Friday, August 14, 2009

Wrap Up

Unfortunately, what has been a phenomenal summer has to come to an end. After finishing up the program I returned home to Hong Kong. While there was not any huge culture shock for me, I realized that I really missed a couple of things that I had taken for granite. For example:

Milk - I went from 2 glasses with every meal at school to 1 carton during my entire two months in Beijing

Tap Water - When it is 2:30am and you wake up thirsty to find you have no more bottled water left. Yeah, that's no fun.

Meat - Big hunks of meat, steak. Pieces of meat that you bite down into and you can chew are just tough to find in China unless you go out of your way. I had steak and twice baked potatoes the first night I got home. Incredible.

Sleep - I have gotten close to 10 hours a night since I have been home and just woke up from a nap. Getting up in Beijing every morning at 6:30 wasn't fun. I need to recover before school starts up again.

Clean(ish) air - While in Beijing, there was no way I was going to be able to run. Even playing basketball was tough because after ten minutes your chest would be hurting and afterwards I always felt sick. Coming back to Hong Kong, where the air has been spectacularly clean, has allowed me to get outside for extended periods again. 

While the summer has reminded me to be thankful for the aforementioned things, there are a few certain things that I picked up in Beijing which will be tough to drop

Fried Egg and Dough Breakfast - Ate it every morning and would continue to do so if the guy selling them lived outside my apartment building. 三个拉的。要菜。谢谢。

Gongbaojiding and Danchaofan Lunch - I ate it almost everyday and while I got sick of it towards the end of the program, would gladly have some more. In a couple weeks. 

Playing basketball with Beijingren - I will miss hearing cries of "fan gui," people hanging around the courts all day to watch, and old Chinese men being automatic from 20 feet out. They really do love basketball in China. Whoever is responsible for that (Nike, cough) has done a great job.

On the whole, my summer in China was a fantastic experience and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Chinese language, culture or just wants to try something different. While it may require you to be outgoing at times, I have yet to meet someone who did not enjoy their time in China. I will definitely be back next year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't be afraid to comment

Seriously, it makes the blog much more interesting if there is more input.


This weekend I took a trip to Shanghai. Fortunately, my future roommate (none other than the venerable Kevin Ho) took me in and gave me a place to sleep. Outside of the cost of the flight, the trip was really incredibly inexpensive and getting out of Beijing was a great way to recharge the batteries.

After arriving in Shanghai, I took the MagLev train into the city. This was really exciting because this train goes fast. I mean, really fast. Like Roadrunner fast. My favorite part was looking out of the train and looking at the cars on the highway going in the same direction as you and whizzing past them. Its only then that you truly realize that you are going 300KPH faster than them.

Another great part of Shanghai was Kevin's apartment. He is in China with the Bulldogs in Shanghai program and seems to be very well taken care of. His apartment had two bedrooms (with queen sized beds), two bathrooms, a full kitchen and a living room. On top of that the apartment complex provides maid and laundry service. The air-conditioning was also incredible. Four units in a relatively small apartment gets things done. I slept in a cool 16c environment which took me nostalgically down a road of remembrance back to my room at home. I can't wait until the cold New Haven winter when I can wake up with snow on the inside of my windowsill.

As for the sighteseeing, the Shanghai Zoo was probably the most fun I had. The zoo has everything. From pelicans to penguins to polar bears to panda bears all areas of the animal kingdom were well represented. However, the best part of the zoo was the way that the guests treated the animals. Save the panda bears (which are basically walking deities in China) people had little respect for the animals and it seemed like the zoo itself had even less. For example, in the rain forest area, visitors walk on a walkway above turtles, alligators and other creatures. Many people would simply drop trash and money into the cages (to make a wish or something). I am not exaggerating when I say that I saw a turtle with 30 kuai in coins on its shell swimming around. He was not too pleased. The zoo seemed to have no maintenance staff and made no effort to stop the people from treating the animals so poorly. What's more is that they sold food to the guests which they use to feed the animals. While this is great and fun and all, it really can't be good for a deer to eat 10 to 20 packets of Ritz crackers a day. It just can't be.

