Great to be Home

I wanted to be sure to bring some closure to my blogs from the past few months studying abroad in China. Even though I returned stateside December 15, it’s taken awhile for me to adjust to being home and back again in the US. Getting back into the swing of things right before the Holidays was sort of rough with so much going on and lots to do to get caught up after almost five months away. When I finally got home it was almost midnight after my long flight from Beijing via Chicago to Harrisburg, PA. After catching up a little and playing around with my puppy, we finally got to bed at 2am. The next morning I woke up at 5am, way before my parents even woke up. This continually happened for a week after I got home. For those that know me really well, I love sleep! It’s the best part of the day. Well because I woke up that early, I would start fading around 2 or 3pm. But that’s what jet lag (时差) will do to you.
After the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, I’m back at Wofford College for my last few months of senior year. It is extremely weird being back on campus and seeing friends again. The weirdest part is looking around and not recognizing many new people on campus.
I felt that it was necessary that I document my last few weeks at Middlebury’s Program in Beijing. Right after I posted my last blog we had our final group Experience Beijing Project where we split up into two groups of 5 and did a video on Hutong 胡同 which are little traditional Chinese residences and courtyards. Our group decided to do a short love story that revolved around these residences. Then we ended our video with some comedic relief…our own Gangnam Style, which we named Hutong Style. A girl in our group wrote all of the lyrics, and we recorded the song and included it in our video. It turned out great! Our group ended up winning the best video, and best video editing out of the two groups. (I edited our video!) Here is the link…
After the Hutong video competition it was time for final exams. I actually really enjoyed the two exam weeks we had at MIC, because during that week you only had to worry about preparing for your presentations or papers for the classes, without having to keep up with regular classwork. With this being said there was a lot of cramming, because it was really hard to study everything you learned in a whole semester for each of the four classes. Therefore you had to prioritize which exam needed more attention, or which exam came first. Before exam week even started we had to write and turn in our final one-on-one essay, on top of preparing for a huge written exam and oral for our Contemporary Topics class. Needless to say it was stressful. For our Contemporary Topics class I chose to do my final presentation on Corruption in China,中国贪污. It was really interesting to research this topic, because if I had not been using my VPN (paid internet access) I would not have been able to do research. One Chinese artist in particular created 中国的“耻辱之墙” or China’s “Wall of Shame”. On this wall he had over 1600 paintings of Chinese officials that had been charged with corruption. Between the years of 1995 and 2008 more than $123 Billion dollars has been smuggled by corrupt Chinese officials.
The next day we had our final one-on-one presentations and I gave a brief outline about the development of Sino-American Relations since World War II, focusing on was the development of Sino-American Relations in the 1970s and why it was the perfect time for major improvements with regards to diplomacy between the United States and China. When we finally finished our presentations it was already 5:30, we had to start preparing for our final presentation in our Advanced Spoken Chinese class. It was really hard to start preparing for this presentation with only 12 hours left until we actually had to present it…but it was crunch-time. I had decided to do my final project on Plastic Surgery in China, 整形外科. While researching this topic, I was amazed to see how many people in China go under the knife every year, and how many people travel to South Korea to have procedures done. It was such a relief to have all of that done by Wednesday. We had a break before the final banquet and graduation ceremony on Friday and it was finally time to start packing for home. Friday finally arrived and it was sad to say goodbye to our professors and my new friends, but I was ready to see my family and puppy.
In retrospect, having the opportunity to study abroad in China was amazing. I even still accidently slip in some Chinese words here and there. While in Beijing I had the chance to learn about a broad range of topics, from Plastic Surgery to EBay and Amazon and how these impacted Chinese society. My almost five month opportunity of studying abroad in China was an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

许老师 My one-on-one teacher

钱老师 My Contemporary Topics Teacher

胡同 Hutongs

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Cabin Fever

I loved watching the Muppet movies when I was little. For those of you who have watched “Muppet Treasure Island” before… all I can say is, I have “cabin fever.” I am in the countdown of a little more than 20 days until I come home. (finally!) While living in Beijing and China is amazing, everyday seems to drag on because of all the studying that goes into class preparation. Day in, day out, all I seem to be doing is going to class and preparing for class. An ROTC FTX (field training exercise) would be more exciting at this point. I am trying to take it week by week…I even stopped checking the countdown app on my iPhone, because it was just making the time drag on more…and also making me more and more homesick everyday.

