A Travellerspoint blog

MSG is Delicious!

The next morning we get to sleep in a little. I woke up and took a shower, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to. Linda only had a shower head, but not the rest of the building blocks of the mechanism we refer to as a shower. The shower head was just in the wall next to the toilet, and that was it. I turned it on, begging for hot water, and I was scolded. This was slightly refreshing though, because now I at least knew the water got hot. But when I tried to make the water bearable to be under, I began to shiver. There was no happy medium, and I was soaking the toilet. The entire bathroom was beginning to have a dampness to it if not a nice puddle of water. I wasn't sure what to do, so I quickly shoved my hair under the shower, froze my scalp, madly scrubbed shampoo, rinse, then conditioner, rinse, and turned the damn contraption off. I ran out of the shower then, after spending a long time trying to put on my clothes w/o getting my pants and socks wet, and hid in the warmth of the blanket that Joe was heating up just for me. The sun was already up, so that meant it was probably already in the 20's (Joe says you'll never get used to the change over, I think I'm managing b/c we see such a range of temperatures in the next week that I know what every number truly feels like).

Then Linda took Jason, Joe and I out to meet Ivy at DaFen, the artist village named after Da Vinci.

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(That is a bust of Da Vinci, definitely wasn't expecting to see him in China.)

Then Ivy and her cousin Kitty met us for lunch right next to his statue in the main square of what they call a village, but I call an artist's workshop and gallery.

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Ivy is the one on the left in the very stylish boots and hot pants, her cousin is on the right, Linda is the blond, and Jason is the guy.

Here Linda didn't really eat with us because she is very cautious about eating Chinese food, and she isn't afraid to tell us about it... not even as we eat it. "Yes, well, all that food is just loaded with MSG. I can tell because the moment I eat something with MSG I vomit profusely. I've had a sensitivity to it ever since I threw up so much that my stomach actually pulled up into my rib cage and I had to fly home to England to undergo surgery to bring it back down." Ok, it wasn't that bad. She actually told us this before we left the apartment, but she did bring it back up at lunch after our food arrived. Ivy ordered us 5 or 6 huge plates of food that we all shared (Joe loves this about Chinese food). One plate of steaming veggies, 2 bowls of spicy meat, noodle, and veggie soups, a plate of meat, a plate of some sort of wonderful fried and glazed with spice green beans that I think I ate the whole plate as if it were my own, msg and all. Ivy's retort to the pointed comments about how poor Chinese food is was this. "But the food is so DER-LI-SHUSH. And the vegetables are fresh from the farm and full of NU-TRISH-OUSH. What more can you ask for? DER-LI-SHUSH food, good friends, this is all you need to be happy." I'd like to say now that none of my quotes are ever verbatim. But this is generally what was said, and she couldn't have said it any cuter.

After lunch Ivy and Linda showed us around DaFen. Ivy pointed out to us all the shops that she likes, and we visited a few that she worked with. Ivy had a job she went to during the week, but her "hobby" job was to find foreign clients and match them up with the right shop to have copies of paintings made for the ridiculously cheep Chinese prices.

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I couldn't believe some of these paintings. They had everyone you could think of from European art. I saw the ballerinas, the sunflowers, the Italian villa doors, all hand painted on canvas for the price of about 30 Yuen... thats less than $5. You can't even buy a decent sized canvas to paint on for $5. In one of Ivy's shops she showed us a 4x10 photograph of a Russian village square she was having made for a customer, and the artist had blown the painting up to about 2' by 3' and I couldn't see anything wrong with it! Ivy saw that the tiny baby that in the original photograph wasn't more detailed than two black dots for eyes and a line for the mouth it was so small, but she saw that in the photo the baby was looking slightly sideways, and in this man's version, it was looking straight at the "camera." Right then and there I gave Ivy my mom's email address and told her that I have a client for her. Usually I try not to encourage my mom to spend money on things, but this was something I thought was really necessary. What if she could have real water-lilly paintings? If you saw how my mom reacted at the Musée de l'Orangerie, you would agree with me.

Then after wondering around inside shops for a bit we met up with Linda's friends from Germany and we went bowling. Ivy had to go to work, but the rest of us went, including Kitty who had never bowled before (she beat my score... multiple games). Trisha (Linda's German friend) and her husband bought us lot of beer, and when I Joked that it really was true that Germans drink a lot of beer, they just started at me. It wasn't that funny stare like "what are you talking about?" when they really do know what you are talking about. They both looked at me like there was some sort of language barrier between us, even though they lived in Texas before China, so they spoke perfect English. I guess this wasn't a lot of beer to them, and they really didn't understand that I thought it was. Tsingtao beer is China's beer of choice, and the bottles are really big, and they are made in China, but manufactured by the German's who made a huge settlement in Quingdao (it is really good lager beer).

Linda, Kitty and Jason's taxi hadn't arrived yet, so the German's played a whole round before they came. While we waited after they finished one of the games I felt a little uncomfortable. We were talking about shopping for clothes in China and Trisha brought up how rude a lot of the Chinese women can be who work at the stores. They literally came out and called her fat b/c she couldn't fit into a size 6 pants (their largest size), and she had a complex for the longest time. Then they travelled back to Europe and got behind a woman at the airport escalator that they couldn't pass to walk down the steps because she took up too much room. "That is fat" her husband said. And it was true, just because the women in China are very small, doesn't mean that everyone else is obese. I told her that I had a similar problem trying to wear the traditional Chinese shirts. I like them a lot, but they never fit right and I always have to hunch my shoulders in them so I can breath. This opened a door I wish it hadn't where Trisha very loudly started professing that "if Chinese women actually had boobs, instead of these little cherries" and she mad hand gestures over her chest to mimic small tits, "they wouldn't fit in these shirts either!" She felt comfortable saying this so loudly because we were probably the only ones in the place that spoke English. But I just couldn't help but feel that someone knew what she was saying. Like in Lost (sorry I keep referencing that show btw, I'll get a life eventually, especially if the show keeps sucking like it has), the Korean couple are eating at the airport, and Sun was serving Jin. Then she accidentally spilled hot water on his lap, and begged for forgiveness (in Korean, but you still got the picture). A wife sitting at the table next to them started commenting to her husband on how pathetic she thought Sun was for being so submissive. Sun eventually gives the woman a look that said that she understood everything she was saying.

In any case, my team of Joe, Jason and myself lost all 3 games to the German's and Kitty. Linda couldn't play still b/c she was still getting over her surgery and wasn't allowed to lift heavy things. Trisha felt really bad about suggesting bowling after she remembered that, but we were already there, and it was kind of a long taxi ride to find this, probably the only bowling ally in all of Shinjin. When we were finished wiping the floor with me it was time for the bill, and Trisha argued it vehemently. I don't understand Chinese, but I knew what was being said wasn't very nice. Trisha's husband kept trying to tell her to just let it go, but eventually it was sorted out that Trisha forgot they played a game before the others arrived.

