Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 16

Well, today was pretty mundane, so I may not write too much, but hopefully I will start to write more often because I’m getting more time to stop and write. Things are sort of becoming routine, and the rush of everything is dying down, which truthfully I don’t like one bit, but I’ll try and go out and do new things, so I don’t bore too bad.

Today I guess wasn’t too boring. We had Chinese class, which means from 9:30-4:10 we don’t do anything, but after we did play soccer with some Chinese kids. I don’t know what I did, but my knee has hurt for about a week straight, and soccer really didn’t help that, so I’m going to try and not play every day. It was fun though, and super nice to actually be able to do something active. It was even nice enough to not have a jacket on! The weather here is pretty good but rainy. The temperature, except for the first few days, has stayed at about 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. They say that in about a month it’ll be 80-90, which excites me to no end because I love that type of weather, but they dread it for some reason. Maybe they don’t appreciate it because they don’t have to deal with our tundric winters.

Yesterday after I already wrote the blog, we went to the Wushan Night Market, which was pretty interesting. They had all types of different things for sale like electronics, clothing, shoes, lighters, and a bunch of food stands. Though most of the clothing was for women, and the biggest size of shoe they had was about a 9, it was really fun. I got what I think was a meatball on a stick, but I’m not sure. It tasted good though. I also bought a knock off pair of headphones for 25 Yuan, which is like 4 dollars, so a pretty good night.

So, this weekend we’ll be going to Shanghai, and I really can’t wait. I’ve been looking up places to go see and places to go eat at. We’ll only be there from Friday until Sunday, so we’ll have to be running from place to place to try and see everything, which sounds like it might not be very fun, plus it’s supposed to rain. Great. But I’m still sure it’ll be an amazing time. The weekend after this one we’ll be going to Beijing for spring break. We’ll be there for about 3 days, and then it’s open-ended so we can choose what to do for the rest of spring break, which is amazing. I’m not quite sure where I’ll go or what I’ll do for those couple days, but I was thinking maybe going to the Gobi desert, staying in Beijing, possibly going to Taiwan, or working my way back to Hangzhou and stopping in small cities to see rural life more. One thing I don’t like about the big city is how similar it is with the USA. Not that that’s a bad thing, but they don’t practice many traditions here.

I’ll definitely write when I get back Sunday night or Monday. I didn’t have much today, but I will after this weekend. 

Here's another picture of a courtyard thing in-front of a temple.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 15

So, the last few days have been pretty eventful but at the same time uneventful. The only new thing I did was I took a bike ride straight east on Sunday to see what that part of town looked like, but I just happened to get lost and my 45 minute bike ride turned into a two hour one. It was still fun, and I think I learned more about the other half of the population because I came to the conclusion that really I live in the wealthier part of town. At least, this part of town is very touristy because of the West Lake. Still I had a great, very unnerving ride. Like I said before the traffic here is nuts and the huge number of crazy bikers and moped riders doesn’t help; I saw a moped collide with a bike and a car almost flatten several people. The weirdest part is that the chaos seems natural and just a part of life to them.  But if you just go with the flow you’ll be pretty safe, which I did, and I was able to see some really cool things like an old section of the imperial city wall. I wasn’t able to take pictures for fear of falling over or getting hit by a car/bike, but I’ll go again and take some pictures of everything.

Monday seemed like a slower day, but was still really interesting. We had Chinese class in the morning and afternoon so that took up most of our day. Chinese class has to be my favorite part of the week because we learn something that can actually be used in daily life. We just learned how to say “what’s your name?” and later on I’ll explain how it already paid dividends. But the rest of class was pretty much spent on just learning how to say that because if you don’t know, Chinese is difficult. Not just hard to remember but just a lot to remember. You have to remember how it sounds, the tones, and the characters. What’s your name is spelled ‘Ni jiao shen me?’ but then you have to know that its tones. The tones are probably the most difficult part because there are four and to an English speaker they differ much from one another. But the tones are a 1. flat tone – , 2. rising tone / , 3. half falling half rising tone \/ , and a sharp falling tone \ . So, the tones for that sentence are ‘Ni\/ jia\o she/n me—?’ One of the examples of the importance of knowing the tones was Ma, which with each tone has a different meaning. Ma—means mother, Ma/ means hemp, Ma\/ means horse, and Ma\ means to scold. Crazy. The other example was that depending how you pronounce the word for to buy it could also mean sell. It’s fun though because it’s actually a class that we can participate in, rather than just getting lectured to.

So after that we went to lunch, and I ordered probably the most delicious thing I’ve eaten here. It’s sweet and sour pork and usually the things that you may recognize usually taste way different from in America, but this tasted amazing. Usually we go to the cafeteria and are unsure if we’ll like the food there because it’s always a gamble, but we found something that can always be a fallback, which is sooo unbelievably nice. Then after lunch we just hung out in the dorms until the next Chinese class. After that a couple of the people wanted to get their hair colored because why not. Well, they went to a hair place that’s just across the street from the campus, and this is how you can tell we’re spoiled by how cheap everything is, it would have cost about 40 dollars, which isn’t a bad price but in RMB it would be like 280 which sounds unreasonable. So they didn’t and they wanted to go to Walmart to get some hair dye just to do it themselves. Well seeing as I can navigate these streets really well, I led the way on bike. Truthfully, I had a very vague idea of where I was going, but we got to drive past West Lake and it was a clear night, so everything looked amazingly beautiful. I’m hesitant to put a picture up because I don’t think it’ll do it any justice. After a little confusion and a longer ride than expected we got there. Walmart only has black and brown hair dye so almost a wasted trip, but it was nice to get out and bike a little because back home it’s still below zero and there’s no way we could do anything active there. The rest of the night was spent listening to music and watching Dr. Horrible’s sing-along blog, which honestly was pretty amazing.

