Monday, December 16, 2013 0 comments

Chinglish, December edition

I haven't posted any interesting Chinglish lately, so here's a bit to ponder over.
I know it seems like making fun, and it is in a way, but not mean-spirited.  My Chinese friends whose English is good giggle at it too when they come across it.  Besides, I'd hate to see the stuff I'd come up with if I were writing in Chinese. 
Saturday, December 7, 2013 0 comments


On this sunny but terribly smoggy (the air quality index got up to over 400 by noon, very hazardous), I got a message from Tammy about meeting for lunch at Guanggu. 

We ended up at M-Kitchen, one of several somewhat fancy restaurants up on the fifth floor of the mall.  It's a south Asia fusion place-dishes with curry, or Thai flavors, and even the occasional Vietnamese influence.  We had seafood spring rolls, mango fried chicken, an eggplant dish, and a kind of thing made of two pieces of thin, tortilla-like bread with a curried beef filling.  Tammy and I also got fancy strawberry juices. 
We walked around the mall a bit and went to Carrefour after-again I was reminded why I normally try to do my shopping on a weekday. Eeesh.

Spending time with these two is always good for laughter, especially as Tammy says that Micah makes her laugh just by, well, existing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013 0 comments

Finally Fall

I love alliterative (or consanance, if you want to be picky) titles. They just make me happy. 

Anyway, back to the point.  Now that we're solidly into November, it's finally starting to look fallish.  I was beginning to think we'd never get any color, thanks to the super dry and rather warm weather we've had. 


Poor Abused Oranges

I made the mistake of leaving a small pile of mandarins on my coffee table, and Micah got bored as he was loitering in my living room after a study. Now, he's pretty good at juggling tennis balls, but with the fruit...well, I commented that it was less juggling than just throwing oranges at my floor. He responded by throwing them at me instead. 


It's Contagious!

Sigh...our holidays are starting to catch on here...I guess you can't have too many reasons for a party.  Wal-mart here seems to have a slightly larger aisle of Christmas decorations every year.  Granted, the decorations available here make dollar-store plastic baubles look like the height of elegance and good taste, but it's still fun to decorate, albeit in a tacky, shiny sort of way. 

The thing I'm fussing about is that not only have Christmas decorations caught on, but so has the habit of putting them on display immediately following Halloween.  It's November seventh and I rounded a corner and there was the tinsel. 

I guess I really shouldn't complain...As soon as I got over my indignation (didn't take long) I justified the practice by loading my basket with snowmen.

Monday, November 4, 2013 0 comments


I get out of class at 3:40; by the time I pack up my scattered belongings and get outside, it's about four.  Too early, really, to go get dinner, but late enough that I don't really want to hike up the five flights of stairs to my apartment and get comfortable, just to go back out again soon.

So, I usually take my time wandering across campus towards the food street.  I often end up sitting on a bench in the park and reading for a while, enjoying the pleasant fall temperatures as long as I can.  I'm not looking forward to the drizzle and chill of winter interrupting my routine. 

Today was the most fun of all, though.  Strolling along still in my witch costume, carrying a jack-o-lantern, nearly everyone I passes did a double-take.  As I crossed the commons, I passed a group of grandmothers out taking their toddler grandchildren for a late afternoon walk; I stopped and re-lit my jack-o-lantern to show the children.  They shyly peered into the glowing eyes, and looked askance at my funny hat.  Who is this strange looking person who can't talk properly? Actually, I think the grandmothers were more excited.  Who ever though of turning a pumpkin into a light? Takes playing with your food to a new level.

I hadn't really planned it, but I realized as I walked on towards the gate that I would be passing the kindergarten just as it let out for the day.  Sure enough, as I walked along in front the school, I was quickly surrounded by a giggling group of curious children and probably even more curious parents.  I showed them how the lid came off the top of the pumpkin, and the candle inside.  One little girl was brave enough to try the word, and she pronounced "pumpkin" quite clearly.  A few of the boys tried on my funny hat. 

