Sat. 4:00 pm: 3 hours until my flight to Newark, NJ:
I hate flying. I have obsessively unpacked, checked TSA regulations, checked my flight status, repacked, Skyped with my mom, and now all I can do is wait.
Sat. 10:30/11:30 pm: Arrival at Newark, NJ:
YEAH, that part is over! Now, in order to get use to China-time I’m staying up all night. China is 14 hrs ahead of our time. So, as I get on the plane at 10am, it is midnight in China. Then, once we are in the air, I plan to sleep for the first 8 hours.
Sun 6:30 am: Meanwhile, back in Newark, NJ:
Well that was a weird night. I made my goal of staying up all night, well at least until 5:00am when I finally passed out.
Anyway, On my flight here I sat by this ‘nook couple’ who simply read their nooks the whole way. Not a very chatty bunch, but pleasant nonetheless. So at Newark I found my terminal and started to nest in for the night. Shortly after midnight this official who I’d seen driving around the concourse stopped and said they had a few extra rooms reserved at the Crowne Plaza, where they set up first-class flyers. I accepted it hesitantly, it seemed too good to be true. One room, already paid, I’m exhausted. If it hadn’t been for the ‘nook couple‘ walking up and also receiving a free room I probably wouldn’t have done anything.
The couple and I followed the officials directions to the shuttle pickup, probably looking like two grandparents and their grandchild, but the shuttle never arrived. I was giving up hope that this place existed, but everyone assured us the shuttle would arrive. Finally, this one driver who’d seen us waiting said he’d drop us off there.
The ‘nook couple’ and I parted ways once we got to Crowne Plaza, from there my night finally became calm. I watched several TV shows to keep awake, re-packed my carry on (not that I changed anything), showered, and eventually took a nap. Since it took me and the ‘nook couple’ over an hour to get to Crowne Plaza, I decided to leave for the airport early. About two and a half hours early because now I had to re-check my carry on. I finished all of this in half an hour. Now I’m wishing I slept more, but I really should leave that for the plane ride.
Since I have all this time I ran around trying to look for free, safe wifi, but turned out unsuccessful. Hopefully there is some on the plane so I can update everyone; I’m fine :)
Sun 10:00pm (North Dakota time)/ Mon 12:00pm (China time): On the flight to Shanghai, China
I’m officially tired of flying and just want to land. I’ve been on this plane for 12 hours and I’m starting to loose it! I’ve barely slept so I’ve been up for like two days. The ride has gone progressively like this:
1st hour: Yeah, I’ll snuggle in watch some “How I Met Your Mother” and fall right asleep.
2nd hour: “Miss do you want chicken or beef”
“Chicken or beef?”
5th hour: I just want to go back to sleep, why can’t I sleep?
6th hour: Oh, they have Brave.
8th hour: That’s right, I packed dramamine!
9th hour: ZZZZZzzzz
11th hour: I WANT OFF THIS PLANE! what I still have four hours left! AHHH
12th hour: Please land.
Tue 9:00 pm: After my first day in Shanghai
Wow. So yesterday I flew in at around 3pm and took a taxi to my hotel. Nothing makes you feel like you don’t know the language like a fast talking taxi driver. I told him I don’t speak much Chinese, but he kept going… Okay…
By the time I got to my room I had enough energy to get into bed. After that I remember having to let my roommate in who I accidentally padlocked out. Then I went back to bed and slept for 12 hours!
At 8am we started the tour of Shanghai. First we went to the Bund, a harbor that was quickly modernized by the western world. It felt nice to breath in some of the fresh air. After that we went to Yuyuan Garden, which was conveniently located by a shopping center. I didn’t buy anything; something about shouting and people pressuring me to buy things makes me run away. Instead I wandered around the garden. It was nice and traditional; however it was quite the maze.
After that, we were treated to a dumpling restaurant where the dumplings had some sort of soup in them. I was so full I could hardly move!
