Sunday, July 29, 2012

The 第 четыре 个星期

Hello again! Has it already been a week? I have so much to talk about, but the time is passing by so quickly here. I only have two more weeks here, which is sad. But on the other hand, I still have two weeks here, which is great.

This week was all about making new friends. From China, from Russia, and from America. I can now say that I have sung Justin Beiber's "Baby" in Karaoke. Which I would be ashamed of, except me, an American, sang it in China with a Russian. Definitely not something you do everyday. On a slightly more musical note, I also got to sing fun.'s We Are Young this week at good old ktv.

It all started on Monday. The week, I mean. We got invited to a friends house for dinner. It was the first time I've had dinner at a Chinese friends home, and it was really interesting. The culture towards guest is much more complex than in America. The place you sit at the table, who eats the fish first, who gets served tea first, what you talk about, what you eat, how much you eat, all depends on whether you are a guest or not, and also how high you rank in the "guest hierarchy" (well, that's what I call it). Afterwards, my friend's dad served us really expensive tea on his personal tea making table. It was really interesting to watch. I didn't taste the tea, but it smelled pretty good.

On Tuesday, we went out with some other Chinese friends my American friend made to explore Zhengzhou. Zhengzhou is developing very rapidly. Not only are the buildings getting taller and I see construction all over the place, but also the streets are often getting redone. We went to the city's most developed spots ant took some pictures. The tower behind us is still under construction, but it will be the highest building in ZZ once it's done.
Here's us with our three Chinese friends (Jessica's taking the photo...thanks)

Who could this be?

On Wednesday I wend to an orphanage for mentally handicapped kids. It really made me think. While it was fun to play with the kids and watch their faces when they saw that I wasn't Chinese, being there also made me think more about what I can do to change this kind of circumstance in China. I was inspired to help more.

Wednesday night I talked with my family about the differences in America and China - especially about working and career differences. There are a lot, but I won't go into them now.

On Thursday I went shopping for Chinese pens, which I love to use, because they are made specifically for writing characters. After school, I did homework, studying for the friday test, and then my family took me out to eat. The food was really good. Especially the sheep kidney. Well, I think it was kidney. It tasted like meat, but the spices they put on the meat were amazing. The cow stomach was also pretty good.

Well, I just wrote all about friday and saturday, but my computer decided to play a trick on me and it deleted all of what I had written. Just know that those two days were awesome. I have to go. I'll tell you about them later.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week 三

A couple of questions I have had of late:
  • Who comes up with the hundreds of example sentences in a Chinese textbook?
  • What would happen if that job were given to me?
  • Why has the turtle who's lived in my shower for 8 years never been named?
  • What should I name him?
Week three has come and gone. With it, I have passed the halfway mark of me being in 中国。It's exciting to know I still have three weeks left, but also kind of saddening. I only get three more weeks to shower with my turtle.

This week has certainly been one filled with new experiences. From using a squatter to eating frog legs, I've definitely gotten a bit out of my comfort zone. No, I did not eat the frogs legs whilst on the squatter.

Tastes like chicken
No comment

Some of you might be interested to know that I had my first official debate this week. And yes, it was all in Chinese. Booyah. We debated if whether the internet brings others closer together. I was on the "neg" side. Which is hard when I agree with the other side. Especially if the entire debate was done in Chinese.

I didn't win. Not even once.

I also got my first chance to do the Chinese yoyo here in China. Some guys in the park were doing the yoyo, and I asked them if they could teach me... It's good I didn't try to show off because one guy pulled out a giant yoyo and started spinning it around his neck like a ninja.

My hero

The guy posing in the background makes this picture

On Tuesday of this week, I got the chance to help my mom, a piano teacher, teach piano. It was really fun to see the Chinese way of teaching piano as well as giving my own input from my years of learning piano in America. I think the Chinese are surprised sometimes that Americans can do the same things they do. Sometimes better than they can.

