Xi'an -- Wed, Jul 20, 2005
Have you ever tried to take in Ancient Chinese History, while your bowels were playing the twister with your body? Well, let's just say it wasn't the most pleasant day. I managed to "discover" every bathroom and leave a few relics of my own...
Having been told that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't see the warriors -- I crawled out of bed to make the trip. Fang Wen Guang asked the bus driver if they were really so amazing and her response was "You will regret it for the rest of your life if you see them, and you will regret it for the rest of your life if you do." We learned that she added this last phrase because it costs 90RMB to see the warriors. Although this is only $11US, it can be a good part of a Chinese person's monthly salary -- it is sad when our own country people can't afford to see their own national treasures.
But enough with the economics tangent. Luckily we got there early and it wasn't very busy. The long and the short is that I am going to have to disagree with the majority opinion that its "the eight wonder of the world". It's cool and the technology used to build the massive number of terracotta warriors is impressive for the time -- but its hard to put on the scale of the pyramids I think.
Maybe my opinion would have been different if I had felt better. But I have seen many more impressive things in the faces of the people we have met along the tour -- but if you only have a few days in China, it might be an interesting thing (I would still rather go explore some small town, or off the beaten path streets and press my luck at getting food poisioning...) ;)
Xian -- Tue, Jul 19, 2005
After the interesting night before.... I had a short, dehydrated ride to Xi'an. Given that the taxi cab driver from last night was parading around in some new Shimano shoes -- I had to do the 30km in moccosins...
I met up with Fang Wen Guang and the founder of the autism organization in Xi'an. Again -- another incredible school, and incredible story. The school was started in 2002 after a group of parents set up a group to discuss what to do about their special needs children. They had relatively no options -- their were only a few government supported "special schools" in Xi'an that could not meet the level of need, and eventhen, the quality of the schools was suspect. Regular schools would not accept their children and the parents needed to work -- but wanted to see their children progress.
They came to the decision that they had to do something on their own and now have established the premier school for children with disabilities in Xi'an (as usual, with no government funding, little community awareness, etc, etc. many difficulties). The teachers at these schools amaze me -- one on one attention and incredible patience. We did a tour later in the day -- and say them working hard on review plans, what they had done that day and what they needed to work on with their kids. Really dedicated.
There are four western student volunteers working at the school for the summer (two from England with Eye-To-Eye, and two from the states with CCS) . We went out from drinks with them that night... it was fun but a big mistake... the stomach flu would return that night with a vengance
TongGuang -- Sun, Jul 17, 2005
The longest ride I have ever done -- about 160 miles (250km), which I think is longer than any ride on the tour de france (although not comparable). Oh and through in some rain, winds trying to blow me off the side of a cliff, and the steepest climbs of the trip so far... it was a good day... The only time I have been in more pain was after the New York Marathon.
Luoyang -- Sat, Jul 16, 2005
The day's biking summary is at the bottom of this post.
I definitely took the little things for granted in the US. You just never really think that a toilet might not have a seat or that hot water only comes on after a certain time (if you have it at all). But in China, these are things you quickly get accustomed to (or you complain way too damn much).
I left Ray Wen behind in Zhengzhou today so he could buy his cousin a bike. For some reason, I get more adventurous when I'm alone in China -- maybe not smart, but fun. I decided to look for a hotel a little off the beaten path -- one that you won't find in the lonely planet. Well I found it...
They had never had an American guest before and didn't really know what to do with me. They had to call the manager to make sure it was ok. We figured out how to fill out the paper work together and then they took me to my room. It is actually relatively normal and has a toilet seat unlike my hotel last night -- but I definitely wouldn't call it nice.
I was pretty happy that I had found a relatively cheap hotel (altough the difference between this place and a 5 star hotel is probably $10US) that a bunch of Chinese people were staying at (althoug they are in the shared rooms -- I thought about it, but with the bike... probably not a good idea).
But then the manager lady -- who was bossing the two fuwuyans (general helper/maids/attendents etc) around -- told me that hot water comes on after 6pm. Ah, I knew I should have checked for that. Not really a big deal, but after a long day of biking, a warm shower is really nice.
Now let me note for some of you that have been to China before -- yes 6pm is early, and I am lucky there was hot water at all... but you're in the know... Most of us still take these things forgranted and I was pampered at my university with my own hot water tank.
