Some Wandering

Let’s be honest: I’ve neglected this blog since the summer, and even in the spring, I got skimpy with my updates.

I’m not here to give excuses, though I have to admit I did type a few before I decided on the moral high ground and deleted them. Let’s play catch up instead.

Last May I helped chaperone a trip to Beijing (not to be confused with the trip Xiao Ming and I took later in June to Beijing with the six high schoolers, although Xiao Ming did join me for the Lego trip, too. She helped out quite a bit when we needed to find a hospital for a student who somehow wound up with an infected insect bite of some sort, but more on that at a later time) with 23 middle schoolers for a Lego Competition at the British International School, Xiao Ming and I took the three-day weekend of Dragon Boat Festival to visit Nanjing and Hangzhou (West Lake and the storied Lei Feng Pagoda were inspirational for another novel idea), I travelled to Shanghai with a couple friends for a Guy’s Weekend in the middle of June, went back to Beijing for another chaperoning trip (wrote about that already), spent all of July in France (a few days in Paris then a train ride south to Nice where we camped in a one-hobbit sized hole in the wall for more than three weeks while we hung out on the oddly comfortable stony beach and wandered around ancient villages tucked away in mountains–all while also working on our tans), started work in August and welcomed new teachers, another Guy’s Weekend to South Korea to catch a baseball game, took part in some professional development, one of which sent me, along with three others, down to Shenzhen, a southern city next to Hong Kong for the weekend, and then…

Nangjing, Hangzhou, Beijing Legos 463

Nangjing, Hangzhou, Beijing Legos 615

Nangjing, Hangzhou, Beijing Legos 442

Sun Yat-Sen, Father of Modern Day China and leader of the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing.
Sun Yat-Sen, Father of Modern Day China and leader of the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing.
Ruins of the original Lei Feng Pagoda beneath the newly built one.
Ruins of the original Lei Feng Pagoda beneath the newly built one.

France 2014 198

France 2014 112

France 2014 156

At night they break from their stone prison and fly around Paris protecting people....I may be thinking of a different kind of Gargoyle...
At night they break from their stone prison and fly around Paris protecting people….I may be thinking of a different kind of Gargoyle…

France 2014 241

France 2014 248

France 2014 063

France 2014 616

France 2014 609

France 2014 573

__ 1(2)

France 2014 025

France 2014 038

France 2014 157

France 2014 146

France 2014 114

France 2014 074

France 2014 167

France 2014 181

__ 2(4)

I suppose the next thing I should mention is that Xiao Ming and I got married.

As I write this, the two of us are in Sanya, the only sunny, beach paradise that China has to offer, spending the winter break and our honeymoon soaking up some sun and enjoying the sand and water. It has been a very relaxing trip, and I’m incredibly glad that the cloudy,windy weather of the first few days passed by, letting the sun out for a measure of freedom that has made for gorgeous afternoons and cool evenings.

Now that we are officially fuqi (a married couple), it would be dishonest not to disclose a personal agenda of mine. Part of my master plan to indoctrinate Xiao Ming into American culture includes movies, and so, each evening leading up to and including Christmas, we watched well-known American Christmas flicks. We watched Scrooged, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and the list would have continued, but, unlike me, she has a hard time sitting still for extended periods of idleness. Last Christmas we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation–my personal favorite, and next Christmas I intend on expanding the list to include all I’ve mentioned (because repetition ad nauseam is the key to any happy family tradition) and also A Christmas Story, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Home Alone, and even though it’s not a Christmas story, per se, and even though we’ve already watched it, my second favorite, Groundhog’s Day.

This idea occurred to my while we were in France. At some point we somehow stumbled into a conversation about the great American patriot, Rocky Balboa, and it became obvious to me that Xiao Ming did not know of his remarkable tale. I remedied that by downloading all six films and watching them with her over a week-long period. A lover of American music, mostly the Grammy winners CD collections from the nineties and early 2000s, Xiao Ming surprised me by having very limited knowledge of film. Through my detailed investigation I uncovered that she is not familiar with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and basically any Western that has Mr Badass Himself, The Man with No Name–Clint Freaking Eastwood.

This is actually all my fault. I should have guessed this alarming deficiency a long time ago when she and I watched all three Back to the Futures and she admitted having never seen them before. Yes, I dropped the ball, but I’ve since picked it up, dusted it off, and taken to carrying it around with me so much that people make their small children walk on the opposite side of the street as me.

My point is, as you can no doubt guess, I like swimming on vacations.




During New Year’s Eve, the two of us attempted to find a bar, but Sanya’s nightlife is a bit….local. I have no qualms with chillin’ in mostly Chinese bars, but these ones were not just bars, they were Disco Bars. Full of emotionless, talentless, techno schizophrenia and too many identically young nouveau riche, or as they call them in Mandarin, baofahu, toting around phones the size of my forearm, these places are just a jumble of noise and posturing egomania. So we ditched the effort, found a reasonably quiet patch of sand along the beach, and brought in 2015 holding each other, talking of our hopes for the year, and kissing.

