I have many things on my mind as the day before Thanksgiving slowly fades away. I mastered the confounded machine that holds packages to win my shipment of coffee (Thank you Amazon CN). I’ve spent the last 4 days with the stomach flu and was only able to make it to one class this morning where I taught other nationalities that Caucasian’s can turn colors like green and grey within moments and with seemingly no provocation. It was funny, except for how I felt during those moments (Thank you Western Medicine for saving me). This afternoon I spent my time on the phone coordinating tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Dinner which will be held at my apartment (thank you whoever invented countertop ovens). I even ordered 2 Christmas gifts to be delivered to my house in America where Joe can wrap and deliver them (Thank you Costco Photo).
I have much to be thankful for right now, but there are some things that are bigger than others. I will always be thankful for my family, friends, and those that have shown me kindness and offered assistance, but this year I feel thankful for some new reasons as well.
Being in a foreign country I find things to be thankful every day, from the ability to order Australian cheese to be delivered to my apartment, to being able to get help from a friend purchasing a bus pass so I can get to work cheaper on Wednesdays and Fridays. I think the biggest thing I am thankful for this year is the incredible patience and kindness the people of Chengdu have shown me as I struggle to live and thrive in their country.
Here is one of the many stories about their kindness: This morning I went to get my scooter from the parking garage and noticed they were shutting down that section. I had no idea why and since I literally had not left my apartment since Saturday due to illness I hadn’t spoken with anyone about it. Last week I found out that the woman who waxes my eyebrows lives 3 stories below me in my building. Yes, exactly 3 stories below me which was really funny when we figured it out and realized we both were Gluten Free in China. This morning after arriving in school I texted her asking about parking situation, I knew she also has a scooter since we talked about it. She was kind enough to explain that our parking area has changed to a more secure room near the security guard’s post. This was most helpful when I rode home feeling terrible and nauseous.
When I got to the area where we now park our scooters one of the parking attendants was kind enough to spend some time trying to explain what was happening and how we have a new system of paying monthly. He took the time to get me a receipt and write out what he was talking about regarding the new system. I’m sure we spent at least 10 minutes trying to discuss the new system and make sure we both understood what was happening. He has always been nice, but today he was exceptionally helpful and doing everything he could to help me through our language barrier. I am thankful for people like him, who take the time, show patience and kindness, and honestly want me to be happy and understand what is going on. People like that are rare, but in China I have found more than I ever thought existed and I am thankful for every single one of them.
So this year, I add being thankful for my newly extended network of friends and family (I have a little brother now, his story will be coming soon), and a special thanks to all of the people, strangers and friends alike, who have helped me be comfortable and happy in China.
Please meet part of my extended family, the UW Family, some of whom will spend Thanksgiving with me:
And as I finish this blog, I realize I am also thankful for "Chester" my neighbor's dog who barks with happiness on his way to the elevator and reminds me of home. Chester's not his real name, but he doesn't seem to mind me calling him that.
Will the adventures never stop?! I’m guessing not. So since my last post I have been very busy learning about Chengdu’s hospitals and medical system. I’ve also gone on a field trip with my school to another “ancient town” and visited the Giant Buddha of Leshan with a group of 6 year olds. I might mention I’ve also been studying and making more Chinese friends.
I did despite my hectic schedule find time to watch the new Penguins of Madagascar movie this weekend with David, a friend from Liangshan who goes to school in Chengdu. We watched it dubbed in Chinese and I had no trouble understanding it. That was rather encouraging actually to watch a movie and understand maybe not the fine points but what was happening and mostly why. Yes, I highly recommend everyone go see this movie, it was very funny!
Today I want to get you all some pictures of the “ancient town” and impart some of what I have learned about hospitals and medicine in Chengdu as I think it might be rather helpful if any of you visit China in the future. If anyone plans on studying in China in the future please remember that all campuses have a hospital that you can visit for simple things like colds and sprains, even cuts. My friend is the one who is sick, so we started there with the assistance of an excellent translator.
My audience needs a background: my friend had an accident about 7 months ago and suffered a concussion as well as a deep gash on her head. Since that time she’s been having headaches and been extremely dizzy, nauseous, and having a hard time with her senses and finding her concentration. She was getting worse with the dizziness and her vision was blurring a lot, when her hearing became quite impaired I made her go to the doctor.
So the campus doctor said it was out of her league and suggested the Sichuan University Hospital/Medical Campus which we went to that night. Our translator was wonderful and we got into the ER without any problems. We got the necessary referrals etc, I won’t bore you with those details.
Here is what you need to know about procedures: You will need a card from the cashier. You will pay upon arrival and be given a card and a book for your doctor to write in. The card is a way for the doctors to communicate with each other as well as with the cashiers who need to know what you are doing so they can charge you appropriately. Say you only need to see the doctor for a check up, they will charge the office visit prior to setting the appointment, then you can take the receipt and your card to the info desk for assistance setting up the appointment itself. Your receipt will have the doctor’s name, location and what times to show up, as well as what number patient you will be. You won’t see the cashier again until your doctor asks you to do something, then you see the cashier to pay for it and then go take the test or see the other person etc.