Last time, I posted I wrote about my Fall Break, and the introduction to the Foreign Area Officer clique in Beijing. I wish I had some interesting tidbits to add about my life here the past three weeks or so…but it really has been the same. Waking up, going to class, trying to squeeze in time at the gym before settling down for the night with a huge load of homework. I choose not to go outside to run, as the sidewalks are packed with people and the streets are loaded with bumper-to-bumper traffic. (and did I mention the air pollution!) So I try to run 5 to 7 miles on the treadmill every night. Oh one change I have not mentioned is that I transferred from a Business Chinese Class to Advanced Spoken Chinese. I love this new class because all you really do is do PPTs and have the occasional quiz. Whereas in my business class…I spent around 4 to 5 hours a night preparing. However, one of my classmates believes that the PPTs are a waste of our time, and is bored to death. I believe my speaking and listening comprehension are also improving…at least I hope so. In my opinion, my oral comprehension is probably my forte.

Ah, I just remembered one of the points I wanted to make about one of my observations over here. It was interesting watching the Presidential Election turn out the way it did from abroad. I was the only student in my program to have my whole Facebook feed saying that students wanted to secede, and how upset they were about the outcome. Everyone else in my program here goes to schools in California or in the Northeastern part of the US. So, their Facebook feeds were a little more on the positive note. However this blog is not about my political views, but about my experiences over here in Beijing. In my humble view no matter what outcome an individual may have hoped for, we are lucky to be able to say we “elect” our leaders and that we actually can exercise our right to vote. Two days after The US Presidential Election, the 18th Communist Party Congress convened in Beijing in the Great Hall of the People….right next door to where I went to the joint PLA/US Army Band Concert at the National Performing Arts Center last month. It has been known for years who would become the next “President of China”…but the Party finally made it official on November 15th. The experience here in Beijing is a great one to learn about another nation’s culture, but it also made me even more proud to be an American.

That same day, for our Experience Beijing Class the weekly project was to go see an example of Beijing Opera as well as have the opportunity to do our own Beijing Opera Makeup. Our program invited a traditional makeup artist to come and teach us how to do our makeup. An opera performers’ makeup defines an actor’s gender, personality, significance and role in the opera, just by the color and style of makeup. I knew going into this activity that I would not be able to do this traditional art form any justice, so when they asked for a volunteer for the artist to use as an example, I was the first one to raise my hand – Mulan (Disney movie), here I come. In our small classroom at Capital Normal University, our professors and guest artist set up individual vanity mirrors, paints, brushes, and powders. (Because of doing so many plays my freshman year when I was attending Converse College, Wofford’s neighborhood school, I had a lot of experience having my whole face covered in copious amounts of stage makeup.) Also on the tables were tons and tons of hand and facial wipes to clean off any mistakes. If any of you want to see a fascinating movie about the development of the Beijing Opera as well as it’s persecution under during the Cultural Revolution check out Farewell My Concubine. (I believe it is on Netflix) Luckily for me, I did not have to paint my own face…but some of the guys in my program decided to go a little bit more abstract in their face painting. That Friday, to go along with our discussion of Beijing Opera, we went to go see a couple of excerpts from various Operas. Apparently, I was not too entertained (or extremely exhausted), because after only twenty minutes I fell asleep.
On a little relevant side note the new Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife is an actress. His wife, Peng Liyuan, was better known in China before her husband even joined the Politburo. She is also a major general in the PLA. Yeah girl power…

The most fun highlight since my last blog was a special visitor from the States. My dad came to China for a short business trip, and I got to see him. It was his second trip to China courtesy of the Hanban/The Confucius Institute and College Board. Hanban invites educators to visit Chinese schools out in the various provinces. It was so cool to meet him at the Beijing Airport. I got to spend three nights with my dad, that night and two after he returned back to Beijing after they visited Luoyang in the Henan province.

Dad and me at the Beijing Airport 🙂

I think it was the following week, my dad’s Hanban group returned to Beijing (from Luoyang…and yes that is the same city my program also went to. I took the train for ten hours to get there. He flew there in one hour). I had the chance to hang out with my awesome dad for a few fun moments. For starters to an eventful two days (I still had to attend classes during the day) my dad got the concierge at Loong Palace Hotel to tell the taxi driver to take him to my college. But my dad did not know the taxi driver was taking him to the other campus, about a ten-minute walk from where I am currently staying. So after the taxi driver dropped him off, and after a few minutes of trying to figure out where he was and without knowing any Chinese, he called me. A case in point, a fellow student from my program called me and said he thinks he just walked by my Dad – in a city of 20 million people.

Next I heard my Dad say he was going to probably die from being run over by the horrible traffic. From that, I figured out where he was. Next I asked him if he saw a restaurant that had a Chinese looking face with the founder of KFC , 李先生饭馆, and my dad said yes, I’m right in front of that place. So I finally found my dad and introduced him to my roommate, and my “wonderful” dorm room for the semester. After that I took my dad to the best Chinese food restaurant in Beijing, Kro’s Nest, near the Embassy District. (That was a joke; in my previous blogs I have described how Kro’s Nest is a little bit of home away from home. Their American-like pizza is absolutely delicious.) Once we arrived at Kro’s Nest, I ordered us a pizza that was half pepperoni and half BBQ chicken, and a Caesar Salad. As soon as the food arrived his first comment was that it was the first western food he had had in over a week. After this comment I gave him a 真的 look. But it was absolutely wonderful to have the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with my dad for the first time in about three months. One funny story about this was that we kept getting weird stares from people at the restaurant, like people did at the airport in my dad’s group from the States. Some thought I was his girlfriend. Once, I finally introduced myself to his group members, it all clicked. They were like “oh this is why you both look alike”. Super creepy….

