Category Archives: Stories

The Oyster Incident of 2008


*click on photo to see “notes”

If this wasn’t so funny, I’d probably be more embarassed. Because I like to cook, and I like to take cooking classes, I have a repuation as a good cook. Which, of course, I am. However, every now and then, something goes horribly awry.

A couple of weeks ago I cooked dinner for SpinChick, a colleague, friend and in the top 10 Most Hilarious People I Know, as evidenced by the fake tattoo incident at the gym, back in December. On the night in question, I whipped up my Tomato Mozzarella Grilled Chicken, Garlic Green Beans, and I attempted to add a little Southern “flair” with some deep fried oysters. Unfortunately, the oil got a little out of hand, some oysters ended up a bit “crispy” and the words “should you use water on a grease fire?” were uttered, with a little bit of a scream at the end of the question. We kept our “cool” and used flour to smother the flames (not pictured). We prided ourselves on our courage in the face of grave danger (read overwhelming smoke fumes) and rewarded ourselves with a couple of “beverages” to calm our nerves.

Fortunately no people were harmed in this exhibit of riduclarity, I cannot however, say the same for certain edible bivalve mollusks. I’m certain that the Raspberry Vodka Tonics had nothing to do with it. Spinchick DID say “the two oysters that survived were very tasty! I can see where you were going with it!”

Who says people aren’t generous and kind anymore?


It’s Getting Hot in Here…NYC edition

I’m just back from New York. The plan was to go see the Kara Walker exhibit at the Whitney, catch up with a friend or two and enjoy restaurant week, maybe watch a little hotel t.v. and get some work done.

Who was I kidding?

Friday started off great with a special delivery (yes, that’s cryptic, I know. lol). Unfortunately, the weather turned all The Day After Tomorrow on us. Snowflakes as big as tissues on an already snowpacked tundra-looking land was just one more reason KJ and I were ready to get outta dodge. Through snow, sleet and rain (really) we made it into Brooklyn by 8:30pm and into Manhattan by 9:30, just enough time to check-in, stash the car and hit Caroline’s Comedy Club to see Sheryl Underwood’s late set. There was no question that it was going to be hella-funny, and she didn’t disappoint, we laughed our way through 3 martinis each and had to explain some of the more “urban” jokes to the unsuspecting folks of the non-brown variety. After the set, at the bar (waiting for KJ) Sheryl walked up with several people in tow and uttered the most beautiful phrase in the human language: “Hey cutie, come hang out and let me buy you a drink.”

How could I say “No” to that? Yeah, of course I didn’t. Thus began a night that I can barely put into words here (to protect the innocent AND the guilty). KJ and I hung out with Sheryl and her friends, at the bar and acted up until the wee hours of the morning. Sheryl is razor sharp smart, kind and talented.  It was one of those nights, that was magic, where you don’t want to be anywhere other than where you are in that moment in time. It was not the last we’d see of the crew though.

Saturday, we hit the Whitney where KJ hustled a student discount and the exhibit was worth the journey. It wasn’t easy to get through either physically (so many people) and emotionally (antebellum south images of race/sex/brutality, etc.) kind of like my reactions to Frida Khalo’s work…Good art makes you feel, and not always good. My favorites where “Creme in your Coffee and Chocolate in your Milk” sketches from the 90’s and one of the video pieces from 2004. The exhibit moves out to UCLA’s Hammer Museum for the rest of the spring, so catch it if you can. Amazing. Here’s a brief, but good, everyman’s synopsis of the exhibit “My Enemy, My Complement, My Oppressor, My Love.”

We scooped up a couple bottles of wine to meet KC and the crew at his pad in Chelsea to whoop it up before heading back uptown to see The Color Purple on Broadway. Thanks to S for the hookup on a 1/2 price tickets link! The show was phenomenal. Chaka Khan was funny and fierce. I’ve seen her live before and she didn’t disappoint, she was so obviously born for the stage.

After the show we met up with Sheryl and the crew. again. until the wee hours. again. And she wouldn’t let us pick up the tab. again. KC and his crew met back up with us, toasts were made, friends were hugged and my favorite quote of the night was: “That’s why they put me in jail last Thursday!” As uttered by an arrogant “D” list rap personality who shall remain unnamed (hey, I ain’t crazy!).

