Thursday, June 10, 2010

Home Again...

My time in Beijing has come to an end. Two weeks ago, I wrapped up my term papers, packed up my stuff, said goodbye to friends and adopted family, and flew to Hawaii to visit my parents. I leave tomorrow for Fort Collins, where I start up my job as a computer Lab Manager for the College of Liberal Arts and prepare to take on my new role as an RA at the Global Village wing of Braiden Hall.

Having time to relax in Hawaii has given me the chance to kick back and reflect a bit on my time abroad and my plans for the future. But even with all the hammock time in the world and a bottomless glass of lilikoi juice, it feels like I'd need lifetimes to mentally sort out a whole year of life abroad. A few insights rise to the surface, though, and I'll share them on this, the last post of my Charlie in China blog:

1) Go Study Abroad. For people my age reading this blog, I absolutely recommend taking a semester or a full year abroad to study. I've come back to the United States with new perspectives on China, and its people, but I now know more clearly as well what it means to be American. Spending a long time outside of our culture lets you know what you miss, and what you don't, about your cultural background and your home.

2) While you're there, make friends. It almost goes without saying, but the relationships I made (with Chinese and laowai alike) touched me on a level unlike almost anything I've known. Special thanks go to our motley crv (<- Hanyu Pinyin joke, anyone?) at IES: Dana, Audrey, and Drew, thanks for helping make China so memorable in the ways only you three could have made it. It wouldn't have been anywhere near the same without you.

My Chinese friends, too, made my time abroad a wonderful and satisfying one. From my first meal out with Xiao Ye the week I arrived, to Will's dating advice at PBD, to my all-night karoake party with the university International Club, to my months together with Lili; all these memories have, in ways clear and hidden from me, helped make me who I am today.

3) Homestay. My time living with Shushu and the family was undoubtedly the most formative part of my experience abroad, and I strongly recommend anyone studying abroad to live with a local family. Talking over the stove with Shushu, learning the tricks of the Chinese culinary trade, and chatting about anything with him as we sat down to dinner all stand out as treasured memories I'll keep with me a long time. When I think back to the little facets of Chinese culture and the insights about everyday life he brought to the table, I'm overjoyed anew to have called that place my home.


As I process the memories from my year abroad, I now start thinking ahead to what it all means in the greater context of my life. What kind of relationship will China and I have in the years to come? While nothing right now is set in stone, my tentative plan for the time being is this:

I should (hopefully) graduate this coming academic year, in the spring of 2011. That'll put me as a 21-year-old Bachelor of the Liberal Arts with proficient Chinese, zero college debt, and a bad case of wanderlust. What's a guy to do? I'm going back to China to look for work as a translator, teacher, or perhaps an RA at my study abroad program in Beijing, IES. From there, I hope to make myself a career blending my knowledge of Chinese culture and language with my native English ability and my interests in political science and development. But who knows? If China taught me anything, it was that you've got to be ready for change and excitement just around the corner.

This will be my last post on this blog. Thanks to all my readers who checked back to see what I was up to despite my absurdly infrequent posts. Continue to check out my Facebook page as I put up more pictures from my time in China. For those of you in Fort Collins and environs nearby, shoot me an email, give me a call, or hunt me down on campus if you want to hear some stories or just catch up a bit. Best wishes to you all, thanks again for reading, and;

Happy Travels!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Yunnan, Take II

Not that anyone would really have noticed, given how infrequently I've been posting lately, but I leave in two hours for my second pass at China's southwestern province, Yunnan. I went last semester with my school, as well, but we're taking a bit of a different route this time and the group is much, much smaller. Moreover, while last time we were just traveling for the sake of traveling, this time we're actually having class (Tibetan studies) several hours a day while we travel. I'm very, very excited for this trip, and here's why:

The basic itinerary is to fly into the capital, Kunming, at around noon today. That same night, we take a short flight to Zhongdian, a.k.a. Shangri-la. We'll spend the morning wandering around Shangri-la (James Hilton would be so proud), and then take a bus that afternoon to a small Tibetan village and stay there for four days.

It's funny: that village has about 200 people in it, none of whom speak my language, and it's located thousands of miles from home. It seems strange that I should end up there again. I'm looking forward to the experience a lot, though. My Chinese has improved vastly since I was there last, and my knowledge of Tibetan culture and history is much better than it used to be, as well. So hopefully I'll get some more good chats out of our home-stay there.

