Feb 02 2012

Is That English I Hear?

A Wrinkle in Time

    It really does seem like there is a tiny wrinkle in time which has gobbled up my first month and a half back. I really meant to write more often I swear!!  Things are going great, school is good, and work is busy. 


Home sweet Home.

      Let me go off on a winding path for a few minutes and talk about my adjustment home. Julie Maddox from the International Dept. at VU was the first person to give everyone a heads up on what to expect upon returning home. Reverse Culture Shock is a real problem for some, yet I have had a pretty smooth transition. 

     I went back to work a day after I landed and swore I would not get jet lag. My plan was partially successful, keeping busy and moving and avoiding naps helped a lot and I did rather well. I was just run down for a week or two.


Detour Ahead

    I have really enjoyed talking with everyone about my experience but at times I feel like holding a detour sign up. A vast majority of my questions concern what I did not like about China or the Chinese and I find myself taking everyone on a detour to my positive stories and reflections. 


   If you have kept up with the blog you know I had some great times and some frustrating moments, but I really want to share those good times with people, especially during those quick conversations. 


Things I Miss

   My first oddity of returning home was realizing everyone speaks English! Now I know that sounds odd. But I got so used to hearing people around me but not understanding a word they said. We could also say whatever we wanted without worrying about people’s reactions and I miss that at times.


    The things I miss most our the great people I met, Julia, Lily. Wang 老是, and the international students I befriended. I keep in touch with them as best I can but I can never express how thankful I am for meeting them. These friends made my experience 1000% better. I cannot say it enough, when you go overseas meet the nationals! 


GPS Anyone?

   Where to next… That is the question that hangs over my head. I wish I could just pop in ‘Future’ into a GPS and it could show me the way. But, alas, this is probably not going to work. I have a great desire to return to China to teach and travel. However, school has its hold on me for another two or three semesters. Until then I am knee deep in German / Chinese history and work.





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Dec 18 2011

West to East and Back Again

Heat Anyone?

As I am sure you might have noticed in previous posts that there are some things about China that just make me laugh or cry. So today as we boarded our charter bus to Pudong Airport it was around 40’s degrees, a little chilly. We all piled our luggage under the bus and climbed up the stairs to our new home for the next three hours.
    In China though heating is illegal in the southern part of the country for public areas and some private ones. Our dorms were heated by our own underpowered heater, for which we were charged. 
    Anyways, As I was saying, we are on the bus and about an hour outside of Hangzhou when we are told the buses heater has never been turned on, thus does not work. Long story short I wanted to scream at China and ask why is it so difficult to get the simple things right without having to pay extra for them or as specifically for it.

The Long March Home

When all was said and done I spent 20 hours traveling. It was an exhausting journey full of anticipation during which one entire day disappeared. It was a relief to make it through Chinese securi and customs and be able to relax in the terminal before the flight. 
   The flight was not too bad this time. I had a good neighbor, unlike last time, and an aisle seat. I was able to get up and walk around some and stretch my legs, yet sleep was again elusive. By the time I got home at 7:30 I was tired but excited. I slept well that night and woke up rested and refreshed.

What’s Next

Even though I am state side again I still have a lot to write about and reflect on with everyone. I plan on keeping up with the blog for while at least. I have some Chinese friends who are following me now too so I want them to get some idea of how I adjust back the the States.

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Dec 14 2011


Published by under Uncategorized

I am almost all done packing. Julia gave me some great decorations so I need to make more room.

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Dec 11 2011

Four, Three, Two, One

Published by under China Side,Traveling and tagged:

Four, Shanghai has come and gone.

Our weekend in Shanghai was a lot of fun. Our normal group of eleven was augments by three Chinese friends, Tian Tian, Suki, and Julia. After a visit to the Jewish Refugee Museum we all went our own ways to explore the city for two days. 

My path took me to the Shanghai Museum and Nanjing Lu. The museum was very interesting yet my tourist spirit has by now withered away. Thus, instead of an entire day we spent just 3 hours, but left happy. Next, We journeyed over to the second of four famous streets in China. 

Nanjing Lu was a mistake. It is another street full of shops, a copy of dozens we have seen before. Yet Nanjing Lu takes the cake for the worst one! We could not take two steps without being assaulted by street peddlers or people wanting to walk us to their shops. At one point we ran into a store to hide, at another point Julia held onto me for dear life as I wanted to knockout one particular offender. My advice is stay far away.


