October 2014

Hello Everybody! On October 18 Sichuan University took it's Foreign Exchange Students on a field trip to the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project and what they call and "ancient town." Some of my classmates joined me, and I met many other exchange students who are in different classes. It was a really fun time getting to know them, where they come from, and also about the area around Chengdu.

My friend Diviya who is wearing a plaid type dress, is from Nepal and is studying medicine in Chengdu as well as learning the language with me. Qing Qing is the gal in the red coat from the top picture, she is from Vietnam and is super sweet. She is studying finance in China. The other gals are from Bhutan and their names are escaping me at present. All these ladies are exceptionally nice and friendly and we enjoy practicing our limited Chinese together and hanging out after classes.

I'll be honest, the trip to the irrigation project was difficult to see since the pollution was really bad when we got there. I couldn't take many great pictures of the dam itself because it was invisible behind the smog screen. We did get to walk over a suspension bridge though which was pretty cool. I also saw some really neat architecture and statues. I'll try to include the one with the intricately carved elephant in this blog.

The "ancient town" wasn't so ancient. Considering the Dujiangyan project is over 2000 years old, that is ancient, the town is not. So basically this town has been converted into a giant tourist trap full of shops that supposedly tourists want to visit. I saw people making silk scarves, bone combs being carved (only thing I purchased was a water buffalo horn comb that I got engraved while I was there), and people performing in the streets carnival style. I did get a great picture of grandma and her grandbaby singing for the visitors. At this "ancient town" my group of ladies met up with Michiel who is from the Netherlands. Nice young guy, also an exchange student with us.

So the trip was fun, not for the history, or the sights, but for enjoying the company of others and seeing places we might not get a chance to without the school taking us. I learned that I do want to go back to Dujiangyan simply because I didn't have the time to do what I wanted there. There are many unexplored gardens at the site and I would like to revisit and see them.

Beyond that, my life is busy. I have a nasty head cold for which I bought some flower tablets which help with the cough but also leave me groggy. I also got a job working at a school teaching K-1 students English 2 days a week for a couple hours each day. I like those kids a lot, and if you know me, that is saying quite a bit! I need to study now as we are getting mighty close to midterms and I want to do well. I realized I miss America in ways that aren't always evident, but when I hit my head again on my stove's fan hood I realized I miss things being of what I consider "normal" height, not half a foot lower like everything is here.

Hi Everyone! I begin by saying I may never eat apples or tomatoes in the US after being spoiled by such high quality fruit and produce here in China. That leads into my mini adventure this afternoon. I was fortunate that I had no students lined up for classes this afternoon so I decided to go and pay my rent at my apartment agent's business in the Music District. Since I didn't know how to get there I took a taxi and paid attention so I would know where it was for the future. FYI in China you pay rent quarterly which is kind of nice actually. I noticed the business was not all that far from my apartment, maybe 50 minutes to an hour away by foot. So after speaking no English and conducting my payment using limited Chinese (yes I was successful and rather proud of myself) I headed back home on foot.

It's a nice day, cold but not uncomfortable, and most of the walk looked like it hugged Bar Street which is exactly what it sounds like, a street lined with bars/pubs. I saw some really interesting trees with flowers on my way to Bar Street and then I noticed a bank at the corner. I got a message on the ATM today to check with my Chinese bank so I popped in. I was delayed and finally they managed to say that I need to come back with my passport and they can get the message to go away. Again, I used limited English, though admittedly they used some trying to convey this though mostly it was hand signals.

The delay was extremely welcome because it made my next stop incredibly awesome. On my way home, between the university and the river crossing is a gas station. Sometimes I stop there to get a drink if I am walking to school. This time I decided I wanted my Vitamin C drink and also a candy bar (cravings man!). When I walked in the young lady who works after school at the gas station had just finished washing some apples. She spoke English with me and offered me an apple. I asked her in English if the apples came from Chengdu, but she didn't understand so I used my Chinese to ask the same thing. She understood my Chinese and said that the apples were not from Chengdu, but rather from Xichang.

