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    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
    *****
    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
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    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
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    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
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    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
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    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
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    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

It’s Not All Fun and Games

We get a lot of posts and comments on this blog and facebook about how much fun we seem to be having or how happy we look. All in all, this whole experience is quite and adventure and a lot of fun, but that doesn’t mean that it is always awesome. Sometimes we’re bored. Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes Kelly cries.  And sometimes it just plain sucks.

We spent days trying to arrange a trip to Tibet where we talked to multiple different travel agents and got vastly different prices, are told vastly different things about what the laws are and then after all that, to see the whole thing go up in flames because somebody(or multiple people) misrepresented their services and/or to tried and get more money out of you, is incredibly frustrating and not something I normally have to go through. Back in the states, people are generally forthcoming and knowledgeable about what the sell.

Not to be mean or make some vast generalization about education levels, but the quality of information you receive here is not the same as back in the States. Business in China (and SE Asia from our experience) is sometimes so difficult and frustrating that you want to yell and scream and punch somebody.

At least I do.

It is so hard for me to understand how somebody can say something right to your face that is obviously untrue or that they do not really know. Yes, we have people like that at home, but they are the exception and not the rule. After so much travel, it seems to be the rule around here. At this point, I’m highly skeptical of anything and everything that anybody involved in tourism has to say.

So after letting the frustration go regarding Tibet, I entered a whole new world of frustration trying to book airline tickets to Chengdu and then Xian. First, we were told that airline tickets were only 500 yuan. That’s not bad. Oh wait, they failed to mention that we need to take a bus 4 hours south (4 hours in China generally means 5+) to another airport. Is that a big deal?

Yes, we take credit cards! Well, until it is time to pay and then actually we only take cash. Is that a problem? There is an ATM nearby!

So you try to book online. You get a confirmation email saying “thanks for your business!” followed by another email saying the seats are sold out. You go back to the travel agent to learn the price has changed in the last hour.

You find other tickets on another website (an expedia, partner-elong.com) and again receive a confirmation email, only to receive another call saying everything is fine as long as you send in copies of your passport and credit card. How a traveler is supposed to access a scanner in someplace like Shangrilia without spending their whole day on this task is beyond me, but the person on the phone is confused on why this is such a problem.

You spend hours and hours trying to do something that literally takes 2 minutes at home and nobody. It’s enough to break you.

Today, after finally getting our tickets sorted out, we went for a ride on bikes only to get drowned out in the constant noise pollution that is China. I had a headache. I had a stomachache and at one point I yelled “Fucking bitch!” to a taxi driver who honked at me for no reason and we then engaged in mututal foreign relations (as Goose says) by giving each other the finger.

I started thinking “What the fuck is wrong with this place?! Why is everything falling apart?! Why is the government replacing all the old and unique buildings with Disneyland interpretations?! Why doesn’t anybody care about quality here?!

We returned home and as I laid in bed I realized I just wanted out. I turned on the TV and saw a woman’s basketball game – Australia versus China – and hoped Australia would win, because I was MAD at China. As it became evident that the Aussies would lose, I started hoping that maybe one of the Aussie girls would lash out and at least draw some blood in the loss.

Let me go home. Let me go back to our nice condo in Seattle with the carpeted floots, on-demand heat, clean bathrooms, showers with shower curtains and proper drainage, insulation, english television, Mariners baseball, reliable and un-censored high-speed internet, peace and quiet.

Now hopefully you don’t think I’m some violent asshole after reading this. The truth is that it all gets to you sometimes. But when it does, you need to go to a quiet place and try and relax.

I went back to our room and took a nap. Afterwards, I went to the most Western of cafes and had a yogurt shake and a beer and started to feel better

And then Kelly came running in, out of breath…

“Diesel! They are dancing in the square! Like 50 people in the main square! You have to come take a look.”

And I paid my bill and headed to the old square where now about 100 people – old and young – some dressed in traditonal Tibetan outfits and others in knock-off North Face – danced in a circle to some sort of TIbetan music. This wasn’t a tourist attraction as in someting arranged by the government. No. This was an old tradition of people coming together to get a little exercise and happiness at the end of the day. It was wonderful. We took pictures. We jumped in and tried to learn some of the moves with 60 and 70 and 80 year old men and women  helping us out. We had a great time.

And afterward we went to a noodle and dumpling shop down the street that was just closing. They let us in anyway and proceeded to make fresh noodles from a dough ball and dumplings right before our eyes in a shop the size of our new york apartment and took seemed to be very happy when we slurped it all down with great pleasure. From Manchuria, they sat down next to us to eat their dinner as they had just closed the shop.

And everything was good again.

This is China.

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6 Responses

  1. that is a really good story. one of the best things about travelling is coming home.

  2. this is probably my favorite of all of your amazing posts to date. it’s honest, painful, so relatable…and it ends in such a beautiful way. home and its comforts will be there when you return…but right now you have a globe to see, and an audience enjoying your experience tremendously.

  3. catching up on what’s going on with you two.

  4. if you stop looking so happy in your photos, we wouldn’t all be fooled 😉

  5. I’m with Dawniel! But we miss you guys a lot too ;)Rebecca and I were talking on our run, saying how we can’t wait for you to come up to Baker and show us a good long slideshow accompanied with drinks from each country (the last part I just came up with).

  6. I love this post. Thank-you for sharing with such frankness. It is sobering to read….I do love the happy ending though too!

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