A few confessions.

Wow.  Humbling.

This is what I have to say about my first foray into Yunnan.

Remember the whole “to travel is better than to arrive” idea?

When I was transferring flights, I had to get my luggage and check in again.  And when I checked in, the person behind the desk told me that my passport number wasn’t in the system, but all my other details, including payment, were there. But, she was nice and miracle of miracles, there was no miscommunication between this desk and the data input desk. So I eventually got on the plane, got into this city, managed to take the public transportation all the way to the approximate location of my hostel, and then gave up wandering around with the gps and took a taxi for the last 2 km. (IT WAS ONLY 10 RMB.  The same taxi ride in Beijing is about 3x that much.)

SO.  now safely at my hostel.

My plan was pretty much to go to all the places I researched when I wrote my report about Yunnan.

I forgot all the Chinese names for things.

So I showed some pictures to my hostel owner, and asked about the transportation.

And then I realized Yunnan is bigger in real life than on a map.

Now I really pride myself on having a pretty decent grasp of geography, so when I realized all the places I really wanted to see were not day trips from the train station, I was kind of mad at myself for not planning a little bit better.

Well, I came all the way out here, and I really want to see the 九龙瀑布 and 玉龙雪山 so I’m gonna go and spend one night in a tiny place 8 hrs away.

But today and tomorrow I am appreciating Kunming.  Today I went to the Yunnan Provincial Museum, and I joined a guided tour, on which there were several elementary school kids, who were paying very close attention to the guide and asking intelligent questions about the artifacts.  They were so well behaved and attentive that I was kind of ashamed of myself for not being completely present.

(I do not remember a single thing the guide said.  I remember that the kids were wearing green, blue, and pink jackets.)


Better than arriving???????

“To travel is better than to arrive.”–A sage.


I like people. (Mostly.)

I think plane conversations can be interesting and enlightening.  Not all the time, but in my experience, conversations on planes aren’t typically horrifyingly dull.

And then, you end up next to a guy on the plane who gives a new perspective to small talk.

Talking about the weather:

“You know, Yunnan and Chongqing aren’t nearly as cold as Beijing, even though we don’t have heaters.  You’re wearing too many clothes.  You know, I thought you were pregnant because of all your jackets.”

Talking about where you’re from:

“Oh, so you’re an Overseas Chinese kid?  Don’t most of you go to Singapore?  That’s further than America, right?”

I mean.


The coin


Greetings from the land South of the Clouds. *If you’ve read the book by the same name, high five!

IT. IS. COLD.  Outside of Beijing, it’s not that common to have a heater in your house, so I slept with my snow pants over my yoga pants, three shirts, and two jackets under a duvet.  Yeah.

This trip is turning out to be a great source of entertainment for me.  Sort of.  Ish.

I have been warned that you need to be en guarde when travelling outside of the more cosmopolitan cities.  Also, because I’m travelling alone as a female in a somewhat more rural area, I’m surprised my roommates and other friends didn’t have “PLEASE BE CAREFUL” tattooed on my arm.

And somehow, I managed to get ripped off before I even checked into my flight out of Beijing.

Yeah, no, getting here was just amazing.  I forgot what airline I was, checked, tried to check in online, failed, figured since it was domestic, I’d be taking off out of terminal two, got out of the subway at this station, and well, it wasn’t.  Actually, there was a sign in the subway saying which airlines took off from which terminal, which I WAS LOOKING AT, BUT NOT READING.

So I was getting out of the subway and figured out how to get to the bus to take me to the other terminal, and I was really worried about missing the flight, cos, that has happened before.  I found the bus, and then the guy standing next to what I assume was the bus driver  said, “It’s going to take an hour to get to the second terminal.  I’ll take you in 15 mins by highway.”

You know the rest.

He had quoted a ridiculous price, and as I figured I had really walked into that, I gave up after about five minutes of arguing.  Then he pulled into the terminal parking lot and I ended up paying for that IN ADDITION.

In the end, it was about $40 US, and I came out unharmed, all my luggage, and got on the correct plane in plenty of time.

I’m still facepalming.

And this was just the first thing that happened to me yesterday.

Keep reading. 

About the title and the photo which I hope loaded–it’s from the Netherlands and I got it in Bangkok.  It’s used when you go clubbing and drinking–you’ll get one after you’ve been “carded”.  But more than that, I have decided that this is now my first storytelling coin, so as I travel, I’m wearing it around my neck.

The string is kind of itchy.


So there was that one time….

a professor tried to insult me but since I didn’t understand the cultural context, I took it as a compliment. (My friend thought it was very funny.)

…An American research professor was visiting on our last day of class, and he was…very boring, let’s say that.  And the reg. professor is desperately trying to get us to “look alive” so he asks me “Why do you laugh so often in my class?”

Me: Well, firstly, sometimes the way you say things is a bit not right, and it sounds funny.

(I really should not have said that out loud. Really.  In China, you’re never supposed to criticize a professor.  Ever.)

