Friday, September 29, 2006

Leaving for a week

This weekend is the Lunar Festival, which marks the commencement of our weeklong October break. For the duration of such, Annie, Laura, and myself will be travelling to Xi'an to see some statues or something. I plan to eat lots of Xi'an Jao-zi (which Xi'an is apparently famous for) and link to as many things as possible.

My point being is that I will be gone from Sunday night (October 1st) until Saturday morning (October 7th). Which means a whole week on no update goodness (unless I stumble across an internet cafe, and can pop in for a second to update). Please don't stop reading though. This blog is like Puff, the Magic Dragon. When people stop visiting him, E-chron will cease his fearless roar, green html code will fall like rain, and E-chron that Magic Journal will slip sadly into his 404 (file not found) cave. Damn, that came off more guilt-trippy than I planned, my bad.

Before I leave, I'll be making one more post to further delineate my exact plans (Laura put together an itinerary). Then whomever so chooses could get a rough idea of where I am at all times during the trip. Furthermore (and this one goes out to all ya'lls out there who worry even slightly about my safety), Ms. Wang insisted and insisted that we take her phone number (which I was planning on doing anyway) so that in case of some emergency, she can get us back no matter what. Gotta love safety nets. Aside from the fact that she's looking out for our well being, I can understand her standpoint on the business end: If all buses became booked and we were stuck for whatever reason (unlikely), she'd be out 3 teachers for the beginning of the week. That would suck.

I really do like the set up we have going here at Carden China. They take good care of you. I highly recommend it to people who might want to teach in China. I wonder if you could find this blog now by searching "Carden China" on google...

I told myself I'd start using some GRE words in the e-chrons to help me study a bit, but I'm too dilatory tonight. Hehe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Great Wall AGAIN?!

Ok just a little tidbit that I haven't added before that I think some of you might appreciate, or be appalled by. And yes, the same thing can enduce both reactions (e.g., The Great Faux-Jewish Escapade of 2002). The first day of training, the TAs came into the classroom to help us prepare. After going over the material, Eileen gave me a list of the children. Almost half had English names, the other half were nameless. So I was given the duty, nay, the privilege of assigning them their English names.

Did I name them something close to the sounds of their Chinese names? No, of course not. Too easy. Did I name them after friends, relatives, or other loved/respected ones? No, of course not. My brain wasn't thinking that way. So, how did I name them? After characters from Star Wars, Firefly, and video games, of course. This was stranger than I imagined, as kids started looking and acting in my eyes like their counterparts (I'm sure some of you will know these). I now see Luke as being sort of the one that will come into his own and be a powerful person one day. I see Han as a rebel mercenary type kid who's too cool for school. I see Kaylee as a quirky, cute little ball of optimism. And so on. There's also a Jane, but I couldn't get away with naming a boy "Jayne". Its funny though, cause she's tough and stubborn just like her counterpart. Oh well. Others that were turned down as too out there or complicated were Mal, River, Simon, Chewie, Jabba, Boba, and almost everyone I used to play WoW with. Hehe, I'm kidding... mostly. While I think that Boba Fett is less of a stretch than some of the names they actually give (such as Smile, or a boy named Sunshine), I guess I would have been crossing some line there. But, Celera came damn close to being one of the girls. That name was very well received (Sorry Cel!). There are also two exceptions: I named one of the kids Dan, because I knew he'd be dedicated just like Mr. Hubball, and one of the kids Jack, because I got tired of thinking of weird names.

Ok onto the Wall.

After coming back down, we walked further to the east. The sun was setting quickly, but we were interested in seeing if the wall continued further to another town (that has good Jao za, if thats how its spelled). We kept walking until we approached another impasse. We technically could have crossed, but that area was a little too rugged for our liking. Plus there wasn't 100% certainty that it was the right way. So we about-faced back to a decent camping spot we found.

We "set up" camp, which consisted of unfurling a sleeping bag and mat, and Cory cooked some fine - damned fine - pasta. It was a very cold, but clear, night. I had not seen the stars since I'd been here. It was very nice to see them. Very nice. I even caught a glimpes of a shooting star here and there. And, as I drifted of to sleep sans glasses, I peered through my sleeping bag up at the stars and thought for waaay too long on why one star was significantly brighter than the others. I erroneously concluded that it was a different part of the world, so maybe some stars shine more vividly than in America. Yeah, it was the moon, dumbass. I'm a sharp one, I tell ya. Anyway, after some intense crossword puzzle playing, we "went to sleep". I say it like that because it was hard to. First, I wasn't very comfortable. Second, it was pretty darn cold. Third, I couldn't get over the fact that I was freaking camping on the Great Wall of China.

