All posts by Jen

Things I learned in China

Now that I am back home & able to reflect on my trip, I have come to the realization that everything I thought I knew about China, was likely wrong.    I did years of research, in fact, one of my memories today on Facebook was when I originally planned my trip to china 6 years ago, so it is safe to say, this was a trip that took 6 years to plan and finally take.

I had some pretty hilarious moments in China, I had one annoying moment that would have been scary as hell had I been alone, and I even did something that is considered insulting… So many things I wish I would have known prior to my arrival in China, so today I want to share with you.

This trip was remarkable and I am positive I will talk about my trip to China the rest of my days.  It is a country that I hope to return to in the very near future, because it had that large of an impact on me.

So what did I learn exactly?

The Great Chinese Firewall is not a myth, I knew about it prior to my arrival in China, but I did not realize that google was part of that firewall… so my thoughts of using google maps to walk all over Beijing fell through, I had a VPN but it did not work, which brings me to my next lesson.

It is NOT easy getting reliable wifi in the Hutongs.    We did a lot of research and we felt like we should easily get internet while in China, hell our hotel HAD internet… but it was not reliable.  We later realized that getting wifi in general was not easy in the hutongs and decided to take it as a good thing and we digitally disconnected.    We did find lots of free internet when we were in the financial area, which also has a lot of western hotels, so that might be a problem for you if you stay in that area.

Beijing has an interesting relationship with food.  Guys, it is no secret I am not a food person.  If I could just tap an IV and keep hustling I would, most people in my life find that crazy, but I never really think about food, unless it is cupcakes… I always think about cupcakes.    Anyway, I digress.  Food. Is. Everywhere. In Beijing.  I am serious, restaurants, food vendors, people eating street food in front of you.  I have never in my life been to a place that seems to celebrate food the way the people of Beijing do, so if you are a foodie, I feel Beijing is an absolute MUST for you.

Blue skies do exist in China.  In fact, the skies were so blue the first couple of days, I even thought the pollution was a myth.  It isn’t, the city is crazy polluted and I have never experienced smog like that, but apparently the Northern Winds do blow the pollution out and you can experience blue skies.

crazy blue skies right?

About flip flops….

Yeah don’t wear them, or do.  I mean I guess it doesn’t matter… I wore them and probably 1 in 3 people would stare at my feet.  It was really awkward.  I have a complex about my feet anyway… come to find out, it is frowned upon to wear flip flips in public.  Knowing that now, I am kinda humiliated that I did not do a better job researching what to wear in China.   I can assure you I will not make that mistake again.  People would point ya’ll then start talking in rapid fire Chinese… about my feet.  Granted I did not understand them, but I know.

The rickshaw drivers are relentless and scandalous.  We took one rickshaw driver that was fascinating and legit… we took another that was an absolute scam.  I will write about that scam in another post… because had I been alone, that would have been a terrifying moment and I don’t want others to fall victim.

Good luck getting a legit cab near any tourist attraction.  Cabs are dirt cheap, cabs from the airport were less than 15 bucks and a typical cab ride cost less than 5 bucks… unless you take one from a tourist attraction and then it is not uncommon for the prices to triple.  If you want to negotiate cabs go for it, but typically just walking away from the attractions gets you a better rate.

Don’t book a Great Wall tour before you arrive.  It is SOOOOOO much cheaper to do it in Beijing, they are fighting for your business and yes they take you to the jade museum, but truth be told it isn’t that bad and only lasts 30 minutes.

The lessons I learned in China were valuable and I can assure you that next time I go to China I will leave my flip flops at home.  China is an amazing country that I feel you really need to give a chance.

I learned that 400 million Chinese play tourist in their own country every year, but only approx 4 million foreign visitors visit China every year.  This country truly is a gem that if you are not going, you are missing out.  I can honestly say I have never felt more safe in a country in my life and I can’t wait until I book my next flight back.  I absolutely LOVED China.