But the prof was just standing there, smiling, so I continued.

And secondly, you often stop your sentences in the middle and then start new ones without finishing, and its hilarious.  I have never had a professor do this before.

According to my friend, you could have cut the tension with a knife—apparently everyone was staring at me.  How I didn’t pick up on that AT ALL is amazing.

And the prof says, “Well, you’re a typical American, aren’t you?”

(This is intended as an insult.  My Singaporean friend says, “What does that mean?”  My other French friend says, “No, not really.”)

Prof: “Very outspoken and honest.”

Me: (nodding and smiling) “Thanks.”

The end.

For Sale

Prompt: The home from your favorite fairy tale is up for sale.  Write a quick description of the house for the real estate listing.

(Well, since it’s too hard to pick a favorite and since both stories that are coming to mind involve ships….)

FOR SALE: Ship with aerial capability.  Does not need helium.  Can only hold seven persons, perfect for intimate gatherings.

FOR SALE: Ship for food cargo. Currently docked in Palanca terminal, Angola. Infused with the scent of garlic and onions.  Perfect for storing goods to prepare savory dishes.

(The Flying Ship and Onions and Garlic)  

Tsugi wa.

Hello, I’m still here.

Currently desperately avoiding actual work AGAIN, hoping not to have guilt-infused dreams….ahaha I’m kidding…sort of….

here’s an update for y’all on The Soap Opera of Ellie’s life that FINALLY SEEMS TO HAVE SETTLED DOWN:

I’m sure you’re all DYING to know how the meeting with the interpreter went.  IT WAS AWESOME!!!!! HE WAS SO COOL!!!!  SO COOL!!!!!  *jumping around waving hands and shaking nearest unlucky person by the shoulders  SO COOL!!!!!!  I got to ask many questions, not just about interpreting, but about entrepreneurship, angel investing, et. cetera…And, I am VERY PROUD to say that I am the first homeschooler he ever met.

Aaanndd, today I met another very cool person.  This guy is involved in the Beijing expat startup scene, he’s the community manager of Beijing’s Startup Grind chapter, so we talked about growth, pricing, currently hot industries, the expat working life, the expat student life (because he studied at PKU as well)….Good connection.


Business Chinese is uh, hard.


Very hard.

Harder than my law class hard.

Probably on the level of computer science hard.

(Less hard than writing cover letters, though.)

Quite humbling, this is. There are tons of words I really, honestly don’t know and can’t guess.  There are sentence patterns that aren’t intuitive to me.  The readings are denser than frozen cheesecake.  I would be having the time of my life if it weren’t coupled with insanely hard Korean.  Supposedly the time of my life x2, it ended up being a recipe for extreme language burnout if I ever wrote one.   (Come to think of it though, I think I’ve written some pretty good ones.)

Exams and reports for other classes are looming this upcoming week.


Now that I’ve been here a while, here’s what I like the most:

The food. Just good, old-fashioned Chinese food.  Comforting.

The easy access to watching a lot of really cool “foreign” cinema.  Beijing screens their legendary action movies as well as a lot of non-Chinese AND non-American stuff.  In the US, it’s really a lot of hassle to find a cinema that’s not too far away that will play foreign movies.  (For me, anything that’s not written and produced in the USA is “foreign”.)  And there’s no advertising for that kind of thing unless you read niche articles/publications or seek it out on the internet, but there are ads for everything here.  I like this.

The networking/new knowledge acquisition opportunities.  This comes with going to a bigger school with more resources and living in a more cosmopolitan city, and I am SOAKING IT UP.  Tomorrow night I’m intending to attend a guest lecture about design and innovation in startups, the intended audience is the Beijing expat startup community, and the event is sponsored by none other than PKU.  There are TONS of these to attend,  but this will be my first.  Pretty stoked.

Now, what I don’t like and don’t fancy “warming up to it”:

The fundamental communication problems between seemingly ALL ENTITIES, leading to bureaucracy and bad service.  “It’s not in my job description and therefore, I don’t need to know anything,” seems to be the prevailing attitude for a lot of service people I’ve encountered.  My class went on a field trip to a historic site in Beijing.  We bought the tickets and the ticket person waved their hands in the direction of the 1st entrance, which seemed to be not functioning, as no one was going in and the security guards weren’t giving us any clues, so we went to the 2nd entrance, and was told to go back to the first, at which time the guards at the first office reluctantly let us in.  Boh.  My fellow American expat also shared some banking service woes with me.  We were theorizing that since there are so many people here, jobs should be competitive, and therefore, the service should be better because you don’t want to be fired, right? Yeah…no.

All the other things that shocked me at first have gradually become part of the scenery, so I’m happy about that.

All in all, life is good.

Well that’s all. I’m giving up on any more studying tonight and going to bed.  The blog post title means next.  (I really need a shot of creative juice.  Maybe the innovation lecture will help. 😉