I had a realization though during my hot shower. My Malaysian friend has said that she would never date a Chinese boy because they don't shower and smell. Now although this is a gross overgeneralization -- I did come to the conclusion that if I had to take a freezing cold shower, I probably wouldn't shower that well either. Its an interesting in and out routine that makes scrubing difficult.
And the final realization -- ah that is the reason for the scrub boy... read the story at:
Today was the first day of real uphilll climbing -- it was a cool day with sprinkles throughout.
ZhengZhou -- Fri, Jul 15, 2005
An incredible day!
- 5 news organization representatives (TV and newspapers) covering our volunteer day
- A sign "Welcoming the delgation of Brad to support autistic children"... What delegation... ;)
- Being forced to sing a country song... yes, I know I don't have a good voice, and yes I don't really like country -- but my hosts didn't care, so... that is what I did ;)
- Playing games, dancing, counting numbers, and taking way too many photos with 60 autistic children. There was this one girl that might of actually had downs syndrome that was a great dancer, we had some fun ;)
- Being hugged and kissed by many of the kids, very surprising to me from autistic children -- and they loved the little stubble I am starting to grow on my face ;)
If you haven't seen the pictures of the past 3 stages -- make sure to check out http://www.biketheworld.org/gallery/
If you haven't noticed, we have taken a detour from our route. This detour adds about 200km and takes us north through Henan, to ZhengZhou allowing us to add another volunteer day.
We woke up early and rounded up 9 bikers from Wuhan University that we met on the road (3 of which will be joining us to Urumqi). We biked 15km out to a school for autistic children and were greated press, filmcrew, and 100+ people clapping for our arrival (I am starting to like this... ;)
Foreigners are big news out here and they went all out for this. 20 foot banners welcoming us, speeches, performances, sound system, stage... And yes, they made me perform as well... Their president gave a speech praising us. I had to come up with a speech on the spot about what we were doing and what I've learned over the past 12 days. They love that you want a girlfriend Blake ;)
Then they made me sing a country song... I wanted to sing Lean on Me but it had to be country so I went for Live Like You Were Dieing by Tim McGraw. Let me say that thank god they didn't know English... my singing is atrocicious as my high school theater teacher can tell you, but they seemed to like it (the Chinese like John Denver so, I guess it should be pretty easy to please ;)
After that they gave us dipolmas, the teachers did a performance -- a sign language song ala Happy Hands ;) Then I played some games with the kids and then we worked on our numbers. The kids were giving me hugs and kisses, which really surprised me. I can't even get Blake to kiss me ;) They were adorable and it was a lot of fun.
And then it was photo time. Photo time is a big deal in China and this was no exception... 30 minutes later it was time for press interviews. Pretty harmless, but it was the first time I have had a press microphone in my face, an odd feeling ;)
After that we went in and toured the school and worked on some of the activities with the kids. The school is really incredible. The founder, a doctor, started working with autistic children in 1995. After some success getting children to improve their speaking abilities, she soon got a number of requests for help. See officially started the school in 2002, after selling/mortgaging her house to do so (a relatively rare thing in China). The school has grown dramatically and is a truly amazing organization. They probably have 50 teachers working with the kids, real one-on-one attention. And they have done this with no government support and little community support/ understanding (no tax-breaks in china for non-profits...).
Really incredible -- I wish you were here to see it. They had one class of students all about Blakes age. It made me miss Blake a lot... One kid's gestures really reminded me of Blake.
We had a discussion regarding autism in the United States and I shared the little that I know. They are really interested in talking to some people in the US who actually know what they are talking about. If you would be willing to talk to this organization about treatment, fundraising, or any other ideas please let me know and I will put you in touch with them.
Then we went to lunch -- the typical chinese affair -- 2 hours, too much food, and too many gambies (chug beer). I kept my own though, even though I was being triple teamed -- I guess I have had some practice out here... A teacher of the school and his girlfriend joined us as well, great people, he is from mongolia, was going to be a doctor but decided he didn't like seeing sick people ;)
We went back -- did one last round with the kids and then said our good-byes. Wen Ray had a few drinks and I had to get his head straight before the bike ride home. I really didn't want to have to pick him up off the pavement.
Tomorrow I set off for Xi'an alone, Wen Ray is going to bike to Xi'an with his cousin, the following day, but I need to get to Xi'an on the 19th to meet Fang Wen Guang. Its going to be a hard 4 days; 600km. We'll see how I do...
