Monday, August 17, 2009

Pingyao day 2, china day 6

I think what I love most about traveling with Emma and Lee is that I got to experience two cultures at once. I learned a lot about england and china :). This was the fourth full day we had spend with Emma and lee and it was fun because I felt like we got to be good friends with them by the end of our time together.

We woke up, got breakfast and bought tickets to go on a tour of the historic places in the city. Some of the little street vendors would be playing american music and one store had Michael jackson playing. It was so out of place in this little town but it was amazing because lee, in his hilarious/amazing BRIGHT yellow shorts that made me so happy would dance when no one was watching. It was fabulous :).

we went to this one area and it was amazing. The citys jails were there and it also had amazing court yards. It also had a few rooms where they had ancient torture devices and they showed what device they would use for what purpose depending on the crime, or for making someone talk. It was very sobering and they had real pictures of these things happening. One of the torture devices looked like a cross on a truck and Im not sure what they did with it. I dont think it was used to crucify people though. It was hard to look at and made me so sad that people could have it in them to torture another person like that. It made me cry as I thought about Christ dying on a cross for me and the torture he went through. I felt a mixture of emotions. Thankfulness for what Christ had done and just pain over the brokenness of the the world we live in. I thought about when Christians were persecuted for their faith in China and how they had to endure things like that. I thought about if I could if I was faced with that. Im not sure how I could go through that kind of pain...especially knowing you could stop it by renouncing your faith. The torture methods seemed to be perfected to bring as much pain to a human as possible. But honestly, I dont know how I couldnt. Where else would I go for salvation? I feel like God has to be merciful and give someone the grace they need to walk through something like that and remain faithful. It made me realize how faithful martyrs are. It may be the hardest thing in the world to go through... but at the same time it would be impossible to choose to not go through it. Its like there just isnt another way. It just broke my heart. It took me a little to recover. Going to the temples next was not that helpful.

The people in the city still worshiped at the temples so they were bowing and burning incense to their Gods while we walked around and took pictures. So many of their Gods are so angry and are depicted squashing people or they look like the incredible hulk holding chains. Someone said its to scare off evil spirits? They have a combination of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism in China. Reaching Nirvana may be the most depressing thing I have ever heard of. They believe that there are 3 or 4 different kinds of suffering or pain in life and you need to meditate until you reach nirvana and then instead of reincarnating and having to suffer in life again, you just disappear and cease to exist. Its basically a religion based on running from pain. How opposite from Christianity! It was amazing to me to reflect on the ways that Christ calls us to not run from pain but to enter it and that in it we find life. We can love sacrificially and lay down our lives for others and find true meaning and life in that. Its so backwards and upside down but its real and vibrant and maybe the most authentic thing I have ever known. We dont run from brokenness and try and escape it. We have a God who came down into it and was himself broken to overcome it. our pain is not ever wasted now but its redeemed. Everything will one day be restored and redeemed. There is no fear anymore and all brokenness has an answer for it. It made me wish they knew. There is so much they dont know and they live in such fear because of it!

The terracotta warriors are thousands of warriors that an emperor had made around his tomb. they believe that whats on your tomb goes with you to your afterlife and the after life has good and bad spirits in it. This emperor wanted an army with him in heaven. He did not want other emperors to know about this and destroy it after his death so he hired thousands of men to build these warriors and then killed every man that ever worked on it so his secret would never get out. And it was kept well. Farmers digging for a well found them about 20 years ago.

How sad. How selfish. Thousands of lives taken because of one mans fear of death and what is to come. They bow to idols that can not hear them, that will not act on their behalf. They live lives in fear running from pain and trying to reach perfection to make the "torture that is this life" stop. How do you see hope in that? how do you see beauty in today? there is no power to live life to the fullest today and no anchor to face whatever storms come tomorrow. I have never been so thankful for my God who loved me, rescued me, called me his own, bestowed on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes, redeems my life, sets me free from fear and death, will never be silent until my righteousness shines like the dawn and gives me a million other promises in scripture as well. I was just thankful.

