Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Resume

Amie_Marston_UPenn_Wharton_Resume -

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Natural Balance Canned Dog Food Calories Content

I'm creating this post so that I can reference the email I received from Natural Balance to update a Wikipedia article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Final Thoughts, Observations and Stories

SIGH. Well, today is my second day back at work and it already feels like I never went on vacation. By that I mean that slipping back into the day after day humdrum of sleep-eat-work-workout-eat-sleep-eat-work-workout-etc is SO monotonous versus sleep-should I see the Forbidden City or the Great Wall today-eat-explore-get peed on-sight see-eat-milk a horse-sleep-etc.

I actually have to give huge thanks to my co-worker (hi Miranda) for keeping things so well under control while I was gone that I have returned to a very pleasant and stress-free environment. I guess I'm just a wander-lusting vagabond at heart.

Okay, I have some tragic news. This weekend, after downloading 21GB of photos and videos from my trip to my external hard drive and deleting them from the memory cards, I was uploading pictures to Picasa Web when the hard drive got knocked over. Now it makes a horrific grinding sound and the laptop won't even recognize it. I had only got about 90 photos out of about 1000 and zero videos out of about 50 uploaded. All throughout my trip I told people I'd rather have my passport stolen than my camera. You can replace your passport but not your photos and videos. Now they are all gone! I'm just sick to my stomach.

I called around to a few data recovery places and was quoted $1300-$1800 IF they can recover anything!!! OMG!!! I just spent $3500 on this trip and now I'm supposed to spend $1800 to save my photos? I am about to jump off the Aurora Bridge. :(

I asked my computer genius friend Amos if he had any contacts in the data recovery field but he doesn't. He did however tell me I might be able to salvage something by putting the hard drive in the freezer for 24 hours. Evidently this shrinks the metal parts and allows them to run very briefly (20 mins). I just tried it after 12 hours and I got no read from my laptop. So, it looks like I'll be skipping Christmas this year in order to recover my vacation photos and videos. :( Maybe I should just charge each of you $50 to view them. lol

So, if I send in the hard drive tomorrow I might have it back in a week and I will just have to keep my fingers crossed to see what they can recover. When (if) I get anything, I'll let you know when they're posted.

On a lighter note...

Here's a list of things that I'm annoyed by since returning:
* Not being able to leave the house 6 min after showering (having only 3 outfits to choose from was actually a good thing!)
* My time not being my own
* How mundane my life is
* Rain in Seattle

Things I'm joyed by since returning:
* Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
* Soft toilet paper
* Real ice cream! (the ice cream all through Russia and China tasted odd)
* Clean air! (my nose has mostly stopped running)
* The taco truck!
* My BED and down comforter
* Pedestrian right-of-way

I've been thinking there are some things I might not have relayed during my trip because they became so common to me. For instance, did I mention that throughout Russia and China you cannot flush the toilet paper? Since you could in Mongolia, and Mongolia seems to have FAR worse infrastructure, I don't really understand this one. Also, toilet paper is almost never provided so you *always* carry it with you. I coveted many a roll from the odd times I stayed in a hotel. :) There is also never any soap so you always carry hand sanitizer too. In fact, in China, there's almost never any sink!

>Just as I trained myself to throw the toilet paper in the basket, I returned home. The first day back I kept almost throwing it into my wastebasket. lol

>I can't understand why my fingernails would be dirty 10 mins after getting out of the shower, yet at home, they never are!

>Beijing is HUGE. I was on the subway for 1 hour and 20 mins, and transferred 3 times and was still in Beijing! And when we went to the Wall, we drove for 2.5 hours before the buildings and traffic thinned out!

>All over Beijing there are elderly people who wear arm bands that say 'public safety volunteer'. Now, these are old people - in their 70's and 80's - so I don't think they're going to be taking down any muggers. But I wonder if they do actually act as deterrents to crime because Chinese thugs are more respectful of their elders than other thugs in the world, or is it more of a social thing. Does giving these elderly people a sense of purpose contribute to their mental well-being, and therefore longevity? Very interesting.

