Sam's Trip to China

Two years of college Chinese was not enough 😅

Poon Hill Trail [4/4]

27 October ’20

You are awakened by your alarm just before sunrise.

[+30 exhaustion]

You can:
1. Go back to bed
2. Get up and enjoy the sunrise

We’re not missing two sunrises damnit! Besides, this one doesn’t require an hour long hike, just requires walking out the door.


Poon Hill Trail [3/4]

11 October ’20

You wake up to your 4:30 AM alarm.

[+30 exhastion]

It's pitch black both inside and outside. As your bleary senses open up you process the sound of pitter patter on the roof: rain.

[-50 motivation]

[1.5 hours till sunrise]
You can:
1. Get up and prepare to set out for Poon Hill
2. Go back to bed

Poon Hill Trail [2/4]

27 September ’20

You groggily awake to your alarm.

Poon Hill Trail [1/4]

13 September ’20

Welcome to Poon Hill Trail!

Start new game [yes/no] ?

> yes

You find yourself in the middle of Nepal, just south of the Annapurna protected region, in the city of Pokhara. Prepare well, for the Poon Hill hike is not for faint of feet!

Adventure awaits!


8 June ’20

He awoke to the four am gong. Feelings of grogginess were quickly replaced by excitement and apprehension as he hopped out of bed and began preparing for the four thirty am meditation. The first sit of the day was two hours, two of the ten hours they would sit each day. And today was the first of the ten days. Ten days of ten hours a day would be one hundred hours - equal to three hundred days of meditating twenty minutes a day. “Much more efficient” he thought to himself as he plugged his fitbit in to charge for a couple of minutes.


30 Hours to Kathmandu

6 May ’20

“Look I’m telling you” Max warned “we can’t take the general sleeper class car. I had a guy show me a video he took while traveling in one of those and it looked completely miserable - the pervading background noise was one of human moaning and misery.”


The Warzone of India

9 April ’20

I woke to the pitch black of my windowless room, the AC rattling along, doing it’s best to fight the oppressive Asian subcontinental heat. Rubbing my eyes I checked the time - 9:30. Turning on the lights and picking up the bedside phone I ordered something tasty sounding off the breakfast menu. I dressed and the food arrived along with the absolute delicacy that is masala chai tea. I sat and ate, enjoying the precious few moments of peace I would be getting that day. Then, I prepared for war.


Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

8 March ’20

My Chinese last name is “马”. It’s a common last name, often used by Muslim-Chinese, and it’s literal meaning is “horse”. My first year Chinese teacher picked it our for me because it’s an approximate transliteration; the character is pronounced “mah” kind of like the first syllable of “Maynard”.


Hong Kong

16 November ’19

I was actually in Hong Kong for one of the protests, I just didn’t realize it. One of the earlier ones, before they became riots. My dad and my brother Maxwell arrived a few days after that.


A Year in China

28 October ’19

On October 28th, 2018, exactly one year ago, I stepped off a 14 hour flight from Washington DC to Beijing. The very start of Sam’s Trip to China! I had been talking about this, planning for this, applying for documents for this and dreaming about this for the past two years. I walked down the terminal grinning ear to ear as I delightedly tried to read all the Chinese. I had made it!


Korea Again ??

26 October ’19

Hello friends and family! It’s been a while 😅 I’ve been too busy traveling to write about my travels - first around China with my family, then to India with my brother, then to Nepal for a 10 day meditation retreat. All will be expounded upon in further detail post by post - but first! An appetizer 😁 I took another trip to Korea to meet up with my close college friend Paul Choi - in our very first semester of college we were pair programming partners, a bond that can never be broken. He brought a friend as well, Kimberly.


Why are Chinese Apps So Annoying?

1 July ’19

微博 (weibo, the Chinese Twitter), will send me eight notifications about new posts on accounts that I don’t follow when I open the app. I’m already on the app, what is the point of sending me notifications? Annoying.



6 June ’19

Living in Beijing is incredibly convenient.