I went on to dinner at my favorite little restaurant, where the proprietor and her son exclaimed over my costume, too.  I kept the jack-o-lantern lit as I finally headed home in the dark; I know I 'll be tired of it by the end of the week, but for today I had a great time causing double takes and surreptitious phone pictures. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 0 comments

Well, I really wanted that to be an alliterative title, but it's been a long day and I can't think of an appropriate word-starting-with-g to express having a good time shopping with friends.  Gregarious at Guanggu? Nah.  Oh, I guess I could have just said good times at Guanggu...

Anyhow, due to summer vacation, then bedrest, it had amazingly been three months since I had been to Guanggu, the center of the universe or at least the center of our little neighborhood of it. 

After having a 9study in the morning, our group split into two factions based on lunch preference.  One group headed to Subway while Micah, Tammy, Jim, Kaila and I were thinking Papa John's.  Amy tagged along as far as the bus stop, but decided it was too much trouble to drag around her laptop all afternoon and headed back. 

We kept the waitress busy bringing us massive amounts of garlic butter sauce, which we drowned everything in.  It's nice to get a fix of American cheese, butter, and bread now and then. 

Micah wanted to look for some elusive shirt he persists in thinking he will find here, so Tammy and I followed along, ostensibly to shop as well but really not to miss an opportunity of heckling Micah while he tried to shop. (I'm sure he really values our opinions on his clotthing choices...snort. I say helpful things like "Get the neon orange one!")

Micah's shirt remained elusive, and I ended up being the only one to buy anything.  It's rare I find anything in China as I am built very different from the women here, but I found a navy blue sweater with white dots that I am really excited about. 

Outside I expressed my enjoyment of being able to go shopping and traipsing around again by taking pictures (really, that's how I celebrate just about anything).  I was in a silly mood, but I did make an effort to be normal in one, for Tammy's sake. 


Belated Birthday Cake

Micah is one of those people who keeps his birthday quiet; I only found out last year because I just happened to get curious and ask, and it turned out that it was his birthday that very day.  What are the odds?? Well, I guess I can answer that, 1 in 365, I suppose.

This year I intended to annoy him by whispering the secret to all our friends so they could embarrass him in song and also make a cake. Well, the cake part didn't embarrass him, he even specified that he wanted chocolate. 

Unfortunately, I was in the middle of bedrest on his birthday, and couldn't get out to buy butter and sugar.  Besides that, he had a cold. So I told him to take a rain check. 

This past Saturday, though, I was in a cooking mood, and we had friends coming over to watch The Dark Knight (part of the on-going campaign to lessen my ridiculously long list of I-can't-believe-you-haven't-seen-that-have-you-been-under-a-rock movies).  So I took the opportunity to finally bake a chocolate cake.  It's more of a surprise two weeks late, right?

Just a note on the pictures: I was going for taste, not presentation...the candles are supposed to be in the shape of an m but you can't really tell.


Halloween Hijinks

Okay, that title sounds extremely corny. 

Anyhow, it's the week of Halloween, and my busiest week of classes yet.  I have nine classes this week, but eight of them are the same lesson. 

One thing I really enjoy about teaching English in China is teaching about culture, and the most fun lessons are usually about holidays.  And the students are so appreciative of any effort to liven things up with pictures and props...seriously, it'll probably be a bit of a let-down if I teach in the states can't beat walking into a classroom and being greeted with a chorus of OOoohs and having so many camera phones turned towards you that you start to understand how movie stars feel on the red carpet. 

So this week I'm celebrating Halloween and amusing my students by dressing as a witch for class.  This was an easy costume as I already seem to have nearly every article of clothing in black, including a voluminous black jacket with a swirling velvet pattern that reaches nearly to my knees, making quite good witch robes. I think my mom found it at a yard sale. Micah found a witch hat at Wal-mart the other day, which I just remembered in class that I forgot to pay him back for. 

