November 1 – River Cruise

It’s a rest day today.

Yesterday was a 5ish hour bus journey from Emei Shan to Chongqing. Chongqing is a huge, beautiful city and we got to spend a couple of hours there before boarding the river cruise. There are many many many skyscrapers. We had dinner in an area that was recreated to look like the historical residences of where people used to live, but is now markets and restaurants. It was build in memory of the way people used to live in the city; everyone now lives in apartment towers.

The river cruise is much like other cruises, or at least like the one I’ve been on. There are several dining room, a bar, a gym, a cruise director, etc. My group has elected to pay for upgraded meals so we can have an assigned table in a quieter dining room. There are also several extra dishes per meal compared to the un-upgraded option, and drinks are included at mealtime.

We have docked at the moment for an on-shore excursion. Most of the boat is participating but not me. I know that everyone is gone because I went for a wander and all the lights are off around the boat, and all services have shut down. Also, I only saw staff. Very quiet right now. I’m resting in my room with my roomie. We ate some vegetable crackers for a snack to hold us over until lunch at noon.

Fun thing: we are all woken up at 6:30am by misic playing over the announcement speaker that we can’t turn off, followed by daily announcements in Chinese. The Chinese announcements went on for five minutes, while we only got the date and weather in English. We have a printed sheet with the announcements we can read on our own.

I’m at the point of the trip where I’m tired and am ready to go home, (just shy of the two week mark, which is the usual time for this) but I still have a week of interesting things to see so I’ll make due. I’ve sent some laundry to be done, so that should help me feel better, especially if it comes back neatly folded. I always have a secret fear that I’ll never see my laundry again… but I filled in the sheet with my name and room number, so that should help.

October 24 – On the bullet train to Xi’an – in which I will reflect upon yesterday’s trip to The Great Wall

Part 1 -The Great Wall – October 23, 2019

Great Wall day started with my lying awake between 3 and 6am or so as I had not yet adjusted to the 15 hour time change yet. I think I fell asleep for a bit because I woke with a start when the alarm went off at 6:30.

There was a bus journey to the wall that took 2.5 hours. During the ride our guide gave is our first Chinese lesson: we learned how to count from 1 to 5. He then gave us a lesson on the geography of China and a history of the of the Great Wall (I’m going to refer to it as “the wall” from now on.)

He also strongly suggested to us that instead of hiking up the mountain that we pay to take the cable car to the start of the wall. Some people were curious about the hike, but I had spent the day before complaining about going up too many stairs, so I was getting my money counted-out to pay for the cable car.

After getting off the bus at the site of the wall, we appreciated the size of the hill going up to the wall, and why they cable car was a good idea. To my eyes it looked like the height and steepness of the blue chair at Mt Washington- though it’s probably not as tall. I have no sense of these things and it’s been a few years since I’ve been skiing. Either way, it had a gondola type cable car that looked like it went straight up. Everyone got tickets.

**Side note: I’m really digging a packet of Prawn Crackers as I write this. I’ve had them before, but these are special because I have purchased them in Beijing. I’m not having any troubles eating in China so far. The only problem is when buying snacks in convenience stores I can’t read any ingredients. I’m being pretty cautious but I do ok: some dried fruit, fruit cocktail, fresh bananas, instant noodles. I tried some “purple sweet potato bean paste lunch buns” that turned out to be safe but they were really sweet. I’ve left a mostly uneaten package back in Beijing because I didn’t think I’d be able to finish them.**

The cable car slowed down but didn’t stop so we had to load into a moving car, and then whoosh started going really fast up the hill. Some of my tour mates in the car with me were scared but I wasn’t.

The Great Wall is long and winds up the mountain like a dragon. There are gates along the way that act as markers, 1 through 20. The cable car deposited us at gate 14 (to be fact checked – I can’t remember), which, according to our guide is the best section as it has been nicely restored.

It was a beautiful day for a walk on the wall. It was sunny and the sky was (mostly) clear. Entering through the gate, I was overwhelmed with the sight of the wall winding up a mountain of trees and vegetation just starting to turn colour for the fall. Also: many many people having their photo taken against this view.

The wall is a crazy walk. There are nice smooth bits but these come between steep steps, low steps, gates, and groups of people holding photo shoots. I had some trouble going down some of the high steps because the were steep and high and had nothing to hold onto! I would ‘bum down’ at the very top and then I’d be fine after that.

Our guide told us to walk at our own pace, and we didn’t have to walk the whole wall if we didn’t want to: we could do whatever our bodies could handle. He also explained how the last (maintained) section of the wall was the steepest.

It took about 1/2 hour to walk to the last gate before the steep part. I was walking with a woman from my tour group, and we decided to have a break and a snack before attempting the steep part. We were both secretly thinking to ourselves that we might not go up, but after a fee minutes we started up.

