Holidays on the road

The year is almost out. The last time I wrote, Christmas and my birthday and nearly the whole month of December on the road was still to come.

Now it’s a rain-drenched night in Nashville where I’m sitting and tomorrow morning we leave for our final destination of this month/year (nearly the final destination of our road trip – of our epic journey – but that’s a though for another day), where we’ll ring in the arrival of 2013 holed up in a cabin in the Virginia woods, cut off from internet and, most likely, cell phone reception, where I plan to watch movies with Roman, cook, eat, nap, read, sit by the wood stove, nap, write if I get ambitious, walk if the weather cooperates and nap some more.

And it’s not a moment too soon.

The past month has been AWESOME.

December first saw us leaving San Fran for a couple days on the pacific coastal highway. Then there were all the dear friends we got to spend time with in LA. A rollicking drive through twilit Death Valley to a surreal stint in Las Vegas. Zion National Park. Monument Valley. The Grand Canyon.

DSC_0738a rare bit of sun along the pacific highway

DSC_0837Seasons greetings from Disney on the “It’s a Small World” ride

DSC_0951Rodeo drive all blinged out and sparkly for Christmas

DSC_0381Las Vegas’ take on the holiday spirit….

DSC_0798Zion for my birthday! 😀

DSC_0295Stunning Monument Valley

DSC_0867We visited the Canyon on a snowy, blustery, cloud covered and beautiful day

DSC_0944In the canyon

Reconnecting with my most favorite friend from college in Phoenix. Meeting her husband for the first time. Less than 24 hours in Santa Fe. A long drive to Amarillo, Texas for a surprisingly snowy and bitterly cold Christmas.

DSC_0040Christmas lights and cacti in Phoenix

DSC_0421Ceramic Santas in Santa Fe

Oh, and we got to watch the Hobbit in 3-D Imax at the movie theater next to our hotel – one of two places we could find in Amarillo that were actually open for Christmas. The other being the Big Texan, home of the 72 ounce steak, where we out of necessity and an appreciation for the kitsch factor ate dinner both nights we were there.

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And finally, two long days of post-Texas driving changed the landscape dramatically and brought us to Arkansas and now Nashville.

We’ve been on the road trip for just over nine weeks now. In the month of December alone, we covered 9 states, made 11 stops, spent time with lots of people I love dearly, saw lots of new stuff. And now I am TIRED.

This afternoon I crashed. We’d gone to see Jack White’s Third Man Records. I was so excited to be there. I took bunches of pictures, chatted with the friendly lady working the counter, fed the automaton monkey band a quarter so they would play a White Stripes jam.

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All smiles. Then I headed out of the studio door and walked head first into a big fat wall of grumpiness.

Suddenly I was just done. At the moment, there’s not a single thing more I want to look at, hotel I want to research or book, place I want to go, history or natural wonder I want to ponder or regional specialty I want to eat. Sometimes with travel this happens. You just get full up. Any drop more would simply be too much.

I’ve been watching sit coms in a horizontal state in the hotel room all night and it seems to have helped – I’m over the grumps at this point. But I’m still SO glad it worked out (in the last minute!) to rent this cabin that – from the looks on google map – is pretty much literally in the middle of no where. There will be nothing to do but chill. I mean, the closest Starbucks is an hour and a half away! 😉

And that’s exactly what I need. A few days to digest all that the past month – two months really – has been. And a few days during which the future – 2013 and the end of the trip both – can wait.

I hope December has been good to everyone out there. Once I have space to think again, boy will I be excited to see what 2013 brings. 🙂 Happy New Year everyone!!

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Yay for rain!

It’s been weeks since my last haiku; it may as well be months and months for how busy we’ve been and how far away Wyoming is feeling.

Circumstance has gifted me with a quiet day today. We are in Big Sur, California. It’s our one full day here and it is positively sodden outside. It’s been pouring since well before I woke up, and the rain continues now into the afternoon, dripping down through the branches of the redwoods all around us and pattering on the rooftop while the puddles outside grow increasingly broad and deep.