Luckily, I got to spend the night with my dad in his hotel (the room had two enormous beds with huge fluffy pillows, it was a great change from the Chinese dorms.) The following morning I got to indulge in the hotels continental breakfast. After breakfast my dad and his tour group went to go see the Great Wall and I went to back to school. After another full day of classes, I joined my Dad at Crowne Plaza, near the Bird’s Nest at the Beijing Olympic Village, for a farewell banquet hosted by the Hanban Institute. It was an amazing night and I even got to meet and speak Chinese to the Director General of the Hanban/Confucius Institute, Madame Xu Lin. She runs their worldwide Chinese language and culture program in 105 countries. Her first words to us were to my Dad, “We met before haven’t we?” It really was a special night. Then I went back to Dad’s room to study for a couple of hours.

After my dad flew back home, my cold got worse. Now for weeks, I have been struggling to get over this horrible cold, but I think it’s the drastic weather change that is going to keep me sick until I get home. With the intensity of the projects and other homework this week, my only saving grace – going to the gym, will be greatly missed.

This past week, most families back in America had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving. This is a great time to have a break off from all the studying for a few days, and hang out with family. Well obviously they do not celebrate our Thanksgiving, so we had class and had no break of any sort. But last Thursday night, after classes from 8am-4pm (and squeezing in a quick run during my lunch break to make up for the hopefully delicious calories I would be eating at dinner) we went to a cool little restaurant called Nola. To celebrate Thanksgiving, they had a little Thanksgiving dinner planned out. It was good, but not as good as a home cooked meal. These are a few tidbits from the Menu: Crudités with Green Goddess Dressing, Devilled Eggs with Smoked Salmon,Pecan Stuffed Mushroom, Turducken with Giblet with Gravy,Cranberry Chutney, Honey Glazed Carrots & Greens Beans with Almonds, Roast shallots with Pomegranate and Orange, Potato Puree, and Leek & Mushroom Cornbread Dressing. Yes that may sound like a lot, but the portions were kind of little, especially the little hors d’oeuvres (appetizers) that we shared between four or five people. However, as a perk to being the only college student that was already 21, my teachers said I could order wine or beer. For the hors d’oeuvres I had a little class of white wine that was actually good, and then for the “Turducken” I had a Belgium Beer.

Thanksgiving in China

A fun little quip, on the way home from dinner, we were on the subway and I was sitting down and three Chinese girls blatantly started taking pictures of me for absolutely no reason. The funny thing was that they were so fascinated by my blonde hair that they didn’t care that I could hear their cameras when they were snapping my picture.

Super creepy thing happened last night. I went downstairs because we were going to meet for a group project, and these two older looking Chinese wanted to take pictures of me. I started speaking with them in Chinese, and they started asking me questions like do I work out…what kind of exercises do I like to do? First of all that is creepy…and then they give me their card and it’s not a legit card. On the back of the card it has all the pictures of the cast of the TV show Friends with the signatures. I don’t know, but I got a super sketchy feeling about this. So I hid with one of the guys in my program in the café downstairs. I feel like when things like this happen in the States, it is either because they are actually legit (…rare) or they want you to do 黄色网站.For those of you that really want to know what that means, I will let you put that into a Chinese dictionary.

A lot has happened this week, and I am planning on having a little bit more free time this weekend to write about all that happened. For now, goodbye! 🙂

Gifts from my mom 🙂

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“You’re American…so let’s talk about the NBA”