Anyway... later that night we got dinner, paid a few yuan to dress up in these "authentic chineese costumes" and took some funny pictures with some old buildings. Tons of chineese people would stop and take pictures or ask to take pictures with us which was hilarious. (they are ALWAYS taking pictures of foreigners). Then that night we went to a dumpling party at our hostel. They taught us how to make dumplings and then we got to eat them. we met some fun people. My favorite was Clara who was an agriculturist from spain and spoke little english. She was thankful for someone who spoke spanish and I was thankful to have an opportunity to practice.

That night I still was feeling a little heavy from the day so I said goodnight to everyone early and went and sat out in the court yard alone and prayed for a while. I wished I could always go there to spend time with God. It was so beautiful and quiet. Amazingly peaceful. I felt so still and it was so refreshing.


Rich and I had wanted to go to shanghai or Chen to see the terracotta warriors. unfortunately we didnt realize we waited to long and couldnt get the overnight train tickets we wanted unless we sat on hard plastic bench seats over night. Everyone told us it was NOT worth it and told horror stories about the train... which I would soon understand a bit more. People also said shanghai was not that great but was just a city with some fun buildings to look at. I was so disappointed because I wanted to travel more. I really wanted to go to chen and see the warriors and they had a panda reserve you could go to and take pictures with pandas. Emma and lee had run into the same problem with getting to Chen on the train. We were all trying to figure out what to do when someone suggested a little ancient city that not too many people go to called Pingyao. There was a hostel there in the city we could stay at so we all decided to travel there together on the train (about 6-7 hours of travel) and spend two nights there together.

We all left the hostel at 6 am and walked to the subway with our huge packs and went to the train station. we got very good at traveling without understanding the language. Traveling is not quite as organized as it is in the states. You sort of have to roll with the punches and be flexible and just trust that you will get there eventually and it will work out. For someone who is type A personality I think they might have had a heart attack. We somehow found the train station and got to our terminal without much trouble.

The train ride was 3 1/2 hours long and left at 7 am. We were all exhausted and were trying to sleep but sleep did NOT happen. There are no words for the buss experience. I cant adequately describe how irritating it was. I swear they synchronized their cell phones to go off every 3 minutes exactly and they have the loudest most irritating variety of cell phone rings. They basically sound like an array of alarm clock noises. The man behind Emma and I talked on the phone every 15 minutes with a new person and had the most bellowing loud voice I have ever heard. The man sitting behind the cell phone man was watching a movie on his lap top. He had ear phones draped over his shoulders but chose not to use them. instead he played is sward fighting action movie as loud as it could on on his lap top for all to hear. Rich put his head down on the little table in front of him and the people sitting next to him took picture after picture after picture of him on their cell phone. The woman would just take pictures and then lean over and show her husband. It was hilarious and I started taking pictures of them taking pictures of rich to see if it would make them stop. They just looked at me strangely and kept taking pictures of him. The man also was chewing his gum so loud it woke rich up a few times haha. It was like irritating thing after irritating thing just kept piling on top of each other as you were deliriously tired and praying for sleep. It was im sure, comparable to chineese water torture. It just gets to you after a while and you start to go crazy.

We finally got to tiyuan where we yet again miraculously found our way to a bus station using chineese dictionary's and travel guides and took a 3 hour bus ride the rest of the way to pingyao. We got there around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and the hostel picked us up at the bus station. I was surprised the provided transportation until I realized its because cars cant really get into the city very well. we were picked up on a little motorcycle cart and piled on with all our luggage. It was quite the adventure. As soon as we got to the city gates I knew it had all been worth the crazy drive though. It was the cutest, most amazing little city i have ever seen and I instantly fell in love. It was like being taken into the past and into another world. I cant even describe it but it was beautiful. I dont know what I had expected but It wasnt what I got. I seriously kept being blown away by how much more amazing everything was than I had ever imagined. Our hostel, the Yamen Hostel, was litterally inside the city walls and was this ancient little building with the most beautiful little court yard. It was not very clean, we had a bag of rice for a pillow, you may have been able to contract diseases from the showers and they didnt turn on the water until 8 am (at which point you were lucky if you got a minuet of hot water in your shower) but in spite of all of that it was incredible. I would stay again in a second. You cant really expect to stay in an ancient city that only got electricity a few years ago and be clean. I was thankful to have a shower at all. I got woken up by little chineese men riding their bikes in the street at 6 am and Instead of being mad I just smiled and went back to sleep. It was like a magic little chineese city. The first day we just walked around, looked in little shops, ate some dinner, sat on the porch of our hostel, had a drink and then went to bed.

