Monday, February 26, 2007

Some interesting experiences in Xi'an...

We arrived in Xi'an this morning at about 9:00AM. We left Tianjin yesterday at about the same time. It was pretty sad leaving Elizabeth and Kevin and the kids. Our time in Tianjin was so wonderful and we really didn't want it to end. Joseph, being one of the most caring kids on Earth, was devastated by the whole affair. I kept telling him we'd probably see him in a year or two, but he wouldn't accept it. The girls and Izaak seemed to be okay with it. I don't think Izaak really clued in though because he kept pulling me away from the door to play wheels. Elizabeth packed us a whole duffle bag full of delicious breads, fruits and other assorted snacks, which was thoroughly enjoyed on the train. The train was an experience... Sitting crammed in for 22 hours just doesn't really work for us Canadians. We are used to having personal space and one just doesn't have any in China.

Our nationality became a point of discussion for what seemed like the entire carriage that night. Everywhere around us we could hear: "Blah blah blah Chanada! Ooo eee! Chanada! Chanada? Blah blah Chanada blah blah." It was pretty funny and I could still hear people mentioning us even at 4:00 AM. The fact that I was awake then was not so humourous though...We didn't get much sleep on account of the uncomfortable nature of the train as well as a certain loud-talker in the next row.

Xi'an is, from what we can gather, the epicentre of Spring Festival. The train station was packed and the ticket booth line-ups were probably four hours long, so we didn't bother. We opted for a sleeper bus to Chengdu, the bus station being much less crowded. Still, the concept of the queue does not exist here, as you may well know. Everyone just pushes in a huge mass and screams at those at the front to hurry up. The street life is marvellous and we walked around taking photos for a long while. I sat down next to some old ladies and asked if I could take their picture. They consented and after I had taken a couple shots, I showed them how digital cameras worked. They were enthralled. It was just shortly before this that I was called over by a friendly-looking woman, who then asked if I wanted a "massage." I know very well that these massages are of the extremely comprehensive variety, so I quickly said "no" and walked away. Laughing, she then grabbed my shirt and pulled me towards her! I pulled away and part of my shirt ripped. She was really apologetic but I still walked away very quickly. So now I have to find someone to mend my shirt...

Tomorrow we will be renting some bikes and riding around the city walls of Xi'an. Afterwards, we will probably take the bus out to the Terracotta Warriors.

Hope to hear from you all,

Monday, February 19, 2007

Another Tianjin Tuesday

Hey everyone,

I am afraid I don't have any photos to post at this time. I have been mostly taking videos and I may put them on Youtube. We have had a very eventful few days, including a very noisy Chinese New Years. After Kevin and Elizabeth came back from Guangzhou, we decided to go into town to see the fireworks. Everywhere you looked in the sky, there were fireworks. On the ground people were lighting insane amounts of firecrackers. I still have a headache from all the noise. This isn't the end of the celebrations. Austin and I are currently in the midst of the largest movements of human beings in a short time in the world. Around 2.2 billion visits will be made by the end of the Spring Festival, which starts on the 17th and lasts about two weeks. We had no idea that it would be this crazy. The British couple we met on the train, James and Liz, were stuck in Shanghai for a week because all the tickets were booked and if there were any left, they were way too expensive. Kristin and Johanna missed visiting Guilin because the trains were booked solid for a week. We are hoping that we miss it somehow...but it's quite possible we will be here in the Beijing/Tianjin area for a few more days.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tianjin on Valentine's Day

Here are a couple photos of the kids as well as Kevin and Elizabeth. On the far right we have a photo of all the kids, minus Anneliese. From left to right we have Hannah, Izaak, Esther and Joseph. The second photo is of Izaak on the way back from the Great Wall. I have been laughing about the third photo for the last three days. I still can't believe some of the translations here. They usually have impeccable spelling (is impeccable spelled right?) but use some really odd words and the overall feel of the sentences produced are really strange. We have seen some great ones including a few signs at the Forbidden City:

"A Single Act of Carelessness Leads to Eternal Loss of Beauty."
" Perilous Hills, No Climbing Please."

Of course "Hot Surprise" takes the cake. The fourth photo was taken from the bus stop outside of the community where we are staying. The smog was especially thick that morning. The fifth photo is of Kevin, my cousin. He is sporting an awesome beard. This photo was taken by Joseph, who loves taking photos of everything, especially canned goods! The last photo (but not least) is of Elizabeth and Anneliese.
Keep posted for more photos and stories. Thanks for being patient for the last few days as I have been quite lazy with my blogging.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Here are a couple photos, the first being some of the friends we met on the train. On the left is Johanna, the coolest Fin I've ever met! On Austin's right is Sergei, who will probably win the Nobel Prize one day because he seems to be a genius. On the far right (of the picture, not the political spectrum) is our Green Party representative from Sweden, Kristin. We hung out with them pretty much from day 2 of the train until we got to Beijing. We hope to meet up with them soon. The second photo is of the ger camp we spent the day at.
We are now in Tianjin, the little-known town of 12 million next to Beijing. We are staying with my cousin Kevin, his super-smart, ultra-nice wife Elizabeth, and their 5 kids. Esther is the oldest (I believe) and she really likes to read and seems to be pretty darn smart. Joseph is the next oldest and is the sweetest kid. When we first met at the train station he immediately gave me a big hug. He couldn't quite figure out why I had red spots on my face, and after I told him about acne and all that, he said, "It's okay William, I love you just the way you are." Hannah is six years old I believe, and she is also really sweet. She's a little bit shy sometimes, but has the cutest way of talking, with words like "Pow-den" for "Pardon." Izaak, who just turned four on the 5th, is absolutely hilarious. He will talk on end about stuff that doesn't make any sense, or start sentences off with, "When I was 16..." And he will do it with the most serious face. Annaliese is only a couple months old but she seems to be deeply concerned with the world around her and maybe a little bit worried.
We spent a couple days exploring Tianjin with Kevin and went to Beijing yesterday with the whole family to see the Forbidden City. It's pretty massive. Afterwards we had some incredible Indian food at the Asian Star restaurant. The only downside to China that we see at this point is the awful air quality. My throat is hurting a little bit and Kevin tells me it probably has something to do with the smog.
Thanks for all the comments,
Will :)