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!
大家好！今天是我的生日，我请日记一杯咖啡。好吃了！Hi Everybody! Today is my birthday, I treated myself to a cup of coffee, it was delicious! I thought you might like to hear that school is going well, my teacher for comprehensive Chinese is wonderful and my classmates are just as great. My speaking/listening teacher is really nice though his class is tough to sit through but since I learn a lot about how to say words I don't complain. I began Chinese Calligraphy and it is difficult but very interesting. Our teacher told us it is only during times of wealth that China has time to create works of Calligraphy and China is seeing more money therefore there are more people taking up the art.
On my search for coffee today I went to Wanda Plaza which is a shopping area about 10 minutes walk from my apartment. It is often crowded but it has Ito Yokado which is a Japanese store that has everything from household supplies to groceries that are quality so I tend to buy my food there. When I got to the square/plaza it had the huge blow up children's toys like bounce houses and a blow up climbing wall and those bungee jumping activities. Many kids and their mom's were playing on those. Next to that was the Korean Food Festival 2014 with all sorts of booths set up and a stage. I mingled and checked out some of the booths and watched some Korean drummer girls perform, they were very good and I'm glad they were filming their performance as they deserve recognition for their talent. Today was another lesson in contrast though. As I walked back towards the apartment I went from listening to Korean drumming to hearing Frosty the Snowman coming from a convenience store a half block down. I'm sure people were wondering why I was holding in my laughter when I passed the kids toys that were blaring the Frosty song in the street. In general it is true that Chengdu is very noisy, from cars to people, to music being played on scooters and bikes or people playing movies on their phones while they walk. That doesn't even include the music pumping out of the shops that line every street.
Tomorrow I have a meet and greet at the American Consulate for Gilman and Fulbright scholars which I am looking forward to attending after class. I hope you all are enjoying the tail end of September as much as I am and I hope to be able to post more pictures soon.
A picture of what coffee and macaroons look like here in Chengdu. Very common to see macaroons as the French and European pastry business is quite large here.
Hi Everyone! So some of you already know I went on a large adventure with Professor Stevan Harrell, Noah my partner in research, and another UW group of students to the mountains. We stayed in Yangjuan which is a small village tucked into a valley surrounded by mountains. It is really beautiful and the people are very special and kind. They gave us rooms to stay in, cooked meals for our group and also helped us find guides to show us the village and help interview subjects for our research. It was a wonderful time though I missed showering for 6 days.
What impressed me the most about that trip was the generosity and honest goodness the people showed us. The Nuosu/Yi people are an ethnic minority group in China. When I look at them physically they remind me of some Native American groups in America. The Nuosu in Yangjuan were warm, and loving people and had a strong sense of honor and community. I'm incredibly lucky to have spent time with them, and also to have the opportunity to spend more with them for my research this year. I was fairly ill while up there as I could not eat without immediately getting sick and I got a little weak, but I was able to go a little slower when we hiked the hillsides for great views of the village and I enjoyed myself no less for the lack of nutrients.
Professor Harrell said if he could sum up our trip into one word it would be "mud." I must agree with that. It was raining heavily just before we got there and the entire time we were there. Since the dirt is a mixture of clay it was incredibly slippery. I wore a Chinese brand of Crocs, I call them my rubber shoes since they don't have any fabric and are easy to clean, but I still had problems since the mud wanted to steal my shoes into its great depths.
So after leaving Yangjuan, Noah, Professor Harrell, and myself went to Xichang which is a larger city (smaller than Chengdu but larger than Yangjuan by a lot)and interviewed some teachers and students there. We also visited a museum about the Yi culture which was very interesting though sometimes insulting as the Han Chinese don't think highly of the Yi people and consider them still to be in a slave society. The museum is located on this huge hill overlooking a lake in what is considered a banana belt region so it is quite tropical. I have a picture of the monkey who decided my apple soda was his and I chose not to argue. I would feel really silly if I had to go through rabies shots over an apple soda that cost $0.50 USD.
After returning to Chengdu from Xichang, Noah and I have been running ragged trying to get ready for school, get registered with the Public Safety Bureau and meet our teachers all while attending lectures and meetings with important people with Professor Harrell. So I feel this post is late, but it was unavoidable and worth the wait. We have made some great connections in Chengdu, Xichang, and Yangjuan and will be heading back in the near future to continue our research.
