Day 611 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 5.


Notice the "Merica" scrawled into the mud on the windshield.

Notice the “Merica” scrawled into the mud on the windshield.


Jill’s and my walk continued back into more of the city part of Petaluma.

Petaluma, in case you aren’t from Sonoma County, was not the upscale town it looks like now just about 10-15 years ago.

The rush to move north of San Francisco, whether to Healdsburg (my hometown), Cloverdale or Petaluma, has brought in a brand new group of people.

It used to be mostly farmers, and people like my family that didn’t want to live in the big city but still wanted to drive down to see family, but not a lot of commuters and extremely wealthy people.

Petaluma, and Healdsburg, is now loaded with wealthy people and this has changed the demographic considerably.

Not saying this is better or worse, just different.

I know I like some of the new in Healdsburg, and Petaluma, but I also like some of the old.

There is a balance, just like what is happening in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, that can be unsettling and upsetting to long time residents who are now being priced out, pushed out, and excluded from the cities and towns they were raised in and belonged to just a few short years ago.

Progress is just that, progress.

As Jill and I walked, I saw a bit of of “Old Petaluma.”

It was a 4×4 truck, definitely meant for “4 Wheelin'” in the mud and streams, and it had been used accordingly.

When I grew up, there was a definite faction of people that used to go 4 wheelin’ a lot.  They were mostly good folk and seemed to enjoy themselvecs and not bother anyone else.

There were also some of them that were racist and would harass me for being Jewish.  I can’t imagine that happening in Petaluma or Healdsburg of today.

Progress is just that, progress.

This truck brought me back to my high school days and what it was like growing up in a “hick” town, as Healdsburg used to be called.  There is, in no way, any chance it could be called that now.  My personal nickname for it is “Hamptons West” because of the money and skin tone of most of the people that live there.

Stopping to photograph the truck, I noticed the mud and how, “Merica” was scrawled into it on the windshield.  There is a definite statement being made by the person who wrote this in the mud of this truck.  You can figure out what they were stating.

I then walked around the back and notice the folded up American flag, 12 pack of Budweiser and other assorted junk thrown around the bed of the truck.

I also checked out the bumper stickers.

Bumper stickers are an intriguing way to show your beliefs and inform others of who you are without actually having any type of conversation or discourse.

This person, obviously, is not an Obama fan since one of his says, “Does your Obama bumper sticker make you feel stupid yet?” and “4×4” filled in with the Stars and Bars, which, no matter what anyone states, is a definitive statement for slavery, and lastly, “The 2nd Amendment: America’s original homeland security.”

My mom once gave me a t-shirt that has 4 Native American men, holding rifles, with the statement, “Homeland Security: Protecting America’s borders since 1492.”  I would tend to think they’d have had a whole different opinion on the 2nd Amendment.  Just a thought.

Anyway, I just thought this truck, and the owner, were fairly hilarious since he/she had a very nice house, a few other nice cars, and probably lived a very nice life.  And yet, he/she was still angry at Obama and the mostly liberal elected government around this area.

It made me think, again, of the privilege that most people living in the USA have and how little they travel, see other cultures, or truly live outside of their own little bubble.  Beliefs become simplistic and black and white, which, in reality, nothing is black and white.

I reflected on Bill and Rosemary from the UK, who we had just met a day or two ago.  They had done two different 2 year trips in their truck, and in opposition to this truck, their bumper stickers showed their willingness to see the world, see what else is out there, and learn about so many foreign cultures and people.  We tend to know so many more people like Bill and Rosemary, and unlike this truck owner, because of our choices.

This dichotomy reminds me that I  choose not to be stuck in black and white world, to stay stuck in one location, to speak only one language, or to live in a world where everything is explained in a single bumper sticker proclaiming other people’s stupidity.

That is why we walk.


He, or she, made her opinions very well known.

He, or she, made her opinions very well known. Which is their right.


Day 552 In Beijing: Agzikarahan Caravanserai In Cappadocia.


A bird flying through the skylight.

A bird flying through the skylight.


Jill, our crew, and I hopped back in our little 10 person van and took off down the road.

Driving out of the Ihlara Valley was a nice way to end the trek and just look back on everything we had seen from the valley floor.

We were told we were going to see the Agzikarahan Caravanserai next and I was very excited to see this location.

Agzikarahan is one of many different stops, for the travelers, and their camels, as they crossed Turkey back in the past.  “Agzikarahan” means “Black Mouth” in Turkish and caravanserai means, pretty obviously, “Caravan.”  Agzikarahan is the name of the town where this caravanseri was built.  This was part of the famous “Silk Road” that stretches all the way back through China.

The Agzikarahan caravanserai is amazing.  The walls are incredibly thick, to resist any attack and it is totally imposing to outsiders.  It is actually quite imposing to people inside also as we found out when we went inside.

There are many of these caravanseris in Turkey because the traders would use them, as stops, every 30-40 kilometers as they made their way to and from their destinations.

