Archive | October, 2010

INNER MONGOLIA & My 1ST Couchsurfing Experience

6 Oct


BEIJING, May 2009. So I was sitting at the public computer at Leo Hostel, after having just said 在见(good-bye) to traveling buddies Dawei & Stuart. I had about 2 extra days to kill before heading back to Shanghai. I decided, yo – Imma gonna head to INNER MONGOLIA! I tried to check train times, but of course China’s unreliable websites said nothing to me. I hopped onto and created a profile so I could crash somewhere for free.

When I ran the query for couchsurfing hosts in Inner Mongolia, only 8 results appeared. I clicked on the profile at the top of the list – ‘Nuppu from Finland.’ Nice reviews, cool desert pictures – couldn’t see her face, but whatever – safer to stay with a girl, right? Cool, doing it. So I messaged her:

Hi Nuppu!~ I am Allison from Los Angeles, CA. I’m taking a SPONTANEOUS trip to Inner Mongolia and was wondering if I could crash with you? This will be my first time. You seem like a really cool girl, I’ve never met anyone from Finland! I’m sorry this is so last minute, but hey that’s the nature of these things right? Please let me know as soon as you can! Thanks, Allison

RE: Hi Allison, yea sure you can crash here, when are you coming? Give me a call. Nuppu.

I gave her a call and she had a really cool English-sounding accent and I pictured her to have dark skin like an Indian-Eskimo (At that time I had no clue what Finnish people looked like).

I went to the train station via $2 cab, begged for the last standing seat (got bumped up to a hard sleeper) to depart Beijing at 11:31 PM and arrive to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia at around noon. I. was. so. excitedly freaked out. Here I was traveling solo being all cool with my knock-off Northface backpack I got for like $10 bucks and nobody knew that I was going to Inner Mongolia except for Nuppu. I’m such a badass.

The train ride was a bit boring…I was surrounded by a bunch of old Chinese people that I didn’t feel like talking to. One took a liking to me and I had to swat him away. I slept on the top hard-sleeper bunk and cuddled with my backpack out of fear that I would get mugged in my sleep (a common paranoia us travelers have). After having spent the last 6 months jailed in my Chinese dormitory with 20 horny Americans, it was so nice to travel on my own. I finally felt like I could be the traveler I wanted to be. Granted, I was still in China – but I felt great to be independent, alone, and unsure of the future.

I woke up to a Chinese lady yelling out some crazy ass words that had to do with breakfast. I decided to buy a pork-filled bun, mmmmm. I dazed off into the landscape passing by, arrid grasslands, rickity houses, muggy blue sky..then after a couple of hours I realized…when the hell am I supposed to get off? It’s noon! And right at that moment, I heard on the P A: ‘huhhohaute’ and I was like (? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ??? should I stay, should I jump off the train ? ? ? ? ????crapcrapcrap ??) over and over in my head. I decided to make a run. I leapt off the train and looked at the signs all around me. No signs. Crap. I hope I’m in the right place. I called the Fin.

Thank God, my instinct is always correct, I had gotten off at the right stop – I took a cab to the address Nuppu gave me. Ended up at Inner Mongolia Da Xue. I waited at the guard’s gate for about 30 minutes – shootin’ the shit in my broken Chinese, hiding under the umbrella as a storm just came in. Finally in the distance I see a dark figure – Nuppu. As she walked closer and closer, I saw that she had really long hair sweeping in the wind………….on just one side of her head. The other side was completely shaved.  OKAY. I don’t wanna be a hater, but this was my first time couchsurfing so I was being all sorts of judgey in my mind – I kept thinking: is she a psycho? Is she going to kill me? Rape me? Her skin was as pale as Michael Jackson’s (RIP) and had strikingly blue eyes. I decided to brush off my thoughts and try to feel her personality out. We did some small talk on the way to her DORMITORY (didn’t see that in the fine print of her profile).

“So uh…Nuppu. That’s a cool name. Where are you from?” (I knew full well where she was from)
“I’m from Finland with an interest in studying Mongolian.”
“..Ohhhhh cool!! …!!! So……………I’m finally here! Inner Mongolia!”
“Why’d you decide to come here?”
“Oh, you know just being spontaneous. I wanna check out the desert. Someone told me about it and I thought it was cool. Why are you here?”
“I’m supposed to be studying Mongolian…but I find that I’m just learning a lot of Chinese instead.”

As we entered the dark corridor leading up to her room (imagine dungeon-like features) we entered her musky room. It was filthy & disgusting. Strange black dirt marks on the walls, floors, toilet seat. There were cobwebs in every corner. LIVE MOTHS FLITTING ABOUT AND STUCK TO THE WALLS. It was a studio-sized dorm and as I went to plop down my backpack and take a seat in the only chair in the room – I realized there was a pile of books on it with cobwebs all over it too. (SHIT. WTF, WTF). I look around and I realize that there is only ONE.TWIN.BED. Where the hell is the couch? Isn’t that whole reason for couchsurfing?

“So Nuppu…..ehm…. have you ever hosted before? ”
“Nope, you’re my first.”
(OH SHIT. I’m definitely going to die here. I have no way out)……………………….. ……. … after minutes of silence and noticing Japanese anime posters pasted over the cobwebs on her walls. I finally said, “So what’s there to do here?”
“Oh I dunno, I don’t get out much, I might go to a classical music concert later tonight.”
“Oh, okay cool. Hey, can I borrow your laptop!??” *nervous laugh*

I never typed so hard and fast in my entire life. I logged right back into and saw a profile of a guy that looked like Chuck Norris who was from CA. Thank god. I messaged him frantically saying that I was in Inner Mongolia and that I needed to be saved, without leaving any details but my #. I got a phone call from him within 5 minutes and was off and left Nuppu behind.

