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June 12, 2006

New friends

Yesterday, I got back home in the middle of the day from the airport. My trip to China had, in fact, finally ended. As I look back upon my experience, I think that what I will remember most about my trip is the new relationships that I formed. The sights were amazing, it was great to experience the new culture, and I loved just being in China, but I made many new lifetime friends. I only new a few of the people I was planning to travel with before we left for China, and I didn't know what to think of the group at that point. But now, as I think of all my new friends, from my group and from China, I know that I will remember them for a lifetime.

Continue reading "New friends" »

June 9, 2006

Reflection...

So our trip is winding down and we all are getting exhausted, or at least I am. This was a very fun trip. I enjoyed every second of it. I really loved the home-stay with a host family. I also really like teaching and meeting the high school students. I think my favorite thing out of this whole trip would have to be the home-stay because I got to interact with some really cool people. Also, I got to experience other cultures and I really enjoyed that. If I had to do it again I would do it in a heart beat. I hope everyone out there will go out and study abroad because it is truly a great experience. I have grown a lot since coming on this trip. And I'm pretty sure some of my friends have too.

May 31, 2006

Our last night at CNU!

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For our last night in Beijing we decided to hit the Peking opera! This photo is taken on the steps of our dorm at CNU. Tonight it's the overnight train to Shanghai!

Fooding and clubbing in Beijing

After class last Tuesday, Christa, Dan, Alicia, and I went to a local restaurant to try once again to order something to eat. Our picture-pointing order method, combined with a little luck resulted in a pretty good meal. Using the little vocabulary I had, I managed to order bread instead of noodles (she understood ‘mienbao’ instead of ‘miantiao’) but it turned out to be pretty good anyhow, as we got a sort of dessert with sweet bread and icing. We ran out of time and were unable to finish or meals, so Christa and I decided to return for dinner, this time accompanied by Jen, Tara, and Laura. We hoped against all likelihood that there would be a different staff working the evening shift. This of course was not what happened. We had both the same hostess and the same waitress, but we didn’t get any weirder-than-normal stares, so it was okay. I wish the same could have been said for the food. Not so lucky on the second time around. We got some random beef parts mixed in with peppers, along with cold, slimy chicken. The only winning dishes were repeats from lunch, including the rice and the sweet bread.
After dinner, Tara, Christa and I went to a club with some of the other students, accompanied by our guide Norman. All but one of the taxis arrived in a timely manner, but apparently one of them took a wrong turn on what should have been a straight shot, and got lost for 45 minutes. The students somehow managed to choose the same club (out of about a dozen) to go to, and we were all reunited. There weren’t too many locals there for most of the night, and the other Americans, aside from being incredibly rude, didn’t interact with anyone at all, so we pretty much dominated the club for the majority of the night. The music selection was pretty typical American club music, and everyone including myself and even Norman (after much provocation) enjoyed dancing.

May 30, 2006

Shopping in Beijing

Today Cecilia, Crystal, Tara, and I went shopping at the Wangfujing shopping street. I am really starting to like Beijing a lot, I am assuming this is because we are leaving soon and that seems to be how these sorts of things work. I normally hate shopping, but the last few times we have gone have been fun. We didn’t really barter much today, but Tara, Crystal and I walked away with some pretty sweet Rose-Jasmine tea! The store we went to was cool because they let you sample the tea and a bunch of different tea snacks and candy. I really appreciated that because I know almost nothing about tea and what it should look/smell/taste like. Hopefully by the time I leave, I will know a little bit more about tea… Well that’s all for now…

Beijing

So...we're leaving Beijing tomorrow, and boy! It's been a great trip so far! It's kinda sad that we'll be leaving. We actually went out last night, and it was fun! It's nice just relaxing, dancing, and socializing. We also met some new people last night :D Today we're planning to go see a Chinese opera. I've never seen one before, so I think it'll be interesting. I'm planning to go do some shopping because I still need to get gifts for people and hopefully we'll find other things to do. But I'm so tired...not tired but exhausted! But hey! I'm in CHINA. So I gotta have fun :D Well, the day should be full of fun and exciting events. I'm kinda hungry, so I'm going to go eat...Bye :D