I also found a pumpkin large enough to carve-not an easy feat here where pumpkins are just another vegetable to be eaten.  They don't have much need of huge ones since a small one is plenty to make a side dish for a family meal.  However, it's actually good that I have a very small jack-o-lantern; much easier to carry to class.  The students have never seen one in person before, so jack got his share of paparazzi, too.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 0 comments

I voted for this post-apocalyptic "Radioactive" cover to win Response of...

Sunday, September 29, 2013 0 comments


Micah is babysitting for our friends Patrick and Maya this week.  While they go to visit her family for a few days over the National Day holiday, they needed someone to watch their tiny little kitten.  So, here is little Milo! Isn't she cute?

Sunday, September 22, 2013 0 comments

42 Amazing Maps

I love maps.  As any of you who have been in my house know, as maps feature prominently in my decor. On road trips, I'm the one with the atlas, navigating.  Maps make me happy. :)
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 0 comments

And then there's this...

  • Well, you know that whole story back in August about falling and hurting my back while hiking in Thailand? Well, I thought it was getting better, but then it started getting worse again. One of my friends that I see on Sunday offered to take me to a hospital she is familiar with and translate for me so I could get an x-ray. I just wanted to see exactly what was going on in there, to make sure I wasn't making it worse. I don't feel like typing out the whole story yet again, so I'll just copy the (long) message I sent my mother on facebook: 

    Sooo.... First of all, it isn't that bad, don't freak out.
    Anyway, I finally worked out a day that worked with my friend Jenny from to take me to the hospital for an x-ray on my back. It hasn't been bothering me too badly except for getting really stiff at night and I get tired walking shorter distances than usual but still, figured, just in case...
    Well, turns out I've been walking around for a month with two cracked vertebrae. So, the doctor said the only thing really to do for that is rest. He told me I should take a month of off work and stay home and lay around as much as possible and not do anything strenuous.

    You know, ordinarily, I'm wishing for exactly that...I just want to sit on the couch and play on my computer...but after being told to, it's now been three hours, AND I'M GOING NUTS. WANT OUT. I'm not going to handle this well. I already sent Micah about a dozen whiny texts. And complained to four other people. Sorry you weren't first, but you were asleep.

    Anyways, I am supposed to teach four classes of grad students next week, but he said standing all day (three of them are all in one day) was a bad idea. So, I'm going to talk to my coteacher and see if I can reschedule those. After that, thanks to my crazy schedule (God knew what he was doing!), I didn't have any classes for the next two weeks after than anyways. So that would give me about three and a half weeks. And I have a doctors' note so they're usually pretty good about rescheduling for that.

    It's just super frustrating and I feel like a drama queen asking for help from anyone because I really don't feel that bad. Well, I am pretty worn out from being out most of the day at the hospital, so I know I do need to rest more, but...still, I've been doing it all for myself for the past month and was starting to think I was almost better...The pulled muscles have healed, so most of the pain was gone...just an ache now, really. Sigh.
    However, Micah is a great person. His reaction to the news that his coworker is going to be lazy and no help for the foreseeable future was to say that it's a good thing he's moving in across the hall soon so he can carry stuff up the stairs for me, and that he's going now to go buy food at my favorite place and bring it to me.
    One other problem--my house is a WRECK. Well, the living room and my bedroom aren't bad, as people can see them, but the kitchen is a disaster zone. I was at the retreat all weekend, and then we didn't have water, so dishes from several days are piled up and starting to smell. I'll just have to do a few at a time and then back to resting, I guess.
    I was thinking that maybe I could hire a student or somebody who needs some extra money to come sweep and mop and vacuum for me, as those are some of the harder things on the back. But I need to get the kitchen in better shape first...I would be too embarrassed for anyone to see it like that. Sigh. Why couldn't I have gotten the house clean before finding out that I shouldn't be doing it? To top it off, I'm still recovering from a sinus infection. I only have half of a scratchy voice. AND as you can already see, you are likely to get a lot of very whiny emails from me over the next few days. I'm really going to try to rest and let it heal...but you know how it is! I feel ridiculous asking for help when I don't feel that bad.
    Well, let me know when you see this. I didn't want to rant about it all over fb before telling you. But I'm itching to. Sigh. WHINE WHINE WHINE. Well, Micah should be here soon with the food. I told him I was throwing a big pity party, but if he wanted to bring food to the party he was welcome.
    And I was working so hard to lose weight...sometimes I think it's the devil. EVERY TIME I get really motivated and actually start doing well, I get sick or something and can't exercise. But ofcourse, absolutely no exercise videos allowed. 
    Sorry, super long again, and sorry to make you read a temper tantrum. Just seriously, can this semester get any weirder...I probably should not say that, I'll jinx myself.

