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,