The Brief Adventures of Lucia and Emily in China

These past few weeks with Lucia have been some of the best since I began my new life in China. For one, it’s always great to have close friends around. And second, I haven’t laughed so much in months! Too bad the expression “time flies when you’re having fun” is true because she’s gone now.

Between our time in Beijing, we spent 9 days in 3 other cities — Hong Kong, Yangshuo and Guilin. For budgeting purposes, we took trains, buses, and a boat between cities, totaling 66 hours of travel time. It was definitely not a trip you take with a difficult person or a person without a sense of humor. Lucky for Lucia, there wasn’t a moment that I wanted to kill her, except when she ate all the Ferrero Rochers.

One thing I love about traveling is eating as much as I want without worrying about weight gain. In Hong Kong where my mom has excellent connections (the kind with $$), Lucia and I were treated like princesses. We had our own driver, Willie, and we ate like Greek gods. Buffet-ing, dim-summing, seafooding…I literally could not have asked for more or I would’ve keeled over and died from overeating. In Yangshuo and Guilin, no longer royal, we gorged on street food and noodles while avoiding horse and dog meat. The ramen, chocolates, cookies, tea eggs, chips and McDonald’s we ate on train/bus/boat rides were just food for survival.

How did all this food digest you might ask? Well, the 5.5 hour-long bike ride through the countryside of Yangshuo certainly helped (the most exercise either one of us has had in light years). Racing through Ocean Park in Hong Kong and aimlessly wandering around rainy Guilin also made a difference to my digestive track.

Princess Emily having breakfast in Yangshuo.

Instead of boring you with all the nitty-gritty details of my trip, I’ll just tell you the highlights of each city. You’re welcome.

Hong Kong

Far beyond my expectations, this city is just perfect. From the movies (like Rush Hour 2) I thought Hong Kong was just another city. But OH MY WORD the views were incredible! 

The jade-colored water between the green hills and the wild monkeys with pink butts and nipples and mansions on hilltops and flowing traffic and random temples spotted throughout the city and beaches, all in one small place. It is a perfect balance of nature and city, traditional and contemporary. Though Hong Kong is known to the Chinese as shopping-haven, Lucia and I preferred the spectacular views and roller coasters. I must admit the most memorable part of Hong Kong, besides the food, was Ocean Park, an amusement park on a hill. We had so. much. fun.

Next up, we took this pimped out sleeper bus which blared house music 8 hours to Yangshuo:

Yangshuo

This was my favorite part of the trip.  When we stepped out of the bus, half-asleep and worried we’d left something behind after scrambling out of there at 5:30 in the morning, we looked up to find that we were surrounded by pointy hills (karst peaks).

And that’s the center of town! Can you imagine what the countryside looks like?! Well you don’t have to. Just look below!

Those hills plus the Li River equals stunning scenery that is rural China.

Because it was early March when the rains and fog are amidst, there were far less tourists than normal, much to our advantage.  Lucia and I could ride our bikes for miles and miles without having to share the road with other tourists. We didn’t take “the road less traveled” — we followed a Lonely Planet route — but it was still the best ride of my life.

As Lucia and I were biking through one of many farm villages, Lucia’s impossible shoelaces got stuck in the gears. It was a heaven-sent pause because out came three little girls running towards us and plopped down with books and pencils in hand. Knowing me, a teacher, kid-lover, and Ms. Emotional-to-anything-slightly-moving, Lucia had to tell me not to cry at the sight of this absurd cuteness. The girl in the middle was reading her English alphabet picture book upside down!

We were also greeted by other kids yelling “HELLO! HELLO! HELLO!” most likely at Lucia, who’s white, but I yelled back too. At one point we took the wrong road and geared off to find a pretty elderly lady with two long grey braids sitting on a bamboo raft by the river as her cows grazed the field nearby. I asked her for directions but it was difficult to understand the local dialect so she walked us to the correct path. She was a beautiful lady, inside and out!

We spent the rest of the time in Yangshuo strolling around and taking in the surrounding beauty. Two days later we were off to Guilin in a boat carrying Chinese and foreign tourists up against the currents of Li River. Along the way, we passed picturesque and widely photographed landscapes. While Lucia spent most of the ride with her nose in Jane Austen with throbbing heartaches for Mr. Darcy, I got wet taking a million photos of the passing views.

Four hours and two bus rides later we were in Guilin.

Guilin

Well, because Lucia and I were all boated-out, we decided to stay away from the highly regarded boat tours. Instead, we spent most of our time eating and wandering the city center, but our day and a half in Guilin dragged on because of the bad weather. This was the least exciting part of the trip because, surprisingly and much to my disappointment, it was just another city with not much to see except the Sun and Moon Pagodas.

Lucky for me and Lucia, we only had to share our cabin for half the ride back to Beijing, except we arrived 2 hours late in the middle of the night to freezing cold and sleet.

