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Screw you 2011, I’m Unleashing the Dragon

9 Feb

Apologies for giving you blue blog balls – I know you’ve been anticipating this post and I refuse to give you the satisfaction just because I let you cop a feel while I was drunk. I’ve been having a love affair with Netflix and really, I’m so busy staring off into space at work while my creative juices dry up like a woman on menopause that I haven’t had time to write. I’ve also turned terribly vulgar and have lit my filter on fire – a well-known side effect to having post-traveling ennui.

So basically in 2011 I’m a failure. I had this magical life-long goal that I would celebrate New Year’s in a country I’ve never been to before every single year. I was successful the last two years in the UK & Ecuador. For some reason however, it just didn’t happen this year. I blame it on this ancient Chinese superstition – the curse of the Chinese zodiac (via Jenny). You see, 2011 is the year of the rabbit – and I was born during this year – so therefore, this will be a very unlucky year. And the only thing that will protect me are DRAGONS. Rar.

So here I go…!!! Unleashing the DRAGON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Try to find him in all the shots, it’s like playing where’s waldo?

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His name is Fred – a tiny “grow your own” Dragon that I carried with me during my travels throughout China, Macau, and Thailand. He was given to me by my dear friend Jennio. Unfortunately, I lost him in China so I couldn’t take him with me on the rest of my travels around the world. Ultimate Sadface.

Okay, so my new year’s wasn’t ALL that terrible and it did have some international flair. I dressed up like a vivacious pilot wearing authentic Chinese aviator goggles at a fake airline launch party, which was held inside an old hangar tucked away in the warehouse district in Brooklyn, NY. I was accompanied by a British Top Gun pilot so I guess that’s as close as I was gonna get to kicking off the new year on foreign soil. Doesn’t beat playing with monkeys and shamans in the Amazon jungle like I did last year (which I hope to write about very soon).

Flashback Travel Moment:

While I was digitally rummaging through my photos I stumbled upon this funny parallel between two New Year’s experiences that involve a glimpse into my thug lyfe.

(ABOVE: New Year’s 2008 in London. BELOW: New Year’s 2011 in NYC)

Don’t worry, I try to keep my criminal activities at a minimum and offset this behavior by working at a healthcare company, “saving lives.”

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 couchsurfing.org 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*
“Sure.”

I never typed so hard and fast in my entire life. I logged right back into Couchsurfing.org 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.

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