Hi folks, I PROMISE I will provide some good updates about life in Dar, but instead of writing I’ve been staring at my computer laboriously tinkering with a lot of web design mumbo jumbo. Or as they say here, mambo! jambo! Here are some pics I’ve snapped on Instagram over the last few weeks

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So, if you’re receiving these posts in an RSS feed, click on over to the blog to check out the freshi design! (That’s fresh, in Swahili!). Be back soon with more updates!

Marriage, it’s like riding a bike

Today marks my one-year wedding anniversary. Well, technically, it’s my one-year marriage anniversary, because for me, a wedding and a marriage were two very separate events that happened about 10 months apart.

Married in China-1

The Diploman and I got married in Guangzhou’s Civil Affairs Bureau No. 3 last June. As is part of the story we both tell today, we had to rush to dragon boat practice afterwards, and because the translator had taken so long with our documents, neither of us remembers very clearly exactly what vows were read.


I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year, and a lot more about this relationship that I thought I knew so well already. Marrying someone is like riding a bike. I know, I know, they say everything is like riding a bike these days, and in the end only riding a bike is like riding a bike. But hear me out.

Married in China-2

You’re on training wheels for what seems like forever, and finally one day, after you’ve thought about it for awhile, you take them off. You ride. omgeveryonelookatmeimriding!

It’s new and exhilarating when you’re on two wheels. You fall off, a lot, at first. There’s some skinned knees and some scratched elbows. There’s a lot of bruised egos, a lot of figuring out what exactly is the best approach to stay on course. There’s a lot of wobblying around, but then you find the payoffs are huge. You get to go fast, you get to be free. Most of the time it’s great, but then you’re reminded that it really sucks when you fall. And there’s never an easy fall, mind you – there’s always pavement and gravel stuck in your skin and ooof, it’s so hard.

But you and your bike, your trusty bike, it takes you places. It takes you on adventures. Sometimes down a wrong turn or two, but somehow you always end up at home. You get to know how it moves, you push its limits, you find new friends because of your bike. Your horizons are expanded, you can see more of the world, and you start to understand new things. Because you know how to ride a bike, you know you can do other things, as well.

The diploman has had his bike since he was sixteen – it’s his trusty (and rusty) yellow Diamondback mountain bike. One of the pedal straps is missing, there’s a lot of paint scratched, he wore through the brake cables this past year, and in the end, he’s really the only one that can ride it because he knows exactly how it works.

Married in China-3

I can only hope that, if bike years are converted to human years, he’ll keep me around just as long.

Moving Machines, and Monuments.

In my cooler years – so, more than five years ago, but less than fifteen – I would have balked if you told me to get on a Segway. Like, no way, maannn. That’s “aannnn” with vocal fry, in case you couldn’t picture me during my cooler years. A vespa, I would have hopped on, but a Segway, where the initial getting on requires the ever-so-uncool act of stepping onto a low platform, definitely would have not fit my “cool” profile.

Segway Tour Group

Recently though, in addition to caring significantly less about my cool-factor, Segways have come an item of greater appeal in the eyes of the general public. Thanks, Paul Blart and “G.O.B.“Bluth! Not to mention, in the super-connected world of iPhones and internet, they nestle perfectly between the categories of extreme convenience and maximum efficiency. Much like the Roomba and the NestEgg, although neither of which I actually understand the necessity of owning but nonetheless prove to be popular consumer purchases.

Segway Tour-Scooters

While in DC this past year the DiploMan and I made it a point to try a Segway tour, which seemed like a good way to see the city, have fun, and -oh what the heck- try something new at the same time. Just ’cause we’re married, doesn’t mean we’re boring, people!

Popular in flat cities such as DC and Chicago (can you imagine a troupe of Segways motoring up and down the hills of San Francisco?!), Segway touring makes for a fun and fast way to check off a few key sites in one afternoon. And if DC isn’t freezing cold or miserably hot, it serves for a pretty pleasant way to spend an afternoon outside.

We had the choice between a two-hour and three-hour tour, and opted for the two-hour one due to time constraints (and ultimately, my LivingSocial voucher limitations). The first half hour was spent on learning how to ride the Segway, including the most awesome instructional video EVER (*insert sarcastic drawl here), followed by a test run on a closed lot. Much as you’d expect, like learning how to operate any moving piece of equipment, it takes a few tries to get it right. There were a few bumps and a few bruised egos. Maybe a couple of super star rookies, too (look at me, ma!).