Monday, September 16, 2013 0 comments

Latest Chinglish

September 1st:  (Still having prolems with blogger; I can't go back and change dates until it's fixed, so I will date posts that are out of order until I can).  

After our morning worship time, we went to a western restaurant, Cat's Eye, on the Zhangfa campus (they have a huge neighborhood of restaurants and shops; we just have two streets! Not quite fair...then again, that campus is super close, so we just go over there sometimes...).  I was a bit skeptical at first; Chinese "western" food is usually as not-quite-like-reality as our Chinese food is in the U.S. (hint: heavily modified for American tastes).  But this was really good--most of us got pizza, and it was very close to the pizza at Pizza Hut here.  In fact, so close that we were speculating about whether some employee here used to work at Pizza Hut and learned a few things...

Anyway, I got the chicken and mushroom pizza, which was good.  I took a quick picture of the menu page about pizza, though.  I starts out quite normal, but the last few caused a few double takes.  Chicken, Hawaiian, Veggie...Crispy Intestine of England?  No one wanted to take a risk on that one. Pineapple crab  sounds a bit odd, too, but Chrissi ordered it and I tried a piece.  Not bad; truthfully the crab didn't have a very strong flavor although there was quite a lot of thin strips of it, so it didn't taste that different from any other pizza.  I still preferred the one I got, though.  

Smoggy Morning

It hasn't rained in several days here in Wuhan, and the smog is getting thick.  The view across the lake is muted into soft pastels by the gray haze.  A bad sinus infection is going around and everyone's allergies are bad; I wonder if the smog is part of it.  Unfortunately, it's looking like a very dry September--no rain in the forecast for the next week and a half at least (and who knows how long after that--that's just as far as my weather app goes).  

New chairs!

Yay!  My new dining room chairs finally arrived!  My old ones were falling apart--literally.  Two were in more than one piece, and a third (that didn't match the others anyway) has a big crack on one side.  I'm very happy to now have four matching chairs (well, matching each other--they don't quite match my table, but at least they don't clash) that I don't have to worry that my guests will suddenly end up in the floor.  
Now, they are sitting in the middle of my living room looking dusty, so I need to get on with it.  Also, the water just came back on after been off from 7 last night to 11 this morning for some sort of plumbing maintenance that affected the whole neighborhood (which apparently was scheduled, but YET AGAIN someone (Veronica, cough cough) forgot to tell the foreigners who can't read the notice on the campus website in Chinese.) so I need to get the washing machine going and see if I can't reduce this pile of dishes.  

Through the Peephole

Since I haven't had to actually go to work the last couple of weeks, I'm usually home during working hours.  And, since I'm not used to hearing any noise at all on the landing as I've been the only one up here on the fifth floor for the past year, I notice whenever anyone comes or goes to work on the apartment across the hall.  Micah is moving in across the hall from me as soon as the repairs are finished and all the furniture arrives.  

Whenever I hear someone out there, I spy out the peephole on my door to see what they're up to.  Then I usually end up giving up on being stealthy and just go over there and stick my head in the door to see what they're up to.  I've taken to snapping pictures on my phone and sending Micah updates.  I took a few the day they put in the new carpet, and on the day they delivered the bed.  I didn't get any of the new fridge and washing machine, but they were just in big boxes anyways.  I felt really bad for the guy who carried A REFRIGERATOR on his back up FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS. By himself.  Wow.  I should never again complain about my job.  The guys who shoved the mattress up the stairs didn't look like they were having just a ton of fun, either.  

