Australia Day!


Well, i got up early to try and get $25 dollar tickets to see joanna newsome tonight at the opera house. unfortunately, i didn't get there early enough and all the cheap tix were gone. So i might see if i can still go, but i'll have to pay $50AU. Boo....Other than that there are free concerts at the Rocks today for Australia Day. And various fests and such. i'm going to head over to catch Youth Group this afternoon. They came to cleveland a while back and I was one of 5 people there to see them. Each of us audience members got a shout out from the singer on stage.

Yesterday I spent a few hours at Hyde Park. My hostel lacks hang out space, so I try to stay away as much as possible. i spent a good hour watching bats fly into the park at dusk. Also got a phone, so i'm reachable. (+61 450128550)



My bunk at the hostel




I've been burned

Doh! i'm at an internet that I can upload photos, but i forgot my camera cord. So i'll have to come back tomorrow. i tried to get up early to get $25 tickets to joAnna Newsome tonight at the Sydney opera house, but i was too late. Try again tomorrow, or else i'll have to pay full price. Wednesday night Bjork was performing in the forecourt of the opera house, so i went to see if you could hear the show by standing outside. And i totally could! They had the state set up in front of the opera house and the audience sat on the steps leading up to the opera house. Tix were $145AU and sold out, so i was not getting in. They had the area blocked off, but you could still hang out just outside the gates and hear the show. I couldn't see much of the stage but I could see the big screens next to the stage and hear everything just fine. oh yay!!! And it was fantastic and FREE!! Also i just read in the paper today that Bjork cancelled her appearance at the Big Day Out today due to strained vocal cords. hmmm...well it was a gorgeous night to be at the opera house. Too bad i'd forgotten my camera. And as i was waiting and admiring the birds flying overhead, i realized that the great black birds were in fact great big bats! on the way back to the hostel i happened on a gig by an American band called Battles. It was another outdoor show, so i listened a bit outside the gates and was surprised i knew one of the songs.

Also, i switched hostels 2 nights ago, because the other one was just too expensive. i'm at Strattons hotel at the moment, and it's $13 cheaper but leaves much to be desired. I've stayed in mixed dorm rooms before, but the ones i've stayed in Australia tend to be much, um, mustier. i'd hoped for a 4 bed female room, but ended up in a 6 bed mixed room where i am the only female. oh well, 2 more nights and i'm off. i'll post pics tomorrow. The room smells like wet towels, and the hostel has no tv room or lounge other than a small kitchen and some chairs in the hallway. So, last night i didn't feel like hanging about to listen to british blokes talk about felatio and girls they've shagged, so i headed to Starbucks to read my book...i highly doubt i'll be making friends at this hostel. Positives: The dudes in the room don't snore. And at least the mattress is comfortable. it's a proper mattress with springs instead of the cheap foam pads they use at the other hostels. Tomorrow is Australia Day, and there are free concerts at the Rocks. Then i'm off to the Blue mountains!

Heath Ledger

Holy Crap! Heath Ledger is dead. It's all over the news here in Australia. That's very sad. He was an awesome actor.

I thought I could load pictures this morning, but apparently not. more later

Killing time in Sydney

Well, I'm still in Sydney. Not sure when I'll be able to post pictures. I've been frequenting the cheap $2/hr internet cafes and they don't have USB hook-ups. Maybe I can try tonight at the hostel. I've been staying at the Central YHA, but it's expensive. It's $37AU a night, so tomorrow I'm moving to a cheaper one thats $24AU. I hope it's okay. We finally have a sunny day, but it hasn't been hot. I went to out with the girls from my room Saturday night. We were walking down at Darling Harbour when out of nowhere, a drunk girl comes running into me. I can laugh about it now, because it probably looked pretty funny. She totally crashed into me and we hit our faces together. My glasses are a little loose, and I got a tiny bump on my cheek, but otherwise no worries. The girl kept saying "I'm so sorry! Are you okay? Let me give you a kiss." So she kissed me on the cheek twice and parted ways. That's aussies I guess.

Nothing else to report...yesterday I went to see the Opera House and the Rocks. Tomorrow I'm going to to Wooloomooloo where Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman live, I guess. And going to try and get cheap tickets to see Bjork at the Opera House, not likely but worth a try. Otherwise, I'm just killing time until I leave for the Blue Mountains on Sunday. At some point going to check out Bondi Beach...