We metro’d downtown for more club hopping KC and Kirk, but not before I got into a rather delightful conversation with a housing-challenged gentleman who regaled me with tales of his walk from Richmond (Virginia) to Atlanta (Georgia). Before we hopped off the train, we promised each other we’d meet up in Palermo, Italy one day.

The rest of the night gets sketch, Rated R/x, NSFW, TMI, WTF? and OMG! So, I’ll just let you fill in whatever story you’d like, I am generous enough to fill in the details like: Pork fried rice at 5am?

Sunday, we sent Sheryl a gift bag over to her hotel before heading to brunch at Junior’s over in Brooklyn off Flatbush. We decided to stay in Brooklyn and watched the game. I was down for the Pats the whole way, and I couldn’t be mad that they lost because the Giant’s defense really won that game. I lost a dollar to Charles who flip-flopped at half-time. Argghh! It was in the 40’s in NY and I guess that is like The Day After Tomorrow to them, Ella had the heat on in her apartment and when I woke up from my nap, I was convinced that I was in hell (and after the weekend, who could be surprised?). But then I realized I had on my hoodie and was too close to the radiator.

Whew. That was close.

I have to be back in NY on Wednesday. Who else is scared?


Maple Leaf Madness

Hallo from Canada!

[1] I’m pre-sick. You know that feeling where your head is fuzzy, feels like a 50 lb bowling ball, kind of head-achey and all you want to do is lean your head against a cool pane of glass and sleep? yeah, that is how I feel.

[2] On the way to Montreal I sat in front of a guy who, no lie, was either drunk or coming down off of something. He kept moving around, changing seats, coughing & sneezing and as we neared the end of the trip he started spouting profanities. Not to anyone in particular, but just in general. In the end I ended up touching him, to wake him up and let him know we’d arrived. Don’t worry, the only thing I could bring myself to touch was his shoe.

[3] At the Canadian border:

Immigration/Border Guy (IBG): You sure do pack light lady.

Me: I try, makes the travel more fun.

IBG: (inspecting my passport) When was the last time you were in Canada?

Me: Uh, I’m kind of ashamed but I’ve been about everywhere except Canada

IBG: (poking through the stamps in my passport) Yeah, I can see that…

[4] I love the Hotel Intercontinental so much that I want to take it out behind a middle school and get it pregnant* I thought the one in Montreal was nice, but the one in Toronto…class-ay! I also got a free upgrade to the executive level wherein I strolled around and got my free drink, hoity-toity finger sandwiches and some hot tea for my anti-pre-sick campaign. Then I had to go to work, because this afro ain’t gonna oil itself!

[5] When I left Montreal to head to Toronto…it was snowing. God help me, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I haven’t spent a winter in the US in TWO YEARS!! Now I remember WHY!

[6] In response to all the frenchy-frenchness of Canada I have adopted an almost sociopathic southern drawl, insisting upon replying to the “Bonjour Madame!” with “Howdy, Howdy!” Yes, yes I am that brand of ridiculous. 

*30 Rock reference

To Whom It May Concern


Cabs, originally uploaded by shinya.

[1] Dear NY Taxi Cab Drivers, thanks for going on strike during Fashion Week. My 11pm ride on the 6 Train has scarred me for life. I am somewhat ashamed that I pretended to be asleep when the beggar came through the subway car asking for “anything…even a quarter.”

[1a] Dear Philly Taxi Cab Drivers, thank YOU for not going on strike until I left.

[2] Dear Douchebag in front of me on flight 1913, thanks for reclining your seat as far as you could so that I had the best view of your male pattern baldness, couldn’t reach my drink, or open my laptop. Charming.

[3] Dear Miami, please make every one of your residents re-take Driver’s Ed. I’m particularly concerned about their ability to “merge.”

[4] Dear Hampton Inn Manhattan. I love you. Thanks for the USA Today AND the Wall Street Journal. And Breakfast. I want to take you out behind a middle school and get you pregnant*.

