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.

1 comment:

dallin poyfair said...

dang, sounds like you're having a blast. The posts were fun to read, hope that's not creepy :) keep having fun, and try to find a tennis court!