When we leave the Tibetan village, we take Jeeps up across the border into Sichuan (though, to be fair, it's still ethnically Tibetan; the political boundaries have nothing to do with the situation on the ground). Here's where it gets cool: after we cross the border, we'll take several-day hikes around holy Buddhist mountains and go monastery-hopping. The three mountains we'll be hiking through in particular are actually viewed to be the mountain-y representations of bodhisattvas (Buddhist enlightened human beings who stay on Earth to teach dharma). Cool, cool stuff.

This is going to be a great trip, and the company we have on board is going to be half the fun. It's an energetic, intellectually-stimulating crowd; couldn't have picked 'em better.

When I get back, I'll have a week to finish the semester-long term paper on Chinese internet nationalism I've been working on for months, present before the jury of my peers, then hop on a flight back to the U.S.! I'm going to stop off in Hawaii to spend some time with my folks for two weeks, then I'll be back in Fort Collins to spend the summer making bank and climbing mountains.

Best wishes to all of you back home. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Portrait of Lu

I wanted to dedicate a post to my home-stay family, seeing as they've played such a special role in my time here in Beijing. Specifically, I thought I'd try to paint a picture of my home-stay dad for you all. I've given little tidbits on him before, but he's such a great character that I would feel amiss if I didn't give you all a complete portrait of the man, the myth, the legend: Lu Chunhua.

He's a man by many different titles. To me, he's Shushu (uncle); to my home-stay sister, he's Ba (dad); and to everyone else, he's simply Lu Shifu (Master Lu). He works as a fix-it at the West Campus facilities department, specializing in electrical work. His office sits right next to the building where I take all my classes, so not only do I often have a chance to see him when I'm on a break from classes, but he's become something of a legend among my colleagues: he has a great habit of intercepting students on their way to class and asking them questions in his thick Beijing accent. While most don't understand him, they universally come away with an awesome impression of the guy.

My (real) dad can attest to this. When my parents came to visit last February, my dad got to meet with Shushu with me serving as translator. For the most part, I wasn't even needed. Shushu came right up and tugged on my Dad's jacket with the classic Chinese line, "天气冷!你应该多穿一点儿!", which means, "It's cold! You ought to wear more!" While this comes across strange translated, it really is a sign that the speaker cares about you and your health. He doesn't want you to catch a cold, don't you know. Shushu proceeded to launch into stories about my life in the apartment, cool sights near the university, and every bus route you could take to get there. I struggled to get across a lot of what he said, but the exuberant mood and good-natured humor he showed that day is a true snapshot of my daily life here.

Life for him is relatively routine. He gets up at 6:30 each morning to take the dog for a slow morning jog around campus, comes back, washes up, goes to the cafeteria for a breakfast of rice porridge, a pork dumpling and a hard-boiled egg, and starts work by 8 am. That night, he usually finds me already home, studying, and I call out, "叔叔,你回来了吗?" (Uncle, are you back?), to which he yells back a hearty, "回来咯!" (I'm back!). It seems like a bit of an overly-obvious question, but it really is a part of Chinese culture. These 'canned' phrases are a deeply ingrained part of everyday parlance, and I never, ever tire of it.

He walks the dog, and when he gets back, we make dinner. When it's done, we sit in front of the TV, watching the nation-wide broadcast state news, talking about whatever comes to mind; from politics to public parks, from the million varieties of Chinese vegetables to the students he's chatted up on their way to class. As the meal wraps up, he inevitably asks the question: "你吃饱了吗?" (You full?), to which I can honestly reply, "撑死了" (I'm stuffed). Same routine for the last six months, and I love it.

That he lives his life so simply hides what a remarkable facet of China he really is. He lived through the Cultural Revolution, when at 19 years old he was sent down to a communal farm north of Beijing to labor for a year. He's lived through China's economic 180 through the '80s, and made off OK from it: he got a stable, low-stress job, a good apartment, and a outward sense of fulfillment with how things are.