[5] Dear Devil Toddler, aside from being the most unpleasant two year old I’ve ever met, I want to thank you for going after my glass of red wine, and flinging most of my delicious, delicious nectar on your grandmother during our flight. She was amused, I am not. You owe me $5.00.

*30 Rock reference

It looks like I’ll be adding Washington DC to that list of places I’ll be visiting this month too!

Highs & Low(e)s pt. II


Movin’ on up to a Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

I coerced, conned, bribed, sweetly asked my mom and nephew to help me with the rental apartment turnaround. I promised them a comfy hotel room, several good meals and the accomplishment of a job well done cold hard cash. They were both phenomenal, my nephew primed/painted everything from 4’6 and lower, my mom is a task master organizer extraordinaire. We weeded, swept, scrubbed, painted, dusted and boy did we ache. There’s still stuff left to do, but the prospect doesn’t seem quite so hopeless. My bro is in Tampa, my sister in NC, and my Dad and I both travel so much that the only time we’ve spent together this summer is taking/picking one another up from the airport. So…to my Mom and my Nephew….I couldn’t have done it without you and the check is in the mail*

If I Was A Rich Girl

As is of course standard, anytime I am about to leave the state/country major expensive type things go wrong. My car, Wander Woman, they want $1700 to fix everything that is wrong with her, Dude, the car didn’t even cost close to that. An oil change and some wiper blades should be enough, right? right?

The duplex has sprung a leak….AGAIN, after we replaced the drywall (ourselves) in unit B last fall, the leak has returned and rendered our work all for naught. Anyone who thinks rental property is sexy…run, run like the wind unless you are a talented carpenter/plumber/heating & AC type or have goo-gobs of cash. The sad truth is that I can’t afford NOT to have a mortgage, so I will just continue to thank God/the Lawd/FSM that I have resources to do what I do. And the new carpet that is coming on Thursday? Yeah, that costs more than I paid for the car too.

More About My Nephew

I made a shrimp and (low fat) sausage scampi last night for dinner, my nephew ate a HUGE portion, then went back for seconds. When he finally consented to yield his plate to the dishwasher, I caught him LICKING the plate. I guess it was good. Tonite we’re eating off of paper plates.

*and by that I mean there really is no check, but wasn’t that Denny’s breakfast GOOD?!

Oahu, Hawai’i: Changes in (L)attitutde

We had a week long crossing from Japan to Hawai’i. Mostly to save fuel and give everyone a chance to process where we’ve been and get ready for where we’re going. We’re talking about wrapping it up, bringing it home, turning out the lights. Next-to-last stop: The Land of Aloha.

After being greeted in so many special ways as we’ve dropped anchor in so many ports around the world (the barefoot little band in India, the ladies of Vietnam in their conical hats), we dock in Hawai’i and disembark to…a woman with a sign for “Free Shuttle to Wal Mart!” Damn, this is exactly why I’m not ready to be back. Really? The first thing we see when we get back to the US is an advertisement for us to spend money as a group at the one place (besides McDonald’s) that symbolizes American Consumerism at its best/worst? (Don’t get me wrong, I love Wal Mart).

Anyway, I joined up with a group that was headed to the beach. One of our staff colleagues is a Hawai’ian local and she and her fiance set up a tour for us complete with ATM and Coffee shop stops. The main focus was to get to the beach and kayak out to some small islands off the coast. The day started out overcast but Lesley (our colleague) and her fiance Matt put sunshine on the itinerary with their hospitality and generosity. First stop…Nuuanu State Park for some scenic overlook time. Watching the mountains shrouded in mist contrast with the deep blue of the ocean is a scene I could never tire of.

Next stop Coffee! at Morning Brew, a sweet little local place with vegetarian breakfast bagels (sundried tomato cream cheese, sprouts, and capers on an everything bagel for me) and a Vanilla Chai that would make you slap your best friend. We hit the ATM and saw US dollars being spit out at us for the first time since January. My laptop power cord crapped out sometime in Japan and I was trying to track down a replacement as well, but to no avail. I didn’t want to spend a single second on errands when it could be spent on fun. The other 12 took Matt and Lesley up on their offer of a kayaking expedition. I declined noting the choppy looking waves, lack of lifeguard, and my excellent sinking skills which hamper my swimming talent. Instead they dropped me at a quiet side beach known mostly to locals with promises to pick me up in a few hours. 

