Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Out With A Whimper


Remember four months ago when I updated this blog after an ummm... two month absence? No? I don't blame you. I'd say you can just look right below and check it out, but don't do that. You'll just see another in a long line of empty promises where I say I'll do something, and then I find myself taking a 1/3 of a year facebook break.

I promised an end to this blog. A final chapter so to speak. It's been more than laziness... I've really been unable to write this. I just don't know how to sum it all up in any worthwhile way.

I could fill in the blanks on what went down at the end - in that mysterious period between Shenyang and when I got home, but that's already old news. (Besides, it wasn't really all that exciting - a lot of goodbyes, a little bit of crying (not me though, cuz I'm mad tough)).

I could provide a recap - like a clip show or something. But I've always hated clip shows and felt like they just were filler. Besides, this is a blog, you can read it all in like five minutes if you were so inclined (and by all means, do).

So no. What can I do to really close out Year of the Rats the way it deserves to be finished?

Well, if I could blow up the internet, believe me, I would.

Instead, I'll start with a very long list of thank yous.

To Louis, Tommy, Beme, Harry, VCD, Aaron, Kirsty, Laura, Vicky, Bianca, John, Aarty, Simon, Marie, Winnie, the DVD girl, the hostess and wait staff of the Local, Snow, Archie, Grandma and Grandpa, Gil, Matt, Marian, James, my C13 class, James Bond, Strong, Cheryl, Mel, Kim, Matt, the other DVD guy, Tiffany, Jesse, I-55.

I'm sure Corey would agree, and remind me of other people I missed on the list. So I'm sorry to whoever (whoMever) I forgot. I thank you as well, just you know.. without actually remembering to.

So the thank yous are out of the way.

My year in China was a lot of things, but all in all, it was a fascinating, exciting, and often funny experience that I wouldn't trade for anything (except maybe a restaurant in New York that has North Eastern Chinese Cuisine - that'd be a good trade right there).

Speaking of home, it feels a lot... tamer now. That's probably not the word I'm looking for here though. I love New York, but god damn do I find myself missing China.

I've been watching the Olympics and listening to the blabbering on the TV, and wishing people actually knew what the hell they were talking about. I'm not defending anything, and I'm not getting into politics here. Besides, that's not the China I experienced (no tanks ever tried to roll over me... phew!)

I experienced a China filled with people who had hopes for so much more than they had. And unfortunately, in many cases, their hopes led them to a classroom led by me. How horrifying.

The job was never the reason I went. I went for the experience, plain and simple. The fact that I wound up loving the job was an extremely nice byproduct though. The kids were extremely hilarious, and made every day interesting (this is of course written nearly six months later where in hindsight nothing was ever boring.... riiiiight). One of Corey's kids actually puked when he got called on by her for an answer. Don't think that ever made it to the blog. Consider this your blooper reel.

So I'm rambling. But at least I'm writing. And this will be the last you hear from me.

About my year in China at least. I'm writing other stuff, which you can see at, and Corey as you know, is taking pictures of other stuff (at, so check those out and stay semi-up-to-date.

I'm not done with China though. I'll be back. I wish I could say when, but then I'd lose my open ending here... the kind of ending that leaves you thinking... about something or other.

I'll be back, and I'm sure the place will look nothing like how I remember it - especially considering the insane rate of growth. Hell, the DMZ will probably be a 43 story mall by the time I return to Dalian.

But at least I'll always have... the year of the rats.

Ha... I'm not really going out like that. Toooooo cheesy.

Thank you for reading this blog, and being interested in what I had to say. If anyone has any questions, feel free to post them here, today, tomorrow or next year. They'll go to my email, and I will respond. A blog like this was the only tool I could find when I was looking for information on Dalian before I left, so I know what it's like.

And I know how much fun you're going to have. (Yes you, person who is reading this blog eight months from now in the hopes that something online will give you a descent idea of what the hell Dalian is like - or what China is really like (and no don't listen to Bob Costas).

