Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Question: Would you do anything to achieve your goal? Ok, let me be more specific: Would you obtain a false certificate stating that you graduated within the top 3 students in your year in a certain subject, just so you can go abroad to study in a particular country that you really don't know much about, but which your parents have instilled this passionate dream within you ever since your conception?

Frustration reigns today as i try to grapple with what truly matters in life, well, actually that's saying it all wrong. No. I know what matters in life, at least to me. But i get so wound up with other people's situational ruts. Spring is blossoming all over the world, and everyone has their feather dusters out to sweep out the internal cobwebs that have gathered over winter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Success! Glory! Satisfaction!

With limited hassle, i got my money back from the store! They were trying all other alternatives on me just so they wouldn't have to hand over the cash, like to exchange it for a new one or to have them 'fix it'. No way. Enough unecessary sleepless nights have been sacrificed.

Oh but i shouldn't speak too soon. The oven I purchased two weeks ago is also a Chinese brand. Eeeek.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Officially GPS-addicted, Off-roading in sticky mud and knee-deep snow & Last-minute birthday plans

We are on the mission to find the 'perfect wedding site' and s two days, we have been driving out of Urumqi to visit neo for the pastarby mountains, grasslands, and just seeing where our best options are. While Matt is the official chauffeur of our Ferrari (ok, it's infact a sturdy Beijing Jeep with Ferrari stickers plastered all over it, but hey it looks cool and it can fly like the wind), I have been dubbed Mademoiselle Navigator, equipped with my own GPS gizmo. It's my first time ever using the device but i absolutely LOVE it!!!!! It's amazing to see where you are in the world, and you can zoom in and out, retrace past tracks, see how high you are, how fast you're going, how long until ?, and mark points of interest so you can find them again (we even named some 'piss' and 'shit', you can figure out why yourself). It's like you're a bird and viewing everything from up top, really incredible. I'm totally addicted, and i can see how people do the whole Geo-caching (sp?) thing.. must make a mental note to look into that and see if there is any hidden treasures in Xinjiang, perhaps in the Taklamakan desert.. hmmm, speaking of which, there is to be a rally that goes through the Taklamakan Desert for ten days in the beginning of May. Very very tempted to go, a once in a lifetime chance really... however, we don't want to sign up and realize that it is just this drunken baijiu (strong chinese alcohol that burns everything in its path) party under the stars with bad karaoke singers howling their woes and sins all through the chilly desert night. No thank you, i wouldn't even be paid to do that.

Friday was Matt's Birthday and we both took the day off to explore the mountains. We set off to retrace the same path we took the Thursday previous with his work team, on an audit trip. On that trip, we got turned around twice due to heavy mud and knee-deep snow. It was pretty insane, and quite nerve-racking i might add, when the two jeeps we were in (there were 8 of us in total) got stuck in the mud right on a ledge of a steep mountain. Luckily there were some bright ideas, great teamwork and a couple of excellent drivers, so we got home alright that night.

On Friday while going on the same route with just the two of us, we were forced to turn around because of the heavy snow and not knowing if there was a 'real' road on the other side of the mountain, we didn't want to chance it. So here we are: in the middle of this gorgeous field surrounded by towering pine trees, no reception on our mobiles, a couple of abandoned log cabins, the bright sun shining down upon us, no shovel, blankets, extra clothes, water (ok, i can hear the lot of you tsk-tsk'ing me right now. Yes, i agree, better planning is in order for next time...) and we're staring at this hill we had to go back on. Going down was no problem as it was a progressive decline on slippery snow, however the prospects of heading up it were grim. We tried, by God we tried, spinning the tires, sliping and sliding up and down and down again. In the end, we had to literally stomp and dance on the snow, losing all sensation in our lower limbs, in order to clear a somewhat solid path for the jeep, er sorry Ferrari, to chug its way back up on the top of the hill. After some much-celebrated effort, we did it!

We made it back to Urumqi in time for a last-minute-planned birthday bash for Matt. Besides the fact that i am one of the worst (or best, depending on which light you look at it) procrastinators, everything turned out well. We spent the night with our Urumqi friends, eating delicious Western food. Pizza, salad, french bread, gumbo!, oh.. and the best was the cake. Moist, sweet and calorie-infused, this was no Western-wanna-be-cake-with-a-Chinese-twist, it was the real thing, and i felt like i was back in Toronto on Queen street in one of those trendy/hippy bars. It's miraculous what food can do to bring you happiness and fulfillment in life. Sigh.