China day 4

So day 4, Emma was up at around 8 and I was up at around 9 and we waited till around 12 for the boys to wake up. FINALLY, they rolled out of bed and we all went to the summer palace together. It was really beautiful and almost as amazing as the forbidden city. I think there were parts I like more just because it was on the water and was so beautiful. They had lotus ponds and these beautiful trees and cute little chineese boats that were driving around. We didnt stay super long (maybe two could spend the whole day there!)because Emma and I wanted to go to the silk/pearl market to do some shopping.

The shopping there was the most amazing thing ever. You bargain for everything and they just have so much! I got a really nice fake chanel watch and some fake mac lipgloss thats actually really nice. I got the cutest little chineese dresses for Eva, Lucy and Emme. There was just so much! The t-shirts are hilarious too! I LOVE the broken English. I honestly think its just hilarious. My favorite t-shirt that I bought for myself has a large caricature of a sheep and says "Weedling Sheep" and on the back it has two little sheep and it says "fluffy...fluffy". haha. I dont know what it means but I knew I had to have it.

Emma, lee and rich wanted to go to KFC for dinner so I decided not to put up a fight and just get fast food. Then we walked through the night market again an looked at scary scorpions. Then we went back and went to bed because we had made plans to go to a tiny village together called pingyao and had to leave at like 6 am to make the train.

I loved having Emma and Lee with us. It just made the week so much better. Emma was hilarious. She would try and talk in an american accent and I would try and talk in a british accent. She sounded like a hick farmer (but she swears her accent is perfect haha) and I apperantly sounded "posh" and she would just laugh at how rediculous I would sound. They were so much fun to be with!

China day 3

Day 3 was my favorite day because this is the day that we met Lee and Emma. They are from England and are both law students there. I guess they have been dating for about a year and just came to China on vacation. They were staying at our hostel and we met them because we all sighned up to go to the great wall with a tour that left from our hostel. We basically spent all day with them... and then the next three days.

The great wall was AMAZING. Honestly, it may be the most amazing thing I have ever seen and I know why its one of the 7 wonders of the world. Its just incredible. I mean you see pictures of it in books or you see it on TV but this is just one of those things that you have to go see to really understand how remarkable it is. I could have spend all day there. I wish I could have gone back. We went to the more beautiful part of the wall that attracts more tourists. If I ever go back I would go to the part of the wall where you can hike it and its basically falling apart. I saw someones pictures who went to that location on the wall and it was beautiful. They droped them off and they had to hike for 4 hours straight in the crazy heat and picked them up at another location. I cant imagine walking it in that heat but i think it would have been worth it. Im glad we went to the location we went to though. The only thing I did not like was that When you would walk inside the little look out towers they all smelled horribly of urin. It was pretty gross.

The hike up to the wall just about killed me... and everyone else. Its so steep and takes about 20 minutes of intense stairs in 90 degree heat. There was a lift that could take you up to the top (like a skii lift) but we didnt want to pay and decided to treck up. I quickly wished I had taken the lift haha. But on the way down you could either take the stairs OR you could take the louge (I dont know how to spell that haha). It was about a mile long and was maybe the coolest thing I did in china. I felt like I was in cool runnings. Im not sure how safe it was... but it was amazing. Lee, Emma, Rich and I all went aroudn the same time and people in front of us would be scared so they would go slow so we were all bumping into eachother or stoping completely to wait for people in front of us to go so we could go faster. The little chineese men would just sit there and yell at us to "go go go go go" or "slow slow slow" haha... it was hilarious. Rich kept smaking into the back of me and my flip flops went flying. He said that time was an accident but I dont believe him :).

