Huashan #2

After a refreshing and energizing lunch we headed up to the South peak.  The climb was relatively short compared to the morning, but again their were the stairs.DSC01992Looking back on what we had accomplished in the morning, the West peak.  Notice the camera in the foreground on the post, China is always watching, or maybe its for show just like the metal detectors; I wore my leatherman knife on my belt this entire trip through the subway and train stations.   DSC02008As mentioned before, the weather was beautiful, and combined with the mountains themselves, made from an amazing day.  We even felt a little bit above the haze that has become such a part of our lives.DSC01995Teachers and Rachel, and oh are those two heads by the outcropping in front…There were carvings like those in the foreground all over the rock faces around us on the mountain, every turn seemed to have a new one.DSC02005Roy’al enjoying the summit of the South peak.DSC02002Somewhere in this multitude of locks is a deep love for someone. On top of the South peak.DSC02007I have an awesome group of students with me, and some wonderful Chinese teachers; just below the summit of the south peak.DSC02016Scattered all over the mountain are several different temples (Daoist I think??).  While many are newly constructed, like this one, they still hold a special aura when you walk by them.  It is impossible to miss the significance that many years ago, before modern connivence, people ascended, lived, and worshipped on top of this mountain.  Most of what you see now represents the efforts of modern Chinese tourism.DSC02019Diego, Josh, Roy’al, and 张老师 talking with a monk about their life devoted to another power.  If there was ever a place to practice a religion, the top of this mountain would be it, close to the heavens and steep as can be, although not that secluded anymore.DSC02017Surveying the cliff face enroute to the East peak.DSC02021Hmmmm…I know you are not wearing a harness because of the sunshine, no matter how bright it is…DSC02024Oh thats because you are on a sheer cliff face about to climb out to a viewing point via the appropriately named plank road in the sky.  If you are terrified of heights, you may just want to skip to the end.DSC02023The ladder down to the path across was no less terrifying.  It didn’t help that the safety lecture consisted of a guy putting a harness on you, clipping it to the safety line and then pushing you forward so he could help the next person.  Common sense was something that I stressed the entire day, maybe we were a little crazy…DSC02027Remember hearing about the tour guide from Yunnan…DSC02039The craziest part of this whole thing, was that there was only one path, so you return the same way you went out.  This meant you had to stop to wait for the people to walk around you while heading out,DSC02040There is a saying teachers use when a student leans back in their chair, “Four on the floor’, referring to keeping all the legs down so you don’t fall back.  Borja is not following that. DSC02042Its almost like Titanic; except on a foot wide platform, a couple hundred meters up a sheer cliff, holding onto a chain, while a light breeze blows through your hair.DSC02059They say never to look down, I don’t always listen, sorry mom (she is absolutely terrified of heights).DSC02044Most of this was about the journey, and what a journey it was, to a small vantage point, but the views were amazing along the way.DSC020475 students, 3 chinese teachers, one bad ass Kung Fu teacher, and me; safe and enjoying the views.DSC02065We had to make sure the harnesses still worked before we headed back.  This was a once in lifetime mini adventure in our excursion to 花山, something you will never find in the US, and I am proud of the students who completed it, and even more impressed by the students who knew their limits (and had more common sense).DSC02068After this we headed up the East peak.  While it seemed like just another summit, is was equally spectacular.  I can only imagine how great the sunrise must be up here.DSC02071I am here in China with a fantastic group of students, we met at the bus stop at 6 AM and didn’t return home until around 10:30-11 that night; they conquered this mountain in day, never complaining, and continuously interacting with the people and nature around them.  It is great to see how close they have become with their teachers and each other, and how much they are working to improve their language, even while clambering up stairs. I am a lucky person to be here with them.DSC02077花山 is an amazing mountain; while it may not be the tallest it is one of the most spectactuar in both the views and steepness.  This was a fantastic day that really will not be forgotten for a long time.DSC02074