On Saturday we went out again to the mountains, this time with Ahati (one of Matt's co-workers) and his wife Marsia, a larger-than-life woman who looks and acts like everyone's best friend. They are Kazakh and have taken it upon themselves to ensuring that our special day will be perfect, full of Kazakh food, music, clothing, rituals... such kind-hearted people. It never ceases to amaze me that there are and will continue to exist people who are genuinely nice. It says a lot about humanity in this world and in the face of diasaster, be it natural or man-induced, it provides hope for the future.

What i really liked seeing was how Ahati and Marsia were so loving to each other. It is certainly one of the odd times where i see a couple here in China be genuinely in love. A pleasant China-surprise for me.

We saw 4 different sites, and we took pictures of each so we can remember them clearly when comes time to select the perfect spot. For me, the vision includes green pastures, mountains in the background, trees, and a stream to chill beer and champagne in, and of course the chance to take a quick dip! The big question is whether or not we want a venue with electricity. We could, in theory, get several generators or even some solar panels. The main thing for us is to be away from other tourists during that time, due to excessive noise from karaoke and baijiu frenzies. Again, no on could pay me to endure that kind of torture, especially not on our W-day.

Have been suffering from a cough that just does not seem to want to leave. I had a sore throat a few days ago, but at least that has subsided. On the flip side, the weather is turning much warmer and you see more people out and about, walking, biking, flying kites - tis nice.

But yet i can not forget the fact that i am in China no matter how nice the weather is, what language i speak, what i eat... the simple fact remains that i am in the land where electronic devices are crap quality and getting a 'discount' or 'bargain' actually means you should brace yourself to go back within the week to return the thing you thought would last you for at least a year, if not a week! Poo on Chinese brand electronics. I bought this CD/tape player last week for my classes, and also to tape voice/CD's/MP3's onto cassette. It was a Chinese brand, but i figured it should be ok. WRONG. Within a few days of purchase, everytime the power is turned on, the machine begins to grumble and gurgle as if it were a washing machine. I swear it's either got an identity crisis or it's just really horribly manufactured. Seeing as i don't know the right term or phrases to say "Your stereo I bought last week is confused and thinks it is a dishwasher", I will just tell them "Your stereo I bought last week is crap quality and I feel personally attacked as an innocent customer. Give me my money back." The thrifty shopper in me will never again trust Chinese brand stuff anymore. Ok, now that i've got myself all worked up, off i go to right my sense of justice in this land where obviously quantity overides any sense of quality.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Officially Spring?

It's springtime in Urumqi. At least it feels like it. The sun is out and you can actually feel the heat on your skin!

A busy day of intensive teaching in the morning, not to mention some therapy work, with my student. She received a huge bout of discouragement from some people yesterday (mainly from family friends), shattering, or what she thought, her dream to pursue her schooling in France. So a big chunk of the lesson was spent talking and comforting. However this afternoon brought some good news: she text me this long message about how there is someone that will be able to help her get her papers and documents organized to go. Yes! A hint of hope has been restored in yet another young Chinese adult. It's cut-throat here, the competition and scramble to get a so-called better life. The fight can be long and nasty, and in the end, the strong and willing will prevail, not to mention those with beaucoup of connections.

And then i met this guy from some Uni up in the north of the city who is just absolutely desperate to have a foreign English teacher. I'll leave out the details, there's not much to say anyway except i could sense some bad vibes from this guy immediately and am in no way going to work for someone or someplace that sounds like a repeat of the situation i just left, only a dozen times worse. Ugh.

Just came back from swimming - lovely!

The students enjoyed the pizza making last night. Nice to socialize with them around a meal and not in a sterile classroom. We also baked my beloved b_n_n_ b_e_d. Out of cinnamon, and am requesting immediate family members to bring some to Urumqi in huge vats.

Another student coming for class tonight. Already i find my Chinese level picking up slowly.

I'm happy, really.

Monday, March 21, 2005

My Own Boss

Last night was my last Sunday I will be teaching at EF. I am weekend-free, baby. Well, i've still a few classes to finish off but technically I'll be doing it as a part-time teacher, and during the weekDAYS. It feels fantastic. It's also a bit strange as this is the first time in my life where i'm not in school and/or working at some organization/company. I am the master of my own time. It is extremely liberating.