>I carried a PacSafe slash-proof pouch over one shoulder and kept all my money, credit cards, iPhone and passport in it. Around the other shoulder I carried my camera, also on a slash-proof PacSafe strap. I looked like the ultimate tourist, but I think it was obvious that everything of importance and value was in there and not in my shoulder bag, so it was useless to slash that or steal it. All they would have gotten is a bunch of used, snotty kleenex. lol

>OH! I know I totally forgot to tell you the story of the French guy I met at the hostel in Irkutsk. He was walking along the road late and night and was hit by a car and it DIDN'T EVEN STOP! A local found him lying in the road and took him to their home for a few days to recover until he could get to the doctor, but then they wanted money from him! When he did finally get to the hospital it turned out his ankle was broken! He was only a few weeks into an 8 month trip but he decided to return home to recover. So sad!

>All the clothes I took on the trip (except my cold weather ones) were bought brand new just before I left. Also brand new were my $85 Merrill cushioned, supportive shoes. After just 4 weeks I want to burn all of them. The shoes looked like they belonged to a homeless person, and I seriously think I flattened the arch support! I threw them in the washer when I got home though and to my great surprise, they actually look pretty good again.

>Things I learned while on this trip:
*Yogurt is completely safe to eat even if it hasn't been refrigerated for a day - or even two!
* Never pass up the opportunity to use a toilet in China - at least if you have TD :)
* Always keep a medium amount of cash on hand in foreign countries
* It is possible to make good friends, even if you don't speak each other's language
* Life is too short and time passes too quickly
* There is a whole lot of world to see!

I'm already planning my next trip for August or Sept 2011. Who's coming with me??!! :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sept 24 - Going Home

I was up at 4:30 and really tired! I tried to sleep on the way to the airport but I was too excited. I got there before the check-in counter was even open and started talking to a guy in line. We chatted in the first class lounge and then I went to buy some last minute things - a magnet and tea. I figured I couldn't leave China without buying tea, even if it was in an overpriced airport shop. :)

At the layover in Tokyo, he showed me where the first class lounge was and we looked at my pictures for quite awhile. All the food and drinks are free in the international lounges, where you had to pay in the states. The food wasn't wonderful, but I ate it.

Then I saw they had showers so I took one. It was seriously the nicest shower I had had in over 4 weeks!! The water didn't go from freezing to scalding without touching the knob, the water pressure was better than I have at home even, the towels fit all the way around my body and weren't scratchy and the toilet seat was even warmed!! It was awesome!

Since my ticket was free I had to make a bunch of connections, but with the first class service and lounges, I didn't mind at all. On the flight from Tokyo to LAX, I was on a double decker plane! I was looking for my seat and when I showed the attendant she says 'oh, that's upstairs'. Upstairs! On a plane! That was pretty cool. There were nice storage bins by the window and they handed out cardigans and slippers! But, the blankets weren't as nice as on the flight to Moscow and the seats didn't seem as soft - or maybe I'm just getting used to first class. lol

I had watched the movie 'Angels & Demons' on the flight from Beijing to Tokyo, but we had to put it away from landing with just 10 mins left! It's a suspenseful movie so I was dying to see how it ended and tried to finish it on this flight, but the stupid system wasn't working and they kept having to restart it. At this point, I'd had just 3 hours sleep in the last 2 days, so I told them I didn't want dinner, took a melatonin and crashed.I figured I'd finish the movie when I woke up. Only I forgot!! And now I find out it doesn't come out on video until November so I have to wait that long to see the last damn 10 mins! Doh! Oh, I did get to see Mt Fuji briefly as we were flying out!

I slept pretty good, only waking up a few times. They were serving breakfast when I woke up and I ate. Everyone else on the plane had slept in their clothes, but I had put on my pjs so I went and changed. I don't know why you would pay for all that luxury and then sleep in your jeans!? Since I had slept a good 7 hours, I only had 1.5 hours left when I woke up and breakfast ate up most of that.