Since this weekend is the Autumn Moon Festival we have Monday off and begin classes Tuesday morning. I am looking forward to settling down and getting into a routine. Its been great getting back to my apartment and purchasing a scooter for travelling to and from school. I'm really happy to be here.
A side story about mama pig: I posted a picture here because she was an introduction to my adventure. When we got off the 6 hour bus ride which was not by any means smooth as the roads were trashed from the rain and many people got very ill while travelling, we were greeted by some friends of Professor Harrell who took us to their house which is above their orchards and fields. The family was very warm and welcoming and had sacrificed a pig in our honor for dinner. It was delicious in case you were wondering :) So before we left for the next hour long drive I asked to use the toilet. I was directed to a stone building near the entrance of the compound. Upon entry I found mama pig and her very short wall next to the squat toilet (really its a hole in the ground) and her baby piglets in a pen with a gate that faces the toilet. So laughing, or trying not to in all reality, I proceeded to do my business while the piglets got their front row view of my hind end and mama pig jumped onto the short wall and proceeded to drool into my shoe. I was laughing so hard it was almost impossible to compose myself and exit the building and find the hose to wash my foot off. That my friends was my introduction to outhouses in China.
Hi Everyone, I am home in Chengdu again. I will tell you all about my time in Yangjuan and elsewhere shortly. Stevan Harrell, our coordinator through the UW-SU program has been in Chengdu and taken Noah and myself all around the north part of Yunnan to do our research. I promise more is to come in the next couple days as I clean up my pictures and ready them for your viewing.
This week we have taken our placement tests for classes and all of us have been put into appropriate classes. I met my teacher today, she is super sweet and her English is wonderful so I expect no problems. She also has a great sense of humor which is appreciated.
Eason, a coordinator from SU helped a few foreign students out, myself included, to find transportation. I bought an electric scooter for less than $200 USD. It is nice, it has a racing suspension so it rides really well. I parked it in my apartment's garage for only $0.50 per day. It is a nice scooter and has plenty of power, ok really it intimidates me since it will go 40mph and a helmet is not required!
So, next Tuesday we begin classes and for this weekend I plan on working on my research and partying with the other foreign students and our network of Chinese friends. Tomorrow we celebrate Eason's test being over and also the beginning of our school year after the Autumn Moon Festival (Monday).
Please keep an eye out for another posting soon as I will be working on that as well this weekend. Just in case you were wondering what I miss about America: clothes dryers, consistent hot water, mirrors, wall clocks, soap/hand towels or dryers and toilet paper in public restrooms, quality chocolate, and driving!
A wild attempt to try and show you how awesome of an apartment I scored in Chengdu. I live on the top floor (11th) in an area overlooking the river and 2nd ring road. I have a nice balcony, a large bedroom with closet, a kitchen with 2 burners (unusual but very welcome!), and a Western Style bathroom. I also have a large living room with a fridge, sofas and TV which I get many channels because my internet connection came with TV for the year. It is very nice here. I live far enough away from town that I get peace and quiet and can walk along the river while listening to the cicadas in the trees. I also get to watch the cranes fish in the river and dance on the bridge. It is very nice here. Thank you Patti the UW coordinator and DaAn the apartment agent for finding me such a lovely home for the year!
Hi Everyone! I spent my Saturday touring Shanghai with my tour guide Heidi. She took me to Xintiandi which is the former French Concession, the Bund (where the Pearl Tower is), the Confucious Temple, People's Square, Yuyuan Garden and the old part of Shanghai, and also the Silk Museum. We mutually agreed to skip the Shanghai Museum as the lines were about 2 hours long and it was pouring rain. Besides, I need something to see next time I am in town :)
So I learned about pearls, jade, silk and tea on my adventures with Heidi. Our driver was very good and didn't hit any pedestrians. I think that is the main challenge in a city where lanes are suggestions and merging is always an option even if there is a car in the way. My favorite part of town was Old Shanghai, it had the classical architecture and felt very natural. The Yuyuan Gardens were wonderful and I enjoyed my time surrounded by dragons, carved faces in the eves and all elements of nature (wood, water, rock and air). I really enjoyed the silk museum and did purchase some silk pillow cases (Marcy eat our heart out!). They are tan colored and feature the phoenix and the dragon which also symbolizes man and woman. I must admit to some vanity in that I also purchased some pearl face cream which is really cheap here. It has silver flakes, pearl powder and ginseng gel. I look forward to trying it as it feels very nice and soothing.