T-minus three will be spent in Valpo classes and finishing up papers. The high point will be a great farwell dinner thrown by Julia and her friend Lily. Packing might just begin.


This will be my last day to do work for class. I plan to polish up my work say farwell to scholastics for a month. I am hoping to have lunch with my language classmates and a dinner with Some friends, Julia, and her amazing dancing cousin! More packing and cleaning will ensue.


My last full day will be spent cleaning, packing, and say goodbyes. We have a big Valpo dinner planned for everyone too. If you are lucky I will squeeze one more Hangzhou blog out for you, otherwise I will write one at the Shanghai airport.


After leaving Hangzhounat noon I will spend 20 hours traveling only to arrive in Chicago five hours after I left my dorm, thank you Mr. International Dateline.


Below is a little glimpse of our fun times in the Swan Hotel.



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Dec 06 2011

Wrapping it Up

Published by under Traveling and tagged: ,

Back Home in Hangzhou

The traveling man has returned from Nanjing. For all of those English speakers out there ‘jing’ means Capital. So my last two trips have been to Bei Jing (northern capital) and Nan Jing (southern capital). It feels good to be back here as I a lot of things to finish up and people I want to spend time with. My last Chinese test is on the 7th and I have two final projects for my Valpo classes due the 14th. Oh how time flies!

Nanjing 不好看(not good looking)

Out of all the cities I have been so far Nanjing is my least favorite. The city is dirty, crowded, and we could not find WiFi anywhere, not even Starbucks. The smells of China permeated everything and our hotel was not my favorite. It was clean and bug free though! We visited the Nanjing Massacre Museum, Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s tomb, Huhuan Lu – one of China’s four famous streets, and the Confucius Temple shopping area. 

The Massacre Museum was highly depressing but well done. Dr. Sun’s tomb was surrounded by beautiful mountains and atop a climb of approximately 400 steps. 


The last two areas were just fun places to visit. Shops lined the streets squeezed in between resturants and below neon signs.

What’s left?

This week will be spent with Julia and homework. I leave for Shanghai Friday and come Monday the packing and saying goodbyes begin. Suffice it to say I am not looking forward to leaving my new found companions. But I am looking forward to seeing Hannah and Dorothy!



Any business that uses a full size human pig will get my $$$!

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Nov 27 2011

I’m a Traveling Man

Back From Beijing, a Week in Review

It has been too long since everyone has heard from me. Since my return last week from Beijing I have been consumed by a whirlwind of activity. Between Chinese & American classes, a terrible cold, and a great Thanksgiving feast my week has flown by.  
The past three days saw a reemergence of shopping, good eating, and my final teaching class. It had been too long since I had partaken in them. I got into the Thanksgiving spirit by spending all day yesterday shopping with Julia, Remmy and his Mother, plus Dan and Anna. A great time was has by all and my wallet came back with a distinct empty feeling.
Before I go into my trip I wanted to give everyone a quick rundown of my time left in China. This Friday, the 2nd, we leave for Nanjing and return on Monday. I then have my three Chinese exams before our trip to Shanghai on the 9th for three more day. I leave for home on December the 15th, too soon if you ask me.

An American Tourist in Beijing

Beijing… Overall this was trip a lot more fun than Xian. We left at 5 am amidst some of the worst fog I have seen in years, yet our flight was only delayed 30 minutes. If you look at the picture you would never know there was an airplane at our gate.


Once we arrived though the weather for the next three days was cold but crystal clear, very unusual for Beijing. Our time in Beijing was spent at The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square. Below are a few pictures. Out of everything The Great Wall was by far the best site. 
Below you can see me before my ascent up to the highest tower on the left.

And here I am overlooking The Forbidden City from a hill with three large temples on them.




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Nov 16 2011

The Intrepid Traveler

Published by under Traveling and tagged: , ,

The Travels Begin

My first sojourn in my month of traveling was a great experience. Anna and I traveled to Moganshan, Mogan Mountains. My Chinese friend Julia took us to her hometown of Deqin, a short drive from the mountains. As we soon discovered Deqin was a growing city by American standards, a small town by Chinese. There was construction everywhere yet it was all left behind as our little Honda wound its way through hills and villages.

