the big TIC giveaway

the time has come, dear readers, for a giveaway.

i’ve never done a giveaway on my blog before, but we are rapidly approaching the 1-year birthday of “this is china” and, well, shucks, i’d like to celebrate. it was, in fact, june 24 of 2009 that ‘this is china’ officially released to the world and it has been a good year – a year of learning, of growing and of a few small sales. in my world, a very exciting year indeed. Continue reading “the big TIC giveaway”


on squat toilets…

thanks to the folks over at, i’ve been inspired to revisit a blog i wrote a little less than a year ago. sadly, it died in the conversion between my old iWeb version of gypsytracks and this shiny new wordpress version. so to commemorate this travel tuesday, in all its glory, i give you the infamous chinese toilet blog.

i’ve written a lot about life in china, but i’ve never blogged about the one thing that is the scariest to most westerners: the squat toilet. of course, in something like 75% of the world’s countries, squatters are the norm and, according to this website, a shocking 30% of the world doesn’t use toilet paper, either. now, i’ve gotten pretty used to using public toilets in china (drink beer + street food = piss where you can get it). i even wrote a section about it in my book to introduce china newbies to using a squatter. Continue reading “on squat toilets…”

traveltuesday photoblog: hooters in china

this most awesome of photos was snapped in hooters (yes, the very same) in hangzhou, china before it, sadly, went the way of the dodo bird. there are, in fact, 4 hooters locations in china which make great spots for happy hour specials and hot wings cravings. stacy (left) and i just couldn’t resist getting this photo with the hangzhou hooters girls – a surreal sight indeed.

the ghosts of new year’s past

i am not a huge fan of new year’s eve celebrations. when i was young, and my whole world revolved around one single place and time (then, santa fe), i believed that something magical happened when the clock struck midnight on new year’s eve. i watched dick clark count down the seconds, and then the ball would drop and fireworks would blast off with huge colorful bangs. it was a new moment each year. a way to recharge, renew and start life over. in the life of a teenager, a huge accomplishment.

now, years and miles later, i know better. the illusion of starting anew is just that. because, when the clock strikes midnight in santa fe now, it’s already 1 am in texas, seven hours into the new year in dublin, and china has already seen most of january 1st. so, i don’t take much stock in new year’s. and i don’t make resolutions.

that said, i’ve decided on this new year’s eve, as we delve out of the naughties and into the tens, to recount in photos the only two new year’s celebrations that were in any way memorable for me between 2000 and 2009. Continue reading “the ghosts of new year’s past”

it takes a year to make a travel writer

being the guide in shanghai, april 2009

2009 has been a busy year of traveling, traveling and more traveling. some of it was travel for pleasure, other trips were induced more from need to get away. in fact, in many ways, 2009 was a banister year for me.

‘this is china, a guidebook for teachers, backpackers and other lunatics’ was finally released in july, after a long, unfortunately drawn out contract finally came to a painful demise when my publisher, duffie books, went bust. i got my first real foray into the world of travel writing at sites like the circumference, your 24 and unearthing asia.  this time last year, bill and i were surviving a cold, wet irish winter in our tiny basement flat in rathmines. now we are spending our days writing and computing from a cozy albuquerque apartment. i guess it takes a year to make a travel writer. [tweetmeme] Continue reading “it takes a year to make a travel writer”