It was time for dinner so we headed out to a place Linda liked because it didn't have any msg. I thought the name of the place sounded like Chillies, but it was something in Chinese. This place had the most amazing French Toast. Joe and I were going to share it, but he ended up getting Trisha's meal too b/c she thought she was ordering a shrimp curry, and it came with shrimp (whole), and those tinny octopi, and several other things. Joe really liked it, but I agreed with Trisha, I thought it was kinda gross. Here we met one of Linda's friends who's english name was Forest. Then there was the joke that we should marry so my name could be Rain Forest (I had to admit, it sounded pretty good. My name, not the wedding prospects).

When we finished dinner we walked around the outdoor street market for a while, and then we headed back down the street to Linda's place. It was only about a 20 minute walk, and we wanted to see the town. But on the way was the massage parlor (so I wished we had taken the bus). Jason was talking about getting another massage all day (he had already been in Shinjin a week), but he ended up staying at the outdoor market trying to buy up more things to send back to England to resell. So it was just Joe, Linda and I, and they both wanted a massage. We sat down upstairs in these really huge red velvet lazyboys and I told them I wasn't interested, but then Joe pulled the old, "if you're not getting one then I'm not either." The massage was only going to be like $10 US money, and it was for an hour and 10 minutes, and Joe really wanted the massage, so I went for it. Linda kept telling me how it was going to make me a new person, and while its painful during the massage, the after bliss is worth it. These 2 guys started working on making Joe and I hot water soaks for our feet, and Linda waited for her favorite masseuse to be done with his previous appointment. The foot massage was okay, only the guy kept trying to talk to me in Chinese, and I really hadn't the slightest clue what he was saying. Joe tried to talk a little, but it wasn't much, and Linda surprisingly didn't seem to know much Chinese at all. So that was awkward. Then they had us sit on the foot stools and they did all sorts of arm wheels and back cracks and strange yoga like contortions to my body. I looked over at Joe when my guy started massaging my buttox. Joe's guy wasn't massaging his which made me wonder 1.) Does Joe get a butt massage since he is a boy? 2.) If Joe does get one later, are we supposed to help them get under there by lifting a cheek or something? B/c he's kinda digging down there.

When I got to sit back in the lazyboy he started on my feet again, and then Linda reclined my chair and got a woman to come and massage my head. It felt nice until she started pounding on it. But then she made up for it my giving me a hair massage which felt really really good. But all in all I was too self conscious to enjoy the massage or the after "bliss." Which brings me to my final point of the evening (Well, it was Joe's point, but I'm bringing it back up).

Why is it considered bad, when you are conscious of who you are?

Posted by - Rain 17:30 Comments (1)

The Hike

If we had only know before it would last 8 hours... we would have brought more than 2 bottles of water and some snacks.

The next morning Joe and I got up bright and early, and then had to wake Jason up at 8am when we figured his alarm didn't go off. We were supposed to meet Linda's friend Ivy by eight so she could get us on the busses and to the meeting point her friend set up who posted the hike on shenzhenstuff.com:

http://www.shenzhenstuff.com/events/dongxi-chong-coast-hiking-on

We were about 10 min. late, but when we got there it was no problem because the woman we were meeting was the nicest, cutest Chinese girl I have ever met (and that includes to my present point in time, which is a month into our China trip, not just our first morning). "Hello Eye-V" Jason said in a very distinct British accent. She introduced herself very quickly, then got us onto the bus. The bus was very crowded so it was hard to hear what she was trying to tell us about the hike and about the meeting place. All I really got was that we needed to go and buy more water. Ivy told us that the water in China is not drinkable unless you boil it, so everyone has to buy their own water. This was crazy to Joe and I because the Chinese cities are so big, and we couldn't believe that they have so many people, a lot of whom are poor, but no drinking water. In any case, we made it to the meeting place about 30 min. later and had time to pick up some water bottles from a street vender.

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Here we met Angela (the girl who organized the hike), and we are thankful that we have to wait around to meet most everyone else (meaning we weren't the last ones to show). Some people begin to trickle in, most of whom spoke English (how lucky are we? Answer: very). But I guess in Shinjin it isn't too uncommon to find people who speak some English because it is such a young city, and they have English classes now that start in Primary school. But if you can't find English speakers, as Joe will soon discover, most people also know Mandarin (the Chinese language he learned). Even though we are in the south where they speak Cantonese, this city is filled with young migrants from all over China, and the other language they teach in Primary school is Mandarin.

Once everyone showed we packed into the van Angela rented that was suposed to fit 14 but only had space for 10. Yeah... it was cramped... and I don't have much else to say about it... so... who wants to see pictures of China from outside the van?!

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It was about an hour drive to the coast of China, and when we got there it was very foggy, so we couldn't see very far, and at first I was really upset about our bad timing, but later I found out that China is like this a lot. And its not fog, or vog, but pollution pure and simple in all of its unnatural complexity. Oh well, I guess we should have seen that one coming. But on the brighter side, we got to get out of the van!

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We walked through this little town and its rice fields before we made it directly to the coast. And as usual on this trip, nobody keeps us in the loop, and even though most everyone spoke English, they spoke to each other in Chinese a lot. One guy even mentioned that Angela speaks more English than she does Chinese, and I think if she had known him better she would have slapped him up side the head. "I know that, but I speak in English so Joe and Vanessa can be in on the conversation too!" After walking into the jungle away from any visible trial I finally got an answer from Cathryn about the van leaving us when we started to climb up into the hills. She said that the hike may take a few hours, so the van is going to meet us at the end of the trail so we don't have to hike back up the coast. I gave a sigh of relief then, and I didn't even know what I was in for (we wouldn't have made it back alive if we had to do the whole thing over agin).

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At the top our first hill we saw a tour group come up the jungle after us, and another one was following right behind them. Angela told us that this is a very popular hike for the Chinese to do, and so since it was Saterday the place might be a little crowded with groups of people doing the same hike. This was really cool with me because even though I trusted that Angela knew the way, I didn't trust that we would always stay together. So with loads of other people hiking along the coast, I figured we couldn't get all that lost. Ocean on the left, huge scary cliffs on the right, Chinese people to the front and back. Got it.

Within the first 15 minutes we already lost the ABCs. "Has anyone seen the ABCs?" Angela kept asking once we realized that our group was smaller. At first I thought she was trying to say some sort of joke that only Chinese people would get, and then they told me what ABC stood for. "Oh, well," Angela began, "they don't really count anyways, so lets move on." She was kidding about the not really counting part, but also a little serious. ABC = American Born Chinese. I wondered why both of them spoke absolutely perfect English. Angela was very good, and so was Cathryn; but you could still hear their accents. Anyways, I shall press on too because my random side note comments don't really count either.

