In honor of my friend Andrew who is living in Japan here is a picture from the land of the rising sun. This Godzilla statue can be found in Tokyo. I spent a few days there in 2002; here is what I wrote at the time:
“Oct 26, 2002. Sitting in my own personal capsule and rather enjoying it. Everything is provided in some form or another: lockers, showers, robe, slippers, even a toothbrush with pre-applied toothpaste.
Tokyo is a bit like a neon slap in the face, there is a lot to be enjoyed and much that is over stimulating. Last night I went to ‘The Loft’, a music venue in Shinjuku. Lonely Planet says, ‘if The Rolling Stones had been Japanese they would have played at The Loft.’ LP has never been more correct. The crowd was beatnik crossed with brit-punk with a little bit of swing. Highlights of the night: ‘Chocomates’ an all-girl 4 piece whose instruments were bigger than they were and a fast and furious oldies/punk band whose lead guitar hung upside-down from the light rigging and played the theme from the Batman TV show. Excellent!”
You wouldn’t know it by looking at this picture but Yangshuo is a bustling little town with lots of little cafés catering to tourists. I visited in 1995 and then again in 2002. I was struck by the changes. Here is what I wrote in my journal:
“Nov. 13, 2002. Yangshuo is the perfect cure to many long weeks on the road. I feel as though I could stay here forever. I am sure I’d grow tired of it eventually but for now it suits me just fine.
I have managed to fall into the community somewhat – the staff at the 7th Heaven Café have befriended me. It is a lively place with a fun staff and great food. There is a roaming population of foreign tour guides who make 7th Heaven home, plus the usual collection of travelers coming from/going to S.E. Asia.
So much has changed since I visited in ’95. There are many more cafes and the food is much better. There are far more elderly foreign tourists; mostly part of groups but some solo. The most telling change is the huge numbers of Chinese tourists. It is the growth of the Chinese economy and the leisure class that will have the biggest impact on life in Yangshuo. Already much of the town is scrambling to meet the demands of Chinese business interests. I cannot knock people here for chasing this money; it will mean a better life for many of them. It also means a different Yangshuo for everyone.”
Long Island is a terminal moraine. What’s that? It’s the material left behind when a glacier recedes.
I spent a few days on Long Island with my parents and my brother. It was a relaxing and interesting. Pictured here is “The Big Duck” which according to my father is the most interesting thing we saw. Although the duck was very interesting I’d rank our day trip into NYC higher on the list.
An overloaded hay truck I came across during an grueling bus ride in China’s Qinghai province back in 2002. From my journal at the time:
“Sept. 15, 2002. What I thought would be 12 hours on the bus was instead 9. Normally this would be a very good thing but it landed me in Xinning at 3am, very tired, cold, and no place to go. After paying a taxi 15 yuan [< $2] to drive me all over town I found a hotel where I crashed for 4 hours (also 15 yuan).
The bus ride was awe inspiring and also very uncomfortable. For the first several hours I was blasted by the hot air form the engine. When the mountains came into view my mind lightened, we climbed along treacherous roads passing rushing streams. Dark came too soon and I could only catch moonlit glimpses of craggy mountains and valleys. At one point we passed a sign reading ‘elevation 3943m’ and I noticed snow on the ground. We stopped for an hour in a nowhere town. Everyone from the bus piled into several restaurants, all with TVs blasting. I had a look around and introduced myself to several shopkeepers. I hear the same conversation numerous times a day: ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Why are you here’ ‘America is good –better than China’ ‘How much money do you make?’ ‘China is too poor’…
…After the dinner stop I could not get warm again. A few hours later I was freezing and cursing my decision to travel at night, missing the view and chilled to the bone.”
A view of McMurdo Station, Antarctica taken sometime in 1996. For those who don’t know, I worked in Mactown for six month after graduating from college. It was a good experience although I’m not sure I’d do it again. I started out as a Dining-room Attendant (dish washer) and eventually was promoted to Baker’s Assistant (bread guy). The best things about being on the ice were the other people I was stuck there with and the trip to NZ afterwards. Here is what I wrote on my first day there:
“Oct 14, 1996. I made it! It has been a very long day. 4:30am got up and left for the airport, [Christchurch, NZ] put on cold weather gear and sat around. 9am got on a plane and sat around. 10am plane turns around due to mechanical problems, lands. Sat around some more. While uncomfortable the C-141 was an adventure, like being in a Tom Clancy book. It was a constant rush during landing, ice everywhere. The runway must have been 1.5 miles long. I stepped out on to the ice and see nothing but whiteness and mountains in the distance. We hopped on a bus a came into “town” which is really an ugly place – black dirt roads and a fuel smell everywhere. Ate a decent dinner and then was orientated.”
This was taken outside Oamaru, New Zealand in 1997. I was waiting in a bird blind for some Yellow-eyed Penguins to make their daily trek from the sea back to their nests. Here’s what I wrote in my journal at the time:
“Feb 23, 1997. I saw several Yellow Eyed Penguins. A couple popped out of the sea and waddled on to the beach where they climb the cliff to nest. A trail heads form the blind to the Little Blue Penguin colony. It was gorgeous, cliffs overlooking the ocean, truly magnificent… …The Little Blue Penguins nest on the cliff side; for $5 there are viewing stands and a guide explaining their life. There were perhaps 50 penguins in all, some coming up from the sea others waiting at the nest. Panic struck when a stray cat appeared, but I think he was more scared of the penguins than anything else.”
This is a photo I took way back in 1995 somewhere in China, Xian maybe. It is one of my favorites.
What I remember about Xian: It was very dirty and the trees were covered in coal soot, the Terracotta Army is located outside of town right next to an amusement park featuring actors dressed up as prehistoric cave people, and I was nearly robbed by a couple claiming to be starving art students. Of course this was ten years ago, I am sure things are much better now. Here is what I wrote in my journal at the time:
“Feb 14, 1995. I just realized that today is St. Valentine’s Day. After more that 3 weeks on the road these things slip by. Today is also the last day of our journey. We’re on a train back to Beijing. Xian was a big disappointment. A very dirty, smelly, ugly city. The Terracotta Warriors were cool but we went through hell to get there. We joined a tour group and ended up going to lots of places we didn’t want to. Finally, we ditched them and caught a public bus…
[Later] …We visited a Taoist temple and a Mosque, both really interesting. Around the back streets of the temple were incense sellers, fortune tellers (mostly blind), and traditional doctors with dried snake and suction cups. We came across two people we had met 2 days before. They were nice and friendly and invited us to see their art school –so we did. It turned out to be a big con to try and get us to buy expensive paintings. It really pissed us off. All is all Xian was sucky and tiring.”
Inspired by my brother and his wife, here is my blog. It seems like every dude I know has a blog, so why shouldn’t I. Not that I have any specific goals or even any very good ideas for a blog; but at least I’m finally putting my domain to some use. I’ll try and keep the inquiring minds updated on what I am doing to stay busy. I’ll also post random photos of my travels.
I am currently reading a great book: Yes Man, by Danny Wallace. I joined Danny’s cult last year and have been wondering what he has been up to. Turns out he has been saying yes to all sorts of offers and proposition. The book is funny and inspirational without being preachy.