Two weeks ago was our Fall Break for MIC-Middlebury, as I have said in previous posts I stayed in Beijing for the week. Let me tell you, it was an absolute blast if you enjoy sleeping in everyday, working out, and doing the occasional homework to get ahead. But over break I got this amazing package that my mom sent me with about ten DVDs and some classic buttery American-styled popcorn. (Chinese popcorn is like an extreme kettlekorn with globs of sweetness, not really my cup of tea per say…I prefer the amazing movie theatre popcorn back in the states) So over break I had the chance to revisit my childhood and watch Pocahontas I and II, and chow down on some buttery goodness. I am saving the other movies for a rainy day, which rarely happen here in Beijing, or a weekend that I have a little free time.
Over break I went to Beijing’s Kro’s Nest twice, once to watch the Final Presidential Debate and once to watch a movie on the Internet. My good friend Brian and I decided on a lazy Saturday to go and watch “Looper” on the Internet while indulging in the delicious pizza and Strawberry milkshakes that Kro’s Nest has to offer. Originally we were planning to go to the movies to watch it, but it was too much of a hassle to arrive at the movie theatre and not know if there would be a showing around that time, because the Internet site for the movie theatre was down. Watching the Final Presidential Debate two Tuesday’s ago was a lot of fun. I met up with an old classmate that I did the Middlebury Summer Program with two years ago, and got to get an amazing “Americans in China voting for ____ Candidate” shirt.
The rest of the week was pretty much racking up some mileage on the treadmills at the gym and sleeping in, but on Thursday night I had the opportunity to meet up with some Wofford students that are also studying abroad in Beijing. It was great to actually see familiar faces, and chat about picking classes for Jan/Spring Term. One cool thing that my friend George recommended, was to try something from the 小吃 road in WangFuJing, so we decided to eat the small Scorpions that they were selling on a stick. The next day, because of my dad, I was able to meet up with a China Foreign Area Officer (FAO) and go to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. For those of you who do not know what an FAO is, they are commissioned officers from any of the four branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that specialize in regional expertise, with political, economic, geographical, cultural, sociological, and economic awareness. FOAs also have to be able to speak the language of the area in which they are studying, and in their case it is Chinese. To have people that have regional expertise and are able to speak a country’s language is obviously crucial for current foreign policy. Because I am an ROTC cadet, I was able to see the military side of the Embassy, where as majority of the time when people meet with people from the embassy, they are just government workers. China FAOs are required to after going to DLI (Defense Language Institute), to come to China for a year to study the country. As students they are literally given money to just travel throughout China. With regards to this aspect I am absolutely jealous, because the only places I have been in China are the capital and Luoyang.
I had the opportunity to tour the Embassy, which is absolutely amazing. As we have learned this past week in our Experience Beijing class it is the most expensive Embassy that the U.S. has built, and it is only second in size to the Embassy in Bagdad. An interesting fact that I learned while visiting the embassy, was that everything that was used to build the embassy, down to every brick, was imported from the United States. This also includes the American contractors who had to have security clearances to come and build the embassy. While visiting the embassy I got to meet other Army and Marine FAOs, who have all been in China for almost a year. Also I discovered that the U.S. Embassy has a store stocked with American products such as Mac n’ Cheese and protein shakes. While I was there I got some Kraft Mac n’ Cheese and got my dad a couple of Embassy Souvenirs to give him when he gets to China next Thursday.
On my last day of freedom I went to this amazing little café near Wudaokou 五道口, where I previously stayed the last time I was in Beijing two years ago, called the 桥咖啡馆 which literally means the Bridge Café. The menu has a variety of western foods, such as a Chicken Croissant Sandwich, a pancake breakfast, and a variety of Pasta dishes. This was only my second time going here, but the service is always great; they refill your cup with water if there is even a hint that you have had a sip. I ordered this delicious cup of Peppermint Tea, which made me even more excited for Christmas time when I get back stateside on December 17th. (43 days!)