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That last picture is of my new buddy Martin. He spoke very little English, and what English he did speak, I had a really hard time understanding. But for whatever reason, he was determined to speak with me and get the lowdown on everything about America. He mostly wanted to know the cultural differences between China and America, and this being my first day in China and all, I didn't really know what was different either. We had a lot of awkward pauses trying to figure out what might be different about us socially speaking, but eventually we got down to the subject he seemed to be really interested in... but we aren't there yet.

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Thats Angela leading the group. She is fast, agile, and never gets tired or worried that a climb is too steep or a rock to slippery... we were all in awe.

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Thats the rest of us trying to catch up with her. And no, this would never be a hiking trail in America. They would rope it off with metal bars that have danger signs written all over it. Joe and I agree that we love this about China! It was a challenging, but thrilling hike (and you don't hear too many people in America describe their hikes as "thrilling" which seems like a shame to me now that I've done it).

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Now it was 4 hours into the hike, it was time for our lunch break. (My hair is wet from the sea water... really). Thankfully for us everyone else brought more than some crackers and almonds, and they were willing to share.

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And then after about 15 min. it was time to hike again.

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At this point we've been hiking for almost 6 hours, and many of us were getting a bit tired. Every time we came to a big cliff we would have to climb over we would think, "Oh thank god we're almost done!" And then we would see another long stretch of coast line that went on into the grayness. But this time we were sure, we had to be almost done. There were several tour groups sitting around the base. One guy was collecting pointy little sea urchins from the water, another group was listing to chinese music as they sat under umbrellas (it wasn't sunny out, but you never can be too careful. The Chinese think that being pale is very beautiful), and another group had a march playing that they used to hike up the cliff, something John Phillips Sousa-ish.

So here is a pic. from the top of our rather dangerous climb up some steep rock that led right down into some shallow water with crashing waves!

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We all had a kinda hard time with this one. When you get to the top it comes to a tiny peak that doesn't have a distinct "go this way" feel pretty much anywhere. There was just down, and then more coast (much more coast) on the other side. Eventually we found our way around the side to where there was a ledge that led to a rope that was tied off about a forth of the way down the peak with little knots in it that seemed to say, "climb down me," but I wasn't sure if I should. I hung out there for about 15 min. while waiting for Joe, Ivy, Jason and a couple of others in our little break off group to make it over the ridge. There was one section where you have to Prince of Persia it across, holding you back to the wall and then flipping over, grabbing some vines and jumping down about 8 or 9 feet to a ledge. Joe climbed down first, and then Jason held onto Ivy's hand, dangled her down the cliff, and then Joe caught caught her (those of us watching clapped). Then we watched a few of the guys go down the rope, figured it would hold our girl weight, and we climbed down after them.

Now tack on another hour to our hike... and people were starting to slooooowwwww dddddoooooowwwwwwwwnnnnn. Our legs were beginning to feel like jelly, and they started responding about as well (whatever that means).

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Tired. Very tired now. We come to some ruins. This is about the time I figure out what Martin was trying to get at the whole time. Is it true that American women are loose? He was basically hypothetically asking that if he went to America, where would his best chance be for a one night stand? I gave him some pointers about joining a fraternity at a college or going to Vegas. He suggested Miami, and I told him that it seemed that he probably already knew better than me about such things.

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We hit the beach where all the tour groups were splitting off and taking these crazy boat rides along the coast, so we figured that this is where we should stop to wait for everyone else (of course Joe, Martin and I were the first ones to finnish the hike so we had nobody to definitively tell us if this was the end). Martin really wanted to swim, and so did I, only I didn't bring my swimsuit, and I wasn't about to strip down to my underwear in a country where everyone is already staring at me for just existing. Joe said he would, and as he was taking off his shirt I reminded him that he couldn't get his finger wet for another week.

Oh, did you miss that story? Well, you're just going to have to wait for me to get back to it. But the basic low down is that 2 days ago Joe sliced into his finger with a machete doing kung fu to a night stand. The hospital gave him this superglue stuff rather than stitches (b/c they were lazy), and he isn't allowed to get his finger wet now for a week. When he showered for the first time he honestly asked me if I knew how hard it was to shower with only one hand. I told "No... no, you know what, I really can't imagine what that must be like..." He caught onto my sarcasm and I could tell he secretly kicked himself for trying to say I didn't understand.

In any case, Joe put his shirt back on and sat down dejected on the sand. I told him that he could still go in and cool off, but he only wanted to go in if he could swim. Martin wasn't too happy about this when he came back from changing b/c he was only going to swim if he had someone swimming with him, but since he was already in his swim trunks he decided to go in anyways (which made me feel much less guilty about saving Joe from getting an infection his first day in a foreign country).

Then all these women with missing teeth and straw hats kept coming up to me trying to get me to buy a ride. I kept telling them "Boo, Boo!" (no, I wasn't trying to scare them off, Boo means no in Chinese.) Eventually Ivy, Jason, Angela and the others came to the beach, and Ivy jumped at the chance (I told you she was cute). It was less than $1 to ride, but I didn't think it looked all that great. I'd been on enough choppy speedboats for the time being, and they crash into the beach for their last thrill, which looked like a lot of fun, but also more dangerous than I think they let on. Joe of course, when with the group of thrill seekers, and they had a blast.

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And then it was time to finally relax and head out for food!

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From right to left: Martin Jason, Joe, Ivy, me, I can't remember her name, Angela, Boss (We didn't know this for the longest time, but unlike most everyone else in the group he didn't have an English name; so his Korean name is Pos, but everyone just called him Boss all day, so its sticking), Cathryn, then the guy with the eye glasses is ABC #1 (the wife... we'll get to that later), and the guy to his right is the ABC #2 aka Scott (and he is the husband).

I told Jason and Joe what Martin was wondering about America, and they both agreed that all he would have to do is go on a beach in his swim trunks. P.S. Please don't be mad at me Martin for posting this picture on the internet either.

Martin was very concerned that it wouldn't be appropriate if his job saw him like this. Angela said that we should send his work the pic and see if we could get him a raise. P.P.S. Please don't let her English boyfriend read that.

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(Thats warp speed... we are really hungry now).

Angela took us to this really great Sichuan place. I, being out of practice for about 6 months now, could not pick up a single thing with my chopsticks. Everyone raved about how good Joe was. Thankfully, I still got to eat b/c Angela and Joe would take things out of the boiling pot in the center of the table and put them on my plate. It was neat how they did the cooking. They had stove cut into the center of the table so that when they put the pots on top they would be at the same height as our plates. One pot was placed inside the other, the inner pot had a light yellow medium spicy soup, and the ring the outer pot made around the central one had a red hot spicy soup. Both pots were boiling, so they would put raw meat balls and veggies into the soup, let them boil, and then we would pick out of the pot and place them on our plat or in our oily eggy soup thing. Joe has raved about this night for the past month, so I think this was his favorite dinner so far. I really enjoyed it to, so you know that has to say something about the food b/c the two of us have very different ideas about what we think is good food.

