Monday, July 6, 2009

China Again

I'm Back.. in China!

* Chinese line budding, pushing and general behavior is just driving me nuts. I think the perfect story (out of hundreds) for this is when XiaoYu and I were returning from SuZhou to Nanjing via train. This is China’s version of Acela or better put: Acela is the US’s crappy imitation of China’s ‘Dong’ (Very fast) train. To set the story, we have a 8:20 train to Nanjing, there is a 8:05 train to Nanjing as well; they run very often. It’s raining sideways outside because of a massive thunderstorm and the platform is covered by a roof exactly the width of the platform; so if it’s raining sideways, you are gonna get soaked. They call the 8:05 train, people push and shove. They call our train 15 minutes later and we slowly work our way to the ticket check and terminal. It’s 20 minutes to the arrival of our train and it takes 5 minutes to do tickets and walk to the platform. Yet people are pushing and shoving. I make a comment to XiaoYu that the train is going to be late and the platform is gonna be soaked because of the rain. We get to the outside waiting area and the station staff has us cordoned off, so all the 8:20 train people are patiently waiting. Suddenly these two people (young man and old woman) duck under the cordon. With grins (like kids on Christmas Day), they look for the train and join the crowd of 8:05 people LEAVING the station. A couple of steps later they realize the crowd is exiting, they turn around and start running towards the train at the platform (still grinning). Now anyone who stopped and thought about it would realize it’s the 8:05 train on the platform, cause:
    1. it’s only 8:10, trains are never early, only late.
    2. it’s the train staff that has us cordoned off.
    3. everyone waiting has an 8:20 ticket.

At this point people realize these two jumped the line and start following them before the station staff gets everyone behind the cordon again. The 8:05 train leaves and everyone surges towards the platform. We wait cause this is the only dry spot. As we walked along the platform (after the crowds had surged past) towards our car, people are standing exactly on the line between the wet/dry spot where a burst of wind easily soaks them. The kicker for all this is the SEATS ARE ASSIGNED ON THE TICKET and if you didn’t purchase a seat you are standing ANYWAY!

* I have never wanted to lose my temper so many times and wanted to start a fight with someone as I have in the past few months. All the pushing and shoving is just getting on my nerves. We were in line in the Pearl of the East Tower in Shanghai for 1 hour. The couple behind me kept stepping on my heels every time we moved. Every time they do this I look back and stare at them. Finally I took half a step forward, waited half a second and then stepped down hard on my heels catching one of their toes. That finally did the trick. Or the other time while in line to pay, this girl kept edging into me, I was so tempted to turn around and ask her "If she was attracted me... and if she was, I was already taken, my wife was standing right beside me. If she wasn't attracted to me than did she think touching my ass every few seconds would make the cashier move any faster?" I swear I haven't had my ass touched/groped as much as I have in the past few months in China, just crazy. It could be an empty bus and they stand right beside you and bump into you. It's the opposite of personal space: the lack of physical contact with strangers just drives them nuts!

* The wedding. I guess this is the one you've all been waiting for. So I proposed to XiaoYu on May 14th after dinner at a nice sushi restaurant. She accepted. Two days later while I was sleeping in, I found out that they've (relatives and parents) been burning the lines since we announced our engagement. I was told in my still groggy state that the wedding was on for June 21st. This is where some of you might have gotten the impression the marriage was arranged. It just happened that in late June EVERYONE (I mean everyone, my dad, mom, cousins, grandmother, her cousins) who had all been overseas were all going to be home. So June 21st was chosen cause the restaurant for the reception only had that date available. On the date of the wedding I left from my 'home' (basically a hotel) with relatives and my best man (my cousin) to pick up the bride. This involved cajoling and bribing her relatives by stuffing red packets of money (1 USD bills) under doors and between cracks in the window. After passing two doors, the bride was in the last door guarded again by relatives and the bridesmaid. Questions had to be answered (birthday, favorite food, shoe size...), more red envelopes passed and promises made (Like who was doing the dishes and who was in charge of the money...). Then we toasted her parents with tea at which point I had to call them Mom/Dad, they gave us red envelopes (big ones...). Then we toasted her grandparents, mom's side who were 90+ years old and dad's side, more red envelopes were received. I carried her outside to the car and I gave her a pair of brand new shoes and we took off my parent's home (again hotel...). Tea was toasted again, she called them Mom/Dad, more red envelopes were received. Afternoon was full of photos and video taking. Dinner reception at night was basic, similar to a western wedding. No first dance but we had to toast every table. Tradition says we have to drink with everyone, so XiaoYu's dad took a rice wine bottle and filled it with water, we toasted with that. Luckily no one challenged what was in our cups, that would've been interesting after 25 tables. At the end of the day that was it. My cousins, sister, my wife, her cousins and bridesmaid all went out and got drunk that night.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm heading home on July 26th. See you all soon!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Land of the Kiwis