After studying some characters for upcoming quizzes, Brian and I went to Xidan to try and find me a pair of black high heels or 高跟鞋, because I was invited to go to a Joint Concert Program between the United States Army Band and the PLA Band. Brian really gets major props for putting up with me going up and down the five stories of one of the huge shopping centers in Xidan. It is strange that when you are trying so hard to find a particular thing, how hard it actually is to find it. After about two hours of no luck, I had an epiphany that we should go to Zara (a popular Chinese Brand store) because they were bound to have black high heels. Luckily they had a pair of semi-decent looking black heels that were my size. However, for the price that they were, the quality was absolutely horrible. But I was in a squeeze for time, so I just bought the shoes and left. (I also discovered the next night that they were the most uncomfortable heels that I have ever bought in my life) On our way back Brian and I could not find a cab, so we ended up getting driven back to campus by a “black cab.” Black cabs are not always black, but the reason that they are called black cabs is because the fact that they are not actually legal cabs. Once we got back, we ended up grabbing dinner at one of our new favorite restaurants right by campus. We call this restaurant the 饺子饭馆儿, because it is the only restaurant near our college that sells dumplings. Brian’s favorite dish to order at any restaurant is Kung Pao chicken, so we often order that when we go, as well as a really delicious veggie-egg bread, that is a type of 饼.
Monday evening was the night of the Joint Concert Program between the Military Band of the People’s Liberation Army of China and the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” The concert was held at the Bird’s Egg or The National Centre for Performing Arts, 国际大剧院. Some of the major military figures that were there were: Major General (Two Star Air Force) David R. Stilwell, who is the United States Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché to the People’s Republic of China; Major General Linnington; the PLA’s Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, who apparently is currently in a four-star general’s job; and Captain DJ Skelton. Because I was a guest, I did not go to the reception before the concert, but instead I had the opportunity to help hand out tickets at the Beijing Military Attaché Corps (BMAC) table. While I was there I got to see Military Attaches from countries like Argentina, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Bolivia, Uruguay, Serbia. Spain, and Turkey. While talking to one of the people that works for BMAC, I learned that for small countries like Switzerland and Norway (etc.), they only have one Military attaché that is assigned to a couple of countries in Asia. For example, I believe the lady I was talking with said the Military Attaché from Switzerland is in charge of North Korea, China, and several other small Asian countries. Which as you can imagine has to be an extremely difficult job.
One thing that I noticed at the concert, was the similarity in military dress uniforms between the PLA and the U.S. Armed Forces’. The PLA “Land Army” dress uniform are the exact same as the Army’s old green Class A’s, and the PLA “Air Army” dress uniform are also exactly the same as the Air Force blues. I was talking to an U.S. Army LTC, who is the Assistant Attaché at the Embassy, about this, and he jokingly (also seriously) said this was why the U.S. Armed Forces change their dress uniforms not that long ago. My seat during the concert was only about five rows up from the stage, and only two rows in front of all the important U.S. and Chinese military figures. So to say the least, I definitely had one of the best seats in the house. I also got to sit next to one of my Army FAO friends, a State Department worker who specializes in Nuclear Proliferation, CPT Skelton and his wife. CPT Skelton is a truly amazing soldier, for those that would like to read more about him, simply Google him and you can read all about him. But my absolute favorite part of the concert was when both bands together played part of the score from the movie “Cowboys” by John Williams. Let me tell you it was absolutely amazing to just hear John Williams through the use of the French Horns. (Star Wars fans know what I am talking about)
This past week was a good one, however, I was happy it flew right by. But one unfortunate thing was that this past Wednesday was Halloween. Even though a lot of the bars and clubs here in Beijing celebrated Halloween last weekend, it just was not the same as it is back in the states. I am not talking about the short outfits that girls wear on Halloween, but the traditions that come with the holiday. The director of our program organized for us to go to a Chinese Kindergarten, to go there and celebrate with the little kids. And let me tell you, their version of Halloween is only slightly based on our Halloween. The costumes that they were wearing were more so related to Mardi Gras in my opinion. But it was great to see all the little kids dressed up and carving strangely shaped Chinese pumpkins, trying to make Jack o’ Lanterns. Once we got there, we were given these Mardi Gras masks and asked to go individually and dance with separate Kindergarten classes. Being the only blonde-haired foreigner in the area, I got a lot attention, but I showed off my “Gangnam style” dancing skills… so that was a blast. Even though I did not go out for Halloween, because we had an early field trip the following morning, surprisingly my Chinese roommate went out clubbing.