And the whole night everyone was going crazy. None of us really knew each other all that well, but we had a case of the giggles or something (possible signs of exhaustion and dehydration mixed with ridiculously spicy food and beer). The one on going joke through the night (other than Joe sitting in the center of the 2 sets of boiling pots so he could eat double the portions of everyone else since there was an odd number of us), was that the 2 ABC's were married, and Scott (when he wasn't hitting on Angela) was the good and concerned husband. Scott's "wife" got really hurt on the trip after falling down and cutting his palms on some rocks, and the whole time Scott kept telling us that his friends hates stuff like this. He hates outdoorsy stuff, he hates sports, and with all of these hates, you'd think he would be one of those really smart nerdy guys, but he hates school too. He reminded us all of that wife from that terrible Nick at Night show with the dad who never gets out of his recliner. But the best part is that when we got home and told Linda about our dinner she told us that in China homosexuality is illegal. (At this point in our trip Joe is still afraid to wear his "Think, its not illegal yet" shirt, so we were really worried about how open everyone was being, like maybe we'd never see Scott and his friend again. BTW, we know now its okay to wear his Think shirt. Nobody cares.) But the point I would like to leave you all with tonight is this:

(concerning homosexuality)

Its closed mindedness like this, my friends, that leads to overpopulation.

Posted by - Rain 06:19 Comments (2)

Discovery of the Far East!

OMG... This toddler is going down!

Joe and I didn't get seats next to each other on the flight because we were last min. flight additions, so he was about 10 rows behind me. Nice thing was that we both got isle seats. This was nice because we were two of only a handful of white people on the entire airbus. It was one of those planes that has 2 seats, an isle, 5 seats, another isle, then 2 seats again. Joe and I were in the 5 seat row on the right side isle. It was also one of those planes that has individual flat screen TVs on the back of every seat. After listening to the take off instructions in English, and then Chinese (nice to know that English is still first for the time being), we took off, and I figured out how to make my screen write in English rather than Chinese.

The stewards did that lame thing they like to do of serving drinks the min. the plane is in the air, so I waited for that, and then they left us alone for the next few hours. I never understood that. Why rehydrate us when we just got done chugging the last of our liquids before we got though security. Why not give us drinks after we've been on the plane for a while and could really use something to eat or drink. But oh well, I didn't mind b/c I talked Joe into buying a ridiculously priced water at the Honolulu airport before we took off.

Movie time:
Taking Woodstock (not a comedy like I thought it would be with Demetri Martin in it)

The Invention of Lying (first movie where Jennifer Garner was trying to be cute, but didn't convince)

Where the Wild Things Are (Joe really liked it, but it gave me a headache... the kid was ridiculously crazy, and I din't like any of the monsters).

Maybe I was just put out because of the screaming 4 year old one row back and to the right... he screamed the whole flight. Really, really, someone was murdering his mom in front of his eyes blood curtailing screams. I thought several times that I would actually put the kid out of his misery if I just killed him myself as an act of mercy. His mom was in my row with a new born baby, and the toddler was 1.) Not happy to have to be sitting with his extremely tolerant and understanding father so he kept screaming "Maaa Maaa! Maaa Maaaa!" in that voice that screeched, and then bellowed as well... he changed it up for us... isn't he sweet? 2.) He did not like the fact that he had to wear a seat belt when the stewardess told him to. Most of the time they just let hi go without, but when the pilot put the fasten safety belt sign... we we all knew what was coming. I knew what was going on because that family had Asian heritage, but they were from America.

This wasn't standard for the rest of the flight though. Most of them knew a little English, but the girl sitting next to me didn't know any at all. Joe came up to visit me occasionally, and one time the woman next to me pointed at me when he left, and then put her two pointer fingers together, then split them apart. She smiled widely at me and nodded, as if saying, "Yes? Do you understand?" I did not. She tried again several times, and I was pretty close to calling a stewardess to translate for me, but then I think I understood. So I pointed at myself, then I pointed back to Joe, then I put my fingers together and pulled them apart. Now it was my turn to smile and nod. She returned the smile, and then the charade continued. Now she was telling me that she was not with anyone, so if I would like, she could switch seats with Joe so we could be together (if only understanding our hand gestures was so easy). I told her not to worry about it, and that we were already 5 hours into the flight, so we are almost there (not really since the flight was 12 hours long... oh man).

We got a choice of American something or other, or Chinese noodles and chicken. I hadn't been to China yet, so I still thought I'd like Chinese food over the American something or other, so I got that. The food was really good and there was a lot of it. I saved the little lemon cake for later (b/c I probably wasn't going to get food again for another 4 hours).

New York, I Love You (Natalie Portman is bald again... she loves doing that)

Aladdin (The Indian live action version. I couldn't watch the whole thing. The beginning was just a bunch of bullies (do they have those in India? b/c I don't think they know how they act), making a kid rub a bunch of lamps b/c his parents named him Aladdin. Then one day when he is an adult he is forced to rub a lamp again and it turns out to have a real genii in it that loves doing big group dance numbers. I fast forwarded the whole move and just stopped to watch the big dance numbers. Otherwise it was unbearable).

Joe came up to me while I started to watch TV shows because I was getting nervous and couldn't watch just one thing anymore. The movies weren't so good now, and it was not distracting me from the fact that I am stuck in a small seat in an aircraft over the largest ocean in the world. Claustrophobic? Me? He told me that they were serving complementary wine in the back of the cabin and that they also had small sandwiches too. After 2 cups of wine and a cheese, lettuce, and bun sandwich... the fact that I was unable to exit the plane was alright. The show How I Met Your Mother however, still sucked. It has Willow from Buffy, Elliot from Scrubs, and Neil Patrick Harris (who hasn't heard of this guy considering how few things he's been in?); but even though it has these comedic actors in it... I really don't get how the show is funny. Not even when I'm drunk.

Law Abiding Citizen (Stressful movie, but I really like Gerard Butler, even though in this movie he is mad... both meanings).

Then the alcohol started to wear off and I couldn't persuade Joe to get me anymore (I don't like asking for things from strangers), I started to get nervous about when we would be arriving in Taiwan. We were flying over the international dateline, and I wasn't exactly sure what that meant about what time it really was to me, or to the people in Taiwan, but I was pretty sure that we took off an hour late, and we only had an hour and a half layover, and we were an hour in air longer than we should have been, so... what do you do when your connecting flight in a foreign country is missed and you don't speak the language? I asked a stewardess. She gave me a bunch of numbers that told me the new flight I was being transferred to since they already knew that we would be missing our connecting flight, but she didn't know which airline that flight number was for. Great.

Now the pilot told us that we would be starting our decent (a half hour early). I listened to Japanese radio the whole time as I watched the video feed from he camera positioned under the plane (so cool, especially b/c nobody liked having their window shades up... ass holes. Or maybe I'm just grumpy b/c the kid is screaming again... you have to wear you seat belts for landing... but did he have to wear it a half hour early?)

