Beginning Dark Star Safari

Taking out books from my university’s library is one of my favourite academic related activities. This is because the book check out machine is self-service and when I use it I feel like Dr Who inside the Tardis, pushing buttons and generally just being a cool, time travelling bad ass (minus the time travel).

A few weeks ago, my writing and editing lecturer scrawled a note on the bottom of one of my assignments suggesting Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux as a book I might enjoy.   So, this past Monday I was even more excited to visit the library (nerd alert)than usual because not only would I get to use the cool self-service check out machine, but I was taking out a book from the Rhodes Library for reading pleasure as opposed to academic use for the first time my entire university career.

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Internet meanderings: looking for the lols

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love reading incredibly detailed, beautifully narrated and deeply detailed pieces of travel writing. Anything that gives me a small preview of what my future could hold will pull me in.

But, in all honesty, the columns/posts/books that truly make my day are the funny ones. If you make a post about the top six worst kind of travelers you can run into which includes “Mr Backwards Backpack Guy” and “Miss ‘Look at my Titties'” or a post about that time you nearly shit your pants in the middle of Bangkok, I’m on it like a car bonnet.

There’s something about humour that draws people in; possibly the human element that it adds to writing. It can bring writing onto the level of the everyday person. For me, I love the the lightheartedness and (due to me not being able to go for more than a few days without seriously embarrassing myself) the relatability of the writing. Humour and wit, when done well enough, pull readers in and allow them to imagine themselves in your shoes. The relatability creates a bond between reader and writer. If the people who read my blog (all five of them. Hi again mom) start forming these bonds and genuinely begin to connect to me and share in my wonder, embarrassment and even sadness, then I feel like I’m doing my job as a writer and travel blogger. Continue reading

Living the high life

I hate flying.

That’s a lie. The up-in-the-air part I can handle; it’s the take-off and landing that turn my stomach into a cesspit of anxiety.

Earlier this year, I experienced the worst landing of my life. As Emirates flight EK 306 approached the landing strip at the Beijing International Airport it descended down as unpleasantly as possible. When I was younger during thunder storms, I was quite the wuss. My aunt Maggie would calm me down by telling me that the big bangs were simply God rolling potatoes down the stairs. “Why would God be doing that?” I would ask. She didn’t have an answer but it soothed me none the less. During that landing it felt exactly as if the plane was one of those potatoes bouncing its way down through the smog-ridden Chinese sky.

That flight made me even more of a nervous flyer (Well, take off and land-er).

My ambition in life is to be a travel writer and travel usually involves flying (unless I’m resigned to travelling by foot, car, camel and/or boat— actually don’t even get me started on boats. That’s a whole other post). So, you may ask, how the heck do I plan on making the ‘travel’ aspect of my ‘travel writer’ plan work? Continue reading

Day 9: Last day in China

Standing in the middle of the Beijing Capital International Airport arrivals with people moving all around me, greeting each other in a language I couldn’t comprehend, looking at signs I couldn’t understand and with absolutely no clue where the Envision Global team I was supposed to meet up with was; the prospect of nine days in completely foreign territory was absolutely terrifying.

The idea of those nine days seemed to stretch out for kilometers (or miles if you’re from ‘Murica) in front of me. Nine days away from home. Nine days in an unfamiliar city. Nine days with people I didn’t know. Nine days during which I would be completely out of my depth.

But those nine days have passed. Nine days experiencing China in all is difference and beauty. Nine days of attempting to communicate with crude Chinese. Nine days of surviving the smog. Nine days of adventure. Nine days of getting to know a group of amazing people.

Nine days now gone.

The last day in China was bittersweet. Continue reading

Day 8: Old city Shanghai

Shanghai in the slightly smoggy daylight is incredible. Hundreds of high rise skyscrapers shoot up around highways that criss-cross through the whole city. Its called China’s financial capital fpr a good reason. When walking along the streets it really feels like being in the Asian version of New York.

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The city and the people who live, work and play here are all westernized to some extent with most of them being able to speak some degree of English (making taxi rides, scavenging for food and hunting for clothes much easier for me).

The diplomacy delegation (most of it slightly crusty from the festivities the night before) attended a talk at the Shanghai International Studies Institute think tank. The speaker gave an in depth talk about China’s relationships, successes, problems and future goals which was interesting enough to keep my sleep deprived eyelids open for the hour and half long presentation.

The bus ride to Shanghai’s old city market area was another story. Pretty sure my mini bus nap involved a significant amount of drool and possibly some snoring. Continue reading

Day 7: Xi’an to Shanghai

Last few hours in Xi’an this morning.

We set off for Xi’ans city wall.

Basically, its a big wall that encircles the inner, older city from the outer, newer city which is home to all the high rise buildings and more modern areas.

 

A number of us gathered for an early morning Tai Chi lesson right on top of the wall. We looked out over the city while attempting to follow the movements of the Tai Chi mentors who were made up of three older ladies and one old man who liked to shout out instructions in Chinese despite the fact that none of us understood a word of it. They jumped straight into it and performed a whole routine while we tried to follow along. It was pretty much a calamity with us looking like a bunch of new born foals trying to learn how to walk for the first time.

The masters slowed it down for us, going through it step by step until we had some what of an idea of what was potting. At one point, there is a part where you have to stretch your one leg up into the air and hold it for a while. The old ladies were absolutely boss at it. I could hardly keep my leg up for 10 seconds. I was most definitely was close to pulling a muscle. Awks.

Afterwards we were free to roam around the top of the wall.

 

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There wasn’t much to do other than take in the scenery so most of us were chin chilling on the stairs, attempting to get some R & R before the flight to Xi’an. Continue reading