Saturday, July 31, 2004

As I mentioned below, I found my third grade diary again today. I wish to heavens that I could scan the pages and post them to this website so you can see the "art" and the writing, but my descriptions of the entries will hopefully suffice.

Open the hard cover My Melody Cover to a yellow page.
On this, I have written in pencil

Don't look (eyes drawn into the 'o's here)
Don't look
(Some buxom ladies with pearls and high heels have been drawn in here)

PRIVATE! Don't look!

Turn the page Kristin.

Kristin Only Permission And Friends.

On the first page, I had taped in a photo of myself and two of my friends at that time: Maria and Katie. Maria was Swedish and we would get together and dance to Irene Cara records at her house. Katie was a small British redhead who I actually managed to visit one time a year later when we were passing through London on our way to Pakistan.

Dear Diary,
Today I was so bored until I got you a friend his name is qoala (sic) so if you hug him it will make his day. So please be nice to him. O.K.?
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I used the computer it's really fun. I love it. I'll show you a picture of the computer video game gay (sic) when he's mad.
Love, Kristin

(drawing of a small stick man with a cone hat tapping his foot included)

Dear Diary,
I loved today it was really fun. I can't wait till tomorrow really I sordof miss Robin because I don't have any company.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I went to my brother's soccer awards. It gave you snacks. My brother got a trofey. I'm kind of jealouse, The place was so noisy I almost got a headache.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Sorry I didn't write in you last night. I was too tired and busy. Well today it was great nothing hard was at school. I'm glad.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I had didn't guitar because on thursday I went to see Doon. And at school we didn't do any spelling or English.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today at school was really boring and school seemed to never end. I couldn't wait till the holidays.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I can't wait till Christmas tomorrow. I just can see it now all the presents I would like. And my new bike.
Love, Kristin

[As a sidenote, this is the pink bike that I ran downstairs to find my older brother riding on shouting "Look at my new bike, Kristin!" prompting me to burst into tears and run back upstairs.]

(Two stars have been drawn beside this entry)
Dear Diary,
Today I realized that I really like Brian. And I always thought I hated him. I went on a bike ride today with my brother.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I really think my presents are getting boring. And whats the fun if your presents are getting boring. And I can't invite Andrea.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
I think that being home alone with noone to play with is ridickulous and I really hate it.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today it's extra borin. I really have nothing to do. And I don't want to read Books. And I can't watch T.V.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I'm glad that it's almost the end of the year. Because that there's a new year coming up.
Love, Kristin

(four stars have been drawn in)

Dear Diary,
Today I really looking forward to seeing Brian. And really looking forward to seeing Andrea and Michael.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
I'm glad it's New Years Day. I love to see the fire crackers and I always have a good feeling in my heart.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
I hate todau. I really do. It's school But I like it too. I had a party. It had six kids at least. I really had fun.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today was great! I never thought it would be like this. PE wasn't so bad and guitar was OK. And Math was Alright.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
I going to tell you about Andrea and Micheal. She'll tell you what happened on the next page.
Love, Kristin

Dear Kristin's Diary,
Pleased to meat you! As you know I like Michael a lot. In fact I love him a lot.
Love, Andrea

(Andrea drew a diagram: two stick figures, one male, one female looking at one another with huge smiles. A thought cloud over the girl's head reads "I (heart) U")

Dear Diary,
Today at school we did english. And I had guitar today And at home my mother said she might have a heart attack. And I'm (Next Page) really scared because my father is on a business trip. But I have my grandparents and my uncle.
Love, Kristin

Dear Diary,
Today I went to Maria's house. And we had a lot of arguements. But we still had fun. And besides now I hate Brian.
Love, Kristin

Cleaning out my Sanrio products
I started today to clean out from under my bed. I have a month till I have to move out of my room and I am such a packrat (I always feel guilty and wasteful tossing stuff...I need to get over that), and am going to try to do it piecemeal so I don't suffer in the last week or so. The problem is that I get so distracted by everything I shove under there. I spent a full hour going through old pictures of mine to figure out which ones I want to tote along with me. That was quite a trip, actually. I had to call Anne to comment over how gobsmacked I was by looking through some of these photos from three or four years ago. I can finally really tell the difference from the weight loss, whereas for the last few months it's been so gradual that I can't really tell in myself from the mirror. wowsers.

Anyway, the good news is that I found two things that I had misplaced and had missed. They are as follows:

1.) A bootleg Hello Kitty pencil box that Suzi had gotten for me in Beijing. The Chinglish that's on there is as follows:
He that thatches his
house with turds
shall have more teachers
than reachers.

How fricking awesome is that?

2.) My third grade diary. It's has My Melody on the cover, skipping rope (My Melody is a Sanrio character, a bunny with a pink hood, for those who aren't in the know). There is a latch for a lock, which I lost along the way, thank God. Actually, Robin and I had stumbled over this a few years ago and it made the rounds, but then it disappeared for a couple of years. Diary entries will be posted in this blog, stay tuned.
Oh my God. I went with Annie tonight to see "Napolean Dynamite." This movie...I can't even describe how perfect and deadpan it is. I loved every second of it, and can't wait till it comes out on DVD so I can purchase it and watch it over and over. HIGHLY recommended.

