Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's been a while...

Sorry! But really, it's a good thing. It means I'm busy and not bored. Not a whole lot is new either. We have been trying to sort out the work thing because it has turned out a little more complicated than planned. Miscommunication seems to be a big issue with the people I'm working with. In my opinion, it's probably because they are academic types that have difficulty wrapping their heads around logistics, but I may already be biased about that. As soon as some kind of plan is devised for me I will be fine. I just can't understand why anyone would think it was a good idea to seek out an intern if they couldn't even outline a mandate or overall goal for them. I double checked the definition of intern just to make sure I wasn't confused about this. According to the internet, an intern is definitely supposed to have some kind of work assigned to them. So I'm not crazy. As some of you are probably aware, it wouldn't kill me to spend a year here just kind of doing what I'm doing now (not much) and learning Chinese and hanging around and traveling. But that doesn't look very good on a resume, nor will it look very good on my reports back to Students for Development when they ask what I did with the money they gave me to come here. So it really is kind of an important problem that I need to get sorted out. My people at U of T are being awesome at trying to sort this out and I feel pretty confident that something will end up working out.

In other news, Chinese lessons are getting intense. Lots of work. But it means I'm learning it faster. She is making us learn the writing too. Which means I may be able to order food in restaurants soon. Which would be nice. I accidentally ate a HUGE chunk of garlic the other day, spit most of it out, and spent the rest of today and the day after feeling terrible. I maybe know how to pronounce the word now (although my pronunciation tends to be so terrible that nobody understands me) for garlic, so I should be able to avoid it in the future. Also, in a taxi yesterday I actually conversed with a taxi driver for about 5 sentences. I was incredibly excited.

I have friends (only a few)! Yay! Locals. I don't trust the expats here. They all have questionable motives for being in Xining. I am sticking with the locals for now. They take me out and order me drinks and get me on the right bus to get home. It's good. I think that from a combination of the beer being awful quality and the altitude being so high hangovers are much worse here though. So I can't go out and then get up in time for class like I can in Toronto. I also can't skip class like I can in Toronto. I explained the concept of skipping class to some of my friends and they were like "WHAT!? That's allowed!? We would never do that, just not go to class for no reason at all!" I try to tell them at least one thing that blows their minds every time I see them haha. They want to come back to Canada with me.

I have been kind of looking around for a new apartment, since everything I do is on the other side of town. I will definitely have to move by January, since that's when my roomates leave and I have NO desire to be in this big apartment in practically the middle of nowhere (it's like living in Scarborough) without them. I'm not hustling too much though since I really do enjoy their company. It's so nice to be able to come home and be Canadian all over the place after speaking Chinglish all day and worrying about being respectful and appropriate with everyone. Apartments here are incredibly cheap so I am resisting the temptation to get a REALLY nice one just to myself. For here it's very expensive, but in Canada money it would only be like $185 a month. That's so cheap...BUT, I could also live in a less nice place and pay only $60 a month in rent. Whatchya'll think? Splurge? Save for travel plans?

I maybe am getting closer to having a research topic. The problem here is that EVERYTHING that is interesting is also sensitive. I was thinking that looking into how NGOs function in an environment where they aren't really even allowed to touch public policy would be cool. Locals I have talked to think it would be cool too, but my roomate has warned me that it may be too sensitive of a topic. Here, you don't worry about getting yourself in trouble, but rather getting anyone who is connected to you in trouble. They can't call their embassy and jump on a plane to Canada. So I may have to rework this so it's less political. But it's the best idea I've had so far, so I'm getting somewhere (I hope?)

I realized a few days ago that I miss the diversity of Toronto. First it was "I miss seeing white people." Then I was like "Man, I miss black people!" Shortly after I was like "I miss ALL the people" (except the Chinese...there's lots of them around haha). But yeah. I will never again take for granted the sheer variety of different kinds of people in Toronto. I swear it.

My roomate just opened the window and apparently it is snowing. Toque power time? I think so.

Okay. That is an update just so you're aware that I haven't forgotten about Canada. It's long again!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Dear family and family of friends,

These are dumplings. They are delicious, and widely available in the GTA, and unless they poison me I love them. Just for clarification.

Working on getting some work. Have maybe made friends. Almost done the second season of X-Files. Will divulge more at a later date.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rebgong Adventure

This one is journal style, written over a couple of days. I'm back in the city now

So, I am going to blog this trip in installments, because it's been that awesome so far, and tomorrow is supposed to just bet better. And I can't access blogspot from my hotel room internet, so this is just the way it's going to have to happen. To start off, my sweater smells like yak. Yak smell has become imprinted on my U of T sweater. How cool is that? Now I will tell you how this came to be.
The first week of October is some big holiday in here, although nobody I know has been able to give me a clear answer as to what it's about or what it's for or anything. Typical. Anyway, we all get 10 days off school, and "work" too. Work is in quotations because what I have done thus far should not be classified as work by almost anybody's standards. Hopefully that will change post-holiday. Anyway, my roomates and I decided to take a little trip to the next town over. There is a big monastery here, which we saw today.

I took a lot a lot of pictures, so ya'll should be satisfied. We unfortunately weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the temples themselves, but that just makes common sense. Even I don't like risking incurring the wrath of gods nobody can prove don't exist. Common sense, right? They were beautiful though. Breathtaking. Tibetans like colour and goooold. And HUGE statues. Come visit, I will bring you here. For sure.
Other reasons this town is better than Xining: everything to see and do here is within walking distance of the hotel.The hotel itself is great! Hot water, internet, TV, western toilets (wait till you see what I peed into at the monastery heh heh) clean, safe rooms...that kind of stuff. People are friendlier, and taking a great interest in us. While we were eating our breakfast dumplings (awesome right?), 5 people just stuck their heads into the restaurant, and then started talking to us about anything. Another reason it's awesome: this is a major trading post for nomads. Nomads are sweet. I'm not even sure if I can explain why...they just look so cool. I really like TIbetan jewellry...big and bright. I am going to come home with lots of that stuff.
Oh yeah. The reason my sweater smells like yak is probably because this whole town smells like yak. Because it's awesome.
Okay, that was the important stuff for now. I will upload this along with the second one after tomorrow, because I'm sure that's going to be saweeet.

Breakfast was awesome. No MSG, no grease, no was glorious. And the best bread I've had in China yet. Most of the time they fry their bread instead of baking it, which leaves it pretty greasy. This bread reminded me of the bread in Italy...a little hard and dry, but insanely wholesome tasting. So yeah, that in itself was awesome. Then we climbed the mountain. It probably took us about an hour to get to the hermitage at the top. So we made it to the top, where there is a hermitage that some famous lama (I can't remember which) used to meditate at for long periods of time.They are renovating it, so there were a bunch of workers, as well as three junior monks looking after the temple thing. Apparenlty they rotate every 10 days so taht the same three aren't stuck up there forever.