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An American in China

Posted by: | June 13, 2009 Comments Off on An American in China |

I said that I will try to post everyday, and I intend to keep that promise.  I just haven’t been online because there was no Internet in our hotel room in Yangshuo.  Can you believe that, NO INTERNET!  No ethernet jack on the wall, nor was there even a wireless signal floating around.  But other than that, Yangshuo was really nice.  There were many shops in the area, and they are apparently famous for their GuiHua Cha (Osmanthus Tea) and their silver.  I walked around with Alex and bought one souvenior.  The next day (yesterday), we drove back towards Guilin, and visited the Reed Flute Cave.  It was just pretty much any other cave, but with lights and a light show in the big part of the cave.  Enjoyable, and nice and cool compared to outside.  Then we visited the South China Pearl Museum, which as opposed to the other pearl place in Beijing, sells Ocean Pearls, which are apparently rounder, but more bred than natural.  After saying bye to two of our group of eight, we were left with six and went to a Chinese Art Museum to learn about landscape painting, and I got my name carved on a stamp.  Pricey at 180RMB, but at least it was done somewhat professionally.  After that, we went to Yao Mountain, but because the cable car ride to the top of the mountain was 130RMB, I stayed behind with Alex to explore on our own.  We ended up going to a random graveyard near the base of the mountain, and narrowly escaped from the insect filled site.  The damage?  About 6 mosquito bites, and I accidently knocked over a bottle of chinese wine on a grave, and apologized profusely in Mandarin.  I blame Alex if I get haunted.  After a quick stop at “the best rice noodle place in Guilin,” as our tour guide Jennifer called it, we were on our way to the airport.  We checked in when the plane began boarding… so I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we caught our plane back to Nanjing.  And that was why I did not blog yesterday either – we got back to our hotel around 10 PM-ish, and I tried to do some homework before I went to sleep.


So, I started this post before at 8:30 PM China time, and I saw fireworks outside my window and grabbed my camera, my wallet, and my watch and ran out of the room before I could finish this post.  It wasn’t until I made it to the West Lake across from the hotel until I realized that I had taken the batteries out of my camera earlier in the day to charge.  So no pictures or videos =[.  After that, my roommate, got back from dinner and I, along with several other people in the program, went arcading on the Restaurant Street.  32RMB down the drain.  And this is in addition to the 300RMB I spent earlier today at Walmart.  AT WALMART!!  On my way there, I did something American.  I put my headphones on and listened to music during the train ride.  Ah, reminders of NY.

Either it’s just me or this trip is getting expensive.  You really need to be able to control your spending or you won’t last in China.  I’ve already been flushed down the toilet and have hit my head on every bend of the pipe down to the sewer.  I would have to say that the highlight for today was seeing the fireworks.  It was rather odd because everyone else knew when it was over; two minutes after the last firework, the hundred-ish people standing near the gate to the West Lake, all jumped up in unison, clapped once, and disbanded.  It was rather odd.  I wonder if there is some sort of event going on today?  Afterwards, I walked around the lake and watched some carnival games the locals were playing, like archery and throw a sack at some stuffed dogs.  The prizes weren’t that great though, but the people all seemed like they were enjoying themselves.  Especially the kids.

Side noted advice that I learned: Don’t pack your clothes away when they are still wet.  It doesn’t smell as nice as it should afterwards. =\  Who knew!?

under: China, Study Abroad, Summer 2009, Travel

Landing in Guilin

Posted by: | June 10, 2009 Comments Off on Landing in Guilin |

Okay, so I know I’ve been delinquint with my blogging, and I have tons of pictures that I have not yet uploaded, but from here on out, I’m gonna try my best to blog about something everyday day of the week for the rest of the trip.  Even if it means that I have to sacrifice valuable homework time to do so. =]  So like the title says, I’ve landed in Guilin, been here since 8 PM, but we didn’t get to the hotel until about 11:30 PM.  We had to wait at the airport for an hour waiting for our group members that went to the Hong Kong/Shenzhen side trip.  But alls good, we played an hour of pool at the airport – yes, pool.  Crappy pool, but still pool.  I’m actually not rooming with who I wanted to in the first place, but let’s see if I can switch when we get to Yangshuo tomorrow.  It’s going to be a really short side trip, but hopefully we get to take in a lot of the place.  From Yangshuo, we will bus back to Guilin the day after next and will board a plane back to Nanjing that evening.  So, pictures will be posted, I guarantee, but it will have to wait until I get back to Nanjing.