Sorry I took so long to write this, especially cuz this rambling was definitely not worth the wait, but at least I got to say goodbye, in a nice and wordy manner.

So until next time,


- Shawn Abraham (and Corey Torpie)

(Nothing says goodbye like a horrifyingly bad KTV picture - aaaaaaaaand I'm gone)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two Months Later: After the Jetlag

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. It has been a two whole months since I last posted on this blog. And let me tell you, a bit has happened since then.

The biggest news of course, is that Corey and I are home now. Our year in China ended at the end of February, and was followed up by a fantastic trip through South East Asia.

I apologize for not keeping the internets up to date with the final few days in China, which were amazing. Things just started happening so damn fast, that I couldn't catch up, and never had time to catch my breath in that "I'm gonna go blog" sort of way.

In the days since we've been home, I've found that there have been a lot more people reading this blog than I ever could have imagined, and to anybody who I didn't lose over the course of a two month hiatus, I want to thank everyone who checked out this blog. Friends, family, and the guy who randomly typed Dalian into google and hit search.

What's a Dalian, anyway?

This post marks the beginning of the end for this blog. I have one or two more things planned before I officially close the books on The Year of the Rats, so stay tuned to a few more pictures, and tear inducing reflections on the most amazing experience of my life.

- Shawn

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shenyang or, How Presidents' Day Ruined My Monday

One of the weirder things about my stay in China is how the number of Chinese Visas in my passport has grown exponentially. Five Visas in one year when I never actually left the country (except for stupid Hong Kong, which I could have sworn was in China) is pretty impressive.

So those five visas coupled with the stamps I've collected over the years have left my passport mighty full. It's a nice thing really, and I've grown strangely attached to the little blue book. So much so that I just can't wait to get some new big bad visas in it from my upcoming jaunt through South East Asia.

The only problem, is that my passport doesn't have enough pages.

Enter the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang, China. This branch of the embassy located a mere four hours away from Dalian by train offers the super cool service of adding in new pages. So with an email sent to double check when they were open, Corey and I hoped a train to the capitol of Liaoning Province (home to Dalian).

Shenyang itself is... uninspiring. Dirty, crowded, and dirty. But maybe I'm just being an ass for no reason.

We make our way to the embassy and are confounded when the gates are closed. There are no Americans or signs in English explaining why the place was shut.

I managed to use what little Chinese I've accumulated to ask the guard what was up, and he responded with a courteous (but a bit snarky I'd say) "Ming tian". Tomorrow. Not what you want to hear after you spent four hours on a rather uncomfortable train.

Wei shen mo? Why?

I'm sure he gave me a legitimate explanation, but as they say... it was like he was speaking Chinese or something.

Another American dude rolled up to the Consulate with his Chinese Girlfriend/Prostitute in tow and after he talked to the guard, he explained to us that it was Presidents' Day.

What? Really? I did email the consulate. They could have bothered to tell me that when they say they're open Monday-Wednesday, that doesn't include the upcoming Monday.

I mean, who celebrates Presidents' Day anyway?

- Shawn

Friday, February 15, 2008

Harbin... It's Cold

Sorry for not posting this sooner. I'll just cover by saying that I've been battling frostbite for the past few days.

Harbin is cold. Really, really cold. I went in hearing all the hype of how terrifyingly freezing it's supposed to be, and prepared myself accordingly. I even grew a massive beard the likes of which hadn't been seen since the days after Al Gore lost the election in 2000.

The funniest part of this is that when we actually made it to the icy northern city of Harbin, it was in the middle of a heatwave. So by all accounts, it was pretty nice there.

Still miserably cold.

Thank god for wonders of facial hair. I have no idea how Corey survived.

So why bother going to a place as miserable as the link between China and Siberia?

The answer is the magnificent ice festival, which is truly one of the more remarkable things I've ever seen. They build gigantic replicas of buildings out of ice, and it really is impressive.