Ever since i've handed in my resignation at EF, I've been receiving these random and some not-so-random requests to learn English, some from students, friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends of friends. You get the idea. I don't want to take just anyone so i've been quite picky as to who i'm actually taking on. What's more interesting is how I've been approached by quite a handful of people wanting to learn FRENCH! There is a huge market here for learning foreign languages other than English, it's kind of astonishing. So anyways, here is a great chance for me to brush up on my French and to relive my days as a French teacher when i was at Bowmore PS. Not to mention at good ol' Rockland!

I've got a class of 6 students starting next week, every Tues and Thurs for 2 hours each time. All adults, Uyghur, most are married and with children, most of them work for the international company called 'Carrefour', the French grocery chain. One of them is an English teacher at a local Uyghur Language School and his reason for wanting to learn French is that "French is the most romantic language in the world". Or like we'd say "la langue d'amour." This will be a great chance for me to pick up a few Uyghur words and phrases. I'm hopeful and excited.

As the Urumqi ex-pat community is so interconnected, I've also managed to score another student through grapevine connections, an eager 23 year old who will be going to France to study in the fall. With pretty much zero French knowledge, it will require some hard work from both of us to bring her to par in order to pass the exam at the French Embassy in Beijing in July. This morning we had our first lesson here at home (I've decided that having the students come to our home is easiest; this also translates to zero travel time for me). We have a really good deal: she'll come everyday in the morning, 5 days a week (Mon-Fri), and after 2 hours of hardcore French, she will teach me some Chinese, from the textbook I have and also just conversation stuff. A job for me, but i'm also learning in the meantime - killing two birds with one stone. We get along really well and i'm just really happy, not to mention relieved, about that. What's more, her English is not that great so I get to practice a lot of my Chinese with her anyway. I just really want to become fluent in spoken Chinese and am not too interested in the reading or writing. It hit me hard while we were drilling "bonjour, comment ca va?" that we were actually using three languages interchangeably, quite a concept for my brain to get used to.

Learning Chinese has been one of my big goals for coming back to China, and i have to admit i've been slacking in that department. I think I need to find some sort of activity outside of the classroom so that i can utilize my learned Chinese. Joining a band, a sports club... with locals ???

I've also decided to continue with one of my little VIP student, Jollery, twice a week. She's cute and adorable (is 12 yrs. old but looks about 8) and really takes a liking to me, as does her mother (whom i've taught once). It's nice when students form this personal attachment to you, cause it happens the other way around too.

My biggest worry about leaving EF and free-lancing was that I'd become bored. Some say that doing nothing is still doing something, but there is a limit. I don't want my days to be wasted by just puttering around. I know it's ultimately up to me to decide how to best utilize my time. Definitely keeping my feet in the teaching world is important to me, and learning Chinese, but to also do something in the creative field, like keeping up with piano and continuing to struggle with my guitar... ah, so many things.... I have to also realize that the next 6 months are quite busy with a visit from Estelle (early April), a visit from parents and sis (mid-april), the Labour Holiday in May, our trip to Jersey and Canada (last half of July), Matt's parents visit in early September... and in between it all, planning a wedding! So keeping some allocated free time will be crucial. But in the meantime, having my students pencilled in on a weekly basis will provide me with structure and routine, something that I do require to an extent in order to feel 'productive'.

Another awesome door has opened just when i handed in my resignation... a friend of mine, Cath(erine), who was also former EF teacher and actually the mastermind behind setting Matt and I together... has received approval for a small grants scheme from the British Embassy (she's half british, half Chinese), and we are going to be co-project coordinators on a development project up in Yili, the north of Xinjiang.

Details are still being ironed out, but essentially we will be helping to expand a current project that is run by friends of ours, called HOUSE OF HOPE. An elderly couple has taken in 5 children (mainly orphans, disadvantaged and at risk) as foster kids, putting them through school, giving them an 'up in life' so they can find work later on. They want to eventually expand to 10 kids, so part of our grant money will go towards helping them get more resources and hiring an extra pair of hands to help around the house. In addition we will be starting a woman's training centre where we will have 4 women trained as professional bakers who will be able to bake and generate an income for themselves. They will also be required to go to school and learn life skills. It is our intention that these women will also take other apprentices under their wing the following year, to keep the project sustainable when the grant money has run out.

