb cannot be beat, although they insisted I be present when it was killed. They wanted ME to kill it, but I don't have that kind of constitution. Watching and listening was bad enough. There was also some fish to be eaten. Ben's grandma said it was "a new spring festival" because we were having two kinds of meat at dinner. 


I'm going to revisit this, but I've GOT to start washing some clothes and go to bed.


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