-Mr. Wolf


Work hard play hard

With the busy weekend and the rough draft of the Independent reserach Paper due on Friday I pulled some strings and yesterday we headed to hike 花山 for the day.  Mount Hua’s reputation is of being one the the steepest, most precipitous, mountains in the world; along with an incredible religious significance.  So we woke early, got on a bus to the subway, which we took to the train station, took a train to the town, and had another bus bring us to the entrance of the park, and the final bus (pictured below) brought us up to the cable car loading station.DSC01928Everyone was surprised that we said we were hiking 花山 in only one day; lots of people hike up during the night or in the afternoon and camp on the top, all so they can watch the sunrise.  For us logistics didn’t work out so the cable car made our lives easier.DSC01929We really covered a lot of different types of transportation, and were happy we didn’t have to do the full hike up.DSC01931This view from the cable car gives you a good idea of how they have built stairs on the mountain, lots and lots of stairs.  Its not like hiking in the Whites of NH.DSC01934We covered some elevation pretty quicklyDSC01936One of the first things we see is this hostel/hotel built on the mountain and of course the rest of 花山.  There are several places to spend the night and the amount of construction, including the stairs themselves, is impressive on such a steep mountain, OSHA would not approve of many of their methods.DSC01941The cable car drops you off close to the North Peak, which provides a good vantage point of the other peaks.  花山 is made up of at least 5 separate peaks, depending on your definition of peak; West is on the right side, East is the high point on the middle left, and South (actually the highest even if it doesn’t look it from here) is between the two.This was taken on top of the North peak, and between here and the east peak is another small summit.DSC01947We had a beautiful day, it was amazing, we are so luckyDSC01949The locks are for lovers who want their relationship to last forever.  Secure them to the chains that are at the top and then throw the key over the side.DSC01944The problem with hiking up stairs is you any time you look up you are staring at someone’s butt.  It was crowded by American standards, but not by Chinese ones, I can’t imagine being here on the holiday weekend that begins tomorrow.DSC01953The steep reputation is well deserved.  The views were fantastic on this gorgeous day, and I think we may have even been a bit above the ‘haze’.DSC01954Hiking up towards Jinsuo Gap, everywhere you go stairs.DSC01955A look back at what we have done so far, the cable car is the silvery building in the right half farther back in front of the North peak.DSC01959Our group was a little more prepared for the stair climbing, I mean hiking then most others; not completely because we were in shape, but mainly due to their clothes.  While I only saw one woman with about 4 inch heels, the majority of everyone else seemed dressed so that they were ready to go out for dinner. DSC01961Some points were steep enough that it was almost a crawlDSC01963Our Kung Fu teacher came with usDSC01966Along with 5 out of 6 of the college students who are our Chinese teachers, here is 张老师 and 邰老师。DSC01968It was bright out, but not this bright, my camera got put on a strange setting. Here we are at the summit of the West peak.DSC01971Caution Slip, I guess that means the edge of the cliff is on the other side of the chain…DSC01980Oh directly on the other of the chain, lasting for about a few hundred meters.  This would never happen in the US, and I hate that; its common sense, which we need more of at home, it should be simple survival instinct,don’t stand too close to the edge (This coffee is HOT).DSC01979Amir and the teachers, or most them at least.DSC01983Found a great spot for lunch, in the shade and away from other people.  This is a coffee bar, which appeared closed, that happens to be built on a cliff right next to a buddhist temple.  DSC01989The after lunch goals, South peak on the right and East peak in the middle. View from the top of the West peak.  The afternoon’s adventures will follow in a second blog tomorrow.DSC01976

-Mr. W

Model UN

Students participated in a Model UN conference on human trafficking over the weekend, impressing both myself and all of the others in attendance.  They were role models for the entire conference in their abilities to debate and at the same time work together with others to try to reach a resolution.  For those unfamiliar with the MUN, like myself before Saturday, students represent countries and try to solve a real world issue, while sticking the the beliefs of their country.