He represents, too, a piece of Beijing that goes under the radar for many Westerners living here. He raises songbirds, a truly classic Beijinger pastime that goes back to the Imperial days. With an accent thick as , he's capable of a salty sense of humor, using words I will likely never hear my predominantly-female Chinese teachers say out loud. But most of all, he lives with a quiet vigor and compassion that I straight-up admire. He's a good guy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I've been back in Beijing from our trip to Tianjin for about a week now (pictures are up!), and it's been busy. Our semester is broken up into three 'blocks,' and we're coming to the end of one of those blocks in just a couple of days. This means papers and tests are due, and stress is high.

I'm fortunate, then, that Tianjin was such a relaxing and fun mini-vacation from Beijing. Lili and I got to explore a couple of the museums and traditional streets around Tianjin (albeit, at one point, in the middle of one of North China's famous sandstorms), ate some fantastic food, saw this, and had time to hang about and chat. Every day I got to know her a bit better, and I'm ever more conscious of how special she is. Despite having a really modest background in a small town in the dusty plains of northern Anhui, she's always been a bookworm, spending her money as a kid on translated works of Jane Austen instead of buying toys or snacks. Despite going to high school with a mixed urban-rural student body whose city-dweller classmates looked down on those from the countryside, she was elected president of her class. She got her tourism license in a record-setting one month, and is looking forward to finding work as soon as possible.

I learned quite a bit about her family background as well. When I asked her about why she had a problem with Japanese people, despite having a generally liberal and fair worldview of everyone else, she told me how her family was deeply affected by the Japanese invasion during WWII. But despite this, she's tasked me with introducing her to a couple of my Japanese friends in order to get past what she knows is a deeply-ingrained prejudice on her part.

It's clear, too, that she's an anomaly among her peers. She's not planning on getting married until her late twenties or later, valuing her career and life plans over finding a husband. In contrast, her younger brother, nineteen years old, just found a fiancée and will be getting married next Spring Festival. While I put no judgement either way, it does speak to the fact that she's already set out on a very different path from those back home.

And on a more personal note, during this trip together I learned that not only was I her first foreign boyfriend, I was actually the first foreigner she ever met.

But good things, as they say, must come to an end. She's decided that Beijing isn't the place to look for work right now, and she's decided to head south to Guangdong to try her luck there. I'm guessing that part of the reason she sprung this trip to Tianjin on me so suddenly was that she knew she'd be leaving in not too long. While it's too bad we won't be spending my last month or two in Beijing together, I'm excited for her prospects in southern China. In a way, I think she's making this move to go exploring; she still feels that she hasn't seen nearly enough of her mother country. I can't speak to the state of the job market down south, but I can only wish her the best, knowing she'll succeed by sheer force of will and her cheerful, good spirit.

And while I'm going to be seeing much less of Lili in not too long, I'm already starting to find other ways to fill the social vacuum that will open up when she's gone. I spent the last two evenings hanging out with a couple Chinese buddies of mine that I met last semester, Will and Tony. Hanging out in a locally-run pizza bar on the edge of campus, we talked about what is only natural given our age and gender: American gun laws, beer, and World of Warcraft. Some things, it seems, transcend cultural differences entirely.

As for what else has been running through my mind lately, the biggest concern floating about is, not surprisingly, about going home. Just over two months remain in my time here, and my feelings are really mixed. On one hand, going home is going to give me the opportunity to let me pick life back up where it left off back in Fort Collins; I'll see old friends that I haven't see for nine months or more, I may have a nice spot lined up in the CSU dorms as an RA, and I'll get to take some great classes back at CSU. But on the other hand, my identity has been become deeply tied up in my experience in China. Here, I can wake up each day and answer the question, "Why am I here?" with the simple and satisfying answer, "To learn Chinese." (I usually avoid the natural extension of that question, "Why are you learning Chinese?" Answer: TBA). But, really, having that sense of purpose each day, and reaping immediate, tangible rewards from learning each new character is extremely gratifying.

When I go back to the United States, I fear that in some way, I'll return to that same feeling of disorientation I dealt with my freshman year. But another part of me assures me that my experience here will stick, that I'll find a way to intergrate it into my new life back at CSU, and I'll be all the more prepared for graduation looming just over a year away.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I'm well back from my trip to Hangzhou and Nanjing with my class, and pictures are posted on Facebook. Overall, it was a pleasant, uneventful trip. I'd already visited most of the sites we visited in Nanjing, but Hangzhou was totally new to me. The West Lake, perhaps the most famous, most written-about lake in China, sits right in the center of the city, so we got the chance to take a nice evening walk around the lake and a brisk morning bike ride across the elaborately decorated causeways that span across it.

