Monday, September 22, 2008

Farewell DumplingHaiku, Hello!!!

P3010397.JPG, originally uploaded by jonbaron.

It's been fun, blogger, but the truth is I could never access you from China, and neither could all my would-be China-based readers.

I am proud to officially announce that regular blogging will be resumed at the newly purchased and custom-designed!!!

Please visit the blog there often (or RSS it as you will) and comment lots as I embark on sharing with you all my new experiences and new stages of life as I study Chinese-English conference interpretation here in Beijing!

See you there!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Carrot Zoolander, originally uploaded by jonbaron.

This blog has been critically hampered by my recent inability to access I've now taken to blogging remotely via flickr, which means all my posts will be accompanied by obnoxious blow-up photos that may or may not relate to what I'm doing at the moment.

I've been having a ball in Dalian.
On Tuesday I take the train up to the Russian border for the final showdown with Chernobyl... after a long summer separated, we're either going to commit to moving to Beijing together or simply break up and hope to be friends.

In any case, I'm hopefully going to be in Beijing by the 28th, find a house, and report to the university on September 1st.

Hope all is good in the universe; will try and blog more regularly if possible... I'm thinking about just buying a domain name and starting a new blog on a new platform (maybe wordpress) when I move to Beijing. Anyone have suggestions?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For those of you keeping score at home...

The Opening Ceremonies were a blast, the Games are underway, and China is currently leading in gold medals. All is as it should be on the sports front.

But that has very little to do with me.

The day before the Olympics started, I was still in Mongolia.

My trip, condensed, was like this:

Train from Beijing to Mongolian border-town: befriended a pair of clueless but adorable French guys beginning their first-ever adventure in Asia.

Train from Mongolian shanty-town to Ulan Baatar: befriended a hip Korean backpacker, and together with the French formed a team of four.

Ulan Baatar: an ugly post-Soviet city with a sickly sweet gloss of international tourism; that is, lots of car mechanics and Genghis Khan t-shirts, a strip of crappy Euro-trash restaurants and surrounded on all sides by acres of run-down yurt barrios.

UB to Lake Khovsgol: on the 20+ hour minibus trip over dirt horse-roads, we got caught in the smack center of a lightening storm. The roads turned to muck and we had to wait it out overnight, playing Chinese chess till the electricity cut out and sleeping on the floor of a little canteen.

Lake Khovsgol: the - b e a u t i f u l - alpine heaven lake perched at the northernmost tip of the country. In terms geographic de naturale, more similar to Siberia (and Russia's Lake Baikal) than to the grasslands of Mongolia.

Horse-riding: two days bumping up and down on a horse. I named my horse 巧克力 ("chocolate"), and we had a fairly good relationship, but he was a little rough on my bottom. Originally I wanted to spend a good week in Mongolia learning to ride horses, but after two days my balls were squashed and my asshole was burning and it dawned on me that horse-riding is absolutely inferior to hiking in all ways but two (that is, riding has a slight speed advantage, and you don't have to carry all your stuff on your back).

Hiking: ahhh, much better. My team of four set out on a 3 day-2 night hiking-camping adventure, summiting peaks, camping in secluded valleys, drinking nothing but fresh spring water, eating nothing but bread, jam, Snickers, and spaghetti, and generally enjoying long days of exercise and long nights of campfires and stars. Hit the fuckin' spot.

Back to UB: really, the roads in Mongolia are atrocious. We had all the "classic" road experiences, including one time when we got a flat, and the car had no jack, so all the guys had to get out and physically lift up the minibus while the driver swapped in the spare tire; and another time when-- after a 24 hour journey-- we ran out of gas 4km from our destination and had to get out and push the bus to the nearest downhill slope.

Last Hurrah: After splitting from the French homies, the Korean kid and I went out to the burbs of UB for a last night of camping. We found a sweet spot by a river, set up tent, and hiked up to the mountains to watch the sunset. It was dark when we got down, and we couldn't seem to find our tent. Searching, searching... close to midnight and we just give up, and luckily find a bunch of Mongolians camping that are kind to us, give us tea and fire and bread and a place to sleep. The next morning we find our campsite, but the tent and sleeping bags (and my friend's journal and camera card) have all been stolen. My buddy hitches back to UB to fly empty handed home to Korea, and I (with two days to kill) decide to walk back to the capital on foot.