We reached LA and customs was a breeze. I had had a banana in my bag but threw it out in the bathroom as you can't bring fruit into the country. There was an agriculture dog and he stuck his nose right in my bag and then sat down, which was his handlers sign that he found something. I explained to her I had thrown it out and let her look and she let me go through. Then, as I was waiting for my luggage, the dog came aroiund again and did the same thing. lol

I sat in the first class lounge and was about to ask for the password for the wifi and then I realized I was on American soil and I could turn my iPhone on! It was quite a strange feeling to be fully connected again, and I actually just kind of wanted to stay under the radar. I don't want to get sucked back into the hectic pace of regular life too quickly. On the last flight, when I saw Mt Rainier, I knew I was home!

I got Shuttle Express home and did a couple of errands, trying to keep myself awake until at least 9:30 or 10:00 to minimize jet lag. I went to the drugstore to pick-up an antibiotic that I have to take after the anti-parasitic in order to ensure it's eradicated from my system. When I got there though, they told me not only did they not have it, they couldn't even get it from the manufacturer! They gave me the name of 3 compounding pharmacies, which are pharmacies that actually MAKE drugs from their chemical components! I called the one in Seattle and luckily they had exactly 60 capsules, which is what my prescription is for. They said that it is a very uncommon one and they won't get in any more now until the middle of Oct! I guess Gobi desert parasites aren't very common in Seattle. :)

Other than that I just went to the library and picked up some movies and the grocery store to restock the basics. I also had a hamburger and fries while opening a month's worth of mail. When I went to pick it up, they literally brought it out in a plastic mail tub there was so much!

I'll worry about laundry and unpacking tomorrow. I'm setting my alarm for only 9 hours sleep as they say to try to get back on your normal sleep schedule as quickly as possible. But boy do I want to sleep for about 16!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sept 23 - The Great Wall of China!! and Eating Weird Things

I can't believe it's my last day! We got up early and left for the Great Wall at Jinshanling, which is a 3 hour drive outside of Beijing. When we finally got there and got started on the trial to the actual Wall, there were a number of hawkers of souvenirs, but I have heard there aren't nearly as many as at Badaling, which is why I didn't go there. They would say 'I walk with you. You buy book (or t-shirt) later.' We had to say over and over, 'no book. no t-shirt. no souvenir. no later. non. no. no.' It was a little annoying, but as soon as they realized we really weren't going to buy anything they dropped back.

As we got our first glimpse of the Great Wall I got really excited! Now that I'm home I can post a picture to show you. :)Once we got to the Wall the climb became steep and pretty much never quit. It was steep up and steep down. The guidebook said that it is a 70 degree incline in some places. 90 is vertical! Here are some pictures that try to capture that.
This is trying to show that most of the steps were almost as tall as my knees!
Here are some pictures that try to give an idea of how AMAZING the Wall is, but truly, you have to experience it for yourself.
This section of the wall is also less repaired so we had to be very careful.

The Wall is the most amazing man-made thing I've ever seen. It just goes on and on, as far as you can see.
At all the watchtowers, there would be people selling drinks and snacks. I don't know how in the hell they got them up there because most of them were older and liquid is heavy! This guy even had wine and champagne for sale!

As we were getting towards the stopping point at Simatai, I started walking slower and slower. Not so much because I was tired (although I was), but because I didn't want it to end. I will definitely be back on the Wall someday! I used to think I wanted to hike the entire thing, but now I'm thinking 2 weeks would be enough. :)

We saw the tourist umbrellas and we knew we were close to our stopping point.
As we approached, we saw there was a suspension bridge we had to go over to cross the river - and of course we had to pay a fee, even though there was no other way over the river! I had read there was paragliding from the Wall, but I didn't see it so we settled for zip lining instead. You get strapped into a climbing harness and then zip over the river and get boated down the river to the parking lot. It was really fun, but I was so worried about getting a video I kind of forgot to be in the moment. I wanted to do it again, but I was too exhausted to climb back up to the zip line. Just another reason to go again!