I was looking forward to a few hours of solo down time, a precious comodity on the ship. As usual I had a book (Backpack), my iPod, and my cameras, and this time, some beer money and a beach towel. The sun was finally out in full force but playing hide and seek behind the clouds. In the ultimate nod to never being alone on Semester at Sea, after I had stepped 3 feet onto the beach two of my students yelled “Hey Dia!” and I was like “oooh lawd-I can’t get away from these crumbsnatchers!” but I ended up having a great time with J and E (my students) and their friend Olley and their band of local friends. So in the spirit of comaraderie, I chipped in for a couple of Corona (or three), dug out my sunglasses and settled in for some exposure to local culture. Hawai’ans are…different, not in a bad way, but their lifestyle is all about family and outdoor activities. People either have lots of money or are making it day by day. I enjoyed how animated the Hawai’ian students were, how in love with their island life and family focus they are. They embraced me without question, offered me food and drink and entertained my dozens of questions without complaint. Finally I relaxed out of “tourist” mode (and even though Hawai’i is a US state…if you don’t grow up there…you’re a tourist or “Haole”).

My favorite part of the day though was when the skies grew dark and the rain poured down from the heavens. The six of us took cover under a Hobie Cat boat that had a tarp over the top of it. We laughed as we arranged ourselves in the small space and I joked that my “dear black family” letter back home describing being covered in white sand, afro full of sand, beer full of sand, on a beautiful beach in Hawai’i isn’t a bad place to be. We had to take cover a couple of more times that afternoon, but the sun was strong enough to cause me to get sunburned on my face! I didn’t realize until a few days later, when I started to peel and my caramel complexion went two toned. No I don’t have any pictures of that.

My least favorite part of the day was when we all met up at the van in the late afternoon to the realization that the van had been burglarized. They got everything. Cameras, credit cards, cash in insane amounts, even one dude’s underwear! I didn’t lose anything since I dipped out and had my backpack with me. After the police were done with their questions and credit cards were cancelled, I treated the group to dinner to assuage my “survivor’s guilt” and ensure that they knew someone cared. Funnily enough, we had a gorgeous sunset dinner at Don Ho’s where we discovered that the famous musician had passed on just last month.

So yeah, welcome (back) to America, we made it around the world only to be greeted by Wal Mart and Grand Theft Auto, but also the “Aloha” spirit of strangers and the generosity of friends. The good old US of A, no better, no worse, than the rest of the world. Same same…but different. Next stop: San Diego!

Beijing, China: Afro-licious


I decided not to buy these snacks (shrink wrapped chicken parts) before boarding my 22 hour overnight train to Beijing. Unfortunately I bought this (Diet Coke with Lemon) which tastes like a mix of lighter fluid and well…lemon. I really didn’t know what to expect of the train but I was woefully surprised when I realized that in China…they make things to their own physical proportions. So being 1.5 Chinese folks wide and about 3-6 inches taller I was in for a night of pure hell in terms of physical (dis) comfort. I had the last “hard” seat and there were no sleepers available. So I prepared myself for a long night of sitting upright with my legs crammed under a small table and a Chinese guy with the most awesome hair ever tucked up against my side. But here’s what happened:

The train was oversold so there were 13 of us in a space that “normally” would seat 10 people. I was the only American/non-Chinese person in a 200 mile radius. I hadn’t seen any of my SAS compadres in 2 days and I know 3 phrases in Mandarin (Hello, Thank You, You’re Welcome). I questioned the sanity of my solo travelling decision with no prospects for communication or company and a night with no sleep on the agenda. But, I ended up having the most hilarious time in my train car.

The Chinese are not a “warm and fuzzy” people. This at first took me slightly off guard being an over the top southern girl but I realized that if I lived with almost a billion people…I probably wouldn’t smile and say “hello” to anybody either, that’s a lot of grinning and waving. But the night on the train gave me the opportunity to observe the wonderfully warm, collectivist culture of the Chinese via two examples. First, in our car of 100+ people, 15 men didn’t have tickets for seats. So they were standing up, ostensibly for 15 hours. It never occured to me to proffer my seat to any of them but that is exactly what all the other men on the train did. All of the guys sitting in aisle seats would rise after a time and insist that a guy who was standing take his seat. Like they ordered them to sit down. There was no negotiation, no clock watching, no requests for someone to get out of their seats. For 22 hours I watched men who did not know each other, care for one another in the most basic way.