I enthusiastically said, "I went to Yanyuan and Xichang! The apples there are especially delicious!" in Chinese and she nodded and agreed with me. It turns out this was the variety of apple I had had in Yanyuan while visiting friends and doing my research in August. I fell in love with those particular Red Fuji apples while there and I will forever hold them close to my heart as they truly are the most delicious apples I have tasted, this coming from a girl who grew up in Wenatchee Valley the center of the apple universe! After she confirmed they were actually from an orchard in Yanyuan she graciously handed me a second apple which I thanked her profusely for and headed home. One of those apples didn't make it home.

So the moral of this story is: sometimes taking the long way, and going with the flow, can lead to great mini adventures in China.

大家好!今天星期五在中国但是我们去学校明天。Hi Everybody! Today is Friday, but tomorrow we have school :( I don’t know how many of you paid attention to the World News but a lot has happened since 10/1 in China. We celebrated the beginning of the PRC from 10/1-10/7 by not having school and many people did not work. It was a time for people to travel, which is exactly why I did not choose to leave Chengdu! The roads were crazy busy with tourists, but from those that went somewhere it sounded like they all had a good time. My Polish and Turkish friends and I chose to stay close to home and study as we found ourselves lacking writing skills (Chinese characters, our English is fine!).

I finally found time to explore the East Lake Park which is across the road from my apartment. That was so awesome and beautiful! I will attach some pictures of it. It is a park that travels along the river then it joins with another section of the river. The cranes have a great time along the river fishing and making horrible noises as they talk to each other and look annoyed at us humans who are interfering with their hunting grounds. There are a couple of walking/biking bridges you can cross and it is very peaceful. I found myself forgetting that I was in a city of approximately 9 million residents (14 million if you count the people who live here as foreigners and who come in from the country to attend school or work).

I've also attached a pic of part of the UW Family from our outing to a friend's store opening in Chengdu. The owner is a friend of the UW Family and invited us to tea and to see the new shop so of course we played tourists and took a picture. By being foreign and shopping there it helped promote his shop as well. It's complicated to explain how that works, but any time a place can show that they have foreigners shopping at their location they gain in popularity and status.

Depending on how well you know me, you may have noticed my writing style is changing slowly, I am noticing it. It has to do with my learning Chinese. I can feel my brain pushing English out and Chinese in, it is a rather strange feeling, but not entirely unwelcome. Partially to avoid becoming totally lost in English I interviewed and was hired on the day before Holiday for a job teaching conversational English to local Chinese adults. I also discussed joining the US Embassy in Chengdu for their library’s English Corner on Tuesdays which is open to the public in Chengdu and allows folks to come in and talk with native English speakers about subjects like what it takes to go to school or conduct business in the US. I’m looking forward to both adventures.

Some people might have noticed that historically, I cannot just do 1 thing in my life. You can stop laughing now. I’ve held up to 3 jobs at a time during my adult life. I’ve gone to school and worked full time and even made sure to attend the gym 10 hours a week all the while sacrificing my social life. One of the reasons I wanted to come to China was to be able to focus on my studies and not be influenced or stressed by work. Quickly I should mention I am doing really well in school, that won’t change. I just noticed after 2 months that I had too much free time and wasn’t meeting enough people. So I talked to a friend who got me into the school where I will be teaching; they hired me without a demo or even an official interview as I am American and a native speaker so I am perfectly qualified to hold classes evidently... Yeah, I was skeptical too, but I want the job to keep me busy 2 days a week and to get me out to another part of Chengdu and meeting new people.

I have to admit that one of the things I am finding difficult is meeting Chinese people, mostly this stems from not being a bar hopper which most of the students here are. I can’t drink beer due to my wheat allergy and I don’t enjoy the bar scene when I’m stuck drinking a $2.50 soda and everyone else is getting sloshed. So the challenge has been acknowledged and I will be finding more solutions in the days to come. I’m always up for a challenge, wish me luck folks!