This couchsurfing experience ended VERY VERY VERY happily and I met 2 of the most interesting and funniest people I’ve met on my world travels. We actually traveled to the Gobi Desert together and I went ATV riding and sandboarding. Below are the pictures from my awesome adventure.

Looking back now though…I’m sure Nuppu was a very nice girl. But I was very naive and narrow-minded and wanted my first couchsurfing experience to be a bit more normal. Oh well, life doesn’t roll that way.

Finding Musical Love in Amsterdam

3 Oct

Last night I had a magical birthday celebration at Royale in Boston. Designer Drugs was DJing and I was in the happiest state one could ever ask for on their birthday – pure euphoria. I was surrounded by the people I loved; I was shaking my limbs to electro beats. Sweat was dripping down strands of my hair and I didn’t care. Does anyone else feel the music the same way I do? Who’s that grabbing me? I went nuts on stage. I wore the invisible birthday crown, and I wore it proud. I was in love……and I’m not talking about Hollywood romance love.

TIME TRAVEL TO AMSTERDAM. It was the first weekend of August and I was on the train to Holland. I snuck into a coachette and cuddled up with my backpack on the floor. I didn’t get much sleep due to extreme paranoia that I would get drugged, mugged, or kicked off the train for having no reservation. 17 hours later from Budapest to Amsterdam I had finally arrived in Haarlem, waving at the Philips HQ as we rode past Amsterdam.

Later, I hopped on my €20 rental bike and skittered away like I was flying with Harry Potter on a broom. About 9 of us rode our bikes to Dance Valley: 3 Spanish, 5 Dutch, and me. Dance Valley is an outdoor electronica music fest that takes place in a wide open field of valleys. Remember Pleasure Island in Pinocchio? Huge white tents, man-made wooden villages, pretty waving flags with pastel colors, ferris wheel, stages with flashing lights in the shape of phoenix birds, carnival games, fairies walking on stilts, octo-grasshoppers, and the never-ending *doosh doosh doosh* of electronic music playing from different stages. It was hedonistic Disneyland for the ravers. Here’s a taste.

Rainy muddy splashes and some nibbles later I was feeling warm vibrations & extremely energetic! I hear a *chop chop chop* and holy crap – it’s Armin Van Buren flying in on a helicopter! He hopped onto the Phoenix Bird stage…and then the  music began. That’s when I realized that this was love. It was washing all over me in the form of musical vibrations and synthesized beats and melodies. We danced under the plastic tarp with rain droplets sprinkled above us; we were invincible. I was a little girl playing cat & mouse. We were dancing with our neighbors, we were dancing with ourselves, we were dancing and celebrating LIFE. Since then, everytime I listen to techo/house I am brought back to this moment & feeling.

1 million miles per hour later I found myself crawling back to Amsterdam at the end of August, seeking out another new experience. We went to the last beach party of the year in Blumendaal followed by a visit to somebody’s Villa. It was owned by a guy named WIM.  When I first met him,  he said to me, “My name is WIM, W-I-M, like WIMP but without the P.” He was a dad in his 40’s and was throwing an after party for his son and his friends. He had a fullly stocked bar and DJ in his basement. Sound-proofed walls and a stripper pole with strobe lights made this one of my favorite places in the world. I hugged Anouk and danced with a tranny while spinning around the stripper pole (what? I know). WIM offered me GHB to calm down and I said no thanks. I couldn’t tell what time it was when I went to bed, but my toes were still busting moves.

Back in Boston, I woke up this morning wiggling my toes still dancing to the beats of Designer Drugs in my head. All day today I was replaying last night’s events & Amsterdam events in my head. Both experiences were epic and equally memorable. I’m so thankful to have met such happy, free-spirited people during my adventure in the Netherlands and on my 23rd birthday.

….long live Queen Beatrix. The Dutch truly know how to live and love. Thanks for time traveling with me.


The Time Traveling Bulldozer

1 Oct

I am launching this blog on the eve of my birth, as a way to celebrate the last 23 years of my existence on this Earth. I am just one human being with a story. However there are huge gaps and wholes in my fairytale – pages with strange stains on them, cigarette burns – pages that are stuck together, torn apart, scribbled in foreign tongue and strange characters. I think there’s one page in there with a condom wrapper stuck to it. I digress.

I’m not much of a writer- but I am a liver (teehee). Please note, bad jokes are necessary in order to lower your expectations and then crush them with awesomeness in the future – or the past, since I will be writing my stories in (random) reverse chronological order. But I will help you time travel through my memories as I recall them piece by piece, bit by bit.

This morning,

I was taking a swell afternoon nap on the floor of my living room under my baby blanket,
I hopped in my Mini Cooper and took the shitty 93 freeway to work,
When all of a sudden the house on 8843 Longden Ave. in Southern California began to shake, rumble and grumble!
And was nearly swide-swiped by this monstrous thing on wheels, with dirt falling from its mouth,
I woke up from my nap and just knew that THE BULLDOZER was coming to MOVE MY HOUSE! WOW!
As I looked into my rear-view mirror I realized it was a freaking bulldozer tailgating me. Of course.
I immediately ran outside and ran all the way around it to look for the bulldozer –  but it wasn’t there.
I took a picture with my iPhone and continued the daily commute to my Corporate America job, remembering how I’ve always wondered about that bulldozer.
Then mom came out of the house and said to me, “don’t worry, it was only an earthquake. Get back in the house.”

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