Trick or Treat in Chinese

This past Thursday our Experience Beijing class took a field trip to the Beijing American Center, 北京美国中心 , which I thought was extremely interesting because this past week our topic was the American Embassy in Beijing 美国驻华大使馆. Once we got there it was interesting to see that the two embassy workers we met with, that their Chinese was not much better than ours. (In my opinion I would say we have about two students whose Chinese surpassed theirs)
One thing I have come to appreciate while being in China, are the weekends. You only have about a total of a little more than 48 hours to relax, write essays, and start on the following week’s homework. This weekend went like any other. Last night I met with some FAOs that are currently working/studying in China for some drinks at one of the Hiltons in Beijing. However, before I had the opportunity to grab some drinks with the FAOs I got to experience something that not many people can say they have back in the states. Not a single cab that drove by would stop for me because I was a foreigner. The cabs would see me running towards the car, or aggressively trying to hail a cab and they would just drive away…but not 10 seconds later, they would stop for a group of Chinese students. I had thought that I had gotten ready and left with plenty of time to hail a cab, to arrive at the hotel on time, but I never took into consideration that getting a cab this particular night as a foreigner would be such a difficult task. After about 45 minutes I started to get extremely upset that not a single cab would stop. However, finally after 50 minutes of trying to hail a cab, I got a cab to stop, and headed towards the Hilton.
It was really interesting to sit around and listen to a group of married military guys who are doing what I consider doing in the future. Most of them did ROTC programs, but a couple of the guys went to West Point. (My family alma mater) It started out a little awkward because I am only 21 and everyone else is in their early to mid thirties, but I really enjoy having the opportunity to hang out with older and more experienced people, and get to listen to their stories and advice. The main purpose of going to the Hilton was to meet up with a LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) and do a Q&A about studying Chinese, future careers and such, but apparently there was a miscommunication about where to meet and we ended up being at different bars within the same hotel.
On our way out of the hotel we ran into a couple of his military buddies in the hotel, and we figured out the miscommunication and finally got in our Q&A. It was fascinating to see a man who has such an extensive background with regards to China, and how he got to where he is today. He said he came out of DLI (Defense Language Institute), with 11,000 vocabulary cards; and apparently that is what I need to do if I want to speak fluently in Chinese. I found it really interesting to see that he said American Foreign Policy is like the beginning of the old television show Laverne & Shirley. I have never seen that show, so I did not really understand the imagery, but I think the LTC said something along the lines that every person has a tool that they have to use for a specific task. He also recommended a couple of good books that will improve my memorization skills and books that relate to being an FAO such as: The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne, Confidential (the first half), and Please Understand Me by David Keirsey. There are a few points that he made about the Sino-American relationship, that I felt that I should share with those that might be reading my blog. The first being that it is essential in this type of relationship to look into what the other country could need or benefit from in the future, so that you can prepare sufficiently before going into talks with said country, or to know how to manipulate a situation. In relation to the first point, a country must have a long-term multi-year strategy, which is what US-Foreign Policy (at least with regards to China); this is absolutely essential. I believe the LTC also said that the United States is the only country that does this. Listening to this amazing, talented LTC talk and discuss things that I have thought long and hard about with regards to my future, definitely gave me inspiration and motivation to only work harder. (So now 250% ☺ instead of 200%)
Then today I woke up at a fairly decent time, and went to the gym before I went with my Chinese roommate to go see “Anna Karenina.” (I will talk about the movie in a bit) Well to start off today’s weather is not the best, it was pouring and the temperature continually kept dropping. Currently the temperature is around 30 degrees Fahrenheit without the wind-chill…My roommate and I thought that we left with plenty of time to spare to get to the movie on time, but once we got on our bus we realized that we had a 堵车问题, or a huge traffic problem. We ended up getting to the movie theatre almost 20 minutes after the movie was scheduled to start, but it was worth it because the movie was only 10 kuai a person because it was the weekend. So after quickly grabbing some drinks to take into the movie, my roommate and I found our seats and indulged in the delicious American popcorn I sneaked in. As most of you know I am an absolute movie fanatic. When I am back at school I typically go to the movies almost every weekend. Therefore, overall I believe that “Anna Karenina” was a good movie; the cinematography was amazing. Do not read the next part if you do not want to read spoilers, I really loved how the whole movie was centered on and around a stage, so no matter what everything tied back into the stage.
On our way back, we sprinted through the freezing rain and winds to find our bus stop to go back to school. It was absolutely freezing. On the bus ride back, it was so cold you could see your breath. But one good thing about the ride back, was the fact that it was pouring so much that nobody was driving on the road. Now I am finishing up this blog that I have been attempting to write for the past two weeks, but have been too busy to actually finish it, and start on some essays that are due tomorrow. Lucky you I just remembered to mention my wonderful gym experiences with the locals and the personal trainers this past week. The past few days when I finish a run and go do abs, I have all the trainers constantly staring at me doing abs. Finally one of the trainers came over and walked in circles around me, and then finally told me in Chinese that I need to slow down when doing my sit-ups. Well for one, I am doing them fast to get them done to get out of the gym, and two I am doing them fast because in ROTC you are timed to see how many sit-ups you can do within a 2-minute time-frame. To top that, last night as I was on my way out to meet with the group of FOAs, I had one of the personal trainers call my cell phone (guess they got it from my contract…already creepy) and wanted to know if anyone had ever taught me how to use a treadmill and if I wanted a full-breakdown on how to get into shape and lose weight. Awkward… Another wonderful only in a Chinese-Gym moment was this morning after I finished running. I had a guy come up to me and started speaking to me in English even though I told him I could speak Chinese. (Our conversation consisted of me speaking Chinese to him, and him responding in English) He asked me if I was working out to lose weight, and why was I working out so hard. He then asked me how old I was, and when I responded saying I was 21, he said that I look a lot younger than that. Then our conversation went on to talk about the favorite topic that the Chinese love to talk about with Americans, the NBA. I have never watched the NBA in my life, but I just kept nodding my head when he told me about how much he loved Michael Jordan and how his English name is based on an NBA star.

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Fall Break

Currently we are on our Fall Break for MIC. However, by the looks of it I will be spending my break sleeping, working out, and getting ahead on homework for next week. I have been looking at my friend’s blogs that are currently studying abroad in Europe, and they all have had amazing opportunities to travel during their breaks. Well I could go to different places within China, but they recommend that I do not go far away by myself, and there’s the problem. A lot of people in my program, keep in mind my program only has ten people, do not feel like getting out of Beijing or they say it’s too expensive. Well I feel like we are studying abroad and we should try to look at new places, and the only place we have really seen is the capital of China. (Even though we went on a class trip to Luoyang)
I am absolutely envious for my friends studying in Europe, who can now say they have been to multiple countries in Europe. Also I wish I could dye my hair brown, and have a little darker skin…So I would not stand out so much. This would help if I was traveling by myself. I have seen so many guys here that are staying in the same dorm as us, the international student dorm, go on backpacking trips. I would love to do that, however, none of the people in my group really seem like they like camping or the outdoors…and ultimately I am a female, and I should not be traveling by myself.
It is the second day of Fall Break, and I have already done homework yesterday and today, that is not due until a week from Monday. Any ideas of what I can do on my fall break in Beijing?