25 May ’19

All good things must come to an end. On April 29th I had my last day at Microsoft Research Asia. My team took me out to a nice restaurant nearby and told me they thought my Mandarin had improved greatly over these six months. I formatted my computer, received my certificate of completion, packed up my things, and the next day I got on a flight. I had a great time here and am sad to be leaving Asia…


SamInChina Presents: Navigating a Hospital

7 April ’19

Something in this city is killing me. I’m tired all the time. I sleep from midnight to ten every day, and yet when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror there are still dark circles under my eyes. I have a couple of hypotheses. The first is that exposure to my second language all day every day tires me out. If I knew zero Chinese my brain would just filter it all out, but since I’m learning the language it’s always processing bits and pieces that I come across. The second is the pollution. I didn’t know this before coming to Beijing, but apparently air pollution makes you tired. Doesn’t seem to have an effect on the natives though 😂 The third is the food. When I’ve told some friends about my exhaustion the first thing they all pointed to was the food - after all the staples are rice and noodles. Beijing in particular, they say, tends to load meals with oil and sugar.


客随主便 (kesuizhubian) "A guest should suit the convenience of the host"

11 March ’19

A month ago or so (yeah it’s been a while, so this post is longer) was 春节 (chunjie “Spring Festival”). 春节 is one of the most important holidays in China and almost everyone returns to their parent’s homes in the countryside. Big cities like Beijing nearly become ghost towns. It’s a week of fireworks, 白酒 (baijiu “white wine” but it’s actually a really strong liquor), 麻将 (majiang “mahjong”), big feasts, and spending time with loved ones. It’s an exciting occasion - for everyone except the foreigners. Most of the other foreigners I talked to had planned vacations in other countries during the festival. So I was left alone in Beijing, a poor foreign boy whose friends had all gone home and whose favorite places to eat are were all closed.


The Great 福 Hunt

11 February ’19

This past week has been 春节 (chunjie “Spring Festival”), also known as the Lunar New Year (although it’s technically a lunisolar calendar) or the Chinese New Year (although it’s celebrated in several other Asian countries as well). But this post is not about 春节. This post is about the largest mobile game in the world.


Korean Kristmas

5 January ’19

China doesn’t actually celebrate Christmas (圣诞节 shengdanjie “Jesus’ Birthday”). Lights are hung up, Christmas songs are played, fake Christmas trees are erected… but on the 25th of December everyone still goes to work.


錢可通神 (qianketongshen) "With money you can reach God"

9 December ’18

The value of a dollar is a funny thing. In high school the value crashed, toppled by the thrill of being able to spend my money how I wanted. I spent hundreds of dollars on videogames I still haven’t played (steam sales pushed my psychological buttons to a breaking point), a hundred plus dollars on (I am embarrassed to admit) League of Legends skins, a $250 bow that I barely used, and of course countless snacks and drinks that I bought for no better reason than “because I could.”


双十一 (shuangshiyi) "Single's Day"

23 November ’18

China doesn’t actually have too many holidays. There are two big ones: 春节 (chunjie) “Spring Festival” or Chinese New Year, and 国庆节 (guoqingjie) “National Day” are the two bigs ones. Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar so it shifts around, but it’s around January or February every year. Both of these holidays let off for an entire week and, especially during Chinese New Year, everything comes to a halt. Shops and restaurants are not open, so I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to eat when the festival rolls around…


水土不服 (shuitubufu)

12 November ’18

Chinese people have a vast array of four character expressions that are very similar to our idioms in English. The literal translation of 水土不服 (shuitubufu) is “the earth and water are not familiar”, and the meaning of this idiom (they are called 成语, chengyu) is “being unaccustomed to one’s environment”. It is also an officially diagnosable cause of illness in traditional Chinese medicine.


China 101

5 November ’18

In retrospect, I was not prepared.



25 October ’18

I’ll admit that my younger brother beat me to it. After just one year of college he registered a gap year, threw a mattress in the back of Mom’s old VW Station Wagon, and hit the road. He spent the fall meandering from Maryland to Los Angeles, sleeping in Walmart parking lots. In the spring he continued, going from Los Angeles up to Quebec, over to Vancouver, and finally back down to UCLA. He loved it.