Photography: amazing. I'm a dope fucking photographer. I was given a fly new DSLR before I left, and put it to good use... enjoy the gargantuan display of beauty and talent below.

Now: Back in Dalian, chillin. On Monday I go to Heilongjiang to see Chernobyl, and hopefully a week after that we head together down to Beijing.

For some reason, my blog has been inaccessible recently; I don't know why, and I don't know what to do about it, but this is the first time in a week I've been able to log. Hopefully it'll be better and there'll be more of this good shit to come, but who knows??

Until next time, still chasin' skirts and yurts,

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Impressions of Mongolia

Yo Whassup from Ulan Bataar.

I've been travelling on trains every night for the past three nights, and am about to get on another one this evening. Spirits are high and the sharp taste of adventure is in the air. (Why it's sharp, and how air can have a taste, these are both good questions, but I am afraid you will have to look inside your hearts and find the answers to them on your own).

Myself and the two Frenchmen I helped smuggle over the border here have been joined by a friendly Korean lad, and the four of us are setting off to a big lake in the very north of Mongolia (called Khavagal or something like that). It'll take us to days over trains and bumpy roads to get there, and when we arrive we'll spend 6 or 7 days hiking, camping, and horseback riding. Expectations are enormous, and armed with a ridiculously expensive professional camera given to me as a present by my boss the day before I left Dalian, I hope to be able to share some of its beauty with you guys via photograph when I return.

Mongolia is poor, but everything is conversely MORE expensive than in China, because it's all manufactured in China and shipped over crappy roads. Mongolians are friendly and speak decent English, their food is manageable but not as good as my Sinonized taste buds are accustomed to, and the weather is 100 percent GORGEOUS.

I don't know when I'll be able to post again... it may very well be two weeks, but if I do get a chance to find an internet cafe I will. I've already booked a flight from UB back to Beijing on August 7th, and will be heading back home to Dalian after that.

Peace God

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I know, I know...

I haven't posted in forever.

I have two excuses, both perfectly valid:
1) I've been busy.
2) My computer hasn't been able to connect to blogspot (reason unknown).

Super-quick update:

Changbai Shan. I went hiking on the mountains that seperate China from North Korea. It was stunningly beautiful, but I didn't get quite enough mountains. I also wished I had had someone to share it with. I took great pictures, ate dog, and had an all-round great time.

Back in Dalian. Working hard for the Chinese school, with which I have formally ended my career but for whom I will continue to serve as an informal advisor and English-guy. I also further strengthened my friendships with my brothers and sisters in Dalian, with lots of happy days and nights spent enjoying the city, eating yummies, chilling in coffeeshops, and chatting.

Chernobyl. She's been gone for over two months, stranded in Russia because of the difficulties obtaining a Chinese visa. From the brink of breakup, we managed to get a new lease on our relationship with a four day visit that ran the full gamut of emotions and activities and extremes that mark our turbulent coupling: laughter, tears, sweat, 5-star hotels, mountains, fights, and promises. It was wonderful and we're going to try and stick it out.

Exile. I have to bounce because of my own visa requirements. Rather than run to Hong Kong (ugh), I instead went to Beijing, where I boarded the famed Trans Siberian Railway and headed north, only instead of riding it all the way to Moscow I have instead "de-trained" at the Sino-Mongolian border. I'll cross over tomorrow, and spend the next two weeks hiking, camping, learning to ride horses, and eating roast lamb. Should be a good time.

That's my update. Will let ya'll know the flow as things develop.

Peace and love, don't push and shove: create civilized Beijing to build a harmonious society for the whole world to enjoy!

And I'm out...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

WaFangDian English Language Super School

The Chinese school I work for is planning a mad indirect viral marketing campaign featuring mock-ads for the WaFangDian English Language Super School.

What do you think of our pilot?

Why China is Awesome : Reason #40,947