We also had the chance to take a hilly hike through the tea fields in the highlands above the lake. These fields produce some of the finest tea in China, though unfortunately we came before the picking season had arrived, so we only got to try the year-old stuff. Still very good though; I can see why it garners so much attention from those with a real taste for the stuff.

We were fortunate enough to have the Chinese lantern festival fall during our stay in Nanjing. People celebrate this lunar calendar holiday by crafting mini-hot air balloons out of paper on which they've written their wishes for the new year. Then they light a candle suspended within and let them fly away. We saw relatively few of those floating about, but they still made a pretty surreal scene. The (perhaps less traditional) but far more in-your-face event of the evening was the series of stalls and activities near the Confucian temple at the center of the old town. Stalls were everywhere selling ice cream, roasted mutton, congealed duck blood, fried doughy cakes, and candied hawthorne berries (糖葫芦). Combine that with the mad consumer flair to the scene (nearly everyone is wearing a pair of light-up teddy-bear ears, devil horns, or some other flashy five kuai bling), and you're in for a good time. As a case in point, my buddy bought this sick hat. It doesn't get much better than that right there, folks.

As for nowadays, things have been going exceptionally smoothly. Everyday I wake up at around 6:30 or 7:00 and take a light breakfast of dumplings, rice porridge, and a hard boiled egg at the cafeteria while studying my characters. My literature class of four students and one professor starts up at 9:30 and goes until lunch. At 1:30, our Chinese class of five students and one delightful Chinese teacher meets for two hours. After that, the day is mine! I study, I hang out with Lili (we watched the film 'To Live', 活着, the other day, and I can't recommend it enough), and make dinner with Shushu. Not bad at all.

It's funny that living here in Beijing has in some ways become mundane. That's not at all a bad thing, though. Living here really feels like living here; I have deep-rooted relationships with people here, a family that looks out for me, and classes I find very satisfying. And since my parents have moved out of my hometown, and I don't have a permanent address back in Fort Collins, I might as well call Beijing home. I like that.

Next weekend, it looks like Lili and I are headed out to Tianjin, a large city about an hour-and-a-half outside of Beijing by train. It's supposed to have some cool colonial architecture which sounds worth checking out. But, to be honest, I'm more relishing the opportunity to go traveling with Lili. She gets to practice her tour guide thing (sidenote: she has officially received her tourism permit, which is great for her work prospects!) and I'll have a guide and a friend to haul me around to see the cool sights and give me some perspective. And it's a great excuse to share some good memories. I can't wait.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spring Festival

Looks like the fifteen days or so of mad partying around Beijing have just about come to a close. Spring Festival truly was a sight to behold: half the city was completely shut down, as the out-of-towners that keep Beijing alive surged home to spend the holiday with their family. The other half, however, was a vibrant, loud, and upbeat scene that kept us entertained for weeks.

The highlight of these last two weeks was spending New Years Eve and the following day at Nai Nai's (grandma's) house with the rest of the family. There was eating, drinking, wrapping dumplings, and watching the terribly cheesy CCTV-1 'New Year's Party' (which featured comedy acts, magic tricks, and dancing minorities... eh...)

Really though, the way the Chinese celebrate their New Year is great. You spend all of New Years Eve preparing dinner for that night, then you stuff yourself with as much hotpot, century eggs, sausage, eggplant, fruit, and shrimp as you can. You proceed to roll yourself over to the couch, and just hang out with the family, watch television and chew the fat with the old folks. That evening, I got to know Shushu's family even better, and I've taken a real shine to all of them, particularly Grandma and Shushu's younger brother.

As it nears midnight, the fireworks and firecrackers that have been going off since 9am start to increase in intensity. Shushu and I headed outside to watch the action, and it was absolutely unbelievable. Each city block had a fireworks show that would have rivaled a small American town on Independence Day. Our housing block was particularly fortunate; our well-off neighbor busted 20,000 kuai (yeah, that's almost $3,000 American) on fireworks alone. At any one time, they had three large cases of fireworks going off at a time, sending sparks raining down onto parked cars and the foreheads of awe-struck passersby. It was absolutely incredible. I took video, but so far my ability to upload it onto Facebook has been met with little success. We'll see how it goes.