So after a full night of tossing and turning and rolling down hill into a bush a few times, it was morning. I poked my nose out the top of my sleeping bag to get a whiff of cool, fresh air. The dew was glistening on the sleeping bag, and... the air... was so fresh. Sorry, when you live in Beijing, you really get a kick out of clean air. It was funny to wake up to a symphony of digitized camera shutter clicks, start up sounds, and Cory, Katie, and Laura all whispering, "Wow, its so beautiful!" Really, how could anyone sleep through that? So I got up to see what all the fuss was about.

Yeah, I thought in my sleeping bag with the cover over my eyes wanting to get some sleep, "Its just a sunrise. They're ooing and ahhing over nothing. I've seen the sunrise a thousand times. Its always the same. The sun comes up, lights things up, makes things warmer, and eventually decides to go back down. Nothing special. What is special is sleeping. That's where its at." Good thing this was a temporary thought.

So after we took several thousand photos of nearly the same scenery (I'm not exaggerating... I think between us it was that many), we started back down. By the way, if anyone wants the full size image of the sunrise, alls ya got to do is ask. Its really much prettier than the super-compressed version.

Once we got to the bottom, we conversed with the locals. By "we", I mean Cory and Katie. I just sat there and played with a puppy, wishing that I knew what was going on in the Chinese conversation world. We eventually got a ride to another section of the wall, the touristy section, where we were constantly screamed at such phrases as, "Hello! Water!" or "Hello! Coke!" or "Hello! Water! Coke! Hello!". It sounded hilarious, as if they were thinking that my name was Water or Coke. I wanted to shot back, "Hello, Pepsi! Hello!". I'm not a jerk though.

The touristy wall was much easier to access, with a chairlift and everything. It was much more restored, but not any less cool. Just cool in a different way. In an easier way. I liked to challenge of going to the ruins. You had to hike through the wilderness to get there. At touristy wall, you were ushered around. There's nothing wrong with this. In fact, after getting such little sleep, I welcomed it. But I'm very glad I did the challenging part. Touristy wall was fun though, because when you were done, you got to ride a sled down a metal slide to the bottom. Just like in the old days...

So... thats it. Finally. I'm done. No more Wall Talk until I get back home and it is casually brought up in idle banter. Its one of those things that is difficult for a guy like me to talk about. By which I mean, I'm so unenthusiastic sounding about everything. Laura Kavazanjian, Cory, and Katie were all so enthusiastic about recounting it, telling the experience in detail. When I was asked about my wall trip at school I replied in a very "my Dad" way, "It wasn't too bad." Or "Yeah, it was pretty neat". Internally, I'm thinking, "This is the coolest thing I've ever done!! Oh my god!! The Great Wall!" It just doesn't come out that way.

Anyway, I'm done. Which is good, I'm going to Xi'an in a few days. I need to get caught up so I can write more! Thanks for sticking through the story till the end! Luke, the story is over. You'll have to wait for season two now. And there were no cliff-hangers. Where is the incentive to keep reading, I wonder?

Bye bye.

P.S. That peak back there is where the neat tree was. To quote Mitch Hedberg, "That tree is far away!!"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Great Wall

Lets get this started on the right foot...

I'll teach those kids a thing or two...

Ok now thats out of the way, I can continue my epic adventure story (By the way, epic is my recent favorite word. Yesterday, I ate some epic dumplings).

So we got out of the wild, and onto the wall. I was pouring sweat already, as it was hot as the dickens (which I hear is pretty darn hot). I used the Dad turban trick and confused the local Chinese folks into thinking I was some sort of Chinese-Muslim-American hybrid with my red-star shirt, turban, and rugged, old-fashioned American good looks. Of course, there does seem to be a big Muslim population in China, so maybe its not too far-fetched.

"Derka Derka Derka"

The view from this point was instantly amazing. The wall was unlike I had imagined it, as I said before. It was quite narrow, there were whole sections missing, alot of it seemed to disintegrate underneath foot and hand. In the distance, there were other people climbing the wall. It looked like they were having a wonderful time, so we set off in that direction. Katie stayed behind, but Laura, Cory, and I set forth determined to make it up to the summit that was in our immediate view.