The driver was waiting for us and we drove back to Beijing. But, it was rush hour so it took longer. We all agreed to meet for dinner since it was my last night. I still hadn't made it to any markets and Patrick told me about the food market near my hostel. I showered quickly and headed there. It was a string of stalls where you can get just about anything and every animal on a stick and deep fried. They had slug, sea cucumber, silk worms, dragon fly larvae, squid, scorpions, snakes, seahorses.... I ate the snake first and they had put a bunch of spice on it so I couldn't get a true taste, but it was probably for the best.

I had been talking about eating a scorpion since before I left, so I had to find it. Turns out there was only one guy so he wouldn't bargain the price. It was 15 RMB, which is only about $2, but I love bargaining. :) He told me to the little ones were better so I said ok. I ate the first one quick without trying to taste it and the second more slowly. My first thought was literally, 'it tastes a little bit like chicken'. lol I'm serious! Then it just tasted like fried crunchy stuff. But, I ate it! I can't get the f-ing video to upload and I think it's because I have used up all my free data storage with Google, so I'll have to buy more before I can post it.

I didn't eat the seahorse however because he also wanted too much and I thought it was a waste if I was going to eat just one. Plus they're kind of too cute to eat.

We went and met Ida and Niklas for dinner and we ordered a ton of food again. But the bill was only $14 per person! We thought we ordered dove, but ended up getting something that we called 'a bowl of chicken feet' because there were literally 5 or 6 chicken feet in it. And a whole chicken head, eyeball and all! And a few things that were unmistakeably cock's combs. Weird!

After dinner we all could barely keep our eyes open and I still had to pack for the 5:15am taxi pick-up. Yet, I found myself strolling slowly back to the hostel because I didn't want my vacation to be over. I packed until 1:15 and then got about 3 hours of sleep.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sept 22 - Olympic Stadiun, Summer Palace, Peed on On the Subway and Opera

I am happy to report that I think my little worm is dying. I only went bad toilet once today and it wasn't 90% water like it has been up to now. Yay!

I changed hostels and then set off to do as many things left on my list as I could. Yesterday had been kind of a waste so I still had the Olympic stadium, Summer Palace, Mao's mausoleum, local markets and the CCTV tower on the list. I knew I wouldn't get to all of them in one day so I prioritized. I went to the Olympic spaces and walked around. It was nice, but really just a bunch of buildings. They did have a nice photo exhibit though from the Olympics.

Then I took the subway to the Summer Palace. It was nice, but I still think Beihi (not spelling that correctly) was nicer. There were a few cool artifacts and art though. I didn't spend too long there because I did kind of want to see Mao's Mausoleum and I the book said it closed at 4pm (like almost all tourist destinations in Beijing). I tried to get a taxi back to the subway but all the cab drivers wanted 20RMB when the fare from it was only 10. So being stubborn, I started walking, even though I didn't know where I was going. Luckily a rickshaw came along. He wanted 30 but took 20 and I got my firsat rickshaw ride!

The subway took an hour and 20 mins and I had to transfer 3 times. (Beijing is definitely bigger than Moscow!) While I was on it I saw a woman opening the zipper of a boy about 3 or 4 years old. I wondered what the hell she was doing because she was pulling his little penis out of his pants, right there on the subway. Then she points to a corner and the kid PEES into the corner of a packed subway car! Un-fucking-believable I think! I've seen people holding their kids under the legs in huatongs so they can pee in the street (forgot to mention that earlier) but this was unreal. I'm standing there thinking that in America (or any other civilized country) the mother would tell the boy to hold it, or she would get off the subway to find a bathroom.

As I'm standing there, I feel something wet hit my foot and reflexively jump back. I look down and the people I'm standing in front have their 1 1/2 year old sitting on their lap, and he's just peeing right on the floor - and my foot! I look at them incredulously and they just kind of smile back. No gestures of apology or embarrassment. Un-fing-believable!!!