Why every 30-40 kilometers?  Because that is about as far as a camel could go in one day.  Pretty ingenious if you ask me.

Most of them were built in the 13th Century and many are being refurbished as they are becoming more of a tourist attraction.

Inside of the Agzikarahan caravanserai was a small church.  It later was turned into a mosque, as the Muslims took over Turkey, and is still in very good condition.

We walked around and checked out the no longer used stable and were amazed at the architecture and how they made us of “sunlights” in the ceilings so that rain water, and sun light, could get inside if they needed it.

I love how decorative and beautiful this caravanserai is and would enjoy seeing more of them and doing a trek back to China at some point.

I probably will use a train or car instead of a camel.  Imagine that trip?


Day 543 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City Video.


Jill getting ready to explore Derinkuyu!

Jill getting ready to explore Derinkuyu!


Jill and I wanted you to get a real idea of what climbing down the steps in Derinkuyu was like so we made sure to grab a video of it.

There is about 110 steps, in this one little section, and it was not too tight as we started going down.

However, as you watch the video, you will see that the builders made the hallway become much more closed in and much harder to navigate.

I’m guessing they did this to trick an intruder into thinking it there would be enough room to bring down their people, and their gear, for an attack.

However, as they climbed down the steps, they’d realize, too late, that there is not enough room to even turn around or maneuver at that point.

Essentially, they’d be stuck, easy to kill or capture, and the battle would be over before it even begins.

Also, since the inhabitants would memorize the tunnels and rooms, they would be able to sneak around, from a different location, and attack from behind.

Therefore, the attackers would be defeated easily and have no chance at victory.

The video is about 2 minutes long but it is worth watching it and imagining what it would be like trying to do this in the dark or with gear hundreds of years ago.





Day 542 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City, Part 2.


We had a lot of fun underground.

We had a lot of fun underground.


Jill and I continued to explore Derinkuyu and were utterly amazed.

We could not imagine over 20,000 people living in these tight quarters for hundreds of years.

As we walked, we noticed the ground had a lot of small depressions dug into it.

We learned that this was a way of tripping up intruders if they happened to find the underground cities.

Each level had certain depressions, that members had to memorize, so they could run down the hallways in the dark, and not trip over them.

The intruders would not be able to see them and break their ankles as they stepped into them.

If they had torches, they’d see them but be slowed down enough where the city dwellers could kill them before the attackers could do much damage.

If you notice, the tunnels are incredibly tight and very small.

We had to bend over, almost touching our toes, when we went through them.

There are also many stairs and they get quite tiring.  I couldn’t imagine trying to bring any armor or weapons into these cities and mounting an attack.

It would be impossible and the attackers would just have to wait out the people living in the underground cities.

However, the people living there had massive stores of food, and since the people above ground had no idea that these cities were here, there is no reason that they’d even be found!

By the way, the pictures of us were taken by our Colombian friends who we met on the Blue Tour the day before.

They happened to be on this tour with us also so we were able to spend a lot of time with them and it made our tour even more amazing.


Day 541 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City.


Jill and me in the opening of Derinkuyu.

Jill and me in the opening room of Derinkuyu.


After we finished up with the balloon ride, Jill and I were picked up for our Red Tour.

There are four main tours, and they are all code named by color: Red, Green, and Blue.

We only did the red and the blue since we were limited to a few days and didn’t want to be totally rushed and busy.

We drove for about 45 minutes until w reached Derinkuyu.

It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

Let me repeat that:  It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

These cities were supposedly built in the 7th-8th century by the Phrygians and then later the Greeks inhabited them and turned some of the rooms into chapels as they were Christians.

The Christians stayed underground so they’d be safe from the Muslims during the Arab-Byzantine Wars.

The Christians also used it as protection during the Mongolian invasions in the 14th Century.

The cities are miles long and very deep into the Earth.

Up until the 20th Century, Christians were still using these cities as a refuge against the Muslim leaders and the Ottoman Empire.

There are stories that people would be elected to go outside, once a month, to see what was happening.

They would also have to bring out the dead bodies since no one else was allowed to leave other than during this time.

In 1923, the Christian followers were expelled and the cities were no longer used by inhabitants and seemed to be forgotten.

They were found when a villager was digging out a new room and broke through a wall in the 1960s.

They have now become a major tourist attraction for this area.


Day 490 In Beijing: Protests at the Israeli Embassy.


The protest in front of the Israeli Embassy.

The protest in front of the Israeli Embassy.

Even though it is a few months ago now, there was a major event going on between the Palestinians and Israelis.

As you can guess, Turkey, being that it is somewhere between 95-99% Muslim, was on the side of the Palestinians.

We had no idea, when we were returning from Nate’s house, that we’d drive right by the Israeli Embassy.

All we knew was that we were stuck in major traffic for about 20 minutes or so.