Today, they delivered the new couch.  I like it!  Very classy.  Anyway, I don't know if Micah wants his home shared with the world, but, he hasn't officially moved in yet so it's free game.  I'm enjoying spying through the peephole.  
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 0 comments

Just Say No

When someone says, "Hey, can I see your phone?" this is why you should just say no. 

However, he ought to know better than to voluntarily give me bad pictures of himself.  They just might end up on a blog...


Easter basket!

I bought an Easter basket today! I was at the grocery store near my school gate buying some bread, when I saw a new pile of colorful baskets.  Of course, they didn't mean it as an Easter basket, but isn't it perfect?

They also had bright orange baskets. Next time maybe I will get one of those as it would be perfect with my Halloween decorations. 

You never know what you're going to find. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013 0 comments

Time out to rest...

Oops.  One of downsides of getting behind when blogging is that you get the details mixed up sometimes, and thanks to the fact that even with my proxy blogger doesn't act quite right, I can't fix it.  I didn't go out to get southern food the same night I got back from the trip, it was the next night.  Not that anybody would know the difference in the story anyhow. 

Anyhow, I had planned to sign up for a Thai cooking class, which is popular in Chiang Mai, once I got back from the trekking trip, but on second thought I decided to take a day off to rest, hoping my back would heal a bit faster.  I didn't think I was quite up to standing over a wok all afternoon.  So, other than going out for dinner, I didn't leave the hostel all day 

Here's a picture of the canal around the old town I took when I stopped to rest on the way to the pharmacy, though.  

River Rafting

Anyhow, we all made it to the river one way or another.  There was a nice bamboo hut overlooking the river where I sat to wait on the others, and wrote blog posts for a while.  

I wasn't sure how good an idea rafting was with my back, but it would have been very difficult to go back with the group any other way (our truck was waiting for us at the end of the rafting trip, on the other side of the river), and besides, I hated to just give up on all the fun stuff.  

Surprisingly, it wasn't bad.  We were on those big inflatable boats, so it was a cushioned seat.  The only difficulty was that there were times when we were supposed to quickly throw ourselves into the boat and then quickly get back on the side to keep rowing.  I could get down reasonably fast, but it took a while to get back up as I had a limited range of movement. 

We did have a funny moment not long after we got out in the water.  We had a boy who looked nineteen or so who was our leader on the raft.  We got out in the middle of the river, and he looked down into the bottom of the boat with a thoughtful expression for a minute.  Then he suddenly flopped face down into the bottom of the boat, with his legs sticking up, hanging off the back.  He pulled out the inflation nozzle and started puffing furiously into it.  We looked a bit askance--an inflatable boat designed for six people, and he's going to air it up by mouth?  We started looking around for a leak somewhere, and we found a pinprick where air was bubbling out near our feet.  

He puffed for a minute, then popped back up as if nothing had happened.  The pin prick was very small; it would probably take a couple of hours to make any real difference, and we were just going on a twenty minute or so trip.  Besides, the river wasn't that deep or wide; if worse came to worse, we could just swim to shore.  It didn't slow us down any.  

We went through a couple of areas with rapids, which was fun.  I wouldn't mind going on a little bit longer rafting trip someday.  

Just before we reached the end, we got out of the boat onto some bamboo rafts.  Riding bamboo rafts had been in the original plan for the trip, but Johnnie had told us that we probably wouldn't do that because it wasn't any good this time of year, in the rainy season.  The water was too high or some such for bamboo rafts.  But, here we were anyhow, and we'd rather have just left it out.  The bamboo rafts were floating, but not quite on top of the water. We were sitting about two inches or so into the rather muddy water, with dead bugs and junk and who knows what swirling around.  Susie, who was in front of me, made the comment, "Well, this is a yeast infection in a cup right here."  Anyhow, we drifted lazily along the shore for a hundred feet or so, and then got out.  I was at the back, so that left me to climb out on the muddiest section of the bank.  Lovely.  

