Day 320 in Beijing: Erlian, Mongolia Visa Run: Hours 24-28

 

My ticket and passport stamp to leave China.

My ticket and passport stamp to leave China.

Now the fun starts.

We headed towards the border and arrived at it.

Everyone jumped out of the SUV and started walking.  No one said anything to us, so Jill and I weren’t sure what to do, but we jumped out and followed them.  We figured that they are the pros and we will just pay attention and try not to upset any border guards.

Jill’s Visa, by the way, is a one year tourist visa.  Her visa rules force her to leave China every 90 days or she becomes illegal.  The fine for having overstayed your visa in China is 1000RMB a day.  This comes out to 160 USD.  In other words, we don’t want to have to pay this absurd amount of money and we don’t want to upset any border guards.

Did I mention that this is the 90th of Jill’s 90 days?  Yep, due to circumstances of my job, Chinese holidays, and whatnot, we ended up taking this risk and were a bit concerned if anything went wrong.

So far, so good.

As we walked up, the others took out 5RMB and paid for border crossing tickets.  We pulled out 10RMB and did the same.

We continued our journey by walking near the rainbow bridge of freedom, since we are leaving China, and into their customs and immigration building.  The guards there seemed very bored, annoyed, and not happy at all.  However, after a few minutes, they let us through.

We walked out of the building and across the road was a white guy in a red track suit.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the last thing I expected to see, walking outside of the China customs and immigration building is a white guy in a red track suit.

I noticed, quite quickly, that his name was printed on his jacket.  I looked and read, “Adam” and turned to Jill and said, “How weird is that, our names are almost the same!”

There were about 15 Chinese or Mongolians hanging around outside and Adam quickly came up to us and introduced himself.

He and his buddy, Jimmy, were doing the visa run also but their ride had gotten stuck in customs so they were in “no man’s land” between China and Mongolia and had to catch a ride over to Mongolia because it is illegal to walk across the zone in between.

We said we had no idea if Diana would take someone else but they could ask her when she showed up as she seems to do this a lot and she might have room.

We found out that Adam is a tennis coach, here in Beijing, and hails from Poland.

Jimmy teaches in Beijing and is from Philadelphia.

They took the 12 hour bus ride up, the night before, and were hoping to catch the bus back down immediately after doing the run.

However, they possibly could have been stuck here for a long time if no one agreed to let them hop in.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal but we saw jeeps with 10-15 people smashed in them and with luggage on the roof and the front hood.  We even saw jeeps with people hanging out the doors.  It is sort of insane.

Diana showed up and I told Jimmy and Adam to talk to her and she agreed and they climbed into the back of the SUV and crushed themselves into the area.

Adam must be about 6 feet tall and Jimmy was probably 6’4″.  These guys were not small and it did not look comfortable.

We then went through a few checkpoints and drove over no man’s land.

We stopped at the Mongolian Customs and Immigration building and piled out.

The Mongolian immigration agent had to be the most unfriendly and rude person I’ve ever met.

She sneered at me, ignored anything I said, and when I said, “Xie xie” to thank her for giving me back my passport, she was very sarcastic and snotty.

Welcome to Mongolia!

Jill went through and decided she wouldn’t say “Xie xie” since she didn’t deserve it.

Revenge is sweet!

At that point we piled back into the SUV and headed for the main shopping area in Erenhot, Mongolia.

We sat around as the Mongolian women did some shopping and then jumped back in the SUV to do errands with Diana as we wanted to see what the city looked like other than a shopping mall.

 

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Day 307 in Beijing: Cleaning the Canal.

 

The Liangma River is actually more like a canal.

It seems to have been man made, and if not, it sure has been transposed by man.

Or, to be more correct, humans, as I’m sure people of all genders and sex have been in and around this canal.

The canal tends to become frozen over with ice during the winter and people skate on it and do winter sports when they stop by and hang out at the canal.

It seems that there is also a lot of debris that gets caught up in the canal and flushed down from businesses upstream.

Amazingly, there are people that swim in this water, which I would never do because…well, when you watch the video, you’ll have your answer.

As we sat there and relaxed, Jill and I started discussing how much we’d have to be paid to swim in it.

She said there wasn’t an amount for which she would do it.

I said I’d do it for $100,000 USD.

Once again proving that Jill is much smarter than I.

Ps. Speaking of intelligence, my mom, Judy Tuwaletstiwa, will be proud of this last sentence.  She went graduated from UC Berkeley in English Literature and received her MFA from Harvard.  I am probably the only kid in 5th grade camp that read Chaucer in Middle English and spoke it fluently.  I’m still proud that I can read in Middle English.

Yes, I was a nerd who played Dungeons and Dragons.  So what of it?

Anyway, Jill and I even had a discussion about whether it is “smarter than me” or “smarter than I.”

Then we did a google search and found out that either is correct.

Go figure.

 

 

 

Day 291 in Beijing: Whip It. Whip It Real Good!

I was running by the canal near my apartment a few days ago and noticed some people with their whips.

This is fairly common to see and I wanted to take a picture of them but didn’t want to interupt my run.

However, taking a 30 second break isn’t really going to hurt anything and it was worth it to me to get the shots.

The man also said, “Ni hao” to me and I responded in kind.

He seemed to be having a great time and I loved his dance that he does in the video.

He did more jumping at other times but I wasn’t close enough to catch the shot since I was just running up to him.

I guess people practice whips around here as that is what people used to use and it is a nice tie to the past.

I used to think it was a gun shot, and was confused since guns are illegal in China, and then noticed that the sounds are almost exactly the same.