Here are the opening ceremonies, with words from the assistant headmaster.DSC01887Its almost as if this auditorium was built specifically for this.DSC01889 This is an actual flag from the souvenir store of the real United Nations I was told. DSC01890Probably the only picture of Yeolim really smiling this whole trip, she loves her funny faces, and Diego the MUN leader of our group, this is one of his many passions at BHS, representatives of China.DSC01894 Zambia, represented by Amir and Borja, would use all of their diplomatic ability over the 4 sessions to establish themselves as a world power, they really did some tough negotiating.DSC01898Iran, Josh and Roy’al, and Syria, Izzy and Rachel, listen to a motionDSC01893Syria presents their case for more education.DSC01913An unmoderated caucus where the countries try to agree on their goals.  Our students English gave them a clear advantage for the conference, however they were really able to benefit everyone involved while working on their debate skills,DSC01905Syria continued to present strong arguments throughout the two daysDSC01902One of the best things for me was passing notes since I was just an observer, but this was also a major way to get things accomplished between countries (or decide where to go for lunch).DSC01906 The awards section: Zambia, by far the most persuasive country, and winner of the best resolution contributor.  The resolution is what a coalition of countries will write in an attempt to solve the issue presented.  It is then voted on by all of the countries; two very well written resolutions did not make it past the majority vote, each failing by less 2 votes. Shows just how important compromise is.DSC01919Surprise!! China won best delegate, I like to think its because of the duo belowDSC01920  Closing ceremoniesDSC01924 DSC01925The leader of the MUN club and the best guide/friend we have met so far here in China, 石老师 KevinDSC01926

-Mr. Wolf

Weekly Thoughts: Culture Classes

Every afternoon, we all have the opportunity to take part in Chinese culture classes.  These bring out our creative nature and some of the best conversations.  Below are student thoughts about them, and pictures, of which, the majority are from the beginning of the trip, notice the short hair.

Calligraphy and Traditional Painting

Calligraphy class begins with Mo Zhi Laoshi and ends with despair. Everything in between consists of conversations about food and the crookedness of our lines. Somehow ink brushes and paper excite our appetites more than cooking class does. We always seem to talk about the best and worst western food we have or have not had in China. Perhaps the thought of filling our stomachs with American comfort food distracts us from the disaster before us.

Straight lines have never been so crooked under the guidance of our shaky arms. Each class we seem to forget our previous frustrations, exclaiming, “That looks easy!” as the laoshi effortlessly demonstrates his artistic expertise. Then, tragedy ensues.

Alternating every other week, we spend Mondays and Wednesdays either doing calligraphy or painting “beautiful” masterpieces. Calligraphy consists of writing a few characters, getting annoyed, and then trying something new until Mo Zhi laoshi comes over and spoils the fun. Borja will usually say something along the lines of “Laoshi, girlsss just wanna have f-un!” and then make some reference to some movie he hasn’t seen. It’s too easy to identify Mo Zhi laoshi’s demo character among ours: just look for the decent one. Mr. Wolf usually blames his brush for his ineptitude. Roy’al just goes way too fast, and Amir just has too much water on his brush, all the time. Seriously it’s amazing. How has he not figured it out by now?!?!?!

The key to a breathtaking painting, is to add as many random strokes as you can. Our first couple of painting sessions only consisted of black ink, but once we finally got to use the color palettes in our desks, we got to add gas to a fire. Mr. Wolf has unleashed a surprising but nice talent for not making his “paintings” look as terrible as the rest of us do. Every once in a while, someone will make a stroke by mistake that makes their entire painting look good, then claim to have done so on purpose. Amir doesn’t even bother because his hand shakes too much.

We end with our tears diluting our mozhi pots and our cries scaring Mo Zhi laoshi until the next class.

-Josh and Yeolim

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Kung Fu

The Kung Fu teacher is a short, fit, quick to criticize, Chinese woman with short black bangs in a classic coconut cut. At first glance she seems like a frail, innocent, sour but kind lady. In actuality, she is a cold blooded killer. With each demonstration of her kung fu prowess, she strikes fear into our hearts and urine into our pants. Even before she went with us to Yunnan, her hurtful criticisms and emasculating strength made us realize that she’s a bad ass mother-of a six yourself. We realized she’s even more of a bad ass when we met here huge, muscley, stout, sweatpants wearing, colorful Nike decking, Super white Hanes cotton shirt filling, Mercedes driving, chain cigarette smoking, after shave smelling, championship belt wearing (realtors). At the beginning of Mrs. Zhang will start off by laughing at our many shenanigans, rejecting Amir’s offer to fight, and telling us we’re too weak to ever make it in the underworld (like she has). We then do exhausting stretches that last about 5 minutes. Every class we learn about 2 different moves that are part of a full cycle of moves that we will be later tested. Being tested by her is nerve racking to say the least. If you don’t retract your punch fast enough, she’ll slap your hand and call you slow. Right now, we are learning how to use swords. Kung fu class is always the highlight of all our cultural classes and she is by far our favorite culture class teacher.