Anyhow, once back on dry land, we were reunited with all of our junk that Johnny had been holding for us.  There were showers at the place there, but of course mine didn't work.  The shower did nothing at all when turned on.  There was a second nozzle over a large plastic trash can, already filled with water.  I turned the knob, and it tilted crazily to the side and started gushing water down inside the concrete block wall.  There was a scoop in the can of water, so I used some of that water to rinse the mud off my feet and legs, but I didn't want to dump water that could have been sitting there awhile over my head.  I didn't figure I'd really feel clean until I got back to the hostel, anyhow.  

Next up was lunch; we were served some version of pad thai; I was a bit worried at first as I didn't care much for it the first time around (too many peanuts), but they seemed to have skimped on the peanuts in this one.  They also provided a bottle of chili sauce, so with a liberal application of that it was quite edible.  We also had more plates of the wonderful local pineapples.  

We waited around for a good while after lunch for who-knows-what-now, and finally we piled into the truck to head back to Chiang Mai.  We had picked up three more people into our group for the day, for a total of eleven.  Nine people piled onto the benches in the back, and Saori and I were crammed into the back seat of the truck (I've been out of the US too long--what do you call that again?  Extended cab?), while Johnny sat up front with the driver.  It was alright, but a little cramped sitting sideways (no leg room) for over an hour.  

Once we got back to town, we zigzagged around dropping people off wherever they happened to be staying.  I was lucky yet again---mine was the last stop.  It was wonderful to finally get back and take a shower, though.  

As soon as I was clean and rested just bit, I headed back out by the north gate of the old town.  The farther I walked, the more I felt like a weight was pushing me down.  Even my lightened purse seemed too heavy.  But, I hadn't seen any pharmacies closer to the hostel.  Once I found one, I bought a supply of ibuprofen and a small jar of tiger balm--those would be my constant companions for the next few days.  The pharmacy just happened to be right next door to Three Little Pigs, the Southern restaurant I'd found my first night, so I treated to myself to more fried okra, some creamed corn, fried sweet potatoes (sadly flavorless), and fried shrimp.  I feel bad wasting food, but it was way more than I could possibly eat.  I wish I could get more of that okra, though... 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 0 comments

Fwd: Jungle, Day 2

We were served an enormous pile of toast for breakfast; some it looked pretty ordinary, but some of it was a type of bread with a green tint. A little odd to look at, a bit Christmasy with jelly, but it tasted normal. 

The plan for the day was to hike downhill-and when I say downhill I mean very down a very steep and muddy mountain-go by a waterfall, then continue on to the river for white water rafting. After that, time for lunch and then start heading back to Chiang Mai. 

The problem with that is that I could barely walk. Within five minutes my back was screaming at me, especially while carrying my bag.  After a few miscommunications, Johnnie found one of the other tour guides that would take me down the mountain by motorbike.  He would take me to the river, where I could meet the rest of the group at the end of the hike. 

The motorbike ride was pure torture.  First of all, all of the bouncing and jolting in the muddy, rutted dirt road is not at all what you want to do with an injured back. Second, it was steep and muddy; I couldn't help but imagine the tires slipping in the mud and us flying off into a tree.  There were a few spots that he let me off to make my own way and carefully walked the bike down. I did a lot of praying on the way down. 

Although it was bad, I suppose it was better than trying the hike.  I'm afraid I would have fallen again on the steep trail, as I was too stiff to move quickly.  I would have had to stop and rest a lot, too.  I didn't want to hold everyone else up; one of the worst parts about getting injured is that I hate to be the complainer, the one everyone has to wait on.  That's why I usually prefer hiking alone.  They were all nice about it, though; Saori especially would slow down to wait on me and kept checking on me.

Sunday, September 1, 2013 0 comments

Evening at the Bungalow

About 6:30 we were served rice along with two Thai dishes-one was a spicy green bean and meat dish, and the other was a mild vegetable dish with a yellow curry sauce.

There's no electricity in the village, so Johnnie (our guide-he never told us his real name, but he and his fellow guides had chosen English names for themselves, mostly inspired me by alcoholic beverages-so his was Johnnie Walker.)  lit candles and set them along the table on the porch.

