Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blogging China

Hey there.

Ever since I was a kid and watched Mulan for the first time, I have wanted to visit China. I was obsessed with China. My family even sometimes jokes about me being half-Chinese because of my love of rice and Chinese food, and my above-average ability with chopsticks (in comparison to the average, non-Chinese-food eating caucasian). For years, I loved China and everything Chinese.

As I grew up, though, my love for China was quickly transferred to Japan via Studio Ghibli. Of course, I still love Mulan, but that's just one movie. Studio Ghibli has nineteen full-length movies (only thirteen of which we've seen. Don't worry, though—this will soon be rectified), two of which are being released next year.

However, I have already discussed the inherent awesomeness of Ghibli, and so I must now return to discussing China.

Even though, for the past few years, my interest in China has much decreased, this doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed myself here. Sure, I think people could do a bit less spitting and learn that "public bathroom" doesn't mean that their toddlers can crap in public, but that's just the culture. Changing this would be like introducing an American teenager to a belt—he wouldn't understand why he'd need it.

In Beijing, the first thing we saw was the airport. The next thing we saw was the zoo. While there, Dad only wanted to see the pandas. I preferred the big cats. Both were entirely unsatisfactory, as was the zoo in general. The pandas were cute, but boring. One was sleeping, one was walking around with a popped basketball. Cute, but boring.
The big cats were even worse. There was a building with cages, and in one was a white bengal tiger, in another was a male lion. The tiger simply lay there while the lion stalked up and down the cage. Later we saw that there was another tiger in an outdoor enclosure, and there was another enclosure with some more lions. Naturally, we also saw some other animals, the cutest being the nocturnal ones, and we also saw the lesser panda. We climbed on some elephant statues (since we are so egotistical, naturally we climbed the biggest one. This was not kind to my vertigo) and then quickly made our exit.

The reasons for the zoos unsatisfactoriness are these: the zoo, like the parts of China that I've seen, was dirty. I don't know what it is about China that makes it seem so dirty. I mean, yeah, it's got litter, just like Bucharest and NYC, but I'm thinking it's the colors. It's just got these dirty colors, and add that with the litter, the whole thing seems dirty. Or maybe the reason China seems so dirty is because we visited it after Japan, which was ridiculously clean.
Another reason why I didn't like the zoo: I don't actually like zoos.

"BUT WHY?" You wail, beating me senseless with brochures from various zoological gardens. "WHY DO YOU NOT LIKE SEEING ALL THE PRETTIFUL ANIMALS IN THEIR CAGES?"

…um… because they're in cages?

You might argue that animals are savage, dumb beasts that will eat humans, and you may even show me many YouTube videos with polar bears eating defenseless tourists. My argument is that there are "DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS" signs for a reason. Perhaps that polar bear saw the tourist and assumed it had food, and attacked it.

Score: Ileana 1, You 0.

"Okay, then," you say, rolling up your sleeves as you prepare my death by fluffy leopard souvenirs, "but if we don't have zoos, then all these animals will go extinct, because they don't have any natural habitat."

…wait for it…


Score: Ileana 2, You 0.

Now please go harrass the government about animal rights while I finish this blog.

Besides the Beijing Zoo, we went to the Lama Temple, which was very interesting. I liked seeing all the Buddhas, especially the ones with the skulls. I went through this phase, as a kid, where I was obsessed with all things creepy and evil, and all I wanted to wear involved black and skulls. Thankfully, I'm [mostly] over that, but not enough to not like the Buddhas with skulls more than the Buddhas without. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go Obliviate myself and forget my childhood…

We also saw the Summer Palace, which was very beautiful. At one point, me, Ioan, Maria, and Dad climbed this really steep hill. Behind us was this couple, who, after seeing Ioan charge up the hill, the girl decided to do it too. Then all six of us were climbing. At one point, the guy dropped his camera, and he had to go all the way back down to get it. When he finally reached it, he put the battery back in, took a picture, then happily turned around to us on the hill, made a thumbs-up sign, and shouted the Chinese equivalent for "IT WORKS!!!"