I went to Tienanmen Square to see if Mao's Mausoleum might still be open, although I didn't expect it would be, and it wasn't. So, seeing one dead guy (Lenin) on this trip will have to be enough.

I went back to the hostel, scarfed down some American food and met the Swedes (it's probably time I told you their names lol. They are Ida (pronounced E-da) and Niklas) and the Swiss (Patrick) to see some Chinese Opera. Ida and Niklas and gotten the tickets from a tour director and she had told them that even though it started at 7:30, we should leave a 6:00. And we found out why.

We tried to get a taxi for 40 min! Getting a taxi at rush hour in Beijing makes getting a taxi in Manhattan in pouring rain look like a cake walk! Finally a driver pulled over and the 4 of us happily piled in. We showed him our paper that had the address of the opera house written in Chinese, he looked at it for a min, then shook his head no. I was livid. This had happened to me before where it seemed that a driver just didn't want to take you, maybe because you were a foreigner or because the fare wouldn't be enough. But this time it had taken us so long to get the taxi I dug in my heels. I said I wasn't getting out and to illustrate, I locked my door. He kept shaking his head no and Finally Niklas called the tour director and she talked to the driver for awhile. Turns out he didn't know the area. So we got out and went back to trying to find a taxi. All four of us spread out to the four corners of a major intersection and finally got another one. We piled in again and showed him the paper, holding our breath. When he nodded his head okay, we all cheered and I'm sure he had idea why. lol

We made it to the opera with time to spare and watched the performers putting on their make-up. Turns out the opera was in a hotel, which i wasn't thrilled about, but I just sat back and waited to see what it was all about. When the first act started, and the singer started, I almost burst out laughing. It seriously sounded like someone had stepped on a cat's tail. The costumes were great, the music nice and with the translation you could understand what was going on. Although, some of them were quite comical.
It was just over an hour and then I headed back to the hostel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sept 21 - First Real Chinese Meal

I returned the train tickets to Xian today. Two girls in my room said they thought it had been a disappointment, and still having TD I didn't really feel like being on a train for 2 nights anyway.

I've heard that they had to teach the Chinese people the concept of waiting in line in preparation for the Olympics last year, and I think they've already forgotten. You have to keep a constant vigilance on your place, lest people just step in front of you. I also saw a guy that tried to go right up to the window and bypass the 15 or so people in line. Then they opened a new window and people literally ran to get into that line. The guy that had been trying to cut the line tried to step in front of me so I elbowed him good in the side and said 'you were behind me'! Not that he understood me, I'm sure but he definitely got the message!

So, I'm embarrassed to admit that I broke down and ate McDonalds today. I just needed something my stomach could handle. But perhaps it's good that I did because it was gross and bland, and now I really don't feel like I'm missing anything. One funny thing was that Maria Carey's song 'Always Be My Baby' was on single repeat. I think it's their way of getting people not to linger because I could only take about 6 cycles before I had to get out of there.

Then I went in search of the long distance bus station to get info getting to the less touristed part of the Wall. I had also gotten a refund for this tour from the hostel because I hate being on tours and someone else's time schedule. I found the station but there was no info desk. I was tired so I gave up and took a taxi back to the hostel. After a 2 hour nap I felt a whole lot better!

The Swedish couple and another guy from Switzerland and I all went out to dinner. We accidentally ordered SO much food! I think it was mostly because we wanted to try everything. Since I don't think I'm going to get a chance to have a roasted duck, I at least ordered some duck breast. There was also donkey on the menu so you know we had to try that! Everything was very good - except the donkey, which was dark and strange tasting and my stomach just wasn't ready for too much wild food. This is the first truly Chinese meal I have been able to eat, and it was nice. When the check came, it was only $11 per person!
On the walk back to the hostel I stopped at another hostel that is in the same alley (called huatong) and inquired about hiring a car and driver to wall. They said it would be 800 yuan round trip and with 4 of us that's he same as the tour price. I liked this hostel a lot better and it's cheaper, so I think I will move tomorrow.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sept 20 - Chinese Acrobatics and Amebiasis

