Liebster Award

A few days ago I had the surprise to be nominated for a Liebster Award by a fantastic couple of friends met in Mongolia. Two joyful, simple and authentic people that I saw again here in Beijing. You can discover them on their awesome blog lemondeadeux.com (in French). They tell their experiences around the world for almost a year now: an interesting mix of adventure, volunteering and privileged contacts with locals.

More concretely, the Liebster Award is a kind of chain between bloggers to promote young blogs, publicize and share their favorites. A nice way to discover great people, texts and pictures.

So here we go:

THE RULES

  • Thank the one who has been nominated by inserting the link of his blog;
  • Tell 11 stories about yourself;
  • Answer the 11 questions that were given to you;
  • Nominate and insert the links from 5 to 11 blogs that have less than 200 subscribers, informing them of the nomination;
  • Give them 11 new questions to answer;
  • Inform the blog that you have accomplished the task.

11 FACTS ABOUT ME

  1. Every time I finish reading a book, I leave it where I finished it. On the table of a café, on a train bench, on the couch of a hostel, on the concrete of a port… Hoping someone passes by and, grabs it and begins a new story(I am so romantic, I know)!
  2. Over the years, I developed three big dreams: (in order) travel in Mongolia, travel around the world and travel to Turkey. Check, check (in progress …) and check.
  3. I can eat sweeter than anyone I know. In fact, I can probably eat more than anyone, period.
  4. I once slept illegally in a hostel.
  5. There is a brown spot in the blue of my right eye.
  6. I consider that working with locals is by far the best way to experience a culture, that is to say to travel.
  7. I love the band Bon Jovi.
  8. I have – and will probably have all my life – molded orthotics in my shoes because I have flat feet. When the doctor gave them to me, I thought I understood that I would be less resistant when walking/running.
  9. I do not like and never drink coffee (let me remind you that I still managed to get a university degree!).
  10. I lost two cameras, four SD cards (totaling exactly 100 GB, but almost unused), three USB drives full of photos, a passport, two credit cards, $ 300 cash, a pair of socks, a t- shirt, a rain cover for my backpack, two forks, two spoons, a plate, a penknife. And I got my iPod stolen.
  11. I regret very little.

MY ANSWERS

  1. The dish you liked the most and in which country?

I hesitate to choose between Italy and Turkey for the most appetizing and comprehensive cuisine. Forced to pick one, I would go for the Turkish cuisine, because of its amazing desserts. An authentic baklava is definitely what comes closest to divine intervention in this world.

  1. What is the hardest thing for you when traveling?

To leave people. This is a recurring theme in my texts and there is a good reason behind that. If the farewell is for me the most difficult part of a trip, it’s also one of the best. It’s a very intense moment, when masks are useless more than ever. A moment where you need to let go of the best that travel has to offer.

  1. Have you ever had the blues and want to go home?

I had the blues, more than once. Strenuous times, each time following very significant farewells, obviously starting with those with Samuel and Francis, and with my friends in Montpellier (all in January 2014). But a desire to go back home? No. I managed to make peace with the idea of ​​returning to Québec somewhere around the end of 2014, but I did not want to. This is why I found myself a job in Beijing a few weeks later.

  1. If you have a phone, what is the smartphone application that serves you the most?

I bought my first cellphone ever in Mongolia, a kind of mini Nokia from the 1800s with an erased the keyboard. I have since traded it for a Chinese smartphone, but I don’t even use 2% of its capacity. Since Spain, however, I have an iPod Touch where I have a handful of applications. I often use to skype and – even more convenient – to call abroad (insurance, banking and credit cards, potential employers, etc.) often on toll-free numbers. In short, with Skype and a Wi-Fi network, an iPod becomes a very affordable mobile phone (I have only spent $ 4.48 in over a year)!

  1. The worst toilets you experienced?

Oh god. Ok here’s the story:

I am in a night bus between the Mongolian border and Beijing. We arrive in Beijing at 4:00 am and as usual – for buses arriving during the night – the driver let the passengers sleep on the bus until morning. Except I had my first Chinese meal for dinner and now, well… it wants out.

Now.

I keep my buttocks tight and finally find a way of mimicking my request for “WHERE ARE THE DAMN TOILETS IN THIS CHINESE TERMINUS?! ” The driver points to a dark building, showing me to take the left, then right, and then made a couple of incomprehensible signs with his hands while giving me instructions in Mandarin. I head to the building he showed me, spot the bathroom door and find myself in front of a work of art.

Many of them, actually.

Do you know what is a Turkish toilet? A hole in the ground above which one squats to empty his bowels? Well this time there were five beautiful holes. Abandoned. Full to the brim. My analysis of the situation – extremely quick given my condition – could be summarized by: which of the five holes has smallest pile on it?

It was almost artistic to see the colored strata in the tiny mountain; it reminded me of the different types of sedimentary rocks we learn at school, with fossils and everything. With an atmosphere of mini Chinese public toilet that hasn’t been cleaned since Mao’s death, it was lovely.

In short, the most beautiful of all this is that between the holes there were no walls. Nothing. So the gentleman who came in 30 seconds after me, who could have been nice enough to take the farthest hole from mine (but obviously did not), was definitely creating an awkward situation with our naked butts in the air over our respective pile of shit.

  1. What is the most beautiful scenery you have seen?

There are many of them. Apart from all those on the Lycian Way and in Cappadocia, one that marked me forever is in Georgia. After an eleven hour hike, after crossing a freezing cold river on horseback with the generosity of three Georgians hunters and after fighting against a mountainside and an impenetrable jungle, I found myself on a sublime ridge. There was no space left on my camera’s memory card, but I still managed to photograph the view  both from the inside of the tent and from the ridge, with my tent and the nearby glacier. A memorable evening.