I was as you can probably imagine, quite the curiosity. Most Chinese people haven’t seen many, if any african americans and certainly none that are female, taller/larger than them and sporting an afro and settling into a cross-country train car like she belonged there. I got the normal stares and points and giggles (never mean spirited) that all of us of african american descent have gotten in Asia, but it didn’t bother me. I knew people were interested in my hair (huge afro at this point) and so I would bow and indicate that they could touch it and they did, which would send them and everyone else into a fit of giggles. Fun for them, fun for me. Breaking down cultural barriers one afro at a time (sounds like a t-shirt, no?). Plus, the guy sitting across from me was totally down with me stretching my legs out on either side of his to relieve my agony.

The second example of the warm Chinese spirit occured at dinner time. At about 9pm people started breaking out food from all sorts of places, one guy had drinks, another had some type of beef, someone else bought enough rice for all of us, and people started digging in. I was handed a pair of chopsticks and a spoon and via hand gesture, commanded to join in the food. Being my shy self I thanked them all, tossed in my ginormous bag of pretzels and a pack of gum, thanked the dude for the iced green tea, and joined them in the impromptu potluck. I should mention that only 4 of the 13 of us knew each other (two pairs of friends). So this was a touching moment for me, sap that I am.

After a while it emerged that two guys spoke a little english and a woman in our group of 13 spoke pretty good english. So the three of them served as translators. So while we sat up all night and I watched the guys play cards, someone would tell me the gist of what was going on in the conversations. They invited me to play cards, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the game, so I settled for shuffling and cutting the deck for the guy who was losing. We talked about their culture (what they did and didn’t like), USA culture, movie stars, music, what we did for fun…the usual “getting to know you” stuff with a Mandarin twist.

After 22 hours, awake on a train (no rats this time!) I felt a comraderie with my seatmates and it must have been mutual because:

-Gabriel invited me to a wedding the next day (and followed through with the address, etc via e-mail)
-When it was time to get off the train there were hand clasps and smiles all around and one guy kept saying “they really like you”
-3 of the other 12 wouldn’t leave me until they deposited me at my hotel in Beijing, despite being tired, ready for food and a shower, they escorted me (literally) to my hotel
-I met up with the aforementioned 3 and 3 of their friends the next night to chow down and hang out
-Gabriel continues to e-mail me despite our language barrier, and my inability to attend the wedding (no formal clothes and a pre-booked day tour)

What I did in Beijing

1. After 3 nights of little to no sleep, sketchy hostel sheets and an afro and wardrobe full of cigarette smoke (they can smoke anywhere here in China), I checked myself into the very posh Beijing Hotel and rolled around on the very comfortable featherbed after a long shower.

2. The Great Wall. Amazing, inarticulable. Worth the 3 hour round trip drive but next time I will go to a less popular spot. There were thousands of people. It was like Disneyland on the 4th of July. But the pictures you’ve seen don’t come close to the spectacular hugeness and longness (i know they aren’t words!) of the wall. Its like when you see the Grand Canyon after only seeing pictures your whole life.

3. The Summer Palace. Set on a man made lake, it was a great way to cool off from clambering around the Great Wall and the architecture is amazing. The history had me totally engaged and wanting more.

4. Tianamen Square. Impressive in size but after 5 minutes you realize its just a piece of outside with an intriguing and important historical moment attached to it. It is framed by 4 important buildings though. 3 of which we couldn’t get into because they are renovating in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.

5. The Forbidden City. Large pictures of Chairman Mao and amazingly interesting history of this home to 3 Chinese dynasties. Over 9000 rooms, lots of Feng Shui and architectural elements and also about a million people visiting on the same day.

