Qinghai: Canola Flower Season!

I had been hyping up this reunion for the longest time- between Ana and Monique (from Taipei) – and Monica and Fox (based in Lanzhou). We talked about this for months and months, as the girls met years ago in Thailand and hadn’t seen each other again since.

Our plan was to hangout for a weekend in Lanzhou before I took the girls from Taiwan on a trip to Qinghai

As luck would have it, the first evening Ana and Monique arrived in the city, I was about to have dinner with my relatives, Fay and Ma Qiang. They were thrilled to invite the girls to eat 涮羊肉 (thin-sliced, rapid-boiled mutton) with us, so the girls hustled into a tuk-tuk(ish) car-thing to get to the restaurant ASAP.

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Ana, awkwardly sequestering herself away from the rest of us. im holding a bowl of San Pai Tai tea, a Lanzhou specialty

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Taiwan, Switzerland of the East

After spending 7 consecutive months in mainland China, a visit to Taiwan over winter break felt like a spa for the brain, a massage for the soul.

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day market in taipei

Mainland China is kinetic and chaotic with 1.4 billion people. Provincial cities like Lanzhou are expanding rapidly, with a metro under construction, high rises half finished, and cars honking nonstop from all the detours and blocked off streets, and sidewalks spilling with people…

Taiwan in contrast, seems… oddly quiet and peaceful. Taipei is orderly- there is none of that pushing or shoving that I’ve been subjected to on a regular basis in China while getting on the public bus or ordering a bowl of noodles (I’ve now ruthlessly mastered the pushing and shoving as well; integration!). Continue reading

Harbin “Romance in Winter Days”

*trigger warning* this post contains stories about large, striped animals eating smaller, feathered animals; the latter were sent to their untimely deaths by well-intentioned tourists.

After Beijing I returned to Lanzhou for a week to celebrate the Lunar New Year, then headed back northeast to Harbin in Heilongjiang Province– one of the coldest regions of China. Why would a PCV take a vacation in 0°F temperatures when the rest of his cohort enjoys the beaches of Thailand for a few weeks of sunbathing?

See for Yourself:

a masterpiece of snow sculpting

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Beijing (1/2) : Sights and Sounds

I’ve had a luxurious two months off from teaching, which gave me plenty of time to travel around China and other parts of Asia before the spring semester starts. After two weeks of IST (In Service Training) back in Chengdu, I flew off for the first leg of my trip: Beijing! I’ll be splitting the trip into two posts- the first will be about the city’s history and sites.


Beijing is the former capital of the final two dynasties of China – the Ming and Qing dynasties, respectively. For this reason some of the most lavish palaces, temples, and imperial parks in all of China can be found in central Beijing. The city has succumbed to the country’s real estate boom however (in addition to grievous damage from the cultural revolution decades before), and many of the centuries old alley way homes – hutongs – have been ripped up to make room for glossy million USD high rise condos (more on this in post #2). Still, a lot of historical sites remain in excellent condition; here are some highlights:

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Dunhuang with the Gansu Bureau of Foreign Experts

My phone rings; it’s Brian, the foreign affairs rep at my school.

“Hello Harrison?”

“The Gansu Bureau of Foreign Experts has invited you to join them next weekend for a trip to see Mogao Grottos, Crescent Moon Spring, and Yuan Guan Pass-”

“ok, ok. calm down. I’ll send an email with more details later. Have a nice day”

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, this FOREIGN EXPERT got himself a trip to Dunhuang!!

new friends!

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