The steep part of the wall is a big staircase made up of stairs of varying widths, heights and depths. It is covered in people of varying levels of fitness going up and coming back down.

My tour mate and I went up pretty slowly, stopping to rest quite often. Sometimes I’d sit down to look back – it gets very very high and I didn’t want to go into shock when I got to the top.

I did have a mild panic attach around 1/2 way up as I thought about how high I was and how tired my legs were getting, and worrying I wouldn’t make it back down. I stopped thinking about that and kept going.

OMG the last part of the stairs to get up to the last tower was nearly straight up and you get up by climbing up high, and super narrow steps. Some people can climb these like normal steps. Other people climb them with hands and feet like a salamander up a wall. I used the latter method.

At the top of the “last” tower there are a lot of people celebrating, catching their breath and taking photos of the view. It is not really the last tower, bit is the end of the section that has been restored and it maintained.

I was out of breath and shaky from being tired, but also from being terrified of the height. I was OK though.

** Pause in writing to watch scenery from the train, have a snack, listen to a podcast, have a wee snooze, and to take a walk along the train to find a western-style toilet **

We spent a little while at this tower to rest, and to greet other members of our group who had already made it, and who arrived while we waited. The mountain view was beautiful and it was nice to take the time to admire it while catching my breath.

Another thing I did here was to look down at the stairs I had just climbed, and felt a bit nauseous about having a go down them again. Very steep and very high. I didn’t cry. Another of my tour mates assured me it was perfectly fine to ‘bum down’ if needed and go very slow.

For the very steep first part down, which I had just come up using my hands as well as my legs, I took many many very deep breaths (Dad suggested “take a deep breath and go” as his advice before I left for my trip and I applied it here) and bummed down very slowly for the first bit, and then a little quicker for the last few steps.

My legs were very shaky on the rest of the way down from over-use. I’m sure everyone could see how much they were vibrating. I had to sit down a lot to rest, and I clung to the edge a lot of the way down. At some point, however, as it got lower and the stairs were a bit more even I figured out that just focusing down at the stairs immediately in front of me helped- not looking up at the view that might be distracting and maybe make me miss a stair. I made it down safely.

The walk back along the wall was easy after doing the steep part, but a bit annoying with shaky-tired legs. Just walking fast seemed to be the solution.

After we finished walking down the wall and met up with some other members of our group we found a magical cave that was all lot up like a fairyland inside. It was a tranquil place to recover. It was also nice and cool – it was a warm day.

Then lunch at the wall, the bus back to the hotel, and the rest of the evening was spent exploring Beijing with my group – our last night in the city.

Part 2 – On the Bullet Train to Xi’an – Present day.

I’m on the bullet train between Beijing and Xi’an. It’s a 5.5 hour ride, giving me ample time to write. I was worried for a whole because I needed to pee, and I had only seen a squat toilet at the front of our carriage. But it’s ok! I walked back a few carriages and found a western toilet. There was even toilet paper! (I had taken a supply of my own just in case.) I was good to get up and stretch my legs.

In Xi’an the plan is to get organized at our hotel and the have a walking tour of the Muslim Quarter. Then dinner, I hope. I’ve heard dumplings are the thing here.

October 21 – McDonalds on Wangfujing Pedestrian Street

1:15pm

It’s jet lag day and this little McDonald’s hamburger is really satisfying. I’ve been craving one since I saw a McDonalds during my walk this morning. Of course they were only serving breakfast this morning so now I’m back at lunch time.

I was out too early this morning, walking along Wangfujing Street (it’s a pedestrian shopping boulevard – 15 min walk from my hotel) and nothing was open yet. It didn’t matter: I had to bail anyway to go back to the hotel for a lie-down. Jet lag! So tired! Can’t sleep!

Chinese McDonalds! Where the kiosk lets you make your order and sends it to the kitchen before showing you half a dozen forma of payment that you don’t have! Not even an option for cash. Lucky this is a tourist area and the nice girl came up making cash signs and prompted the machine to let me pay that way (like at home, I took my little slip to the cashier). For revenge, I paid with a 100 yuan note. Haha I’m such a tourist. (My order was 26).

There’s like, totally a mall connected to this McDonald’s. I’m going to look at it.

Part 1: Going Back to Spain!
I’m on my way to Spain today. And I was on my way yesterday, too, because air travel is messed up with timezones and such. But other than this, I’m “whoo!” off to Spain again.

This trip is labelled “Jerez 2016” in my email folders. Jerez being the city where the flamenco fesival is and where I will be spending 3 weeks taking dance workshops and watching shows and drinking sherry. The 2016 part is to distinguish it from “Jerez 2012” because this is my second trip to the festival and to Spain.

