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November 21, 2006 - Xi'an, China

Staring at the Sun

Mutton Chuar

Mistaken Identity

Woke up to the smell of baijiu fumes in the hostel room - a few coming from me - but near-visible waves of flammability wafted off my bunkmate in the fetid light of the room. Reason #40 to dislike hostels.

A diffused light bathed the city - the sun shone down through a blanket of smog - and I ambled off to find breakfast. On the way met up with a South African and a Scot. After not hearing much native English for the last 2 months this was like a trip though the Twilight Zone. Skip American English and move right on to the other side of the pond. To top off the strangeness the South African sold cheese cultures and rennet.

We strolled down amazingly peaceful streets - for a Chinese city of 6 million - towards the southern portion of the city to catch a glimpse of Da Yan Ta, Xiao Yan Ta and the Stele Garden. The towers were - well tower-esque - but the Stele Garden was interesting. Dubbed the “heaviest library in the world” it consists of thousands of inscribed stone tablets.

After dinner I did a bit of window shopping in electronics stores. Cell phones in America are relics. Stopping in one store I heard a shout. It’s in English. I think.


I smile and nod - generally my tactic when I don’t understand. But persistence wins out as a young man peers out from behind a TV and yells, pointing at me,


Alright, alright. Time to play along, I take a deep breath and dive in,

Shenme? Ting bu dong. Ni shuo Yinwen ma?

A huge smile and again the shout. Mind you I’m 15 feet closer but still receive the same volume.


Aha. Micheal Scofield. Fox. Prison Break. I’ve been recognized. I smile, but the next shout gets me laughing out loud. He points to a greasy fellow beside him,

Ta shi TEAAABAG!!!


Perfect Orange

The next morning I busied myself with finding myself a decent winter jacket. Walking around Guyuan in a vest precipitated numerous locals - including a daily lecture by my well meaning gatekeeper - to ask me with shaking heads,

Lung bu lung?

I reply that I’m quite comfortable and they usually shuffle off muttering about the crazy foreigner.

I find a jacket - but it feels expensive at ¥300 - and it’s far from perfect. Biting the bullet I cough up the money and hope it will spare me the inquisition back home.

Sitting outside the Xi’an train station I have time to gaze at the perfect glow of the sun. The intensity of the orange is astounding - an orangish saturation more brilliant than anything you can imagine - it’s purity unrivaled. The glow of a million neon lights, a tangerine orb hanging in the murky sky.

It’s then that I realize the absurdity of this. I have been staring at the sun for the last 3 days. Staring.

Directly at the sun. In awe of the apricot sphere above Xi’an. Staring, without going blind. The smog…

The smog hanging over the city has a silver lining - for me at least - seeing the sun in an almost unadulterated fashion. Being able to see - even if they might be fragments of illusion - dark sunspots and flickers of light. Tracing my eyes around the most perfect circle I have even seen.

All without blinking.

» Link lovin’

Obama Apologizes - Obama messes with a reported, dashes the poor guys love ambitions and then calls to apologize.

Cafferty Pull Head Out - Jack Cafferty uses the term “Repuglican Stooges.” Ha. Not so funny is Bush & cronies pardoning themselves from war crimes.

My Own KIT - Software organizing everything. Trying it out now, will report back if it’s worth it. I have my fingers crossed as keeping Firefox running with 90+ tabs is a bore.

Minigun for the Masses - Stuntman well on the way to developing a paintball minigun. 1200PSI of air is impressive enough.

Dr. Bronner & His Magic - The smell is etched in my brain - intense peppermint - from my childhood. The smell and Ol’ Doc Bronners’ rants on the side of the side of the bottle.

Kettle Chips Hit Public Beta - Brilliant idea. Beta test flavors.

Blendtec Goes Nuts - Will it blend? Self explanatory.

Sitemaps Unite - Google, MS and Yahoo unite on a standard protocol for XML sitemaps.

Food Thesaurus - Got your annatto lard and barding strips confused? No problem.

Poor 10021 - The old hood takes a dive.

CSS Jokers - CSS Edit2 is released with an icon easter egg.

“MIKAL SCOLRFELD! FOLX! FOLX!” that may be the funniest thing I've ever heard. You do have that shaved head going for you... our own little celeb. btw- you must download this season. it is unbelievably good!!!!

- SMO on a Tuesday

ps. great pictures

- SMO on a Tuesday

I was introduced to that deep penetrating, squeaky clean peppermint soap, with the oh so wacky religious writings, by your dad.

Since then it has always been my favorite soap, even though mark prefers the almond. I will never forget the first and last time that I used it to wash my hair!!! My head tingles just thinking about that.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the peppermint is not as intense as it used to be?

uggh, did you have to post the meat pics for your heading??? how about those seeds... now that's worth a heading...

and how about an update on phil?

- mom on a Wednesday

Yeah - I guess I could have been mistaken for worse than some lame Fox show character, eh SMO?

- Allister on a Wednesday

That soap brings back memories of the swim team and how cold the peppermint makes you.

Like eating a mint a chugging a cold glass of milk.

- Allister on a Wednesday

Haha, just reading these comments makes me smile, so I have to make an aside comment, too. I remember that glorious peppermint soap from childhood, when we used to all go swimming together at the U of A. Kasey used to share her minty shampoo with us, and I swear I can still smell it. In fact, for my mom's birthday last year, I got her peppermint shampoo just for old time's sake cuz I know she loves that stuff, too.

I always have to click that "I'm not a creationist" box so I can post, but I have to say, I suppose that's been a bit deceitful. (Sorry, I can't help wanting to say hi) Any ways, sometimes I think God created pepperment purely for the pleasure of puttinging it on one's head. Ooohlaalaaaa!

- Siobhan on a Friday
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