911 and Autumn festival.

Trip Start Aug 05, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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What I did
Saw the Qaintang river's tidal bore.

Flag of China  , Zhejiang Sheng,
Saturday, September 10, 2011

Found a gorgeous park next door to my apartment.   Couldn't see it due to the heavily landscaped fence'  but it's there.  The park is amazing with wood and stone paths,  lush landscaping, bridges, water, sculptures, places for kids to play.  It looks to be about 5 acres but is the nicest public park I've ever seen.  Emperor Qian would have been proud of the builders of Xiasha.    Xiasha still has bits of old China left I am happy to report.  100's of tiny micro shops in narrow alleys, offering food, groceries, bike repair, internet cafes, junk, even tiny play grounds where the children play on metal swinging and climbing things all embedded in concrete.  Drove the bike though many kilometers of these places and have merely scratched the surface.  Driving through places like these at night is a bit scary at first,  but soon you become just another shopper, just a very famous one.  Most of the people are very friendly and want to talk to me.  I wave and return their "Hellloooos",  I will learn more Chinese,  seems like it's going slow, but I'm learning a small phrase every couple days.  Today was Mango smoothey,  which is my favorite drink here  "Bing Manguo'".   I am learn how to pronounce some of the local street names so words that begin with X , Z and Q will no longer be so tough to pronounce.   I am allowed to take Chinese lessons for free at the University,  and I will try to work it into my busy schedule this upcoming week (joke).  Until I learn to speak better I do have an idea that will allow me to hang out with the locals.

    After getting familiar with the game "Mah Jongg" last night on the internet:  this morning Lil Al and I went looking for a "Mah Jongg" tile set,  I plan to learn how to play the game.   I figure that "Mah Jongg"  is a great way to hang out with the locals without having to speak too much of their language.   They play this for hours and I very much want to join in all the fun.   I only know how to play Mah Jongg solitaire which has little to do with the actual game but does get you familier with the different tiles (and teaches you to read a few Chinese characters as well!).   Lil' Al is ok to a small extent as an interpreter,  but he does not know this town.   Most people that live are are temporary and they don't know it either.   Al comes along just for the fun of biking with someone.  We are homies for the most part.   I know the town better since I've lived here longer and I do get on a HZ expat site and ask a lot of questions.   Yesterday,  we went driving around looking for a guitar shop near 1st and Xinhua streets.   I did need his help reading the signs and he spotted the shop from way across Xinhua which is a bit wide.   So we do work well in tracking places down.   But a Mah Jongg set???   No one knew this one....   Even the Chinese that Lil Al asked were clueless.   Then a light bulb went off and I remembered a sporting goods store I passed by a couple times (not many of these type stores in China),  so we went there and found a very nice set of tiles for $30  which is a lot of money,  but it's good quality and the set weighs about 15 pounds.   Lil Al bought a chess set for himself and kicked my ass over lunch!   I plan to study and eventually will play a game with 3 of my Chinese friends (I have 3 Chinese friends and their phone numbers in Xiasha alone),  the Chinese are not nearly as paranoid and selective as we Westerns are when it comes to friendship.  And in the West we have good reason to be that way,  but many take it too far.

Did buy a $50 classical guitar yesterday,  probably a $300 guitar in the states,  the quality is pretty good.   I started on a classical about 30 years ago and after steel strings and electrics,  decided to revert back to classical since I never use a pick anyway.  Plus,  the sounds that Willy Nelson can make with his classical amazes me.    Nice to be able to play an instrument much quieter than the sax,  though I do manage to get some sax in once a day for a little while.
Tonight I quietly played on the front porch of my 5th floor flat.  The much louder noise of the local children playing,  the bike and car alarms,  horns honking,  people shouting to each other, kept my playing secret enough,  the sax is a louder instrument and the sound carries quite well though concrete.

THESE TWO WATER PICTURES ARE MOVIES!  BE SURE TO CLICK ON THEM!!!!!!!   (note that the boat in the still picture is the same boat but on the opposite side in the first movie)...  he better move that thing by Thursday when the big one hits!

Drove way out to the Qaintang River this afternoon, mainly to see what it looked like and got there just in time to see the famous "Tidal Bore",  that this river is world famous for.   When high tide hits,  a big rushing wave goes miles up the river from the bay and the noise can be deafening.   Several rivers in the world experience the Tidal Bore,  but the largest is in the Qaintang River that runs right though Xiasha.    Only happens like once a day and I got there right before it happened.   Very powerful and amazing.  This Thursday is should be more magnificent than today,  the most powerful tidal bore of the year,  and I will not miss it.   The event is much greater in the fall and in the spring.   We watched this from the top of a levy,  missing the up close action by 30 feet or more.  A couple years ago,  in a special viewing spot downriver,  a few hundred people were sucked into the river by this beast!   Many of them died! The Tidal bore must be respected....   Of course,  surfers will be out on Thursday in order to try out one off the most dangerous rip tides in existance,  but they can breathe underwater or something.    While river watching,  I ran into a group of Kiwis (New Zealanders),  who only stay here and teach 3 months per year (they are full professors in a subject or something),  they only come here because they love the Chinese and being here part of the year.  Much more together people than the ones that are stuck here.   I might consider a schedule like theirs next year,  where I work for one semester,  then work online at home or something,  if being full time in a foreign culture strikes me as too unhealthy.   I guess we must wait and see.  So far,  I really do enjoy the place and its inhabitants.