And then they lit off an inordinate amount of fireworks because, you know, China.

We’re here for a few more days, and then we head back to Dalian and the Siberian winds that whip across the peninsula and force people into several layers of clothing, one of which usually being long, thick, fuzzy underwear. Can’t wait to get back.

A Night at the Movies

There’s this list. You know, the one that audiences mark off when they’re watching a movie or reading a story that has a character traveling or going on an adventure. And really, if you’re not aware of it consciously, a part of you recognizes pieces of it as the events begin to unfold. Here, I’ll prove it.

Character is in a new city (heck, could even be a jungle, doesn’t matter). He/She:

A)    Finds the destination easily because the map purchased is an up-to-date work of cartographic genius.

B)    Decides to just chill in the block around the hotel without venturing out farther (or swings from a hammock fashioned from vines hanging from the ginormous trees).

C)    Gets lost at least once, usually through some humorous fault of his/her own (and will be just one of the many times things like this happens).

Answer: C, right?


Character gets roped into hanging with friends he/she doesn’t really know all that well. He/She:

A)    Leaves the scene early and goes back to the hotel/apartment/jungle hut.

B)    Realizes there’s no one he/she has anything in common with, so consumes copious amounts of alcohol in the corner of the room…

C)    Forges a few actual, meaningful relationships because he/she is stretching, growing, and living in the moment.

C again, right? (Really, it’s just easier for me to make all the answers C)

OK…Maybe I’m not good at doing the quiz thing, but you gotta admit (maybe), there are certain staples to the traveling movie/fiction genre. Someone gets lost, sick or injured, new friends are made, self-discoveries abound, and things get stolen…

These things happen in just about every movie or book like this, ever. I’m definitely the type to romanticize things and give a little slack to my tether holding me to reality, but I’ll be honest, not all of those things are fun. In fact, there’s a good chunk of them that just suck. I’ve had kidney stones here (THAT nightmare has been documented on this blog), Noelle and I have gotten lost in Beijing, we’ve been ripped off….and now I’ve had my wallet stolen, right after I went to the ATM, I might add.

A friend from Scotland recently offered, “Congrats on you theft baptism ;)” when I posted a message stating that I’d just gotten my wallet stolen. I don’t know if that means I had it coming sooner or later, but it does seem odd that none of the people who commented after her seemed surprised.

Here’s what happened. It was Monday night and my friend and I had gone to the movies. We stayed until the credits rolled through, hoping for some extra—every movie nowadays has a little something at the end, ya know? But no, not a thing. We left, the last two from the audience. The only others in there were two ushers, cleaning.

We took the escalators down the four flights and saunter out into the humid night air, me thinking about the flick and how to express my thoughts in Chinese, and also contemplating a late dinner. The latter thought got the best of me, and when I reached into my back pocket to take a look at what remained of my funds my heart did that pause-between-beats-and-turn-to-ice-before-sinking-to-the-stomach combo. My wallet was gone.

I had no difficulty telling my friend in Chinese this particular problem. I didn’t wait for a response. I ran back to the theater, trying to keep enough attention on the placement of my sandals (the ground is super slick in some areas and my sandals are new and prone to slipperiness). This time I ascended to the fourth floor with the help of the elevator attached to the building’s outside.

I ran in, told the workers my issue, and was quickly waved toward the room I’d just spent the last two hours and forty minutes. Lights on and not a soul around, I searched to no avail. Two others helped, and then my friend joined us. And then we left, my friend taking the reins on the explanation and interrogation of the employees. They were of no help, mostly. Although at some point we all walked back in and looked around again for the fun of it.

Eventually, we called the cops. Not entirely sure why. I had no silent hope that they’d be able to get my wallet back to me…and they didn’t. They came, gave me the Eye, talked to my friend, nodded to me a few times, talked to the manager on duty, and then talked to my friend again. But this time it was like we were the ones putting them off. Seriously. They even turned to me and asked if I’d been drinking. I didn’t say anything. I just gave the cop my version of the T1000’s death stare and shook my head. After a few more minutes when it was obvious they were just wasting our time AND arguing with my friend, I stopped them by saying, “What’s wrong? If someone took my wallet there’s nothing you can do now, so why are you arguing with us?” In Chinese I’m sure a few things were a bit off, but it felt good to say it anyway.

My roommate helped me cancel my bank card, I cancelled my credit cards, but I still need to contact the BMV about my stolen, expired license. Really hoping that doesn’t come back and bite me later. I’ve since requested a new card from the bank here and for three days was getting by on money loaned by my roommate. I still can’t touch my account even by going directly to the bank, but I have enough for the essentials until next Friday (when I’ll theoretically get my bank card).

But, my point is, The Dark Knight Rises was good.