Raindrops on Redwood leaves (needles?)

Raindrops on Redwood leaves (needles?)

It might seem like a shame – I’d been really excited to see the beautiful coastline that the area is so famous for. Not to mention that it appears the wet weather has been following us around since we arrived in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. But actually I’m just as pleased to have a “day off” from typical travel.

We’re staying at a little cabin at the Big Sur Campground. Everything is rustic wood and light and warm inside, making it a delightful place to hole up in against the gloomy weather. The place even comes with a “wood stove” with a gas-powered fire, which has been glowing warmly in the corner pretty much since we arrived last night.

Wood stove = heaven

Wood stove = heaven

There’s no wi-fi (I’ll post this when ever we return to connectivity), no cell signal, and aside from the other cabins in the campground, the only things in sight are redwoods, ferns and a swollen, rushing stream. I’m loving it and wishing we were staying in this peaceful retreat for a week, rather than a day.

Our cabin amid some young Redwoods

Our cabin amid some young Redwoods

But (aside from everything in Big Sur being crazy expensive) we’ve recently discovered that we won’t be able to extend the rental period for our leased car – something that we’d been assured was not only possible but easy when we picked up the car back in Connecticut. So our travel plans have now been reduced by two weeks and it’s important that we keep moving if we’re going to make it back to return the car on time.

So I’ll enjoy this time in Big Sur for what it is – a day of comfort and quiet indoors – and maybe we’ll get to come back some day for the beaches and the hiking and the views and all that other good stuff. After all the moving and activity of the past three weeks, being more or less forced to do be quiet and do nothing is exactly the blessing that I need. 🙂

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Rain and redwoods – recorded this morning; the sound of rain pattering on our roof and the metal tank outside our cabin. 🙂

Road trip haikus: 13, plus Wyoming impressions

Welcome to Wyoming!

We pretty much only saw Wyoming from the car. We drove through its south-west corner to get from South Dakota to Colorado. I don’t know if the entire state is like this, but the little bit we saw was bleak. Highway-side towns comprised of small clutch of ramshackle buildings, rows of white, bare trees like arthritic skeletons offering the only shade for miles around, and empty, rolling planes fading toward the horizon in all directions.

It’s the tenth largest state in the Union, yet it has the lowest population of all of them – less than 600,000 people live in all of Wyoming. It is pretty darn empty.

At one point, one of those brown recreation signs along the highway caught my eye – “Oregon Trail Ruts“. Apparently there was so much covered-wagon traffic in this particular area that the wheel ruts can still be seen to this day. It was not hard to picture pioneers making their way across the empty vast planes on either side of the highway. I have to wonder if the landscape has changed at all in the 150+ years since those people took their fate, luck and lives in their hands and crossed the country into an unknown future.

Might be hard to tell, but if you click you can see there is a ranch or farm or something in the distance….

Even in our little SUV, behind glass and with freshly bought bottles of water in our cup holders, I still felt exposed in Wyoming. At the mercy of the sun that burned my cheeks through the wind screen, overwhelmed by the emptiness all around, speculating in the back of my thoughts about how far the next rest stop might be…

It wasn’t a far jump for my mind to be able to speculate about what it was like for the pioneers pressing westward. A place as big and empty as Wyoming does make one’s imagination wander…

And maybe it was just the timing – the sun’s harshness softening as twilight set in, but after leaving Wyoming, something about Colorado seemed instantly and entirely less harsh.

Driving day: Wyoming to Colorado

Oh Wyoming, so
vast and so empty! Where am
I supposed to pee???

Unforgiving land.
No where to run, no where to
hide under this sky.

We cross the border
into Colorado as
the sun softly sets.

Gold clouds smudge the sky
and blue mountains fade to grey
as twilight gathers.

Poetic madness: The House on the Rock

I first heard about the House on the Rock in Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.

Not that I would ever need prompting to want to road trip – anywhere but especially in the US – but Gaiman’s book taps into and is a wonderful reminder of one aspect of what I’m looking for out here on the road – unexpected magic, myth and beauty in my home country.