My first trip was amazing, so of course I would want to go back. But also, I set myself a goal the last time. I said to myself, as the trip was ending in 2012, that I would work hard at my flamenco classes back in Vic, and that when I go back to Jerez I would take workshops at the next level (basico classes instead of iniciation). So here I am, and I’m registered for 2 basico classes over the next couple of weeks. So I’ll see how that goes.

Part 2: Airplane Rides
Overnight airplaine rides mess me up. BUT I add another layer of sleepy-time each time I go. When going to Vietnam, I got the good advice from my manager at work to use a face mask and earplugs. When used together, these create a bubble of peaceful sleepy-time. Last trip, on the flight home from Shanghai, my mum had herbal jet lag pills, that conked me right out (shortest 12 hour flight ever!). This time, encouraged by how well I slept last time, I got myself a neck pillow. So the 9 hours from Van to London was pretty quick today (yesterday? It’s all one big long day when you’re travelling somewhere). I didn’t even watch a movie.

Part 3: Present context
On the plane from London to Madrid. One more plane after this to get into Jerez.

I’m listening to Crosby Stills Nash and Young!

OMG I had some food issues. Somehow my full request for a vegan meal wasn’t “logged” properly by the airline. So I got my supper last night, but there was no breakfast this morning. (I’m not vegan, but I’m allergic to dairy, and vegan is a safe choice). The attendant offered me an apple, but I declined because that didn’t seem sufficient. I pulled out my backup granola bar, and one of my travel companions offered up her rice cakes and jam, so that was OK. But then the attendant came back with a big plate of fruit, along with the apple, and an energy bar. (On a real plate with metal utensils – so from first class). She said something along the lines of this being all she could pull together for me. But it was whole tray of food! It was lovely, and I flagged her down later to thank her again.

I made it to the ferry, where it is super loud! I am glad to have some knitting with me because I don’t think I would have been able to hear music or a movie above the din. I didn’t try reading but who knows. The people around me were speaking Italian so it wouldn’t have been to difficult to concentrate (had they been speaking English, I totally would have eavesdropped and therefore not paid attention to my book).

I’m tired. Amd getting hungry. Oh! Total bummer: I brough two slices of pizza to eat on the trip, but I ate a third slice at home and it gave me a tummy ache! Not wanting to feel gross on my trip, I threw away the other two once I got on the ferry. Fun fact: ferry doen’t have compost. I know this because I asked, having a prime contribution. But no.

My throat keeps getting sore. Maybe when I consume sugar? Not pleased with this. I’ll rest today as I have no plans for after work today. I’ve prepared myself an echinacea tea.

I watched a lot of TV on Sunday. As a result I went to the library yesterday and got a couple of books, one of which I plan to read. I tried one of them but didn’t like it much so I shall return it. Too American, but I half sort of expected to not like it because of this. It had a good premise, and from the point of view from a woman with schizophrenia, but no go. I know maybe I should read more than a chapter, or half a chapter before making my decision, but whatever. I don’t want to waste my time.

I want to watch a movie called “Hyde Park on hudson” this evening and eat salmon spaghetti. My mum bought me gluten-free pasta at Costco so I might try that. Yes. I’ve just decided that I shall, too super make sure that I feel good tomorrow.

They brought me some fruit bread, too, mum and dad. I was supposed to take it at Christmas but everyone forgot so I have it now. I had a couple slices last night after dance. They were covered in lots of luscious butter that coated nicely my mouse and chair when I dropped. Hoo. Still tasty. I’ll save the rest for next week when I have no dance and will eat what I please for several days.

I was totally too busy last week. One might think that having Monday as my flex day would have helped but it did not. It started then with dance Monday night, followed by four days of work as is normal, but instead of having Tuesday and Thursday evenings off, I had plays to go to. They were good,  but I guess I didn’t really think about having so much to do in my week when I booked them. It was a long week where I didn’t spend much time at home. I was pretty tired by Friday and had a pretty miserable second dance class – I sort of got my second wind half way through I guess but I was super tired after. Then on Sat I had ballet closely followed by a visit from Susan and Amber and Mia. And in between there I also sewed the edges of my duvet cover to make it fit better. I had about 1/2 hour rest on my chair on Thurs before I went to dinner, but I didn’t get back there until noon on Sunday. After Am and Mia were gone. Fun times but exhausted.   This wasn’t helped by me getting up at 4 in the morning on Sunday to watch Canada in the gold medal hockey game. I snoozed a bit during the third period and Am and Mia (who were in my living room) slept through from sometime in the second period right through until a normal getting up time around 9.

This week I have much less to do, though I might do flamenco class on Wednesday again. Not to much hardship on my part since it’s right after modern. The only problem is if I am too tired.