By the way, I'm now officially on Facebook (sigh). People used to ask for email addresses, now they ask if you're on Facebook. There's nothing there yet...

I'm in Sydney, mate!

I'm in Sydney!! It is not sunny and hot as I had hoped. But it is raining and humid. The trip from Kanazawa to Osaka to Sydney was long. I self-diagnosed myself as having the flu. I was just so achey, and my face was hot, but I was cold all the time. The japanese pills seemed to take care of the headache and the achey joints, so I decided not to buy any addition flu meds here in Sydney. I had a good night of sleep, and I feel much better today. I'm in a room with 2 girls from Norway and a German. Yay!

No new pictures today, as this internet place doesn't offer hookups to the computer. Plus I haven't really taken any pictures. I sat next to an American guy on the plane who was getting his MBA in Australia. (very cute, too) We talked for a while about changing careers,living abroad, and not wanting to go back to the US. He used to be an engineer for a couple years before he quit to go to Australia. We also talked about how wierd and amazing Japan is and how japanese onsens are fabulous. Where I'm staying in Sydney at the moment is considered China Town. So there are moments where I feel like I'm back in China. Last night I went to Darling Harbour last night for a free show on the water for the Sydney Festival. It was wierd, with music, clowns, boats, costumes, fireworks, and a naked man. I'm glad it was free.

So the last time I was here in Australia, the US dollar was about .60 to the Australian dollar. Now its .90 to the Australian dollar (or more depending on where/when you exchange your money). That is a big fucking difference. I blame George Bush and his idiot tax policies...or the trade deficit. Either way, I blame the fool in office. Please educate me otherwise. So that means when I spend $1,000 Australian dollars, it costs me $900 US dollars. When 4 years ago it would have cost me less than $600 US dollars, maybe closer to $500. The dollar has been steadily declining in value for several years, and I have been traveling increasingly since then, so this situation doesn't work well for me. If I gained any weight in China, I'm going to lose it here. The good thing is that food in the US is expensive. You may not realize it, but it is expensive. So even with the shitty exchange rate, food here is still not too expensive compared to the US. But I'm still on a budget, so I'm eating less. It's just that my dollars don't last as long as they used to. Milk here is cheaper AND it doesn't have bovine growth hormones in it. I have to pay my bills now. Next post should be less cynical.

Sick in Japan



It sucks being sick in a foreign country and you don't have meds. I didn't sleep well last night and felt pretty ill when I woke up this morning. It's my last full day in Japan, and I wanted to get out and see some more. I was hoping I'd get better with a good night of sleep, but no. So I had to find a drug store and buy some meds. I think I got the right stuff. I feel a little better. I just went by the pictures on the box. My throat hurts and I have a headache, so I bought one that looked like it was for throat and headache. Then I went to the grocery and bought a bottle of vitamin C drink. Things are so expensive here, especially having just come from China. The cold meds cost me about $19US. Here are my non-food purchases so far, not much. The naked doll and the little Hello Kitty are both made in China. So you see, everything here is made in China, too.



Since I'm traveling so long, I haven't been buying much. But was feeling bad for myself because I was sick, so i made a few purchases today. Also, I exchanged too much money today, so I had to spend some. So today after I purchased my cold meds, I went to the Omicho Market and Kanazawas Geisha District, where I got the tomato scarf above. There is a lot of beautiful stuff here. If I had money to spend, I'd love to shop here. But I'm backpacking and I'm on a budget so I buy things like silly little toys. The Geisha district is small, but it was really nice. I happened to be there by myself when it was getting dark and it was snowing, so it was really very peaceful.





These are from when I went to visit the school where my friend Kate is teaching English. I sat in on 2 classes and helped her with some teaching. The boys class was really fun. Must start packing now....next post from Sydney!



For your entertainment


We had a crazy night out on Sunday. Monday was a holiday, so I spent the night drinking, singing, dancing, and making myself sick with a group of Kate's friends. All fellow Americans plus one Canadian also teaching English in Japan.



