We're getting pretty close to being ready to launch SETT to the (unsuspecting) public. Shooting for mid December, but no later than January no matter what.
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If you're not a blogger, sorry about the clutter of sending you this post. The picture at the top is a panorama I took on Hua Shan. On the right is the cliff walk.
Actually, that reminds me of a quick story. After getting back to Xi'an from Hua Shan, we took a taxi to an Indian restaurant about 20 minutes from the center of the city. Because we were picking up a taxi in such a busy place, we got a little bit ripped off. Instead of using the meter, which would have been about 15 yuan, the guy offered us a flat rate of 30 yuan, which is about $4.50. Okay, fine, better than waiting around and saving a couple bucks.
The taxi was actually this weird cargo van with a seat and a bench in it, both barely bolted into the floor. At one point the driver went over some huge bump and I went flying around, swinging the seat with me.
Anyway, the guy was really friendly and nice. For some reason, whenever I speak Chinese, the Chinese person responding to me speaks at normal speed using normal vocabulary. I don't speak well enough to really have a conversation at that pace, so things deteriorate quickly. The driver, on the other hand, slowed it down for me, so we had a nice little chat on the way to the restaurant.
Getting along well, and undoubtedly happy that we paid the 30 yuan, he gives me a business card. I told him that we're going straight to the train station afterwards, so he says to call and he'll pick us up. I take the card, but sort of expect that we'll just hail a cab.
We sit down, order dinner, and begin waiting for the food to come. On the train ride up I had taught Carl how to play Gin Rummy, so we had an ongoing series running.
"Hey, let's play rummy..."
I reach for my backpack to get my little deck of cards and.... my backpack isn't there. I lift up my jacket. Not there. I look over at Carl, assuming he's playing a prank on me. He's not. I look under the table. Not there.
I remember having my backpack on the way to the taxi, so it must be there! Panic!
But wait... he gave me his card. I frantically call him.
"Wo xiang ni zai ni de che yo wo de bei bao!" (I think you have my backpack in your car!)
".... wo yo! yo!" (I've got it!)
Sweet relief passes over me. I would have had to either buy a new laptop or go back to the US if I lost my laptop. My pictures (and camera) would have been gone. My wardrobe would have been reduced by almost half!
The Indian food, at the time anyway, was some of the best I've ever had. My gastrointestinal system was in full revolt on the train ride back, so I have to dock it a star or so retroactively, but man was it tasty. Mutton and eggplant.
We finished up, called the driver again, and he offered to pick us up for 25 yuan instead of the normal thirty. I guess we'd gone through the traumatic event of me losing my backpack together, so we were friends and I was getting the friend discount.
Reunited with my backpack, we headed to the Xi'an railway station for the last time. I pulled out my wallet and handed him 200 yuan.
"A! Tai duo la!" (What! That's too much!)
In my broken Chinese I explained that it was because he brought my backpack back, and that it was important to me. He refused to take it, so I set it down on the seat next to him. In Chinese he continued to protest, and suggested that I give him one US dollar instead, as a souvenir. I gave him that, too, but refused to take the money back.
As I crawled out of the taxibus with a smile on my face, he realized I was going to insist he kept the money. He thanked me and said to call any time I was in Xi'an. As far as I'm concerned, that was about as cheap as I could possibly get off on such a dumb mistake. A less scrupulous taxi driver could have easily sold my stuff for a lot more money.
This weekend I'm going to Wuyi, where the best Oolong tea in the world comes from! The Chinese train system is amazing for overnight trains. It's about $20 for a pretty comfortable bed, and the schedule works out so that we can get there at 6am and leave again at 10pm on another overnight train.