So its been a while since I’ve written anything. I’ve been more or less insanely busy since the beginning of July. School at Xinwen finished for me on the last day of June, and I decided to work two more weekends in Changsha to pack away some extra cash for my trip. The rest of the week I was packing and just hanging around waiting for the 11th, when me and my friend Ming-ming would take the train up to Beijing. After saying goodbye to Liuyang and having a few last hurrah’s in Changsha, we got on the train that would bring us North. Since all the university students had also just gotten out of school, all the tickets were bought up except for a few on the slowest train, which instead of being a nice quick 13 hours, it was going to take us 21, making at least 18 stops on the way. It was hot and sweaty that day and I had everything I own with me and I wasn’t in too good a mood trying to get through massive crowds, lug a big ol’ suitcase all the way up a ton of stairs down a few long hallways and finally onto an already packed train. By the time we got to our bunks, I was exhausted and on the verge of tears but then this little girl started saying words in English and laughing and poking her grandfather telling him not to sleep. I listened to her for a while then decided to talk to her. After that she didnt leave me or Ming-ming’s bunk for almost the whole train ride, to the joy of her tired grandparents. She played with Ming-ming’s cell phone and looked at my list of stops for the train ride and the maps I had a whole lot.
When we finally got to Beijing the next morning, my mom’s friend Andao came to pick us up from the train station. We dropped Ming-ming where he needed to go since it was on the way, and Andao and I went back to her house where I took a shower and got ready for a job interview that I had that afternoon. The rest of the week basically consisted of a few job interviews and running around to all different parts of Beijing, as well as Andao and I trying out all the good food we could find. Andao help loads and loads, and came with me everywhere. I finally got a job with a school right downtown near the Drum Tower called Caijing Vocational High School. The school has a deal with Sheffield University’s TESOL program, where the students get intense English training, then when they are finished with the 4 year program, they can go to Sheffield University in England. That Sunday Andao took me to Tianjin to stay with her sister-in-law and family, since I was flying out of Tianjin to Malaysia on Monday. We took the high-speed train, which only takes 45 minutes. The high-speed trains are pretty darn fancy (Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger). Tianjin is the cleanest place I have ever seen in China. I felt like I was in a European city of the future. Everything was new, and the things that weren’t new didn’t have that black grime that covers most buildings in China. We went to eat at a place called ‘Gou-bu-li’, which means ‘the dog ignores you’. There is a history of this guy named Dog that sold steamed buns that were so tasty that he became so busy that he couldn’t even look at his customers, he just took the money, saw the amount and handed over a bag of baozi that matched it. The place actually does have really amazing steamed buns. After that we walked around the piers and then took a boat ride in the river mouth, which was pretty cool. The next morning Andao and the sister-in-law drove me to the airport and I said goodbye, checked in and then hung around in the terminal for a little while until the plane took off for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I should explain why I was going to Malaysia. Basically I had originally seen that Air Asia had a flight from Kuala Lumpur to London Stansted for about 250 USD. I figured I could go see my friend Sven in Ireland and still have the total cost of flights be less or equal to flying direct by booking all budget airlines. I was horribly wrong in the end, but it was worth it because I had an adventure and saw a buddy and a little bit of a few countries I might not have seen otherwise.
So anyway, I got to Malaysia where I had booked a super-cheap hotel across from the airport. The plane landed, I went through customs, then I went right on over the hotel. After that I decided I wanted to acclimate myself to Ireland time so I tried to stay up really late. There was a 7-11 where I bought a beer and sat in front of the hotel and watched everyone coming in and out, then I went to this cafeteria near the airport and had some Malaysian (cafeteria) food, which was actually pretty good and curry-like. After that I was way too tired so I just went into my roasting hot and humid everything-slightly-damp room and went to sleep. The next morning I sat in the airport people watching again for a few hours after I checked out, then got on my 14 hour flight to London Stansted. Air Asia doesn’t provide food or anything, so I ended up spending a bit of money on the flight for some food when I got really hungry, and also a thing to watch movies on which was about 5 bucks I guess. I got to Stansted around 10pm, but it took forever to get through customs, so by the time I was in the airport I was really really tired. I went to find a bench somewhere, tied my bag to my leg and went to sleep. I’m not sure if I slept at all, but a couple hours later I realised why the arm-rest-less bench was free. I had decided to sleep right next to a door where an entire planefull of people where waiting to go through customs. This lasted from 3am until 6 or so. Stansted is one of those places where only budget airlines fly in and out of, so everyone is trying to be cheap and sleep in the airport. I didn’t want to get off my bench, just in case I couldn’t find another spot, but finally at 6am I decided it was time to get up and go find those public showers I had heard Stansted has. The showers weren’t open and there was no one at the info desk, so I went for a coffee (something I hadn’t had any of in a long long time). I took a few sips and realized I just wanted some nice Hunan green tea, so I went and asked a girl for a big cup of hot water (which she found rather strange when i took out a bag of green leaves and put them in the cup).