So what is a Kiwi, I ask? It turns out it's either a fruit, a flightless bird, the New Zealand Dollar or a person from New Zealand. And you thought the Ozzies were odd, at least they aren't simultaneously a fruit, a bird, a coin and a person.

* One thing I learned in Alaska was keep half of tank of gas in your car at all times, cause you don't know when/where the next gas station is. This was reinforced in Australia cause the next gas station you get to may be closed and since they don't have pay-at-the-pump, you are screwed... Now after all this, you'd think I'd learn... After coming down Fox Glacier we passed a gas station, I made a mental note to gas up. We stopped by the outfitter, changed our boots, said bye to the guides, etc... Called my next hostel to get a room (the guy yelled at me, another story...). I drive to the gas station only to find it closed at 8pm. Says next gas station 140km, I look at my odometer, it reads 350km (or so), I knew for a fact that there was enough gas until the thing read 500km... so I drive.. mountain coastal roads... drive drive.. then I realize the odometer is wrong. It's reading 480km and the signs are saying 40km to the next town (where I assume the next gas station is...). Now this being New Zealand, there isn't anyone on the roads and I've only passed 3-4 houses... So at this point I'm being careful with the gas. At 500km the gas light has been on for at least 30km... and we are going up and down mountain coastal roads... every wide shoulder I see (and there aren't many of them).. I'm making a mental note on how to pull off in the event I run out of gas... I do make it to the next gas station... again to find it closed! I drive 500m to a motel (the ONLY motel) to find it fully booked. I ask the person where I can sleep as I don't have enough gas to make it far... She suggests a secluded beach about 2km down the down... I'm staring at the gas indicator and being easy on the accelerator all the way to the beach. Spend the night alone on a gorgeous beach, clear sky, no moon.. all the stars and the Milky Way and forget my troubles. Wake up the next morning... gas up and on my way. The odometer read 530km or so... In the end, a great adventure!

* So the getting yelled at part. This has happened several times in my trip both in Australia and New Zealand. People calling me crazy for driving in the dark. I understand it's dangerous, but that's life and driving. This guy at the hostel said "You are an idiot", exact words. Never had someone who wanted my business call me that before...

* During the Kepler Trek I met a Spaniard, an Italian Swiss, several Germans, a Liechtensteiner, an American and a crazy Kiwi. So some background, the Kepler Trek is about 70km long and about 1000m elevation difference between the start and the end of the trek. I was carrying about a 15-20kg pack, heavy by most standards. My packing list was: tiny stove, 1 small fuel canister, 1 set of UK military cooking/eating set, 1 ultra-light down sleeping bag, 1 set of full winter (read: blizzard proof) cloth, 2 sets of cool weather cloth and 1 set of warm weather cloth, full first aid kit, 3L of water, and other small trinkets (iPod, GPS, solar charger, etc...). This guy... first day we show up at the lodge, a bunch of us are sitting around chilling and next thing we hear is loud club music coming out of these speakers by him. 30 minutes later, he pulls out a 15inch Macbook Unibody and starts playing movies on it. The next morning, we wake up and I walk by his bunk. It's a mess! Chips (crisps for you English...) all over the bed, random trinkets (wallet, iPod, etc...) sprawled out all over the bed like he's been there for 1 week, not one night. Later talking to him we find out he has fresh tomatoes, 5kg of potatoes and a 5 person tent (for himself...). After he packed his bag, I tried to lift it. I can usually lift up to 25kg without having to struggle too much... man.. his bag had to be at least 30kg. That night after doing what should've been a 4-6 hour hike in 8-10 hours he tries to setup his tent in the dark. Having never done it before he discovers his stakes are larger than the stake holes... he just shoves the stakes through the tent... The next morning he found out he left his jacket with his car keys at the summit of the track.. about 1000m back up and at least a 20km trek... Never ran into him again...