-Amir and Roy’al

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Although this class was presented as cooking class, we don’t actually cook. Chef, our teacher, comes in everyday wearing his chef hat and his Lordans (fake Jordans.) When we walk into class we are all asked to dawn colorful, checkered aprons that have various animals on the front, inkling cute rabbits and dogs. Every Thursday afternoon Chef cooks classic Xianese food for us. As we stare at Chef chopping scallions we all ponder the unspoken truth; this is eating class. This was only ever acknowledged once, when we came into class to find the words, “tasting class,” printed up on the board. Some of the best dishes Chef has cooked for us so far have been the famous Biang Biang Mian and dumplings. Biang Biang noodles are fat, belt shape noodles that can be found in an even better form at the bustling streets of the Muslim Market. When we are lucky enough to participate in the making of our food, we have always experienced the repeated sensation of cold, smooth dough lingering between our fingers. Besides touching the flower, Chef also loves fondling… the dough. Chef also touches us, specifically Josh, Diego, Amir, and Boe. Let us be clear, Chef is not a pervert, Chinese culture is just different, and we find this different. Chef is relatively quiet guy, but he loves to smile. Although we talk in English with each other, we do talk to Chef in Chinese. He loves to talk about food, detailing the specific kinds of meat that need to be cooked with different kinds of oil. Besides Biang Biang and dumpling, other food Chef has made includes, bao zi (steamed buns), rou jia muo (meat sandwich), ma tuan (sesame ball with red bean paste), and more bao zi (this time with bean paste).

-Borja and Izzy

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Friday Crafts

You never really know what to expect on a Friday. Chinese class in the morning might constitute a movie or a game or perhaps an impromptu discussion among all three classes about life in China (so far we’ve watched two Jackie Chan movies, one about a dancer, one about the last Emperor, one about the Gao Kao, and one about learning English). Although our schedules say we have “Independent Research Paper discussions,” we usually end up writing journals, blogs, and cleaning the classroom during American class on Fridays, and by the end of the day we have one of two Culture classes: Paper cutting or gourd painting.

In China, paper cutting is an art. In our classroom, paper cutting is a pain to clean up. The teacher stands at the front, menacingly manipulating a surprisingly sharp pair of scissors, encouraging us to make impossibly small and unbelievably intricate cuts in a precisely folded piece of paper in simple English: “very easy, very easy.” Some of us manage to make it beautiful; others end up with a tableful of minced paper and a cutout that looks more like it’s been through a shredder than carefully constructed by the delicate hands of a craftsman. As Roy’al would say: “why do we need fifty minutes to cut a piece of paper?”

And then there’s gourd painting. The rarest and most mysterious of our culture classes, gourd painting occurs only once in a blue moon—three times so far on the trip, to be precise. The first stage was doodling designs on the front: a face of a demonic-like animal in a swirly classic Chinese style, or a couple of large eyes and what is meant to resemble a mouth. Most of us ended up just copying the designs the teacher handed out on the first day. Next, we moved on to painting, which everyone found surprisingly relaxing—shades of blues and greens, oranges and reds, playing with (or more commonly against) each other on the blank face of our gourds.

-Diego and RachelDSC06967DSC06966DSC06970

New morning exercises

With the changing weather, finally there has been a break in the clouds and rain, the students now have new morning exercises.  Welcome to the largest flash mob that I have ever seen.  You can tell our students out from the crowd if you look close, about a half step behind but learning fast, and expressing the freedoms of America by not wearing their full uniforms. Billy Graham you have some work to do with SPARK.