6. The Jade Factory. I didn’t like the fact that tour guides pretty much have to take you here in an attempt to get a captive audience to buy something. It reminded me of the rickshaw drivers in India. But I learned all about the different types of Jade, how to tell real from fake, how it is carved and polished and what they are used for, etc. Totally nerdtastic which you know I love. Then I said thanks and figured if they didn’t mind wasting my time without my permission, I shouldn’t feel bad about not buying something I didn’t want. Plus the cheapest thing in the place was $25 US for some knick knack crap. I still enjoyed it though.

7. The Pearl Factory. Same concept, same method of captive audience but again I loved learning all about the pearls, oysters, harvesting, real vs. fake, and I even got two tiny pearls for free!

Guanzhou, China: Beijing Dreams


I survived! Actually I thrived I think. Despite the sketchy hostel (with stains on the sheets!) and the traditional chinese mattress (imagine sleeping on top of your dining room table). I survived Guanzhou. I actually really enjoyed it. I ended up in Shiaman which is a little island/backpacker area. Despite the ramshackle internet room with the ancient computers and the loft that the semi-naked dude descended from giving me a scare. And I’ve never been anywhere that you could use the internet and then purchase a full-sized sword while you’re paying the bill!

A little about this lovably curious little place, Guanzhou is an area where many Americans and Europeans come to adopt children. There’s a US embassy, lots of businesses catering to these types of growing families and a pretty good chance that you’ll stumble across someone who speaks enough english to point you in the right direction. But I still don’t know what this sign is all about…Mexican siestas? Sad people of Latino descent? Sombrero store?

So after a night of red wine and pringles at the local 7-eleven with about 15 other multi-national knuckleheaded travelers, I can say that I am willing to go (almost) anywhere and try (almost) anything once. Katie and Jess (The Canadian sisters pictured in previous photo) scooped me up the next day and we wandered around. The park was full of locals playing hacky sack, dancing the tango (I swear I’m not making this up) and working out on these strange public exercise machines (think monkey bars and see saws with a health related twist).

We were near the canal so it was nice and breezy which made the walk around town pleasant. We checked out a huge church where there were some wedding photos being taken, the local statuary which was amazing, this one was my favorite, but there were quite a few stunning statues. I also found the greatest boot.leg. CD/DVD store on the planet and a place that sold pretzels and mini quiche to supplement my growing love for Chinese noodles and beef.

We worked up an appetite and stopped for lunch at a little place that didn’t look like it had a large crowd and despite the delicious food, we had to wonder if it was the Celine Dione CD that they were playing that kept business at bay? No matter to us, it was all about bottled water and fresh squeezed juices. We laughed and got to know each other over Indian, Chinese and European dishes that we shared without hesitation. Curries giving way to Cordon Bleu.

Both of them are amazing young women who have taken a 6 month sabbatical to travel Asia as they trace their father’s cultural heritage (they are half Chinese). We parted ways late afternoon so that they could catch their sleeper bus south and I could catch my train north. We hugged, traded e-mails and I made a tentative promise to meet them in Mexico later this year.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get a flight out of Guanzhou under $350 US, so I bought the last train ticket to Beijing leaving on an overnight 22 hour train. I guess this little independent side trip was going to go from bad to worse! I thought the train left at 8pm and fortunately I had to show the ticket to someone to ask which station I needed to go to and she pointed out that the train left at 6pm – crisis number 23 averted! I was also a bit proud of the fact that I had a regular sized back pack and my nikon d50 case, which meant that I was adhering to the backpacker moto (that I can never manage to follow) “never carry more than you manage at a dead run for a half mile and keep your hand free”. Score!

So I stuffed my newly acquired Blackeyed Peas “The Remixes” and the much talked about “Lily Allen” CDs next to the Chinese Hip Hop I had tracked down (not hard) and shoved pretzels and a ginormous bottle of water into my pack. I stuffed my towel into a stuff sack and strapped it to the outside of my pack and bid Guanzhou and its ill timed Trade Show Zai Jian (goodbye in Mandarin). But not before these students pulled me aside to ask me to complete a survey on the detrimental affects of beauty pagents on the self-esteem of Chinese youth. Because you know, that’s my area of expertise.