In short, you will go back and forth between the cashier and your appointments and tests many times. Be prepared for this, but it is not expensive nor terribly time consuming. Our worst experience was my friend’s MRI which needed contrast. We paid for the test, scheduled the appointment and showed up to be told she needed an IV put in. That translates into: please go to this desk which is not terribly sanitized, place your arm here and prepare for this really grumpy young lady to jab you maliciously with the IV and then let you wait for an hour for your appointment in searing pain. Seriously, that girl must have had a fight with her boyfriend or something because she was mean to everyone not just my friend.
Highlights for visiting hospitals in Chengdu: you wait in the hallway, sometimes you get a chair most of the time not. People bring their entire family with them it is very crowded. You will keep visiting the cashier who will scowl at you while taking your money. Doctor’s don’t always listen, if you find a good one keep them and write down their name! The tests here are using old equipment and techniques, you will feel like you transported back into the 1970’s but please don’t wear the fashion despite this nostalgic feeling. Most of the doctors speak some English, if they don’t their assistant might so don’t freak out. There are also hospital staff that can step in and help if you don’t bring your own translator (I’d still suggest bring your own but sometimes they are not available because chances are they are also students). There is no privacy in hospitals here, you won’t be alone with your doctor and everyone in the hall is snooping and curious about you, it is ok. They don’t speak English and it is just the way of China I’m finding.
Bring money to the hospital with you at least 1000RMB just in case you need a test. If you need an MRI or CT you’ll pay about 2000RMB which isn’t much USD maybe about $350 but the doctor only costs approximately 30RMB which is $5USD.
Most important: if you wish to avoid Chinese hospitals you can. There are plenty of Global Doctors and Western Medicine Complexes in most big cities. I don’t know if their shots or IV’s hurt any less but you will be guaranteed an English speaking doctor as well as clean and nice facilities. You will pay out your nose though. Example being, just to enter the door of the Global Doctors it costs 1300RMB which is about $220USD. That covers you being seen but no tests or blood work and no medicine. Oh, medicine is cheap here FYI! You can also get antibiotics over the counter if you know what to ask for. I think I paid $5USD for a Z Pack which costs with insurance at least $30USD in America. Yeah, don’t fear the cost of medicine here.
I hope this was helpful and this is definitely a subject you are welcome to ask me more details about. Yes, my friend is doing much better now we know she fractured her skull (CT and MRI were very helpful in getting this detail) and her body is fighting to mend itself. She is tired and dizzy because of all the work her body is doing to heal and that is a good explanation from the one doctor we liked and trusted.
I’d talk about the “ancient town” but really it wasn’t so special,the architecture was kind of cool and it has a dragon statue that leads from the river into town along the stream that divides the town down the middle. I had a good time there with my classmates and at Leshan’s Giant Buddha with the kids. I’ll revisit the Buddha when I don’t have oodles of kids involved.
After taking my midterm this morning, and feeling pretty good about it, I went to work teaching 3 classes of children English and returned home to find I had some packages waiting for me. Said packages were not at my door, which is probably good as I don’t think most people have neighbors as awesome as I do. Some time I will tell you about my awesome neighbors and apartment complex! I went down to speak with the security guard near my building. The guards are always super nice and friendly and I always say hi when I walk by.
With a little bit of Chinese saying I had a package but didn’t know where it was, I showed the guard my text message which showed the delivery info. He pointed at a large machine close by. I had always assumed it was a package dispenser of some sort, but I’ve never had to use it before. I walked over and looked at all the buttons and looked back at him with a very confused expression. He graciously came over and tried to help. Here is where things get interesting…
Problem: don’t know what 6 digits to enter on screen, he doesn’t know either
Solution: find a lady passing who knows how to use machine
Success: first package located, door opened and package retrieved
Problem: I have 2 more packages! What are the digits? Not in same text message!
Solution: return to apartment find correct digits
Success: found digits and raced back down to confounded machine
Variable: man working on machine, it probably needs maintenance. Man asks if I have a package I indicate I have 2. He lets me input the digits I found which are correct but the machine can’t figure out which doors hold my packages!
Solution: man inputs admin code and looks up my phone number and tracking info from text message and finds package number 2.
Success: package 2 found and after signing and providing my phone number on his paper we look for next package
Problem: package 3 is in the old package door where things will soon be sent back to sender! We found this out after much digging!
Solution: repair man had to reboot machine to get the door open
Success: package located and handed over
Gloating required: walked by security guard showed my packages and waved happily
Lesson learned: being nice gets you really far, but showing text messages is more effective!
Other lesson: the confounded machine probably will work better after the repair guy gets a chance to work on it tonight, but I am very lucky to have run downstairs during his visit! I would not have received my packages otherwise I believe.
Payoff: 2 packages of American coffee since really you should bring your own if you have any liking for nice coffee, 1 large package of hot cocoa mix, a bread pan which was half price online and very much needed for baking gluten free bread and meatloaf.
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!
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!