I got up early to meet my friends (turns out they are Swedish, not Norwegian. Oops) at the Lama Temple. It was nice but eventually I felt like I did in Europe - I don't care if I ever see another pagoda or temple (or baptistery, or duomo) again. I also still had TD so wasn't
having the greatest time. After the Lama Temple we went to Bahai Park and it was beautiful! The Chinese National Day is Oct 1 and they are decorating things and building floats and beautiful art with flowers, so it was quite spectacular. It had rained all night so the air was clear (for Beijing anyway) and it was a really nice day. You could actually see that the sky was blue and couldn't look directly at the sun. (I took a picture of the sun the day before where it looks like the moon because of the smog.) You should NOT be able to take a picture of the sun, let alone look directly at it on a "clear" day!!!

We climbed to the top where the white pagoda was, but the view wasn't
as good as at Jinshan Park the day before. We took a wooden ferry
across the lake and then went to an acrobatic theater to buy tickets for that night. Then I went in search of the SOS clinic. This was the third day of TD and I just want it to stop!

The night before I had the hostel staff write down the name and address in Chinese so I could show the taxi driver, but he still didn't seem to understand. So I fumbled with the map, got out in the general vicinity and then spent another 30 min asking and asking until I finally found it. Being Sunday only the emergency clinic was open, but there was no one else there so I was in to see the doctor quickly.

She checked my vitals and then, in a cool mix of Western and Eastern medicine, she looked at my hands and my tongue and said I was quite dehydrated so she wanted to give me IV fluids. She also took a stool and blood sample and came back about 40 min later and confirmed I did
indeed have amebasis, not a bacterial infection. So the strong antibiotic I am taking - which turns out to be an antiprotozoal actually - is the correct medication. But since I've taken it for almost two days and am not much better, she gave me one dose of something stronger to try and stop the diarrhea. But I need to take the full 7 day course of the other to make sure it kills it all. She
said it was possible that the steroid shot lowered my immune response, but most likely it was drinking untreated Gobi water since this takes about a week to show symptoms and I got it 6 days after I started drinking the water. Guess I don't have such an iron stomach after all. Note to self: well water in the Gobi desert is NOT the same as well water in America! Lesson learned the very hard way unfortunately. She also gave me a prescription for pro-biotics to replace the good flora of the intestines after the medicine kills everything. I always do this at home and I wish western doctors would do it too!

Since I wasn't going to have time to go back to my hostel before the show, she gave me a dose of the medicine I have from home. But I hadn't eaten in quite a few hours and you have to eat with the medication, so the nurses made me toast. When I asked if I could have more jam they brought in the whole jar! Lol They treated me very well. (I had made the mistake of taking it before bed on an empty stomach once, and was woken up about 30 mins later with rolling waves of intense nausea!)

The doctor said at first she only ordered 1 litre of fluid, but because my standing to lying blood pressure was 20mm lower, that indicated more severe dehydration so I got 2 liters. She said she was very surprised that I wasn't dizzy with that much dehydration. She asked if I am fit and I said yes, I work out at home a lot. She said that probably helped a lot because most people get dizzy with just a 10mm drop. So it's good to know that I'm fit because I sure haven't felt like it recently.

This is the doctor (right) and nurse that helped me!

Its hard to believe that a single-cell organism, the lowest form of life on earth, can wreak such havoc! I've decided that I'm going to start calling it 'my little worm' because 'my little ameboa' my just doesn't have the same ring. Lol

You know those t-shirts that say 'my grandma went to X and all I got was this lousy t-shirt'? Well, I paid $937 and all I got was a lousy band-aid (from the IV). Okay, I got a few medications too, but those were minimal. The big cost was the office visit, the rehydration ($300+ for 2 litres of saline!) and the lab tests. Seriously, thank goodness for travel insurance!