After I finished teaching, I help my mom cook dinner. I cooked the fried corn.
After dinner, my mom showed my some traditional Chinese medicine she bought for my acne. Because my entire family and their turtle all seemed obsessed with curing my acne. So I've started putting it on my face. With my American meds, I never noticed a difference in my acne. With this stuff... it's about the same. No difference. But I'm not going to discount a six thousand year old method just yet.

the box says moistening and whitening. gulp

I've lately been waking up with really vivid dreams. Maybe it's because of all the new things I'm experiencing on a daily basis. For example, I had a dream World War III began while I was still in China, and my uncle, who flies jets for the Navy, flew over my school and began bombing our school.
Or another dream: There was a big slide in the middle of Zhengzhou and I had to cross the street like frogger dodging mopeds and buses so I could get to the slide, climb up, and... do something. Maybe slide down. It was a pretty legit slide. My friend Weston Adams was there. I think he was a life guard.
Or another: Mark, another American friend of mine, came to China. I met him in a Karaoke club and he was an amazing singer. But only because he was wearing special karaoke socks that gave him incredible vocal chords.
No pictures, sorry.

Another thing I've noticed about China - the weird smells on the street. It seems like half the time when I inhale, I get the aromatic smells of cooking street food and watermelon vendor cars. And the other half of the time, raw sewage and stinky tofu. But I can never predict when I will smell what. So it's always a slightly unpleasant surprise when I'm walking and all of the sudden a smell attacks me for about half a second. Then I'm fine again. But I'm sure I look like a bipolar American standing at the bus stop... My facial expressions changing about every ten seconds.
typical night market

The infamous cafeteria food.

Also, I've noticed that whenever my host family really wants me to eat something, they will tell me it's good for my acne, my cold, my 辣肚子, or my inner qi. I don't want to discredit Chinese medicine, but when it's rice, msg, water, and some seasoning, it's hard to believe what they are saying. I would have to guess that even though most Chinese people I have met are very kind to foreigners, they have no reservations lying to get their way. I don't they want to deceive me, they just think it's fine to say things even if they have very little proof. Just an interesting cultural difference I've observed. And I don't care what they say about the airconditioning giving me a cold. When it's 95 F outside, and more humid than frosty the snowman in a sauna, the ac stays on.

Last thing, the Chinese baby's reactions to foreigners is really awesome. Some of the babies I see here just stare as if we are aliens... which to them, we pretty much are. Others hug their parents as tight as they can until they can't see us any more. And still others point and yell at us excitedly. They get even more excited when I point and speak back. A conversation with them on the bus generally goes something like this:

2 yr. old: “妈妈,外国人!” [Mom, a foreigner!] (points and eyes widen)
Me: "外国人?在哪?" [foreigner, where?] (looks around)
2 yr. old: "....." (eyes widen even more)
Me: "大美女/帅哥你叫什么名字?” [what's your name?]
2 yr. old: "妈妈,他会说中文啊” [mom, he speaks chinese](eyes cannot widen further)
Me:“我先下吧,再见!”[well.... i need to go now. bye!]

And that basically sums up all my experiences with people I meet on the street of China.

Well, I'm just about done. Hope you guys enjoyed reading this weeks post! If you have any questions about what it's like here, freel free to leave a question in the comments.
er, 再见!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Second Week Here

Hello again, it has been 8 days since I last posted. Or 192 hours or 11,520 minutes or 691,200 seconds. Take your pick. Every single second of me being here in China is precious. I'm learning a ton, eating a ton, and speaking a ton of Chinese. Which will probably reflect on my slightly abnormal grammatical structures as I write this post. But hey,

(Credit of photo goes to Jessica Au)

After 6,000 years of history, China definitely still has some good pieces of wisdom.

Well, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Picture time.

On monday, we went to class in the morning, then played majiang in the afternoon. Everyone in school was on summer break, so it was only the 20 of us at lunch. We ate jiao zi. School cafeteria style. Interesting to say the least. Still pretty good.