Then, we went to Pearl Tower, the tallest building in Shanghai, were they had a museum on the lower levels. We rested for a little while and then had supper with the USAC Shanghai students and ate like KINGS! While we were still digesting we walked over to the Shanghai Circus Center and watched an acrobat show! Overall it was a very good day, and as I read back through these entries, I can hardly believe three days have passed (remember I skipped a day due to the time change).
Thurs 11:45 pm: Whow
Okay, so the last two days have been intense. We went to Hangzhou, a very rich, very posh neighborhood about 2 hours outside of Shanghai. We went to West Lake and wandered around this very beautiful scene on the lake. From there we took a boat to the pavilion on the hill. The scene from atop the pavilion was amazing; rolling hills, the lake, the trees, the other pavilions, and the city on the shore.
Inside were paintings and carvings of the story; the white snake goddess trained for years to turn herself into a human because she fell in love with a man. She succeeded and they loved each other; however, another god found out and locked her away in the pavilion. There she gave birth to a son and sent him away. He eventually came back and broke the spell binding her there. Underneath the new pavilion are the ruins of the old one, which just makes this story a little more heartwarming.
The hotel we stayed at was also quite posh, but so… splendid. The bed was large and soft I fell asleep as soon as I laid down at 7pm, the shower had a head that made it feel like it was raining and made me feel like an etherial princess, the continental breakfast, oh the breakfast had everything and then some! I was actually sad to leave this hotel, part of me just wants to go back and live there.
We went to the silk museum and saw the process of silk making. There were things for sale, 100% Chinese silk, but it was all really expensive. I was looking at these beautiful scarves but they were going for 315 块, $50 each. I’ve been promised that I can still find 100% Chinese silk scarves in Chengdu so I passed, but boy were those scarves pretty and soft.
After an hour and half in the bus we arrived at Xitang water village, the filming site for a portion of Mission Impossible 3, something the town is very proud of. It is essentially the Venice of China. People live on the water with channels and rely on boats to get them around.
Once we arrived back in Shanghai we were free to move about as we wished, so I ended up going with some of the Shanghai students to the shopping center to get dinner. Afterwards we split into two groups: those going back to campus and those going out. I wanted to go back to campus, I’m tired and I really don’t want to deal will a bunch of drunk people I just met. However, as we found our train it was about to leave. The other two girls made it in time, I was just a second short. The subway took off and all of a sudden I was all alone in Shanghai, without a cell phone or emergency contacts even, all I knew was the name of my university in Chinese. Lucky though, I paid enough attention to kind-of understand how to get back. I made it back to my hotel without seeing the girls, I thought she motioned she’d met me at the next stop or the last stop and walk back to university, but I didn’t see them. I couldn’t text them so I headed back to university. I was sure they figured I’d figure it out.
I was about to go back to my room when I ran into two of my fellow Chengdu peers who were looking for alternative places to be because their roommates were on skype. I offered my room and we played some card games. They said some of the Shanghai students came over to look for me, I figured it was the girls because I got a little lost walking from the subway to university, but then they said it was the Australian guy and his friend. I was confused but shrugged it off. Later the two girls knocked on my door a little breathless but thankful to see I’d made it back. Apparently she motioned for me to stay, not reminding me to go five stops. So the girls looped around only to find I wasn’t there. I felt so bad that our calm, uneventful night turned out to be so stressful.
Friday 10:00 pm: Final day in Shanghai
Today we were given a free day. Right away during breakfast everyone was talking about what they wanted to do, and one guy piped up saying that he really just wanted to relax. After he said that I couldn’t agree more. We have been busy for the last four days, I’m tired. So he and I sat around talking, mostly about photography. Then we had a late lunch/early supper at a Korean place just down the street from the university. It was very confusing when they brought out a small stove, put it on our table, and set down a raw soup dish. We were warned not to eat Hot-pot for at least a week, and we were not sure if this was hot-pot. It followed the description we’d been given. They eventually figured out that we had no idea what we were doing or how long it needed to cook.