* One of the better War Memorials I've seen was at Auckland. The War Memorial on the top floor had dedications for fallen soldiers, listing names and wars they died in. In one section the wall was completely empty and on the bottom of the wall these inscriptions: "Let this remain unfilled." Also from a dedication to WWI soldiers, a colonel to his men before they disembarked in Wellington said "Remember, you are not Heroes, those are buried in France."

* Hillary's Axe was on display in the Auckland museum. Just so cool to be inches away from history like that.

* Australia had many small roads. Reminded me of driving in West Virginia all the time. New Zealand was even more gorgeous. Winding small roads, country driving, towering mountains... What I found hilarious was the one lane bridges... You'd be driving on this nice road and bam one lane bridge, and then another one lane bridge. This would be found on all the highways, even the national highways. You can see this in the new X-Men movie, the old couple driving on the road crossing the bridge then coming onto a two way road with arrows pointed on it. Notice they pull into the wrong side. That was New Zealand....

* Swine Flu hysteria hit while was flying from Australia to China via Japan. We had to wait on the plane in Tokyo for the health inspector only to find out he only checks US inbound flights. In the airport a lot of people were wearing surgical masks, so were people on the flight. This is where it cracked me up. So you are in a sealed space, and you wear surgical masks.. makes perfect sense. However, what do you do when you eat? or drink? Obviously you take it off. This is what I noticed everyone did when the food and drinks came around. Then afterwards, they just put the mask on like they never took it off. WTF? 5 minute exposure to 'dirty' air is the same as a 2 hours exposure...

Anyway in China now. Engaged... excited... nervous... and out of my depth.... Will blog about that later...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Out of Oz and into Kiwi land

No luck finding a job in Oz, so giving up! Using my remaining savings, tax returns and borrowed money to finish up in New Zealand (in search of the One Ring) and China. Should be back in the states by end of May.

* So I've turned into something of an alcoholic. Drinking almost every night and going out. Really don't have anything else to do and it doesn't help that most bars give free first beers, so if you go bar hoping you can get 2-3 beers for free. As a consequence of this, Good Friday, we (fellow alcoholic backpackers) went searching for booze only to find that all bars closed at 10pm. We had already knew that no bottle shop sold alcohol on Good Friday. Everything was closed! Walking around we did finally find one store that sold beer. As expected, it was a Chinese own convenience store owner who didn't even have a liquor license. Thank god for the Chinese! They don't close on any holiday and will sell you anything you need!

* Job hunting is difficult. The Queensland Department of Health was looking for a Workbrain technical expert for 3-6 months. Fit my qualifications perfectly. I called up the recruiter, turns out they had at least two people who had 5 years (vs mine 2.5 years) experience. So no luck, heading home soon.

* So daylight savings was in March. So being March, I figured spring, and in Spring you 'Spring Forward' and add an hour. However in Australia March is Fall, so you are supposed to 'Fall Back.' Needless to say, because of my error we showed up at the train station 2 hours early at 4am. Life.

* After traveling for a year, I'm sad to say I'm jaded. I don't feel the same excitement I used to feel when I get to a new place. Ever where I go, I think that reminds me of Alaska, reminds me of Capetown, that looks like West Virginia, etc... etc... etc... sad sad....

Anyway in Kiwi land now, will update more later.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Been in Oz for about a month now and really enjoying it. Here are some thoughts

* Kinnari and I decided to rent a car and drive around Oz. The original plan was to go from Sydney to Airlie Beach and down to Adelaide, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne and back to Sydney. This trip in time would be equivalent of driving from Anchorage, Alaska to Miami, Florida. Distance wise, it would be New York to LA. Australia roads have lower speed limits, even for major highways and when you leave those major highways you are lucky if the road is paved. That plan changed as we drove, it ended up being from Sydney to Cairns, down to Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Blue Mountains and back to Sydney and we had to add two days to make it all work. When we had to drive, we averaged 12 hours a day. Crazy, but a good trip.

