I think I can? NaNoWriMo update

I've got a metric fuck ton of catching up to do, but it's all I'm doing for the next couple of days. I'll look again at where I'm at on Monday and see if it's actually doable.

5598 / 50000 words. 11% done!

3:41 pm

6800 / 50000 words. 14% done!
I think I'm going to go for a walk :)

8:48 pm

11675 / 50000 words. 23% done!

Holy shit...

This is one of my kids from last year. He was one of the ones that started out completely apathetic but made it through (by the skin of his teeth). He won a contest with this and will be flown to New York to meet Def Jam's executive Russell Simmons and perform his winning song live on BET. They got his age wrong though - or he was the youngest senior I've ever seen.

ETA - the embed isn't working, but you can find it over here:


Getting from Chengdu to Xi'an

(Unlike my catch-up posts, this one was written at the time.)

 On the whole, things have still been more good that bad, but getting from Chengdu to Xi’an really put a damper on my spirits.  More specifically - getting from the hostel to the train in Chengdu and the train to the hostel in Xi’an really upset me.  The train ride itself was fine.
 I’ll start by saying I wasn’t in the best shape starting off that morning.  I’d just gotten over a sinus infection and the antibiotics, which, when added to my unaccustomed use of prednisone, gave me yet another problem.  The morning we left I got to go try and explain to the girl at the pharmacy, the guy working with her, and the woman there getting her own stuff what I needed.  They don’t have Monistat here.  The woman gave me something, which I took and ran.  I looked it up before doing anything with it and I’m unclear if it’s treatment or just for the symptoms, but it’s dealing with the symptoms (though it feels a bit like tiger balm, and that is quite uncomfortable for the first few minutes) so I’ll keep with it another day and see if it’s actually clearing things up.  We’re not exactly having the most romantic honeymoon.
 So, with that setting the stage… We left the hostel with plenty of time to get to the train station and then spent nearly an hour trying to get a cab in the rain.  We might as well have been invisible.  Worse than invisible.  The last cabbie to refuse to pick us up didn’t just content herself with ignoring us, she quite obviously told us off in very loud Chinese through her open window as she sped away after seeing us up close.  That disturbed me.  Actually, if I‘m being honest, it made me very, very angry.  That was the end of us trying to get a cab, especially since plenty of time had now turned into me worrying if we were going to make it.
 We ended up getting on an already overcrowded bus with all our stuff, hanging on for dear life and trying not to get us or our stuff slung into some poor soul that was sitting down.  Because of the jerky way people drive here it was a more difficult proposition than you may imagine.  With my forty (plus) pound pack on my back, the jerking about played hell with my bad shoulder; it was on fire by the time we made it to the train station and I was just generally not doing well.
 We made it into the train station with a few minutes to spare and found space for ourselves and our stuff.  We didn’t take up a bunch of seats; in fact our stuff was on the floor and I was standing.  A man walked over with his three or four year old son and sat down in the seat next Rob… and then had his son sit on the narrow strip of Rob’s seat that he wasn’t sitting in because he was turned toward me.  There were plenty of open seats, some right on the other side of me.  I was livid.  Furiously livid.  Not because of the rudeness, but because the man was actively training his son to be rude.  I wasn’t speechless, but everything I wanted to say to the man he wouldn’t have understood (or he would’ve and then there would’ve been an incident).  So a vented a little bit to Rob and did nothing, which still galls me a bit.
 The train ride was uneventful, but I was not anywhere near back in a good headspace when we made it to Xi’an at 530 this morning.  Where we were once again completely invisible to the legitimate taxis.  Not to the in your face, come with me and I’ll charge you ten times what you should be paying con artists, they were out in force and made sure we knew they saw us, but the actual taxis wanted nothing to do with us.  So we started walking, I didn’t want to deal with standing around for an hour trying to get a cab only to end up walking anyway.  Rob convinced me to stop and wait for a bus, which was slightly less crowded than the one in Chengdu had been.  Of course, we didn’t have a good idea of what our stop was, so we missed it, and all in all ended up walking the equivalent of 90% of the way to the hostel on foot anyway.  And my shoulder is still screaming this evening with Hua Shan coming in the morning.
 Then there was the internet fiasco.  The touted wireless didn’t actually reach our room and wasn’t consistent enough to even connect to in the lobby where it was strongest.  The wall outlet, which I was told should be working, wasn’t.  After trying and then getting help (and being treated like a moron - is your wireless on? Are you sure?  Let me check…) and still not being able to connect, Rob and I went to Starbucks so I could use the internet there (by then it was a mission, so even though I didn’t have anything I really *had* to do I wasn’t giving in).  Got to Starbucks, ordered a drink, set up to connect to the wireless.  Then discovered that you had to sign up for the free wireless using a Chinamobile phone - which we of course do not have.  If I were the crying type I would have been in tears.  But I’m generally not, so instead I got completely stony.  I was actually beyond my capacity to be outwardly angry.  I was just defeated.  We got back to the hostel and I paid for the use of the slow as molasses computers in the lobby to check my email and send out a couple messages. 

 Rob was awesome through the whole mess - his capacity for handling my moods amazes me; and though I really am trying to be less touchy and more resilient there’ve been only minor improvements. Still, he loves me and gets me through; I’m absurdly lucky to have him.
  Tomorrow we climb Hua Shan - so for a time at least I won’t have anything to worry about but putting one foot in front of (or above) the other.  I’m a little scared given my lack of physical conditioning, but Rob believes I’ll be all right - so I’m going to pretend I do too.