Friday, July 30, 2004

I raved about the website Other People's Stories before, and this particular one on poker, and sweatpants and sweet, sweet guitar riffs rips me up.

A segment:

“So this guy shows up at Tim’s house.” Brad starts telling the tale of one such encounter. “First thing he says is ‘Hey man you got any sweats?’ Very first thing. Walks in the door, demands sweat pants. Actually, if I remember correctly, it was ‘Hey man you got any fuckin’ sweats?’”
Yeah, so I absolutely refuse to cave in to my Id and not follow through. I'm going to finish typing out these China travelogues if it kills me.

July 6, 2004
My mom and I had a heated discussion this day over what the date was. Being on vacation, as you all know, you lose track of the days--everything revolves around meal times and departure times, as it should be. Last night on the boat, everyone attended the Victoria Rose Fashion Show (!) in which all of the crew put on Chinese fashions through the times and dance and such. At this point, I think I've lost most of my irony, since I was clapping with delight along with everyone else. I even went and sat in the front row, y'all.

July 7, 2004 (The Gorgeous Gorges)
We hit (well, not literally) the first of the three gorges today: the Xiling Gorge. It was unbelievably lovely: it was sunny and the weather was hot, and everyone piled out onto the front desk of the boat, occasionally being blasted by the ridiculously loud horn (it was hilariously jarring). We sailed through the city of Yichang and also visited the site of the Three Gorges Dam, which is what promises to be the world's largest dam, ready in 2009. Much of the day was spent passing through various shiplocks as well, which was an interesting, rather cloistered experience in itself. Anyway, the Xiling Gorge is known to be the most treacherous of all of the gorges, and the most difficult to traverse.

July 8, 2004
Today we sailed through the lots and lots and lots of gorges. We sailed through the last two gorges: the Wu Gorge (the most serene, apparently) and the Qutang Gorge, which is known for its seclusion. We also took a day trip to get on a boat to wind through the Lesser Three Gorges, a whole area off of the main, muddy Yangtze, I believe, that will get swallowed up by the impending raising of the water. The Lesser Three Gorges was one of my favorite parts of this entire trip. The water was this creamy greenish color, absolutely stunning compared to the yellow Yangtze, and the gorge walls were tall and craggy. There were tracker paths carved into walls, and there were "hanging coffins" high up on the gorge walls -- bodies buried there hundreds of years ago. So much of what's there will be under water, someone on our trip commented that it would be an interesting scuba diving expedition in a few decades. Like the lost city of Atlantis or something. There were tons of fishing boats along the way, the the lower hills were dotted with little farmsteads that will be history soon. 1.3 million people will have to relocate because of the dam, since the waters will rise 175 meters.

Happy Last Day of Work, James!
I hope that this doesn't mean the end of your commited blogging.
Great Author and Provocateur
I saw a link in the The Morning News this morning about this new book by Nicholson Baker about two men who talk at length about assasinating GW. This book, Checkpoint, is apparently something else. The CS Monitor describes it as making Michael Moore's F9/11 look tame in comparison.

I was actually planning on doing an entry on Nicholson Baker beforehand, because I had read a book of his over vacation with which I fell head over heels in love. His book, The Everlasting Story of Nory, about a nine year old girl who moves with her family from California to England is one of the most winning books I've come across in a long time. Nory is a curious, imaginative, well-intentioned heroine that is far from precious and I loved that a middle-aged dude had written the book (I promise, it's not pervy either). Anyway, I checked out Vox from the library (the article cited that Clinton got into trouble because Monica had given him a copy--apparently, it's "erotic"), but I'll be sure to look at Checkpoint as well.

In the meantime, run, don't walk, to get a copy of his Nory book.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sunshine of my cube space
There's a woman named Donna in our office who has an assistance dog named Petra. Petra is a sweet, doe-eyed yellow lab who is a cupcake of a sweetie, tail always wagging. As soon as Petra is "off-duty" (or out of her harness) she's free to wander around as she pleases and has quickly become the office dog. People will come in and find Petra's toys nestled in various parts of their offices. Last year she was always toting around a blue turtle, but now she seems to favor a squeaky plush pumpkin. Because there is reconstruction in other parts of the office, Donna has been relocated into the cube next to mine, so that means that I get to hang out with Petra all the time. I can't even tell you how awesome it is to have a big yellow lab poke in to say hello throughout the day or to step over a big snoring lump on the floor. As soon as you open the door to come in, Petra busts out to meet you, pumpkin in mouth--it is good for the soul. I need to take a picture soon so I can share.
Last night for Annie's birthday we hit the lovely Rock It Grill in Oldtown. We planted ourselves at one of their sticky tables and hung in there for the night, in wait for the karaoke kings and queens. Please note: the bar is set high during the week nights at the Rock It. Of course there were a few dudes who came in a big group, and hit the stage to caterwaul "You've Lost that Loving Feeling," and fancied themselves charming. No. The real stars of the night are the people who take their karaoke SERIOUS (pronounced: "srrrrss").

There was one guy, one of our favorites, who had a great baritone voice and sang the hell out of country songs. He was big and black and Annie dubbed him "Toby Keith." Throughout the night we would ask eachother: "Where's Toby Keith?" because we liked him so much, and then we would spot him, and all would be well.