Cultural Ambassadors

It seems way too often, that here is Xian I am running into teachers or students from other exchange groups.  The Gaoxin school system is very active in providing programs to its students, sending them to 6 different countries for varying lengths of time.  Over the past few weeks I have met teachers from Australia, Saugus HS in California, Sharon HS right down the road and most recently today a group from Newton South High School.  In all of the situations the students have been fantastic at taking time out of their day, or handling the interruption to class to explain our program in a humble way.  On Sunday several students were tour guides for the Sharon students the Muslim market, showing off their chinese skills and the best places for Biang Biang mian. Today, after little warning and even less practice, they put on a short play and performed a song for a joint presentation of students from Gaoxin, Newton South and Brookline.  We were honored with having one of own, Borja, be the MC for the event; this included him reading most of his lines in Chinese and his Gaoxin counterpart speaking in English, see below.  These opportunities to build relationships with so many other students will make sure that this experience is something that will last for a lifetime and carry over to many other endeavors.

20140423-215025.jpgMy camera ran out of memory while I was recording the play and song, but other people were able to capture it; as soon I am able to I will post it for you all.

-Mr. Wolf



Yunnan in words

Quick disclaimer:  Below are student thoughts about Yunnan, of which a large part relates to our tour guide.  At first he seemed just a little strange, but as time wore on it manifested into something much bigger, and quite disconcerning that this was the person directing our trip.  I think he may have been schizophrenic, however, his mental troubles aside, he was just a really bad guide, plain and simple.  I am so proud of the way all the students were able to focus on the positive things while we were traveling, the scenery, Mahjong and the bonding as a group on the bus.  Some of what follows is an attempt to give you a better understanding of how this person changed our lives though his eyes, if you don’t understand its ok, neither did we at the time, just go back and enjoy the pictures from previous posts.

Weather In Yunnan

The window seat view of the plane ride to Yunnan showed a gradient of opaque clouds changing to deep, clear, blue. Stepping out of the Kunming airport, we marveled at the clarity of the air, an aspect visible even under the cover of night. Sometimes it’s scary to breathe in Xi’an. We joke about how this trip will take 5 years off of our lives, but on the really bad days when the air quality is close to 500 (on a scale where 300+ is considered hazardous to your health), I solemnly believe it. Nowadays, the air has been relatively great compared to the first few weeks in Xi’an: I’ve admired the “blue skies” countless of times on my ride home from school. But still clouds grey our days here in Xi’an.

Weather in China seems to be as diverse as the country itself. Yunnan, a province down further south, is seemingly clear of those pesky clouds, minus the occasional times they help paint a picture mimicking the Boston sky. The sun shines through strongly, and tans us through the windows of our tour bus, aka our home away from home. I return to Xi’an to my host father telling me, “You’ve tanned so much!” I choose not to tell him it was just from having a window seat during our countless hours on the road.

But even sitting in the bus is bearable due to the weather. Yunnan is topographically very different from Xi’an, boasting hills and mountains as well as gorges and valleys. The biggest hill I’ve biked over in Xi’an is the man made one in my apartment complex. Not everything is shrouded in grey, but instead highlighted by the natural light.

On our third day we got caught in late-night traffic. Unable to read, and restless, we walked out of the bus onto the highway among standstill traffic. Upon looking up to stretch our necks, we saw a sight we had never seen in Xi’an – stars! Though due to the light pollution of the stalling trucks they weren’t abundant, but they were there. Quickly an astronomy lesson taught by Mr. Wolf commenced, and we located the Big Dipper, Orion’s belt, Betelgeuse, and other starry sights, the highlight of a frustrating day spent with our tour guide. Blessed with a window seat on our return flight also, I was able to see our beautiful Yunnan weather reverse itself back into the gloomy Xi’an smog as my lungs cried in sorrow.


Yunnan Through the Eyes of Marty, the Tour Guide


“Hey, Ciggy, what do you think this group will be like?”

“I don’t know man, there are a bunch of kids. Hitler told me before that the past groups have been pretty rowdy.”

“Oh, I have a good idea, I’m gonna try to impress them with anything I can. I’ll sing ‘em a song.”