Anyways, Cath and i have never done anything like this before, and although i've had my share of NGO work/volunteer, this is something that is quite exciting and as we've already discovered, challenging. Since she is living up in Yining, I am considered the Urumqi-arm of the project, and perhaps just as important, the relayer of Urumqi-expat-gossip during lengthy phone conversations, it's great. I'm super excited, and everything just seems to have worked out well, getting some private students to make some pocket money but also getting back into development work, and best of all, having more free time and flexible hours.

Tonight i'm having the students from my adult class over to have a graduation-ceremony/ thank-you-for-being-such-a-great-class party. We'll make pizzas with nan and bake em in our oven!! Yup, we have this new mini oven that is also a grill. Although the microwave is also a substitute 'oven', for some reason i can't get over the fact that one must microwave a cake, whereas it should really be baked in a conventional oven. Just one of my quirks i guess.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

in a chipper mood

It's so obvious: plenty of exercise, three square balanced meals (with intermittant snacking), creating music, and having an uninterrupted sleep. That is what we're told is the key to leading a healthy, happy lifestyle. All that and plenty of laughter, smiles and affection of course.

Have been going for quickee swims the past few days, and i feel better than ever. There are certain things you know you should do, but for some reason you shove them aside, make excuses or just can't muster the energy/motivation/desire to get up and do them. I feel so much better just having finished a swim or playing the piano, even if it's just for ten minutes.

I don't know exactly where this is going, only that i want to write this out so that when i am feeling lazy and unmotivated, I can tell myself that it is worth it in the end.

Class in 18 minutes. We've been talking about Family Life and getting into quite serious debates about (anti)abortion, marriage, child-rearing, sex education, and religion. There are only 4 students in the class (2 Chinese, 1 Uyghur and 1 Kazakh). It's an interesting mix of ethnicities, viewpoints, and age. Hmm.... not sure what else to say so i should log off and prepare for class.

Big hugs to y'all. For some reason, i'm feeling quite loving and affectionate today... must be the warm weather, spring is in the air la dee daa.....

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


It's crazy, today is like a day where women are placed on some pedestal and pampered to no end.

It's International Women's Day and female employees get the day off.. coughcough *how sexist* is my first instinct! There is no such thing as International Man's Day, now is there? I'm just kinda blown away. I received a bouquet of wild flowers from a student yesterday. And all the female employees at EF received this ginormous bouquet of flowers wrapped really elegantly and makes quite a statement when you walk into a room.

Oh, i failed to mention in previous entries that I am now the proud owner of a cell phone!! Yup, i have caved and i now carry this little gadget around with me wherever i go. I secretly admit it's fun to send text messages and to receive them too, kinda like little pleasant surprises that pop up during the day when you least expect it, oh i'm so easily pleased.

So Matt went out and bought us a couple of new ones the other day. My first 'mobile', as they call them here, was pretty big compared to modern day phones and it kept turning off and on, and the battery kept coming out of its socket. I asked him to pick the ugliest/tackiest one he could find, just to go along with the tacky Chinese theme. He did well. Now I am the proud owner of a flip phone with pink flower prints on the cover, oh and the best part is the DIAMOND STUD; everytime i get a message or when the phone rings, it blinks a brilliant bright blue. To add on top of the tackiness, on the screen there's a cute little teddy bear standing on a red heart against a green background with bubbles blowing every which way. It's sooooooooooo Chinese, i love it!

I'm going home tonight to put on one of our (Matt and I's) little sticky picture that we took at Bangkok airport. It's those small stamp-size stickers of your head with the background/border of your choice. Extremely popular among the young'ens here. Actually I've done them in Chinatown with my cousins in Toronto too. Cheap pure fun that has a lasting imprinted effect. Again, easily pleased.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Home away from home, with the sounds of music

My home is here now, in Urumqi, with Matthew, and what's more: I FEEL AT HOME.

AH, what could be more beautiful than the sounds of fingers hitting ivory keys (well, plastic in this case), creating a warm feeling of joy and happiness and pure melodious bliss? Nothing. Matt and I have gotten ourselves a piano and I'm just super happy about it!! Originally i was thinking of just renting a room with a piano at the University so i could keep up my practicing. But we found out that we could actually rent one for a cheap price ($30 CDN/month). So off we went on Friday with a friend of ours, Diana (who is Matt's secretary and whom i've somewhat befriended), to look at some pianos. Quite bull-headed and fairly agressive in terms of mannerisms and just getting things done quickly, Diana is a modern Chinese Urumqi woman, and if you are in search of a contact person, phone number or piano (!), she's the woman to ask. Maybe this is the best way to describe her: upon seeing my engagement ring which Matt and I had custom-made in a Uyghur jewellery shop so beautifully with Xinjiang silver and part of the seashell Matt found and gave to me in Thailand, her one comment was "oh that is so economical." Haha. Bless her heart.