Another dude called himself "Mandingo" (yeah, I don't know) and he killed on "Georgia on My Mind." Dude sounded exactly like Ray Charles. Awesome.

The third guy (there was a LOT of men who went up on stage for some reason) had come by himself and was this well-coiffed young guy. He clutched the mike stand and sang like his life was ending--he started with Lisa Loeb's "Stay," and didn't even watch the teleprompter. He even talked up the crowd, it was awesome.

The best thing about all of these guys and others like them was that as SOON as they were done with their number, they would make a beeline for the playlist and sign themselves up for another one. Annie quipped that they should just sing while standing at the playlist to make it more efficient.

I am not the type to sing karaoke, but I love that people do--there's something vulnerable about the weeknight crowd at least. They put a part of themselves out there and I respect that. The good thing about the Rock It crowd, as well, although most look like they stepped in from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, is that they're universally supportive, if not appreciative of everyone's efforts. Just note, if you're going up there, avoid the Righteous Brothers, because I'll be the one booing you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Are You Kidding Me?
Target is selling a Kaballah red string for $26. That looks like an easily home-made dealie. That just got me thinking: everyone I know is getting Kaballah red string for their future holiday gifts. (via lotsofco)
Give Smoove Just One More Chance.
I love Smoove B, and I know that you do too.
Live from Boston
Oh man, Salon's featuring Neal Pollack's blogging from the Dem Convention. Hi-larious.
Here's a sample that tickled me:

July 27
Hello, Mr. and Mrs. America, and All the Ships at Sea!Some impressions from the press room: Janeane Garofalo is shorter than I expected, but also taller, and she drinks orange juice. NPR reporters spend a lot of time looking very seriously at their computer screens, typing, typing. Those are all the celebrities I saw. People, please stop criticizing my convention coverage. I'm doing the best I can, given my inexperience, lack of sources, and complete misunderstanding of how the political process works. After security removed me from the hall, I got invited to a party thrown by the Oklahoma delegation, but they disinvited me just because I happened to mention that I think political conventions are "a great place to score some cooze." Meanwhile, why isn't Michael Moore getting more attention?

(Warning: You may need a subscription to Salon to read it, but maybe not.)
Tired Today
I woke up this morning muddled and sleepy and wanting to head back into deep slumber, but I tried to shake it off and shambled into work. I look like I just woke up: my outfit sucks, my hair looks unbrushed, I didn't have time to put on anything on my face besides lotion, and I'm carting around these bags under my puffy eyes. MMM, lovely, right? Seriously, I can't even tell you how much my outfit sucks. I'm wearing this dress from the Gap Outlet that looks like it's circa 1993, and a white button down shirt that shrunk in length along the way so it looks like a matador's jacket. Jesus.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Oh man
Lisa's blog entries today made me laugh out loud at my desk. Holy crap.
Are you conflicted over the emo boy? I certainly am! (via tmn)
Now this I can respect
Republicans and Democrats snipe at eachother by releasing goofy pictures taken of the candidates. Hot.
Derrieres in Motion
Jonathan was cracking me up this morning. I sent him the link to the photos from the wedding, and about this photo, I got the following email:

From : Jonathan
Sent : Tuesday, July 27, 2004 4:07 PM
To : Kristin
Subject : Re: Photos from the wedding

I took a look at the photos through your blog. Very cool. For
some reason, in the photo of you and I, my face looks very
shiny. I guess I was sweating. Also, in the photo of Clarence
and I, my ass looks unusually big. For the record, I DO NOT
have a big ass.

I wrote back:

J, your email about not having a big ass cracked me up. I need to check out that picture again of you and Clarence, but I totally didn't notice any big asses!

And in turn, received:

From : Jonathan
Sent : Tuesday, July 27, 2004 4:38 PM
To : Kristin
Subject : Re: Photos from the wedding

Thanks for being so nice, but the photo makes it appear my
ass could knock over small children.

I don't think that I need to report that Jonathan does not have a big ass in the least. He is quite a slender man, and there are no child-bearing hips or big asses attached to him.

You do your thing
Anne wrote in her blog today about an interesting NPR piece and mentioned this Montgomery Gentry video that we saw on CMT this weekend (we lay there for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon taking in country music videos--it was awesome) that was PRICELESS. You must try to catch this video if you can (same title as this post, I believe): it involves strapping a deer to a truck and driving through the city, smirking at the cityfolk, crosses, flags, and taking baseball bats to drug dealers. Awesome stuff. We were dying.

Photos are up!
Photos from the Sullivan/Martin wedding are up online! I've separated it into two albums--photos from Friday (rehearsal and after) and then photos from the day and night of the ceremony and the reception. Although I was obnoxious about taking photos, I'm glad to have them--these past few years have passed without me taking enough pictures to remember them and I feel regret over that.

I took more group shots than a sorority formal, y'all.

Here's a shot after the wedding of the Ladies, and then here are the Ladies with the Bride at the Alumni House.

Here is the F.O.G. Reunion shot (this is one of many).