The novel’s image of the meeting of old, forgotten gods in the carousel room stuck with me, and I felt like I hit the road-trip-jackpot when I was flipping through a road trip book to get ideas for our route to Wisconsin, and I happened to notice that the House was more or less along the way to our destination.

The House on the Rock sort of defies explanation. The place itself offers a video biography of the House’s creator, but never really manages to delve into the why. Here’s their website if you want to learn more, but this is one of those places that you have to just see to believe, and even then, the why will probably remain elusive.

The world’s largest carousel is only one part of the entire experience of the place. But of everything we saw, it was for me the most overwhelmingly jaw-dropping. It is insane. It is beautiful. It is haunting. It is awesome in the old-school definition of the word.

I will borrow from Neil Gaiman’s book/blog – why bother when such an amazing writer has already described the place. 😉 Photos are from the carousel as well as other parts of the House.

The largest carousel in the world – barely fit my camera lens!

From American Gods, Chapter Five:

Calliope music played: a Strauss waltz, stirring and occasionally discordant. The wall as they entered was hung with antique carousel horses, hundreds of them, some in need of a lick of paint, others in need of a good dusting; above them hung dozens of winged angels constructed rather obviously from female store-window mannequins; some of them bared their sexless breasts; some had lost their wigs and stared baldly and blindly down from the darkness.

The photos are not the best – it was tricky capturing moving objects in a dimly lit room…

And then there was the carousel.

A sign proclaimed it was the largest in the world, said how much it weighed, how many thousand lightbulbs were to be found in the chandeliers that hung from it in gothic profusion, and forbade anyone from climbing on it or from riding on the animals.

And such animals! Shadow stared, impressed in spite of himself, at the hundreds of full-sized creatures who circled on the platform of the carousel. Real creatures, imaginary creatures, and transformations of the two: each creature was different – he saw mermaid and merman, centaur and unicorn, elephants (one huge, one tiny), bulldog, frog and phoenix, zebra, tiger, manticore and basilisk, swans pulling a carriage, a white ox, a fox, twin walruses, even a sea serpent, all of them brightly coloured and more than real: each rode the platform as the waltz came to an end and a new waltz began. The carousel did not even slow down.

“What’s it for?” asked Shadow. “I mean, okay, world’s biggest, hundreds of animals, thousands of lightbulbs, and it goes around all the time, and no-one ever rides it.”

“It’s not there to be ridden, not by people,” said Wednesday. “It’s there to be admired. It’s there to be.”

* * *

No photo can do the carousel justice. No video either – and this one is extra grainy (had to make it small, or else I’d be uploading for another month with our current internet), but this might give a bit more of a feel:

Another room in the House. Steam-punk paradise…

Among other themes, the House has a vast collection of circus miniatures…

Would love to know the story behind this antique woman’s prosthetic leg/pistol holder!

There’s also a doll carousel. Spot the skeleton… 🙂


If you are ever in Southwestern Wisconsin and have a couple hours to spare, visit the House on the Rock. I can’t say if you’ll love it or hate it, but you’ll definitely NEVER see anything like it!

Quick current events post

Roman and I arrived in Chicago last night. Our weekend in Pittsburgh was perfect – full of comfort, good food, exploration and discovery, and best of all, reconnecting with an dear high school friend of mine who I hadn’t spent time with in years.

I truly feel so blessed and lucky to have this amazing chance to visit loved ones all over the US. I love living abroad; I love all the travel. (At this point, it’s coming up on eight years since I left home. How and when did that happen??)

But nothing can replace good friends and family. The fact is that I do suffer being so far away from those people that matter so much to me. I can handle it no problem and even enjoy myself, but THIS aspect of this portion of the trip – time with long lost friends – makes my heart happy and my soul sing!

For anyone concerned, we had a soggy first bit of the ride west, but we mostly managed to stay ahead of Sandy, and so far Chicago is windy but fine, as my family back in Connecticut are also fine. Another thing to be grateful about. 🙂

Roman and I are making today an admin and catch up sort of day. We have post-Chicago to organize and Evanston, a northern suburb where we’re staying, to explore. We’ll get started on Chicago proper tomorrow. And I’ve got blog-catch-up to get to!