Tuesday (Today) started out slow because we don’t have any class until the afternoon so I decided to write a little bit, so I walked to the internet cafĂ© which says it’s open 24 hours, but was closed. So I’m sitting in McDonald’s writing this, while the workers are screaming Chinese, and the delivery guys are jabbering away right next to me. I really love being in a different country so much.


Fun Wasabi Shrimp Flavor

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 9

After a 20 minute bus ride and a a 30 minute walk, we finally found the Xiangji Temple, but I was lucky enough to be able to walk through streets that looked as beautiful as the picture above. So, we finally found the temple, but it turns out it's only open until 5pm, and we got there at 7pm. Bummer I guess. It was still really cool at night, and there was a fountain-esque statue in the center of the plaza that had lights at its base that lit up with all different colors. It's definitely a place we'll have to go back to, but the real adventure started after we left to go look for something else to do. 

In Hangzhou there are bicycle renting stations all over the city, and we finally we able to rent them out, and the weather was cooperating (it's rained about 70% of the time here). So, we figured out how to unlock the bicycles and started riding down the streets. Like I said before, the driving here is crazy. I was really unsure about riding the bike around, because getting hit would suck pretty bad. But everything went amazingly. It all felt so surreal and almost too alien to be riding around in this metropolis. The lights are one of the things that really make it feel so alien. They have everything lit up so bright and some places have colorful signs; the whole atmosphere is like nothing I've ever experienced. In time, we wanted to bike back to the dorms, but before going back to our rooms we had to return our bikes. The thing about the bikes is, for the first hour they're free, but after that hour you have to pay something like 30 cents, then $1, then $1.50 for every subsequent hour. With this in mind we put our bikes back and got new ones. We had planned to bike to the West Lake and see it at night. First, we decided to go drop some things off at the dorms, but soon after we were off. At this time it was about 8:30pm, and some people decided halfway to the lake that they wanted to change their bikes just to be safe. It was 9:10 and we waited and waited while they tried to get a new bike. We tried everything, but we couldn't get any of the new bikes to budge. We called our Chinese professor/mentor/program director to ask him what was going on. He said that you can't rent after 9pm, which was a bummer for the two people that decided to put their bikes back. Since it wouldn't be as much fun without the whole group, we decided to put our bikes back and just go back to the dorm. That was the highlight of my day, although today was full of activities. 

Today I woke up really early (I may or may not still be jet lagged) and wanted to go take some pictures and get some breakfast/coffee from a shop a little ways down the road. I walked halfway there and remembered I forgot my SD card in my computer, so my whole excursion was almost a waste because I really only wanted to take pictures, so I just went to get coffee, but the shop was closed. Great. But I was able to get some stuff from the bread shop and bring it back to the room to eat. Turns out I got something called "Egg Milk" which is pretty much just egg mixed with milk, hence the name "Egg Milk." It wasn't terribly disgusting but not recommended. 

Later that morning we had to go to our first mandarin class, which was super exciting because up until now all I could say was hello and thank you. I am so eager to learn more because I feel almost utterly helpless here sometimes, and I believe that if I had more of a grasp of the language I could really do better in some situations. Well it went terrible because the whole language just seems like an abstract concept. One character means a word, and you can't infer the pronunciation from the character, so each word has to be learned with the character and vise-versa. It was really only the first lesson, but already it's getting difficult to actually do. 

Today was pretty eventful, but with many little things that I couldn't honestly type out in one post. Over all it was a great day, and the next few days are already planned, so I'm just running on high all day everyday and will probably be more tired this Sunday than I've ever been. But really when will I ever be back in China again and an even better question is when will I ever be back in Hangzhou, described as the worlds most beautiful city by Marco Polo. Everything really is going great. It's already midnight here so I should probably wrap this up, so I'll post again tomorrow or sometime, and write more about how I'm doing. Until then :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Impressions of China

Country of the red dragon

I've been in China now for a week, and I can honestly say I've never felt more out of place. This country is almost a full 180 degree turn from River Falls. Don't get me wrong it's been fun and definitely one of the most entertaining times in my life, but sometimes you have to wonder how everything can be so hectic, yet so harmonious. Everybody is always running to something; be it work, an appointment, or class the pace is always fast. It probably doesn't help that there are 8 million people in this city all trying to get somewhere at the same time. By the way, the traffic jams here are horrendous. The traffic laws are either non-existent or not enforced, and it's noticeable. 

The city itself is pretty magnificent. Hangzhou is probably the most metropolitan place I've ever lived, furthermore it's MASSIVE. Everything that I've done so far has been within an area of 3 miles, and yet it's taken us a week to just do that. The only downside to such a modern city is the plethora of high end retail stores. There's almost nothing besides Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.  Trying to shop thrifty won't happen here. But on the topic of prices, food is dirt cheap. Good food too. If 1 US dollar = 6 Chinese  yuan, and a full size, delicious meal costs 10 yuan, then it's only $1.70, which hardly buys you anything at Mcdonald's anymore. Another cheap food is Baozi, which is a steamed bun and you can get 3 and be stuffed for a mere 6 yuan. 

That's was just a small part of my experience so far, but I'll update the blog often with more in-depth topics like food, sports, people, and subjective general observations. I'll also try to journal my time here and write what I did that day and things like that. 

                                                                Until next time,