Anne, Christie and myself at dinner (which was cut woefully short for me), which is a frame-worthy one, as is this one of Christie and me.

I love this dancing shot. Yes, I believe that Anne's beloved "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was playing. I also like this shot of Clarence and Jonathan shaking it like a Polaroid picture.

And then there were a slew of shots taken at Paul's, before AND after I spilled cheap beer all over Jenny (sorry, Jenny). Among the many: Anne and Stefan; the lervly bridesmaids; Grace and Zack harkening back to those Scott stories; James, Nathalie, and Jenny; Bryan, Anne, and Jean-Paul; and finally, I love this one of Des, James, and Grace at the end of the night.

Good times, good times.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Another visit to the doctor
Another $100 spent
Another shot taken
Another appointment made
Another piece of my soul being crushed.
Okay, that's a bit excessive, but I always loathe going to the doctor. I'm always creeped out by the people in the waiting room of this particular doctor's office as well. Today, I was eyeballed by a middle-aged dude wearing cut off jean shorts (red flag #1) and black socks with velcro sandals (red flag #2).
Happy Birthday, Daddi-o!
I still need to get you a present. My poor dad--freshman year I gave to him for Christmas the free William and Mary shirt distributed to all incoming freshman (some of you will remember which one I'm talking about). Klassy, I know. Dad loved it, though, and he wore it all the time. That is one fine father figure to one classless daughter.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Mrs. and Mrs.
Bryan and Des's wedding was a fantastic success! Desiree looked stunning in her gown and Bryan looked dapper in his tux, and it was a moving and intimate ceremony in the Wren Chapel. Embarassingly, I had never been inside it in all of my years at W&M, but I was glad to see it for this occasion. Anne and I got down to Williamsburg on Friday, and the festivities began with rehearsal and dinner and the cocktail hour at the Bed and Breakfast that was nearby.

What was particularly great about the wedding was that all of my favorite people from college gathered for it. Christie and Stefan came from Conneticut, Grace came from New York, Zack and Jenny from mid-move; it was also the first time that the entirety of the FOG gathered since...graduation? Jeebus. I took lots and lots of pictures and perpetrated my camera and flash on the night, so I'll post those tomorrow night when I'll be able to download them.

I am also happy to report that my poem recitation was not the superfastrecitation that I feared. I breathed in and out and tried to enunciate and read slowly. The one snafu was that my shoes were particularly loud on the way out and the clack-clack-clack was made worse when I decided to trot back to my pew seat to get the noise over with. If that was the worst of it, though, I don't have anything to complain about.

Bryan described the cake to me beforehand, btw, and I am happy to report that the carrot cake that I tried was awesome. So was the dancing (they played "Bizarre Love Triangle"!), and the crab dip, and the Hospitality House soaps that smelled like lilies, and the reception site on the patio of the alumni house.

Anne and I decided to prolong the weekend of fun, and stopped in Richmond on the way back to have lunch with Bill at the Baker's Crust. It was fabulous, as expected, but may I just say the the signage and roads into Richmond from 64 are completely whack. I was cursing up a bluestorm over the idiocy of it all.

Anyway, thanks to Des and Bry--now married--for the great weekend and I hope that they're enjoying their much-deserved honeymoon. I'm a bit sleepy right now, and could use an early night, but I'm a not a little sad that this event has passed. Now I just need to pressure some other friends to start looking into getting married so I can look forward to another great party.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I have a new favorite animal: The Wombat! I flipped past a show on Animal Planet last night where it featured a woman raising an orphan wombat, and I about stroked out.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Williamsburg Wedding
This is the grand weekend of the wedding of Des and Bryan, the celebration that we've all been waiting for. I'm breathlessly looking forward to this because:
1.) Des is one of my closest and dearest friends, ever since those green days when we lived across the hall from eachother in Brown.
2.) Bryan has turned into one of my dearest friends.
3.) Together, they're great.
4.) Most of my friends from college will be there as well, so it will be a reunion of many sorts.
5.) I hear that the food and drink will be nothing sort of amazing at the reception.
6.) It's always fun to return to Williamsburg, and its various watering holes and eateries (because it is all about that).

Anne and I head down tomorrow to get started on the fun. I'm bringing my new digital camera to document everything, so expect links to photos when I get back!
Fat Cats
I feel like corpulent kitties have been popping up in my life lately--well, more than usual. James featured them on his website today, Bill emailed a digital picture of his roommate's roundish feline, and Robin sent me an email titled the same as this blog entry, asking me if I had seen "Anger Management" (I haven't yet, but I understand that there is an obese cat involved who wears outfits, so I'm in). This is all a good thing.
Fourth of July, 2004 (On the Yangtze)
On this day, we were boat-bound for the entire day. The way the cruise deals with this is by scheduling lots and lots of sessions which passengers can attend for their edification. My mom was a major joiner and went to every session, save for "Chinese 101" (although I told her that she should have attended and kicked the ass of everyone else there). The best part is that she forced Erik to attend all the sessions as well, from the session about fresh water pearls to the session on the Three Gorges. Erik was predictably sullen about being forced to go, and every time he dared to voice protest, my mom would bark at him: "Erik! Learn something!"  I loved that.
One the shticks that Erik used on our trip was acting like he thought that we were in Japan. This slayed me every time. There was a map of China during the session on the Three Gorges Dam, and Erik talked about how he should have raised his hand and said: "I thought that Japan was an island?" At one point, my mom ordered Erik to write my dad an email (using the very undependable wireless Internet service). The email that he wrote is as follows:

From : 

Sent : 
Sunday, July 4, 2004 11:27 AM

To : 

Subject : 
you may not know me, but i'm your son

hello father dearest, i'm on this boat. and we're sailing down this river. and the boat's floor is prettywarped.  but other than that, japan is really cool.  we visited the yangzhe mountain  (or something to that effect)  THERE'S HBO IN OUR ROOMS! I SPENT THE BETTER PART OF LAST NIGHT WATCHING "DIVINE SECRETS  OF THE YAYA SISTER HOOD."  it was awesome. i cried a little in the end, feeling more in touch with my feminine side.  how virginia?  cicadas still comin? i hear it's the fourth of july. how's that goin for ya?  seen those lakers?  kristin got a pirated copy of fareighneasdkjfeight 9/11 if you want to see that.  and we all chipped in for a souvenir for you.  IT'S AN IOU!!                                                                                      with love i'd like to end this email a haiku. and my signature...

im going to count
syllables in the last line
1 2 3 4 5                                                                                 Love, erik

Perhaps things had become dire, but Erik was cracking my shite up throughout the trip.
During the session on fresh water pearls, the presenter had cracked open an oyster and let the resident kids go to town in prying out the pearls of its meaty flesh. The fact that this was a recently living creature along with the slimy scenes of the insides being hacked totally made me want to toss my cookies. Blech.

Another Jack/Mom Joke
Jack: Mommy, Mommy? How far is it to America?
Mom: Shut up, kid, and keep swimming.
The Other Jack
I must take a moment to discuss the other Jack on the trip. I've already mentioned one of the Jacks, our table captain who charmed us with his shy smiles and his performance skillz.

The other Jack was a four year old tow-headed Australian with an upturned nose who captivated every single person on the boat, guest and crew member alike. I am hard pressed to describe how very adorable this child was. Now, there were two families with small kids on the boat, and they were all good, bright, neat, friendly kids but Jack was the friendliest, never-met-a-stranger child there. Also, since his family was stationed in Beijing, he spoke a little Chinese, and was a favorite among the crew members. He would wander around the boat and whoever was there would snatch him up and adore him as was appropriate. I fell under his spell as well when he was my Mah-jong "partner" and would peek over the shoulder or another player to try to check out their tiles.
Plus, he told good jokes. One that he and his mom did together: (Jack has one foot planted down, and spins around in a circle)
Jack: Mommy, Mommy! I can't stop spinning!
Mom: Shut up, kid, or I'll nail your other foot to the floor!
They had a whole variety of these dark little numbers that apparently went over like lead balloons with their Chinese friends.
My favorite joke that Jack told me was this:
Q: What do you get when you pour hot water down a rabbit hole?
A: Hot cross bunnies!
How great is that? Check out this photo, though. This kid is way too damn cute.

Congratulations to both Clarence and Jonathan--both of their plays got accepted in a five minute play contest! Both plays will be read this coming Sunday near Dupont Circle.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Too Much Cuteness....Can't Process
James has a picture of the world's smallest cat on his blog. It hurts me.
Boat Food
I need to add something about the copious amounts of food on the boat. I had heard before that they feed you on cruise type things, and they weren't lying. There were breakfast buffets, lunch buffets, and large fancy dinners. I managed to stick to SBD for the trip (unbelievable), but I missed out on lots and lots of pumpkin cakes and apple pies and breads, and dumplings and I was very, very sad.

In true style of me, I will report on my favorite foods. For breakfast, I loved their sauteed cabbage, and their cheese omelettes weren't bad either. For lunch, their chicken curry kicked ass, and their sweet and sour pork rocked (okay, non-SBD, but I gotta live!). And for dinner, I guess their various kinds of sauteed spinach? I'm blanking on dinner dishes, to be honest. They tended to be of the fancier variety, whereas I dig more simple Chinese food.

The kitchen crew honored the resident Murkins by making a cake for the Fourth of July, and the each table got a birthday cake to honor the July birthdays. Funnily enough, Erik's birthday was the only July birthday at our table, but by the dessert time, he had slunk away to go to bed, so we celebrated without him and mom blew out his candles. Here's a photo that Ray took of Peter receiving his cake (Peter and his wife were Americans who live in Lahore now--very nice people).

Because my family's group was so big, we got our own table. Here's a dinner photo of our group posing on the last night. Our table captain was this very tall, handsome young guy whose English name is Jack. He was also apparently the go-to man when it came to boat entertainment. He was the main guy in every show that they put on (more about the shows later).
  [All RY photos]
More and more and more photos
One of the guys from da cruise, this neat man from Hong Kong, Ray, sent everyone links to the photos that he took (almost 1,000). He turned into the boat's unofficial photographer and he had a fancy camera and skillz, so his photos are something else. I'll use some for future posts, but to catch up, here are a selection of his pictures:

Here's a shot of the cablecar at Huang Shan. And here's the view from it.