May 25, 2006

People Watching

Something that I have found to be a lot of fun in China is people watching. Now, some would think that this would be very boring and maybe in our day-to-day lives in the U.S. it is, but while in China it’s different. I am continually amazed at how fast-paced the lifestyle is here in Beijing; everyone seems to always being going somewhere or doing something VERY quickly and the city never sleeps. In addition to the cool cultural sites that we’ve seen so far, I’ve really enjoyed just sitting and observing the people around me. It’s fascinating to watch the Chinese as they go about their everyday lives. I love watching the mothers and fathers with their children. The kids are SO cute—just running around without a care in the world. I’m thoroughly convinced that there is not one ugly child in China! At the cultural sites, such as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, I’ve found watching the grounds crew and employees to be especially fascinating. The inconspicuous grounds crew go about their day carrying out their assigned tasks and the employees do the same. These people all too easily go unnoticed, but it is hard for me to not acknowledge what hard work they must do every day—they are the people that keep the historical sites running! The last thing I’ve noticed is that while many aspects of Chinese culture are completely different from American culture, many things are very similar—People still have jobs, kids still go to school, friends and family are still very important. In the words of my mom, “it’s the same, just different.?

May 24, 2006

thunderstorm!

Definitely a new sound to Beijing, thunder and rain! Usually there is the noise of the constant rush of traffic, car horns and sirens but tonight I was sitting in my room and was completely caught off guard by a different sound and smell,…rain. Very exciting! Hopefully this rain will wash down, at least some of the dust that has been hanging in the air. It’s been hard to get over that feeling of dust everywhere, feeling it on your teeth and in your eyes, especially the first few days.
Aside from the dust, we have visited many of the interesting sites of Beijing, both touristy and not. A few days ago we visited the Great Wall. It was a lot more crowded than I could have ever imagined and not at all like how its depicted in the Sesame Street movie “Big Bird Goes to China? but still really interesting. I can now also say, not only have I been the Great Wall, but I’ve ridden a slide to the bottom!
Even though Beijing is huge and a person could spend years here figuring it out and visiting places, I am excited to get out of this city and visit more of China.

The Forbidden City and Tweety Bird...

So I have been in Beijing for a week now and let me tell you guys, other than the air pollution and smokers here, this place is amazing! I have really enjoyed all the sight seeing that we have done thus far. My favorite would be The Forbidden City. I really like that place because it was as if I was in a maze. The Forbidden City was really big. It was like another whole world. I later found out that there were many reasons as to why each section of the palace was built in a particular way.
So last night, Char and I went to buy some food from vendors outside of the university where we were studying. After much contemplation and roaming around, we ended up choosing to eat squids, beef, and baby birds. Yes...I did say baby birds. And I know...I know...how could we eat such cute things, but hey I bet you would of eaten it too if you saw how delicious it looked. We were very hungry at that time too.And besides, it was Jennifer who told us to try new things. That whole cost us 10 yuan (which amounts to only $1.25 USD). After eating that, we went to sleep feeling good and satisfied.

An Interesting Haircut

Mayla, Cecilia, and I decided to get haircuts at a local hair salon. At first, we were really excited because we were going to get "cool" new hairdos. Then, we realized that what's "cool" to us is definitely different to what's "cool" to them. Because of the language barrier, we were unable to explain exactly how we wanted our haircuts. Our phrasebook and dictionary helped, but that wasn't enough. The hairdressers were really nice and we decided that we'd just trust that they know what they're doing. To make a long story short (we were there for THREE hours!!!), we all ended up with funky new haircuts. The trend that's "in" right now is choppy, funky, and let's say... think of Gwen Stefani's Harajuku backup dancers. :P It was definitely an experience I won't forget! Now, we're off to the Beijing Zoo!