Later, we reached these huge stones that we had fun climbing on, and we saw the couple again. Apparently, the girl had bought herself a panda hat since the last time we saw her. I borrowed the camera and went up to them, then asked if I could take a picture.
Here is the picture of two chinese visitors

Later, I went back to Maria and sat with her on a big rock. At one point, I turned my head and saw a guy in a purple coat taking pictures.
Me: "I think that guy's taking pictures of us."
Maria: "Yeah?"
He realized we were on to him and gave us a thumbs-up sign. We jumped down and asked to see the pictures, which he happily showed. Then he waved good-bye and moved along.

We also spent a day on the Great Wall, and it wasn't actually that bad. It was much easier than the workouts our instructors from karate made us do when they were less than satisfied with us, or when they just felt like they needed to hear us complain about "OW! THE BURN! IT BURNS!!!"

Finally, at the end of the day, we reached the toboggan, where Ioan and I were impatiently waiting for the rest of the family, and shouting at them to hurry up.
Dad: "Relax. It's not gonna close for another half hour. Stop telling me to hurry up!"

It was an epic slide. They gave us these little sleds with a brake/accelerator, then let us go. I had brilliant fun— there was no one behind me or in front of me. If I wanted to stop in the middle (something which was not allowed, but hey, no-one was watching), then I could, and if I wanted to charge ahead at full speed, then there was nothing to stop me.

And then… I met her.

Okay, okay, she had a kid. But she could've gone at least a bit faster.

Then Ioan caught up, and he was not pleased with how slow I was going. Then Maria caught up to him, but she didn't really much have an issue, nor did Mom or Dad.

The slide ended… not fast enough. As long as there was no-one in front of me, I wanted it to go on forever. But when I met her, I wanted it to end… to end my misery… the slow crawl I'd been forced to… why was it not over…?

(My horse-riding instructor was very much correct in nicknaming me "Speed Demon".)

The next day we stayed home, and we later met up with our grandparents and our dad's aunt/godmother (no she is not a fairy). We went to the Forbidden City together with them and their guide Ken, and later we saw a Chinese Opera.

Chinese Opera is not like European Opera. In a European Opera or Ballet, if you see two people dancing together, or singing together, and these people are young and of the opposite sex, you know that they are in love and the story is about them, even if there are no words or, if there are, they are in a foreign tongue. However, in this Chinese Opera, when I saw the main characer dancing with a beautiful girl, I naturally assumed that, because they were young and of the opposite sex, they were in love, and the story would end with their suicides.

Insert Derisive, But-I-Know-Better Laughter Here.

First of all, there was only one song with lyrics in the entire thing (or maybe there were two, we showed up late). Mostly, the… ah… "opera"… was a mixture between kung fu and dance. This is the most epic mixture since ice cream. Second: the beautiful young girl the MC was dancing with was a figment of his imagination that distracted him from his duties as a Buddhist monk. The story was about how he became a hardened warrior, overcame his weakness for his fantasy woman, and became the head monk at the temple where he served.

The opera seemed much too short, even if it was about an hour and a half. Even though operas, for me, come hand-in-hand with a gag reflex*, this opera did not have a "Giselle a murit!"** reaction. In fact, I was quite sad for the ending.

*This is because my grandmother loves the ballet and the opera. More often than not, when visiting Romania we end up going to one of these. This was much more frequent when I was younger, had a very short attention span, and was incredibly hyper. Sitting through an opera in a foreign language was out of the question, and even though I loved playing ballerina, watching Giselle or Copelia was incredibly boring. However, my attitude towards operas was made more positive when I watched "Figaro's Wedding", and was completely turned around with "Notre Dame de Paris".

What? You assumed I was a cool, sexy lady? Thank you. You are mistaken. I am a total dork. Anyone who disagrees shall be Imperiused, Cruciated, and then have Rictumsempra performed on them.

**"Giselle a murit" is Romanian for "Giselle has died!" which was what I happily exclaimed to my other grandmother when we saw her after the ballet. At first, my mother had been worried that I would not react well to the protagonist's death, but this was pointless. I wasn't even paying attention.

The best part of Beijing, in my opinion, was the Peking duck. You may think that duck tastes "just like chicken", and you may be right or wrong. But duck is much better than chicken, even if it is ridiculously expensive. I loved going to the [unbelievably expensive] restaurant and eating the [400 yuan] ducks, which I described as "ratza din paradis", that is, "the duck from heaven", which was rather accurate.