Here, and here, and here are more pictures of Huang Shan.

Ray also took some shots of the Chinese countryside. And you can see some here, here, here, and here.

I didn't take any pictures of Wuhan, the city of bridges. Here is one of Wuhan at night. Here's another, and one more here.

There was a shot of the shopping street that we visited in Wuhan. Some sights included the Asian looking Colonel Sanders. Here is a local chilling for the night on the shopping street. And finally, for those who are interested, there are indeed Pizza Huts in Wuhan (they're fancy places to go, actually, and kind of pricey).

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Evening of July 3, 2004 (Wuhan)
That night we were in Wuhan and went to their shopping street, chock full of clothing stores and bright lights. There was some colonization in Wuhan, so there were some European style buildings in the area, but nothing like Shanghai or Qingdao. Two things to note about that city:
1. It appeared that a lot of the city residents took advantage of Wuhan's location on the Yangtze River and went for swims. I saw lots and lots of people walking along the street, soaking wet, swimsuits on, and toting inner tubes and the like. They looked as if they were walking through a water park or something. Dudes would walk around shirtless. Who knows the level of dirt and other less tasty stuff in the Yangtze, but I appreciated the Wuhan-ers having some fun.
2. Our guide told us that before AC became more common, a lot of Wuhan people would set up beds and living spaces on the sidewalks below their apartments, since cool pavemented outside was preferable to their hot boxes of apartments. I love that imagery. Even if it's less common now, as we walked along the shopping street, people had hauled out a variety of chairs (deck chairs, arm chairs, stools) and had plopped down for the night to enjoy the night temperatures. That's some cheap entertainment.
July 3, 2004 (Huang Shan)
This was the big excursion to Huang Shan, or Yellow Mountain, in Anhui Province. Clarence told me before I had left that this was one of his favorite places to have seen in China, so I was pretty excited. The mountain was a three hour bus ride from where the boat docked, so we breakfasted (I love that as a verb) at 5:15 a.m. and then got on the bus at 6. This was another painless ride, and the ride through the countryside was pretty breathtaking: verdant fields of rice patties and ponds filled with lotus flowers and water buffalo trundling along...all with the mountains in the background. I mean, really: that's just ridiculously pretty, it leaves you helpless in its wake.
We were in one of those huge air-conditioned tourist buses with these enormous side mirrors that popped out in front like little antenna. Since we were pretty much the largest vehicle bumping along the pot-hole filled road, our driver was pretty liberal with his honking in order to notify people that we were coming. I would say that he honked every 20 seconds out of 60. Some of reasons that he honked:
1. Vehicles in his way, going slower than he liked...which was every other vehicle.
2. Vehicles backing out of whatever alcove they were nestled in.
3. Bulldozers parked in the middle of the road for no apparent reason.
4. A man squatting in the middle of the road for no apparent reason.
5. Cows.
We finally arrived at Huang Shan at about 9, and then took a steamed up cable car to the top of the mountain (many people walk up, but the Victoria Cruiseline didn't fool themselves in thinking that this was a hard-grit bunch), and then were free to wander up and down the paths of Huang Shan for a couple of hours. It was rainy and misty and foggy that morning that we were there, so we didn't have a whole lot of visibility, and still the place was pretty amazing. Steep paths, deep crevices, knotty trees poking out of the green scrub of the rock--it was like a dreamland. Steve commented, after looking at a picture, that it looked "scary / dreamy / psychedelic" and he was about right on target there. Here is a shot from the mountain, and also here, here, here, and here. It was seriously pouring by the end of our time there. The Cruise people outfitted us with these surprisingly hardy umbrellas, but I was completely soaked through by the time we got to lunch.
One more thing: the paths on the mountain were often steep and copious and many people needed to take a breather every once in awhile. My mom, though, who has been loyally doing her Denise Austin exercises every morning at the crack of dawn, was like a little ant, tirelessly scrambling over each and every crevice. So, while I give my mom a hard time for her blind devotion to Denise Austin (whose soft crooning voice I find a bit creepy), I was impressed by the results of all of her work.
After a lunch where I needed to wring myself out before I got to the table, we headed back down in the cablecar for the bus to get back to the boat. Once we got onto level ground, it had stopped raining and the weather cleared up a little. I took a quick shot of what the mountains looked like with a bit of the mist. There were some stunning views as our bus climbed up and down those mountain hills, but it was impossible to get a good shot.
All in all, a thoroughly good visit, and one that I'm glad to have made.

Monday, July 19, 2004

July 2, 2004 (Nanjing)
Our cruise (I always feel ridiculous saying referring to "our cruise," but I honestly can't think of a good substitute) was set up so it was nine days, and went from Shanghai to Chongqing, along the Yangtze River. Most days we would dock and have an excursion. Very Love Boat. On this day, we docked in Nanjing and went to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial in the morning (314 steps, very hot), and then a "Qing Bazaar" in the afternoon. I had been in Nanjing in 2000 with Suzi, Brett and Kim and we had gone to this memorial and the Museum of Japanese War Atrocities (or something like that in title--very uplifting stuff, as you can imagine, and not at all timid in its horrificness).
The "Qing Bazaar" must be cruise-speak for "shopping center," since that was what it was. I did manage to purchase the pirated DVD of "Fareinheit 9/11" for 10 yuan (about $1.20), but then we saw it somewhere else for 5 yuan (60 cents). My mom got that stuck in her craw for awhile that we paid twice as much as we could have--the Mahan family is on a constant quest to obtain The Best Deal Possible. I just popped in "F9/11" when I got back home, and it was indeed filmed in a theater where you're party to coughs, laughs, and bathroom breaks, but it's still watchable. Later on in the trip, I got "Lost in Translation," and that copy is pretty right-on.

