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Scored an epic green laser pointer that is probably illegal in most public spaces in America. Yessssssss.

Today was two amazing experiences in less than 8 hours.

This morning we were woken up by Righteous Ross who decided that we all needed wake-up knocks just in case. Yet somehow he was able to open our door to our hotel room. Suspicious? I think so.

After a very meager breakfast, we hopped into the bus and started our journey.

3 of our own were stricken by sickness or Skype and weren’t able to join us on the sightseeing party bus. Juicy Joey, Dapper David, Nice Nardini: You were missed.

First stop? BUDDHA PAINTINGS. Let me start by saying that the image of Buddha is intriguing in general. But when you have over 50,000 of them (not an exaggeration) in one place, it becomes obsessive.

Things that I learned:

  • Americans have a need to explore on their own which is not generally understood by the Chinese and their culture.
  • The ears on Buddha are long to symbolize good luck, but are only imaginary. No one ever had ears like that. But the bigger your ears are, the closer you are to enlightenment. (Shout out to Daniel Pell)
  • There was a revolution at some point in time where all of the glass eyes in many of the sculptures were stolen. Now they all look creepy.
  • Chinese people are very protective of their treasures. So, a 19 year old American trying to climb the caves will cause quite the commotion that is embarrassing to Americans in the near vicinity.

All of the sculptures are in caves along a stretch of cement tiles. There are over 40 of them in all. The 5th cave houses the largest stone carving of Buddha in all of China. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the coolest sections of the tour (of course…) but needless to say, everyone was in awe.

Towards the other end of the caves, there are five large Buddhas that were made by the same Monk. In the very front of the complex, a statue has been erected in his image.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for lunch. Apparently we expressed our gratitude for the delicious food last night too well because lunch was exactly the same dishes.

Although, now I have learned of a new dish that is hot cabbage with a delicious sauce and peppers. I’m trying to get the recipe.

Then it was time for the Hanging Monastery. We drove about 2 hours southeast of 大同 to find ourselves in the crevice of two mountains. And on our right, as promised, was the monastery.

Now to be honest, I was expecting a 40 meter x 40 meter chunk of land that was suspended above ground, but I let that dream go and thoroughly enjoyed scaling the old structure.

The monastery only receives 3-4 hours of sunlight per day because it is built underneath an out cropping on the west side of the ravine, and the eastern mountains block the morning sun. That is its secret for surviving the test of time.

It is also located in a river bed and just a few hundred meters away there is a huge dam. I kept imagining what I would do if the dam broke and I had to make a run for it. Luckily, it never did.

All of the pathways are very narrow in the temple. There was technically a one-way tour path, but I didn’t see the signs until it was too late. I caused a traffic jam and was forced to turn around and go back the way I came.

We all were pretty wiped out by the time we made it back to the hotel. So, what did we do? We took a taxi to McDonald’s. Yes I’ll admit it. It was delicious and satisfying and now I feel sick. But my crispy chicken sandwich, fries, and McFlurry were entirely worth it. Plus, McDonald’s here is so clean and big and full of bright colors, it was no wonder that we all felt good to be somewhere familiar.

Tomorrow we leave for Beijing. I’m excited to be back in the city that we left almost a month ago and actually be able to explore. There is a possibility that we will see the Inter vs. AC Milan game at the Bird’s Nest Stadium on Saturday. It would be epic.

With a full stomach and an itching to get back to Beijing, I will head to bed.


Mountains and Mansions

I know that I’m pretty late in posting this. But since Photobucket has been MIA for a few days I just put off posting things that need pictures.

SO: We climbed a mountain last Sunday. It was one of the better day trips that we’ve taken. Speaking of, I was ‘taken’ with all of the interesting paths, bridges, creeks, waterfalls, and pagodas.


The mountain was about an hour away from Huo Zhou by bus. When we got to the foot hills, we were broken into two groups; Fast and Slow. However, these turned into “Those that want to actually climb a mountain” and “Whining babies.”

We made it to the first landing where there was a beautiful old pagoda painted orange and overlooking the parking lot and onward toward the city.

Orange Pagoda

The clouds/smog/fog was pretty thick so visibility was low. But it made the mountain seem taller than it really was; as if we were thousands of feet up in this mysterious abandoned city. There was also a temple on the same landing with multiple buddha that people were purchasing incense and lighting it depending on their prayers.

After that, we continued our journey skyward to find ourselves an hour and a half later stopped at a waterfall for a snack.

The night before, we had purchased a bunch of things from a bakery in town. The best find was this almost black bread that turned out to be sweet and delicious. It was gone before we had time to think about saving any for the “slow” group.

From there, only Righteous Ross, Tenacious Thomas, and myself continued on. For about another 30 minutes we followed the mountain stream up and up towards an unknown destination. At one point there was only a chain and some poles to grab onto that led us over some slippery rocks and I was sure that coming down I would be a cat up a tree; Wanting to reach the top and then not knowing how to return to the safe grass below. But to my surprise, I only slipped once and it was on a staircase of all places.

We never made it to the top. Although after returning to the bottom, we were informed that the “top” would have taken many hours to reach and really wasn’t meant for day climbers. So, even though we eventually just had to turn around, I really enjoyed being outside. The air on the mountain was so much cleaner than anything in the city.