They took us to a little chineese restauraunt where you sat at a table with about 10 people (all people from our hostel) and they just brought out like 12 different courses of food. In china and taiwan when you go out to eat you go with a lot of people. They bring out tons of different food and you just eat a little of each. I love it! You get to try so many different things. The food there was really good. It was my favorite meal that I ate in China.

That night everyone wanted to go out so we went to a place where they had dancing called club banana or somethign like that. Rich, lee, Emma this girl paula from our hostel (i think that was her name) and I went. It was a lot of fun because in other countrys when you go dancing it feels more like how people would dance at a wedding. You dont have guys who are grabbing at you or anythign like that. people all just stand in a big circle and actually dance lol. I hate going out in america and well... I really just wont go out in america. I wish It was like china here because I think I would enjoy going dancing a lot more.

For some reason when we left at 2 there were like 5 taxis lined up and NONE of them would take us to our hostel. Rich was convinced it was because we were white and they were being racist and he proceeded to try and yell at them in chineese which really got him no where. Im surprised they didnt just run him over with the taxi. We finally found a cab down the street that told us he also would not take us until we bribed him with more money and told him he didnt have to use the meter (we paid him double or triple what it would have cost). At least we got home. I didnt care at that point. I just wanted my bed.

China day 2

Since im here in this airport ALL day I will just go through my week day by day haha. I have nothing better to do and this will occupy my time for at least an hour or two. So... China Day 2.

Rich and I went to Tian An Men suqare and the forbidden city on day 2. We went with some girls from the UK that we met at the hostel. Millie (who had spend the last year teaching english in Hong Kong), Hanna and I honestly forget the other girls name now!

Tian An Men square was pretty boring honestly. It was just a really big open area. It was sad to learn about the massacre that happened there about 20 years ago though. College students were peacefully gathered in the square for 3 days to oppose the communist government and on the third day teh government sent tanks that drove through the square, running people over and oppening machine gun fire on thousands. The government has never addressed the issue openly and they dont even know how many people died. So crazy.

China was seriously amazing in that everyting I went to see was WAY above what I could have imagined. I thought the things I would see would be pretty great but everything just blew me away. The forbidden city was incredible. It just went on and on forever. Its about a mile long and its just so huge and elaborate. To think that they built it all by hand is crazy. Someone told me that Its the oldest wodent structure still standing in the world. I kept feeling like I was in disney world at epcot in "china" and had to keep reminding myself I was ACTUALLY there.

That night Rich and I were dead tired from walking so much in the crazy heat. I dont think I have ever sweated so much in my life. We went and got messages at this little palace next to the hostel and they did not beat me like the taiwaneese people did. It was actually pretty relaxing and felt quite nice after carrying my lugage the day before and walking around all day.

Food in china was a bit more expensive than in taiwan but still was remarkably cheap compared to the states. There were not many little noodle places like in taiwan and they didnt have 50 tea so I was quite sad. I made due though. I could usually find somethign somewhere that I was willing to consume. I did like the food in taiwan better... but the alcohol was way cheaper in china. You could get a HUGE bottle of beer (prob equal to two and a half regular beers) for about 45 american cents. I would drink half of it and give the rest to rich haha.

I hate Layovers...

Right now I am at a computer in the taipei airport terminal. I have a 9 hour layover and I was very excited about this because I thought I could actually go see taipei, unfortunately, they wont let me leave the airport. I was NOT happy. So, I never wrote about China so I will do my best to remember my week and write about it now.

China Day 1

Mostly, two things stand out to me about my first day in China. 1. cab drivers and 2. scorpions.