Both are breaking the speed of sound so that is part of the crack that one hears.

He seemed to really enjoy the event and I hope to see him again and maybe I’ll learn how to whip it good from him at some point.

By the way, if you notice in one of the pictures, the man on the far left is on his phone.

Technology will not be stopped.

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and if you want to see him in action, here you go!

Day 289 in Beijing: Benefit for Fabricio Montoya.

 

The expatriate community is Beijing is about 100,000 people strong.

That may seem like a lot but when tragedy strikes, it is very small.

I didn’t know Fabricio but I know a lot of people that did.

He seems like he was a wonderful person and this was an utter shock.

Then again, when someone is 28, how can it not be a shock.

Friends of mine are holding a benefit for him today.

It is going to cost 80,000RMB (about 15,000 USD) to send his body back to his family.

It is sad enough that someone so young has died.

It is a tragedy that his family may not be able to have his body returned home.

If you would like to donate, please click on this link:

Support the Montoyas

As I wrote above, I didn’t know Fabricio but I am donating because I think this is a horrible event for the family and it is the least I can do.

Flyer for the benefit for Fabricio Montoya.

Flyer for the benefit for Fabricio Montoya.

 

Day 288 in Beijing: Push Ups. One Month Later.

 

As you might remember, I was able to do 15 push ups on February 4 and 41 on February 19th, my 45th birthday.

I’m striving for 100 by June 1st.

Honestly, I’d like to hit it before that time but that is the “drop dead date” that I’ve set for myself.

I could tell you how many I ended up doing today but that would ruin the video.

See what you think and I’ll update this again in a month.

Excuses are nothing.

Day 255 in Beijing: Welcome To The Gun Show!

The lovely Jill with her presents.

The lovely Jill with her presents.

So, if you read my previous post, you know that I hadn’t actually given Jill her presents by the time it was written.

Here is the end result of our first Valentine’s Day in China.

I bought Jill a flower, a teflon wine bottle stopper in the shape of a Chinese woman, and a handwoven scarf.

She really liked them and seemed to be quite happy.

However, the gift she really liked was when I gave her two free tickets to the GUN SHOW!

Step right up and redeem your tickets to the GUN SHOW!

Step right up and redeem your tickets to the GUN SHOW!

This is meant sarcastically but since I’m turning 45 in about 5 days, I decided to get into shape and I’m hoping to do 45 straight pushups next week after only being able to do 15 just 2 weeks ago.

Simply stated, Jill inspires me to be a better person just by being the person she is each moment.

I wish everyone reading this the same type of relationship I have with her.

Don’t give up until you want.  Even if it takes 45 years.

Or longer.

You may not realize it yet, but, you are worth it.

 

Day 247 in Beijing: Skating on Houhai Lake.

Our friends and us at Houhai Lake.

Our friends and us at Houhai Lake.

Jill, our Italian friend Federica, our buddy Mike from Baaaahhhstaan, and a few others decided we wanted to check out Houhai Lake and watching the first annual ice hockey on Houhai Lake tournament.

We arrived around noon and went to lunch and then started walking around the lake as we searched for the tournament.

Houhai is actually three different lakes and so it is sometimes difficult to find what you are looking for since it is hard to tell which lake people are congregating at.

So, we started at one lake and walked around all three.

We eventually found the hockey tournament at the second lake, but it had just finished, so we went to a restaurant and just hung out and warmed up over some coffee.

That being said, the adventure of watching all these Chinese people enjoying themselves on the ice was more than worth it.

I really enjoyed watching people slide around on the chair-sleds and the smiles on the kids faces as they played around with each other.

We didn’t go skating because we weren’t really dressed for it and we also were a bit worried about how close the ice was to the open water and if the ice would break and someone might fall in.  The weather in Beijing has been incredibly warm and we’ve yet to receive the usual freezing temperatures that make water freeze up enough to skate.

We are hoping that in February we might get some colder temperatures so we can try skating out on the ice ourselves!

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Day 125 in Beijing: Badminton Fun Time!

There are some sporting events that my company schedules for us every week.

They are not required to show up but it is a fun way to meet people from other divisions and learn about them and their families.

Jill and I decided to try to go to the badminton event and see if we could make some new friends and hopefully not make fools out of ourselves.

Goal #1 was definitely accomplished, and goal #2 seems to have been partially accomplished depending on who you ask and which team Jill and I played with or against.

Honestly, I was surprised at how much playing tennis (thanks to my dad for the lessons!) and hand-eye coordination from years of juggling, helped out with badminton.

My co-workers, who might have just been sympathetic to my lack of real skills, seemed somewhat impressed and one of my close friends at work said he was actually quite happy with how I played considered that most of the others had been playing for many years and we were able to keep up with them most the time.

That may have been true, but I think it was more that David was so talented and saved me from my many mistakes.

This became more evident as I watched him play with the others that knew what they were doing and how fast the game moved, how quickly the positioned themselves on defense or offense, and how they could guess the strategy of the other team.

It was a great lesson in humility and learning.  I value those as it allows me to remember to go slow when I teach people new things and when I work as a therapist as the concept and action may be easy for me to master, since I’ve been doing it for so long, but things that seem simple to me, could be incredibly difficult to beginners.

Anyway, Jill and I have both bought our own badminton racquets and a set of shuttlecocks to practice with at home.  We will be more ready next time and I’m planning on reading up to learn more about the strategy and thought process while playing the game so it becomes more natural and I can react more quickly in the future.