* Frasier Island is a really cool place, a bit expensive. The only really cool attraction is Lake McKenzie. Picture water as clean as your bathtub (even cleaner for some of you...) surrounded by white sand beaches and tropical rain forest. The lake is fresh water, it's got a mineral bath feeling and when you come out, you feel so clean. The water is crystal blue, one of those must see before you die places.

* Whitsunday Islands is as beautiful as I remembered it. Crystal blue water surrounded by Islands, full of fish and life. Whitehaven beach is just magical, white sand, blue water, fish swimming in the shallows and aggressive sea gulls.

* In Melbourne we discovered the "Melbourne Right Turn". So you thinking what? Remember in Oz they drive on the left side, so a right turn in Oz crosses on coming traffic and a left turn doesn't. This Melbourne Right Turn makes a New Jersey jug handle look like child's play. So to make a Melbourne right turn, you get on the LEFT side of the road, drive INTO the intersection, STOP halfway in the intersection and than WAIT for the other light to turn green, ie wait for your light to turn red and the crossing light to turn green and then you turn right. Essentially you make a right turn from the left side of the road when your light is red.

* Kinnari bought a hair dryer and she blew it on the first night. Her dryer was for 150V-200V, Australia is 240V. I come into the room and she goes 'Do you smell smoke?' and I reply yes and she tells me her hair dryer burned. Now, I've never appreciated a hair dryer before, just extra weight, wasted money etc. But with long hair, I can sorta see why you would want one. Waiting for your hair to dry is a bit annoying. This brings me to my next point. My hair is long enough to put it in pony tail. So I had to buy hair ties. I walked into Target and they had many hair ties. Purple, Pink, Yellow, Orange, etc... After much consternation, I decided on Black...

* You know you've been traveling a long time when:
  1. Your cloths are becoming thread bare and are disintegrating.
  2. Your boots fall apart.
  3. You've gotten used to living out of your backpack.
  4. Home is where you make it and 'home' is just a concept in a far far awayland.
  5. When other travelers ask you for advice on where to go.

Well, that's it for now folks!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

China Wrapup

Well, finally, I'm leaving China. I left China proper two weeks ago, but some people consider Macau and Hong Kong part of China, so I guess I'm really leaving today. Didn't really expect to stay this long but it's been awesome. Here is a wrap up of stuff I've left out, obsessed about and random tidbits.

* Guess that brings up my first point. For me to enter Hong Kong and Macau I just need my passport. For XiaoYu, a Chinese Citizen to enter another part of China she needs a special permit. This permit is basically like a visa, limited stay and limited entry. In fact her permit only allowed her in Macau and Hong Kong each one time and only allowed her to stay 7 days. On the other hand, a LaoWai (Foreigner) like me got 30 days and 90 days respectively.

* The fireworks display in China is just awesome and scary. They fire everything and they do it everywhere. In the streets, throw it at cars, in their backyards, off their balconies, etc... So between New Years and a week after New Years it's pretty much constant fireworks and firecrackers. Nanjing sound liked a war zone, firecrackers echoing off the office buildings, fireworks illuminating the night AND day sky. Just crazy. Macau had an official firework zone and from XiaoYu's cousin's place we could see and hear both of them. Firecrackers started about 3-4pm in the afternoon, fireworks started as soon as it got dark and went on until about 2am. Just crazy and awesome, took some pictures and posted them. If any of you have been following the news, a brand new hotel burned down in Beijing because CCTV (the official Chinese Television company) illegally set off fireworks in their own compound and burned their new hotel down.

* I was called 'Shu Shu' for the first time and really felt like strangling the kid for some reason. 'Shu Shu' means uncle; a male of your father's generation, more specifically a male of your father's generation younger than your father. This was one of the kids China Climb had over from Shanghai and I was the group leader. It's like being called 'Sir' for the first time, but in that case it meant you were an adult. This meant I was old enough to be the kid's dad. Crazy...