May 23, 2006

bartering

I spent Monday evening with Tara, Jen, Christa, Natalie and Laura, we went back to the Atlantic Avenue of Beijing to get pedicures and go shopping. I, perhaps surprisingly, opted not to participate in the former, and instead went with Christa and Tara to go look around the market. I decided to have a little fun with the bartering experience, as it’s not usually my idea of a good time. Christa said that she wanted a purse and didn’t think she was very good at bargaining, so I agreed to help her out, deciding that I would further complicate the process by speaking only in Spanish in front of the vendors. I wasn’t really sure if it would make a difference if they thought we were from some country other than the US, but I did notice that they finally shared our pain of having to listen to a language they didn’t understand at all. Neither Christa nor Tara understood much of what I was saying, but I told them it didn’t matter so long as they didn’t let on that I understood English, as it would ruin my fun.
The woman started the price well over 1000 yuan (I think around 1100-1250) and wasn’t dropping the price quickly enough, so I left after scoffing and pretending to get upset with her. After walking around for about 15 minutes, and deciding what Christa actually was willing to spend (240 yuan) we headed back to haggle more. Tara was talking to the other vendor, also looking at purses, and did a pretty good job, albeit in English. She came over and acted as the intermediary for a while, but didn’t know what Christa and I had agreed upon for a final price, and settled for 300. This of course was an outrage to me, and I was sure to play up the argument I had with Tara about what I had said was acceptable. I was able to get the vendor to back down from the “agreed upon? amount, after I explained using wild gestures that I had told Tara I wouldn’t spend more than 200, and said that she should pay the difference. We settled just as planned on 240 (less than 1/4th of the price she asked), and probably could have gone even lower, had we not run out of time. It turned out to be a great experience and made for a funny story, even if only for those that were present at the time, and I got to practice my Spanish for the second time on the trip (the other was with Spanish tourists at the Great Wall.)

Fun experiences in Beijing

Wow! I can’t believe we’ve been here for a week! It’s hard to believe that just one short week ago we began our 23 hour journey to Beijing. Today was our third day of spoken Chinese lessons. We learned more about Chinese food and ordering at a Chinese restaurant. I’m looking forward to putting my new Chinese phrase skills to work! Hopefully these practical lessons will help us at the restaurants around Beijing and also in our homestays during our time in Jiashan.

Seeing all the touristy things around Beijing has been fun, but I also enjoy the free time we have to explore the city. The free time allows us to take time for ourselves, away from the big group, to see some things we’ve noticed in our guidebooks. Like on Saturday when a few of us went to Beihai Park. This is a famous park close to the Forbidden City. We braved the Beijing bus system and got off at the nearest stop close to the subway station. From there we took the metro (subway) to the stop close to the Forbidden City and walked to the park. We underestimated the distance though, and it ended up being a much longer walk than we thought—close to half an hour. However, the walk was worth it! The park was BEAUTIFUL and only cost 10 yuan (or about $1.25) to get in. We bummed around the park for awhile, ate some lunch at the Chinese restaurant inside the park, and went boating in the lake inside the park. We took the whole day to just explore and hang out!

When we were done at the park we walked back to a different subway station and happened upon a Hutong, or traditional Chinese market, in an alleyway. We decided to explore the hutong to see what it was all about and see if we could find any unique Chinese goods. The hutong was quite the experience. It was a quite narrow street filled with tons of people. There were little shops, animals just walking around, and street vendors with all kinds of different foods including rat, squid, and corn—all on a stick! Even though we didn’t buy anything, walking down that street was worth it! I’d like to go back to another hutong someday when I’m more in the mood to shop!

May 22, 2006

Birthday Girls

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Happy Birthday Cecilia and Tara!!

May 18, 2006

Dan's Day 2

It's been a great day with lots to tell.

  • Read about Dan's Day 2 here!
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