My cab ride was hilarious. My driver did not speak a word of english so I showed him the chineese map of where to take me and that was as much communication as we could have. All seemed to be fine until I got to the hostel. The meter read 95 Yuan. I handed him a 100. He starts yelling at me in chineese. I try and tell him I dont understand. He is showing me a little pice of paper and I have NO idea what the paper is. I show him my money and try and ask him if its more for some reason. He just keeps yelling. This honestly went on for 15 minutes. I sat in the back of his cab and he would not let me out and just got more and more angry. I put my forhead on the seat in front of me because i was so frustrated and just listened to him yell. A young looking man walked down the street and i rolled down the window and asked if he spoke english. He did not but got is friend who did. The man translated for me that we had gone through a toll and I needed to pay 10 more yuan. I paid and have never been so thankful to get out of a cab in my life.

I went in the hostel, found rich and we went to the night market. This leads me to the scorpions. At the night market you are bombarded with people shouting at you and grabing your clothes trying to pull you into their stand. Before getting to the stands you walk through a little area where they sell a lot of food. They really love meat on sticks in china, but not normal meat. They had lizards, chicken hearts, starfish, seahorses, dog meat, centepides and scorpions all on display to buy and eat. The scorpions, however, came impaled with about 4 on a stick and THEY WERE STILL ALIVE! They were thrashing their tails around and did not look happy to have a wooden spike poked through their bodys. When you bought scorpions to eat they simply threw the squer of live scorpions on the grill... fried them up and they were ready to eat. People said they were really crispy. Rich wanted to try some but didnt get around to it. I was very thankful.

Our hostel was AMAZING. We stayed at the Wangfujing youth hostel and I loved it. It was so clean and we stayed in a a room with 4 other people. One guy named Yohan who was hilarious and three quiet little asian girls. They were the perfect roomates. I had a little bed that was stuck in the wall and it had a little noise maker box and a curtain that I could close when I went to bed. The people there were amazing and I have never met staff that were more helpful or friendly in my life. They had a tiny cafe where everyone hung out and you could just grab a drink or some food and sit around and meet people from all over the world. Staying in hostels is a dangerous thing for me because I honestly though that after traveling for 3 weeks I would get some of my passion for adventure and travel out of my system but meeting people who have so many amazing stories about where they have been and where they are going just made me more restless. People were shocked that I was in china for 1 week and only traveling for a total of 3. People who stay in hostels live this crazy life style where they travel for months and months at a time. They are so freindly, layed back, adventurous, passionate and see life in such an interesting way. Its almost like travel is an artform. I think meeting people at the hostel may have been my favorite part of traveling.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Old men followed by flys

So I will write about China when I have a chance but unfortunately China blocked facebook and all blogs because of the riots they had a few weeks ago. China was absolutely amazing and more than I could have imagined but right now im back in Taiwan. I am tired and would like to go to sleep but will write about my time here the past few days quickly before heading to bed.

I was very lucky because I was in Beijing while the typhoon hit taiwan and I flew to taiwan when the typhoon hit Beijing. The eye of the typhoon did not hit kaoushung, where I am staying, although it caused a TON of mudslides about a half hour from here in kaoshung county and over a hundred people died and a ton are missing. Its really sad. Everything is pretty wind blown here and there were trees down everywhere when I got back.

I felt extremely proud of myself coming back from China though. I found my way around the city without any help from the airport to Jennas apartment. This was amazing to me because I took the subway and did not remember to bring her address. I got a bit lost and it took me almost two hours of travel to get there (and so much walking!!!) but I did it.

That night the air conditioner broke. Being in 90 degree weather with no AC is NOT fun. We got a taxi and drove to one of the only 24 hour stores in the city, bought a fan, came home and realized that it did not work. It was already midnight so i just defeatedly decided not to pay tons of money and wast another hour of my life to take the fan back. Instead, we went to the 7-11 and ate ice cream. It was not a good nights sleep but I made it. Got a fan the next day but did not have AC for three days. It was miserable.