So far, I have a decent impression of Guilin, it’s supposed to be a beautiful place here when it’s light out and I can actually see stuff.  And everyone here is very ecofriendly given the natural environment that they live in.  The hotels have low pressure showers and faucets, and their air conditioner is actually not that cold.  Guilin is apparently famous for their massages, and that’s seen in the hotels too, with foot massage slippers, and a foot massage mat in the shower.  Since it’s pretty late right now, I’m gonna try to get some work done, and then head of to sleep.  I have to wake up tomorrow at 6:30 to prepare for check out and start our adventures in paradise.

P.S. It’s raining here, thus making it slightly cooler than usual.  So it rains in China, and I love rain in China because it just really cools the place down, unlike the warm summer showers in New York City.

under: China, Study Abroad, Summer 2009, Travel

Our Home in Nanjing

Posted by: | June 7, 2009 | 4 Comments |

Date: Sunday, June 7, 2009
Time: 9:30 AM 4:15 PM

I was planning on posts this morning, but I could not establish connection to the blog.  For a while, I thought China blocked this site too, but apparently not.  They have blocked a lot of sites though – I have no access to YouTube, Flickr, or Myspace… not that I use the last two anyway.  If not for Facebook, I would die – DIE! =]  So here’s my post from this morning::


So where have I been in the last few days?  Mostly crashing in my bed after going out for dinner.  I know it’s really bad, but I can’t help it.  Take yesterday for example, I was lying down trying to decipher mandarin television with my roommate, and the next thing I know, it’s morning.  We started classes here in Nanjing on Wednesday June 4th, 3 hours a day, 6 days a week.  Not really that bad when you think about it.

So far, Nanjing has been such an amazing place, with such great history.  Nanjing used to be a capital of China (“-jing” or “-king” meaning capital) for different periods of time in history.  In 1937, the Japanese had swept through the area and destroyed parts of the original city, killed the people, and raped the women.  During our time here, a visit to the Nanjing Massacre Museum will definitely happen.  Today, the area around which we are staying has many access points to places like the “34th Street, Herald Square” area of New York City.  A short walk can bring us to a large shopping stocked with fobby asian clothes (I’m tempted just to buy some before I come back to New York), and there is a street of restaurants up Hunan Road, where we can find a variety of food, from Korean Cuisine, Chinese Cuisine, and Indian Cuisine to places like McDonalds (we checked the menu already, it’s not that different from the McDonalds in New York, other than the fact that they sell corn.  Sorry to burst your bubbles, but no fried rice on the menu).

Nanjing has many small alleyways, where many shady local food vendors have set up shop.  Though the shops look rather suspicious, the experience of some of our group has been pretty well at those places.  Though I haven’t been to a food vendor yet, I did go out with some of the guys to a pretty local restaurant yesterday.  You can imagine how interesting it was for four non-mandarin speakers, who can’t read Chinese, to figure out what to get for dinner at a restaurant with an all-Chinese menu.  Phrase books to the aid!

There have also been many interesting differences between Nanjing and New York.  Some are listed below:

  1. They have counters on their streetlights that tell you how long it will be until the light changes.
  2. Cars don’t know the meaning of “Pedestrians First,” and will run you over if you get in their way.  That’s what makes crossing the streets here fun.
  3. Bicycles are definitely more widely used as a mode of transportation here than in the U.S., so are motorbikes.
  4. Dogs run around here without leashes.  They know to follow their owners and never seem to stray off on their own.
  5. Food here really is pretty cheap.
under: China, Study Abroad, Summer 2009, Travel

Leaving Xi’an

Posted by: | June 1, 2009 | 1 Comment |

Date: June 2, 2009
Time: 9:19 AM
Location: Xi’an

So we arrived in Xi’an yesterday after an 11 hour train ride from Beijing.  It was sad to have to say goodbye to Beijing, but the trip must go on.  Before we left on Sunday May 31st, we had stopped to see the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, where the Olympics took place.  Then we stopped in an Chinese Herbal place, where we learned about Herbal Tea, and get a diagnosis from professional doctors.  I was told that I had too much heat in my blood and that I should buy some herbal pills to take before sinus problems develop in the future.  Needless to say, I didn’t buy it (480 Yuan… I don’t think so).  But I did get some cheaper tea leaves to drink when we get to Nanjing.  The train ride was an interesting experience.  Groups one, two, and three were in a separate car than the rest of the group, but we made it work.  Two hour shifts for the guys to stand guard over our stuff.  But Barbara from Hunter and I didn’t really sleep on the train, so we helped the shifts out for the entire ride.  But I’m determined to sleep tonight when we board our train to Nanjing.  13 Hours!! *sigh*

