Dan Dot Blog

Based on a true story

Sad Pandas and Happy Dan

I spent the evening tonight visiting Hou Hai, a kind of touristy lake-ish thing surrounded by bars, kitschy shops, and fun people. It had some great and interesting food. I had some tasty strawberry mousse, ate some kind of tasty pancake-ish thing that took forever to cook, and a bunch of crab-apples on a stick. Crab-apples are kind of yucky, but these ones were glazed in sugar, so that was cool. I could only eat about 4 of the approximately 500 crab apples on my 3 RMB skewer before I was ready to throw up a sugary mess, but it was a fun ride while it lasted. It also here that I got what will surely be one of my greatest travel mementos of all time.


People who know me well know that I have no special love for pandas. Their Chinese name, though admittedly cute, is stupid, too. Bear cat? Come on. They’re lazy, dirty, kind of mean, and yet they’re totally idolized. In all honesty I don’t have any thing against pandas, but I feel like I need to do my part to balance out all of their undeserved love. So imagine the great opportunity for irony when I saw people walking around wearing these adorable Panda heads! Ultimately I think the hat looked better on my friend Xiaobei, but I won’t post the picture of her wearing the hat so that I can continue looking cute in mine.

I’m just wrapping up work in Beijing now. Tomorrow will be my last chance to do tourist stuff in Beijing so I’m planning on visiting the Temple of Heaven, Tienanmen Square, and maybe the Forbidden City. I think its name in Chinese is much less exciting because whenever I say it in English nobody knows what I’m talking about until I point at a map, and they dismissively say something in Chinese.

Tomorrow night I’ll catch a sleeper train bound for Shanghai where I’ll hang out with Connie (and do laundry, woo!) for a couple days, then catch a train out to Suzhou. There I’ll meet Izzie, a friend of my friend Jing who will show me around Suzhou. I’ll stay there for a couple days then visit Hangzhou for a weekend. Hopefully this time around in Hangzhou I won’t be sick and my friends there won’t have to take care of me. After that it’s back to Shanghai for a day or two before I fly to Hong Kong where I’ll bum around my friend Frankie’s apartment, visit Kowloon and HK, and maybe poke around the Chinese University of Hong Kong and even sit in on a lab meeting or two. After that it’s back to Chicago for a mini-vacation with my awesome fantastic buddies Adam and Mary Kate, and then just a short ride on the Megabus back to Ann Arbor. I think I counted it up, and I’ll sleep in a total of 6 different beds on this trip before I make it back to my own. So far I’ve only been in one hotel, so it’s time for my vacation to heat up.

Because I’ll be away from the lab for 2 whole weeks (woah!) I’m going to try to assuage my work-guilt by continuing to, uhm, work remotely. Honestly I think travel is a good chance to get some good projects done on days when I don’t feel like going out. That way I can work where there’s nobody to bother me, and also not feel like a total bum when I feel lazy and don’t want to take advantage of all the awesome adventures that are waiting just beyond my hotel doorstep.

In my rambling narration to a crummy video I took on my way home tonight, I mentioned that being in China, at least where I am, kind of feels like staying at camp. The bathrooms are kind of crummy and gross, the food ranges from awesome to bizarre, not everybody is nice to you, and the paths leading around are often uneven and littered with random stuff, but despite all of the wacky environment, everybody bonds, you collect all sorts of cool and cheap tchotchkes wherever you go, take tons of pictures, and promise everyone you’ll write, but usually don’t.

I had this clever plan to start a “days without sickness in China” calendar/counter on the side of my blog, but unfortunately it would be reset at 0 at the moment. Although I’m 99% sure this is not the kind of trip-ending serious illness I had last time and is instead just a lame-o cold, I was pretty freaked out at first when I felt myself getting a sore throat a couple days ago. I spent virtually all of yesterday in my hotel room, reading Malcolm Gladwell (on Blink right now), watching the Cleveland Show on Hulu, or eating KFC that Jie graciously brought me. I only went out for about an hour for lunch, and when I got back what was supposed to be a nap quickly turned into bedtime. I’m glad that was the case though, because I quickly finished the sore throat phase of my head cold and have moved on to waning congestion. My appetite has also resurged which usually means I’m getting healthier.

Well, I should probably sign off and get some sleep to try to finish my recovery. I’m starting to sneeze rapidly, so that’s probably my cue to take some nyquil, which I happily brought in great quantities with me this time.