Went off to see the tidal bore again  close to the same time as yesterday.  It happens 40 minutes later each day (dont know much about tidal timing).   This time I went to the main viewing area,  where they had thousands of people and a big screen showing about tidal bores.  I arrived about 30 minutes early and after 5 minutes of constant staring,  I got on the bike and headed up the levee toward the ocean.   Along the way there were many other people but not so much of a mass as in the viewing area.    I did get to see a few tiny farms still trying to get by on 3 acres or less and with a city and nuclear plant in the background.   Once the tidal bore hit (it travels about 20 miles per hour),  hundreds of people on bicycles and motor bikes started racing the wave, many with movie cams in their hands,  trying not to run into each other while filming and driving at the same time!!   I joined in the melee but would pass the wave,  stop the bike and take a movie then get back on the bike,  pass it again,  and so on.    Very exciting and dangerous as hell!    I did keep two of the best movies which I included on this page.

Fun afternoon:  Then I went to see my office (shared with others blah...) of course no one was there since it is a holiday and all.   The army was alive and well,  seems that every where on campus I rode to,  I met up with a squadron or two:  all wearing camo.   I'm the lone whitey running around,  it was like being in a video game except that half the army were adorable little Chinese girls some holding hands when they walk.  This kept the fear factor to a minimum.  

Once bored with campus,  I went to a small Chinese supermarket (not convenience store),  and looked for peanut butter but to no avail.  Some Chinese guy kept following me,  I thought he was the store detective so I walked up to him and said Ni how?   He just put my arm next to his and marveled on how much larger and hairier my arm was than his.   Then he shook my hand and walked away.   Later I noticed he was just kind of hanging around so he probably was the store detective,  just not very good at his job.

Went to KFC again,  always a million people there and of course they had no mashed potatoes and gravy again (the Colonel was more proud of his gravy than his chicken FYI),  but the chicken was authentic and since two pieces and a coke were only 2 dollars.... an exceptional deal for KFC.   After that I came home, took a nap,  decided to stay home this evening bla bla bla....     

Did make the 5 flight run down stairs,  merely to unplug the bike charger and put it away,  then easily ran back up.   Three weeks ago,  I just would have stayed upstairs and risked losing the charger.  Now 5 flights of stairs is a piece of cake.   

Spend a couple hours on the blog as usual,  then plugged in a bug repellent (just like the one I bought my mom this summer,  only it can plug into a socket and not rely on propane.   This is for Mosquitos.   The one's near Shanghai are fast little bastards.   They are only on you for a split second then leave.  They are so small you can't hear or feel them.  Like little Japanese Zero dive bomber from "The War of Japanese Aggression" (as the Chinese call it).   But the plug in repellant does work.  I need to bring back loads of these devices and baits to Texas where the Mozzies aren't as lethal and fast.   I think we are in the Dengue fever zone but safe from Malaria and Yellow Fever.   Regardless,  I get bit many times each day.  Just parking the bike gets at least a bite or two.  Don;t  even feel it till the next day when it itches a little.

Got a late start playing the sax tonight,  so while playing around 10:15,  the local party member pounds on my door.   Up until 10 PM,  it's loud as heck around here,  but at the magic hour of 10 PM,  most of the apartments all go to sleep like good commies!!! (joke)    There are many night owls like me in China,  but they knew better than to blare out Elton John tunes after the quiet time!   I still got in another hours finger picking practice on the front porch, but I can play that as soft as a whisper.    Tomorrow,  I am taking the sax out to the outskirts of town where I will enjoy an entire park to myself and play to my heart's content.   I can even rent a space at the music store where I bought the guitar if it is sound proof enough for horns.   They do rent piano and guitar spaces so I'm sure they will have a suitable room for me to practice in.

Then around 1:40 I plan to check on the tidal bore,  it's is supposed to be bigger each day until Thursday.   I also need to spend some more time in the office creating lesson plans,  but I need to find out exactly what curriculem my classes are expected to teach.   I know they have this, but everyone is on vacation until Wednesday due to the Autumn Festival.        