On Tuesday, we went to class in the morning, and in the afternoon I went home to do homework. Nothing too exciting. Except the bus ride home. Which is always exciting, and slightly terrifying. I watched a Chinese movie when I got home WITHOUT the English subtitles. I understood more than I expected. Oh yeah.

This entire week, I've been getting up to go running. Mostly as a result of the massive amount of delicious food I've been consuming for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But today, Wednesday, I went running with my host brother. We have a small park by our house that has a track we can use. Afterwards, we played some badminton, which is probably the second or third most popular sport here in China. Just under ping pong and homework...

At lunch today I was getting my soup, when out of the blue a lukewarm sardine floated to the top of my bowl. It was the first time we've had anything with eyes in our soup at school. I don't think it will be the last.

After school, we went to the Zhengzhou science and technology building to learn about, well, science and technology - Zhengzhou style.

When I got home, my brother excitedly showed me a new American pop song he had just fallen in love with. He told me the name was Call Me Maybe. facepalm. I listened to the entire song with him. But only once. Than I showed him Some Nights, by Fin. (This is how they spelled it in the Chinese MV.... another facepalm) and explained that not all songs were created equally.

That night, we went to eat huo guo(火锅). But this huo guo was special. It looked like a volcano with a moat around it。 Or a bundt cake pan from hell. All the food was really good. Especially the sheep eyeballs. Seriously, they were amazing. Afterwards, I talked with my family until 12 than hit the rack.
Big day.

I've really started to notice just how much emphasis the Chinese put on school. Probably too much emphasis. On Thursday morning, my brother over slept and was late to school by an hour. But to them, it was very serious. If I had accidentally overslept an hour in American school, I would hardly even blink an eye. Just excuse my absence and move on. But apparently my brother would lose a decent amount of points if he came in late, so he had to fake being sick in order to not lose points. And in the lower educations(k-12), your schooling is your life. If you test well in elementary school, you go to a good jr. high. If you test badly there, you go to a crappy high school. and if you test amazingly there, you get to go to a decent college. That sounds so amazingly stressful to me, a foreigner. I am infinitely grateful I have the education I do in the U.S.

That night, I ate ZZ's specialty dish - hui mian, or noodle soup. Afterwards, I went to go sing karaoke with my bro, my dad, and all his friends. Karaoke is such a different kind of entertainment than I am used to. Mostly because I can't sing very well, it always seems more frustrating than fun. But the people here love it.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to go to my brother's school and introduce my self as an American in front of his 80 classmates. In Chinese. I didn't even know that I was going to be doing it. So it was all on the spot. They literally just took me into the classroom and then pushed me to the front. Then all 80 of his classmates stared at me until I started speaking. Definitely a new experience for me. I really enjoyed answering their questions about America. For most of them this was the first time they had ever met a foreigner in person, much less an American, and much less one their age. As well as debunking a few stereotypes such as that all Americans play basketball and we only eat steak all three meals of the day. I'll post the video of me trying to come up with things to say later. I gave them my chinese number and my email, I think a lot of them were scared to communicate with me, the foreigner.

Friday night, I went to go eat Peking duck and afterwards, guess what? More Karaoke! This time it was with my brother's friends, people my own age. There are few things more humbling than singing American pop songs with Chinese teenagers in China. Almost all the girls I met had amazing voices, and the guys, well, they didn't care what they sounded like. They just belted it out on key or not.

On Saturday, I slept in until about 9:00 then went shopping at the chinese markets. I spent about $9 and bought a ton of stuff. Practiced my bargaining as well. It's actually pretty intimidating at first, but it started coming back to me once I had gotten ripped off once or twice.

And guess what, when I got home we went..... Karaoke-ing! Since on friday my bro and his friends finished school, today they went karaoke-ing for 7 hours. I don't how they are still alive. I only went for three hours, and I'm pretty sure if I hear another Chinese, Korean, or American pop song sung slightly off key, and way too loud, I might listen to classical music the rest of my life. It's not that I don't like karaoke, I just can't do it for 7 hours a day. They must be superhuman or something.