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The Phenomenon of Being a Foreigner

There is this pizza place in Beijing called the Kro’s Nest 乌巢 it absolutely has the best pizza in Beijing. Everytime we go there, it’s like a little piece of home, because of the amazing salads and amazing flatbread pizza. Also if anyone wants to know, they have the best strawberry milkshakes in China. I know that when my dad gets here for his Confucius Institute conference in November I am planning on taking him here, I know right definitely authentic Chinese. There are two of these locations in Beijing one in Xiaoyun and one in Sanlitun. Sanlitun is the foreigner’s area of Beijing; you can’t walk a block without seeing a foreigner. But the Democrats in China, I do not think the Republicans have one, have had Presidential Debate watching parties at the Kro’s Nest in Sanlitun. It is an absolute blast to be able to stay caught up on the debates, even though most facebookers have ruined the debates for us before we had the chance to watch it because of the 12-hour time difference. But getting to watch the debates with pizza, a delicious strawberry milkshake, and great company is the best. (Here I am not saying I am a Democrat, just saying that it is a great opportunity to have Americans in China who care about our nation’s future gather together and watch the debates.)
Well this past weekend we had our MIC Middlebury planned small trip to Luoyang, Henan. This is in the southern part of China, so we had to take an overnight train there. The trip was really well planned, with the whole trip and itinerary laid out; we even had a little booklet with little excerpts about the places were going. Even though the trip was well planned, I think they overlooked, one tiny little factor. The day after we got back from our trip, our midterms started. Because we were only going to actually be in Luoyang for one night, we had to pack light. So that meant taking no study aids, except for maybe a little notebook. So on Thursday after a full days worth of class, with some of our roommates, teachers, and fellow students left for Beijing’s West Train Station. Our train left around 9:30pm, and after we got on that train oh the fun started. China has many types of trains; they have the high-speed rail and the regular trains. We took one of the regular trains. On a long distance trip, the train can be split into four different sections or classes: hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper, and soft sleeper. The most sought after ticket is the hard sleeper, because it has a bed and isn’t that expensive. The hard sleeper has three different prices of its own; you can get the bottom bunk, the middle bunk, or the top bunk. The lower the bunk, the more expensive and the more space you have. Well because our teachers just randomly bought us tickets with our passport numbers, I got the short end of the stick. I got stuck with the top bunk. Truly the hard sleepers were not that bad for only a little over a hundred kuai, but they were super crowded and there was absolutely no privacy. So lucky us after the mandatory lights out at 10:30pm we got to hear old people snoring, young chatty Chinese talking on their cells (definitely not with their inside voices). One thing that is worth mentioning are the non-western style bathrooms, so pretty much you have a whole in the train you get to use while the train is rolling along. Being in a country that does not have western style toilets in most places, really does make you appreciate the little things in life, like toilets.
Because we were getting off the train before it arrive at Luoyang to go hiking at Yuntai Mountain, we got off the train at Jiaozuo at 5am. Because I was on the top bunk, I did not sleep that well. I think if anything I got maybe 20 minutes of sleep before they turned on the lights to give us our tickets before we reached our stop. The night before they collected our tickets and gave us a card to hold onto, just incase we lost our tickets while we were on the train. After we got off the train, everyone seems pretty well rested except for me. Apparently I do not have the ability to sleep on transportation, except for buses and cars…because I also cannot sleep to save my life on international flights, which definitely makes the jet lag worse. Well once we got off the train and gathered into our little group, we got on our tour bus and met our tour guide of the next two days Little Wang. I think everyone was dragging because it was 5am on a Friday morning, after a full week of classes. It was interesting to see that even though it was still extremely early, there were tons of older Chinese walking backwards, stretching, and doing Tai Chi in the square in front of the train stop. We had the option of grabbing a quick breakfast at KFC; which was sort of a disappointment for it being so popular in China. At KFC we had the option of changing out clothes that we slept in, into hiking clothes. On the way to KFC it was it was interesting to see the skyline had no skyscrapers, the highest buildings were housing facilities. Which was definitely a scenery change from Beijing. And then we were off to “hike” Yuntai Mountain. Yuntai Mountain was about a thirty minute or so drive from the KFC, so majority of us passed out within seconds.