You can't see the summit from this shot, but it was coo

Close to where we started out, there was a point in which the wall had crumbled into a pile of debris (not while we were there, fortunately). This was the first major obstacle we faced. It wasn't really that bad, but considering the fact that I had decided to lug my camera around for the sake of capturing this wonderous moment, it made it hard. But thats how I do things. I like to make even the simplest thing as difficult as possible. So I started free-climbing the first part. Left arm, put camera down, right arm, pick up camera, left arm, etc. I moved in threes like that all the way up the wall. It was dusty, precarious, and maybe a little dangerous. But damnit, I was going to get a picture from up top.

This is steep, trust me.

I was being so careful with my camera. I was almost certain that "Climbing the Great Wall of China" was in the list of things for which Best Buy will void your warranty. That little fella was a trooper too. Getting little bits of dust and pebbles kicked on him and whatnot. I was so proud. The further we went, the more ominous the looks on peoples' faces were coming from the direction we were going. One person proclaimed sincerely, "There is a big challenge ahead". I thought it was just a cute slight Chinese skewing of the English language. I'm pretty sure he ment it though.

Masked by an expression of delight, an overwhelming sense of terror washed over Drew...

I was getting what I hoped for: Some very neat pictures from a very high angle. I could see Katie far below. The perspective was overwhelming. I'm sorry Grandfather Mountain, but this area has your mile-high bridge for breakfast.

In the mist, in the very far right-hand side of this picture, you can see our future campsite. And the little jut-out section of the wall about 1/4th the way up the photo is where we first started the ascent.


Finally, we made it to the peak. It was an amazing sight. Although heights bug the crap out of me, it was worth the trembling, the terror, the wanton camera abuse, and the tearing of my jeans at the ankle.

"Yee haw"

So after achieveing enlightenment via oxygen deprivation at the summit, we began our descent. It wasn't nearly as scary as I was dreading it would be.


We met up with Katie and continued hiking.

I can't believe I'm going to do this, but I'm going to leave the rest for tomorrow. I can't believe this freaking story is taking me three posts to do, but I've been working on this one for an hour. I have to trudge through painfully slow DSL. Oh well, I can't complain I guess. You aren't allowed to complain here.

More soon. I promise it will be soon.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Intermission II: The Return

I'm still working on the final installment of the Great Wall trip. I got the photos from Laura Kavazanjian (whose last name I didn't have to type, but its so awesome that I felt compelled to), many of which are alot better than mine. So I wanted to upload them as well, in order for you, the reader, to get the fullest effect possible.

But I'm at school early today, and kind of bored, so I wanted to post again.

I walked to school today. For me, it seems that in order to actually be able to understand where a particular location is in the world, I have to physically go there myself. I can't just tell a cab driver. Anyway, it only took 30 minutes, which is only slightly longer than it took for me to walk to campus in Boone. It wasn't too bad of a walk either - minimal stinky spots and very few instances of car dodging (exaggeration, don't worry Mom).

I "sadly" have missed my chance on taking the GRE in China. Here in this part of the world, they only offer the paper test. This version of the test is offered only twice a year, and the deadline for applying was two weeks ago. Oh well. I've wanted to go back and get a Ph.D now more than I ever have, which is good I guess. My chances of doing such are slim-to-none though in my opinion, since I'm sporting dreadfully low GRE scores as it is. I e-mailed Dr. Hindman recently to ask about Labor related programs, and he strongly recommended Cornell university. I looked into it, and it seemed to really kick ass. I'd be all over it. Ominously, they don't even have a GRE minimum requirement. That probably means that technically, its pretty high.

Then again, all British schools don't have a minimum requirement for GREs. In fact, they don't ask for GRE scores at all. I've been giving a lot of thought to applying over on that side of the ocean, but I have no idea what they require. Its really difficult to tell what research they do in some of those schools. I think I need Dan to translate and help me fight my way through the rhetorical quagmire on some of these websites. I just need to find out what the hell they want from me.

I've been given work to do, so I'm off for now.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Just a quick post for intermission. Something I've thought about since a few days ago but I haven't posted.