Off the plane we were directed with a bunch of other people taking our same flight to go to the such and such desk. We followed, and they all spoke to us in English. All the signs were posted in Chinese (first) and English (now second), and everyone who we asked for help spoke to us in fluent, accent free English. We got moved to the front of the line (thank god we were traveling to Shinjin and not Guangzhou b/c they split us up into those groups, and most people were going to Guangzhou), and we got our new luggage tag, and then we headed for the shuttle to terminal 2.

At terminal 2... we hit the real world. Nobody spoke English. Not with a heavy accent, not broken, not even understanding. We hadn't bought Joe a Chinese dictionary yet either, so now we were desperate, and no one could understand our questions about where we could buy one. Just get through security. We did. Then we got to the main shopping area of terminal 2's airport. Luckily the woman at the information desk spoke broken english. She told us which store had dictionaries and international calling cards... there were no prepaid cell phones in any stores at the mall. Damn. We did manage to buy calling cards though, and we did have RMB to use at pay phones (we switched out all our cash at the Honolulu airport), but Taiwan unfortunately doesn't take RMB. They do, however, accept visa. We bought Joe a dictionary too, but after reading it a little further, he realized it wasn't what he needed. It wasn't a dictionary (they didn't have one of those) but they had books about money, train travel, bus travel, etc. The phrase book we got was for bus travel b/c it seemed to have the most useful info that could be applied to other things. But after further investigation, it wasn't. So now we were back to only having 2 calling cards, no phone, and no Taiwan money. Then we saw the free internet stands. Yes!

We sent out emails to our parents and the Couchsurfers in Shinjin that we arrived in Taiwan and that we were catching a latter flight to Shinjin b/c our flight arrived after our connecting flight left. Then we surfed the internet some, looked up some phrases in Chinese, and then headed back to our gate. Now our new connecting flight that was to leave in one hour, changed its time to 2 hours. So we went back into the shopping area, sent out new emails about what time we would be hitting China, and we wondered around the mall and got some dinner (very nerve recking when you don't speak the language).

At some point I turned my cell phone on to check the time, and I received a text message. "Welcome to Taiwan: To call US dial 005-1-Area Code-Number. Voice rate: $1.99/min. Sprint Care: 005-1-817-698-4199." This was a surprise. Everyone, including Sprint, said that my phone wouldn't work over seas. Interesting... I guess now we have an emergency phone to use in case of... well... if we can't find a pay phone.

On another note, here are some cool things we found around the airport:

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Then we were on to China!

When we arrived in Shinjin it was around 9pm Shinjin time. We were supposed to arrive at 6pm, giving us daylight to find Linda's place where we were Couchsurfing. So at night, in the dark, with no one who spoke English, but many people who loved running up to us speaking Chinese, we tried to follow her instructions. She told us to get on the #7 bus from the Shenjin airport. We wondered around for a while, Joe told about 10 taxies "Boo Yaow", and then we saw a line up of busses. Walking through them was scary because Chinese people don't have traffic laws (as far as I can tell). I had my eyes open for Chinese numbers (one of the few things I can read in Chinese), but all the busses had Arabic numerals on them (isn't it strange that the entire world uses the number system invented by the Arabs? Just putting that out there). We found bus #7, and struggled asking how much the bus was. Eventually the bus driver took out money from his own wallet and showed it to us. Ahhh, you want 2 of the green slips of paper. Cool. Then we sat down and waited for the bus to fill up some more. The driver was asking us where we were heading (as far as Joe could figure), so we told him "Dafen" like Linda told us to, because she said that everyone in Shinjin would know Dafen the artist village. He did seem to know it, and it seemed like he would alert us when we were there (nice).

When we got off we started searching for the KFC. We got dropped off in what looked basically like downtown Chicago, and we didn't see any KFC. After wondering around in the big city (I know its big because we drove for an hour and a half through Shinjin... and the city didn't really end. It just keeps on going. So, feeling like I wasn't going to find a pay phone (and know how to use it) any time soon. I turned on my cell phone. "Welcome to China: To call US dial 00-1-area code-number. To call Sprint Care dial 00-1-817-698-4199." I dialed Linda's number. A British woman picked up the phone (I didn't know she was English). I told her where we were, and she tried to give us directions, but we were very lost, and it was almost 11:00pm now. She told us to just stay where we were and she would come and get us (thank God!)

While we waited we checked out the scenery of the place, and I don't know if this is on purpose or not, but I really liked the Feng Shui of the buildings across the street from us, so we took a pic.

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I liked how the lights were different colors. Some were blue, some yellow, some a warm orange, and they were scattered about the place as if it were done on purpose to make the building look nice.

About 10 min. later I spot our first white person since we came to China. She is about 5'3" with short blond hair, blue eyes, and a very strong, proper sounding English accent. Then she pointed out the buildings we just took a picture of earlier and said that was her apartment complex. She took us around the back of it (which was the front of it from our prospective on the street, but the front of the building led out into a central courtyard between all the apartments in that group, and we came in though the parking garage that smelled like trash. When we got to her door there was a sign written in Chinese and English that said that the person living there only spoke English. I wondered how she got along without speaking the language after being here for over a year, but I guess she knows a little, or enough to get by when she isn't with English and Chinese speakers. She told us on the way over that Shinjin is a very young city (only 30 years old), and most of the inhabitants are under 30 as well. So, many of them speak English because it is a course taught in schools now a days.

In her apartment we met her cousin Jason who was also staying with her, and I had to excuse myself. We left John and Chris's place at 5am Hawaii time. Then we took a 12 hour flight to Taiwan and got there at 4pm. Then we hit China at 9pm (according to China), and I really couldn't stay up another moment. Joe played nice for a little while, but I just hit to sofa in the computer room and I was out. And tomorrow, we told Linda that we would love to go on a hike with Jason and a bunch of other Couchsurfers. We had to get up at 7:30am to do this... and usually the fact that I needed the sleep would make me stay up all night, but not tonight. I don't even remember Joe coming to bed, and we were on a very narrow sofa.

Posted by - Rain 06:40 Archived in China Comments (0)

THE HIDDEN PASSAGES

A week of secrets

Explanation:

We left for this trip 08/27/2009, and we toured all over the continental United States, specifically the Southwest. But the whole time we did this, we had our eyes set on traveling to Asia. During our trip we hit up every Starbucks we could to get on their internet and post blogs on this, our traveller's point. However, California, Thanksgiving Day, 11/26/2009, was our last blog update before 01/10/2010 when we informed everyone that our identities were lost and our hearts were broken.

About a month later we began posting blogs again, but rather than picking up where we left off on Thanksgiving, we started with our present day story, and began working our way backwards. For the Big Island saga I started with the plane flight there, and ended with the plane back to Oahu. Today, I'm thinking that the week before our flight to the Big Island... will be a mystery. A secret from all those who don't know the magic words to unlock this block of time.

