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.
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.
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.
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.
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 $$$!
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.
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.
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.
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.
My travel Chief and I made our way to Shanghai this weekend and it was amazing. Now let me say we did not sightsee much, we shopped for suits. Alex did his homework and found the tailoring district along the Bund. We headed for booth 153, an expat favorite, and Alex haggled like a pro. He got a three piece suit for about $110. Next we headed upstairs for tailor-made shirts, handkerchiefs, and special buttons and cufflinks. All for the price of a cheap JC Penny suit.
After our shopping we headed up the Bund, an historic district, for a quick sightseeing moment.
Ok, if you have not noticed yet I have been eating my way through Hangzhou. The number of tiny cafes and coffee shops on every corner combined with great restaurants make for a great experience.
This week I stumbled into pastry heaven. We were forced to take a detour due to the Chinese President’s upcoming visit and dropped off a mile from campus. On our way back we hit gold! Sweet pastries are hard to find here and the pineapple turtle and peach danish were tasty!
Last but not let for this is my new cafe. The Vineyard has the largest wine cellar in eastern China and some great Chinese and Western food. The cabbage and beef dumplings were so good I ate it all before my camera could snap a proper picture.
Stay Together Like Sticky Rice
This week our group travelled to the ‘ancient’ city of Xi’an. Here lies the first capital of China and remained so, on and off, for over a thousand years. I use the word ancient with some conditions here. The majority of the city is neither ancient or even old. Construction, run down buildings, and plain ole dirty city streets dominate Xi’an. There are two ancient sites here, the Terra-cotta Army and the Inner City.
All the kings horse and all the kings men are putting these guys back together again
Humpty Dumpty would be jealous! Emperor QinShihuang’s Terra-cotta army was created over 2,200 years ago to ensure his continued reign in the afterlife. Since their discovery in 1974 Qin’s army has been put back together again for the world to see and it was amazing to experience. And when I army i mean an entire army of foot soldiers, archers, crossbowmen, chariots, calvary, acrobats, civil officials, and generals. On the downside I do recommend waiting about 10 years before you visit. Of the three Pits discovered only Pit 1 has any soldiers to see. Pits 2 and 3 are only partially excavated and the few soldiers they did uncover have been removed. Flick’r is full of pictures just for you guys!
Jade & The Inner City
After the Army we moved into town to visit a fade emporium and learned some interesting jade facts. For instance, Jade comes in two colors, green and lavender. Jade is also never free of imperfections. When you hold it up to light real Jade is translucent and shows balls of white or grey. There are also two types of Jade. Green Jade is found in mountains and rivers, while lavender and green are found only in river beds.
The city of Xi’an, like most larger cities, is surrounded by a rather large wall. Running 14 kilometers in circumference the wall is the only complete city wall left in China. It is surrounded by a moat and is impressive in both it’s scale and architecture. Inside the walls the city lives up slightly more to it’s ancient classification. The Muslim Quarter is small but interesting. The pictures show that there is not a single outside influence in architecture here, no minarets or copper roofs. About 30 seconds from the famous Mosque are the infamous street vendors. Haggling was fun but the merchandise is of low quality and you spend all your time guarding your bags from thieves.
Overall the trip was very good. And I hope everyone enjoys the photos!
So on the Zhejiang Univ. campus Google and Yahoo who run Picassa and Flickr respectively are partially blocked and or very very slow to respond. Many other picture sites such as shutterbug, photobucket, imageshack, kodak gallery, and Microsofts site are also not functional on campus.
Long store short. I have to go off campus when I get back to Hangzhou tomorrow to try and post my pictures on Flick’r
I’m in the city of Xi’an today, home of the Terracotta Soldiers. This city was also the first capital of ancient China. We had a great meal last night and it only cost $25 for 5 people. Some fun pictures will be up soon. I’m having trouble finding a site that works on campus for picture hosting but be patient I’ll figure it out.