The train cabin we shared with 4 other rotating people from Beijing to Hong Kong.

That was my trip in a nutshell. I have much more to tell and show you, but I’ll save it for another time.

Overall, Lucia and I had a fabulous time and I’m sad she’s gone. But I have many good memories and photographs to prove it. I will definitely return to Hong Kong and Yanshuo in the future, but I’ll wait till the weather is nicer. And for you to get here. Anyone up for a 28 hour train ride?


“Tag. You’re it!” translates to “I like you!”

Back in my little school days, the game of Tag was super fun and flirtatious. In the same way people tease each other when they like each other, the person who is “it” in Tag always chases the person he/she has a crush on. So, when boys chased after me, it was obvious they had the hots for me, the chubby Asian girl in bright yellow jumpers. Duh. In my tween years, I even had dreams of boys chasing me, totally a sign of their lust for moi.

Well, 10 years later, I was “tagged” again, and it wasn’t a dream! I was tagged by a guy who licks moose. He calls himself Mooselicker. You can tell by his name he is very special and obviously digs me. Or at least my blog. Either way, I am extremely flattered though not surprised because my yellow jumpers have always done me wonders. (My 2nd grade student teacher called me “Sunshine” because of those jumpers. There’s a photo of me wearing them holding a huge turkey leg at Disneyland. Glad I don’t have that photo to show you…)

So, like any game, there are rules. Here are the rules to this “adult” game of Tag:

Rules

1. You must post the rules.
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Just like filling out an OkCupid profile, I answer Mooselicker’s questions below:

1. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What did you think you would become?

Romanticizing between being a Spice Girl and a pediatrician, I knew either way I was going to be a people-pleaser. I was going to save the world whether it be with my booty shakin’ or with a stethoscope. Well, neither has happened but I’m still saving the world in my own little ways.

2. Who is your biggest celebrity crush?

I don’t have a “biggest” celebrity crush–there are tons–but my biggest fictional crush is Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. What a heartthrob, and a nice one.

That should be ME in his arms!

Oh right, then there’s James Franco. Guilty pleasure!

3. Angels, Bigfoots, or Aliens; which one do you think is most likely to exist?

Angels. They live at Victoria’s Secret and come out on Halloween.

4. What is something that everybody seems to enjoy that you hate?

KTV. Everyone’s favorite pastime in China is karaoke. Bleh, I can only do it ever so often.

5. If you opened your front door and I was there, what would you say? What would you really be thinking?

I would say, “Hi! You are the first Jehovah’s Witness that has ever come to my door!” to which you might reply, “No, no, no, I’m not from Kingdom Hall. I’m Mooselicker!” Then, I’d exclaim, “OH MY GOODNESS, I AM SO SORRY!!!”, throw my head back, laugh, give you a huge squeeze and invite you inside for tea and chocolates.

6. What is your favorite movie and why? 

The First Wives Club, because 1) I love everyone in it, 2) it never gets old, 3) it’s cute and hilarious, 4) it subtly empowers women, and 5) I love when Bette, Diane and Goldie sing at the end.

7. There has to be something that you believe you’re the best at, what is it?

Connecting with people. Maybe it’s my smile, or my unusual perkiness, or my enthusiasm when meeting someone new that makes it easy for me to connect with people, and then sell them things. I excel at jobs that involve serving others because I just flash them a smile, nod my head, and tell them how delicious everything is, and they believe me! An ex-coworker hated me for it. She said I was too nice. She is the only person (to my knowledge) that has ever hated me. Whatevs, I know she was just jealous of my likable qualities. If I was making commission at that bakery, I would’ve kicked her ass then wipe it with my 100 dollar billz.

8. Who is the ugliest person you know and why are they so ugly?

Hmmm. I’m having trouble with this one because I try to see the best of everybody. Even if someone is ugly on the outside, I can usually find something beautiful hidden beneath, and vice versa.

9. Is love unconditional?

Yes, until it isn’t. I’m a “hopeless romantic” that loved someone unconditionally for all their terrible qualities that shall not be named, until one day (2 years later, way too long) it finally went away. That is how my affair with unconditional love ended, and boy was it a relief! As for family, yes, love is unconditional.

Reminds me of the time my ex told me not to be jealous if he hooked up with other girls since he was going on tour with his band. Too bad he got kicked out of the band.

10. Lots of people have addictions. What is yours?

Food.

11. What is the nicest compliment you have ever received? What is something that you would like to be complimented more about you?

At the end of my year as a tutor in a 1st grade class, all the students made me handmade thank you cards. Of course they all brought tears to my eyes, but one card especially melted my heart. Johnny, the little rebel who never wanted my help, very unexpectedly wrote “I love you, Ms. He!” and said something along the lines of “I will miss you so much!” and drew me a picture. It wasn’t a direct compliment, but it showed that he actually did like me and that was enough to make me happy for the rest of my life.

If there’s anything I would want to be complimented more on, it would be from my students telling me what a wonderful teacher I am. One day…

Ain't that the truth!

