Long fuggin' weekend.

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

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Flag of China  , Zhejiang Sheng,
Sunday, February 19, 2012

Man these 4 day weekends tend to suq when it's cold, dark, and windy.   Friday I hooked up with "Chen" the bicycle wizard who just completed a 400 Kilometer trip down to ole' Wenzhou.  I've ridden with "Chen" several times and he is fast.   I can manage to keep up but I pay for it in the form of extreme exhaustion.   Most of the Chinese riders are no problem for me  to hang with on a bike,  but Chen is a champion.   Not really fun to talk to but he is always smiling.   I like people like that:  although I am not one of them.   Chen's happy place is on his bike.   We plan to do a 70 mile ride next month to the leather center of Hai-ning which is a little town of a million people and near the mouth of the Qaintang river.   Hopefully we will ride the levee the entire way, but I'm not sure of the route at this point.

    Friday was cold and windy but we rode anyway since I need to get into condition before next month.   We headed down street 5  and drove a few miles before we hit the river and headed downstream on the cold assed levee.    The levee is like riding on a tall ridge and there is nothing to block the wind.  Combine that with the increased riverside humidity and it made for a tough ride in the 38 degree weather.    As my feet froze we looped around the bend of the giant river and soon the wind was squarely in our faces.  Since I am a wide person the wind treated me like a sail and pretty much cut my speed in half.    Still we were passing up other riders,  because I wanted a short ride but needed maximum exericise.... I call this a sprint.   We wound up doing about 15 miles in 90 minutes but 5 of those were bucking the wind.   It was fun once it was over.   

We went to our bicycle shop because Chen's bike needed some adjustment.   I told him that I was going to the restaurant next door for some "Jouza" (dumplings) but he couldn't understand me.  I repeated J O U Z A using every tone and inflection I could say but he gives me the "numpty" stare so common with Chinese folks.   Then I went to the restaurant and said "Jouza" and they immediately provided me with a steamer basket full of dumplings.   How can the restaurant understand me but not Chen?   Perhaps it's because Chen speaks a Wenzhou dialect and my word was a Hangzhou dialect.   This dialect thing is a big thing in China.  People from different cities can barely understand each other.   So why should I bother with learning Chinese?   I seriously doubt that I will.   But I still need improvement I plan to take the free lessons this semester.

Saturday:  Fellow teacher and great world traveler "Kay" just got back from Cambodia.  Apparently she discovered skin cancer while in Cambo and flew to Thailand in order to have it removed at one fifth the cost of the hospitals in the US.   She was stitched up and stayed in her bed all day.  I brought her some wine and strawberries and we shot the breeze for a couple hours.  The new teacher "Elaine" was with us so Kay couldn't get too frisky!!~LOL (Kay is in her 60's but very brave).   I always like hanging out with Kay.  Glad she's ok.

I forget to mention my new neighbors.  Apparently a family of three moved into the tiny concrete shed next to my motorbike parking place.   Barely enough room for a few tools but this couple turned it into a home.  Their kitchen table is an old piece of plywood on a brick out front,  but they have moved in and turned it into a tiny cozy home of 150 square feet.   The place has no heat but there is an extension cord which provides electricity.  No bathroom.   The man pedals a three wheeled bike and hauls stuff that he finds in the garbage.  He is a one of the many professional recyclers I see around town.   They look far happier then many of the western families that I know.   They have every thing that they need.   They have freedom and a roof over their heads.   I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't have a garden under an underpass somewhere like so many of the poor Chinese do.  Farming is ingrained in the Chinese soul.  I can't explain it but I am much inspired by the common Chinese people,  their resourcefulness, and their high levels of happiness.

Monday:  Went on a bike ride with Lil' Al and Chen.  Drove the 3 miles to Al's campus, had lunch and was on the road by 1:30.  Our destination: Yanguan",   Started out a nice ride on an overcast day.  The wind was in our face but only 7 MPH or so.   So after 90 minutes of tough riding we finally made it to Yanguan.   Yanguan still has many old wooden buildings with tile roofs like pre 1900's looking stuff.  Carved wooden window sills and doors.   Nice scenic place that is well off the tourist path.   I like having the entire town to myself and no other Laowei around.   Once in Yanguan it started to rain.  Nothing like facing an 18 mile ride in the 48 degree rain.   We put on the jets and tried to stay warm through overexertion.   This worked for a while but then my legs lost much of their power and I was crippin" along pretty bad once back in Xiasha.    Dropped Al off at his Uni and I had to travel 6 more waterlogged miles.  By the time I reached my apt.  I was thoroughly soaked to the bone with a low core temperature.   As I write this 4 hours later I am still bundled up and trying to just get warm again.   Times like these require a jacuzzi!   Overall,  it was a damned good day and I should sleep quite soundly tonight.   Here is a website that shows a map and our route:  http://www.gmap-pedometer.com?r=5307280 

Forgive the pics of the trip to Yanguan but it was cloudy and I forgot my camera.  All these were shot by Lil' Al's celly cam.   

Most folks who live or travel in China mainly take pics of the famous stuff (like I have done in Shanghai and Hangzhou),    but  since I have 4 day weekends (I never get tired of mentioning that) I have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area.   Many of these places never see white people.  This is what I love.   I enjoy being an ambassador for the Western world and am always polite and glad to see the interested throngs of Chinese who are naturally curious about me as a specimen.   I like the attention and the positive vibes that get sent my way.   In America:  I'm just another old shit-ass; but in China, I am someone special.   I am true to them and never intentionally will do a thing to disappoint the Chinese.  I mind my manners and show as much appreciation for them as they do for me.  I have many close Chinese friends.   I will argue with the few Chinese that try to rip me off or cheat me,  or the one's who dare to cut in front of me at the train station. I try to be an ambassador of peace and goodwill between our cultures.    The Chinese are much more positive about the West than the West is.   The West feels threatened by Chinese prosperity.   They shouldn't fear.   China has no designs to take over the West... They don't really need or want the hassle.    As depressing as China can get for the Laowei, often crammed into a tiny apartment on a high floor with no elevator;  often feeling like an ignorant child by the rest of a crowded society who cannot understand you, spending many days cooped up inside for want of social outlets,  and too poor to enjoy going to the places where other expats hang out.   China is completely worth it.   I am grateful to the country for allowing me to live here and to give me a place and a decent salary by Chinese standards.  China will always remain close to my heart as long as I live.
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