Here's some entertainment if you're interested. This is us after two hours of Karaoke and much drink.



We went to a club afterwards and drank some more. Here are some pics...again, more on Flickr. Okay, I really am sick, so I'm going to bed. It feels like some kind of flu. Headache, cough, achey joints...More later... enjoy!





Let's enjoying Japan with monkeys!


So i'm in Japan now, but I can't update as often since I don't have a computer anymore. I've been in Kanazawa since Thursday. My mom's broken arm required surgery. She had to have a metal plate put in her arm because the bone broke in several places. At this point I had just arrived in Japan, so I wish I could be back in Shanghai to help out. So my first hour in Japan, I spent at the police station.

Okay, I flew into Komatsu airport, which is a very small airport. Going through customs was interesting, but not worth describing. I had never been to Japan so I had absolutely no Japanese Yen when I arrived. I went to the money exchange, but it was closed. So I go to the ATM and try my bank and credit cards. None of them work, because Japanese ATMs are stupid and only work with local bank cards. Shiiiiittttt!!! I needed to take a bus into the city and I needed money! I couldn't call anyone, because everything was in japanese and I didn't have any money! I went to the information desk, and the girls there were wearing neon green dresses and black bowler-type hats. (That's not part of the story, I just thought their uniforms were funny.) They don't speak English. But they were able to tell me that the money exchange was closed for the day. maybe I should ask the police for help. So I found a police officer and he walked around the airport asking people for help. Finally he told me to step into the airport police office where there were 4 other officers. None of them speak English. I don't know how long I was in there, maybe 10-15 minutes. Somehow I was able to communicate that I needed to exchange money for the bus into the city. They were all very nice, and we all laughed at the situation. Finally one of them takes a $20 bill from me and gave me 2200Yen from his own wallet. oh my god, I was so thankful. When I left, they were all gathered around looking at the American money. So thanks to the Japanese police, I made it into Kanazawa city to meet my friend Kate who has been teaching English there since July. The Japanese people really are amazingly generous and kind. I'll have more to say later because I'm sick and tired, literally...I really need to get to bed.



We went to Nagano to see a monkey park up in the mountains where monkeys go to bathe in natural hot springs. It was great! Jigokudani Monkey Park"
We spent the night at an onsen, which is a japanese bath house. It was a good weekend. More pics on Flickr

Last day in Shanghai



Another quick post because I have to pack. I'm sad to be leaving, but I'll be glad to see my friend Kate in Japan. My cousin was in Shanghai yesterday, so we went shopping and out to dinner. I hadn't seen him since he was in grade school. Now he's graduating from college. My mom tripped on the sidewalk on the way to dinner last night and broke her arm. Ouch!! So it hasn't been a good day for her. I feel really bad. So I don't have time to write much now. Next post will be from japan.

The picture above is another local market. the food looked fresh, but the atmosphere was kind of gross. there are more pics on my flickr page. these are some of our restaurant dinners. I didn't feel compelled to photograph our home dinners. The service in Chinese restaurants is awesome. There's always wait staff around, and you can call on any of them. They all welcome you at the door and thank you when you leave.

Everyday Shanghai


This is just a quick post because it's late. Here's a few photos of regular places and food vendors. The one above is was taken on the ferry to cross the river from the Pudong area of Shanghai. Motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians all together.
This one is just some laundry. My dad likes to joke, "Do you like all the flags?"


Fresh veg stand. Chinese love their leafy greens.


Train station waiting room


More food vendors...

This woman was selling roasted corn and potatoes. The next one is a Muslim street vendor selling some kind of cake or bread.


Papa Johns - Free delivery

More Gulangyu



These are from our trip to Xiamen 2 weeks ago. This was a Buddhist temple on Gulangyu.





Here's a couple more shots of Chinese children. I try to be discreet, which is why I have so many pictures of people from behind. But the Chinese don't seem to mind people taking pictures.


Engrish




I like the asparagus point explodes eyes fish rice. But the Burn juice cowboy bone looks interesting, too. I'm always on the lookout for funny English translations gone wrong. A lot of times, it's not really funny, but sometimes you come across some gems. Like this bootleg copy of the Kingdom that I was watching. When you buy movies off the street, sometimes they're great. Sometimes, it's from a camera pointed at a movie screen, and sometimes it's in Russian. You get what you pay for. At less than a dollar a movie, it's not a big loss. So this copy of the Kingdom must have been translated to another language and then back in to english, maybe by a machine or something. I had to watch the first 15 minutes twice because I kept laughing. You need to have sound to get the effect.