Around 1:00am, Shushu and I headed back to Nai Nai's house and spent the night there. We made a lazy day of it when we woke up the next morning, mostly wrapping dumplings, boiling dumplings, and then eating said dumplings. Still stuffed from the night before, I did my best and managed to pack away fifteen of them. Seeing this, Shushu said (as any good Chinese father would) "Zhong Shu! You didn't eat very much. Have some more." When I protested politely, saying I was already stuffed, he jokingly scoffed: "Fifteen?! I need to have at least thirty before I'm full!" That man's a champ, he is.

The whole family came back for dinner again that night, where we tucked into a big vat of hot-pot. For those who haven't had it, 'hot-pot' is where you throw lamb meat and myriad vegetables into a pot of boiling broth, then take it out and eat when it's just cooked through. I got some great pictures from this dinner, including one with me and Nai Nai shoulder-in-shoulder toasting the table.

Outside of family events, Beijing has a lot to offer during this season. The weather's just started to warm up a bit, so people flood out en masse to enjoy the festivities of the Temple Fairs scattered around the city. I ended up going twice; once with my classmates and once alone. We got to sample Beijing snacks, which included enormous sticks of roasted mutton, sweetened soybean juice, imitation fried tripe, and all sorts of sweets. It was also an excellent people-watching opportunity; I only wish I could have counted the number of normally expressionless Chinese businessmen now sporting ridiculous hats and other Temple Fair kitsch. The pictures on Facebook will mostly speak for themselves, with the exception of the following story:

I've always wanted to see the Chinese traditional puppet acts, in which very thin, colorful cloth puppets are pressed against a thin white screen from behind the stage. The light from behind the stage (either natural or from a lantern), illuminates the colorful puppets as they traipse around. At one of the Temple Fairs I visited, I happened across one such performance. But, admittedly, it wasn't totally what I expected. Sure, it had the dancing Ming dynasty warrior and well-coiffed beauty, but halfway through the act, a puppetized Michael Jackson appears on stage, hip-thrusting from one end to the other. It was incredible. Add to this the fact that the background music is "Nobody", a bouncy pop song from some South Korean girl band, and you're in for a hilarious event. Moving on from the stage to walk around a bit, I got the feeling that people were really letting their hair down and un-self-consciously having a good time. Not something you see everyday in Beijing.

Pictures from these last couple weeks are already up. If you have a chance, check 'em out here.

As for my plans in the immediate future, I'm headed out with my class to the southern cities of Hangzhou and Nanjing on an extended field trip. We'll be gone until Monday, checking out major museums and factories to get a feel for this area of China a bit. Although I already have been to Nanjing and seen some of the sites we're planning to visit, I'm looking forward to getting back and seeing them once more; Nanjing is a really vibrant, culturally-rich city that warrants more than one visit. Hangzhou (where we're headed to first, by train) is totally new to me. It's even farther south than Nanjing, so the weather looks like it's going to be very nice. As in, highs in the 70's. Can't say no to that.

As always, I'm bringing my camera, and I'll try to get pictures up when I return. Best wishes to all back home and abroad!

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Semester, New Year, New Blog Posts...

I promised a blog post about two weeks ago, and it never came. But I've finally gotten truly settled down in my home-stay again, and we've had a break from orientation activities today, so I figured it was a good time to do some catch up work.

First, the new students for this semester have arrived, and I'm optimistic about almost all of them. For the most part, they seem to be a lively, upbeat and motivated group thats jumped right into the 'China' thing in which they've found themselves. I'm thinking they're going to help make this upcoming semester a pleasant one.

As for a record of my trip, I'm going to post my regular updates as I did before, and include some of my favorite stories as I have time to put them down. I've just gotten too busy to spend the time to put all those stories down on the blog in one blow. I hope you enjoy them.