So, without further ado, I’ll be picking up with our last stop in Asia – the Philippines. I actually wrote this next post while we were still in South America, but haven’t had a chance to post until now…

Looking for America

Where’s she been?

Time has passed – nearly a month since my last post. As always happens, I get easily, wonderfully distracted when I’m in my hometown. There’s never enough time with friends and family and, knowing that, I greedily try to fit in as much as I can every visit, which means that most other things fall to the wayside. Like the blog. So what was meant to be loads of posts catching up on the last 10 months of travel has ended up as simply silence and now Roman and I are on the go again!

So this is an unofficial announcement to say that I will keep endeavoring (begin again to endeavor?) to catch up on past travel even as we are plunging into our final chapter of the big trip: the US road trip. Expect the usual mish-mash of what ever I feel like writing about. 😉

Hope for the United States

 

Prior to this final chapter of our big trip, we’ve spent months and months and months exploring countries and continents I’ve never been to before. Asia, Australia, South America. Cultures and places I had assumptions, dreams, ideas about, but places I really didn’t know. Places that amazed, confounded, surprised and enchanted me.

Not a single country we visited ever matched the picture I had for it in my head. Places I was nervous about, that seemed so foreign and intimidating from the place I was sitting before arriving – my assumptions on the outside – never ever lived up to any of my projected fears or disappointments. I loved the transformation a location would undergo – from unknown fantasy to something real and much more complex and amazing than I could have ever expected.

Traveling mostly in developing countries has changed my perception and projection about my home country, the US, as well. (For example after traveling in South America, I’m allergic to calling it “America”, since of course that could refer to South, Middle or North, and none of those places are the country of the United States.)

Seeing the States more and more from a global perspective, I have to say, I have developed a huge chip on my shoulder about the place. Returning here after all this travel, I feel like I’ve fallen out of love with my own country.

US history was always one of my favorite topics in school. I have a romantic view of our genesis story, the founding fathers amaze me to this day and I can get teary-eyed-patriotic thinking about the declaration of independence and the bill of rights.

But, after being welcomed with open arms in so many places, I hate how unwelcoming, bordering on hostile, we are to foreign visitors (at least at JFK airport! It is the pits!). I despair over our arrogant stance on the world stage. Watching the debates on TV as the presidential election cycle reaches its apex makes me heartsick.

I was really apprehensive when we traveled to China. Based on its rep on the world street, I thought I wouldn’t like it very much and I braced myself for disappointment. It ended up being one of my favorite countries.

I’m a slow learner sometimes but I have been through this enough with the travel now to dare to hope that this road trip might heal my broken heart. A country’s current politics and foreign policies is NOT its people. It’s not its landscapes, its cities, or its history. It’s not its essence or its soul.

I arrived in China nervous because of everything I’d read about the country in the news; I left having fell completely for its incredible nature, it’s unique people and its rich culture. If China can transform completely for me in two months, I think I stand a chance of rediscovering plenty to love about the US again too. Here’s hoping anyway! 😉

Victory lap!

There’s more to this leg of the trip too. Roman and I will be driving a big loop through this country, from the east to the west coast and back again. There’s plenty of “big stuff” we want to see – famous cities and some of the typical tourist sites.

But for me I’ll also be reconnecting with some of my dearest friends in the US, some of whom I’ve not seen for years and years.

So after all we’ve seen and done out there in the world, this last bit of travel is really feeling like the icing on the cake for me. Such a big treat. Driving at our own pace, in a culture I’ve grown up with but in a country I’ve been longing to explore for ages, and on top of that, I’ll get to spend time with people I adore. Am feeling tremendously grateful at the moment.

Wait, what??

My last post on this blog was written about a month ago in wintry Connecticut, about our autumnal adventures in the southern hills of China.

A lot of things have happened since then.