And now, today is Sunday. 10:00 AM. I'm having my own little church in my bedroom with general conference talks in Chinese. There aren't any Mormon branches withing 5 hours of where I live. This is probably the thing I miss the most. Maybe I'll go to a buddhist temple sometime. It's really amazing how peaceful they are in the midst of all the high rising buildings here.

Now, I'm all caught up. But, here's my dilemma. It will probably take me another hour to upload all the photos I want and get them sorted out amongst this post's paragraphs. So here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna upload all my pictures to picassa albums and than give you guys the link. For now, my words will have to suffice.

Thanks for the few people who managed to make it to the end of this massive post! see you guys soon!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

我第一个星期在中国/My First Week Here in China

你好,我已经到这里!你们还想我吗? 我很想你们!希望你们喜欢这里的博克。我花了好长时间写了。你们应该读一下。没有读的话,我回家的时候会跟我的蝴蝶去你的家!

Oh, hey there. ^^ All this stuff just means hello in Chinese. No need to break out google translate or anything...

So how's America? Fourth of July has come and gone, and not so much as a whisper of a firework here in China. I did get my host family a couple of American flags, but that's about as patriotic as it get's here.

Anyways, you guys are here to hear about me. Right? or just to steal my pictures and my kidneys. Either way, I shall begin.

A wise old man once said (was it Mr. Rogers?) "A picture is worth a thousand words." So I will show a lot of picture and video and try to explain them as best I can.

No comment.

I'll begin at the beginning.
At 3:30 AM on Wednesday morning, I got up and my mom dropped me off at the SLC airport. I said goodbye to my mother, turned around, and faced my destiny... er, the sliding glass doors of my terminal. After getting through security, I met up with the three other people going from Utah. (Tanicca, our fourth, is taking the pic. round of applause.)

From there, we flew to Dallas then to Washington DC. In DC, we went to the best hotel chain in the world... no, really. Embassy Suites is definitely the suitest hotel I've ever stayed in. Period. An awesome courtyard and unlimited bacon in the morning is all I need to say. We had a nice dinner that night, and the next day we spent 12 hours in a conference room learning how not to die or get arrested in China. Fun stuff. No pictures... cough. Unfortunately.

That night, I stayed up until 3:30 where we took a bus to DCA airport and a plane to Chicago then boarded a plane to..... Idaho!
I mean China!!!
China! With an interesting flower tree thing we saw on our bus ride.

After we arrived in Shanghai, all those people going to Zhengzhou boarded another four hour plane and then took a bus to a hotel where we immediately crashed. As in fell asleep, not... yeah.
Awkward picture of my cool roommate.

So we left DC 3:30 am Friday morning, and got into Zhengzhou 2:30 Sunday morning (2:30 pm DC time). If you do the math, which I did, that comes to about 35ish hours of pure, unadulterated travel. Fun stuff.

On Sunday, we met our host families, then took a test to place us in levels of difficulty for our Chinese classes. After we got home that night, I gave my fam their presents then hit the rack. We had school the next morning 8 am.
Here are 5 of my six classmates. They're cool. And all of them are crazy good at Chinese.

My school.
Every day we have four hours of Chinese class, then we have lunch (I'll discuss that when I have pictures...) then we have an hour of cultural class, and then sometimes we go out and have a field trip. On Wednesday, we went to the Zhengzhou museum. This museum has some of the oldest Chinese artifacts ever found.

I got a pretty good hipster angle on this picture.

If we don't go on field trips, I'll normally hang out with my host family and play games or talk.

Well, the photos aren't uploading very well, so I guess I'll call it a week. If I have time I'll try uploading more. But until then, 再见!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Round: 2

Well, here I am.  The night before I leave for a six week adventure to China a second time. I'll be posting pictures, videos, and commentary about my adventure here on this blog. For all of you guys. And for me, so I don't forget some of the best parts of my trip.