Whew. It took me all day to answer those questions, but now that I have, I’m “it!” That means I get to tag 11 others! And yes, if I tag you, it does mean I have a crush on you (and/or your blog).

These are the folks I’m passing the torch on to (I know some of you have already been tagged recently, so I understand if you  choose not to go through with this again!):

howtodateboys

A Single Year

Your Daily Dose

Currie Rose: Based on a True Story

Traveling Tastebuds

The Sandy Tongue

Tamar Dart

Pigeon Heart

lolweltschmerz

Wandering American

Shards of China

Occulto Antonio (I added one more)

These are my 11 questions for you:

1) What is your favorite childhood memory?

2) If there is one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be and why?

3) What is your favorite pastime, besides blogging of course?

4) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

5) Do you like where you currently live? Why or why not?

6) What is your biggest life goal?

7) What are 3 things you always carry with you?

8) What is the one place you really want to visit?

9) Do you think the world is going to end in 2012?

10) What is your most embarrassing experience you are willing to share with the world?

11) What is your comfort food?

Well alright then, get out onto the field and start running folks-of-the-blogosphere! You are “it!”


The No Good Do-Gooder

I have long been confused by what doing “good” means. Is it giving food to someone who doesn’t have any? Is it donating your clothes to Goodwill? How about donating thousands of dollars to charity? Or flying to Africa to build wells? Aren’t all of these things good???????? From what I learned in college, the answer is Yes and No. That got me nowhere except to a greater state of confusion.

I was on the subway today, a smelly one. The stench was oozing from a teenage boy who was sleeping soundly in his seat. He had dirt on his clothes and it covered his face, neck and unwashed hair. He wore his raggedy old shoes on the wrong feet, and his sweatpants were covered with short white animal hairs. His face was red and eyes puffy as if he had cried, or was just exhausted. He had no belongings with him. At first I too was bothered by the smell like those around me with their fingers rammed up their nostrils. But then I noticed his boyish features and began to feel intense sadness for him.

Homeless people are everywhere, I know. But this boy sat right in front of me, sleeping, not noticing my rude, but heartfelt staring. I was carrying a bag of pastries and asked my dad if I should leave one for the boy. My dad said there was no need. But right before we got off the train, I left a pastry on the seat anyway. When I told my dad who hadn’t noticed, he said it wasn’t the right way to “do good.”

When I lived in NYC, I worked for a bakery that wasted a lot of food, like any food business. Sometimes I took whole cakes with me and left them on benches at Union Square or Washington Square Park where I knew a lot of homeless hung around. Sometimes I left things on the subway, hoping a hungry person would snag up the free goods. Then one day my friend made an excellent point that homeless people shouldn’t eat things like cake and cookies because it could cause long-term health problems that they can’t afford to cure. Instead, I should leave them apples and bread.

Well that got me in a bind. There I was with bags of free food and the worry that people are hungry, plus the awareness that cash isn’t always spent in the “right” places. So what was I to do with the food and my dilemma? Did I want to be the cause of someone’s diabetes, obesity and cavities? On the other hand, did I want to waste perfectly good dessert when there were starving children in Africa? 

On my way to the train, my dad and I passed a man selling a boxful of chicks. My initial reaction was ANIMAL CRUELTY! Then I thought, This farmer is just trying to make a living. And then, How cute would it be to have little yellow chickens running around my room? I could be their saviour.  My dad, being the more rational adult, pulled me away before I could whip out a few bucks that would ruin the lives of the little fur-balls forever. They might be suffering in the tiny living quarters, but they would also suffer from my neglect. These chickens are living beings, I can’t mess with that. Meanwhile, there’s the potentially hungry farmer I could’ve made a purchase from so he had some daily earnings (but he has all those chickens…) What is a gal to do in this situation? I did nothing except take this picture.

Compassion and generosity are qualities I’m proud to claim, but naive and impulsive tag along. I admit I tend to romanticize things. I’m happy I have a “good” heart and optimism, but my friends and family are right when they say I am naive. The world seem a lot simpler to me than it really is. This obstructs my ability to think holistically and do effectively, and instead leads me to act impulsively. It would be awesome if I could solve all the world’s problems. But I can’t. Nobody can. I’ve given up on that dream already, but I still believe one person can make a difference, and that making a difference to one person is still “good”.

But how? Was leaving a pastry for someone who might not even eat it or is too afraid to take it what I should’ve done to “help out” this kid? Is handing out dollar bills to homeless children who might work for abusive bosses going to benefit them or hurt them in the long-run? Here’s the question of the century: is it better to do something than nothing at all? These are the daily conundrums I have to deal with in my head. You should see what big ideas I’ve got stored upstairs. Anyway, that’s why I’ve decided to go to grad school. Maybe Professor Wong or Doctor Chan can tell me if I should’ve left a cupcake or an apple, or nothing at all.