Last, this weekend marks the Chinese New Year, so I expect to have many stories and pictures when I'm forced back into school on Tuesday. Tomorrow, the plan is to go to one of the many "temple fairs" that take place at the famous temple sites around Beijing. Included will be Peking Opera performances, mutton sticks, Beijing snacks, and great people-watching. When I get back home in the afternoon, my host family is taking me to Grandma's house, where we'll eat dumplings all day and night to welcome in the New Year. It's going to be a good weekend. And without further ado, here's the continuation of where I left off weeks ago:

Wudangshan, Part 1, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chinese Funerals

Coming here was a bit of a split-second decision. As I was leaving Huangshan, the weather turned mighty cold and wet, and the weather forecast didn't look a whole lot better in western Hubei, where sits Wudangshan, but I felt drawn there, so I bought the tickets and left.

Most people go to this mountain for its tradition of martial arts. It has a wushu style comparable in fame to the Shaolin Temple in Henan, only instead of the bo staff as the weapon of choice as in Shaolin, they prefer swords. Cool, huh? So I guess that's why I went. But what I found was in many ways superior to the images in my head.

When I first arrived in the town beneath the mountain, the first thing I noticed was that this was a real backwater town, with merciless cabbies and lots of dust. But after renting a cheap room at a grimy, but quite passable two-story inn, I started hearing fireworks from the street. I went towards the sound, and began seeing the huge paper flower-wreaths local guests bring when they've been invited to a funeral. I stood and watched as each family hauled the brightly colored wreaths up an alleyway, towards the sound of karoake singing and loud conversation. One of the women passing by said, "Don't worry! Come on in!"

That's all the invitation I need.

Despite this, it's not the most comfortable thing going to a funeral to which you haven't been invtied. Compound that with the fact that you're obviously a foreigner, and you have trouble understanding the local accent, and you have a recipe for a kind of awkward experience. But by and large, people were extremely welcoming, and willing to answer any questions I had about the event.

The celebration took place in a large alleyway that led up to a rather large house at the end of the way. Along one bay of the alley, chefs were cooking enormous vats of soup, hauling five-foot diameter steamers filled with dumplings about, and yelling to clear people out of the way as they hustled another course up the alley to the house, where thirty or so tables (each seating ten) had been put up.

Along a second bay to the right, a professional-looking stage had been assembled, featuring singers belting out pop tunes, cheesy magic acts, and a strange, albeit fitting, performance in which professional singers don completely white outfits and wail about the death of "their" loved one. Who, by the way, was Old Mama Li.

In a lull in the action, I felt like it was time to go. I grabbed my stuff, and headed to the mouth of the alley, but stopped in awe as I saw, laid before me, the makings of a fireworks show like I had never seen. I believe I mentioned in my post from Suzhou about the self-contained firework-launchers-in-a-box they sell here. During the New Year, they had one. Here, they had sixty. All lined up in three rows, these things could bring down a small plane. This had to be one of the most dangerous, chaotic, but stunning fireworks shows I'd ever seen. Some of these fuse-operated boxes launched the traditional "flower" pattern, some shot salvos of five to eight that arched across the sky, and some just shot airborne flashbangs. During the show, I found myself lucky to be wearing a hat and glasses; I got pelted by falling shrapnel a few times.

This seemed like a good sign to stick around. Not long after the show, I was invited to join the revelers for dinner. I sat next to a few local businessmen I had met while watching the stage, and found ourselves neck-high in no less than twenty different dishes, all huge, all delicious. I'm afraid I fail to remember what those dishes were, since along with the food, was some decently potent baijiu, or local rice wine.

Now don't think that I came expecting to drink. But Chinese drinking culture down south is like this: with baijiu or a beer in your hand, you never drink alone. You toast someone, adding a good wish for fortune, or recognizing their accomplishments, and then you drink together. Well when you're the lone foreigner in a group of nine sturdy Chinese businessmen, you're in for a short night. I failed to keep count of the number of "Hey! To our foreign friend! Bottoms up!" that I got that evening. Nice guys.

I still do vividly remember shaking my hosts hand, and thanking him for such a wonderful evening. In return, he drunkenly (having been smashed since 7:00pm) blurted out, "Sure! Be sure to come back tomorrow!" I asked one of my business buddies what he meant. He replied, "On average, these parties go on for three to four days."

I believe them. That night, they continued to bombard the town with fireworks; once at around 11:00pm, and again sometime early in the morning. Even after getting back two days later from hiking the mountain, I still heard fireworks going off down the road.

I take one thing away for certain from this experience. Professional cryers aside, I want a funeral like that.