After the doctor I went to the acrobatics show and it was unbelievable! Ever seen 12 people ride one bicycle? I have now! There was plate spinning, hoop jumping, contortionists... absolutely amazing. I bought 2 DVDs and can't wait to watch them!

I went back to the hostel intending to have some dinner, but the kitchen was closed so it was a couple of packages of crackers for dinner. Oh well, it's probably better for the worm. He's really
fighting back though, because I think I've already lost at least half of the fluid I got at the clinic, in just 4.5 hours! The doctor gave me oral rehydration solution but said that if I can't keep well
hydrated I can come back in for more fluids before I fly home. Since flying also dehydrates you it could be dangerous if I'm already dehydrated when I start.

I decided that to have a better attitude I will list the things i am thankful for:

* that the toilets in the hostel are western, and the stalls small enough to rest my head on the door while going
* that I brought 12 packs of wet wipes
* wearing a dress when you have raging TD in the land of squat toilets (think about it)
* my worm ensures that I don't absorb many calories, so I can eat all the M&Ms and ice cream I want
* that McDonald's ice cream tastes the same around the world
* free toilet paper in the hostel
* that fancy shopping malls have western toilets, and that there are a lot of fancy shopping malls in Beijing
* English speaking medical clinics
* travel insurance
* that I live in America

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sept 19 - Miserable in Beijing

I slept 12 hours last night and feel much better. I changed to the hostel today and bought tickets to the Wall and Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. Then I went out to see the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. I am absolutely shocked at how much air pollution there is here. I am being dead serious when I say it makes the air in LA look as clear as Mt. Everest. All day long it looks like it's approaching dusk and all of my pictures look like they are taken through a window screen. And one of the girls in my hostel said she's surprised how CLEAN the air is compared to 5 years ago! She said then you couldn't even see the skyscrapers 50 meters in front of you. I
have no idea how people live here, and Asian people are known for their longevity! It's really incomprehensible to me.

At the Forbidden City I bought the audio guide, but then didn't have enough cash for the deposit so I went in search of the ATM. Turns out it was VERY far through the FC and when I finally reached it, it wouldn't take my card.

I'm going to whine for a minute here, so bear with me. I have raging diarrhea in a land of a hole in the ground, I have to blow my nose literally every 4-5 min, I walk for almost 30 min not understanding anything about the stunning things I am seeing, and when I finally get to the ATM, it won't give me money. I seriously almost cried. But, I knew my experience was all about my attitude so I bought an ice cream cone and just tried to appreciate the things I was seeing, even if I didn't understand them. As I was walking along enjoying my ice cream cone, I took a lick and the entire top dropped off the cone. With my cat-like reflexes I somehow managed to grab the ice cream before it hit the ground, but now my hands are totally sticky and full of ice
cream. %*#@!!!!!!

I finished my walk through the FC and when I exited I saw this beautiful pagoda on the hill so decided I needed to go there. I also read in the book that it provided sweeping views of the FC, which it did.
BTW, this picture was taken at about 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon on a day with no clouds in the sky! THIS is how bad the air pollution is!

It was a lovely park and I strolled through to the other entrance and took the bus to Tienanmen Square. It was quite interesting to compare Tienanmen to Red Square. I think Tienanmen is much larger.

I lucked out and happened to get there a sunset (although you couldn't tell with the smog) when they lower the flag and a bunch of guys in uniforms march around. This seems to be a big deal in Beijing because there were throngs of people gathered around the flagpole. I actually handed my camera to a girl up on a man's shoulders to take a picture for me. During this time they also close the huge main arterial street behind the flagpole. The process takes about an hour and they do it as sunrise and sunset EVERY DAY!

After that I wanted to get something to eat so went in search of a restaurant recommended in the guidebook. I had a good map and was sure I was in the right area, and asked numerous people, but I never found it. So I ended up going back to the hostel and just having dumplings.