I was so terrified that I was going to get constipated or sick or messed up in some way by the food here. But just the opposite has happened. Even though I have eaten some foods that broke some of the rules I read about (I ate an unpeeled apple and plenty of raw vegetables), I've had excellent... umm... processes.

I think I know why...

Back home I was (even though I didn't want to admit it much) eating waayyyy too much fast food and otherwise unhealthy foods. I haven't had anything like that hear except for once (McDonalds, which made me sick).


I think the year here will be an excellent time to shift over to a permanent anti-fastfood kick. I don't even miss Chik-fil-a. At all. I don't miss sweet tea either thanks to green tea.

Of course, I'll look back at this post in a few months when I'm going through the throes of home-sickness and edit the sweet tea part out. I just know it.

EDIT: I didn't mean this post to sound like an epiphany I had all by myself. A lot of you have pointed this out to me on several occaisions that I eat that stuff too frequently. Its just that I think I had to see physical evidence on the counterpoint myself to be sufficiently shocked into self-awareness of the problem. I am especially thinking of Laura Blythe pointing that out to me. I was defensive about it cause I was embarrassed, and ignored it somewhat, but thanks for pointing it out.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Great Wall

Ok I'm awake and ready to rock. Had an awesome night's sleep, had some vivid and crazy dreams (I always seem to the night after camping somewhere), and I woke up at 7 sans alarm clock. Shao Gao picks us up at 9:15 so I'm going to try to type fast. It might be a two-parter.

We left Beijing early as heck on Saturday morning. We didn't really even have time to eat if we wanted to get some serious exploration in. It didn't really matter though because Cory, Katie, and Laura came very prepared with various food and such. We took a taxi, subway, bus, then van. So it was a long trip. The van ride was pretty hair-raising actually, due to the fact that everyone in China seems to drive like bats out of hell. Worse, blind bats out of hell... who are incredibly impatient. So we took a few questionable turns and eventually made it to some remote looking area in the countryside. I constantly wonder sometimes if cab drivers just drop you off in random places because they are tired of trying to communicate with people who don't speak Chinese. But we were in a place, with Great Walls involved, so it was right enough.

So we started walking in the general direction of the wall. It wasn't your traditional national park, with signs, forest rangers and safety and whatnot. It was just out there. As if it were completely untouched (which it definately wasn't). We walked for awhile, saw and heard bugs I've never seen/heard before. I was definately out of shape, which seems to be a nearly permanent state of being for myself. But I definately had some serious sweat practically blasting out of my pores at break-neck speeds. I'm sure you'd love to see a picture of a sweaty version of me, so here you go. You're welcome.

After climbing for awhile, we eventually get to the point where we could see the wall, and to be honest it was a lot smaller than I expected. I later found out that the wall is various sizes at different places, and I don't blame them for making the wall smaller at this particular location. Its hard as hell to get to. Plus, this wall isn't nearly as restored as the other wall we went to later, which was like a theme park (with chairlifts and tobogan rides and everything, you'll see later). So it was pretty cool to see an overgrown, ruins-like Great Wall. It was pretty hazy that day, so the wall just sort of snaked away into the mist, which was an impressive sight.

So after resting for awhile, Cory and Laura got gung-ho about climbing the steeper side (the one that wasn't toward the way we were planning on descending). I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I didn't go. So we started our ascent...

Did Drew climb the steep part of the wall or did he crumble like a little pansy?! Did Drew set up camp that night and survive without eating Chick-fil-a or Twix candy bars?! Find out, in the next installment of...


Great Wall Almighty

I'm back from the Great Wall overnight trip. It was so cool. I have so much to write about, but unfortunately I physically can't right now. I hate to do that to you, but I need sleep. Big time. While it was amazing to sleep, actually sleep, on the Great Wall, it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination comfortable. So I barely slept.

I could write a bunch of stuff this instant, but I can't do that until I can post photos. I can't post photos until I can upload them. And I can't stay awake long enough to upload all the ones I want to include. There will be a big update tomorrow though, maybe even in the morning when I wake up. But for right now I'm going to crash.

I'll leave one last thing though. Luke and Laura, if you come, you have to go to the wall. To the real wall, not the tourist one. The one where the rocks crumble underneath your feet as you walk up stairs it and where you have to actually climb parts because the stairs are too steep to actually walk up. I will take you there, and I'd wager good money that you'd love it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Perpetual motion

I seriously need some "me days" soon. I've been doing stuff non-stop since I got to Beijing. While I like every single thing I've done so far (with exception to breaking off the key in my door and having to sit outside my apartment for a few hours), I can still tell that pretty darn soon I'm going to crash. And I'll wish I had done my laundry first.