Yesterday, Jenna and I traveled to Kenting and stayed in a hostel there. Its a little beach city at the very bottom of Taiwan, about 3 1/3 hours south of here. The water is usually clear there and the mountains are beautiful. Going 4 days after a typhoon may not have been the best idea but it was fun and im glad I saw it. Our hostel did not have water yet because of the typhoon so the woman took us to her house so we could shower in her little taiwaneese shower. The shower is basically an open room with a toilet, sink and shower and its all tiled. There is no shower curtain and the whole bathroom fills up with water. its an interesting experience. The people here are so kind and trusting. the owner of the hostel has a three month old baby that she let Jenna and i play with for a while and she would just leave the room and leave her daughter with complete strangers for like 20 minutes! Its crazy to me! She was so sweet though and felt horrible about not having water. I cant believe she drove us to her house and let us use her own shower! Another awesome example of how great people here are is i was walking home in the rain the other night and this little old man walk up next to me and motions for me to share his umbrella with him! I love how kind the people here are.

Last night, in kenting, we went to the night market. I got fried sweet potato which was super yummy. I am so grossed out by the squid on a stick that I see EVERYWHERE though. We met two people staying at our hostel, clara and calvin, who are from hong kong and they walked around with us. They are English teachers and were excited to practice their english with us. they loved telling us what different foods were and what they are called in chinese. They were so sweet! they also had this stand set up where there were about 5 men giving messages to people. All five of them were blind! I thought it was so cool that these men were able to be independent and have real jobs even though they were blind. It was just so sweet to see them working so hard and using the gifts that they do have to serve others and make a living.

The water in kenting was also cold and murky from the typhoon and there was trash all over the first day. today it was cleaned up a lot more but there were hundreds of flys from all the trash. We would get up and walk down the beach and they would follow us. Jenna said she felt like we were smelly old men that had flys following them lol. We couldnt take it so we left early, but I got a little sun first which was nice.

I am thankful for the sovereignty of God and that nothing can harm me unless he allows it because that is the only thing that kept me from freaking out in the car on the way back. I have had crazy drivers in other countries before so its not a huge surprise to me to be weaving in and out of traffic but i never really feel safe. I can not comprehend how they dont get in an accident every time they drive. I took two dramamine and still though I was going to throw up. Jenna was pretty sick as well.

Well I'm exhausted from so much travel today! Goodnight!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The trashmen make me laugh...

Oh the things you see in Taiwan. Today I saw a little asian mommy with one of those "baby bjorn" things on... its the little strappy thing that you can carry your babys on your back or on the front of you with. Well... She had one infant on her back, and one on her stomach and she was riding her moped down the highway with them. So much for child safety seats. I just laughed. And then said a quick prayer for the safety of those children lol.

I went to the beach with Jenna today and we went to this cute little light house. It was on this little island which is all very beachy. They were selling a lot of squid on scewers and these little snails that you suck the inside out of the shells. It was a bit scarry to me but im getting a lot more accustomed to seeing tiny kiosks full of assorted scarry meat. Jenna and I, to get around, got a little tandem bike haha. It was so funny! It honestly made my day! It was SO rediculously hot though. We had to hike up these really really steep streets to get to the light house. We then found our way to the beach and the sand is all black! you think the sand gets hot and burns your feet in america... try walking on black sand! But the ocean was warm which was nice. We got a little lost on our ferry ride home. Ferry is NOT spelled Fairy by the way... travis corrected Jenna and asked if she was riding on a tiny mythological creatrue when she texted him where we were lol. I found that amusing. Anyway... we to the ferry to the wrong place and had to get a cab home.

Now I am sitting her waiting to go to dinner at Charles's house. He is a friend they made who is taiwaneese. Im so scared to have dinner there beceause I know I will have to eat all sorts of scarry meat. If you know me well, you know I bearly eat meat in america because im scared of most of it. Im excited for the experience though.

right now the trashman is driving by. They play rediculously "cute" music like an ice cream truck would. I guess trashmen are not cute enough to be in taiwan so they needed to do something to make them a little cuter. I find this hilarious. I am laughing right now as it is driving past.

I leave for China super early tomorrow morning. Im nervous because everyone tells me people in china are not as nice as they are here and are not as helpful if you dont speak the language. Well... It will be an adventure!