Saturday, October 11, 2008

yangshuo trip

We had a couple days off for Chinese National Day and Cheung Yeung Festival this past week, which made for a happy 4-day weekend. I took a trip with a few other teachers to Yangshuo, a place in China I'd been wanting to go for years. While there, I also got to meet up with my dear friend Laura from W&M, who was doing a little traveling in China before a big conference in Beijing. It was a wonderful trip for many different reasons, four of which I will outline below. :)

1. Natural beauty. Yangshuo is absolutely gorgeous. You could easily just spend a couple days admiring the unique beauty of the dramatic karst peaks. The area around Yangshuo has inspired Chinese painters for centuries, and it's the kind of etherial beauty that you would easily think was just imagined if you didn't know the place actually existed.

2. Many outdoor activities. I went biking twice, rafting, caving, and kayaking. These activities would have all been fun on their own, but the fact that we could do all of them in just a few days, and all with the spectacular mountains as a backdrop was just mind-blowing to me. I could easily go back and do more of these things. I think I could spend a few days just kayaking. And I originally hoped to go rock-climbing too, but that didn't pan out. Next time.

3. Relaxing. Even if you weren't into doing any of the activities listed above, Yangshuo would still be a great place to go. It's one of those layed-back little back-packing towns that is full of fun little coffee shops and bars. I didn't get a chance to do this, but I think I could've happily spent a whole day in town ordering coffees and reading.

4. I love China. It hit me as we were flying that it'd been about a year since I'd been to China, which is quite a long time considering that it used to be home. The way I see it, I've had a love-hate relationship with China for a while -- almost as long as I can remember -- and in the past year or so, our relationship has been especially rocky. But during this trip, I felt like I really rediscovered my love for the country and its people. I really enjoyed chatting with the locals, getting in some much needed Mandarin practice. I use Mandarin occasionally here in HK, but it's usually English and broken Cantonese when I'm here. Everything from talking to my first taxi driver, to eating familiar dishes and desserts (caramelized apples and bananas -- yum!!) left me feeling so excited to be in China again.

I have some more stories from the trip, and photos too, of course. Will share those soon!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

...and i'm back!

It's been a while since I blogged. The main reason for that is that I moved to a new apartment and spent about a month and a half without internet at home. In fact, my roommate, Rebekah, and I just got it installed a couple days ago. We could've gotten it earlier, but dragged our feet in the name of finding the cheapest provider. In the end we went with the HK telephone/internet version of McDonalds -- PCCW -- a decision that will probably induce some self-loathing very soon. I was already less than thrilled with their service when the installation date kept getting pushed back. And that was before the Monday midnight phonecall I got from my sales rep, Jeff, reminding me that I would be charged for extra services if I didn't call and cancel them over the phone.

It's nice to be online again, but I have to say that going without internet at home for so long made me realize something: I was spending WAY TOO MUCH time on-line. After the initial settling in (which I should add, is still going on), I was floored by the great amount of free time that I seemed to have. Time to read, write letters, hang out with friends, play sports, go to sleep early. And I am sure that most, if not all, of this newly-found time was previously spent on FaceBook and Google Reader. We're talking hours wasted each week. It's a scary thought. Hopefully I have learned my lesson. Not to slam the internets, or say that I won't be using them at all. I still plan to blog and email, to use Skype, and even to be on FB from time to time. But there will be no more long sessions of Scramble and WordTwist, and definitely no more aimless clicking through FB.

So there you go. I've turned over the proverbial new leaf. Feel free to call me on it if you ever see me on FB for hours at a time. Tell me to read a book or go running. I will appreciate it, I promise.