Bad news. 

Trouble. I went to try and buy a ticket for Beijing yesterday but they were all sold out. Sold out for Saturday. I guess the minute I get to a town I should buy the ticket out! For some reason I was very tired when we went down to the train station. I spent too many hours working on the site. It is a never ending obsession and I spend too much time on a computer. I find myself in a foul mood after too much time with computers. There has been a bit of bad news of late as well. North Korea being canceled for the second time and it looks like Antarctica won't work out this year AGAIN.
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More of Haerbin. 

I'm sitting in a random park in Haerbin. It reminds me of parks in Korea. Old people are using various exercise equipment and practicing tai chi. In Haerbin the flowers have just come out and it feels like I have stepped back a month or two. I have just been unsuccessful in my search for an internet café once again. Monday was pretty relaxing. Xu Jie just showed me around a bit and I cooked dinner, then she found me an internet café and place to sleep in her neighborhood. I was planning to catch up with things and begin another website overhaul. The net café as it turned out wasn't really suitable for this. I've got most of my files on a USB stick and this café had all the computers completely inaccessible. So I went off wandering the city with my eyes open for another net café. After some time I came across another one that was similarly locked down, and then later found myself at the giant mall, the one that appears to be a air ship factory. I decided to do a little bit of shopping, on Monday I found at the carrefour, deodorant! Koreans don't use deodorant and so I had a hard time finding it in Korea. I did see some overpriced sticks in a foreign market but nothing else. So on Tuesday I bought a couple things I had been meaning to get before my trip and others I forgot to bring, like a flashlight. On seeing how much everything was priced I rather think I should have done all my shopping in China. Most of the things I bought before hand are made in China anyway. Then I wandered the open section of the mall. Apparently the grand opening is next week but one level is already functioning. I met a Canadian English teacher who after asking about my religion immediately concluded I was working for the “other side”. Beyond that Bill was nice enough and he was heading for an net café so I tagged along. I imagine he has a hard time living in China with his particular brand of Christianity. The net café he showed me was perfect for my needs so I did some work there before meeting Xu Jie once again.

Tuesday afternoon I spent at Xu Jie's grandmother, and met her little brother. Her grandmother was nice even if we couldn't talk at all, and her brother reminded me of those kids in Korea I have left behind. They cooked me a nice vegetarian meal, and finally someone in China understands that no meat means no meat. Last time I was in Haerbin Xu Jie didn't really get it but now she does. They insisted I have a little egg, which I don't like and am allergic to but it is better to try and be polite. In general I've found northern Chinese cuisine to be quite nice, it isn't as oily as food further south.

On Wednesday Xu Jie collected me early and we wandered the town once again. After I tried without success to fix her computer and in the end made things worse. The difficulty for me is everything on it is in Chinese and Xu Jie doesn't know much about computers so the translations are difficult. After giving up on that we went to see the Russian church and the river, and then relaxed for the afternoon. This time Xu Jie cooked dinner and it was absolutely delicious. I have really been spoiled lately with food. When I moved out of my flat the last week of April and took my main bag to my friend Yerang she made me delicious Korean food. Then I lived my last week in Korea with my friend Jade and she is also a wonderful cook with a style similar to Alice. I suspect it is something to do with New England since that is where Alice has been living for the last couple years and she has changed a bit. Jade says it isn't but oh well. I like what I cook simple as it is. But all this incredible food that others are cooking for me is even better!

My plan this morning was to do some more work on the internet but the café I used on Tuesday doesn't open until 8 as it turns out. So I came here to the park for a bit. Now I see eight o'clock has rolled around and so I am off.

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My friend Xu Jie. 

I sit in my cozy clean bed waiting for Xu Jie to come and collect me for the day. I am at a 'restaurant' as she calls them. Very cheap places officially closed to foreigners. It isn't beautiful and the area outside is a mess. But the most important thing is the bed and it is both comfortable and clean, and at 20RMB the price is very good. I would stay at Xu Jie's place but her mother isn't comfortable with that.

Xu Jie I met by chance last time I was in Haerbin. I missed my flight back to Korea in January because of difficulties crossing the border from Russia. It turned out that particular border has only one crossing a day and if you miss it then tough luck. So in the end I was exactly a day late to return to Haerbin. I went to the airport to see about a flight and they said I couldn't go that day because there were no direct flights but I could go the next day for no charge. A nice thing about many of these airlines in 'less developed' countries, and well everything in these countries is things are often more flexible and friendly. So you miss your flight, its alright, you can take a later one. In the States I believe the response would be tough, unless you bought some special ticket that costs twice as much and allows for such things. But anyway I got on the bus to return to the city from the airport in Haerbin, and I was thinking about what I would do for the day. So I got to talking to a nice girl who turned out to be Xu Jie. First I tried to contact an HC contact but he was a bit of a ways away. In the end Xu Jie got her friend from English school and we wandered the city together. Since then we have kept pretty good contact and now I am in Haerbin for the second time. If I can arrange a trip to North Korea for August from Shenyang then I plan to swing by yet again.

The train from Dalian was about 40 min early to Haerbin. I recollect the same thing happening last time I came to this city. The station as with many in China is not well labeled in a way visible to those on the train. Not even in Chinese. So far this has not been a problem, but I fear it may be in the future if I am in a city with a west or east station and I get off at the wrong one. But anyway I was here, I called up Xu Jie and after a bit we started wandering the city.
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From Dalian to Haerbin. 

