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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
    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
    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
    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
    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
    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.

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Cultural capital of China and home to The Forbidden City, 2008 Olympics, Peking Duck and the resting Mao Zedong. The official population is 17 million though government numbers are notouriusly wrong and many think the population could be closer to 22 million. Technically, residents have to have permission to live in Beijing (or any city for that matter), but many come anyways and face punishment because the pay is so much better in the city.

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Skydiving Video

We finally got access to a DVD player and had a chance to upload Kelly’s skydiving video. Here it is!

The Yogurt and the Pandas

How did I forget about the pandas?!

One of our more frustrating and fun days in China was spent in Chengdu when we went to the much tourist visited Panda Breeding Center located just outside of the city. According to the Koran, the pandas sleep right after eating so you need to get there early to catch them before and during breakfast so we decided to wake up early and get moving.

Pandas Playing

Pandas Playing

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And That’s How I Roll, or On Underwear – Part I

To me, the most object able aspect of sharing your sleeping quarters with other people, whether it‘s in a dorm setting or in somebody‘s house, is that it makes it pretty hard to wash my undies every day.

Let‘s face it, when you travel with only four pairs of underwear, it’s in your best interest to wash your underwear every day while taking a shower and letting it air dry it until the next day.  Unlike Diesel, wearing the same pair of underwear, two, three days in a row (even if it’s inside out) is NOT acceptable.  Call me anal, but hey, that’s just how I roll:  with fresh underwear. Continue reading

On Pigsties and Couchsurfing

Nobody wants to walk into a dorm room with eight beds, all of which reek of various deadly stenches from intense B.O. to sweat to mold, to plain ol’ nastiness.

Nobody wants to be suddenly woken up in the middle of the night by  a size 12 foot squeezing their chest, especially a foot belonging to an intoxicated kid who, in his drunken stupor, attempts to hop on your bunk–the TOP bunk, for that matter!–several times until he is finally deterred by a powerful kick.

And by “nobody” I mean ME.

It’s not that we were delusional about our age or lifestyle when we signed up to sleep in a 8-person bunk bed dorm in a Kyoto hostel, but after a couple of  quite pleasant experiences at other Japanese hostels, Diesel and I thought we could do it and save some money.  Until, that is, we encountered people who think it’s ok to skip showering for several weeks (despite sharing a room with other travelers) or don’t mind sleeping in sheets covered with brown stains, which could be either chocolate, mud or poop–you take a guess. Continue reading

TIC: Part II

It has not been Diesel’s or my intention to discourage any of our friends to visit China.

China is an amazing place.  It has 4,000+ years of history.  It has over 56 ethnic groups (at least recognized by the government) that make up a rich cultural, linguistic, culinary heritage.  It has the Great Wall.  It invented paper, noodles, gunpowder, and the magnetic compass (didn’t you watch the Olympics???), just to name a few great inventions of humanity.

And no, I’m not just saying this because I’m Chinese.  If the last post convinced you not to come to China, I hope this post shows you that you MUST, MUST, MUST come to this country.

Diesel and I have been traveling for five months.  We are tired.  We are homesick.  There, I’ve said it.  We want to go home and see our family and friends, eat at Red Robin and Taco Time, run around Greenlake and watch Jon and Kate Plus 8 (me more than him on the latter) and The Hills.  We are tired of traveling in so-called developing countries and have revolted just like other developed-country-brats who’ve grown weary of squatting toilets, have learned of the dangers of really bad karaoke  and survived death-defying bus rides.

And yes, during this trip to China we’ve had an attitude problem many times.  China, like other emerging countries in SE Asia and Latin America has problems.  Only in China, these problems are magnified by 1.5 billion.  1.5 billion people, that is.  But China is not all problems.  It’s also an amazing country to visit.  This, my friends, is TIC as well…

Stranger Shows Us How to Pour Tea at Dim Sum

Stranger Shows Us How to Pour Tea at Dim Sum

Women Meet Every Morning to Dance

Women Meet Every Morning to Dance in One of Kunming's Squares

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An Inquiring Mind

I don’t know how much you know about the Chinese, but when it comes to conversations, no topic is off limits, from asking a perfect stranger how much money he makes to telling them how to raise their kid.

Having left this country over 40 years ago, the little Chinaman that has lived dormant in my dad has missed  the chance to openly ask whatever the heck he wants, and he’s been at it ever since we came to the motherland (ML).

Being able to understand Chinese, something that could be considered an advantage, has actually left me mortified at some (most) of the conversations my dad has had with people.  And translating some of the stuff that’s being said to Diesel has left him not only equally mortified, but also  feeling the need to randomly interrupt my dad to ensure that his conversations are socially acceptable…in the Western world, that is. Continue reading