Joy, by asking about the plumbing you have already told me that you know the answer to that question.
This was the most difficult part for me to cope with. Basically, unless it's designated as a western toilet, you get to pop a squat. Most of them smelled horrid and were unflushed; I was doing my best to time my bowel movements so that I could do a #2 in the hotel (where the had western toilets).
The food was exquisite. It really made me realize that Chinese food here isn't Chinese food. We had a meal in the Shaolin Temple and it was some of the most delicious cuisine that I've ever tasted. Whereas American dishes like steak and potatoes have only one taste per bite, this food had a wide variety of tastes in each spoonful (I couldn't use chopsticks). The food that we had in the hotels was a little more tame, but the few times that I snuck out with friends to eat were memorable dining experiences. Some of the more exotic things I tried - heart, stomach, lung, and tongue. The heart and stomach were part of a dish called "hot pot," native to Chonquing in the south. Basically, there is a pot in the middle of the table (kind of like fondue) and you cook your own food in oils, broth and spices. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
In the more international cities like Beijing and Xian, I saw a good number of Americans, but as we got farther south (Zhen Zhou and Chongqing) I can say that I saw less than 20 Americans total. People were very curious about us (especially my leg hair) and wanted to practice their English on us, or even just walk around and hang out. It was really cool - despite the language barrier, there were good vibes being sent both ways. I have to say that this really dispelled the negative perception that I had about China; yes, the government may be corrupt, but the people are just like most on the planet - they just want to have a good time.
Tourist sights that I saw:
The Great Wall at Badaling
The Emperor's Tomb
The Shaolin Temple of Martial Arts
The Forbidden City
The Summer Palace
I probably enjoyed the Shaolin Temple the most, mainly because I am into that sort of thing. I got a few gratuitous pics of me and my friends doing kung-fu poses. Happiness!
Speaking of pics, they are finally developed, but my scanner is having problems again. Little help, Jodi?
I managed to pick up a little Mandarin, but the only characters that I learned were those for "entrance," "exit," and "people." There were many times when I wished that I at least had laughable command of the language so that I couls BS with people and do thigns by myself, but that wasn't the case. Maybe next time.
The audiences were mostly enthusiastic, even if they were a little loud. I think it's because they're not used to classical concerts in the way westerners are - sitting quietly in a darkened hall and what not. Generally, the performances were successful.
Originally posted by Alex:
Welcome home - Lizst still s**ks!