Reservoir, Moganshan, and Temple

Our first stop Friday was a reservoir border by Mogan tea fields, bamboo forests, and Bok Choy fields. We passed a wedding an a plethora of photo shoots as we reached a hillside hotel with a view of the reservoir. Our driver met two friends who stripped down to underwear and dove in for a chilly swim.

Saturday saw us ascending Moganshan proper. Speedy along roads built for tiny cars we pass large tour buses and dump trucks on short straightaways, all the while praying a car does not swing around the next curve. Once atop the highest of over a dozen peaks we trek along trails from a fresh water spring all the way to one of Mao’s villas.

We take our lunch at a small restaurant buried down a small alley. The food was some of the best I have had. We press on towards a Taoist Temple being remodeled and enjoy a spectacular view of the city.

Up Next?

This Friday we leave for Beijing. The Great Wall, Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace await us. We have also began to finalize our five day trip to Shanghai and Nanjing. Today though I am off to West Lake with Julia and her friend for a relaxing day.

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Nov 10 2011

Relax and Recharge

Published by under China Side,Home in Hangzhou and tagged:

Tough Test Times are Past

My midterms are all done as of yesterday and it could not have come to soon. The tests went better than expected but I am still not sure how well I have done. I excel at reading comprehension but am woefully inept at writing characters. My speaking is on par with others but still not where I want it to be after three months in China. The hardest test for me was the listening exam. The speakers would read questions, paragraphs, or numbers and we had to answer questions about them. They simply read too fast for me, but alas I think I did ok.

Off the Reservation

My classmate Anna and I are heading off the Hangzhou reservation tomorrow to the Mogan Mountains, Moganshan in Chinese. This is a resort town between here and Shanghai. My Chinese friend is taking us with two of her. Own friends for a fun weekend of exploration and KTV. Anna and I cannot wait for this much needed break from the monotony of study.

The Best of the Rest

The rest of our time here will be spent traveling to Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, and marketing in Hangzhou. Since we will it be attending finals here it feels as if the worst part of classes are behind us and we can focus on these more enjoyable tasks. We are over the hill and rolling on towards December and our return home. Yet, I find myself wishing I could stay longer. I have not begun to accomplish as much as I wanted to and fear my time is spent unwisely. But Hey, I am in China and I still can not believe it at times.

Parting Shots

I had another English class last week and as I we awaiting my twenty some students the scenery out the window caught my eye. Mountains shrouded in mist will surely be missed, the industrial wasteland, not so much.

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Nov 06 2011

The ‘New’ China Tim

Ain’t He Handsome!

So in the midst of my weekend of studying I took the plunge and got my hair cut. This was not an easy task. I was armed with my iPad and ready to tackle the language barrier. After some initial confusion I managed to find six words for ‘trim’ and away we went, or so I thought. The next five minutes was a flurry of rapid fire Chinese, it’s purpose? Do I want a shampoo?! A quick 不 ‘no’ was my response and the scissors came out. I deftly indicated I wanted a an inch and a half taken off and sat back to enjoy the rise.

Earlier in the week another change was made, the facial hair is gone! I decided since I tried the beard and now had a long hair goat-tee that a shave could do me good since trimming it had become troublesome. Take a look and tell me what you think. Please ignore the terrible hair styling in the first, it was my friends comical idea.




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Oct 31 2011

A Quickie!

Tough Times

I wanted to get in a quick update while I could. My midterm exams are drawing near and I fear my time is being divided between a great friend and a great challenge. I have found I am TERRIBLE at Chinese. I struggle daily with it and no matter how hard I try I seem to fall behind. But like any good Branion I simply put my head down and bull my way through it. I have some great teachers and even better Valpo professors looking out for me so I know I will get through it…

Not so Tough Times

China, for me, is a land of contradictions. Sometimes I want to run home shaking my head at the stupidity and backwardness I see, yet at other times I look forward to coming back. My Chinese friend Julia makes me forget the bad things and remember why I came here. I really do love learning all the little differences and exploring a very different culture. This always makes for good times!


My time of traveling is quickly approaching. I will be going to Beijing, Nanking, Shanghai, and hopefully the Moganshu mountains, a small resort town between Hangzhou and Shanghai. I have not traveled nearly as much as I wanted to so this will be some great times for me.

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