As for what happened in California and Hawaii between Thanksgiving and Christmas... well, I'm thinking I'll tell that story all in good time. But for now, I'm thinking we skip ahead a bit. You already know about what happened when we were trapped in paradise with that small matter about not having visas. So I'll let you in on a quick outline before we get to the point.

I. We got our passports back with China visa's inside and ready to be used
II. We booked a flight to China with a layover in Taiwan
III. John dropped us off at the airport and we had a 2 min. line, got checked in, and waited outside our gate
IV. We boarded our ticket to the discovery we had been searching for all this time

What is the title of this outline? The point I'm trying to get across?

Discovery of the Far East

Posted by - Rain 01:38 Comments (0)

The Big Island Part 3

Are these guys for real?

Thats right Phoebe! I'm talking about you!

But for everyone else reading this... I'll start somewhere that makes sense.

Trent drove us about 40 min. outside of Hilo down really bumpy and hilly roads. I got car sick. When we finally made it to his place (I have no idea how he found his place, it all looked like jungle to me), I couldn't believe it. He told us that he and his wife designed the house together, and I was thinking it was going to be built kinda half assed like many of the Hawaiian houses (I guess you don't need a house made of brick when a straw one lets in the Hawaiian breeze and you don't have to be afraid of the big bad winter). But this house, it reminded me of the houses we have back home, and it was lovely to boot. On the outside it was off white with a severely angled red roof that had its 2 plains come to a point, similar to a church's roof. Inside they led us to the first bedroom on the right. It was their eldest daughters room who was studying in college back on the main land (continental USA). Her room was pink with all sorts of quotes on her walls that were mostly from songs. Many of the song quotes I liked, but I was offset by the pinkness and the Jonas Brothers poster. Later her mom Erin would tell me that the poster was a practical joke she was going to play on a friend by giving it to them as a gift, but then decided that it was too cruel, so they hung it up in her room as a practical joke backfire. I have to admit, I liked her a little better after knowing that, which probably makes me a bad person because I've never even heard a Jonas Brother song. I've just seen the Jonas Brothers south park episode and heard about the drama with Hana Montana and and Tyler Swift, and that was enough for me to give them a bad wrap in my mind.

If you want me, the cherry on top
The pick of the pack, the creme du le drop
If you want me, you better do better than that
- Snow Patrol

Their other daughter Phoebe lived across the hall and was apparently still sleeping, waiting for us to arrive so she could make waffles. The rest of their place was a combination of some of my favorite houses back home. The high ceilings, spacious rooms, and marble counters (that Trent had cut and positioned himself) reminded me of Bob Steel's place (I still want to live there when I grow up... except for it being in Ohio); and the hard wooded floors covered with large warm colored rugs with the flat screen tv hidden in an elegant cabinet positioned in front of some very large and inviting sofas (like we don't know whats inside the cabinet with that setup) reminded me of Joe's parent's place. Nestled in the crook of the living room and kitchen behind huge glass doors was their pattio that they made the roof hang over just enough so they could have an entire outside room with tables and chairs that never get rained on even if the rain was slanting inward towards the house (a big thing to think about when Hilo isn't ins a draught). Trent led us out to the porch and brought us a huge bowl of lychees. These have brown skins that you peel off like an orange to reveal a translucent white, sweet yet strange tasting fruit that you sometimes see at Chinese restaurants floating around in water or light syrup and you've never been quite sure what it was. Then Trent yelled, "Phoebe, Rain and Joe are here!" and we heard a door open, close, then the shuffling of feet. I was expecting to see a 13 year old kid, but instead this really pretty teenager came outside who reminded me of Natalie Portman. Eyes still half asleep, and said "... So... Dad... am I making waffles?" "Yeah, I'd like a waffle, Joe? Rain?" I said that I was okay (but I was really very hungry... yeah, I'm a terrible guest like that), but Joe said that we could each use one. Phoebe, still half asleep, brought me out 2 and Joe 1. Then she put some pears on top, and I was in heaven (I miss real waffles made with real eggs).

Then Erin came out and we talked about our travels and what kind of music we like, and how Phoebe has allergic reactions to the sparkly vampire series (Twilight). Erin had to run to school or work, I can't remember anymore. I believe she had business degree, but then wanted to build her dream house so she learned a lot about architect and how you should never pay electricians before they do the work, and then she was going back to school for another degree, but I can't remember what, only that she was frustrated sometimes when she would have a lame paper to write and she wanted to have fun and hang out with us. Trent and Phoebe could hang out with us a lot though because he was on disability from being thrown out of an army helicopter with a none too soft landing, and worked part time as a swim team coach, and Phoebe was home schooled, so her parents allowed her to take some time off to meet couchsurfers. I used to be very against home schooling, but now I am thinking about home schooling after seeing how it worked for this family. She was very well adjusted and not at all creepy like some of the home schooled kids I knew growing up. And she had a really great relationship with her parents. I hope that if I ever have children, that I could make a family like theirs. It reminded me so much of my relationship with my mom and sisters, but without all the drama we blow up into from time to time. But maybe they just saved the drama for when the guests leave (not an uncommon practice). Joe said if anything he would want to send his kids to elementary school, and then home school them through junior high (its a learning experience sure, but we both agreed that they could have that learning experience latter in life after they get through their awkward phase).

Anyways, Trent and Phoebe took us to this warm spring tide pool that we had too take his 4 wheel jeep to because there is a 10 min. stretch at the end with no road, just lava rock. Phoebe couldn't go in because she had dance latter, but the rest of us got in and it was phenomenally better than cold spring water (but that might just be because I am a wuss).

(More photos from the internet... one day we will bring our camera back into use)

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And even though we didn't have goggles we could still see underwater because there wasn't a lot of salt in the water so you could open you eyes, and it was so clear and beautiful. Everything was distorted, but still wonderfully beautiful. Trent taught us a game that I realized was the reason I kept getting cut up while I swam. Its called make a mound of rocks in the middle of the pool for no good reason. You had to hold your breath the whole time while picking up a sisable bolder and running it to the mound of rocks and placing it on top. I did it a few times on different rock mounds, and then realized that this was why I kept thinking I was safe to swim backwards b/c I was in the middle of the pool... and then would hit rocks. My bad... my bad.

After we dropped Phoebe off at dance Trent went to swim team and Joe and I hit the outside market. On Saturdays and Wednesdays they have a market other than the farmers market that they have every day. I never had a lot of time to see the other half of the market, so we had fun wondering around looking at art (we had hopped to see Maya there, but she must have already left), clothes where we found Ciani and Jeremy a really great onesie for their new baby (that should be coming tomorrow in my present day and age... good luck guys! You'll do great! Remember your Kung Fu stamina and pain tolerance!), jewelry, and Joe found a stand that sold herbal fragrances. He has been on and off sick for the past few months probably more so than his entire life, so he settled for Rosemary which he is to dab on his upper lip anytime he is feeling sick or stressed for aroma therapy. I have to admit, it is also a pretty great cologne, but you only get that inviting smell if you give him a kiss (as it should be for any taken man *smirk*).