We also saw the Temple of Heaven before leaving Beijing for Xi'an, where we met up again with our grandparents and great-aunt. In Xi'an, we took a bus to meet up with our grandparents at the terracotta warriors, and on the bus there were three men, who asked very nicely in broken english, what it was that Ioan was holding.

"This is an iPod," Dad replied.
"iPhone 5?" They asked.
"No, no, iPod." Dad explained.
They were confused. "iPad?"
"No," the man sitting next to Ioan said. "This is an iPad. That's an iTouch."
"Ohhhhh…. iTouch…."
A few moments later they asked if they could hold the iTouch. There was much confusion as to whether or not to let them see it, as Dad had quite nicely explained at the Beijing airport that everyone in China was trying to con us or rob us or do something equally nice. Finally, he explained he wanted to compare his phone with the iTouch, and, after comparing them for a few seconds, gave it back to Ioan.

I spent most of the busride looking out the window and listening to Guns N' Roses, and every now and then I'd see what everyone else was doing. Mom and Dad would sometimes read something off of their iPad, or Mom would sleep and Dad would read off the iPhone; Maria would work on her own iTouch, or sleep; and Ioan was playing chess with his neighbor.

We reached the terracotta warriors, where we met up with our grandparents and their new guide. His style was different from Ken's. Ken would very nicely explain about what we were visiting, would make sure you understand, and would ask if you wanted to take a picture when there was a nice spot to take a picture. This guide, though, would speak very rapidly in English, then say, "Okay, let's meet up over there in an hour, okay?" and leave. Ken would walk you through everything, explaining about this or that.

Also at the terracotta warriors, we met up with the man from the bus, the one Ioan played chess with. I'd asked Ioan what his name was, but Ioan only said, "Uh… I didn't catch it. I think it was something like Joses."
To which I replied, "You mean Joseph?"
"No," said Ioan. "Joses."
"No. Joses."

Later, Maria asked him, "What was the guy's name, from the bus?"
"I think he said Joses."
"Joseph?" She asked.
"Well, if you see him again, ask him."

Luckily, we did see him again. It turns out he was from South Africa and he was in Xi'an for his job, which was as a computer consultant. We talked a bit about travelling and gave him our card, and no one remembered to ask his name.

The terracotta warriors, in my opinion, look much better than on TV. This contradicts my grandmother's opinion, but that's not my fault. Of course, on TV you actually get to see them, and not have to push and shove for a decent view, but on TV you see what they want you to see, not what you decide to look at.

Also with our grandparents, we saw the wall that surrounds Xi'an, and we had ice cream there. After saying goodbye to our grandparents and their guide, we found a play area, where there were Chinese games. Our favorite was the shuttlecock, which Dad later bought in Xining. They also had hula hoops, little metal hoops with sticks, where the object of the game was to run with the hoop by using the stick, an hour-glass shaped thing that you were supposed to toss and catch with two handles connected by a thread, and a jumprope. After we played with the shuttlecock, we chose different games to play with. Mom, Maria and Ioan had loads of fun with the hoop-and-stick, but I couldn't get it at all. Maria played by herself with the shuttlecock for a bit and Ioan played with the hourglass thingey. I did jumprope, and was very excited in only making two mistakes in the entire game. I'm not sure what the game is called, we just call it "the jumprope game", but you play by going through different levels. There are eleven in total: levels one through ten, and then level "zero", which is the hardest.

Eventually we went home, and took the train to Xining, where we had the absolute loveliest time doing nothing. This was partially because Mom had a bad cold. When we were done with Xining, we took a train to Lhasa, Tibet. The very day we went to the train station, Ioan and I caught Mom's cold. We're [mostly] over it now, thankfully, and now we have the stomach to eat (could it be?) food, so that's good. I had fun, indulging myself in sickness. Even if I felt like [censored].


I'm too lazy to put these in order, where they actually belong in the blog. In fact, in my opinion, the above blog is entirely useless as I'm just repeating what everyone else has said.

The Shampoo Incidents, Part One and Two:

Apparently, washing your clothes with shampoo is much better than washing them with soap.
Well. You know those soap-things at public bathrooms? That was what our shampoo came in at our hotels in Beijing and Xi'an. However, only Beijing is relevent here.

Maria, wanting nothing but the best for her clothes, went to the shampoo-dispenser-thing and tried to get some shampoo. For some reason, as her attempts were failing, she managed to push upwards and the whole thing came off.