Mission: Chinese Immersion

File:Zhengzhou mt0.png
Not too shabby, right?

 Base of Operation: Zhengzhou, China. 

I am (soon to be) here
Objective: Squeeze as much Chinese into my limited brain as possible.

File:Zhengzhou Metro Logo.svg
oh, and get weird looks on the subway
So, that's about it for tonight. 

I'm getting up at 3:15 am to catch my plane to DC.

See you in six weeks!
I don't really know what this is, but it looks cool.


Er, 再见。 

or just,

see ya.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

China Trip Week One and Two

Hello, again!
I'm having a great time studying Chinese here in Shanghai! Exploring the city and trying out my Chinese is so much fun!  Besides that, our classes help me learn also learn Chinese in a more structured way.

Ok. I have all of my journal entries from the beginning of the trip until now, and I want to post some of them here. Maybe all of them. But just revised versions. It would be too long if I didn't. (btw, my journal mostly just consists of a long list of the things we've done, so I'll be adding bits and pieces in between.) I can't believe how fast time is flying! (Even though I'm in China, I’m still just as hyped about HP7.2 coming out!!) (English subtitles? Oh yes.)
Update:  Here. listen to the cool music as you read. I tried to sing this at a karaoke party, but hopelessly failed. I still love the song though.

Ting Mama De Hua (Listen To Mother's Words)~~Jay Chou
Now, down to the nitty gritty. (I'm turning up my Chinese pop music to inspire me to keep writing) I'll be writing these in reverse chronological order, to keep the chronological order the same as if I had posted them individually (it makes sense in my mind).  So if you want to read these in the right order, I would recommend scrolling down to the bottom of the post and working your way up.  

Ready? Go.

Keep scrolling :-)

7/9 Saturday
Today I went to the Shanghai Aquarium with two of my good friends. We didn't really know exactly where it was, so we ended up asking a couple of people in Chinese where it was.  At the beginning of the program, every participant was given a 3x3 foot map of Shanghai. Well, today I got to use it. I'm pretty sure someone could have pointed me out as a tourist from a mile away. The aquarium was simply amazing. And it was huge. At the end of the aquarium, there is an escalator that takes you up to the exit (conveniently located in a gift store). After riding it to the top, we realized that we had only seen about half of the exhibits. We also realized that there were no down escalators. So we decided to wait until no one was looking and go down the up escalator. On the busiest day (Saturday) in the most populated country in the world. Well, we made it. And saw all the exhibits. I think the security guards started following us though... Afterwards, I went over to an exchange student’s house to swim in their pool. We had a great time and it felt good to swim a bit. 

Friday 7/8
On Friday we don't have any language classes! So today we took a field trip to a modern vocational college in Shanghai. At the school, we learned how to make tea.

These colleges actually offer classes on how to prepare and serve tea! We all learned how to make a pot of tea correctly, and how to calm your inner self in the process. We also saw a 3D movie about the tourist sites of Shanghai.

 After visiting the school, we went to the East side of Shanghai (commonly called the Bund) to explore and eat. We wandered around some malls for a little while. While many things in China are quite cheap, all of the western merchandise is even more expensive than in America. For example, I found that name brand clothes, such as Hollister and Nike, were almost double the price as in America. I ate at a Thai restaurant, however, someone bought a burger from McDonalds, and I got to try a bit. It didn't even really taste American. It tasted lighter and more Chinese. A burger is still a burger though, and I enjoyed my single bite.
Thursday 7/7
Today we went KTVing as a school group! I had already been, so it wasn't quite so stunning, but I still really enjoyed singing both English and Chinese songs with my friends. I did notice, however, that some of the English music videos don't quite fit the lyrics. For example, an Usher song, talking about dancing and partying, showed a flowing green meadow with sheep grazing and a lone girl walking through the flowers and smiling at the sky the entire time.

