Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hiking in Shidu

I went to Shidu on May 15th with some other people from my school. Shidu is about 2 1/2 hours away from Beijing by bus.

On the way up, I saw two horses and a zebra all saddled up. Yes, a zebra. I stared at it as we passed by thinking that something was amiss. It looked like a zebra but not quite. Hmmm. We'll get back to this later.

Shidu is described as the Guilin of the Beijing area. If you saw my pictures from Guilin, you might remember the karst mountains along a river. In Shidu, the same type of mountains are there and somewhat of a river is there as well. There are several places you can cross this river but you have to use a chain bridge. This bridge has wooden planks to walk on and chain sides to keep you from falling off as it sways. It is very long and does it ever sway....

There are lots of things to do in Shidu. You can ride ATVs, roll around in an inflatable ball, bungee jump, zipline, float on a bamboo raft, and apparently it is also a popular place for wedding pictures.

We mainly went to hike to see the waterfalls.

There are a lot of steps to climb.

One section is somehow attached to the wall with quite a drop below.

You would think this beautiful, peaceful-looking place would sound quiet and serene, wouldn't you?

On our way back I thought we might pass the zebra so I told someone on that side of the bus to look out for it. I also told them, it is possible that it is not a zebra and merely a white horse with stripes painted on it. We did indeed pass the the 'zebra' and the others confirmed my suspicions. Stripes of black paint. Sorry I didn't have a chance to snap a picture of it. Hopefully I will see a real zebra (one without a saddle) this summer in Africa and I will definitely get pictures of those!

More pictures here!


P.S. Posting is difficult at the moment. This site started being blocked again here a few weeks ago and my guess is that it will continue to be blocked until at least after June 4th.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Try on the Kenyan Visa

First try because it was unsuccessful and there needs to be a second.

I took a taxi down to the Kenyan embassy this morning. My cab driver was pleasant, understood my Mandarin, and sang to me softly on the trip down to the embassy. He even asked if it was okay that we take the expressway (you have to pay)........after we were already on it.

We arrived at the correct street and about a half block down from where I needed to be. My fare was 39 kuai (about $6). I only had a 100 kuai note though and my cab driver didn't have the change. So, he drove me over to a grocery store so I could walk in and get it. This is the first time this has happened to me. I got my change and paid him his fare. Now I was about a block away but the weather this morning was nice so I walked on down to where I thought the embassy was located.

I saw a guard standing outside what I thought was the embassy and asked him if I was at the right spot. I showed him the map I printed from their website with English and Chinese on it. He read the name of the street out loud as if he had never heard of it before. Remember, I was on the correct street - the very same one we were currently standing on. He then called over to his friend - the other guard. He yelled out the address and (this was great) the other guard pointed behind the two of them to the building we were standing in front of. Yes. It seemed that the first guard was not quite sure what exactly he was guarding.

He then asked for my passport and let me through the gate. Inside the gate, I found nothing. There was an empty courtyard and two entrances. Neither entrance had a sign, so I tried the door on the left. Inside the door was again nothing. No one. No open doors. No signs. I almost left to try the other door when I saw someone through a little window.

When I explained that I needed to get a multi-entry visa for Kenya, she asked for all my paperwork. This is about when I realized that I didn't have my photos with me and I would most definitely have to come back. I thought I might as well get all the information I needed while I was there first though. She told me that the embassy here does not issue multi-entry visas, only single entry, and that I would have to get two of those. Fine. Then she told me that they would only issue me a visa if I was traveling with a Chinese tour group. I showed her the list of the people on our tour and explained that they were all in California. No dice. I have to be on a Chinese tour.

I thought about trying for the Tanzanian visa since I already took a half-day from work, but then I remembered that I had forgotten my photos anyway.

Oh well. If I had known all this, I could have had a relaxing morning away from work instead of rushing around and getting nothing done.

Hopefully I will be able to get my Kenyan visa in L.A. or my last chance will be to get it at the airport in Kenya. But I don't want to press my luck on that one.

Two weeks - Tanzanian Visa Adventure!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Migrant School

Back in February, I visited a local migrant school with students from my school. Our school's Roots and Shoots group of 3rd to 5th graders taught lessons and played games with the students at the school. I was one of the two advisors for the group so I got to chaperone and witness the wonderful interactions. The kids were all so appreciative and excited to see all of our kids. Our kids also brought the money they raised for the school and lots of school supplies to donate. The great thing was that it made a huge impression on our kids as well.

All of the classrooms were packed with kids. There is no heating, so you can see all of the kids in their coats. They have very little for instructional materials.

I just wanted to scoop up these little darlings and bring them home.