Now I sit in the largest shopping mall in Haerbin. It is huge and appears to be one of the more modern major airports or a hanger for the construction of dirigibles. It is like almost everything in the Chinese cities under intensive construction. It is also open and I have just had some bubble tea. A particular delight.

Dalian was perfect as far as the weather is concerned. The air, once within the city and away from horizon vistas was clean, much cleaner than Seoul certainly. It had a nice feel and made me question my dislike of China in general. The train station was easy to find and the walk from the port, which is convenient in it's location, very much unlike Incheon, was a nice one. What I did walk by was mostly very new and I didn't see much that made me think of the Russian or Japanese period of which makes up almost half the history of the city. To get to the train station I got off out of the terminal near Harbor Square, walked up Renmin Rd., went straight through Zhongshan Square and then the railway station was to the right.

I always seem to be in China when there is some sort of holiday period going on. Which means the trains are packed. I think foreigners usually buy their tickets from some sort of company to save the hassle but I always get it at the station, and often the seats are all sold out. This was the case in Dalian and all I could get was standing room. After buying the ticket and wandering around a bit more I found myself at an internet café and caught up a bit.

The train itself reminded me why I don't like China so much. I really should travel at a higher class than hard seat but it costs so much more. If I want to keep traveling for a long time I have to keep costs down. This train wasn't as crowded as some I took last year but it was very crowded nonetheless. I got on early enough to have a seat but then the owner of the seat got on at a later station. Then some students got off and gave me their seat, luckily for me the owner of that seat never came to claim it. So at least I had a seat, but the car was stuffy, smelly, and always there were people smoking. Chinese trains all are clearly labeled no smoking, yet always there is someone lighting up, even the train workers, and even the police. To top it off the train even sells packs of cigarettes along with drinks and food. When I am in the cities in China it seems to be an almost completely developed country. It is only seeing all the people from the countryside that I can observe how unequal this development is. Those with the countryside look tend to be shorter with the look of past malnutrition, especially the eyes, they are darker from time in the sun, and their customs seem a bit different as well. In many ways they fit the stereotype of country folks anywhere. The hard seat class is full of the country folks. The countryside that the train passes does look poor much of the time but still there is a surprising amount of infrastructure even in these areas. Roads and such. There is never in my eyes the buzz of Chinese cities though. The cities are crowded with cranes, everywhere new buildings are going up. So after 13 long hours I was finally in Haerbin, I will take a break for a little while here before taking another hard seat to Beijing.
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Ferry to Dalian. 

I am passing rocks shrouded in smog. Dalian in coming up as the ferry races through the water. Smog takes away so much beauty. I think these islands or peninsulas would be beautiful if the air was no so thick with smoke.

The ferry port in Incheon continues to be a rather bothersome one. I called ahead to see about tickets to Dalian and asked about the location. I believed there was more than one ferry terminal. The Dain ferry company told me not to worry that there is only one international terminal. So I took the metro out to Incheon Station. The ferry companies say to go to Dongincheon, and last time I took a ferry from Incheon this is what I did. That time it was very difficult to find the terminal. There was no map at the station as every other station in Seoul I've seen has so I searched and eventually took a taxi. On a map it looks as if Incheon Station is about the same distance from Terminal 2, and closer to the ocean so with an easier reference point. This turned out to all be true. I reached Terminal 2 about twenty minutes to 14:00. The time the Dain company told me I had to arrive. I looked for the Dain ticket window and couldn't find it. There is a tourist information booth at Terminal 2 and I asked there where the Dain ticket window was, where I could buy a ticket for Dalian, she told me it was just in the corner by the other companies. So I looked again. This time I asked some official where the ticket window was and he directed me to wait while he had a cigarette and then take a taxi. He didn't speak much English to I went to the tourist information booth again. This time I talked with another woman and she told me there was ANOTHER terminal. It was about 14:00 at this time and I was worried. So she called Dain and they said I could buy the ticket at any time before the ferry left. There was a bus going just to the terminal. Number 24 bus. I had just used up my T-Money card on the metro to Incheon but fortunately I took a bit of extra Korean cash just in case. It was only 1000 won. So after waiting for 20 minutes I was at the terminal, or so I thought. I looked around for a sign for Dalian, there were a lot of ferries leaving but they were all domestic. I found someone who spoke English and as it turned out the International Terminal 1 was just next door. It was a big new building almost empty and I was able to finally buy my ticket for Dalian. 124.600 won.

Incheon is a maritime city. It smelled of the sea as well as some less pleasant things. This somehow brought memories of Hilo. Incheon station is nowhere near the downtown. If there is one. I imagine there must be since Incheon is the second largest city in Korea, although really it is part of the Greater Seoul. A map the tourist lady at Terminal 2 gave me says that it is Jung-gu. So Jung-gu has an interesting atmosphere. There were many garages with maritime periphanelia. One full of tackle, another full of chains. Many more of the same. Hanging over it all is the smog. This bad air hangs on me. When I can see the air I frown. The brown gray of it. Ah but the sea is beautiful. I think my next home should be on the sea. A clean sea, with clean air. I wonder if you can ever see the sea from McMurdo?

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All material copyright 2004-2014 by Loren Everly.