Before we get to the ice festival, the city itself isn't too bad. Its Russian ties have left Harbin with some nice architecture, including an old Church, and even a Synagogue or two.

After checking out the "city", we crossed a nice and thoroughly frozen river to get to the snow festival - the scrawny, less hyped up, little brother of the Ice Festival.

Still, despite the lack of press, the smaller sibling proved to be a scrappy fighter indeed, boasting some pretty impressive snow work. It had hundreds of snow sculptures, some designed by international teams, and proved once and for all that American made snowmen... suck.

We got up nice and early the next day to make sure that we had time to hit the Harbin Tiger Park. Much like the Dalian Zoo, visitors can pay for their bloodlust and get a find variety of animals to be fed to the tigers - just on a much, much larger scale.

It was awesome.

The next stop was the Japanese Germ Warfare Museum, which really helped get to the heart of exactly why the Chinese hate them so damn much.

But finally, it was time for the Ice Festival... words won't really do it justice, and the pictures will just come close.

If you really wanna experience it properly, you should take your laptop outside, blow these pictures to as big as they get, and then while it's freezing cold, run a cold hose over yourself.

Still though, you probably won't enjoy it as much, so you might as well just hop on the next flight to Harbin.

Or check these pictures out. Indoors. That works too...

Stay warm,

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Superbowl Monday and the Chinese New Year

The past two and a half weeks have been hell. Corey and I worked for nineteen consecutive days without a day off, but with that behind us, we rolled right into the pre-game for the Chinese New Year. Not a bad way to unwind.

Matt Herman, who astute readers may remember visited China once before, showed up in Dalian just in time for the Superbowl, which thanks to the time difference was on at 7:00 AM Monday morning. Being the good Americans that we were, we got up nice and early and made sure to be there to root for our home turf in the form of the New York Giants.

The game was being shown at only one bar in town. Bobo's Bar is a small place owned by a small Chinese dude named... well... Bobo. I don't really know what I expected in the early morning festivities, but I have to say that I was more than a little surprised by just how shady an operation China is still capable of pulling off. The game was shown on an illegal stream of the game being buffered through the bar's computer. The only downside was that the computer wasn't connected to the sound system, so the entire game (and the wonderful, wonderful commercials) were enjoyed while listening to a hilarious mix of 80's Pop, Weezer, and trance.

Still though, it was a great game that featured the trouncing of a New England team that no one thought could be beat. Couple that with a few early morning TsingTaos, and you've got a good start to your day.

The rest of Matt's short visit was highlighted by the purchase of a 520 RMB (after bargaining of course) box of fireworks to get a good head start on the Spring Festival festivities.

The box was massive, and after we blew it up that night, we were all in agreement that it was money damn well spent.

I would love to attach the video of the MASSIVE explosions that ensued, but YouTube is acting screwy, and Blogger's own video uploading tool is painfully slow.

For those of you with a Facebook account, check out the video HERE.

It blew up real good.

After Matt had left, we geared up for the actual start of Spring Festival. The Chinese New Year was brought in with some real style, and some really loud explosions to boot.

Again, I apologize for the lack of easily accessible videos, but I think the following series is worth a look:





Really, video is the closest you can get to understanding just how insane it was. Things were exploding left and right, and the night was lit up with fireworks in all directions. Easily one of the most impressive things I've ever seen.

Next up for the Spring Festival holiday is a trip up north to Harbin, the city that hosts the annual Ice Festival. I've been growing a massive beard for well over a month. We'll see how it holds up in the freezing cold.

Lastly, this new year is actually the Year Of The Rat, which is leading me to debut a spectacular new Label on these posts. These posts signify the beginning of the end of our stay in China, and this blog as well. We will be leaving China in less than a month.

But don't worry... we're saving some of the best stuff for last.

Happy Year of the Rat,
- Shawn