Sunday, May 24, 2009

Great Wall Marathon

okay, so I only ran the 10k. But it was still pretty awesome. The event took place on May 16th, and participants could choose to run either a 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, or full marathon. I woke up at 2 am, took a two-hour bus ride to the Great Wall with some embassy friends, and waited around until the race started at 7:30.
Angela and me, at the finish line, before the race started:
The great wall is built on the hills in the background of the next picture, where we're headed. The first 5k was all uphill on the road to the wall, then we ran/climbed about 2-3k on the wall, then another 2-3k in a small town at the base of the wall.
Here's a pic from the first 5k on the way to the wall:
On the wall!
Backlog at one of the towers:
The town at the base at the wall:
All of the locals were outside cheering on the runners...or just watching in confusion:
Literally running down the backalleys through hay and manure -
Finished! Me and the Shanghai kids:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In the 'Du

April 25-29 I had the chance to go to Chengdu, which is the capital of the Sichuan Province in Southwest China. The Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) sponsored a U.S.-China visa conference, so all the consulates and the embassy sent a few representatives, and the FAO had representatives from all of the provinces.

On Sunday they took as all to the panda sanctuary just outside downtown. The biggest sanctuary, the Wolong Panda Reserve, is still closed to tourists due to the earthquake, but this smaller one is still open and is much closer to the city.

I forgot my camera unfortunately, but a few other FSOs were awesome and sent me their pictures.

This is Fei Mei. Her name means Fat Little Sister.

Panda on a limb!

Eating bamboo!

Adolescent pandas:

There were no baby pandas, I think because of the time of year. However, you can pay 1,000 RMB (about $150) to hold a panda in your lap and get your picture taken. I didn't get to do that when I visited because we were escorted around by the FAO the whole time, but I definitely want to do it next time, when I come back in September.

Here's a red panda:

Melissa, another FSO from Guangzhou, and I in front of the pandas:
Love the xiaojies. This is Walter, from Chengdu, at our big 12-course banquet dinner that we were invited to by the FAO.
The next morning, we were whisked away to E Mei Mountain.
Holly, Yuriy, and me:

Walter and I on the way up the mountain:

Taking the tram up the mountain -

At the top of the mountain there's a giant Buddhist temple and statue of the Guanyin Buddha:
Also, some of these pictures are taken by Jamie Fouss, who's the non-immigrant visa chief in Guangzhou; he takes amazing, professional-quality pictures like this one:
Being culturally sensitive:

The day was really overcast, so you literally couldn't see the ground through the sea of clouds:

Another Jamie picture:

At the base of the mountain:

Landon, Walter, and I at the temple at the base of Mount E Mei:

Landon and Holly at the temple:
After we spent the night at the base of Mount E Mei, we visited the Leshan Buddha the next morning. The Leshan Buddha is the biggest Buddha in the world; it was previously the 3rd largest, until the Banyan Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban.
The Americans: Mike, Landon, Walter, Holly, me, Greg, and Jamie:
buddha hair:
climbing down -
the buddha was built on the shore of a river. The locals wanted to prevent flooding, so instead of investing in a dam, they built a giant buddha to watch over the river. Actually, the mud and silt that was dumped in the river during the construction of the buddha solved the flood problem anyway.
me and buddha toes:
temple at the top of the buddha:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A smattering, mostly involving food

Update on travels --
April 25-29: Chengdu, Sichuan Province for conference (forgot camera, so pictures will have to wait until I beg everyone to send me theirs)

May 1-3: Shanghai (...again)

Here are some pics from Shanghai and from around Shenyang:

Shanghai subway on the May 1st holiday:
ridiculously crowded, and not another blonde head in sight

The Pearl TV Tower, as seen from the base:

Went to Yang's Fried Dumplings. It's one of those famous hole-in-the-wall restaurants that everyone seems to know about, kind of like Crif Dogs, or Pommes Frites...but dumplings.

Hot off the wok.

The dumplings are fried, but the insides have a small amount of meat, like a meatball, and the rest is filled with soup, so you have to bite into the top of the dumpling and suck the hot soup out before eating the rest. The teapot in the picture is filled with vinegar; after you drink the soup, you dip the dumpling in vinegar before eating. Yums.

Back in Shenyang, the cuisine is a bit more...variable. Here we have live silkworms. This is the inside of my local veggie market, where apparently vendors smoke and play checkers on the produce.

A close-up of the live, wriggling silkworms. blech.
oh, and that's ginger in the foreground.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

China is a BIG Country

My coworker just forwarded to me this really interesting map. It shows the different provinces of China and labels them according to the countries with equivalent populations. So for instance, my province, Liaoning, has the same population as Argentina. Our consulate in Shenyang is responsible for the provinces of Liaoning, Heilongjiang, and Jilin, i.e. Argentina+Poland+Afghanistan.