The content of this blog does not reflect the positions of the Peace Corps and is solely the responsibility of the author.

In Which I'm Done Here

I am no longer either in Tanzania or China.  It's been fun, darlings.

If you wish to read more about volunteers in Tanzania, the lovely people replacing me at the University in Mbeya have a blog here.

If you wish to read more from me, now with more opera and less Tanzania, I will be posting at this address, coffeeoperaglitterfluff.blogspot.com.  Mostly about food at the moment.

Love to you all.  Do something sustainable to build capacity in people.

Aerialists in China

The Olympic park in Beijing is a little strange in the opposite way from Forbidden City.  Crowds in the Forbidden City seem strange, but the lack of crowds at stadiums seems odd.  There was, however, a group of silks girls at the National Stadium!! They were practicing star drop.  

Also, you can get on the roof of the stadium and look out over the park.

People are selling these tiny kites on long long strings over the park.  Why not?  It becomes festive.

In Which Chinese Walls are Walked Upon, Not to Mention Camels

I completely agree with this, that walls solve the wrong problem, and would even go further to say that building giant walls is the wrong solution to the wrong problem, nevertheless, the Great Wall is still impressive.  

You get to it by climbing a long steep tree-lined stair.

No one who claims to be able to see the Great Wall from space
has ever tried to see it even from the next mountain over.  
The views from the top are spectacular, even in the poor visibility that is the air around Beijing.

Itty bitty cannon!  So cute.  
A horrifying number of people died building this wall so that centuries later, tourists could take pictures.  If Mongols invaded, we the tourists would be asking them to pose.

Some parts of the wall go up and down steeply at around 45 degree angles, which in 90 degree heat is hard, or so I thought until I saw the little old people walking up and down smoking, and felt ashamed of my weakness.

See what I mean about steep?  

Apparently at another part of the wall, Mao wrote something on a rock, so at this point at the wall, someone wrote something to Mao on a rock.

I love these mountains. 

View from the window of a guardhouse.  

Little statues on the roof of the guardhouse.  

The  most massive security system ever built now has a giant slide that tourists can ride down on little toboggan thingies with rudimentary throttle and brake systems.  This is stupid and cheesy and a ridiculous amount of fun.  I highly recommend sliding down from the Great Wall.

There were camels at the parking lot by the base of the stairs to the wall.  I don't know why.  But they were very friendly camels, so why not?  

In Which I Pause in Uploading Pictures of China to Complain about Peace Corps Bureaucracy

During my hitch in Peace Corps, one of the things I did was act as an administrator to the volunteer resource site that several of us built.  We tried to keep an up-to-date directory of current volunteers in country on the site.  This required us to actually get a directory out of Peace Corps staff, an annoying process in which all staff I talked to agreed it would be a wonderful thing and they'd see about getting it for me, and then this never happened without me spending a lot of time emailing people begging.  Today, one week shy of a year of when I was last begging their tech guy for directories, I received an email with the updated directory and a promise of receiving such regularly 2x/year.  Great, except this email was sent to me rather than the current administrators.

I'm no longer Peace Corps.  I've returned.  I've even returned from China and am sitting around my parents' house drinking coffee and watching Youtube (which streams at 360p as a minimum!).  I just had a pedicure to clean the last of the Africa out of my feet and marvel at US nail salons!  This is well known information, contained, for example, in the directory I just got mailed.  (Not the pedicure and youtube thing, but the me not being in Peace Corps.)  I think this may technically be a security breach, since staff isn't supposed to reveal contact information to anyone not in Peace Corps for any reason ever without express permission.  These are, after all, federal government employees, with information contained on federal government computers, so there are tons of rules about what you can and can't access.   Fortunately, I'm not evil, at least, not with people's contact information.

A 2 year turnover of volunteers is not a new problem for Peace Corps staff; they should be able to handle it.  It's not like we the ICT committee people don't do our part.  We genuinely try to have a nice hand off and let people know who to start contacting about the website as the older volunteers leave.

There's some 30 odd staff to 150-ish volunteers, one would think that would be high enough overhead for things to get done in a sensible and timely fashion.  

In Which Chinese Walls are Investigated

I spent a certain amount of time in Guangzhou sitting on a couch and watching The Good Wife and The Borgias.  In the air-conditioing, while a machine washed my clothes and people brought me food.  It was glorious.  That's not important.  The important thing is the characters in The Good Wife keep using the phrase "Chinese wall" as a metaphor for interdepartmental non-communication.  Now I understand why.  The Forbidden City has walls around everything.  Not that the walls aren't pretty and everything, but it makes for a bewildering array of structures cut off from everything else and each other, leaving the tourist trapped in an imposing maze of red and gold.

The approach to the Forbidden City used to to be guarded by many more walls, of which now only the gates remain.

Mao's visage now guards the gate to the Forbidden City.  

The guardhouses above the gates are elaborate.  

The number of knob things on the door increases with rank.
Touching them on the way in is sort of analogous to kissing
the important person's ring.  
All these people would have been executed for entering back
in the day.  
All the buildings have pretty roofs.

And pretty everything else.

The city is guarded by gigantic bronze lions.

The tiles in the courtyards are 6 layers deep, because paranoia. 

sun dial! 


Giant bowl for pretty fires at night, I think.  

The water spouts. 

Beshrubbed wall.  
There are massive carved pavements.  The largest one was transported by digging wells, waiting till winter, then sliding it 28 miles or so over ice.

Pretty dragon wall!

Of course the ceiling shows a dragon and a pearl, what else would it show?
Bells for imperial music.

Pretty wall things.  
There were tons of fancily carved things, including little carved mountains of jade, complete with jade people with jade things.  Eventually, it becomes just dumb.  While the rest of the world was exploring and sciencing, they were sitting behind walls with pretty rocks.  One of the emperors, according to my friend and impromptu tour guide, when presented by some Europeans with navigational things, said he had no need of such because he already owned the world.  The last empress could have funded an army to hold off the Europeans, but she spent it on her birthday party instead.

Inaccurate but pretty star globe thing.  

The Forbidden City also gets depressing with the relentless imposing prettiness and the little greenery around is very manicured and ordered.  This is not a place where people were happy. Even if it wasn't usually as bad as the well where cheerful signage announced that a rival concubine to the last empress was thrown down during the confusion of invasion.  

One of the more cheerful things, though, was that the imperial family had their own private theatre!

 A scale model cross section was provided for the enlightenment of tourists.

One of the few nice green spots.  The imperials liked their weird looking rocks more than their greenery, though.

Next up: more and greater walls.