"Come here for a second."
"WHAT IS IT." (We're lazy children, you must know this.)
"I can't explain it. You have to come here!"
This goes on. Finally, Ioan and I go to the bathroom, where there is shampoo on the walls and floor. Maria is holding the dispenser, trying to put it back. In the other hand are her socks.

We stare at the situation. And then, I finally say:
"How the * can you not * explain this? Just * say that the * thing came off the * wall and you need our * help to * put it back! Seriously! How * stupid are you?"
"Sorry… very stupid?"
"Seriously! If I was in your * situation, I'd * say 'The * thing came off the * wall, get your a$$ here and help to * fix it!' "
"Okay… I'll say that next time."

This went on (it was all good-natured, of course, and said with a smile and laughter), but mostly because I loved pwning† Maria.

The next night, Ioan was washing his socks when…

"You know how Maria broke the shampoo yesterday night?"
"Well, um, so did I."
"WHAT?" *insert crazy laughter*

Ioan explained that he'd also accidentally pushed it upwards, like he shouldn't have, but he managed to catch it… upside down. Now all the shampoo was quickly going down the drain. We had to work fast. We grabbed our dirty underwear and unwashed socks and mopped up what we could, then we all did laundry. This was actually quite good for me, as I am not a laundry person.


Apparently, Maria has explained this in her blog. This I did not know because I actually read it (though this must be done, and impossibly soon), but because my friend Gabriel casually brought it up in conversation yesterday night.

(I'm so proud of him—he's actually reading this blog! Yaaaaaaay….)

And since Maria has apparently already told you, I'll just relate the conversation, even if it was in Tibet, because it was that funny. (It has been edited for general understanding)

GABRIEL: I heard you saw a bed bug and you screamed so loud you scared all people in the block.

ME: It was a millipede. IT WAS CRAWLING ON MY LEG. I know you're a dude, but you'd still say at least "HOLY $@!$&@"


ME: Also, there was a mouse in the other hotel room.

GABRIEL: If I'd have been with you… in the WORST of cases I'd take one of your closest clothes and attack the intruder.

ME: My hero. But I ate a scorpion and we have it on camera *insert boss face here*

And this one is actually from Tibet today, when I was feeling almost as good as before I was sick:

Mom: "We're going to eat now."
Me: "Do we have an option?"
Mom: "Yes. You can not eat tonight, and eat tomorrow morning."
Me: *thinks about it* "Bye!! Have fun!!"


  1. Draga Lili. Giselle a murit.Dar Giselle memories stay with me for the rest of my life. I could not help but thinking of the late evening in Decembr of ... when I was at the Bucharest Opera with Victor, a toddler at the time few weeks short of 4 , and we watched Giselle. He was tranfixed. Then at the end we got out and instead of taking the tram to get home, we walked down Bulevardul 6 Martie , I don't know what's the name after Revolution. We walked and made designs in the fresh snow ETC ETC ETC. Thanks again for the memory. I have enjoyed visiting China and Japan with you. Speaking of Japan thanks for the many things that you showed m, but mostly about Studio Ghibli. Not watching anime I was totally outside the loop of artists in this field. In any event their great guy is now in New York, then San Francisco and Toronto. I shall keep tabs on the schedule of Studio Ghibli in USA and Canada and I shall make a diligent effort to go and see some of the exibits and the movies. I have pulled the list of their films and I will see a number of them. Again thanks and many thanks. Sincerely enjoying your company. I hope you do not get annoyed by me sending you notes and things. Elena R Rochester NY USA

  2. Hey Lili,
    I totally agree with your view on zoos: they should actually be banned. Or some guy should wake up and persuade the government build more natural reservations for the poor animals. I hate seeing animals enclosed in cages, but sadly that's the way it is throughout the world. Even here in Tokyo, lions or bears are crouched in cages that they barely fit in! I like going to the zoo becuase it gives me a chance to get close to wild animals, but yeah, you're right, there's actually no point in it.
    Hey, I like your blog! Makes me feel like I'm there with you, seeing all this marvelous stuff. One question however: i didn't get the great wall slide part - what is that and what happened there?
    Oh, and by the way, mice are harmless to human beings, and so are centipedes! :)

    Love, Rares ;)


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