Pat yourself on the back LA; At least you’re not China.

I think that besides all of my American cravings, I’m really just looking forward to fresh air, clean water, and healthy food.

As for food, the picture below depicts this amazing dish that we’ve had a few times. It has yams that have been candied with caramelized sugar. The sugar hardens by the time it reaches the table so they serve it with a bowl of water. Once you’ve mastered breaking off a piece with your 筷子 (Kuàizi/Chopsticks) you submerge the delicacy in the water to soften the sugars again. It’s very delicious.

The other day trip we took was to a mansion from the Wang dynasty. This ‘mansion’ was more like an entire walled city. There was half used for entertaining government officials and another half dedicated to living. The two were separated by this bridge.

Imagining being a member of the Wang family was surreal because you would never leave this paradise that they called home. Everything you would ever need either already existed inside the walls, or would be brought to your feet immediately if you asked.

Wang Mansion

We wandered through the small city and found our way through different courtyards. All of them had very specific names. Such as the Peace and Meditation garden or the Divine Knowledge courtyard.

Afterwards this photo was taken out of necessity to remember all of the construction that was going on right outside of the walls.


There were new apartments and stores being built in this mess of a town. Nothing was finished and there appeared to be no end in sight. Yet things are still being built. That seems to be a recurring theme for most cities in China. Everything is promised just around the corner, but we have yet to see a completed town.

Currently, I’m writing in my room in 大同 (Da Tong). Tomorrow we’ll be seeing the Buddha Paintings in the morning and the Hanging Monastery in the afternoon.

Now it’s time for sleep. Until 明天。。。

Hot Pot (Pictures to come)

We just had the best meal of the trip in my opinion.

Becky, an English teacher here in Huo Zhou, took us out for a traditional hot pot meal. It was very similar to how they cook the meat at the Melting Pot for those of you who have been. Except here ever person has their own individual stove right in front of them.

We all had to choose our soup style: Bone, Tomato, or Spicy. I chose Bone.

Once everyone had their pot in front of them, they brought out meat and vegetables and noodles and tofu and garlic and herbs and spices and bread. Almost everything went into that pot. They had some pineapple pancakes which were superb and NOT for the pot as we were informed.

The heating options were low, middle, and high. (低, 中, and 高) Which is always cool to see words in action.

The word for China is 中国 which means “Middle Country.”

As we were stuffed with pork and lamb and beef, the steam rose high above us in a giant cloud of sensory exploration. I got a picture with Becki and myself because I had to thank her for treating us to such an amazing meal. Now I will retire to an afternoon nap.

This is video from when we were still teaching up in Fen Xi. Looks fun, right?

A VERY happy, yet belated birthday to Ms. Ali Vos from China. Hope it was amazing!
P.S. Jackie!!!

A VERY happy, yet belated birthday to Ms. Ali Vos from China. Hope it was amazing!

P.S. Jackie!!!

Typical China
  • [Discussing online whatnot]

  • Sarah:

    Use YouTube.

  • Me:

    Wow I forgot YouTube existed. And not having Facebook has been really nice.

  • Sarah:

    Good! I like breaks from FB.

  • Me:

    Well, mine was mandated by the Communist Party.

Farewell, Fen Xi

Shoo fly, don’t bother me. Except that there were too many to kill to even try. Our room had become fly heaven by the time we reached the end of our stay in Fen Xi. Luckily they didn’t bother us at night, but during the day it was just ridiculous. Our windowsill was covered with over 30 dead flies.

Four nights ago, we were taken over to the park across from our hotel for a kung fu show. There were two kung fu masters there to give demonstrations as well as have fun letting us attempt to knock them off balance. All of us were unsuccessful. I’m sure all of the locals enjoyed watching us struggle to do anything as much as we enjoyed the chance to interact with these awesome athletes. Then a group from Fenxi gave a performance of kung fu that was developed in the town.

Saturday was our last day in Fenxi and we had a Halloween party as I mentioned. All of the kids really got into the pumpkin carving and enjoyed sticking their hands in and pulling out all of the guts. For future reference, watermelons are not as easy to clean and certainly make a stickier mess afterwards. As far as costumes go, many of the boys who made no effort. Luckily, James brought 6 animal hats that were passed between them in order to be part of the party. Joey was a hot dog, but also stole Amy’s Panda mask to become the ultimate Panda Dog (banned in all countries due to threat of extinction).

Harry and Dillan were dressed as Fly Killers. One afternoon they actually asked if they could spend 20 minutes killing flies in my room. I gladly accepted. This was a hilarious use of creativity.

We read scary stories, watched the Thriller music video by Michael Jackson, and Trick-or-Treated in our hotel. It was a great afternoon and a fun way to end two amazing weeks with all of these talented kids.

A clown, Kobe Bryant, and a Superstar Elephant are mobbed by the Papparazzi. Sounds normal, right

The last picture is all of my students with Joe, Topher, and me. I’m gonna miss them.

Getting to celebrate Halloween early? SCORE.

We’re teaching the kids all about Halloween and we’re having a party complete with Monster Mash, Pumpkins, and Trick or Treat-ing. It’s a good day.