Tuesday 9-12-2011:

As usual none of my plans remained static.   Up since 8 AM.   with a new round of Bejing Belly, (also known as the "Taipei Trots").   Checked my E-mail and the boss sez that lesson plans and syllabi for the entire semester is due in two days.  Caught me off guard, but it is time to get serious.   Once the trotting seemed to stop I made a small diaper out of paper towels (yes I'm admitting this,  but I gotta get to work and a wet spot on the ass and chair would be far worse)!  I went to the office,  found out that all my classes are "Oral English 1",   which makes for easy lesson planning.   I also downloaded past curricul-li (I like to invent new words) and the standard syllabus forms.    Since nature was threatening me I had to leave after a little more than an hour, but feel much better prepared and should complete this crap in the next two days.  Teaching it will be a breeze as well....  

Ever go to a Chinese ethnic food store in the US just to see if there is anything you care to eat?  I have and the answer is usually "What the hell is this stuff,  and what to I do with it"?   This is the way that mainstream Chinese grocery stores tend to be.   Yeah,  I know what to do with snacks like "Pocky" (love pocky),  but 95 percent is unrecognizable and little is written in English.  A lot off meats in Shrink-wrapped packaging, non refrigerated kind of like "Slim Jim" beef sticks,  but I've seen shrink-wrapped chicken legs and spareribs and chit like dat? WTF..Way too much of that factor here.   I can go to an Islamic or Indian ethnic food store and understand what to use it for?   Why is Chinese cuisine so much more foreign than Indian and Persian cuisines?   I spent at least an hour combing the shelves at our supermarket looking for one thing.   Peanut butter!    Another teacher I know says it's the cure all for Western food cravings.  Most Chinese bread is some sweet deserty (invented another one) angel food cake like substance and really isn't bread at all.  The other is the greasy thin herbal/garlicy flatbread that I eat a lot of but really not the stuff for sandwiches.   This teacher found a local bakery that makes a passible sandwich grade wheat bread so I plan to have my first PB and J sandwich for breakfast tomorrow.   Hopefully a big sticky PBJ will bind up my insides because I really have a few hours of work to do at the office and would rather not have to diaper it again.

Speaking of Chinese (or Zhejiangese) foods,  they really go all out as far as variety goes.  The typical menu of a 2 star restaurant will have up to 200 choices.   And the food style has far more ingredients than lets say,  Italian, Indian,  and Mexican food combined.   My favorite hotel to eat at (now that I know the word for "Cold Beer",   serves every part of every food animal (no bugs or rodents or house pets served here.....cept frog and turtle).    Would you like pork ribs, meat, brains, kidneys, tails, feet, livers, stomachs, lungs, or just bites of the skin?    These chefs put the rest of the worlds' to shame as far as basic knowledge of food preparation goes.   My hot and sour soup tonight had at least 40 different ingredients,   I do make this dish at home and use 20 or more (which is a lot for me).     The true connoisseurs of food variation has got to be the Chinese hands down.  And since China seems to have far more restaurants than any other country I've been to:   I assume these folks know damned well what they are doing,  even though spoiled Westerners tend to stick up their noses to their creations (I am guilty of this of course).    Saying all of this about the variety and greatness,  not to mention regional styles of Chinese cuisine,  the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I just completed puts it all to shame in my book!  LOL!!!    Just kidding.   But this sandwich was extra good for some reason...  Maybe because the ingredients were all Chinese..    (really trying to pull the foot out now right?)...

Speaking of not wanting any Chinese food today,   I heard that this place pictured:   Thats right, it's the "Feeldom Cafe".   Which is a very high dollar place as evidenced by the Porches, Mercedes, ect... out front.   Huge wide luxurious seats,  marble columns,  even free paper napkins at the tables,  which is a rarity in China.    The attached hotel/skyscraper is  a $300 per night and up which makes it the nicest place in town.  I heard today,  that the "Feeldom" has Western Food choices (although mostly not).    I opted for a Club sandwich and fries ffor a mere $5.00,  leaving me enough money for a huge assed mango smoothy made with actual mangos and not just mango sludge.    Hell of a nice place to sit around and do more lesson research,  in the AC,  for a mere ten bucks?   Ok,  the sandwich tasted Zhejiangese as hell since they put the Zhejiang herbs all over the sandwich (not sure what the herbs are and what they do, but Western this crap didn't come close),   the fried egg and spam slabs with sliced cucumbers did little for my wishing for a real club sandwich... A Rueben would be better!    I do love grilled SPAM,  but not a cheap Chinese copy of SPAM,  and not after declaring it has "H-a-m",  kindof left me a bit dissapointed,  but the smoothy made up for it.  And the place itself'  and the waitresses,  and the grand piano.   Yeah,  I'm coming back in the next couple days for the 7 dollar fruit or vegge Pizza.    I scoped out someone else eating one.   Must try one!   

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Samantha Belicek on

I played Mahjong once at a tea house and really enjoyed it. Won my first game ever, though I don't remember how to play it at all now. Should be fun for you!

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