Dongbei!

I know, I haven’t posted in forever.  Between FB and Tumblr, I’ve not felt the need for longer form writing.  But, I can’t freaking use FB, and Tumblr is not working well for me right now (damn Great Firewall), so this looks like my best bet.

State (particularly Consular) allows us to do “swaps” with other officres, if our bosses, the budget, etc., all allow.  In Mission China, this is particularly easy, since we have so many consular officers who are basically interchangeable, and so we can better understand some other part of the country. Right now, I’m on a swap in the far northeast (dongbei) of the country, usually known to Americans as Manchuria.

Now, most of my colleagues think I’m crazy for swapping to Dongbei.  It’s too cold, the pollution is too bad, yadda yadda.  But I swear I’m loving it (even as I’m sitting here in terrible pain, which I’ll get to.)

While this is my first time in Dongbei proper (which is just three provinces, Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang), I’ve been near here before, and in fact most of my China experience is in northern China.  The accent is thick, but usually understandable, and I’m somewhat used to pollution.  But, man, Shenyang (and now Dandong) are something else.20151228_173519

First view of Shenyang, late at night in front of my hotel.  So many lights, so alive!

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I ate lunch at the above little hole in the wall.  I think they were tickled to have a laowai (foreigner) in their restaurant.  They were also tickled that I let the crowd decide what I should eat.  It ended up being crispy chicken bits in hot peppers and green beans.  Delicious!

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While looking for a dinner spot the other day, I passed the above sign, and thought it was neat.  I should add that there is a chain here called “America California Beef Noodle King.”  I asked the lady there what made the noodles either American or Californian, and she said she wasn’t sure.  Really, they were normal Chinese noodles, but they were tasty enough.

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Another scene of Shenyang at night.

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The bar where I had dinner a couple of nights ago.  Great yakitori!

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So, from here there will be some narrative, as this picture and all that follow it were from the same day, as I went to Dandong and explored!  This is the Shenyang train station, where I started.  I’m so glad for the huge sign, as I was walking, and I was afraid I’d get lost.

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First impression of Dandong–very similar to every other place in Manchuria, but so much life!

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The main reason tourists come to Dandong though is this–that’s the Yalu River, aka the border with North Korea.

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This was my first view of North Korea–an impenetrable fog bank.  I remember thinking that it was kind of apropos, but still annoying.

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Just because it shows the level to which American culture has permeated, that is in fact Spider-Man on some building next to the Great Wall (no seen here, but will be seen shortly.)

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And here we have North Korea! Or, more accurately, a bit of island in the river claimed and run by both.  I took a boat tour of the Yalu, which was amazing.

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This is the kind of boat most people on the river were on.  That is North Korea behind the boat.  One of these pulled up along our little tour boat, and the person on the boat began selling North Korean booze, cigarettes, ginseng, pickled duck eggs, and kimchi.  The Chinese tourists were buying all kinds of things, but particularly the kimchi and the cigarettes.  (Why the kimchi? I don’t know.)

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Here we have the parking lot of the Great Wall, which you can see behind.  I was determined, despite my medical issues, to do the whole damn thing.  (As in, the whole thing here in Dandong.  Obviously, not the whole 3,000 miles.  I don’t have enough time on a day trip for that.)

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This is just to show how stupidly steep parts of the climb were.  However, they’ve done a great job fixing up the wall, and while it was kind of slick from ice, it wasn’t too bad.20160102_130203[1]

So, this is the view from near the very top, showing the end of the wall in our section.  I was very proud of having climbed all the way up.20160102_130358[1]

This is a picture of the tiny stairwell to the top of the building that was behind me in the last shot.  Unfortunately, the top of it was covered in trash and so also nasty bugs.20160102_131851[2]

Coming back down, that building at the bottom used to be a museum, but it seems totally closed up now.  It did have some really cool ancient cannons on it though!20160102_133430[1]

Sign explaining the rules at the border.  No worries, I obeyed them all without question!  (Fortunately, I also didn’t see any military installations or people, except when on the boat.)20160102_133523[1]

Statue at the bottom of the wall.20160102_160902[1]

Me, taking a selfie in front of North Korea, and the bridge connecting the two countries.  (It didn’t dawn on me to get this kind of picture until I was back at the foggy places, but at least it had kind of let up a bit.)20160102_171226[1]

Mao, overseeing the town and the train station, as I left Dandong for Shenyang again.

So, I’m in Shenyang another week, and next Saturday I’ll be heading to Harbin for the Ice Festival before flying back to Guangzhou!  I’m really looking forward to it!

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