Anyways, back to the piano. So we took a look around, played on a few of them, tested them out (or "ooooott", i've been teased almost on a daily basis on my Canadian pronounciation for this sound.. I still don't hear it. I'm not even aware i do it until it leaves my mouth or it's blatantly pointed oooot to me).... right, piano. We pay the deposit that day and a few hours later, about five Chinese guys wheel our new baby into our flat. We have moved some stuff around the house, decorated a bit and incorporated the piano into our living room area - just gorgeous! We've been practicing quite intensively, and Matt's been dedicating a lot of his time to downloading sheet music (Fur Elise, Flight of the Bumblebee, Scarborough Fair, the Mission Impossible theme song, Greensleeves, and some basic beginner's blues music).

Oh, good story: so i had to work on Saturday, and when I came home, he told me he had been practicing Fur Elise all day and wanted to play it for me. Just as a side note, i'm extremely impressed at how quickly he learns and puts into practice the theory of music-learning and note-reading. I'm not even trying to be extra nice and complimenting because i'm marrying the boy, he really is like an adult prodigy! Oh, but of course we shouldn't disregard the spectacular abilities of his teacher...

Ok, so anyway i'm there, sitting on the couch waiting to hear the results of his hard work. He's sitting at the piano, back to me, getting ready to blow my socks off. And all of a sudden, instead of Beethoven's Fur Elise, he starts to play "O Canada"! You can imagine my shock and utter disbelief! It was so unbelievably cute AND given the fact that he has only ever heard the Canadian national anthem on television during the Olympics, I was mucho impressed at the accuracy of it all (melody, speed, etc). Great moment in Matt's early piano career!

Oops, gotta run. OPI's (Oral Placement Interviews) summon.. work!!!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

it takes pain (and a lot of time) to be beautiful in Urumqi!

Went to get my 'hair done' with Fatima today. On the way we got sidetracked and ended up in beautifully done-up Uyghur restaurant (and not the tacky kind either!), where gorged on all-you-can-eat Pollo (greasy fried rice with chunks of meat in it, peppers and sometimes raisins... a Uyghur staple), veggies and fresh Uyghur yoghurt, all for 10 RMB (about 1.5 Canadian dollars).

We did make our way to the salon where i spent over four hours getting my full head of hair dyed to "Dark Golden Blonde", and then 'Gold' streaks were put in, and then it was washed and cut, blow-dryed and styled... by the end of the night, i was the only customer left (Fatima had class) and i was doted on by at least 10 staff member, all who were trying out their pretty poor english with me. It was really nice though, relaxed and truly enjoyable.

I didn't feel like i was in English Corner whatsoever, which is often the case when you are surrounded by a bunch of non-English speakers who just want to talk to you and ask you questions about where you're from. Most of them were between the ages of 17-25, and it reminded me of being a PL back with Katimavik.... nice warm feeling.

Better sign off now.. off to the airport to pick up Matt who was away in Beijing and Qingdao for business. Oh i do NOT fare well with long-distance anything...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Thailand and recent developments

Ok ok... due to increased demand and pressure from people far and near, here is my next installment... but where to begin???

Ah, let's see what kind of mumble jumble i can produce now...

Thailand was in one word: indescribable.

After spending a lovely day/night in Kunming (clean city with not the pressing hustle and bustle of other major Chinese cities, very friendly with springtime weather all year round), we headed straight to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand where we did a two-day trek.

We packed as much fun and activity as we possibly could: elephant ride; bamboo raft; overnight at a hilltribe minority group village, the Karen people; warm campfire under the stars drinking Chang beer and having a sing-a-long with the rest of our group members (we were 8 in total, from Korea, Denmark, HK, France, Jersey, and Canada).

Then we flew down to Phuket where we stayed at a beautiful bungalow on Ko Yao Noi Island, surrounded by trees, view from bedroom overlooking the sea, delicious food, great company (hilarious British husband wife team who entertained us with their musical talents, singing everything from Elvis to church hymns!)

The following day a bunch of us (guests) went on a longtail boat and visited several beaches on various islands, stopped off in Ao Nang for some lunch, went snorkelling (was quite disappointed with the poor visibility though), showered in the most gorgeous outdoor shower stall surrounded by tall lush trees and birds chirping from every direction, got engaged, had a tasty meal of indian roti and crepes, went to bed.