Today we went to the Bookworm again, which is where Bob Marcacci (The Carden program... director? I think?) hosts his weekly open mic poetry reading. While the Art Institute of Atlanta has undoubtedly made me very cynical to most all things art related and has made me think that most "artists" today are so paradoxically narrow-minded when it comes to what they classify as "art", I'd have to say that this group seems pretty darn genuine. There are lots of people from many different parts of the world who come there and read poems and such in their own language. Its really neat actually. It won't stop me from making fun of art and artists (especially the narrow-minded, pretentious kind), but at least now I'll make somewhat of an effort not to generalize my mockery to the entire community. Only that aspect which demands specific attention.

I got home tonight, trying to think of a poem I might be able to write about next week's theme: Color. What I thought might happen, happened: I came home, wrote about 3 sentences, became physically ill at how trite and cliched my effort was, quickly deleted it, played video games, watched Carnivale, and ate some M&Ms. Now I'm writing in my e-chronicle about how lame a writer I am. Oh, by the way, thanks for reading.

Tomorrow will be another fun-filled day. More bestowing my awesome command of the Southern-American-English language to today's Chinese youth (to which today I said allowed in class, "Holy crap" when some of the students started telling me their birthday was after September 11th - them's is some young uns!), and then probably preparing my bad self for a weekend of overnight watch duty on the Great Wall. So don't try anything funny, Mongolians.

Once again, I'll leave you with one, no... two hot new pictures fresh from the Canon (the first one is at the top!). Its from this fancy place called the "Old Summer Palace", where the emporer used to go after a arduous week of copulation with his 100 wives. They had it rough in those days.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Internet action

I'm now fully operational again, and ready to interact with everyone via the internets.

Lots of things to say though, I tried to write everything down that interested me in some way, but I've been doing lots and lots of things. Last night we went to a Beijing Pop Festival and listened to various bands from around the world (like Norway, UK, China... I don't think there were any American though) that were all pretty interesting. Some were emo-ish I guess, one was a strange electronic style thing with the most hilarious boy band "dance" I've ever seen. Anyway, the park was awesome. It was a beautiful clear day, and the wasn't half-bad. Either that or my lungs have now become immune to the airborn particles of evil. But the park looked loverly, with a few people here and there flying kites in the gusty wind. Too bad this rendered frisbee use almost entirely impossible.

As I said though, the concert was pretty fun. I kind of drank alot of rum, which I wasn't used to, but damn if Capt. Jack Sparrow isn't a role model (Way to freakin' go, Disney!). Corey and Sam did an excellent job reinacting the boy band dance too.

I also met a guy named Seth, who just so happens to be from the great state of North Carolina, and has also enjoyed the delicious burritos from an upstanding establishment I like to call Flaming Amy's. He even has the merchandise to prove it!

I was a bit worried at first, because it was really windy, and starting to get really cold. Though I had a jacket and everything, I was unprepared mentally. Oh well. As it got later into the night, the temperature got much more tolerable. Once again, a big part of that might have been the rum. I may have just stopped caring. It was an awesome time though, I couldn't be more convinced that I landed in a great job in a great location with a great group of people. I'm one lucky bastard.

Even the guards were having a wonderful time

I have some pictures from the flight over that I have to put up on this E-chronicle. The ice caps were surprisingly sparse. I thought it would be icier than it was. Of course, I'm sure it wasn't a tropical paradise down there or anything, but it does look pretty obvious that it might be breaking up. Its sad too, they were so good together.

Then there was Syberia, which wasn't a freaky as I originally imagined it would be. Just... a whole lot of mountains... Like, many.

Ok so there isn't much text to this entry, but I had to post images and figure that crap out. I doubt the alignment is going to come off very pretty, but I'm sick of posting for the moment. More to come later... for now, I'll leave you with these crazy mountains:

Monday, September 04, 2006

Still here

Just making a quick post to say that I still exist. First day of classes today. It was awesome. The kids... they're just too cute. I have to go now though, won't have internet until Wednesday it sounds. I'm about to die without it though, so maybe I can create a sense of urgency.

Bye bye now