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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #14 - 12.18.2004
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"so, what about dog? do you eat that?"

we were talking culture, talking history, talking food
in kunming, china.

"i like it," said xiong, "it's delicious. have you
been to the night market yet?"

"no i haven't. they have dog there?"

"yes. i'll take you there when we finish up here."

here was in a foreign language school. i was in a
room with about 50 residents of kunming and about 7
english speakers, each of whom was surrounded by about
7 or 8 chinese - i had volunteered for 2 hours to sit
around and speak english with locals to help them
improve their conversation skills. i had 7 people
circled around me drinking tea at the small table
while i drank warm, flat, beer. several of my
"students" were too shy to talk much so i concentrated
on my conversation with andy, annie, and helen.

wait, i thought they were chinese you say? they were,
but when they want to interact with english speakers,
especially in the workplace or if they study english
in school, they give themselves english names. so
xiong = andy. helen even gave herself an english last
name: carpenter. why? because she likes working with
wood. true.

"are you sure they are going to have dog at this
market?" i asked.

"oh yes," said andy from the driver's seat. "they
have nothing BUT dog at this market."

i turned my head and looked out the passenger window
at my youth hostel. dog. i'm going to eat dog
tonight, i thought. we were in andy's car waiting for
annie.

"if i'm eating dog i have to have a picture of it," i
said as i reached for the door handle. "i'm going to
get my camera."

"i'll be right here. don't hurry. take your time,"
said andy as i closed the door behind me. so polite.
love the chinese.

the tables were very low, the stools dirty, the air
cool, the stands displaying the meat had red umbrellas
above them, a man chopped the meat into thin, long
pieces on a greasy wooden block there on the street,
the soup and noodles bubbled in a large battered
silver cauldron. i was about to eat dog. it was all
happening quickly. should i have asked that first
question? the one that started this update?

bam. me first. feed the foreignor, our guest, first.
that was me. the only foreignor here, amongst the 7
or 8 stands serving dog in the streets between tall
brick buildings, nearby broken old shacks with
homeless people lying in them. garbage. andy's car
parked across the street. five people preparing our
meal, the other 3 bowls, one for andy, one for helen,
one for annie. mine steaming in front of me. green
leaves, white noodles, and a pile of brown meat, dog.
chopsticks handed to me, i unwrapped, rubbed them
together to remove splinters, situated them into my
right hand in my unique style and pinched a piece of
the hot, steaming meat and lifted it from the gray
soup. picture please annie, attached below.

it took me 5 minutes to contemplate it. could i eat
dog? they were looking at me. 3 locals who didn't
know me 3 hours ago, out at 22:30 on a work night,
helping me experience their culture more deeply. i
could eat dog. chopsticks into the mouth. uhhhhh,
ummmm, hey. not too bad. out of my mind, get that
dog out of my mind, hard to do when the sign in front
of your place has a smiling dog on it. picture #3
below.

"have you ever had camel andy?" i thought of my
experience in mongolia. what wouldn't i eat at this
point?

"noooo," he responded like i had just asked him if he
ever had a bite out of his mother's arm.

dog tastes like beef, just like camel did. i saw a
dog running around the next day and felt a rejecting
surge in my stomach but i held it down. dog wasn't
too bad. i just can't believe i ate it, that it even
entered my mind as something to do. 1 year ago i
thought about things like that, that people in foreign
countries ate dogs, and it made me sick. the world
changes you. gimme a pile of snakes! worms! rats!
what else? i'll eat it once.

last i left you i was in shanghai, china celebrating
33 years with marie, camilla, and charlotte from
norway and neil from england. had a great time. neil
and i rented bikes and shot around the crazy shanghai
streets for the afternoon. the girls bought me a pig
stamp (i was born in the year of the pig - 1971) with
my name written on it in english and chinese. mexican
food for dinner and then white russians for dessert.
i went to bed at 7:00 in the morning. great time.

then hong kong, long train ride. dave calkins, very
close pal from the united states was there on business
and we had a great time. 5 nights in a 5 star hotel
made me lose all credibility with my fellow
backpackers. mercedes SUVs whisking me off to country
clubs, drinking mai tais by swimming pools overlooking
the towers of hong kong, 9 course dinners with a
lobster so big it could feed 14 people, all the more
reasons to revoke my international youth hostel
membership. but they took me back when dave left.
the hostel was depressing though after all that
luxury.

spent another week in hong kong. watched the
christmas light shows along the water front, took a
ferry to an outlying island and laid on a beach,
climbed stairs to a giant buddha on a mountain. hong
kong is not china - that is evident as soon as you get
off the train. so many more cultures, so much more
western influence, so much more expensive.

i wanted to stow away on a merchant ship to get to
vietnam but i was told there is a massive refugee
problem from vietnam to hong kong so boats no longer
sail between the countries, so i saw that as an
opportunity to ride a motorcycle to thailand, but that
was impossible also, so i got another chinese visa and
headed back in on the train. can't fly. won't fly.
seeing it all from the ground.

i made it to guangzhou, china, formerly known as
canton and spent 4 nights there. on the 3rd day
stephanie flew in from xiamen, china and we spent a
couple nights enjoying the town and each other's
company. night cruise on the river, took a chairlift
to the top of white cloud mountain and explored the
gardens up there. she flew back to xiamen after a
couple days, back to work, and i made my way to
kunming, china where i could get a visa to laos. no
work for me.

from kunming i made my way here, and by here i mean
luang prabang, laos. the country of laos is making an
incredible impression on me and i look forward to 9
days here before meeting my sister debra in bangkok,
thailand for christmas and new year's.

so there you have it. have yourself a merry little
christmas, a happy hanukah, and a fantastic new year.
i'll be celebrating the above on a beach in thailand,
from where i will think of you and wish you the best
in the coming new year.

i gotta go climb on my motorcycle now (picture #4 - me
in luang prabang, laos) and ride through the palm
covered mountains which poke out of the oceans of
clouds in this mystical land. a tip of my cowboy hat
to you as i continue the most amazing adventure of my
life.

keep on keepin' on,
michael

more photos, updates, and random thoughts at
www.michaelkivisto.com

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