* Macau and Hong Kong are just EXPENSIVE (compared to China). Before I rant, for reference 1 USD = 6.82 RMB (China) = 7.99 MOP (Macau ) = 7.75 HKD (Hong Kong). Now the smart people in the streets of Macau decided that 1 RMB = 1 MOP = 1 HKD. You realize how bad a trade that is, for every 100 RMB you lost 15 RMB, for a 100 HKD you lost 5 HKD. Some schmuck at a restaurant gave me change in MOP when I paid in HKD, didn't fight (but argued) with him cause it was 1am and he was the only place open. Anyway, back my point, EXPENSIVE (compared to China). A full meal that would fill me up in Macau was costing me about 70-80 MOP, or 10 USD (reasonable....), but in China that same meal would cost me about 30 RMB, or 34 MOP. So in China when I had 1000 RMB (146 USD) in my wallet, it'd pretty much last 3-4 weeks; in other words I spend $146 USD in 3-4 weeks - no plastic. In Macau, 1000 MOP (125 USD) left my wallet in 3 days. Granted in China I cooked more and wasn't sight seeing as much, but still! Can't wait until I get to Oz and see the sticker shock there!

* I've been to China many times, been to Thailand and Vietnam. I'm pretty sure I ranted about this the last time I was in Thailand and Vietnam, but here it is again. It's CROWDED here! People have no respect for personal space. You'd think that if you were afraid of pick pockets you'd give space. Instead these people crowd, shove and butt in lines! At both Disneyland and Ocean Park in Hong Kong people pushed and shoved like it was the end of the world! So you are standing in line and the person behind you either bumps you every time the line moves and stops, tries to casually edge past you, or if you leave anything more that 3 foot of space between you and the person in front of you, tries to shove into that space or yell at you to move into that space. Look, you are in line, even if I leave the whole queue in front of open, you still have to wait for me to go before you can go, the open space doesn't matter! What is with this bumping and pushing? Is being 1 foot closer to me going to make a difference, make the line go faster? That some how bumping me will make the line go faster? That like electrons, they can bump the one in front and create a current? I was standing at the airport in Guanzhou, I had all our bags and was waiting for XiaoYu to come back from the bathroom. I stood 15 feet (3 meters) away from the luggage carousel and the space behind me was empty - nearest wall was 60-70 feet (20 meters) away from me. This guy pushing a luggage cart going around me, runs over my foot! WTF!?!? All the open space and he runs over my foot? What don't you just make a little wider turn! Why the tight turn? Was he practicing for his F1 race and need to make tight turns to save seconds??? By the way, he was 60+.

Thanks for reading my rant guys. Hope you are all doing well!

PS, Sis: I do miss you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays from China

It has been a while since I've posted anything.  It's been a combination of being busy and too lazy to write anything.  But I figured I should write something for the Holiday and catch people up.  I'll probably break this up into parts for easier ready and writing.

* Climbing in YangShuo is world class.  As good as anything in Thailand and Spain but cheaper.  Finally went Trad climbing again and this time we found good rock.  Hard to find but the rock was worth it.  By the time I left YanghShuo I had redpointed a 12b, China Whit, was comfortably redpointing 11ds and onsighting 11as.  So my climbing strength and ability had improved a lot.  I say 'had' because I've been in NanJing for the past week sitting on my ass doing nothing and being sick.  So any of you want to go climbing in China, YangShuo is it.

* ChinaClimb makes most of it's money from International Schools in China.  These essentially meant a week of rich spoiled kids under our charge for a week.  Some of these kids just drove me nuts and some of these kids would never have survived a US Middle School/High School.  I was belaying a bunch of these kids around Baby Frog Crag.  There a small ledge with a slope between climbs and kids had to negotiate this ledge between climbs.  So this boy negotiating this ledge dropped his shoes down the slope.  He stands there looking at me and I look back at him and shrug, he looks at his shoes, then me, then the shoes... etc...  Then one of the girls just says 'I'll get it' and he lets her go down the slope for HIS shoes.  WTF!?!?!  He was 12 years old, he should be getting his own shoes!