As we got closer to the embassy, we realized that the flags were Palestinian and the people were chanting slogans, which we couldn’t understand, but we got the idea.

There was no violence or discord, other than people speaking their minds, and I can only imagine what these people think about the situation in the Middle East.

I can only imagine it is very different than most people in the USA, and definitely different from people in China.

The one exception might be in Xinjiang, which is the Uyghur and Muslim region of China.

Our ex-roommate, Gulzar, was from Xinjiang and told us a lot about what is happening to her people, her culture, and her religion and it is sad.

I’ve always disliked when people are subjected to a rule of another country and what this means for the indigenous culture, and this means even in the USA where the native people have been subjected to reservations and their culture being taken from them, and I’m always interested in how people respond to this dilemma.

I’ve often joined protests in my home country of the USA and feel that the freedom of speech is incredibly important and sacred.  Even if I disagree with what you want to say.

We didn’t get out of the cab, since we don’t speak Turkish, even though I would have loved to been a fly on the wall to this whole demonstration and to have seen how it ended.

I’m guessing, from what I could see, it was peaceful and quite reasonable.

Also, I’m not giving any political statements or opinions here.

Just showing a slice of life in another part of the world that most people probably don’t see.





Day 266 in Beijing: No Longer Watching The World Go By.

Since New Year’s Day, I’ve made a lot of changes in my life.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions because I believe that if you want to change something about yourself, don’t wait until a certain day or time. 

It just happened to fall into place when I visited a Buddhist temple that day with Jill and our friend Dipesh and listened to the chanting and realized how peaceful one can be if they put their mind towards that goal.

It is also a large part of acceptance in behavioral therapy that I’m very fond of using for myself and my clients.

One of the results is that I decided to become vegetarian. 

I did this for 6 months, once before, and loved it.

A little back history:  I was involved in a car crash when I was four years old and lost my sense of smell.

Since, like almost everyone else, your question will be, “But what is your sense of taste like?” I’ll answer it right now: I think I can taste at 50-60% of what is an average person’s sense of taste.

So, going vegetarian for me is quite easy: I”m not tempted by smells of yummy foods as I walk into restaurants. 

Also, I know bacon tastes great.  I just care more about the environment, the pain that pig goes through, and the waste that is produced by eating meat. 

Jill, my amazing girlfriend, also decided to jump on board and seems to enjoy the simplicity and ease of being vegetarian.  She was also horrified by the treatment of the animals and the waste that accompanies the mass production of meat in the world.

This is not a holier than thou post, by the way.  You can eat or do whatever you want.  I’m just simply explaining my actions.

I also have stopped talking about political ideals or ones relating to spirital or religious beliefs. 

They only serve to keep people apart and don’t help to build a community.

I’d rather live the way I live, see if people are interested, and then talk to them personally.

I’m one small guy in one large world.

And I’m cool with that.

Lastly, I’ve stopped reading most of the news out there.

I haven’t watched the new for the last 5 or so years becuase I feel it is basically a way to control people and make them fearful of their neighbors and keep them locked in their houses and afraid.

I’ve actually prescribed clients to stop watching the news if they are depressed or anxious.  It tends to have an amazing effect on their mood because they don’t have to worry about events that are beyond their control as much.

I have no interest in the negative news as I think most people are doing the best they can, and if you interact with them, they will show their humanity and care for their fellow human beings.

I continue to read some of the comments on my Facebook wall as they are posted by others, but I’ve cut that down to almost nothing at this point.

Rage, anger, disappointment, fear, distrust and other destructive emotions, as well as many of my automatic negative thoughts have disappeared along with the horrors of the world.

Maybe I’m hiding my head in the sand and using escapism but I don’t think I am.

I believe I’m making a change for the better, trusting in my own ability to make friends, be a good person, and that it will be returned.

If you know me, you know that I tend not to focus on the past.

I don’t blame my parents, upbringing, or society for my choices. 

I can’t think of one person that has taken advantage or intentionally tried to hurt me.

The only times bad events have happened to me is when I let my ego get in the way and jealous, greed or other emotions like those aren’t kept in check by me.

And me alone.

I make the choices that define me.

I am grateful for the freedom to be me.



Day 196: Bunnies With Guns.

These bunnies look well trained and ready for anything!

These bunnies look well trained and ready for anything!

I really don’t have a clue what this is about.

I’m intrigued, and a bit worried, that this the sequel to Watership Down and we humans are in a lot more trouble than we suspected.

Here is the story:

Jill and I were walking around one of the Hutongs in Beijing and checking out some stores.

We saw this, through a window, and were taken by it.

We could have bought one but we didn’t want to support the idea of bunnies running around with guns.

Heck, they are dangerous enough with their breeding habits.

Just imagine if they had guns and could control the rabbit pellet feed production and distribution.

We are talking about a whole new economic reality and mass confusion around the world.

So, remember, kids, just say no to bunnies with guns.