Movie Review: The Sense of an Ending

This review is by my movie review contributor Zach A.  You can like his facebook page for all things movie related

Review: Haven’t heard of this film? Not surprised. Maybe you are a book reader and have read the novel? Most likely not. I took a chance with this film, having not seen one trailer or tv spot, just a couple of good reviews. And I just looked at the number or letter grades, not reading anything about the film. And you know what? It was a nice little experiment, because I enjoyed the film a little bit. The story, which is about an older man (Jim Broadbent of Half-Blood Prince fame) receiving a diary and note from a mother, of someone he dated when he was younger, in her will after her death. The diary though is being held by the girl he dated and he wants to know why so he tries to get in touch with her. Telling you anymore about this movie would spoil the tale but suffice to say it switches between flashbacks and present day to reveal what exactly is going on. The revelations the films gives are justified but I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a bit more that was going on. That being said, the way the story unfolds is truly engaging and I wasn’t for one minute bored with any of the film. Part of that is due to the acting. Everyone, from Broadbent, to Mortimer, to Dockery, to Rampling, is very very good. This film isn’t a masterpiece or fantastic by any means, but if you happen to come across it whenever it hits Netflix, you wouldn’t be wasting your time checking it out.

Movie Review: Raw

This review is by my movie review contributor Zach A.  You can like his facebook page for all things movie related

Review: Yeah…uh, I can’t think of one person other than my friend Kim that would tolerate this movie. This film has apparently made people throw up where one theater chain is offering barf bags before the movie start. Heck, we were offered barf bags at the Alamo today. But I didn’t see one person use them, because honestly I think the gross factor is overhyped. Either that or it just doesn’t effect me either way. If you haven’t heard of this film, it is a subtitled French horror film receiving rave reviews. It is about a young vegetarian girl starting at a vet school, meeting her older sister who is already going there. During their hazing week, she is forced to eat a tiny rabbit kidney, and from there, she gets a apatite for…well, she basically turns into a sexually frustrated cannibal. The movie is basically a mildly successful attempt at what The Neon Demon tried to be. Gross out art. And it mostly works. The acting is great, the story is disturbing, and the twists, yet predictable or interesting. Should you see this film if you are the faint of heart? No. Should you see this film if you are a vegetarian? Hell no. Should you see this film if you love animals? Hell fucking no. But if you like avant garde stuff like I do and don’t mind subtitles, check this out if you have time. It isn’t THE horror film of the year by any means. Go see Get Out if you want the it factor right now. But for something new and gross, it is a interesting one time piece of entertainment. Just don’t eat during it.

On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni

Summary: He is in a foreign city, he is alone, and he is just a boy…

Close to his tenth birthday, Abbas has to leave his parents and friends, and flee Tehran. The Iran-Iraq war is at its bloodiest. The Ayatollahs, the rulers in Iran, have reduced the age of recruitment into the army. And if Abbas doesn’t leave soon, he will have to go to war.
In the strange and often frightening city of Istanbul, Abbas has to grow up faster than ever. He has to learn difficult things – how to live on his own, how to make his way around, and most importantly, how to judge who is a friend and who an enemy.

Living alone for fifteen weeks in a run-down hotel, Abbas finds a friend in Mourat, the owner, while he waits to get his dream-visa to England. Meanwhile, he has to deal with his new life and work at several jobs to make ends meet. Most of all, he has to guard against being manipulated, and watch his back at all times.

This is young Abbas’s remarkable story of innocence and wisdom, and survival against the worst odds. Like all stories, this one is often happy and sometimes sad. But unlike most others, this one is true.

My Review:  This book is going on my 2017 favorites shelf, this book was a fantastic story about a boy who was NINE years old, escapes Iran ALONE to Turkey, with the hope of obtaining a British visa.  This story will break your heart, it will make you pull for the child, it will give you serious perspective into BOTH Iran and Turkey.

Truth is lately, I am obsessed with Iran, so many travel writers are obsessed with visiting and with all the recent turmoil it is almost like forbidden fruit and I can’t read enough fiction set in this country.

That being said, this book was not fiction, this was very much a true story.   This story is a powerful story about survival and I know I was personally worried about barbies at 9.  This author is only 4 years older than me, it is clear that my upbringing in the US was vastly different than his.  This story will give you powerful perspective that I highly recommend you put on your immediate to read now list.

five memorable and powerful stars.