Wednesday 7/6
Quite a few of the host sibling here are very eager to show us around the city. Today some people and I went to this girl's family's salon where I got to get my hair shampooed.

They also gave me an ear massage. Apparently this is unique to Asia. An ear massage consists of a q-tip and a lot of poking. It's actually quite relaxing and methodic. I thought it felt pretty good. We went to eat dinner afterwards where we ate really good chao mian (Chow mien) and duck.
Tuesday 7/5
Today was our first day of class! I am in the Panda group with about 7 other students. The schedule consists of language classes in the morning and culture classes in the afternoon. Our school has a couple of Ping-Pong tables where we play during lunch.

I really like my class. I feel it will be challenging but not overwhelming. We get a lot of homework per day. Probably more than students in America normally get. A couple of differences from places in China versus America:
Greater respect is given to the teacher. We end up with a lot more homework at the end of the day. Smoking is acceptable in many buildings.

(Credit goes to James for this enlightening picture)
Squatters vs. toilets: Squatters are the Chinese version of a toilet. They are basically a toilet bowl on the ground. Need I explain more?
While often you will see one toilet in a bathroom, squatters are the majority. I still haven't gotten used to using them. 

Renminbi vs. USD: Because about 7 RMB is worth 1 USD, I often feel like I'm spending more than I really am. But there are fewer coins and decimals are almost never used. This makes for much easier transactions.

Monday 7/4
Happy Fourth of July! In China, the Fourth is just another day. We went to school today and had a whole bunch of lectures about safety in China and such. We probably need to hear this kind of stuff, but it just felt really long and repetitive. Tonight my brother and I played pingpong and afterwards ate a lot of watermelon. It was a great night. 

Sunday 7/3
Today I woke up at about 6:30. We had our placement test at 9:30 in the morning. We ended getting to the school at about 8:30 because my host mom wanted me to study more. The way to my school is pretty easy. I have to walk to a bus stop about a block away, get on the bus, travel about 7 stops, and then walk a couple more blocks to my school. In a couple of days I'll be able to get there by myself. For now, I'm trying to memorize the Chinese characters for my stop and for my school.
After our test, I was invited to go try some of Shanghai famous food. We ate xiaolongbao, an extremely good dish consisting of a dumpling with soup and meat inside. I ate way too many to count. Afterwards, I went to sing karaoke (called KTV) with a whole bunch of people. This is extremely popular in Asia, and it was actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

Every Sunday night, a TV show airs called (roughly translated) "China's Got Talent". My family and I stayed up watching it. This show is very popular in China and everyone that I talked to said that they also watched it. Next week is the finale, and there is a lot of talk going around about who is going to win.
Saturday 7/2
I. Am. In. Shanghai!
6:30 ish seems to be about the time that this family wakes up. We all ate breakfast together today. After breakfast, my father went to work, and my brother went to his school's final test. He says he has a lot of homework. I was left to do whatever. I decided to study for a test that I have tomorrow. This test will place me in one of three difficulty levels. After I studied, I took a nap and dreamt of home. I guess when a person is in an abnormal place, they dream of normal things because to them normal is abnormal. Or something like that.

 The lunch I had today was amazing. I think it was a sort of 'welcome the foreigner to our home' kind of lunch. Whatever the reason, it was probably the best food I have had in China so far.
When my brother got home, we played Warcraft 3 in Chinese. He really likes to play video games. (I played too. All for educational purposes, of course).
Tonight my host bro and I shared songs that we like with each other and talked about books and movies that we had both seen. I gave my family most of the gifts I have brought them. They really enjoyed the two American flags that I bought for about a dollar each as a side note.

Friday 7/1

 Today Matt (my awesome roommate) and I got up, packed all of our stuff, went to the Zhengzhou middle school for lunch, and visited the local museum. Zhengzhou is known for its very ancient history.