There were tons of signs everywhere stressing that a passenger’s bag who is flying on Ryan Air cannot be over 7 kilos. My bag was 13, as I was lugging my cousin’s wedding present packed tightly and safely in the center of the bag, padded by socks and underwear and some clothing. I went over to get into the security line to see if they would stop me with my bag, as I was trying very hard to carry it in a way that made it look very light. The lady who was working there was very nice and told me I needed to go back to the check in place for a mandatory document check, and if I just walked up to the VIP desk and told them security sent me, it could be done in seconds, and I should just come back after and she’ll let me right in. I did exactly that, and with the other stuff on everyone’s minds, no one cared about this heavy thing I was lugging around. The flight was not even 1 hour and when I landed in Dublin I looked all around for my friend Sven and was afraid he had forgotten I was coming, but sure enough he was there after a few minutes and we got into his car and drove off to Dundalk where his family lives. As you may or may not know, Sven was a roommate (housemate) back in Montreal a few years ago who had since moved back to Ireland. Sven’s family is great and we drank lots and lots of tea around the kitchen table that week. We also went a bit around Dundalk and we went up to Belfast and down to Dublin. Belfast was really cool and we went on a bus tour, which I was skeptical about but turned out to be really really interesting. It went though all the neighborhoods where the violence was happening back in the day, and past the peace wall, which I had not expected to be 50 feet high. We also went to an abandoned house on the top of a hill in the middle of a bunch of wheat fields (golden at the time) with a river running down below. The house was overgrown and the floors inside were falling in on themselves, but the house must have been really amazing back in the day. We had some cans there and looked at the house and the wheat field and the river, then met some historians in tweed jackets who wanted to restore the place but had no money. The land is actually currently owned by a Lamb family! I wish I had a picture of it. I think it was the nicest time of the whole time I was in Ireland.
Another night we went down to Dublin and hung around with a friend of Sven’s, whom I had met a while ago in Montreal. The whole time was pretty great, and I’d like to go back sometime. The next week I flew back to Boston and Mom and Lulu came to pick me up. We drove home and had a tasty dinner because it was Lulu’s birthday (and Han-Han’s too kind of). I was only home for a couple days before my friend Joy came and we went up to Montreal on a Greyhound. We spent the entire 7 hours writing stories (where one person writes a sentence and then the other person writes a one, and so on), and making up interpretive dances for all the music I had with me. The time passed quickly, needless to say. Jill met us at the bus station and I bowled her over with a hundred hugs, then we made our way back to her house in St Henri, which was decorated like an elegant Victorian Bohemian cave-house (very awesome).
That week I spent a lot of time walking around a lot and I found a bike on the side of the road in the bushes which was broken, but ride-able. At the end of the week it got stolen anyway. I had lunch with an old lady named Joan who I had made friends with at work in Montreal. At the end of the week I made a massive dinner of Chinese food for a bunch of people and we had a little party. That weekend I went to a party in the woods where I ended up wading in a swamp in the dark and jumping some barbed wire fences and getting covered with mud, but it was fun and I got to see a bunch of people I had known last year in Montreal. I could have used a few more days in Montreal, but hopefully I’ll be back next year. After that, Dad and Lulu came to pick me up and we ate a massive Greek lunch, then drove to New Hampshire where Mom, Han and Xin were hangin’ out at my uncle’s lake cabin. That week basically consisted of mountain climbing, rowing, canoeing and swimming and swimming and swimming.
It was a pretty nice change from being in very garbage filled ‘nature’ or human-filled cities for the past year. I had forgotten what fresh air was like! After that we got home and then were back on the road again (mom, lulu and I) to go to Amish country in Pennsylvania to get a dog. We went all the way down there, thinking that we were going to come back up that day because we couldn’t get a hold of our family friend Mrs. Piggott. When we finally got down there, it had taken 3 hours longer than we expected, and we got a hold of Mrs. Piggott after we got our dog. We went over to her house to visit spend the night. Elizabeth came home a little later and we had tasty burgers, talked for a while then went to sleep. The next morning we had an early start and drove all the way home. I drove a little on I-95, and swore never to do so again.
After that I just had a few days left in Connecticut, so I hung out with a few friends, went to a drag show in New London and a show of Erik’s that got canceled and then me and Lulu hung out with him and Rachel and their roommates at his house. Also, Lulu turned 18 and she wanted to go to a nightclub, so we went out with the plan of going, but then realized that you have to be 19 in providence to get in anywhere, so we went to our old friend Anthony’s house because he was having a party. That week I also went on a canoe adventure with my friend Taylor at Carbuncle pond and we ended in the middle of a thickly eutrified swamp.
At the end of the week Mom, Lulu and I drove to New York to meet a girl who works for the Grace Children’s Foundation (the foundation that brought Lulu and Han over), who is around my age and has lived in China for a while. We had lunch/dinner (linner? dunch?), talked for a while, then we went to Chinatown to walk around, where we had more food. That night we were staying with some family friends from Twin Pines named Vicky and Jill in their empty house since they were moving the next day. After a night of hip-bones poking into a hardwood floor (but happy for a place to sleep), we went to the airport the next morning and I hopped on the plane back to China. I kind of wish I had had more time at home, but I was happy to be getting back to ‘normal’ life, and a new city!