That evening Erin cooked a really big dinner for all of us and we stayed up uber late talking about the series that shall not be named (Sparkly Vampire), Harry Potter, Star Wars, the works. Erin had a really good point about Twilight (oops, sorry Phoebe... The Sparkly Vampire movie I mean). She said that she wanted to read the books before Phoebe read them so she would know they were okay (sure she did, she just wanted to be trendy... jk). And she didn't have a problem with daughters reading the books as long as they knew that this wasn't how real life actually goes (and being that both of her kids are well grounded, she didn't worry about them not figuring that out on their own). She did have one good thing to say about the books, and possibly the reason why they became so popular; she captures the teenage condition. When you are a teenager everything is life and death, take Romeo and Juliet for example. If they had survived a few years longer, odds are they would have grown apart and broken up. I say odds are because most people don't end up with their teenage sweetie. We find it wonderfully exciting in this society when we hear that 2 people have been together since high school. Its rare, because most teenage romances don't last. But when you are a teenager, you think that they are the one, and you can't fathom living without them! Like in that movie Dan's Second Love... I remember seeing posters for it in Europe, and thats what they called it. I have to look up what they called it in America. Hold on. Okay, Dan in Real Life, when his daughter screams "You are a murderer of love!" Stephanie Meyer really captures the emotional state of teenage obsession, but then she never grows out of it. Her characters are doomed to be teenagers forever, never maturing beyond the age of their faces. This is the reason why so many pre-teens connected with this vampire series and not the others that were actually well written (Ann Rice comes to mind), its because in those books the vampires get to become adults and stay pretty forever... every adults fantasy. But pre-teens. They don't want to grow up, because grownups are lame. They want to get a little older, and become what they idolize above all else... a teenager who gets to drive a car to school rather than take the bus. Am I being too hard on the followers of Twilight? Maybe I am. But when you hear about a friend of a friend who's life goal is to graduate high school, move to Forks, kill Bella and marry Edward... you start to wonder if you could ever be hard enough on the books.

So to all of those who are teenagers in their right minds who are sick of hearing about the Sparkly Vampire movie and would like to sit and watch Robert Patterson jump off a roof of a very high building with a bag of popcorn in hand... just remember, most adults think their job sucks (pun intended), and Robert Patterson cannot be held fully to blame for Edward:

"When I read it I was convinced Stephenie was convinced she was Bella and it was like it was a book that wasn't supposed to be published. It was like reading her sexual fantasy, especially when she said it was based on a dream and it was like, 'Oh I've had this dream about this really sexy guy,' and she just writes this book about it. Like some things about Edward are so specific, I was just convinced, like, 'This woman is mad. She's completely mad and she's in love with her own fictional creation.' And sometimes you would feel uncomfortable reading this thing." - Robert Patterson

My little sister tipped me off to this quote as a Robert Patterson fan (from Harry Potter, not from, well, you know).

We had only been with them for one day now, but I felt like we had been with them all week. It was the first home feeling I had felt in the past five months, and I don't know if I could ever express how much having that at this point in our journey meant to me. We were home. We weren't just staying over someones house where we felt like awkward guests or indebted freeloaders. They really made us feel like family, and when we finally settle down, their example is what I want to try to follow for when we have couchsurfers over. Everything except how trusting they were. This was one of the reasons we felt so close to them so quickly I think, but I'm worried that someday something may happen to them because of how they don't give you the benefit of their doubt. Let me explain.

The next day we slept in pretty late. When Joe and I woke up Erin had to take off for work or school, Trent had swim team he had to coach, and Phoebe had dance class. They knew that Joe and I were interested in going to downtown Hilo for some groceries, so they asked if we would like to drive with Trent to swim team, then take the jeep to downtown Hilo and drop Phoebe off at dance, then we could have the car for the rest of the evening because Erin would pick up Trent and Phoebe on her way home. They had only known us one day and they gave us the keys to their jeep! Now I know I come from an extremely sheltered life, but I still think that most people wouldn't trust a couple of strangers to drive their kid to class. Not because they may kidnap her or something extremely paranoid like that, but who knows what kind of driver they are. I mean, I have some friends I wouldn't be too comfortable asking to drive my kid around. But Erin was saying that if you live life aways afraid of what might happen to you, then are you really living? What kind of life do you have if nothing ever happens in it? I hate to admit it, but I fully agree with her. I just don't know if I am a stable enough person to go through with living that kind of open, loving, and trusting existence. But for material things, yeah, I think I've learned a lot about letting them go if someone is that desperate to take them. So sure, when we have couchsurfers of our very own, they can borrow the car. Let them take it if thats the kind of person they are. Maybe trustworthiness is even covered under some sort of insurance policy. But either way, life happens, and we will learn from it then rather than assuming we already know something about protecting ourselves from people out to do us harm.

After we dropped Phoebe off at dance we were supposed to take the jeep to the lava flow for one last try to see the lava, but then we realized that we didn't know how to get back to their house... bit of a set back since we also didn't have our new cell on us either. So we walked around downtown Hilo and bought some more childhood happiness, found a cuttion board for Stephanie and Champak (yes they are vegetarians, and they didn't have a cutting board!), and then headed back to her dance class to see if we could call her mom on Phoebe's cell. Erin gave us some good directions, but they told us to take Phoebe's cell with us just in case we got lost, and taking a teenagers cell phone... well, I think she handled it very well. Trent had tried to see the updates on the lava flow, but we couldn't seem to find any new information, so we just drove there and hoped. Unfortunately we got there and the same sign was displayed in front of the path of markers over the lava rock. No lava flow. This is the longest time period that the lava hasn't been flowing since it erupted in 1983. Dejected, but still hopeful (however that works), we started walking along the path of markers. 10 min or so later we came to a fenced in area, and there was no hiking allowed beyond that point. Several other people were there, looking out at the ocean a little ways in the distance. From this view point we could see both the ocean and the volcano, but most of the time it was hard to tell which mountain was supposed to be erupting. All the mountains looked the same from where we stood. So then we sat, and talked. About a half hour later it got dark and we decided we should start heading out soon. We did some Chi Gong and saw the occasional red light blink on the mountain similar to what you see when you look at the top of a cell phone tower, but we were told that we were actually seeing lava (yay?).