“Here they come, put me out.”

I should probably give them the roses. Should I give one to each person, or bouquet to the teacher? Doesn’t matter. One to each. “Here you go, please take a rose. Have you guys eaten breakfast yet?” It’s already dark outside, so they should have eaten.

“How you doing, Marty?” Mr. Wolf said to me as I handed him the rose.

“Oh I’m good.” I responded.

“What’s the plan for the night and tomorrow?” asked Mr. Wolf.

What does that mean? I guess the safest way to go is just not to answer and ask Ciggy or Jesus later what it means. Maybe Moses, he’s a smart guy, too. Okay, let’s get on the bus so I can get to my song. “Alright guys, let’s get on the bus!” I watched as all the annoying little kids piled in. Once we were going, I started the song. I think it’s by some band with a bird as a name, but I’m not sure. “Hotel California, hotel California. What a lovely place? What a lovely place? Welcome to the hotel California? Hotel California.” I knew I didn’t know anything else, but I kept going because I saw they liked my singing. Why are they laughing? Oh, Ciggy, these kids are especially annoying.



Hey Ciggy, the big guy’s Chinese is pretty good, don’t you think?

“Yeah I think so. You should definitely go up there and tell him about yourself and our friends.”

You’re right Ciggy. Hello Amir.

“Oh hey 你好”Amir says in an earnest tone.

*The following conversation continues in Chinese*

So you’re Israeli right?


I was talking to Moses yesterday, and he said you all should forgive the foreign guide”

“Oh really, that’s interesting. Where’s your friend from?”

Oh, he’s from Heaven.

“Oh I see. Who else are friends with?”

Oh you know, the usual: Hitler, Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, Mencius, Mussolini, Stalin.

“Nice, nice.”

We continued on in conversation for 20 minutes.

-Roy’al and Josh

Day 3

Leaving Lijiang and that lousy tour guide: Jack; letting sheep roam free: that is not a tour guide: that is an inept scum. Probably doesn’t know anything about tanks; doesn’t even know how to relate to the clients. After we left the North we got on the bus for a 3 hour ride to Dali-the driver was ignoring me the whole time for no reason. Even wouldn’t respond to my inquiries concerning the well-being of his second wife. Quiet guy. The bus ride was fine, except for that attention stealing, impatient Kung Fu teacher. Lao Zi said that she does not even know how to kick correctly, so when we stopped I made a point of putting out Ciggy in order to show her how to roundhouse kick. She thinks you have to do more than watch Walker: Texas Ranger in order to execute a perfect roundhouse kick: ignorant pupil! She insisted stubbornly on her way being right; good thing for her I hardly ever listen to Hitler or I would have shown her who is the Aryan in that situation. Then, after taking my spotlight and stealing the foreigners from me: she asks me, “How long until we get to Dali?” That woman has the attention span of a goldfish. I swear by Moses, I told her: “I said, listen to me now, if you want to get there faster, you can get off and take a taxi.” And then she acts innocent; “I was just asking” she tells me. Whiner.

After that unbearably embarrassing incident (for her that is) I lead them to this amazing restaurant: handpicked every year for its quality, tons of tour groups go there, plus I get a coupon every time I bring a tour group. So who is losing? Win-Win. But these insatiable foreigners cannot get accustomed to cold food! So I wander over them the whole time with Ciggy in my hand, talking to them: do you know what this mah-jongg tile means? Would you like a cigarette? How is the food? Are you enjoying your breakfast (lunch)? They hardly respond: the Kung Fu teacher already taught them how to play Mah-jongg. “It should have been you” Mohammed tells me; Jesus backs him up; but Mussolini held me back: “Wait,” he tells me “patience is the way to show them who is the real tour guide. They will love you yet.”

So we jump back on the bus: we arrive at this old mansion: donated to the Chinese government during the Cultural Revolution; the house itself is not anything special; but they can’t tell the difference anyway: the show is amazing though. So I lead them rapidly through the house: I bide my time and instead of wasting my breath on these uncultured stools I chit-chat with Moses about his favorite type of beer. He apparently likes a lot of different brews: I guess I have to try them all tonight. Right after the performance we leave Dali to go to our hotel in Quxiong: it is a 2-9 hour bus ride, then all of a sudden they all begin to question my tour guiding abilities; “I thought we were supposed to be sleeping in Dali?” In order to placate them I simply respond, “We will get there in 3 hours.”

