Thursday, January 07, 2010

Go forth, young lawyer

*Note to new and long-time readers: given that my blogs tend to run to roughly book length, and I have been informed on more than a few occasions that this makes each post somewhat difficult to muddle through. Thus, I will be telling the story of my time in China, Mongolia, Croatia, and Italy, with Nathaniel the insane, and Taylor the beautiful, in shorter, episodic posts. Think of them as the tapas to the porterhouse steaks I used to serve. If that analogy makes you groan and hate me, think of these shorter, more nimble posts, as the oompa-loompas to my previous willy-wonkas. Sure, you can take a whole book to explain what happened, but really all you need are some funny people singing a song to sum up the points, and maybe some technicolor wonder to keep you engaged. Consider the following my oompa-loompa songs, for you, dear reader:


94 hours after wearily boarding a plane in Buffalo, New York to return to Washington, D.C. with the New York Bar exam under my belt, I find myself in the ultra-modern airport in Beijing, China. My body thinks its the day before, my eyes think they'll never get moisture again, and my stomach is already rebelling against what will inevitably be a month of, shall we say, interesting food.

What am I doing here, half way around the world again, with an enormous backpack, a heavy pair of boots, and a med kit full of antibiotics? Well, I had always heard that nearly starving to death in the vast grassland steppes of Mongolia was a thrilling experience, so why not give it a shot before starting my new life as a corporate litigator?





How much yak do I have to eat?











A window! China is so crazy!




Four days ago, I was concerned with torts and arson and the law of mortgages. Now, all I can think about is how the hell I'm going to find a guesthouse without an address, with an unpronounceable name somewhere in the middle of Beijing. Lucky me, my innumerable e-mails, phone calls, smoke signals and telepathic thoughts have been received by the guesthouse and someone is there waiting for me when I get through customs.

Stepping out of the airport, I immediately begin coughing like I have a new and instant form of bird flu. There is nothing I could say about the air in Beijing that has not already been said far better by better writers, so I will limit my comments about it to this: if you can imagine what it would be like to walk into the smokers lounge of a bar that still allows smoking, while you yourself were smoking several different things at once, and there was a machine producing smoke blowing directly in your face, it would still not be as hazy as my drive into central Beijing. Breathing was similarly difficult, in that, it was impossible. For all of you who have lived in Beijing, two questions: 1) Why? and 2) How?

Arriving in a dark, narrow alley, the driver gets out and signals that I should follow him down an even darker, narrower alley, past sparkling arc welders and dangling telephone lines. At some point in my life, this may have seemed strange, but you spend enough time following people in developing countries to guest houses, and inevitably you're going to end up in a dark narrow alley, hoping against hope that the person leading you believes they can make more money from their commission at the guesthouse than by just grabbing at your wallet. We get to another street and I see a sign for a guest house...sigh of relief, its actually where I'm trying to be.

I have traveled half-way around the world to find my friend, Nathaniel Weiss, so that we can go have a look at Mongolia. For those of you readers who don't know Nate, all I can tell you is that he spent the last several years in Afghanistan and Iraq, then spent the past year traveling pretty much anywhere in the world that suits his fancy. Nate goes from deep under the ocean to the top of mountains the way most people go from New York to Boston. What I am saying is that he does so regularly and with a minimum of hassle.






Communist Beer...no smiling






Nate and I have been travel companions on many occasions, and, as before, reuniting with a fellow adventurer requires specific and timeless rituals




We are underwater here




Now, of course since I arrived into China at 6pm, after flying for more than a day, and just a few days after the most stressful period in my life, Nate had booked us to climb one of the highest parts of the Great Wall of China. The next morning. In time to see the sunrise. From the top.

It was shortly after the above beer was finished (roughly 11pm) that Nate informed me that our start time for this first adventure was 2am.

Yayyyy...




I'm actually trying to indicate that there is a terrifying insect above me...please someone get it!




Fortunately, I am a hardy sort, so rather than going home and, I don't know, getting some freakin' rest, we set out to see the sights




This is entirely photoshop...I've never even been to Guam.
















And of course, got some dinner



Little known fact: starfish are the natural enemy of the seahorse...they are enemies in the battle of whimsical entities










What's better than sticky rice? Sticky scorpion! (Ooh! pun!)









After some late night jostling to find a cab back to our construction-zone lit hostel, I flopped down on the bed (which, incidentally, flopped me right back...you really do get what you pay for sometimes), and got a whopping one hour and thirty five minutes of shut eye. That was just enough sleep to get excited to see one of mankinds greatest triumphs: a super-long, super-tall wall, that inspired a thousand ships to sail...and at the end of that sailing they opened a thousand Chinese restaurants in the United States named in honor of that great big accomplishment.



Next: Defying death in the early morning, pictures, oh so many pictures, and the beginning of a great journey.

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