ZhengZhou -- Thu, Jul 14, 2005
The wind was at our backs and we took advantage of that.
We ran into nine students biking from Wuhan to Xi'an (3 of which will probably join us after Xi'an to Urumqi). They were great characters -- they had flags, and just some great spirit. And pushed me to bike my ass off... It was a lot of fun, and they kept up pretty damn well. The hills were the only place they couldn't keep up -- oh I miss The Hills in Providence ;) Can't blame them, its pretty flat out here right now.
Had a great dinner with the crew at a XinJiang restaurant and a meeting with the president of the school we are meeting with tomorrow to go over the "event". They have a formal plan and have gotten a lot of press to attend. Pretty cool.
XuChang -- Wed, Jul 13, 2005
The day started out poor with the hotel manager scolding her employees for not charging us double because I was a foreigner. I didn't like that and see didn't really like that we had our bikes in her hotel.
But the day turned out really well. I had one of my fastest days biking -- and had a good two hours to get some web stuff done before Wen Ray arrived.
XuChang, took Henan from being one of the worst provinces on the trip to being one of the best. It was a relatively clean city with a great feel for some unknown reason. It was still one of those cities that most won't visit -- but we really enjoyed it.
We stayed up way too late at the "discotheque" but we were having fun and we had a short ride to ZhengZhou the next day.
Zhumadian -- Tue, Jul 12, 2005
We have had stories published (newspapers and radio) in Shanghai, Nanjing and Hefei about our trip. This is really exciting because it gets the message out in China. Below is one of the clippings that was sent to us.
My nickname in China is Mianbao -- meaning bread -- my students aptly named me this after being confused of why their teacher had such a strange name. In the picture, I was teaching the kids sport names in English -- send me your guess from what sport it is in the picture...
This is the rough translation of the article:
"To help raise awareness of people with autism in China, Brad from America, is leading a team biking across China. Yesterday, they finished their second stage in Nanjing, and then went to see the students at the Boai Service Center in Xuanwu Suojin Village. He taught them English and played games with them. Brad's younger brother has autism and he deeply cares for people with autism. This photo shows Brad and the children."
Zhumadian -- Tue, Jul 12, 2005
We are now 10 days into Bike Across China and I crossed the 1,000km mark today. We are 25% towards our fundraising target and have spread the word to about 2,000 people (a lot more people than the site indicates right now; I am working on that). Please continue to spread the word and encourage your friends to help in any way they can!
Here's a quick re-cap of the past 10 days:
- I found a highway hotel and asked for a wake-up call. Either they liked me or hadn't done many of these because I received a "personal" 4am wake-up call by the hotel manager in his boxers, and a follow-up by the hotel lady, just to make sure I was up...
- Nearly 100 degree heat for the first 2 days...
- Rain for the next 6 days...
- Navigating through chinese country side
- And to top it all off, an introduction to the Chinese police PSB for taking a forbidden photo... While being interogated they I had people playing with my hair.
Until next time.
Xin Yang -- Mon, Jul 11, 2005
Biking wise, it was a quick day and the sun finally came out again.
Today I learned a lesson in photography and "Chinese law". I just got back from a 2 hour ordeal, with the police and a moderately angry crowd of people. Here's the background -- there was this large fire in the middle of the side walk with people wearing white bandanas standing around it. I thought it would make an interesting photo... they did not. I later found out that they were mourning someone who died and taking a photo may take the person's soul into the camera, not a good place for a soul to be.
They quickly told me to delete it, which I did, and the apprehended Wen Ray -- although I'm not really sure what they wanted. As I told Wen Ray and his brother to run for it -- Wen Ray and the group mutually decided to let the police solve this. I was a bit nervous but more afraid of the guy with a big stick to my left...
Long story short, I didn't break a law, but Wen Ray put it well saying that "not all laws are written in China". They praised the group for being kind and not starting a fight. The police were satisified by seeing my passport -- which Wen Ray had to go back to the hotel to get. We were wearing our shirts and I had met some of the police officers biking into town -- which made our pitch a little easier. We had crowds reaching 50 people throughout the ordeal watching (they love any entertainment that has a white face included).
No USB cord so the photos will have to wait for tomorrow -- as long as the soul didn't get in there and delete everything...