Actually it’s not so bad that I was busy with things to do in the evenings last week as the Olympics were on so there weren’t too many shows to watch anyway. I might have had to read a book or watch a new show or something. I tried watching a new show yesterday. I chose it based entirely because it’s from Australia. I watched part of the first episode. It was actually a soapy medical drama that started in 1998 so it was not only cheesy but filmed on square video that didn’t fill up my monitor as well. Not that this last factor would stop me from watching if it was any good. If it was any good I may not have noticed. I only watched the first half of the first episode so I guess it might get better. I’m not going to bother finding out because the Olympics are over so presumably my regular shows will be back.

I forgot my oatmeal this morning. Rather, my oatmeal was in the same type of container as my hummus so I had hummus for breakfast instead. I sort of remember thinking as I put the hummus away last night that I mustn’t mix them up in the morning. This wasn’t enough of a warning for me when I was rushing to leave.

I couldn’t go to dance today because I’ve strained all the muscles in my left leg. I did this at the last class, of course, and I didn’t notice it was bothered until yesterday, and today it really hurts. Only when I walk though, and try to stand up from sitting in a chair. So lame. (Literally!)

I have no plans for the weekend except to clean my bathroom, which is getting crusty (I think that’s the right word for it…) Also I want to make something with the tomatoes that my parents brought me last weekend. A sauce, perhaps, or many many bacon and tomato sammiches. You may guess that I am leaning towards the later, and you would be correct. Or hummus and bacon sammiches, maybe, since those are, technically, healthy, and I enjoy them a great deal (though not as much as the bacon version). Pepper is an important ingredient in either recipe.

I’ve been reading “Divisidaro” by Michael Ondaatje. I compare all books by Mr. Ondatje to “The English Patient,” which I read when I was nineteen, so there’s never any comparison, really. BUT, he seems to get more “accessible” as he goes (from one book to the next) so that means that more people will want to read them. So that’s good. But for me it means that some of the mystery is lost. I haven’t read anything (ANYTHING) earlier than TEP so I should probably go back and see what he was like before. I’d give an example, but my copy of TEP is in Duncan (I hope). Later.

I’ve also recently watched “Still Life – A Three Pines Mystery” on the CBC television. I only watched it because it was flashed on their online watching site and I was all “hay! I like mysteries! And it’s Canadian!” (this is how I talk). It took me a few tries to get through it because I kept wandering off in the middle and/or going to bed. After watching a lot of British mystery shows of late, it was refreshing to have a similar set-up only with Canadian accents. (It was like that time I went to England and was so happy to hear Peter Mansbridge talking on the airplane on the way home.) But the novelty of this wore off pretty quick as I kept watching and noticing CBC obviousness (dude’s impatient… so he Looks At His Watch) and some overly dramatic acting.

How To Make Corn on the Cob
By Lindsie

Ingredients

  • Corn (on cob)
  • water

Story:
I grew up with my dad growing corn every summer, and while I don’t like corn for most of the year, I quite like it in late August when my it’s from my dad’s garden.  When I lived at home I’d eat a quite a bit if it was a good year and get sick of it.  Since I don’t live at home anymore, I might get one or two cobs a year if I go for a visit at harvest time.  It is the best corn in the whole world.

My parents lately brought me a whole pile of fresh produce from the garden.  In this pile was two ears of corn just for me.  What a good idea! since it’s the only corn I ever eat.  After they left I realized I’ve never cooked corn on the cob before.  But I remember being around at home when corn on the cob was being made, so I supposed I could figure it out.  (By this same logic I have also boiled chicken bones for soup and could potentially build a rock wall.)

How to:
Remove corn cobs from their casings.  Bring water to a boil in a pot big enough for the corns to have a comfortable hot-tub. Plop naked corns into the boiling water and leave for seven minutes.

Remove corn from water with tongs (or big holey spoon if you usually survive without tongs) and eat.  Leave the water in the pot to cool and pour on your garden or plants.

I like to eat my corn on the cobs plain because this is how it tastes best. Also, I don’t like getting greasy if I use butter.

12:45, Spain time — Last few minutes in Spain.  There is a flight delay due to weather in London, but we should ould make our connection OK as there is an hour and a half buffer.

Note: sitting on a plane when it’s not moving is not a satisfying experience.

5:23 Heathrow time — OK so I should have been on a plane by now heading home,  but the trip has been delayed.  First it was delayed by half an hour (it was supposed to leave at five, but delayed until 5:30 like.)  Now it’s delayed until 8.

6:40 Heathrow — still here but plane only delayed until 7:45 now.  We talked to the nice lady at the British Air hel desk and she provided a solution to our not able to make the last ferry: we’ll go to the British Air help desk in Vancouver and they’ll find us some overnight accommodation. She also gave us voucher for food. New best friend.