April 11, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Going home

I’m on the plane headed back for the US now. It’s about 7 AM in Detroit, so I’ll be landing in just a few more hours. I’m still feeling pretty healthy: although my throat is feeling dry, I’m sure it’s just from general airplane dryness. The flight has flown by so far thanks to some crappy in-flight movies and less crappy DVDs lent to me by my seatmate, a nice guy headed home to Milwuakee. The plane is much less full going this way, or perhaps it’s just the regular load now that the inaugural hubub has died down. Of the five exit row seats in my area, only two were occuppied, but a guy swooped in to take one. it’s very comfortable with so few people, and the few who are here have been very friendly and amiable. it is nice to speak English with native speakers again, but a little strange. I’ve found my communications with flght attendants on the plane terser and more simple. I rephrase my requests to be simple, but instead they are awkward and ambiguous as I point at my finished breakfast tray and say, “trash?” Maybe I’m just not such a great communicator, at least when I’m trying to be polite.

the hotel was ok. not nearly as nice or aesthetically pleasing as my boutique hotel in Hangzhou, but for an 8 hour stay, it suited me. I just wish it hadn’t been so expensive. I knew I wanted to book some place decent and quickly, but usually I’m more of a bargain hunter than that.

i could and perhaps will write more about my morning later, but it isn’t spectacularly interesting. I’m getting tired now and will try sleeping again. More once I’m back in Michigan.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment

Vegetarian Food and Foot Massages

First off, apologies for the failure of the word press blog. Despite my best efforts it seems that I’m not going to be able to access my WordPress blog in any shape or form while I’m behind the Chinese firewall. I’m actually writing these journals in Evernote and don’t really have a publication destination in mind, but I’ve got to keep them somewhere until I do. That’s especially a bummer since I had written a fairly long post in my iPhone which is now trapped in my WordPress app. Oh well. I guess you’ll learn about the beginning of my flight after I return to the US.
Last night was pretty fun. A driver for my dad’s company met me, my dad, and a coworker to take us to Pudong where our hotel is located. Although I was pretty much ready to crash, my dad talked me into going out to meet some other coworkers who were going to an American style bar in the restaurant. I was initially really creeped out by the very friendly girls in the bar who I thought were soliciting me pretty hard, I quickly realized they were just waitresses who were working a pretty hard sell. I met some nice people but was so spaced out that I wasn’t pretty social, downed a few beers and pizza, then came home and crashed.
Most of today was spent, sadly, in the hotel room feverishly working on my conference poster that needs to get presented on Friday. Fortunately, some of the organizers have offered to print it for me, but I think I need to get it to them very soon if I want that to happen. I was going to work on it tonight but just have no energy and am hoping I get a jetlag energy bump at about 5 AM somehow.
After remaining my own prisoner in my room and sadly not eating anything but a pizza breakfast all day, I was starving by five. Along the way I got a lot of work done on my poster, though it still needs some more, but also made contact with a number of friends and colleagues in China via cell phone. For those that don’t have it, my China cell number is +86 15921993342. Don’t call that from the US unless you want a big fee.
Around 6 my dad got back from work and his friend and former coworker came to meet us and take us out. We went shopping at an ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL department store in Puxi and then to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner. Knowing that nothing I would eat would have real meat, I tried to get the wackiest stuff I could on the menu, like “two kinds of jellyfish” and “deep fried sparrows.” It was a lot of fun. The conversation with Kathy got really interesting when we started talking about inter-cultural understanding, democracy, and education. It’s realy nice to have one insider’s view. I get lots of views of China from Chinese friends in Ann Arbor, but the opinion seems a little different when people are actually in China.
After dinner we went for a foot massage which was super cool. We had our feet soaked in big barrels of herbed-water while we got very intense back-massages. It featured a lot of lymph node manipulation in the neck, which made me feel a little nauseous, but was otherwise very pleasant. The massage came with tea which was nice and also a cool green bean dessert soup. We continued interesting conversations during the foot massage, which was intense, but not too much. I’m realizing my Putonghua really blows, but I’m determined to work on it.
When we finished the foot massage, we took a cab back to our hotel and Kathy helped me to look over some maps and preprinted some “Please take me to…” cards in Chinese. I think tomorrow (after finishing my poster!) I will go to see some museums in downtown Shanghai and just sort of wander-around and shop. This morning was boring and like many I’ve had in Ann Arbor, but things got interesting once I went into town. The cabs (and everybody) drives SO crazy here, it’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents. The lack of seatbelts is also somewhat concerning when coupled with the first observation, so I’ve just been hanging on to the handles and hoping for the best.
The city is actually very pretty and cleaner than I expected, and I’m excited to explore it on my own. I’m exhausted now though so I’m going to head for bed, but I hope I can keep up with this kind of updating for the rest of the trip.
Half-moons, sunshine, and puppies,

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , | Leave a comment