We said goodbye to all the students that would be studying in Zhengzhou at the middle school, and got back on our bus to drive to the airport. An airplane flight later, we arrived in Shanghai. Wow. Awestruck is a good word to describe how I was feeling. All the buildings here are soo big! Many of them have cool architecture and they all seem unique in some way.

The weather was very hot here when we arrived, and more humid than anywhere I've ever been besides Florida. We took a bus from the airport to our school, where my host family picked me up and took a taxi to my soon to be home for the next five weeks. (I was just crossing my fingers that they had Wi-Fi. Heh heh.) I couldn't stop looking out the window. The streets were very busy and everything looked so alive! In the taxi I tried to talk to them in mostly Chinese.

Neither of my parents can speak any English, but my host brother is pretty good at understanding. We had a friendly Chinglish talk all the way to our apartment. Five flights of stairs later, we arrived at our home. After growing up in a house meant to accommodate 8 or more people, I couldn't help thinking that our two bedroom apartment was small. But the size didn't matter. My family was extremely nice and very understanding of the small cultural mistakes I kept making. We talked for a little while in the living room, then they let me unpack and we all went to bed.
My bed is definitely not American. For one, there isn't a mattress. While the pillow isn't hard, it is made of straw and is definitely not what I'm used to. At first, it seemed pretty uncomfortable, but I actually started to like it as I got sleepier. {One thing I've noticed: Chinese people aren't obsessed about things being soft the way Americans are. Chairs, pillows, beds, cars, etc. are all much harder than in America.}
Update: I really like my bed now. Hard doesn’t mean it isn’t comfortable.

Thursday 6/30
I really like the breakfasts here in China. They are very big and almost always warm. The breakfast I had at this hotel was very authentic. I ate grilled chicken, steamed rolls, broccoli, and egg. I also drank something that tasted like warm Tang. It was all very good.
Today we went to the Shao Lin Temple. We watched a Gong Fu performance, walked through the temple, burned some incense; saw some monks (I even saw one with a cell phone... I think he might have been playing Angry Birds), and slid down these staircase slides that they had there.

 For lunch, we ate at a vegetarian restaurant. The food was pretty good, and a lot of it actually tasted like meat. They said it was all tofu though. We had really good noodles for dinner, and then drove back to the hotel.
Wednesday 6/29
Today we packed our bags and said goodbye to our nice hotel in Beijing before we had breakfast (amazing once again) and left to go to the Confucius Temple. The temple was very peaceful and quiet. The buildings were very beautiful and the scenery was nice. Fish were swimming in ponds, and they had bridges all over the place. We went to this Muslim/Chinese styled restaurant for lunch, and ate very good food. Probably the best food I've had so far. I think our table finished off every single dish that was served at that restaurant (which is almost unheard of in Chinese cuisine).

After lunch, we got back on our magic school bus to ride to the airport. We had a flight to Zhengzhou in a couple of hours. During the ride there, I couldn't help but notice the amazing buildings. Have I mentioned that I love the modern Chinese architecture here in China?

It's amazing. The pollution was pretty bad today though...At the airport, it was so foggy/smoggy that I couldn't even see 100 feet beyond the windows. We made it into the air, and the clouds above Beijing were breathtaking once we got above them.
Squid. I think
Once we landed in Zhengzhou, we went to the night market. I bought a pretty sweet shirt with a bunch of random English on the front, and ate some squid. We also tried a mangostien (a kind of fruit) and went to McDonald's for the first time in China.

Tuesday 6/28
Today, after an amazing breakfast at our hotel, we headed to Tiananmen Square to see the Forbidden City. I thought it was pretty interesting, but it was very crowded there.

It was very big. We then went to go see the U.S. Embassy. It was cool to know that we were on American soil again as we talked to the people there about what they did for their job. We ate an interesting lunch in a western restaurant and then went out to Donganmen road to shop. There was a very large market there selling everything from iPads to fried scorpion. I passed on the iPads, but ate the fried scorpion. Definitely worth the money. The scorpion was kind of spicy, but mostly tasted like a potato chip. With legs.
As I was passing a stall, I saw these two teenage employees arm-wrestling. I called out "Jia you" which basically means "keep going!" The two guys stopped, looked at me, and asked if I would like to join them. I did, and ended up arm-wrestling one of the Chinese employees.