There’s been loads going on at home – soul searching and trials by fire within my heart, exciting exploration in the name of future scheming, lots of time spent with beloved family and friends, yoga, yoga and more yoga, travel research and preparation – and while all this has been going on, Spring managed to arrive on the scene. While I’ve been busy, my hometown exploded into full bloom, sunny afternoons, and birdsong. (Morning birdsong is how I was waking up each morning the past week or two – beautiful sounds that transported me, in the comfort of my familiar bed – right back to childhood memories) It’s been absolutely glorious!

All of this important and lovely stuff has kept me engaged in the present and not very keen to look forward. Or, put more accurately, to think about leaving. I’d been decidedly sticking my head in the sand, assuming that we’d figure out some sort of scheme by which I’d get to stay home for longer. However, the expiration date of Roman’s visa began to loom in a most un-ignorable way and forced us to decide and act.

Which is how we’ve some how, suddenly seemingly (to my heart at least), landed here in Sydney, Australia!

We booked a couple of weeks ago (I think – my sense of time is not the best at the moment!) and it’s been a mad dash to prepare in time for our flight plus I’ve also been busy wading through Olympic sized swimming pools of sadness about leaving my family. We flew into Los Angeles on Wednesday to break up the journey, where we had a fantastic overnight visit that ended with us leaving the country with about an hour to spare on Roman’s visa. 😉

15 hours of plane-ride later and we arrived in Sydney, who was gracious enough to welcome us with her best face forward. I had no preconceived notions about the place and really, with everything going on prior to departure, didn’t really think or care much about where we were going. Yet now that we’ve arrived, I’m SO excited and glad that we’re starting part two of the journey here.

We landed on a perfect Autumn day. Warm sun, brilliant blue skies, and that crisp feel of Fall in the air.

Sunrise and a first glimpse of Australia from the plane

After leaving the airport (where we got our first auspicious sign – we got to watch Nestor Carbonell and his family rent a car. 🙂 Even though we’d just been in L.A., we had to come to Australia to see a famous actor…), we headed straight to the prime tourist spot where we’re spending our first couple of nights: the Rocks. This part of Sydney seems spotlessly clean, at least what we’ve seen so far, and absolutely stunning with a lovely mix of older, colonial buildings in lovely shades of brown and beige countered by impressively sleek modern skyscrapers. All the urbanity is off set by fantastically massive, tropical trees of the many parks in the area and the amazing and iconic harbor at Circular Quay.

We ended up spending most of the day wandering around on foot and discovering delight after delight. Sydney seemed determined to offer us a spectacular welcome. 🙂

Incredible tropical birds, a massive cruise ship parked across from the opera house, an open-air artisan market, fantastic musicians performing Spanish guitar under an overpass, our first didgeridoo performance, delicious food, peaceful parks stunning scenery.

These funny looking guys were hanging around scrounging for food the way pigeons would in New York or Zurich. Anyone know what they're called?

Love was in the air in the city the day we arrived too; we must have seen three or four hen parties cruising the town and countless wedding parties having their photos taken in front of the city’s iconic spots, boarding ships at the Quay for a celebration on the water; there was even one party taking place AT the Opera House. All this added to the magical atmosphere for me and I’m so grateful for this welcome, which has eased the heartache of leaving home and gotten me completely juiced for Part Two of our Big Adventure!

Obviously at this point there is a LOT to catch up on. 🙂 I’ll be doing a combo of posts going forward – filling in all that we did in Asia, bits and pieces about our time in the States and more current events now that we are here in the Land Down Under. Hopefully one of these months this online journal will be up to speed… 🙂

Snow and then

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I’m so excited! After a month back home in New England, we’re finally getting visited by a proper snowfall! 🙂 It’s the perfect excuse to have a peaceful day inside, feeling warm and snuggly as the white flakes swirl outside the window. I love winter in general but especially for days like these.

It also gives me a chance to remember and write about a place in China that made me feel equally at peace, safe and content.

There’s something about Dazhai

There were many highlights during our months in China and the rest of Asia, but Dazhai stands out for me as the one place during our trip where I felt instantly at home in a very quiet but very deep way.