These pictures are all out of order. These turtles were outside a Buddhist temple in Xiamen or Gulangyu.

Good Foods


There's lots of stuff on Chinese menus that might seem strange. It's not so much the duck lip that makes me laugh. It's that it's Extremely savory duck lip. And the crab dishes cardiac atherosclerosis....they must have used a medical dictionary to translate that one. haha...

One of my favorite foods (and I have many) is Lanzhou pulled noodles. I had them today for lunch (again). We go to the local eateries for these, where you can get a delicious bowl of beef noodle soup for about 60 cents. Local eateries are no-frills places to eat. They're usually tiny and dark, clean-ish, and instead of napkins they might have a roll of toilet paper. But the food is good and cheap. And you usually get to see them making food at the front of the shop. They cook the noodles in big pots out front and you can watch them make your noodles. This isn't my video, but it's exactly the same type of place. There are lots of them around.

Just like that...dough to noodles in 30 seconds. They also have knife-sliced noodles where they take a chunk of dough and flick slices of noodles directly into the pot. These are Muslim eateries, so there's no pork on the menu. China is largely atheistic, mostly due to the communist government I believe. Buddhism has the largest following, followed by Islam, and then Christianity. My brother had brought a stack of news magazines to read, and this was one of the factoids I read.

Here's a potsticker shop.


This was taken on one of the local shopping streets. For those who can't afford to go to Wal-Mart, this is where you can buy your food. Yeah sure, it's gutted on the street, but it's fresh. I like to look, but we don't buy from here (much).


Tsingtao. Cheers!

peepee dolls


These little guys are clay dolls that pee. Soak them in water for a while and pour hot water over them, and they'll pee.


Here's another pic from the fake market. For those in the market for fake designer undies.

Fake Market



This is one of the fake markets in Shanghai. My brother and I each walked away with a jacket. Mine's a North Face, which you'll see in later posts. It came out to roughly $25 I think. We probably could have bargained lower, but the girl was nice. Usually they're super pushy and I hate that. This was before the new year so business was slow. It's mostly westerners that frequent these markets, and most of them had gone home for the holidays.

I also got one of these "I am NOT a Plastic bag" totes.


There are also markets where you can go get clothes made from scratch to your measurements. Lots of people have suits made. You can pick your fabric and styles depending on which tailor you chose. The hard part is picking the right tailor. Prices vary, but I think a suit jacket and trousers runs about $50 or $60ish. My dad and I have both had wool coats made. Supposedly they're cashmere, but I don't know. They are soft though.

This was one of the large hypermarkets in Shanghai on new years eve. It was crazy busy.


I love going to supermarkets when I visit foreign countries. You can go shopping at H&M, Uniqlo and benetton in different countries, and they'll all have the same stuff. But supermarkets are always different and full of cool stuff, especially here.
The rest of these are from Carrefour, another very large (french) supermarket chain. There's a much larger selection of produce than back home, even compared to Whole Foods. And most of it is fresher because a lot of it is grown locally. Not to mention a surprisingly large selection of organic produce.



This is the fresh noodle and steam bun station. Yummy!

Suzhou



After we got back from Xiamen we made a trip to Suzhou which is 30 minutes inland from Shanghai by bullet train. With a population of 20 million plus, everywhere in Shanghai is crowded. This is one of the waiting rooms at the train station when we were leaving for Suzhou. Suzhou's city is pretty old and they have canals and many gardens. We didn't visit the city this time around, but we did visit the Humble Ambassadors Garden which is one of the largest gardens in China. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year to experience it's loveliness.



This is the Suzhou train station. Notice the KFC signs...KFC is very popular here. I think I've seen more of them than McDs.



Same station in better weather...


When we got back to Shanghai, it was the taxi driver that informed us that Benazir Bhutto had been killed. Taxi drivers are a wealth of knowledge.

I want to try one of these motorized bicycles.