 For dinner we ate Peking duck. It was pretty good, and it tasted like meatier chicken. The sauce they put on it was very good though. That night I worked out at the hotel, and went to bed.

Monday 6/27
Today we went to The Great Wall of China! It was amazing. We climbed to the top of one of the peaks, and the view from there was amazing. It's unbelievable that the Chinese were able to make something so large with the tools they had back then.

After we went to the Great Wall, we went to a 'silk market'. This place was basically a big building with a lot of things that you could bargain for. This was my first experience with bargaining. I enjoyed it, but ended up getting kind of ripped off on a picture that I bought. The weather today was amazing, with a very blue sky and a light breeze. My first day in China was a good one. I did notice that the streets here are very crazy. Road markings and lane lines seem to be recommendations rather than laws. There are probably more mopeds and bikes here than there are cars

There are a lot of street vendors and shops anywhere you go. The atmosphere is lively and everyone I talked to seemed pretty friendly. If you wave to a stranger in China, he/she will almost always wave back. One guy must have missed our bus by maybe about 6 inches at most.

Today many of us were taken by Chinese people and asked to take a picture with them. Especially in the touristy areas, we were often the cente of attention. Whenever we would gather in a circle to listen to our advisors give us instrustions, Chinese people would join our circle and listen to them also. Whenever we took a group photo, Chinese people would snap a photo of us as they were walking past. It is very different from the American view of foreigners.

The subways are very crowded...

Sunday 6/26ish
We totally skipped over Sunday! Our flight left Saturday night from D.C. and arrived in Beijing on Sunday night. The flight was a beast. 13 hours of turbulence. I watched countless hours of television, spent more countless hours eating random meals they would give us, and spent probably half the time dozing. It was worth it though! We arrived in China at about 12:00 AM Monday morning! I'm so excited to start this crazy adventure!

Saturday 6/25
Today we had very long lectures about how to be safe in China. After lunch, we took a bus to the airport and boarded a plane to Chicago. From Chicago, after a two hour layover of card games and last minute Facebook updates, we boarded the 13 hour flight to Beijing, China.
We took a cool looking bus to our hotel. When we got to our hotel, the first thing I noticed that was different was the smell. The smell of China is distinctly different from the smell of America. I though our hotel smelled like a mixture of Chinese peanut oil, smoke, and humid weather.  I shared a room with another guy from our group. It took us about 5 minutes for find out how to turn on the lights. It turns out that there is a slot on the wall where you stick your room key, and that activates the power to your room. We got to bed at about 3 AM Monday morning.

Friday 6/24
Today, after eating a nice breakfast at the hotel, we walked a couple of blocks to the NSLI building for a day of long 'spiels' about safety and culture in China. I met a lot more of the people who are also in the program today.

Everyone that I have met seems really cool and friendly. We are all really excited to be going to China in a couple of days. After our long lectures, we toured the D.C. tourist monuments in a nice, little trolley. They offered us fans to use and we were very happy to hand them out to everyone we met. I saw the White House for the first time, and touched the Washington monument. It's amazing that I have only been in D.C. for a day and a half. It seems so much longer. I can't wait to head to China tomorrow though!
The folder is pretty legit

Thursday 6/23
I am leaving for a huge adventure today! I spent most of today in transit. I woke up at 5:30 to finish packing, and then arrived at the airport at about 7:30. My flight leaves at 8:45. At the airport, I met someone named Dallin who will also be a part of the program to China. We took a flight to the Dallas airport and from there to D.C. In D.C. NSLI threw a welcoming banquet where I got to know some people that were also going to China with me. We talked and went to bed.