Thursday, June 10, 2010

Limited Access

Just wanted to let everyone know that we are very rural china for the
next week and a half. What does this mean to you, probably nothing,
but if you are regular reader you you might notice an even longer
interval between posts than normal. Hopefully this will give me some
time to reflect on the beauties of running water and electricity and
it might even result in more of my what is it series.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The drive to Xichang

Google maps is not normally very accurate about driving times in China. Our experience has been that they over estimate by as much as 25%. This past two long drives (sunday and yesterday) we found that they grossly underestimate. Sunday we got stuck behind a bus-truck collision and then in massively bad traffic on the freeway. It took 11 hrs for what google thinks is a 9 hr drive and we have done in 7.5 hrs. Then yesterday was the kicker. It was stated as a 10 hr drive from Chengdu to Xichang and 3 on to Yanyuan. We know it's another 1ish from yanyuan to Yangjuan. So we thought (innocently) that we may be able to do this all in 1 day. WRONG!

The drive started out with bad luck - we couldn't figure out how to get on the freeway. However, that is a common problem because the maps, roads, and intersections aren't well marked and don't have consistent signs. Sometimes english is translated, sometimes transliterated from Chinese. Sometimes there is no English. Signs are behind trees, 50 ft from the exit you need. Highways are numbered only on major intersection signs and on some maps. Most intersections are labeled by a bridge name, not the street names. Yikes.

So we got on the highway and drove well until the highway ended (expected) about 2 hrs from Chengdu. We then hit major construction and traffic and a really bad road. At one point we ended up on a bridge where asphalt had just been laid on the right side. Innocently enough we decided it was ok to drive on the right side (not seeing signs otherwise) but we got stopped by some workers who told me it was an RMB 500 ($75) fine for this infraction but he'd give us a discount to 300. I told him we wouldn't pay it and he said if he called his boss it would be 1000. I persisted and at one point Josh hailed some cops (wrong type. They weren't traffic cops) who told him to let me go. He told me he'd take 100 and I insisted on a receipt, which he wouldn't give me. I told him (and the cops) that I wouldn't give him money without a receipt because it would just go to his pockets. He called the bosses. They came over after about 15 minutes and took some pictures of our infraction. I explained the situation and the bribe attempt and they made him let us go. It all took nearly an hour and it was a little frightening and annoying, but I stayed reasonably calm. It was clear we had done no damage to the road and everyone knew that, and the man was just hoping to hit up the wealthy white people.

The road was pretty bad for a long time. WE drove over a few passes, through a closed basin (lots of sediment fill - kind of cool) and at one point got a flat tire. We used the pump we bought to give to the Yangjuan school for soccer balls to pump the tire up enough to get to a repair shop where the thorough guy charged us RMB 20 to check 2 tires, repair one, and pump both up. Pretty good. We had dinner at about 9 pm at a road side place run by a lovely young woman with a 2 month old daughter. Then got in to Xichang at about 10:15 and found a very nice hotel for only 128/room. It even has internet.

To add to the good ending for the day, I found out this morning that a paper from my dissertation got accepted!

We're off to Yanyuan and Yangjuan today. I will try to post mobile updates from my iphone.

amanda :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Upcoming trip

We're meeting Liz, an Oberlin undergrad, and Brian, a UW post doc, tonight for a 3 week whirlwind field trip road trip. We're headed to Yangjuan ( first, where we will spend 10 days working on a river restoration plan and continuing ongoing geomorphic research. Then we're off to Zhongdian where we get to visit my friend Michelle (from UW Madison) and see if there are comparison sites there, and then head up to Daocheng where Travis (from CU Boulder) is studying tourism. He thinks there is a good chance that Daocheng would be a good comparison site to Jiuzhaigou. Finally we'll head back to Chengdu then take Brian and Liz up to Jiuzhaigou for 2 days or so.

Here's our route:

View Larger Map

We'll not have much internet access except through our phones, but hopefully will be able to post short updates via email. Once we get to Zhongdian there will be regular internet again.

amanda :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

What is it or (something)?