Our plan was to go straight into Phuket town early the next morning so we could go scuba-diving. We missed the tour group by half an hour, but then again we hadn’t even signed up yet.

We were going to be flying to Bangkok the next day, and so we were determined to dive that day (also you shouldn’t dive and fly on the same day, so that was really our last chance).

After some Chinese-style pressure from our behalf and asking if there were ANY other alternatives, we ended up chartering our own boat! Yup, so off we went with our own guide, boat, equipment, just like that! When there’s a will…

And we scooted off to Raya Yai Island in the Andaman Sea where we did two dives, had lunch on the boat finishing it off with a nice Burmese cigar (very smooth and tasty, shoulda bought more).

Spent that night on Maikhao Beach, where we had the place to ourselves, beach and all! The place had been hit by the tsunami, and there was still debris and broken tree branches to be cleaned up.

Several of their bungalows were washed away, and they seemed quite happy to have us there, if only for one night. Too bad we damaged their motorbike which they so kindly rented to us the next day... more to come.

We ate right on the beach, watching the sunset. Absolutely gorgeous.

Later on that night, some of them were watching the tsunami video that someone had put together by compiling home videos and editing it to music.

So the following morning we hopped on the, what seemed to be fairly new, motorbike. Stopped off at a national park where we saw a waterfall.

Matt showed me how to drive the bike, and i had a go on it around the roads - really fun!

We continued south along the coast, lunching on Patong Beach, and then decided on the spot that we should try jet-skiing as both of us hadn't done it before.

That was excellent, the speed, the waves, the water, but i do prefer riding the bike.

On the way back from Patong Beach going back north through the 'back roads', and about 15 mintues away from our guesthouse, we were going round a steep corner, when all of a sudden we hit a patch of water and skidded.

Off flew Matt onto his stomach, shaving off inches from his beautiful waistline (just kidding hon), me landing smack on top of him, and the bike on me. Poor Matt had to bear the brunt of our weight, resulting in a badly cut up knee, elbow, hand, and tummy.

Up rushed some people from a nearby hotel, shoving cotton balls and alcohol solution in our faces, insisting that we go to the hospital and see a doctor.

With our persistent refusals of anything but some water, we immediately fished out our camera so we could capture the moment, blood and all.

They were probably thinking to themselves "those silly stubborn foreigners, they ARE crazy!" Yes we are, crazy in love!! Ok, bad one… but hey, it’s true.

Our last night in Thailand was spent with Stella in fun-filled Bangkok, catching up over Thai beer, phat thai, Som Tam (really spicy Thai salad), fresh fruit shakes and FALAFELS!!! We did some last minute shopping at the local 7-11, where they seem to pop up every time you round a street corner in Bangkok! Unreal!

The next morning we had to get up very early. Bangkok traffic is crazy. We just made it to the airport, after over an hour and a half in a taxi, which on the way in to the city took us only 20 minutes!

Our supposed short stopover in Kunming last for over 12 hours, and i'll spare you the details, but we eventually made it back to the comfort of our home by morning the next day.... exhausted, sore, but just absolutely glowing too :)

** Oh yeah, so for those who missed it because you were bored by my play-by-play commentary of our holiday and you were just skimming the above, Matt and I got engaged on Koh Yao Noi island!

What can i say, I mean I'm just beyond happy. There is no word for it, i'm just sincerely and deliriously happy!!!...

Thanks to all for the warm wishes! I treasure them with all my heart.

Wedding details will follow soon. We are envisioning an outdoor celebration, somewhere in the grasslands/ mountains of Xinjiang, complete with Uyghur and Kazakh music, fermented camel's milk, big round yurts, huge bonfire, stars, moonlight ... and minimal Baijiu, this wretched throat-burning Chinese alcohol (we might just ban the drink completely)...

There are some traditional Uyghur and Kazakh rituals that a couple must go through before they are married (ie: groom must serenade bride with sweet melodies on the guitar, then he's gotta go and basically beg the bride's family and friends for her to come out of the house/yurt, bribing them with a hefty price in the form of cash, jewellery, livestock.... i'm trying to convince Matt that we should respect this tradition since we are in Xinjiang, and should therefore follow the marriage rituals here.

I don't care much about the jewellery or cash, but having my own proper CAMEL, wow, what a novelty!