Then that evening after another welcoming dinner (Erin made some amazing mushrooms, and Joe burnt the chicken *smile and shrug*), we had a Halo tournament! We only had 3 controllers, so the person who did the worst at the end of every game would switch out controllers. I lost the first game, so I handed my controller to Phoebe. I play with the controls flipped, so while it would have been less annoying for Joe or Trent to hand over their controller, I could tell that neither of them were going to give in to reason so easily. So, even though Phoebe won the second game (by a lot), she still flipped the controls and let me play the next round. That round, I lost really badly again, as I did with every other round I played. I kept telling them that I needed a mouse and a keyboard, then I'd kick some ass. I don't think they believed me though. You see, growing up my dad wouldn't let us have gaming consoles because he said they'd rot our minds. He did however, let us have a computer. "Therefore, visa-vi, accordingly," I learned to play video games on the PC. So I did have Halo, and I was pretty good at it, but I just can't operate the x-box controller for the life of me... even if I flip the controls to be upside down. Erin was asleep because she had to get up early in the morning, and I was being kinda loud (I swear rather loudly when I get killed, and I was getting killed a lot), but it was Phoebe's turn, and she has a similar disposition, so one time Erin came out of her room and told Phoebe that she was being too noisy... and I kinda felt responsible. Like you could yell at your daughter to tell the guest something without being rude to the guest. Either that or she really did think it was always Phoebe (and again, I'm sorry).

And... we are sorry for kidnapping your dad. When we woke up the next morning Phoebe was doing some school work, and we had to eat some breakfast. Then Joe and Trent played in the garage for a few hours, and Joe came back with a soldering gun. I guess the two of them figured that it would be easier to solder inscriptions into the cutting board we got for the Hare Krisna house rather than engrave it with a knife. It worked like a charm actually. He burned the Hare Krisna mantra into the top, and then his philosophy about perseverance into the bottom (that phrase is becoming our white glove left behind by the jewel thief after the pink panther diamond). Then I used the gun to make a flute (poorly) playing musical notes (Krisna is depicted as a flutist), and in the area left from Joe's quote I made a Hawaiian flower being rained on (like my name). Then it was time to head over their house and drop off our gift, and Phoebe couldn't come. They said that it is not healthy for kids to go to Mauna Kea if they are under 16 years old. The altitude isn't good for them, so they were waiting to take Phoebe there until she is a little older. But I guess it wasn't too bad that we were leaving her all alone for the day because she did have a good deal of school work to catch up on.

At the Hare Krisna's, just as we were leaving the basement (I put the carving board on their counter since they weren't in), Stephanie and Champak waked in. It was good that we got to see them one more time and let them know that we were going to re-summit the mountain (and Trent borrowed some of the best limes he's ever had from their tree). Then... it was time.

Lets do this!

Stop number one, the visitors center, and the awesome red lighted restrooms to not spoil your night vision (red is the lowest frequency color light the human eye can absorb).

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Then we climbed, and what took us over an hour on our last climb... took us about 20 min in 4 wheel drive. Yeah, we left with plenty of time. We wanted to make sure we made it to the top so we could go inside the Keck again, but we also wanted to make sure that we didn't leave too early b/c we wanted to stay for the sunset (and it is really cold up there, so we didn't want to stay all day). The Keck closed at 4pm, and we were already out of the visitors center by 3pm, so we made pretty good time. And Trent mistakingly gave me his really nice camera (I rarely let it go). But he said that he just likes going up there, and that he's already taken all the pictures he wants of the place, so it was all mine. Cheers!

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That observatory that looks like a space helmet is the one that we met the technician who told us about people being allowed inside the Keck our first time we came to Mauna Kea.

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Above: Thats the Subaru on the left, and the Kecks on the right.

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Above: and those are the arrays that Horhay helped put up.

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Yeah, thats a pic. of me running (and I'm lightheaded from the altitude, lack of oxygen, etc.), but it was to take this picture, so you can imagine my excitement:

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Then it was time to get inside (and yes, it really is below 40 degrees F up there, and Trent is still in shorts).

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Unfortunately the mirror as perpendicular to us at the time, so it is really hard to understand what the photographs are of since you can't see the face of the mirror. But, oh well, maybe we were going to get inside the Gemini! Last time we didn't think our car would make it up to the second half of observatories at the very top, so we didn't even try. But Trent's Jeep could totally make it to the top, and one of the other swim team coaches works at the Gemini! So after running around the Kecks in a mad circle of pictures,

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1.) I get reprimanded for playing around with the camera when I should be posing,

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2.) I pose, but not the one Trent was looking for,

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3.) Good enough, now I can run around,

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we hopped back in the car again and headed for higher ground.

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Above: The actual summit of Mauna Kea (we didn't hike it b/c we decided to go to one of the highest lakes in the world instead... you'll see what I'm talking about in a minute).

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Above: Thats Joe and Trent putting the cover back on the Jeep, because its really cold driving with the top down. And behind them is the Gemini observatory.

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Below: And this is Joe running past the railings down some really loose soil and rock to fetch our map.

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We actually called someone on their little security box outside, and an astronomer came out and talked to us! It was getting late in the day, so now the observatories were changing from the tech shift to the science shift. But the guy Trent knew wasn't in at the moment, and the guy who came out to talk to us didn't catch on to the whole "we know a guy, so give us a tour" vibe. So, we had to settle for seeing the sunset from above the clouds instead.

But first, the lake. We would come back to Gemini to see the sunset b/c thats the highest point on Mauna Kea, but we had some time to kill before sunset. The Hawaiian's used to hike to with their baby's umbilical cords so they could toss them into this lake to bless the child's life. In the car driving to that spot Trent dared Joe to swim in it. Joe showed us that his fingers were already blue to weasel his way out of the dare.

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Trent finally maned up and put on some pants for the hike.

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And then Joe showed his true colors, and took off his shirts to do Kung Fu.

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And then it was time to hurry back up the hill for the token short Hawaiian sunset.

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And I did a Sun Salutation from Yoga, even though you are supposed to do that for sunrise... I figured you can salute the sun when it leaves too).

And then... sunset.

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Above: BTW, that mountain over there is Maui.

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And then we drove back down to the Kecks, and we stayed, and waited for the last bit of light to leave from beneath the clouds (we saw the first sun set, now it still needs to set below the ground), so we could see the stars from one of the best vantage points in the world (and no, none of our cameras were able to get the night sky shots... sorry).

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And while we waited we met a ranger up there who was hanging around to pick up a guy hiking to the summit of Mauna Kea. He started the hike from the base of the Mountain before sunrise, hit the Visitors center just before mid-day, and was now doing the finishing climb to the actual summit that we skipped in order to see the lake. From where we were we could see his little flashlight slowly make its way up the hill. I personally didn't think that it could be done in one day, and now I know first hand that the stories are true about how the Hawaiians would make the climb, hold a ceremony, and climb back down.

Okay, here are some cheat pictures I picked up off the internet. This is what we saw but couldn't show you ourselves:

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Early the next morning we invited them to come visit us when we get settled in Australia, and Erin told us that she would let us know that we would be coming for 5 days, and then only stay 3 (picking on us for our misunderstandings of each others time schedules). Then Trent drove us to the airport, and it was goodbye to The Big Island, and goodbye to Mauna Kea.

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