When we were first researching China, deciding where we might visit, I was wandering around the Lonely Planet site, and this is the one image that captured my imagination completely. I remember shooting Roman the link right away and telling him, I want to go there.

Once we were actually on the road in China though, I forgot completely about that photo. It turned out though that we ended up having time to burn while still in Guangxi – we had to extend our visa and until the paperwork got settled, we couldn’t travel too far afield.

(Chinese visa side-note. Although it wasn’t too painful a process, it took longer than we would have liked and it could have been smoother if we’d received more detailed information ahead of applying. For example, if you do need to extend your visa within China, make sure that you fill your paperwork out in black ink only!)

The Longsheng Rice Terraces, or the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in English – someone with a romantic poet’s heart saw the scale-like layers of the terraces and the undulating lines of the hills’ ridges roaming into the distance and came up with this beautiful name – seemed like a perfect place to spend a few days while waiting for our paperwork to be processed. Not too far from both Yangshuo and Guilin (the province’s capital, where our passports were being interred in official procedures) and the hotel we’d found was happy to take us without our papers (usually you have to register with your passport and visa in hotels in China).

We’d opted to stay in Dazhai, which was meant to be less touristy than the biggest village in the area, Ping’an. There was an over-the-top tourist check-point/rest stop to mark our entrance into Longsheng, but after that, the tranquil and gorgeous woods and fields spread out before us in all directions.

As soon as our car began the ascent into dramatic landscape, my heart began to quicken. Lots of twists and turns along the road eventually brought us to Dazhai’s gate. We left the car behind and a short walk brought us to our hotel where we received a warm welcome from Sandy, the owner.

DSC 0003The view from just outside our guesthouse, with the stream in the foreground

The day was beautiful – an afternoon full of warm sunlight – and my heart thrilled to be in this place. Elegant wooden farmhouses connected by cobblestone paths made up the village, which was surrounded by the terraced hills at the end of the rice-growing season, glowing in the sun. The lack of cars meant that the village was refreshingly quiet – there was room enough to hear the sounds of children playing, farmers at their work, the babble of the stream just outside our hotel. I breathed in the air and felt at once excited and at peace… What ever instinct had perked up at the sight of that picture online, months earlier, was rewarded. Arriving in Dazhai, I settled into the moment, knowing that right there, right then, was exactly right where I wanted to be.

More to come in the next post but in the mean time here are just some photos from our first day in Dazhai.

DSC 0011As soon as we’d settled in and rested up at the guest house, I dragged poor Roman out for what ended up being a proper hike up into the terraces – I just couldn’t wait to “get out into it”. It was the end of the farming season; this is cut rice waiting to be gathered.

DSC 0037One thing I found fascinating about the area was the wild mix of plant life. Palms and banana trees, thick bamboo, rugged, spicy smelling pines, delicate flowers and of course rice, rice, rice. An interesting mix! Here’s a view of just some of those plants in front of a farmhouse up in the hills.

Chillies drying in front of a farmhouse


Harvest


Working at the edge of the sky – if you click the panorama you can see a farmer threshing rice on the foremost terrace.

Back to China – and to cooking

I’m going to ease back into where I left off in our travels with a post about food. For anyone who has (understandably!) lost track, that takes us back to Yangshuo, the town in Guangxi Province, China, where we took our survival Chinese course.

I had my sights set on taking at least one cooking class in China, but we somehow we were always moving around so much or too busy and sadly it never worked out.

But while we were in Yangshuo – the longest by far that we stayed in any one place in China – we ended up becoming regulars at a few spots in town and I did get the chance to snoop around the kitchen of our favorite restaurant on afternoon.

Trying new and exciting food is part and parcel of the travel experience and there’s seemingly always an excuse to indulge on something special, fancy, exotic, or rich. As wonderful as that is though, when you travel as long as we have, sometimes all you crave is something simple and down to earth.