He suggested we spend the evening playing cards.  So we could see better, he hung up a flashlight from the rafter with a bit of rope.

We conferred for a few minutes about what games everyone knew or that would be easy to learn, and we ended up playing spoons.  There were a few minor rule variations, but everyone but Saori had played before.  It's a simple game, though and after watching a round she caught on fast. 

To make it more interesting, Johnnie suggested that there be some kind of silly punishment for losing.  So, he found a blackened pot somewhere, and after every round, the one had gone out first would rub their fingers in the soot and then mark the loser's face.  After a few rounds several people looked like some sort of tribal warriors. 

After awhile it was pointed out that one side of the table-the other Americans-were coveted in soot while on the other side, Saori bad I had only one mark each, and the British couple none at all.  So, just to see if it made a difference, we started moving seats, scooting down one place every round.  It didn't help too much.  The British guy, Faris, was the last to get a mark. 

Later in the evening, the children came back along with all their friends.  There was a group of about fifteen of them, mostly girls.  Some of them wore the traditional jackets if their hill-tribe's costume. They sang several songs for us in their local language.  Of course most of them I didn't recognize, but towards the end they did a version of Frere Jacques.  That song gets around... There was one other tune that seemed familiar, like it was a devotional song I'd heard long ago, but I couldn't place it.  Probably just wishful thinking. 

Johnnie told us before the kids came that often the foreign groups like us will take up a small collection for the kids;  the money they "earn" singing for the tourists goes towards school supplies. Normally, it's a bit annoying to be hit up for money, but it was handled well and he didn't try to guilt trip anyone. 

After the kids left, we played another simple card game.  I'm not even sure of the name.  We wanted something quite simple though as Saori's English wasn't really up to complicated explanations, and we didn't want to leave her out.

We finally went to bed about ten-thirty or so. Fortunately, up in the mountains it was cool enough that we actually needed our blankets.  I slept fairly well considering that I was still in quite a lot of pain.  I did have to wake up to slowly turn over.  You don't realize how much you use those muscles until you don't have them!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 0 comments

On the Mountaintop

I survived the trek up the mountain tired but no worse for wear. Unfortunately, walking to the shower building (down hill a bit) in flipflops did not go so well. 

It had rained a bit right after we arrived in the village, button the sun was shining on a beautiful late afternoon.  The paths, however, were still muddy.  I guess I stepped in a puddle; one second I was enjoying the view and the next I was sliding and falling.  I slid first into a small bush, but it was too flimsy to grab onto. I fell sideways off the trail about four feet down into the muddy courtyard of the village shop/someone's home, where a lady was busy giving her husband a haircut. 

Courtney, one of the other Americans, saw me go over the ledge from the bungalow porch and yelled down to ask if I was okay.  I could tell from the pain that I was not alright.  All of the others, except for Saori who was in the shower, and our guide rushed down to check on me. 

They tried to help me up tight away, but I was in too much pain to think of moving just yet.  Everyone started asking after my ankles and wrists, and considering the way I fell I'm surprised I didn't sprain a wrist.  I guess grabbing for the bush kept them out of the way.  The pain was in my back and sides; all the muscles in my lower back felt like one big cramp. 

Since I was content to stay in the mud a bit longer, Johnnie, our guide started collecting my scattered belongings.  I had had my camera out to take pictures of the village, and that had landed near me in the mud.  He found a rag and cleaned most if it off and tested it out to make sure it still worked.  It did, and thanks to his testing I now have two shots of me sitting in the mud.  I am refraining from posting those, though. 

I have always thought that if I was falling or going overboard, I would protect my camera first, tossing it to safety as I went.  Turns out when it really happens that the camera was left to its own devices to fall in the mud if it wanted.  I was too busy trying to figure out which way was up to even consider the camera. 