So yesterday, we stopped in our hotel for about an hour or so, showered and ate a buffet breakfast.  [[On a side note, I have to say, food here has been really good so far.  Sure, it got kind of repetitive after a while in Beijing with our basic dishes (rice, some pork dish, some beef dish, some soup, some unidentified green vegetable [not choy], some chicken dish, broccoli, and soda), but the buffet food we have in Xi’an is getting better.  After today, food will be on ourselves, so instant noodle in Nanjing?  Maybe… and maybe not…]] Then we went to a Jade Factory to learn about telling real jade and fake jade, and the different qualities that Jade comes in.  After the Jade Factory, we were bussed over to the see the Terracotta soldiers.  It’s interesting to see them in real life as opposed to a picture.  There were people still excavating parts of the pits where the soldiers were found.  It seems like really intricate work, because it must be hard to distinguish between what was a part of the soldier, and what is just hard dirt.  But the interesting fact that I did learn about the soldiers was that it was discovered by a farmer that was digging a well for his family.  After having been vandalized by rebel forces way back when and lost to the world for so long, it must have been amazing to find such history under the land on which you and your family has been living and working on for so long.  At the Terracotta Soldier Museum, we also sat down in a teahouse, where we learned how to properly brew herbal tea, and about what teas are good for what health purposes.

At night, I took a walk around the neighborhood with the rest of Group 3 and checked out some stores in the area.  Stopped in a supermarket for amenities for our stay in Nanjing.  I only bought it here and not in Nanjing because then I could use them on the first day of arrival.  I also need to figure out how this laundry thing is going to work.  Walking through the street vendors here in Xi’an was crazy.  It was super hectic and crowded.  But even though I felt as if I would be robbed every other second, it was still a fun experience to see, smell, and taste a little of the food there.  Good news is, that there is no poison in my stomach yet. =]  I’m going to wait till I get to Nanjing to upload more pictures from the trip.  I’m already up to about 600-ish.  Yikes…  But I don’t think I’m taking any videos this trip because I decided not to bring my video camcorder with me, but I guess if the camera quality isn’t that bad, then there might be videos to come.  I’m looking forward to finally settling down a little when we get to Nanjing.  I’ll see you guys then!  Peace out…

under: China, Study Abroad, Summer 2009, Travel

Hey Everyone!  It’s about 7 AM here in Beijing, and we are checking out soon, having breakfast, then off to Tianenmen Square, Palace Museum, the Forbidden City, and our Peking Duck Dinner.  I fell asleep yesterday after coming back to the hotel, so I didn’t really say much about what happened yesterday.

in summary, we scaled the Great Wall for about 1.5 hours.  It is definitely much more tiring then it looks because the steps vary in size and there were some that must have been one foot high at a time.  I didn’t make it all the way to the top =[, but I did get as far as three or four of the towers on the way up.  I stopped when I got to a gift shop… that and I felt like passing out, so opted not to go any further.  I don’t know how those top of the wall souvenir vendors do it every day.  Afterwards, we went to the Cloisonne Factory, which was awesome.  Cloisonne is basically the making of copper items, like those “porcelain” vases that we see all the time in Chinatown or wherever.  The copper is sculpted into a shape, and continually fixed and designed before it is handpainted and I guess, fired.  We toured the making of it, and it’s definitely a process that requires a lot of focus and patience.  After the Cloisonne Factory, we headed over to the Summer Palace, where in ancient times, the Emperors and Empresses would spend their summer, getting away from the intense heat of the inner cities.  It was beautiful there, but in terms of tourism – massively crowded and many winding paths.  The last stop we made was to the Pearl Factory, where we saw one of the workers open a live pearl and show us the pearls inside.  That took about 20 minutes, and the rest was left for shopping.  Though they are real pearls, still way too much money to spend at a time.  At dinner, we separated as a group.  Some went to see a Kung Fu Show for $30 USD, while the rest of us came back to the hotel, and explored the city in groups.  We went to the so-called “Times Square of Beijing,” and marveled at the lights and stores.  Two of our group ended up on a bunging amusement park ride we stumbled across on the streets and skyrocketed high into the air fearing for their lives, lol.

So, pictures to come of that, but first – pictures from Day One below:

under: China, Pictures, Study Abroad, Summer 2009, Travel

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