We were really happy to find straightforward, down-to-earth food on the menu at Kelly’s Cafe. Lots of different veggies on offer made me a very happy girl, and the simple stir-fry techniques she cooked with let the fresh ingredients shine.

I enjoyed the cooking so much that I asked the restaurant’s owner if she’d show me how things were prepared. She was totally sweet and welcoming and let me squeeze into their miniscule little kitchen (seriously, this thing was about the size of my closet here in the States) to watch over the chef’s shoulder as they prepared some of my and Roman’s favorites.

It wasn’t a cooking class per se, but I did learn just how easy good stir fried vegetables can be to make. She explained that often times the difference between what people make at home and what you get at the restaurant comes down to the cooking temperature. What made her food so tasty was that it was cooked very quickly over the highest flame; home cooks tend to shy away from high heat. Also key is the type of soy sauce used.

Since I’ve arrived back in the States I’ve been gorging myself on my mom’s fantastic cooking and since it’s also been the holidays she’s been pulling out all the stops. I’ve eaten a ton more meat and other heavier foods than I usually do, and I’m definitely feeling ready for some lighter fare. I’ve been craving veggies and have started playing around with the cooking techniques Kelly demonstrated for me in Yangshuo. I still need to go shopping to find some proper soy sauce but so far I’ve been really happy with my creations.

The following aren’t full recipes but rather provide an overview of how Kelly’s put together our favorite dishes. Preparation of each dish doesn’t vary that much. If the prep work (chopping and cooking of noodles/rice) is done beforehand, which of course was the case at the restaurant, and the wok is hot enough, then each dish takes next to no time to cook.

As I said, I was just watching over the cook’s shoulder – measurements are approximate only; I would definitely recommend adjusting things to taste!

Pumpkin (nán guā)

Start with a hot wok.

Add vegetable oil – probably about 1.5 tablespoons.

Add sliced garlic, maybe one clove worth.

Cook briefly, then add (2 cups?) of cubed pumpkin (squash would do as well).

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Add salt (1/2 – 1 tsp to taste) and a small dash of sugar.

Add water to the wok (1/4 – ½ cup – enough to keep the pumpkin from getting burnt) and cover; let cook for five minutes or until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove from heat and garnish with freshly cut chives.

Lotus root (ǒu)

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Start with a hot wok.

Add vegetable oil – probably about 1.5 tablespoons.

Add sliced garlic, maybe one clove worth.

Add the slices of lotus root (somewhat similar in taste and texture to water chestnut).

Add a bit of chopped chili pepper (seeds removed) – vary the amount depending on how hot you like it.

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Add water to the wok (1/4 – ½) and cover; let cook for 3 – 5. The lotus roots should still remain crunchy.

Remove lid, mix in soy sauce to taste.

Remove from heat and garnish with scallion cut into 2-inch-long thin strips.

Friend noodles (chǎo miàn)

Noodles should be pre-cooked along with thinly cut strips of carrot.

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Have prepared finely chopped onions and greens – i.e., chard, bok choy, etc. and a handful of bean sprouts

Start with a hot wok.

Add vegetable oil – probably about 1.5 tablespoons.

Add sliced garlic, maybe one clove worth.

Add the onions, greens and sprouts.

Add the noodles (with carrot) and soy sauce.

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Cook for a few minutes, stirring as necessary.

Serve hot.

Fried rice

Rice should be pre-cooked.

Have prepared finely chopped red onions and greens – i.e., chard, bok choy, etc. and carrot

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Start with a hot wok.

Add vegetable oil – probably about 1 tablespoon.

Add sliced garlic, maybe one clove worth.

Add the onions, greens and carrots.

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Add the rice and soy sauce.

Cook for a few minutes, stirring as necessary.

Serve hot.

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Our feast!

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Friendly Kelly and the delicious pumpkin (nán guā) I love so much

War cry

My grandmother and nephew share the same birthday, only he’s one year old and she’s 90. They’re great buddies and it’s awesome getting to spend time with the both of them. Martin is a vocal kid and Jackie always talks about his “war cry”. There’s no audio in this post, but I think the picture speaks for itself. 🙂