Segway Tour-video time

Segway Tour-drivers ed


Little did I know that the act of riding a Segway scooter all depends on where and how you lean your body weight – there are no motor controls, no joystick to tell your wheels where to turn and how much. A little rock towards your toes and you zoom forward. A tiny squat back on your seat, and you’ve stopped. Lean right or left, and well, you turn right or left. Thankfully I’m pretty coordinated (most of the time) and was able to zoom around on two wheels in no time. Some others in the group, I can’t say the same.

Segway Tour-Group Tour

The Segways are pretty hardy little machines, and can, as I learned in an informative video, go “off-roading” as well. We zipped on and off sidewalks, in bike lanes, on gravel and paved dirt paths, and were off on our way through the streets of DC. We made a first, and unexpected stop in front of the Eisenhower Executive Building, which is a pretty dang cool  building that sits adjacent to the White House, that people often stop to admire but no one really knows what it is. We learned a few things, namely that the architect was moody and depressed and committed suicide by jumping off the top of the building. Fun.

We checked out the White House. There’s a hot tub back there, installed by good ol’ Clinton. Just thought you might find that as predictable and satisfying of a fact as I do.

Segway Tour-white house

We rode our trusty Segways, by this time extensions of our own two feet, along Pennsylvania and out onto the mall, stopping to admire the Washington Monument. It’s actually one of my favorite spaces in DC, and I’m always surprised at how everytime I find myself on the grassy lawn in front of the monument, it renders me speechless for a second or two. It’s just so tall. And stark. And monumental! Monument love, right here.

Segway Tour-washington monument

The obelisk has seen better times, since by the time I’m writing this, it’s fully covered with constructive scaffolding. But you would need a few adjustments too, if you were a 555 foot pile of stone that’s been around for almost one hundred fifty years. In monument years, it’s going through it’s teenage times, and just needs a bit of time with braces and a head gear before it goes back to its normal self.

Segway Tour-War Memorial

As the sun started to tuck itself between a huge mass of clouds, we hit a few more spots – the WWII Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. By that time though, my ill-prepared dresscode had rendered me officially freezing. I was catching more wind on the Segway than I anticipated, I guess. Luckily we were nearing the end of two hours, and pretty soon we found ourselves scooting back to our starting point to return our machines.

Back to warmth, back to two feet firmly planted on the ground.

Segway Tour-Jefferson Memorial

Segway Tour-Korean War Memorial

If you’ve read this post and are wondering how it so quickly turned into a tour of Washington, D.C., rest assured I kind of thought the same thing while on the Segway Tour myself. Although, signing up for something called “Segway TOUR” should have clued me in, derr… But simply, it’s easy to forget that in a city such as DC, one can swiftly transform from resident to tourist in minutes. That’s more of what this post is about really, rather than being about the super-fun topic of Segways. Hopefully, no matter where I go, I’ll be able to find these fun escapes and excursions. Whether or not they involve cool things like moving machines and monuments.

Adventure Tasks: Peking Gourmet Inn

Before I get started on this amazing place called Dar, I want to revisit a few favorite places from back home – whatever that word means these days. As an aspiring writer, as a versed traveller, and I suppose inherently as an American, I often find the US all too familiar and all too bland in its everyday, and consequently will fall off the blogging wagon – or get on, whatever the one that’s not a good thing. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there are just as many thrills and just as much to explore during our everyday lives in the US as there are living in an exotic place. Apparently, it takes being away to realize this, because I sure as hell wasn’t this inspired four months ago. Alas…grass….greener….you know.

peking gourmet-teacup

Looking back, I smile when I think about the places I was able to visit and the new friends I acquired, and as a whole about the entire newness that was living in DC for eight months, all of which, in between these amazing new experiences I’m having, I do find a little bit of time to miss.

I’ve been wanting to write about them for some time, so I suppose now – when I have 20G of internet connection slowly ticking down (will explain that reasoning later), a houseful of ugly furniture and even uglier tile (whyyyyyy kitchen tile, whyyyyyy), and a high sun that shines on me like hell hath fury on my straight black hairs and cluster of Asian freckles, I supposed now is as good a time as any to stay inside under my ceiling fan and A/C and write.

