Ariel on the spacious top bunk

Empty bottle of orange juice

Kunming's government square

Drawing by 翠湖 (Cui lake)


The train ride, all 36 hours, was incredibly pleasant. Spewing factories, Soviet bloc housing, picturesque villages, water buffaloes, the Yangtze, conical hats, damming projects; very China.

I met some friendly people including a fabulously tall female basketball player and Nike model who I gave some English lessons to and who exchanged make-up and product advice with Silvia.

Right now we're in a hostel in Kunming, Yunnan province. (Still in China.) The city is far smaller than Beijing and infinitely more pleasant, with tree lined boulevards, tea houses, free parks, lakes filled with lotus blossoms, blue skies and minority tribes people selling Myanmar cigarettes and Laotian spices smuggled from the borders. It's still very Chinese, but in a more slow-paced and less public spitting, cell phone yapping kind of way. However, really no one speaks actual Chinese, making it hard to understand some rather bizarre Mandarin. It's odd to think that our accent is more proper than actual Chinese people, and we've been told this by a number of people here.

Tonight we leave to a Chinese border city, Hekou, then on to the Vietnamese city, Sapa, in the morning. Sapa is an old French army garrison and town built in 1922, also home to ten hill tribes and very tall, mist covered mountains.

I'm very glad I'm making this trip.


Paul, Silvy and Ariel.

My last drawing in figure drawing class.

Ariel meeting me by the subway.

Me as of yesterday.

~'{and so...}'~

Here's the scoop: We're headed to Vietnam on either Friday or Saturday on a, most likely, spectacularly uncomfortable train. Today we all went to get our Vietnamese travel visas, which was an experience in and of itself. It feels odd to leave China, especially since I'm not 100% sure when we'll return, but it's terribly exciting.

I've quit my job. I didn't think I was doing anything at all for them, but they adored me and wanted me back whenever. When I come back to China, I intend to study Chinese again and tutor part time.

The countries we're planning on hitting are Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. Silvia and Ariel are planning on traveling for about a month, but I might be traveling for around two. I'll post with more details.

I've been studying a tiny bit of Vietnamese. To anyone interested, the language has six tones instead of Mandarin's four, making it a bit more challenging for Western language speakers. Also, the sounds in Mandarin are more limited than in Vietnamese, making a lot more homophones in Chinese. Chinese romanization, pinyin, is significantly easier to pronounce than Vietnamese diphthong horrors. The good news is that Vietnamese uses a French designed alphabet and hasn't used characters in nearly a hundred years, so no more pictograph code deciphering for a while. In fact, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand all have alphabetical systems related to ancient Khmer and Sanskrit. (I seriously love alphabets now.)

Love you all.



As some of you may have read, China is experiencing a huge visa crackdown before the Olympics. It doesn't look like this will be changing anytime soon, which means we'll have to leave China for a short time.

This is more or less what's happening: Ariel, Silvia and I are going to travel to Southeast Asia, mostly focusing on Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, for around two months. There are a lot of variables at the moment, but this seems certain.

Ariel is applying for a work visa which, as of now, means he has to go back home and apply there. (Even though I got my work visa in China, the rules have changed or at least temporarily changed.) He'll probably go back to Miami for a few weeks. Silvia and I, in the meanwhile, will be traveling and meet Ariel in Hanoi after he gets back from Miami.

Even though I have a work visa, I've resigned from my job. It's not much of a loss at all because I don't feel much attached to it. I'd like to return to China to concentrate on studying Chinese and earning enough money to live on by private tutoring. I need to improve my Chinese, for sure, and focus on learning rather than money.

Right now, money is not a big issue because we've saved a large amount in China. We have plenty of money to travel cheap for quite some time.

So this is what's happening. We're trying to figure out what to do with all of our things and how best to plan this. Absoluetely nothing is certain, including easily coming back into China, and we're all limbo. Anyway, it'll be great to get away from the coal-grey air and long workdays.


~The trio~


Stop and smell.



Chinese like editing things.

I was watching an episode of The Simpsons on a Chinese website when Krusty the Clown delivered a line to the effect of "I agreed with making Chinese toys that killed kids, so I'll agree to that!" The Chinese subtitles on the bottom of the screen didn't mention 中国,or China, at all and instead mentioned another country, 侵拉克, or Iraq. What Krusty was incorrectly made to say is something to the effect of "I agreed with invading Iraq, so I'll agree with that!" How terribly Chinese.