Finally I felt I could move, more because I knew I needed to get out of the mud than really feeling any better.  Johnny and Larry helped me to a chair nearby. I sat for awhile there.  The others finally left as the children wanted to give them a tour around the village.  Johnnie brought my purse in from the mud, and it turned out that I had ripped the strap clean off on one side.  Johnnie gave me a plastic bag to empty most of the stuff out of it; then he borrowed a sewing kit from the lady still calmly clipping at her husband's hair and sewed it back on.  He did a good job; it's held well.  I used baby wipes to clean some of the mud off of my purse, but it's going to take more than one round in a washing machine if it ever does come clean.

I finally got the energy to continue to the shower, where I washed as much of the mud off as I could with cold water.  I took a large dose if ibuprofen; as long as I didn't move I was okay. 

Later note: after googling my symptoms, I believe I had a lumbar sprain. It's when you pull or strain the muscles or ligaments that connect to the spine, and it's a common back injury. It is often caused by twisting badly, which is what I must have done as I fell.  It took nine days to feel somewhat normal again.  Thank goodness every pharmacy in Thailand has tiger balm and ibuprofen. 

Monday, August 26, 2013 0 comments

Evening in the Village

After our little elephant excursion, it was time fir the trekking part of our jungle trek.  I'd asked about it at the hostel, and she assured me it wasn't too hard, and not rushed.  I've always loved hiking and I've done a lot of it; I'm really trying to get back in shape because I love it but right now it's harder than it ought to be.  I prefer hiking alone, so that I can stop and take pictures, or rest if I want to without holding anybody up.  It's embarrassing to always be at the back of the pack. 

For some reason, I had an idea of winding around trees in a nice flat Amazonian type of jungle. I don't know why; I've seen a map of Thailand. 

Both misconceptions combined to make the trekking rather unpleasant.  It was humid, it was hot, and it was straight up a mountain.  And it was, all but a short section of clambering  over boulders, on a muddy access road. 

Fortunately, the group of people I was with were, although all super-athletic mountain goats themselves, were very nice about my slightly slower pace and were very encouraging.  It's just a bit embarrassing that I needed the encouragement in the first place.  Pride goethe before a fall, I suppose;  after hiking Yellow Mountain in July, I had been feeling in pretty good shape.  That wasn't too difficult at all.  And last October I did just fine at Jiuhuashan; but then again, I was alone there and wasn't comparing myself to anyone.  And it was a mix of up and down, instead of straight up like this one.

I am, as always, grateful I live on the fifth floor, because at least I get a lot of leg exercise that way.  It could have been much worse, since I live in a completely flat city. 

Anyway, we finally made it.  At least tomorrow will be all down hill. 

Our destination was a little village on the very top of the mountain.  There we found waiting fir us a thatched bungalow with pallets inside to spend the night in.  The front porch had a view out over the valley and surrounding hills that made everyone, once we caught our breath, start to feel that the long slog was worth it.


Fried rice in a banana leaf

After our elephant ride, we stopped for lunch.  People have been carrying food since long before ziploc and tupperware, and around here the usual way is to wrap it in banana leaves. 

We unwrapped our banana leaves to find surprisingly good fried rice.  Along with it was a large platter of fresh pineapple, grown nearby.  It was some of the best pineapple I've ever had. 



After the orchid nursery, we made another stop at a market, which had a convenience store as well as open stalls.  We stocked up on snacks and drinks and gawked for a bit at the various fried bugs and strange fruits for sale.  Now, we were finally headed to the jungle. 

As we drove further out into the countryside, we started to see elephant barns along the river. And  who doesn't like elephants?

We paired up-of course, Saori, the Japanese girl, and I were together since we were the only two single people.  She speaks some English, though not a lot.  Unfortunately, Japanese is a language I have no experience with.  I did learn that she is an occupational therapist from a small town I've never heard of.  She was also traveling alone.  I'm proud of her for that-it seems that most Japanese tourists I see travel in herds. 

Anyhow, we rode the elephants for a short trip down a very muddy road.  I road an elephant before in Laos, but elephants are always fun.  The best part was that the lead elephant in our group had a baby tagging along.  Adorable!