Today is Sunday my time, and I decided to take it easy as my authentic lunch and tea yesterday did not do well in my stomach. For those traveling to Shanghai beware that the food is very oily. Heidi the guide and also a native even has problems, she suggested you drink 6 or more cups of green tea to help cut the oil in your diet and feel more healthy. I must be a glutton for punishment though since I do like the food very much.
So, no one will guess where I went today, Wal-Mart is about 25 minutes by foot from my hotel. It was the food section and it was so cool!! I bought sesame duck, chili peanuts and chocolate. Don't worry if you don't speak English when grocery shopping, chocolate does not translate, it is just "chocolate" so everything in the world is just fine.
So final thoughts: don't stay in Wujiaochang district if you don't speak excellent Chinese as you won't be able to get around and can't order food since the locals don't understand and there is no English translation or pictures. Another thought, take a tour, they are cheap like $100 plus tip your driver and guide 100-150 RMB which is about $16-25. Next visit I will take the harbor tour, if you come ask your concierge who will be priceless how to book things. FYI on tours they take you to places that expect you to buy things, you are not obligated I chose to buy from the temples instead of street hawkers as the temple purchases go towards maintenance and scholarships to poor students. Last thought, start at the silk museum and work your way down that street, so many vendors which things like mystery meat on a stick, turtles and snakes for pets or food they didn't care which, and make sure you haggle for good deals.
Take care everyone and my next blog will come from my future hometown of Chengdu. Wish me luck finding my apartment and getting settled.
Hi Everyone! I arrived yesterday in Shanghai. Getting from the airport to my hotel proved somewhat difficult, but the taxi driver and I managed. They hid the hotel behind another building and the sign is blocked by a tree. It is morning here and I am about to embark on my adventure for the day. I did have an enjoyable flight with numerous entertainment options and very nice flight attendants. My only beef is that the water in Shanghai, at least for this hotel, is rather glacial for showering and I feel like I'm at camp :) Weather is supposed to reach 94 F again today and it is a bit muggy but not expected to be unbearable.
The stories I have from being in the Vancouver B.C. area must be abbreviated for my audience, but here are the highlights from the last day and a half. Arrival into Canada was uneventful, except we got stuck at the gate watching a man push his car over the border. It was very nice of the border patrol officers to assist him in pushing it out of the gate area and to the side (yes, small hill involved and 4 patrol officers were pulled from their posts to do this). We decided to visit Gastown and Chinatown Saturday evening after checking into the hotel. We met a fellow Olympian while bar hopping and avoiding panhandlers. About 4am we had a moment of hilarity when the bed literally fell off its supports without provocation! Our Sunday included some awesome Chinese food, stores, and garden tours. I must say that I have seen more police action in the last 27 hours then I had in over a year at home. Those Vancouver PD officers sure are fit, watched one scale a residential fence with room to spare! Oh, did I mention we got blocked into a parking spot while at dinner? Yeah, took us an hour and a half to wait for the family to move their vehicles which made us miss our karaoke event, but it gave us an excuse to check out another Hong Kong Restaurant. I can't wait to see how the rest of our time in beautiful Vancouver turns out. We have met some wonderful people and even learned how to make tea properly Cantonese style.
Hi Everybody! It's almost 11pm and after spending the last 12 hours packing, unpacking, repacking and sorting, I am finally ready to leave tomorrow. I had to repeatedly laugh at myself regarding how much stuff I feel I need and keep justifying that it is because I'll be gone for 12 months not for short term. In the end I found out I have a weight limit on my backpack which is unusual but eventually I got my carry on bag to the right weight, and I also managed to get my checked bag within a couple pounds of limits and feel rather satisfied with my hard work.
Tomorrow my partner Joe and I will drive to Vancouver, B.C. for 3 days of relaxation and then I will depart for Shanghai. My only concern is that the airports in Shanghai are having some issues because of military drills in the area. So I am crossing my fingers that things go smoothly and as planned but if they change I can work with that too.
Take care friends and I will post more in the near future!