It turns out to be an eight and a half hour ordeal: with them acting like sinners: fondling their balls, promoting violence, playing cards, and losing money. That Kung Fu teacher was leading them astray from my righteous path: she taught them how to play Chinese Poker. Furthermore, she was playing mostly with men: so I tell her, “If you keep playing poker, you will contract HIV”. And then she starts shouting at me! What an ungrateful, card-playing player. The drive stretches long into the night; every time traffic stops I go and talk to Ciggy about the Dao de Jing: he is the only one who understands me. I keep on making more Ciggy friends because they always cut me off when they burn my fingers: bastards. Jesus, with his great view from up there, gives me some vital information concerning the severity of the traffic.

Finally we arrive to the restaurant, and they don’t want to eat. I call Ciggy over to discuss the dilemma at hand, after 30 minutes of arguing, at 00:00 I finally convince them to go in. I put on my best ingratiating scowl and ask them to sit down: obviously I hover over them and try to make them like me. I see the young Korean, no, Israeli, no, Spaniard sitting desolately, looking at me with disgust. I go over to him, in an effort to make him see my perspective, what I was talking about with Ciggy “Everything I do I do it for you” I whisper into his ear sensually. “Bryan Adams” I reiterate as if my meaning was not clear enough already.  I see the American teacher looking grim: I decide to buy him a beer and cards so I will be memorialized in his heart, in a positive light, forever. And then he refuses: what is wrong with a good nice 5 liter at night to cease the voices in one’s head? Nothing. Back on the bus I show them a Harbin, I tell them that it is the best beer in China, sponsored by FIFA, Adidas, you know Adidas? I ask them. They respond mutely with an affirmative grunt. As we tuck in at the hotel the American teacher tells me that I should make things clear beforehand. “That’s all I am asking.” He reiterates over and over again. He goes off to bed exhausted to the bones from a long and wonderful day: one that I led him through. Between you and me, Ciggy, I think they are starting to like me.

-Amir and Borja

Final Day

On the last night of the trip, we decided to go out to dinner without our tour guide Marty.  The Wu Shu teacher had a couple of former students who wanted to take us out to dinner. Two gigantic buff guys pulled up in large black and silver Mercedes. We hopped in their cars and they sped us to an open-air restaurant in the new part of Kunming. After a whole week of sub par tourist food we were dying to get out hands on (or rather our mouths) on some authentic Yunnanese cuisine. Outside the restaurant there was a wide variety of raw meat and ingredients for sale. Ranging from cured beef to maggots, you could pick what ever you wanted to eat for dinner. We choose the latter. Along with fried maggots, we had a big plate of grasshoppers and a cut of dog meat. While the selection was strange, we preferred this to anything we had eaten earlier that week.

The next day we were finally about to explore Kunming on our own. Sans tour guide, we went to Kunming’s downtown cultural center and walked around little street markets. In the merchandise market we exercised our bargaining skills. The main novelty for sale was the Bao Ding Balls. Bao Ding Balls are most commonly found in the hands of the elderly. They come in pairs so you can rotate them in your hands, an exercise meant to bring relaxation, hand strength and mental health. Earlier in the trip Josh had bought a pair, and after taking turns fondling his balls, we were all anxious to get our own. We got prices starting at 60 kuai all the way down to ten. After every one had a set of balls we moved on to the pet market. Here we found all the conventional pets and many odd ones (including neon frogs, chipmunks, and buckets of beetles) for sale. As we walked through the overwhelming pet market, antsy fish were jumping out of their buckets. Rachel and Diego made a heroic attempt to save one. After getting their hands completely slimy the owner of the stand came to their rescue and scooped the squirming fish off the sidewalk. Although we got very limited time on the trip to enjoy freedom and roam around, when we did we always had a blast.

-Rachel and Izzy