I love you, China Eastern Ticket taker.
June 30 & July 1, 2004(LAX to Shanghai)
We spent most of June 30 at the airport. We arrived at LAX at 11 a.m. all set for our flight that left at 1:10 to discover that it was actually leaving at five. $10 meal vouchers to make up for the delay, though! I was assuaged since I'm easily bought. To kill time, Erik, Alex (my fabulous cousin who is a month younger than Erik and was the sugar to his salt), Jenny (the niece of a family friend who traveled with us and my buddy on the trip), and I
played cards with duty-free M&Ms are currency. When life gives you lemons...
We were traveling on the world famous China Eastern Airlines, and I was bucking up for a long cramped excursion--a sweet 12.5 hours. As my mom handed our bundle of three boarding passes to the ticket agent when we were about the board, he informed her that "our seats had to be changed." Vague, but he couldn't give us more information, but he assured us that these seats were better. Our seats before were all the way in the back of the plane. As we stepped away from him, though, he threw out "You're SO going to love me for this."
We checked out the new tickets and
BUSINESS CLASS, BABY! My mom, my aunt and I sat up there, and it was awesome. There was so much room in front of my seat that I had to unbuckle my belt and get up to get the stuff from the seat pocket in front of me. I could fully recline my seat to about a 160 degree angle. I had my own personal TV screen that I could pull out of the seat arm rest and watch as many movies and TV shows and play as many games as I wanted. They had prosciutto was an appetizer. The seat next to me was empty so I had my entire island to myself. The bathroom was ALWAYS empty and spotless. I went to bathroom about nineteen times in order to take advantage. The boys were still in economy, and my aunt smuggled our Haagen-Daaz ice cream cups and fancy chocolates back to them. At one point, Alex came up to see his mom and check it out and he got promptly kicked out by the flight attendant since no classless economy peons are allowed beyond the velvet curtain.
July 1st was a complete wash, since we arrived at Shanghai Pudong airport at 10:30 at night. I popped off of the plane relatively refreshed since I had managed several hours of sleep in my Chair O' Luxury, and we met up with the rest of our group who were looking a bit more bedraggled. Erik and Alex looked as if they had been were run over by cars.  
The plan was to meet up with a rep from our travel service who would drive us to meet our boat, which had moved away from Shanghai by the time we arrived. We were all thinking that the trip would be a couple of hours but we were quickly disabused of that notion, as the trip would in fact be four hours. Sweeeet. It was a pretty smooth ride, though, and around 2:30 a.m., we pulled into a dimly lit dock in some city which I can't recall, and hauled our suitcases onto the Victoria Rose, the smallest of the ships on the
Victoria Cruise line.
My mom and I were bunk mates and we found our cabin to be a sweet little nook, outfitted with two twin beds (no honeymoon suite, this one), a tiny bathroom and shower, a closet and a TV that showed Chinese music videos and HBO Asia, all with a window that looked out onto the water. 
Here's a shot of part of the room.

Pain in the Arse
I got my little card back from the NU health center saying that my physical requirements were complete except that I still need blood test results showing that I got my Hep B shots. The last Hep B shot I got was in 1989 back in Pakistan, so I need to get a booster shot, I guess. Anyway, once I get the booster (which will take a week to come in and cost $80 CASH ONLY -- my doctor's office is kind of sketchy), I have to wait at least four weeks to take the blood test. I'm assuming that the blood tests will take at least a week to come back, and I hope that's all it takes since I am taking off for Chicago like 1.5 weeks later. And then I have to have all of the stuff into NU by September 15 in order to register. One more thing to fret about. Anyone know how long blood tests usually take to come back? I'm not sure I trust my doctor's office to fed ex or fax me anything.
Educate the Children
Yahoo News reports that Guangzhou is going to provide sex ed classes to kids, starting with kindergarteners! That is some crazily progressive stuff. I wonder how it's going to do down.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

June 29, 2004 (LA)
This day involved sleeping, reading, and going to Costco for SBD snacks to bring along with me to China. Note that we purchased a large amount of snacks that included about three pounds of almonds (no kidding), FOUR bags of jerky (two beef, two turkey), one large bag of mixed dried fruit, one large bag of dried mangoes. Over the trip, the jerky was taken care of, about three almonds and about three pieces of dried mangoes were consumed, and everything else was taken backto the States with me to put in my pantry. That is some well-traveled dried stuffs. My aunt and uncle have a lovely house in the LA suburbs up on a hill, so when you sit on the back patio, you look over a wide spread view of the town and the hills in the background. I sat there for about an hour as I polished off The Corrections (which was great, yet the aging dad depressed me so much I had to skip entire parts of the novel). It was rather pleasant.

