你好! I can’t believe it’s already november. this semester is going by faster than ever and i don't like it. midterms have come and gone, and luckily they weren't terrible at all. i was most nervous about my chinese midterm and i aced it! yaaayayaya! once midterms were over TBC graciously whisked us away to Guilin, in southern china, for a week of much needed vacation.
we started off our journey by enduring a twenty-four hour train ride. yes, i wasted an entire day of my life on a train. luckily i was able to catch up on all the sleep i missed out on during midterms week and slept a good 15 hours on the sleeper train! the train ride was a lot less awful than expected. it was fun with our entire program in the same car. plus sleeper trains are definitely in my top three favorite new discoveries of china so i didn't mind it too much.
after the twenty four hour train ride, we arrived in guilin and boarded a bus and headed to yao hill. it was pretty stupid. tbc has quite the track record of taking us to see things that are completely unnecessary. i definitely could have gone through life without visiting this one. we literally took a ski lift up a hill walked around for abotu two seconds and took a toboggan ride down. i mean it was worth it for the toboggan, but if you're ever in guilin my advice is to skip the yao hill. afterwards we headed to our hotel for the night. since we spent halloween on a train we explored the nearby city and found a bunch of bars still celebrating halloween. i'd say we were successful in getting our halloween fix.
the next morning we boarded a bus and headed to a province called yangshou. this place was great. maybe it was so enjoyable because we stayed there for more than one night. but this city was a blast. upon arriving we found great food while waiting to take a li river "cruise" well tbc's version of a cruise. which can be more accurately described as motorized rafts. it was so pretty. i couldn't have picked out greater scenery.
i still have yet to see the movie avatar, but this is where it was filmed apparently. after our river cruise, we headed back to the hotel to 吃晚饭 (eat dinner) and then some of us decided to go see a famous guilin water show. once again not worth it. i was expecting fantasia. i didn't get my fantasia. or like cool water spraying from everywhere. i was expecting something cool. it wasn't that cool. a show ON water may be a better way to describe it.
tbc gave us a few options to choose from depending on how we wanted to spend our next couple of days in yangshou. we could choose two activities from hiking & kayaking, biking & mud caves, or cooking & painting. since i have absolute no desire or talent to cook or paint i opted for the kayaking and mud caves. lets just say i made some pretty good choices. the first day about 15 of us hiked for two hours then kayaked for about two as well. it was great. it was very relaxing and peaceful and not to mention we had a great backdrop. ahhh it was so much fun even though my shoulders were sore the next day. after we got back to our hotel and a few of us rented mopeds and explored the city. it was so much fun, although i can't drive one and china moped-ers are very intimidating. that night we came across a bar recommended by kevin gainey - monkey jane's. where the monkey jane herself graced us with her presents. she is a lunatic. definition of crazy. she had a beer pong table, which is unheard of in china so least to say us tbc-ers were pretty satisfied.
the next day was biking and mudcaving. i was so excited. and i had every right to be. this was prolly my favorite day of the whole trip. i forgot how much fun bike riding was. about twelve of us hoped on bikes and rode for two hours along country roads it was so much fun, even though the country roads weren't exactly smooth or comfortable to ride on. after a two hour bike we arrived at moon hill and made an hour climb to the top. damon mariana and i ,of course us st. joe's kids being adventurous and fearless, decided we had to go further - to the top of the arch. we bypassed the sign that said do not enter and climbed mountainous terrain to reach the top of the arch. and it was worth it. it was such a beautiful view, you could see everything. we were higher than 50% of the mountains around us. unfortunately the china smog was more than evident, however it was worth it nonetheless. after our two hour hike, we ate lunch and made our way to the mud caves. we boarded a tiny row boat, hard hats on, and sailed into the caves. then we had to spelunk for about thirty minutes to get to the actually mud caves. it was slippery and muddy and half the time we were crawling on our hands and knees, but of course it was a blast. upon reaching the actual mud pit we got soaked in mud and had mud fights, obviously. we then again spelunked some more to try and find a clean watering hole, of course it was non existent. afterwards we took the rowboats back outta the cave and made our way toward civilization. we had a bit of a dilemma, two choices i guess you could say. 1. ride the two hour bike ride back home covered in mud or 2. jump in the most likely disease and germ infested "pool" in front of the mudcaves. naturally, i went for the disease infested pool. freezing, but not too bad. i guess i'll discover if i'm disease infested when i return to america. afterwards i took about a three hour hot shower and slept until forever. it was wonderful!
our last stop on our week long vacation was to longsheng, we stayed in a village called dazhai. it was a lot of fun. there was nothing around. just the yao village people, who naturally threw us a bonfire party. we hiked rice terraces ate "western" food, slept in spider-infested, freezing hotel rooms, and last but not least awoke to the sounds of a large pig being slaughtered. good day. having had enough of the homestay, we then checked into a hot springs resort where we relaxing and hung around the hot springs all day. it was a nice, relaxing way to spend our last day of vacation. the next day we boarded a plane and headed back to beijing.
this was the greatest vacation of a life time, a free week off from school, warm weather, fun activities, and amazing scenery. however i am never too upset to return to beijing. after awhile i begin to miss the homemade dumplings out of east gate or taking the 20 kuai taxi ride to sanlitun or even chinese class. its weird. but i'm beginning to think i'm in love. in love with a communist country. tough life i lead, i know.