Chengdu - Wenshu Monastery

  The day after the Long Walk, we headed off to the Wenshu Monastery.  Which was thankfully only a short walk from the hostel.  It was quiet (a welcome miracle) and peaceful.  We wandered through the outside gardens which had plenty of ponds and plenty of turtles, spent some time enjoying the various touches outside the buildings, and took some pictures.
   One of the reasons we chose to go there is that the monks run a vegetarian restaurant that’s supposed to be very good, so we stopped at the restaurant on the way out to have lunch, where we were told in understandable English that it was buffet day.  So we paid, went through the buffet line, and sat.  In the family style seating with a bunch of other people because that was the only option.  I had been pretty careful going through the line, and had avoided several dishes with either peppers or obvious seaweed, but I didn’t key in to the dark green noodles mixed with the regular noodles in a cold salad.  I too a big bite, and they weren’t noodles.  They were noodles shaped strands of cold kelp.  It was all I could do not to visibly gag, but I managed it and finished everything else. 
  The food wouldn’t even have been an issue worthy of mentioning, but it turned out that it wasn’t really “buffet” day - it was a day that the buffet was available.  So I could have ordered off the menu (which was advertised to have English, but that I never saw), but had been steered to the buffet instead. 
   I bet there was some really *good* stuff on the menu too.  :)

Chengdu - The Long Walk & Adventures at Pizza Hut

   Rob had the idea that to help us prepare for Hau Shan we should take a long walk.  Several hours long.  I agreed and the next morning we set out reasonably early for the Green Ram Temple.  That was the destination we picked as our turn around point.  Getting there was a long walk, but not really a problem since all we had to do really was follow the ring road (because a lot of the cities were once fortified towns, many have a central city area, surrounded by a ring road, surrounded by the urban sprawl).  It was a temple, basically like every temple we’d been to already.  Rob got some pictures, but I didn’t.
  The problems started when we headed back.  We had decided that instead of going back along the ring road, we were going to follow the river/canal.  This    seemed like an excellent idea: it would be a much prettier walk, and it was also the long way around by a little bit.  We cut through people’s park (which was quite pretty and in retrospect I really wish we’d stuck around and explored) and found the river.  Which you cannot, in fact, walk along.  We had a map with us, so this wasn’t a problem.  We looked at where we were, plotted a course back, and headed that way.
   The map of Chengdu we had named the bigger roads - not the hutongs and small streets - and in Chinese cities the names of the roads often changes every few blocks.  So finding yourself on a map by looking at what street or crossroad you are on is a lot more difficult than you would expect.  Than I expected anyway.  It didn’t help that my directional sense is apparently totally dependant on landmarks and doesn’t work for shit in completely unfamiliar places.  We got pretty thoroughly lost in about half an hour and I was so turned around that I kept thinking we were going the wrong way.  Which understandably frustrated my husband a bit after a while.
   We wandered for probably close to an hour and eventually wandered into what I think was a “nicer” neighborhood.  Where some kind soul who spoke English saw our confusion (and our open map) and asked if we needed help.  He showed us where we actually were on the map (not too terribly far from where we thought, but far enough that we’d have wandered for quite a while longer before finding a main road), and we made our way back to the hostel. 
  All in all, our long walk took nearly six hours.  For the latter half the temps were already in the 90’s.  I was a little sunburned, and a little cranky.  So Rob gave me no argument when I suggested we stop a block short of the hostel for food. 

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Chengdu - Pandas

The whole reason for coming to Chengdu was the Panda Breeding Facility outside of town.  It’s one of the largest in the world, if not *the* largest, and it houses both Giant Pandas and their Red Panda cousins.  Rob Loves Pandas.  We set up to go on the tour with a group from Sim’s, and then split off and wandered on our own for our time there.  We were there for feeding time for both sets of pandas, so we go to see them at their most active.  Which for the Giant Pandas still isn’t terribly exciting.  They are charming though - even the adults.  We both got a lot of pictures, though we weren’t able to get one of Rob with a Red Panda (he saw it going on last time he was there, but we couldn’t find it this time).  My pics are over here - there are some good ones :)

There was also a copy of the Chengdu Municipal Rules Pertaining to Civilized Tour.  They get funnier as you go.

Chengdu - Sim's Cozy Garden Hostel

The good thing about our stay in Chengdu was the hostel.  We stayed at Sim’s cozy Garden Hostel and everything about it was good, excellent in comparison to some that we stayed at in other places.  The courtyard garden even had bunnies ;p  The biggest thing for me here was that the restaurant/bar in the hostel had a very good array of western and eastern dishes - including breakfast.  It didn’t hurt that one of the girl’s in reception wrote a note for me to take to the pharmacist when I started coming down with a sinus infection.  Antibiotics are over the counter here, so that wasn’t as much of a pain as it could have been.  The only complaint I had was that the bed was hard - but that seems to be universal here.

Updates delayed

The updates I intended to post while in Xi'An will be delayed. The net at our hostel only actually functions on their computers and I won't sit in the lobby to compose them (or pay for internet that supposedly comes with the room for that long). But I haven't forgotten and I'll try again when we're in Lanzhou in a few days.

For Trill, here are the promised photos - no narrative yet unfortunately.