In the nine months of living back in the states, excluding a week here and there when I was home visiting my parents, I could count the number of times I ate Chinese Food. That number was two. A pretty lousy, pretty lonely, pretty sad number of a number, no? I suppose after two years of living in China, all the Diploman and I wanted to do was alternate between tacos al pastor and trips to Sweetgreen….sort of joking, but it did happen more than once where we would have lunch at Sweetgreen and dinner at El Chucho, and the next day have lunch at Sweetgreen and then dinner at El Centro, and the day after that, lunch at Chipotle and then dinner at Sweetgreen.

peking gourmet-menu

When I wasn’t eating gourmet salads and slow roasted marinated pork, I tried to venture out of my bubble. Peking Gourmet Inn was one of these adventures.

Adventure Task Number One: Leave DC, via the freeway, which –holy cow I live in a bubble– is definitely a new adventure in itself. And then you take one of the exits, which spits out into stripmallville, which is precisely Adventure Task Number Two: Balk in Awe at Stripmalls. In case you’re wondering, these stripmalls look the same as they do in Southern California as they did in the nether-wheres of Virginia and/or Maryland (because to me, the two are still somewhat a blob). Predictably, stores like Vitamin Shoppe (with an “e” thank you very much) and Best Buy and Target and video-rental-stores-slash-adult-video-stores all laid out in perfect little plots.

Finally, after passing about five strip malls that weren’t the one, we found the one strip mall that was the one! Adventure Task Number Three: Arrive at Peking Gourmet Inn.

Walking into the restaurant recalled a mish-mash of every other Chinese restaurant I had ever been to, whether at home in the States or during my two years in China. Middle-aged waiters dressed like penguins, stern-faced and very quick with movements. Knick Knacks of gold and red adorning the walls. Walls covered with framed photographs, of people who were presumeably owners or investors or perhaps just waitstaff, shaking hands and getting chummy with politicians and movie stars – definitely more the former than the latter, we are in DC after all. A matronly hostess, acknowledging our presence but somehow managing to make us feel ignored, belittled, and having to pay her respect just to get a table, even though we did have reservations. Adventure Task Number Four: Get the hostess’ attention!

Because we have a 6pm reservation, we’re one of the first ones to arrive. We are shown our seats through the maze of a restaurant (though all walls of the maze are filled with decor and picture frames) and then given menus the size of the Declaration of Independence. Adventure Task Number Five: Ordering Food from a Giant Menu. Flipping through, I come to a happy realization that I am now in the Virginia suburbs, which might as well have been a mini China in-itself, and can finally feast on great Chinese Food again. Because Chinese Food has a bad rap, it has many many bad imitations, and good Chinese Food is truly something angels could possibly sing about.

peking gourmet-duck

I happily chirp in with my suggestions (Family Style Tofu!! Sauteed Garlic Sprouts!!!) and we agree on a handful of dishes as well as two orders of Peking Duck for the five of us. That’s almost one duck between me and my friend, but who’s counting? After all, at a place like Peking Duck Gourment Inn, you cannot miss the duck, and ordering one just seemed silly.

The duck was brought out and carved tableside, breasts gleaming and oozing with oil each time the expertly-wielded machete made its way into the meat. Skin and Meat were grouped alongside each other on a porcelain dish, with the fat scraped and patted down between carving.

Each dish that came to our table was served to us in a manner as if we were either children incapable of serving ourselves, or else we were high kings in an ancient court. Either way, we were just shy of being spoonfed our first bites. Waiter rolled our first peking duck pancakes for us. They spooned our veggies onto our plates. They poured our tea. Our head waiter would come up to us in between bites, leaning in very closely to ask, “It’s good, yes?”

We would reply, “Mmmmm, yes!”

And he would say, feigning a very convincing surprised, “Thank you!”

This went on throughout the entire dinner, after every dish was brought out. Adventure Task Number Six: Stuff yourself silly.

peking gourmet-meal


…and, we’re back

Hello from Dar es Salaam! Or, as it’s known around these parts, simply “Dar”. the last two months were very selfishly spent not blogging, packing up, hosting a wedding, and moving across the world. Everything will be given its proper due, and from now on I certainly hope I’ll be blogging as regularly as I was in China.

I did do one very stupid thing, which was to let my camera cord be packed somewhere in the overseas shipment. This means I’m strictly relying on iPhone photos for now – which are few and far between in itself because I often refrain from bringing this six-hundred-dollar piece of device with me wherever I go. However, I hope it’ll bring due justice in letting you all know what I’ve been up to, oh, in the last sixty-some-odd days.