Somewhere In China


You see this monkey (pictured above)? I feel like that guy looks. CRAZY! I’m stuck between Hong Kong (AMAZING!) and Beijing (??). The ship docked in Hong Kong a few days ago, and everyone had the option of sailing with the ship to Qingdao or traveling overland/whatever and meeting back up with the ship before she sails to Kobe next week.

Er, guess which one I chose? Right.

I decided that after 3 months of traveling with 900 people (who I adore), I’d strike out on my own and see if I could get from Hong Kong to Beijing to Qingdao on my own. Craving the challenge of living out of a regular sized backpack and trying to navigate almost an entire continent with a wicked language barrier.

Now I find myself in some random metropolis dead in the middle of their major bi-annual Trade Show! I tried to get a room at the Holiday Inn because well…in the U.S. its like what $70 a night right? In China, not so much. They wanted $350 for one night! Granted it is the sexiest Holiday Inn I’ve ever seen. Stupid Trade Show!

So, I’m paying $70 night for a double room in a sketchy hostel and doing e-mail/trying to book tickets in the back room of a knick knack store on one of two ancient computers. There are exposed wires and extension cords EVERYWHERE!

The good news is that the Chinese LOVE McDonalds, 7-11 stores and neon lights. So if I squint real hard and blur my vision I can pretend I’m in Times Square or somewhere else where I’m reasonably sure things are going to work out okay.

PLUS! At 5 ft 6 inches I’m exactly average height for an American female, but I’m the shortest person in my family, but in China…being tall ROCKS!

Okay, I just met two Canadian chicks who said to meet them at the 7-11 in 45 minutes for beer, wine and to meet the multinational crowd of backpackers they hung out with last night. So, I guess that’s where I’ll be…at a random 7-11 somewhere in southern China, resisting sleep and praying for some transportation magic.

Wish me luck.

 ***Live Action Update (10 minutes later)

I’m sitting in the internet place and there’s a fairly low ceiling in here (maybe I’ll try to take a photo). Anyway, I just assumed that it was for extra storage, supplies, etc but I just heard some rustling and a grown man just climbed down from HIS LOFT BED naked from the waist up (in pajama pants), grabbed a mug that held a toothbrush and toothpaste (which I had noticed a while ago but didn’t think much about) and disappeared around the corner! You see that monkey’s face? Now add a look of surprise, the swemi-naked bed loft dude just reached over my head to turn on the lights and I can hear water running in the background. Lawd Jeebus. I’m outta here!

Port Louis, Mauritius: I’d Never Heard of It Either!

Mauritius was a totally crazy port in good (and not so good) ways. We pulled in about 5 hours late on a beautiful, tropical afternoon. The island is the stuff dreams are made of with the lush green landscapes, the indescribably aqua-green waters and well, the people (as I had been warned) are gorgeous! (Pic=Sega dancers at Cannelles).

Another cultural experience with the crazy students (here singing 80’s tunes on the way to Cannelles). About 40 of us went out to the cultural center for a night of fruity drinks, not so fruity drinks, authentic food and dance.

Us trying to dance Sega (lots of emphasis on “trying”). The Mauritians are a proud combination of French, African, Indian and Chinese decendents. Most of them refer to themselves as “Creole”, not identifying with a particular ethnicity.

The next morning I went on a trip with two of the Environmental Science professor’s classes to a local fish hatchery lab! We learned about baby shrimp in test tubes, breeding and feeding goldfish, and how Eco-Tourism is the driver of Mauritius’ economy. Oh, I also slipped down some slippery steps in the hatchery and my arse and back hurt wicked bad the next day. (note: wicked bad=hurt like hell, please send prescription strength narcotics).

Totally nerdtastic morning. Did you know that goldfish are not a naturally occurring species? They are a hybrid of carp! Same with Koi and similar ornamental fish. We learned about various types of coral reef and specifically about the 150 miles of reef that protect Mauritius from Cyclones and Tsunamis. We also got to talk about some ways to conserve water, protect reefs around the world and help nature to heal itself. This particular scientific research facility was even more impressive because fully half the scientist are women, as is the Director. Go Girls! Don’t worry, the boys were holding their own and several scatalogical jokes were bantied about. I think the phrase I’ll never forget is “Poop Loop” which is altogether different from a Fruit Loop, despite the similarity in their names.