Trip Recounted Part 1 of 789
These are notes from my journal...
June 28, 2004 (DC to LA)
Leaving from Dulles is a nightmare. The security line snaked around the entire front of the airport. On the tram from one terminal to the other (and what is Dulles except terminals, terminals, terminals?) there was an anxious woman next to me who started crying because she thought she boarded the wrong tram. It was a full plane and I got seated in the very back, in the middle of three seats. Love it. I couldn't get over how crazy busy LAX was either. It was really slammed with people. At the baggage carousel, I waited there for about 25 minutes before our flight's bags were circulated since there was three of four flights in front of us using the same carousel. Is LAX always like that?
China Photos
Okay, it took me all morning, but I finally managed to get my China photos onto Ofoto. I haven't gone through and made comments yet, but hopefully this will be something that I will manage to do at some point. There are two albums. One is the Yangtze Cruising scenery (many, many gorge warned) and the other is everything else, including more river/gorge pictures. I've been trying to figure out how to post to the blog directly, but I don't know if that's happening.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The charms of Fifteen Year Olds
Happy Birthday to Erik today, who turns 15. I had a lovely conversation this morning when I called to wish him happy birthday.
Erik (sullenly): Hello.
K: Happy Birthday!
Erik: Oh no.
K: What are you doing to celebrate?
Erik: I forget.
K: Are you going out to dinner with mom and dad?
Erik: I forget.
K: What have you been doing since you got back home?
Erik: Sleeping. Because I can.
K: Well, it's been a pleasure.
Erik: Bye. (click).
Yeah, I was going to give him some cash, but now I'm rethinking it. Jeez. Honestly, when I have teenagers I'm going to have to send them away to the countryside for re-education because they'll drive me so crazy.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Hot Items
Before I launch into travelogues in earnest, I had to include this. While in Shanghai all we did was shop. Really. At one point they dropped us off at a place where there was a huge collection on stalls, a hodge-podge of North Face knock offs, faux designer sunglasses, and imitations of every other possible brand you can think of piled on top of eachother (I even spotted some fake Von Dutch baseball caps...random). Not unlike the Silk Alley, for you Beijing people. Places like these often attract the foreigners like my group and the vendors tend to be on the shrill, obnoxious side. While it can be fun to browse and shop around, you go in knowing that people are going to be putting every ounce of effort into ripping you off beyond belief. I love the fake sales tags attached to stuff like these "designer" bags that read $8,000.00. That's one expensive imitation Prada purse, yo. In places like this in China, if the saleperson is speaker English to you, then you can pretty much count on being fleeced.

In Beijing, I had bought a winter hat that had a Timberland logo that read "Timrenlaad" -- they had some of the basic letters, and they almost got there. When you're buying stuff like that, though, the vendors are like: "it's the REAL thing." I love it. Sometimes you can find the real thing in these stalls (I got some Tevas and an Abercrombie skirt that I still wear that have lasted through the ages), but you pay for them.

Anyway, another attraction for foreigners in China are the pirated DVDs that are being so cracked down upon. Places like that market are usually where you can find them. People will mill around murmering "Hello, dvds? Hello, dvds?" under their breaths to you, and you nod and then follow them down some dark alley where they will pull out a shoe box filled to the brim with pirated movies, stuff that only just hit the theater in the States. Real kosher stuff. You pay anywhere from 60 cents to $2.00 for each movie, and it's a gamble as to whether they work or not. Often they're filmed in the theaters, so you're treated to people's coughs, laughs, and trips to go to the bathroom.

Erik got "Van Helsing." Like any other DVD cover, they include reviews of the movie. On closer examination, he discovered that the reviews were these:

On the front: ONE CATCH. IT'S NOT GOOD. - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

On the back: UNDERWHELMING AND OVERBLOWN. - Ty Burr, The Boston Globe.

That is so awesome. In other cases the information on the DVDs was just pulled some random sources (for instance, on my cousin, Alex's "Harry Potter" the movie description was of "Die Hard 2") but here, instead of slapping together any old crap, they were looking at actual reviews (of this movie or another) and just happened to choose the worst ones to display.
Stay tuned for reports from my travels, which you can tune out as you please. I kept a detailed log while I was away and will post most of it, whether they are choice bits or not.
America's Funniest Animals
Go to James' blog and request the freak animal of your choice and he will find it for you and post a picture! That's what I call service. I asked for a fat cat, and got one (although nothing can top Mikesch). My morning is complete.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I'm back Stateside, and arrived back in DC at 5:15 this morning. It was a long haul from Shanghai, where we left the hotel at noon on July 13th (which was midnight back here in DC, since it is 12 hours behind China). Our flight on China Eastern was a pretty uneventful 11 hours until the end, when instead of flying to LA, we had to make an emergency landing in San Francisco so a sick passenger could get off the plane. This delayed us for four hours, leaving everyone on the plane for 15 hours. Awesome. We flew back from LA on the red-eye on Jet Blue, which is a pretty great airline. I love their Direct TV!

I'm fading right now, but can make it through till tonight. I'll update the blog later this week with journal entries from the trip.