* So why am I in Chin and not on some tropical beach in Thailand?  That is because I met a girl and she's in China.  I'm staying around here for a bit and see what happens.  Also trying to look for a job here, which isn't going very well.

* Christmas in China has been interesting.  It's a truly commercial holiday.  There is no religious aspect to it at all.  It's all about Sales! Sales! Sales!  There are tons of Santas and no Mangers.  I guess this is China after all, not too surprising.  Christmas Eve is a shopping bananza, the stores and restaurants are packed and the local Wal-Mart is open until 2am.

* Got a Christmas gift from my mom.  Orbitz gum, surprising but none the less awesome.  Cause gum in China is like chewing melted rubber; it's either too soft and disintegrates in your mouth or too hard and breaks your teeth.  Orbitz is just good old American Gum.  Thanks mom!

Anyway, just a few thoughts for now.  Happy Holidays all!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

YanShou Crazy

Well since my last posted I've had an interesting two weeks. Here are some highlights

* Our first school group arrived after training and I was assigned to work Tyrolean. This is basically a zip line or fly fox with a rappel/abseil in at the end. To do this we usually have 4-5 guides, one sends, one receives, one back up rappels by attaching a top rope, one lead guide who sets the kids on rappel and talks them off the cliff and one doing the fireman back-up on the bottom. I was assigned to receive the kids. They were all given the safety briefing by the send-off guide and the first kid was ready to go. Everyone was cheering and clapping and off goes the kid. He's screaming! We are screaming! Then I realize he's screaming in fear and really freaked out! The zip line doesn't have enough height difference for you to make it all the way to the end without pulling yourself over hand over hand (really easy...). The kid is stopped halfway through the line and doesn't want to move and is really freaked out. I'm like "What do I do?", this never happened in training. Finally one of the lead guides yells "Hey, get your friend Jay to pull you over!" At this point I realized I have a line attached to his zip line device for retrievals! I start hauling and getting him calmed down, he was pretty cool when I got him over. In fact after everyone had gone, he went again and had no problem. After this kid I had my hand on that retrieval line for every kid and hauling in rope and giving them a little slack to make sure I wasn't pulling them. Was a bit freaked myself as it was technically my first hour on the job.

* I went Trad climbing here one day. Not recommended, more like adventure climbing with dirty rock, no rap anchors and questionable gear. Supposed there are some semi-decent places around here but I haven't seen it yet.

* We had a Bathroom Party here at ChinaClimb. This is basically we turn the whole bar into a bathroom. Everyone comes in their bathroom gear, which in this case meant swimwear covered by towels. We sprayed water and beer all over the place. We were dumping water out with 5 gallon buckets. We were hosing people from the bar and people were just dumping beer on each other. When I showed up I went upstairs and left my shoes there and went down to the party. After a while we gathered good tourist attraction in front of the bar forming a semi circle. At this point a few of us ran out and randomly grabbed someone and pulled them into the action. Later in the night we started throwing water out the door too. Real crazy. I ended up tending the bar that night to help out with the crazy business. Towards the end of the night 2amish, I went up looking for my shoes and found them missing; someone had worn my shoes home and there was broken glass ALL over the bar. We shut the bar down around 3amish and I walked home barefoot only to find my shoes in our dorm room, one of the staff/roommates had worn my shoes home!