Sat 9:30 pm: Chengdu
We flew out of Shanghai and landed in Chengdu today. It took a long time to get into my apartment and by the time I brought everything in, it was time to meet back up to go to Carrfore. At Carrfore we were to buy the things we needed; bedding mostly. We had an hour and a half to buy it but we were all so confused about what sizes or what other necessities we needed. I had just enough time to run my new things up to my room before we all headed out to Supper. We were going for Tibetan food because we’re located in a very Tibetan area, but the restaurant we were planning on couldn’t fit everyone. So, we split into two groups. Man, I wish I would have stayed with the first group. We ended up at some hole-in-the-wall with faded fabric lining the walls. They gave us hot water with things floating in it that I knew was not tea. Needless to say I ate very little.
Monday 9:00 pm
Sunday was just mean but awfully amusing. We had three hours of orientation and then a tour of the campus.
After a short break we rendezvoused at the lobby and were split into four groups of six for our scavenger hunt. The rules were: get to your location by using some means of public transport, get to the rendezvous point by five and win a dessert. My group didn’t make it til 6:30. We were to go to the people’s park, and it was amazing! Teenagers breakdancing looking like they were made of jello, middle-aged couples line dancing to “Butterfly (Where’s my Samurai).”
Unfortunately we were on a schedule so we took some pictures and hot-tailed it out of there. We figured, according to the map we were given, we needed to go east. So we walked east. Too far east. About 45 minutes too far. We needed to get on bus 66, but at some point the bus disappeared. So we took another bus to bring us back to people’s park to find bus 66. We got on 66 and after about 6 stops realized it was going the wrong way. We took another bus to bring us back to people’s park to get on the right bus 66 going the right way. We made last place but won a basket of sympathy-nachos. As it turned out, the rendezvous point was a Western Tex-mex restaurant. Up until that point I had only eaten Chinese food, but for the first time I realized, I really just want some fries.
I forgot several things at Carrfore and ended up going to Trust-mart just down the street form the restaurant. I got the thickest, heaviest blanket I could because most rooms in China don’t have heating. Yeah, I may have 45 degree weather, but that’s outside and inside. My classroom is like a fridge, it so cold. But the worst part is trying to sleep in it. I had my under-armer, yoga pants, and sweat pants on, a sleep shirt, sweater, and sweater cardigan on, and I was still cold under my down comforter.
When we were done at Trust-mart, a branch of walmart (they had walmart written on their carts) we headed back on the bus. We gave the map and directions to one person who, as it turns out, left early. We started to go back by memory of what Wentao said. We got it kind of right. We eventually got where we needed to be, unfortunately I couldn’t remember exactly were my apartment was. Won helped me out, he was coming over to show me how to work my heater. So thankfully I got lost with someone to help me out. We got back to my place and turned the heater on. Such a beautiful thing, but so expensive to run.
To you in America, be thankful you have heating.
On Monday, today, classes started. Three hours of Chinese. We got through the whole first lesson, part 1 and 2!! Thankfully I’ve taken up to lesson 5 in this book because tonight and into tomorrow I would have to be learning 30 characters! Afterwords I was done for the day and finally had time to unpack. No more living out of a suitcase. Can’t say I’ll miss it.
Wednesday 6:00 pm
Fairly uneventful day yesterday. Had class, took pictures, got some fruit, had some roommate bonding time. Nothing really anything exciting. As I was taking pictures I was approached several times, mostly by Chinese wanting to practice some English. One sweet gentlemen was excited that I took pictures because he too liked photography, he even pulled out his Canon film camera to show me!
Today I started with Chinese Conversation class, and for the majority of the class I was lost. We covered how to use 比/bi, than (a comparative), which I’ve already learned, twice. However, the way she was explaining it made me very confused. Maybe it was because she added another purpose to it, maybe it was because I couldn’t understand her train of thought, or maybe it was because she taught the entire class at a level 4 Chinese. I’m level 2. Either way I was lost. Some other level 2 students admitted they didn’t understand the concept but she would then just re-explain it in Chinese. I hate to say it, but my Chinese hasn’t gotten any better in the last 13 seconds.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow though, Chinese class and then I’m sitting in on ‘Art in China.’ I may end up dropping Conversation just to free up enough credits to take it. For my program we are only allowed to take up to 18 credits, I’m already at 17.