And here I am overlooking The Forbidden City from a hill with three large temples on them.
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.
Oh my Lord, I have a free evening!
As busy as I am recently there is a rare free evening. But one may ask ‘what is there to do?’
It is well known I am a connoisseur of fine foods. Hangzhou is full of restaurants with great budget friendly food. Our favorite is Grandma’s Kitchen. Here we enjoy a family style feast of fantastic foreign food. The food is tasty and the price is right, about $4-$9 a person.This is a chain of restaurants around China, if you see one give it a try.
Along with Grandma’s there are a myriad of cheap western cafes and of the really cheap Chinese shops, my personal favorite.
KTV, Karaoke TV, is HUGE in China. You and 20 of your closest friends or co-workers pile into a private room with a big screen TV, 3 mics, percussion instruments, and an all you can eat buffet for hours of fun. At $9 a head for 3 hours the price is right.
Let us not forget the most important part of China, your old and new friends. Below you will see me with a VU classmate, Dan, as we explore a temple. Then there I am at West Lake with a great Chinese gal I met.
Today brings about my second week of Chinese classes. I have three total, listening, speaking, and grammar. My schedule leaves me time for study and exploring, except for Tuesdays when I am in class from 8-6. They are going well so far, my characters are almost legible, my vocabulary is progressing, but my speaking is terrible. I did to ace my first three homework assignments and my first two tests.
My first day of classes.
My big event for the week was English corner this past Sunday. Xihu (West Lake) park six for the last 30 years has been the place to go Sunday mornings and afternoons to meet locals and for locals to meet Westerners. We ended up spending over four hours with some amazing friendly people, young and old. This is the China everyone told me about. Everyone was friendly, inquisitive, and a pleasure to meet. I found out my Tom Cruise blue eyes and partially grown beard drive the ladies into a frenzy!
For anyone planning a trip to China, or a non-Western country, please remember to bring over-the-counter medicine. My Dad did a great job outfitting me but no one ever thought about the common cold. It has knocked me on my butt for the past week. I am feeling a little better today but am still on my diet of rice, South African oranges, and water.
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.
T-Minus 4 Days, 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
I have been channeling Rocky and Apollo Creed through me this past week as I prepare for my bout with China. Now I know to some of you might think the big Russian in Rocky 4 is slightly more imposing but one muscle bound Russian is nothing compared to 1.3 billion Chinese! Have no fear though! I will kick some Chinese Butt!
This past week was supposed to be a quiet time for me to pack and collect myself. I should have known better! First, my bank transfers failed, which meant my currency purchase was not going to happen how I intended. Next, emergency dental appointment, thankfully nothing to be worried about. I was just being a little overly cautious apparently. This is followed by several updates on weather conditions in China… Back to the mall I must go for a few more pieces of essential clothing and footwear.
There has been illness and the passing of a friends father that has also weighted heavily on my mind. I can not help but think of how I would react if anything happened to my family while I was away. I’m thankful I did not leave earlier so I could be here to support everyone effected. After all is said and done I am convinced things will work out and I will have an amazing time in China. I look forward most to the opportunities to travel around China as often as I can. My search for a translator to take with me will begin in the airport
I plan on one more blog entry from O’hare airport and after that Tim will be taking on China! Stay tuned for more frequent updates along with a photo gallery page. I will have FaceTime, Skype, and text messaging on my iPad while in China so if anyone would like to know how to get ahold of me feel free to email me @ Timothy.Branion@valpo.edu
Welcome to the new site!
I’ve been out of touch with my blog the past month or so but have no fear regular updates will be forthcoming.
As I write this time seems to be slipping through my fingers. I feel it was just yesterday I sat here thinking what I would do for the four months before my trip to get ready. Yet, here I am with nine days of work left and only 16 days until I leave. Since we last talked I have been slowly amassing what I call my ‘China provisions,’ everything from q-tips to my MacBook Pro. I have read a lot of material from students and teachers who have taken this trip in the past and they all say less is more when it comes to packing. I just hope as I start packing this up I do not end up with 4 suitcases!
My Chinese lessons are slowly progressing… very slowly… My tutor tells me I am doing well but I feel so unprepared. I hope I can find some people at the university or in my VU group to venture out with and travel some. I want to see and experience as much as I can while I am there and a travel buddy would be indispensable. Have no fear though, if I must a will brave the wild accompanied with my wits and a Chinese English dictionary, and of course my camera. While I am not usually the photogenic type I promise the next four months will be full of pictures and videos for everyone to enjoy.
Anyways…August 24th here I come!
China by way of the Doctor’s offices
Ok, so I’m not a medical miracle, but it does have a catchy ring to it. We’re a little off my once a week posts but last week was a slow one full of anxiety. This week and the next one are full of doctors visits. I have been doing my best to tackle all these hurdles and problems when they appear so I thought I might as well cram my appoints into a week.
Today was a visit with a general physician. My usual Doctor is indisposed for the time being so I had to see a new woman and I was worried things wouldn’t go well. But, amazingly, things went great. This leaves immunizations @ the Health Department, the Dentist, and the Optometrist.
An equipment update is also called for. My Passport arrived last week so my Chinese Visa application is in. I’ve also purchased a leather Passport wallet. Perhaps the most important item is my Intro to Chinese book. One of the students going in the trip has offered to tutor me over Skype for the next few months and I am indebted to her.
On a final note I’ve been thinking about where I’d like to travel in China. As far as I know we’ll be going to Beijing, and to see the clay soldiers. I know I’d like to see the Great Wall also. Any suggestions would be appreciated as I want to see as much as I can.
Willie Nelson and Ray Charles had Georgia on their minds. Me, I’ve got China on my mind.
Over the past week things have been moving forward. By today I’ll be registered for my classes, two language classes and one history class. I had my final yesterday and now I can say, with both excitement and anxiety, my next class will be in China.
My mind seems to be focused on the little things so far though. I had a dinner last night with my Hangzhou group and two Chinese students from Hangzhou. To my delight I found out I’ll be able to goto the local Starbucks for coffee and wifi. This, however,was the only positive detail. I’ve been told Zhejiang University does not have wifi in the rooms, on the other hand they do have electricity meters to ensure I don’t go over my allotted usage. Oh, and the washers are free, the driers on the other hand are nonexistent.
Probably the thing I’m most looking forward to is the food. Street food, tiny restaurants buried down an alley, haute cuisine, and Chinese KFC are all on my agenda. I’ll be sure to pass along the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences I have. My brother-in-law Tyson, with a huge grin on his face, was kind enough to point out the upsides of the “dysentery diet” he’s seen from his time in the Middle East. So I’ll be sure to pack enough over the counter stomach medicine and travel packets of toilet paper to last four months!
Lastly I’m starting my hunt for the essential little things I’ll need while in China. This week brought me a “Clip Safe” travel pouch that attaches to my belt, Dad donated a great Swiss Army knife, and a more rugged case arrive for my iPad. If you have suggestions on what I’ll need abroad PLEASE feel free to leave a comment.
Zhiweiguan 知味观•味庄 Restaurant, one of the oldest in Hangzhou.