* The next day I had agreed to help one of the main guides setup the Tyrolean to help train some new people who showed up late. I get up at 8ish still groggily and slightly hungover. I dress and walk over to work, finding it surprisingly cleaned up... There I find out there were three customers who had signed up for Day Guiding and were waiting for a guide. The person who signed them up wrote Friday the 20th. Friday is the 19th, 20th is Saturday. So the main guides assumed it was the 20th and no one was assigned to guide that day. So 9am after a night of crazy partying, no one was up. After some discussion I was assigned to guide the three along with another staff who really doesn't guide but used to guide a little. Now, up to this point I've followed a main guide who's done this many times and knows everything down to the T. Here was I was about to be the lead guide a day after a crazy party, and still groggy... crazy! So the three clients knew of our party, they were sitting nearby watching the craziness and even told me they hoped their guide wasn't too hungover. I tried to be diplomatic, and that I would be awake in a few and all would be cool. Then I find out that one of them used to run a ropes course and has climbed in the Gunks before with REAL guides. If they were newbies I could BS my way through a lot of shit, but the fact that at least one knew what she was doing meant I had to be careful in what I BSed... In the end everything went off without a hitch, a slightly later than usual start but everything went as planned. We went swimming afterward and they even tipped, which for those who don't understand Chinese customs, NEVER happens in China. You are not required to do so, this was the first of 3 groups I've guided that have tipped.

* One of the crew, slightly new to climbing had been bought up to speed really quickly. He led his first 5.10a and was set to clean the route. He calls 'safe', I call up 'Belay Off' and give him some slack. I watch him, people come up, I chat, I watch him, I chat. Next thing I know I'm yanked off the ground and him screaming 'Wow!'. Turns out he had released himself from his personal anchors and back onto the rope without calling 'Take'. Lucky for him, when I said 'Belay Off', I really didn't take him off belay, I just gave him a lot of slack but kept my hands on the rope, so when he sat back down on the rope he didn't fall far... lucky him. I think he's learned the lesson of weighting the rope before he takes himself off the anchors.

* Climbing here has be just awesome. Easy to get to, quality routes and tons of stuff. Been hitting it hard at 11d or so, aim to hit the 12s in a few weeks.

* Three of the crew set up an Urban Adventure race. This involved swimming, climbing, leading the blind through a park, making a PBJ, bouldering, running, biking, tubing, drinking beer, riddle solving and taking pictures. The rules stated that 'Sabotage was encouraged.' We were divided into 4 teams of 4, Blue, Red, Black and Yellow (my team). To start the race off I decide to disassemble of the bikes from the competitor team. This didn't get very far as we didn't start until 15 minutes after I did this. We biked to a nearby bridge where we each swam a leg of a 4 person relay. At this point out egg was stolen; each team was given an egg to protect for the day, by the judges as we later found out. Then we biked to the climbing place. At this point the sabotage has begun full on, I stole a few seats, a few tire were deflated, etc... From climbing it was to a park where 2 members were blind folded and the two others were to lead them through the park with only their voices. We finished the course as the Black team caught up to us. One of their members left her bag un-attended so her egg was stolen. When they found out about this I was targeted and wrestled to the ground. At some point someone yanked my dry bag off of me and smashed it against the ground breaking 2 water bottles in the bag with two cell phones, both soaked. One cellphone survived and is working. The other, mine is dead, a brand new Motorola V3.... Going to see if I can get it fixed cheaply. The race continued with little incident... In the end we (Yellow) won the race. During this race we were also given a sheet for picture taking, points were given for taking a picture with a hunchback women, with 5 random people, 10 random people, 20 random people, mooning a bus, everyone's left butt cheek, climbing a tree, etc... We did manage to do most of them. Over all great day.

* I had Tyrolean duty again for the school group in this week. Pretty much went well until the last kid. He completely freaked out. Took him 30 minutes to walk 4 steps to the edge, had to back out and let the teacher go first, then after the teacher went, another 30 minutes for him to take the remaining 3 steps. I had to patiently talk him off the cliff, everyone was so bored watching us... He even cried a few times during this 'ordeal'. He was Korean and from what I've heard from the old guides they are the worse; their parents are very over protective. One kid was allergic to heat, dust, dirt and cold. WTH?? That is saying a lot from a group of kids who have led very sheltered lives. A normal steep hike for most of us was grueling for the kids. They show up with Canon/Nikon SLR cameras worth more then $1000 USD. They all have cellphones, iPods and PSPs. I heard some of them saying their monthly allowance was in the 2000Yuan range (about $300USD). I got $5 every time I mowed the lawn!

* My lens is at the manufacturer getting fixed. It had spent a week in postal limbo because the shop I had purchased it from was closed. Looking forward to getting it back soon! Pictures will be taken and posted then!