That's all for now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coming back down

This week was one of the quieter ones. After having our first final last week, doing our daily work and studying for our weekly test just did not seem like that much work. I really caught up on some much needed sleep this weekend, putting in about 22 hours combined on Friday and Saturday night. I have noticed that I really do need about eight hours of sleep a night for it to be sustainable. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen here on a consistent basis. 

Last night I went for Mexican food. While my initial feeling was that Mexican food in China would taste about as good as Chinese food in Mexico, it was surprisingly delicious. The jury is still out on whether it was the quality of the food or the fact that I had not had so much meat and cheese since arriving here.

This week of classes was probably the best so far. We have begun to learn about real things like the Chinese government and the Chinese economy. This is great because we can actually have intellectual discussions in Chinese and it makes class a little bit more fun when one person does not agree with another on the positive and negative externalities of foreign companies in China. Then again, I think we have one chapter next week titled: Drop your pants and fart. So much for those intellectual discussions.

Thats all for now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Datong, Pingyao

This past weekend marked the midpoint of our program and we spent it traveling. While one group went to Xi'an, I chose to go to Datong and Pingyao in Shanxi province. 

The trip started with a six hour train ride from Beijing to Datong. The train ride itself was certainly an experience. In China, if the train has sold out all of its seats, you can simply purchase a standing ticket. This means that for the entire duration of the ride, you are on your own two feet. The lucky people will actually sit in the toilet stall when no one is using it. The strangest part about it is that the people who don't have a seat actually pay the full price of the ticket. People in the US just wouldn't be able to stand that. 

Once everyone had boarded the train it was extremely crowded. However, apart from that the train was really quite nice and probably better than any train I had been on in the US. The train on the way back from Datong certainly was. It was very modern and comfortable. The train travelled at about 150 MPH and the ride was exceptionally smooth. 

On the trip we visited a series of caves in Datong, the ancient city of Pingyao and the very impressionable Hanging Monastery. The Hanging Monastery is a monastery which is built about 50m above the ground half in a cliff and half hanging over the side. It was very exciting walking between the different rooms and looking over the side of the monastery at all the people far below you. It is not difficult to imagine how people died in the building process.

One of my favorite aspects of the trip was that it allowed us to get out of Beijing for a little. While I do like the city, it was nice to spend some time in a more rural area and see what China is really like. Living in Beijing you forget how many Chinese people are still impoverished and that China as a whole is still not completely developed. 

The clean air was welcome too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Duche Du De Lihai

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I have had a mountain of trouble trying to get around the Great Firewall. The VPN is currently working so I will take this opportunity to post.

I am really settling into a routine here. I have become very accustomed to living here. While there are some inconveniences, many seem trivial now. For example, last weekend I took a two hour cab ride which should have taken twenty minutes. Stuck in traffic, instead of stressing out, I took the opportunity to talk to the taxi driver. Traffic is just one of those things that you are going to have to deal with if you want to live in Beijing. I am fine with that.

Last week I checked out one of the more modern malls here with some friends. After shopping we noticed that the mall had a Sizzler. While on any other occasion this would not have been much of a topic of conversation none of us had eaten any American food in three weeks prompting us to participate in what became an epic feast. The food was mediocre at best (I found myself eating something call "Tuna Parsley Spaghetti" as a side dish) but like a parched man in the desert, anything would do. After dinner we located a Dairy Queen to finish the night off. We left satisfied. 

That is all for now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Beijing: Beautiful Again

Since last time the weather has gotten much better. We went to Tiananmen Square on Saturday; the air was perfect the sun was shining. Saturday was the third time I have been to Tiananmen and this time was the most profound. I really appreciated how big it was and the extensiveness of the palace. 

The work has really picked up. We meet everyday with our 'Language Partners' for between an hour and two which really takes away from your time to work. Then again, we only have four hours of class a day.

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to get a game of basketball against the Capital Normal University team. After a slow start, we actually beat them. Because we were playing against the university team, we were allowed to use the gym. A short break from the 100 degree heat was very welcomed.