Sorry for the delay in responding as to my query of "what is it from last week". While there were some very good answers that were quite clever, they were all wrong, Ok not all of them were wrong but this is my blog so I can decide what's right and what's not. In any case it turns out that the device in question is in fact a below ground dumpster (Not Dempster, sorry). In fact at some time in the near future we may even get to use it as a dumpster as recently a sign was put up on it. What did the sign say I don't know because I don't read Chinese, but if I did I'm sure that I would be enthralled at the poetic nature that was used to describe how to remove the trash from the dumpster something that I have actually yet to find out.
That being aside let us get on to our next pondering. Living in China has allowed me to see things that are not common in other parts of the world. For instance trees growing in the middle of the road, walls jutting out into the middle of the road and of course three or four lane highways where there are stripes for only two. These things all follow a theme, that theme of is of course, roads. There are many interesting things to see on the roads of China and as I'm sure there are plenty of strange things to see on roads in many parts of the world I am currently in China and this will have to suffice. That is why I am pleased to present you with not one but two images for your optical delight. Much like the vast array of reality television shows that once they run out of ideas to challenge their contestants I have decided to change the rules slightly. Don't worry they haven't changed much. As usual the correct answer will receive...nothing. As I have nothing to give you shall receive nothing unless of course you count the adulation and respect of your fellow colleagues, family, and  pets for such a prestigious honor of knowing something that they don't.

How many trucks are in the picture? and for you uber-nerdy types out there where is the center of gravity of the mass on this stretch of Public highway?

What's wrong with this picture? There are so many can you name them all.

finally I thought I would throw one last one in, and it is an actual "what is it"?

Bonus points for the lazy people that go to the Ikea catalog and look up the name on the tag.

Weekends at Abuluzi

Abuluzi is the only locally owned and authentic Tibetan restaurant in Jiuzhaigou. The family also runs a fantastic homestay. At the restaurant Zhuo Ma is the hostess, waitress, and general manager. Ke Zhu is the cook. At the homestay Zhuo Ma is the general manager and a fantastic host, Ke Zhu is the breakfast cook, Ama (their mother) is the host, housekeeper, waitress, and dinner cook, and Lopsong (Ke Zhu's son) is the entertainer. He's 2. Another time I will tell you about the homestay. We *love* their Suyou Cha (yak butter tea) which has honey, barley flour, tea, and yak butter. In any case, today I wanted to write about the restaurat. On most nights at Abuluzi their only guests are the handful of foreigners who hear about the restaurant and go for some delicious food. However, on Friday and Saturday nights (at least the last two weekends), a group of Jiuzhaigou residents gathers for food, drink, and good company. the last two weekends we ended up with them partly by accident and partly because we happened to stop by to see Ke Zhu and Zhuo Ma. The group is awesome. It includes: Kieran, a Chinese friend of his (a lovely Han lady who used to do Tibetan dancing and now works for the park; Han is the ethnic that 95% of Chinese are), a lady from Lhasa who (I believe) runs a hotel, a man from Amdo who speaks English, a famous local singer, and the singer's personal assistant. I think that's everyone. Plus us. So there are people from several different parts of Tibet, a Han woman, an Irishman, and 2 Americans eating Tibetan food in a very Chinese touristy Tibetan area. How cool! They are totally understanding of us not drinking alcohol. In fact, one of the local guys (the Amdo one) is currently not eating meat and not drinking. I'm not sure how long for. But we have been buying non-alcoholic beer in Chengdu and leaving it at the restaurant so that we can drink something tasty when we're hanging out there.

Last Friday night we showed up after a movie screening at the local orphanage. Kieran has a tradition that we participate in of showing a cartoon to the orphans once a week. In any case, we went to Abuluzi after the movie and discovered that Ke Zhu had made some fantastic hot pot (note: normally I really dislike hot pot).  While we ate the hot pot, we discovered that Lhasa lady was really worked up because she and her friends had gone to see what one of the Zang Jia Lou (Tibetan Family Home) places was like. She discovered that it was not at all representative of Tibetan culture. The proprietor was almost certainly Han and these places cater totally to Han tour groups. Inside they serve fake suyou cha (hardly any yak butter) and the wait staff are pushy, rude, loud, and generally "not Tibetan". In her mind, Tibetans are polite and quiet and gentle people and these Zang Jia Lou places are making a total spectacle out of her culture. It not only is a case of their culture losing face but that these places are a way for Han to believe that they have a superior culture.

It was interesting. I totally see where she is coming from, but I also totally see why these places have developed - they are exactly the kind of "renao" (hot and loud) places that the Han tour groups like and want to see while on vacation. So how can the Jiuzhaigou Tibetans preserve their culture, make a living in a place where the entire economy is tourism, and pass their culture on to future generations?