Géorgie

Géorgie

  1. What is the most beautiful exchange you had with a local?

Teaching English in China gives me absolutely adorable moments with my little students almost every day. Those who are sad to lose me as a teacher when their schedule is no longer compatible with mine, those who come to jump on me at my desk, those who give me a kiss on the hair because it’s “yellow” and those adopting my every expressions. Those who make me laugh, and when I can make them laugh too. It’s such a beautiful experience. For a more specific example, I would say the Turkish funeral which I joined on the Lycian Way. The host – who had just lost his father – his family and close friends really made me feel like one of their own, despite a thousand generational, linguistic and religious differences.

  1. What was your most embarrassing moment?

So I’m with a French guy and two Australians in the Mongolian steppe. On day, we are lucky enough to enjoy the “very limited Mongolian cuisine” offered by a family: fermented mare’s milk, mare’s milk cheese, mare’s milk biscuits, hot yogurt mare’s milk, mare’s milk vodka. In short, our stomachs get “out of their comfort zone” like hell. We are then welcome to stay in the yurt for the night. We sleep on the ground near the stove, as in every classic central Mongolian yurt. I’m drowsy, but I suddenly wake up and sit up in my sleeping bag. I cough a little and bits of vomit spread over my stuff. I get up in a hurry, head to the door but I can’t help it: everything comes out in the entrance. Lovely.

I take some toilet paper to wipe my face and my clothes; I open the stove’s door and throw the paper into the fire. At the same time – but a split second too late – two Mongols cry: “No no no no no! “

Oops …

The fire in the center of the Mongolian yurt is… how can I put it? Well, it is sacred. So no paper, no waste goes in. Especially not toilet paper full of vomit.

HOW TO INTEGRATE A NEW CULTURE 101, heh?

  1. What is the thing you’ve done while traveling which you are most proud of?

Beside some cultural blunders from time to time, I often wonder about the impressions that I leave here and there to those I really get to meet. On how I am perceived, sometimes identified as an “ambassador” of Quebec, Canada, a globetrotter, a Westerner. As someone who comes, benefits, enjoys and leaves. I am extremely influenced and touched by the people I meet and what they can bring me (in terms of experiences and relationships), but I’m never sure what I have to offer in return. What I’m most proud of, even though it might sound cheesy, is probably all those moments and meetings when the appreciation was mutual. When I managed to offer a little something, a memory perhaps, in return.

This idea, that might seem rather vague, struck me shortly after my arrival in China: for the third time in only two weeks, someone expressed a very sincere esteem for me. The first of these three people, in Mongolia, was pointing my heart when saying:

“You have something good right there. Don’t lose it. “

Of course, I could certainly list some achievements that made me very proud for the sweat and determination that I have invested in them, but nothing can match the impression that somehow, I did things right. It tells me that I don’t travel only to take and learn, but I can also to give and teach.

And that’s way enough to make me happy and proud.

  1. What is the mistake you will not do make again?

To accept the invitation of three Polish riders (in their early forties) to join them and celebrate/drink vodka to their last evening in Georgia. Actually, my mistake was mainly to try to keep up with them. And to succeed.

  1. The three best photos you made during your travels?

The first is in Cappadocia, Turkey, and it may not be obvious to notice everything that the image contains. In the wilderness, we see here and there (especially to the right until out of the picture) the pink and unique rock formations of Cappadocia that make it one of my favorite places on Earth. They look small, because my tent (and trail) is on a ridge that plunges into the valley. To this and the gorgeous sunset you must add the ancient city visible in the distance on the left (above my tent), carved into the cliff by Christians fleeing Muslim invasion in the region a thousand years ago. In short, this one is much more than a simple sunset.

1

The second is just beautiful, since my little compact camera is incredibly slow, limiting and simply anti-creativity. This is one of the major Buddhist temples of the Mongolian capital.

Mongolie

The third also requires a minimum of context. Towards the end of my third day hiking in the Svaneti region of Georgia, I arrived at a small village, pitched my tent and headed to the river to wash. While noting the pure freedom I am experiencing at this very moment, I decided to immortalize it. But one detail you should know: my camera has run out of batteries! I turn it on, put it on a rock, hoping it does not slip into the river, quickly put a 10 second countdown and go back to wash.

The camera turned off. I finished washing. A few hours later, I managed to turn it on again to find that one picture:

2

I NOMINATE:

Unfortunately I only know very, very few blogs. Especially young and active blogs. So I will limit myself to one that really seems relevant / interesting / appropriate:

Cyclovent: a couple of friends met in the Transiberian train while they were in the middle of an epic journey, cycling between France and Mongolia. Adventurers, warriors, travelers, campers, hikers, cyclists and thinkers to discover! You can follow their blog, and especially their Facebook page regularly updated.

So for Delphine and Simon, I ask these 11 questions to answer – separately if necessary -when you please:

  1. What is the most beautiful hike you have done in terms of landscape and nature?
  2. Where did you feel the most disoriented, away from your home and culture?
  3. Have you ever feared for your life while traveling?
  4. You who have traveled on foot and by bicycle, what do you like from one way of traveling that the other does not offer?
  5. What is the mistake you will not make again?
  6. What is the most beautiful exchange that you had with a local?
  7. You must settle for good in a country outside of Western Europe. Which on do you choose?
  8. What is the hardest thing for you while traveling?
  9. What did you discover in the other while traveling (habit, trait, quality, default, etc.)?
  10. How do you deal with foreign languages?
  11. What did traveling brought you (or taught you) that you could not find elsewhere?

Finally, although I cannot nominate it, I invite you once again to discover Aline and Guillaume’s blog on lemondeadeux.com!

Alexandre

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