When we arrived at Yuntai Mountain we were instantly surrounded by hoards Chinese tourists. There were so many Chinese there, that it was not really a hike, it was more so like a walk because you had to constantly wait for endless lines to move. Everything was really beautiful at Yuntai Mountain, except it was really sad to see with so many trashcans everywhere that there were still people throwing their trash on the ground or into the water. The really weird thing was that the whole day we were at Yuntai Mountain we did not see any other foreigners. So it was just a ton of Chinese people, 7 extremely obvious foreigners, and 3 Chinese/Taiwanese-Americans. With this being said, throughout the day I had 16 people and their relatives wanting to take pictures with me, because of my oddly blonde colored hair. Typically in China people do stare, because my hair color stands out more than the typical black or brown. But it appeared as though majority of these people have never seen foreigners outside of the movies or television. It was an interesting opportunity to get to get to feel like a celebrity for a day, but by the end of the day it was getting a little annoying that everywhere we went, it looked like we were walking down a runway of never-ending stares. My good friend Cire, who is from Senegal, also had this problem. So it was like we were two different species that had never been seen before, on display. Definitely a little culture shock is that Chinese do not even attempt to hide the fact that they are taking your picture or staring at you. A cool little blurb from the trip was that I introduced our program director Zhang Laoshi to candy corn, the amazing Halloween candy from the States. Luckily my package from my parents that took over a month to get here arrived shortly before we left for our trip. So I brought along a lot of the Halloween goodies my mom wrapped up for my classmates and I. I also had the opportunity to introduce Qian Laoshi to peanut butter M&Ms. ☺ Such a bad influence.
After a full day on the mountain, we finally had the opportunity to get back on the bus for the three-hour ride to Luoyang. Most people passed out as soon as we got on the bus, but I watched an episode of this new show I discovered called Revenge, I know not a Chinese TV show, but it a really nice break from the stressful life of a semester at Midd Abroad. After I finished the episode, I passed out until we got to the “lovely” restaurant that our tour guide reserved us two tables at. The name of the restaurant was Zhen bu tong, which means really different. And let me tell you, it was really different. Majority of the dishes were soups with some sort of meat, or vegetable. However, there was one dish that I absolutely did not want to try…it was turtle soup, with the shell of the turtle in the soup. I think some students from the other table tried it, but the only people at our table who tried it were the two teachers sitting at our table. I stuck to the 馒头, or steamed bread with no flavor. Once we finished dinner, we arrived at our hotel. It was an extremely nice hotel, which was a nice change from the overnight top bunk from the night before. Before we went in for the night, a couple of us went to go buy water for that night and the next day. (I am a water-loving fiend) On the way to find a store, these little girls playing stopped playing to start pointing at me/my hair. In the hotel I shared a room with a really nice girl in my program, Celine. She can speak French, Arabic, Chinese, and English…I think maybe more than that. But once we got into our rooms we got on our phones and called our parents. She talked to her parents in French, and me obviously in English. Luckily for us the hotel had western-styled toilets, so no holes in the ground!
The next morning I woke up around 7:20am, and grabbed a quick bite to eat downstairs in one of their dining areas. However, I do not recall if I have mentioned the difference between Chinese and American’s breakfast yet, but Chinese people rarely (if ever) eat the same type of breakfast we think of. Their typical breakfast are steamed bread sometimes filled with meat and vegetables, or Chinese noodles and sautéed vegetables. The ideal breakfast for me would be fresh fruit, cereal with skim milk, or pancakes with syrup and butter. Unfortunately I will have to wait to get back home to Pennsylvania to see anything similar to that. I would even be open to a protein shake right now with a little bit of banana, yum! But after we grabbed a quick bite to eat, we got on the bus to head to Longmen Grottoes. Because we got there so early, there weren’t that many tourists. It is amazing to witness what men are capable of creating. For the most part the statues were well preserved, except for the ones that had their heads taken. My good friend Jihad said that Chinese people had a lot of free time on their hands, because they built the great wall and these amazing statues.

Here’s a group picture!

After this, we had the opportunity for free time where my friends Brian, Jihad, Cire and I attempted to find a Muslim restaurant that my friend Jihad could eat meat at. While we were attempting to find a restaurant, we saw a person selling these adorable golden retriever puppies and had the mother dog just lying there. It was so sad; I wanted to buy all of the dogs. (For those of you who do not know, I have a 3 year old adorable golden retriever named Caeli…she is truly man’s best friend) But unfortunately, the only good restaurants we could find weren’t Muslim. But we ended up eating had a pretty good Szechuan restaurant, that had fried corn with sprinkles, really good dofu (tofu), and these delicious little egg/veggie pancake slices. After that we went on our last activity of the day going to the White Horse Temple. It was not really that interesting except for the fact that it is the oldest Buddhist temple in China. After the temple, we had a quick dinner at a Szechuan restaurant, before we grabbed our 7pm-ish train back to Beijing. Almost everyone, except for a few people whose grades do not transfer back, was starting to freak out about the upcoming midterms. So some of us started studying on our bunks on the train. Luckily this time I got the middle bunk, which had a little bit more room. Our teachers were so shocked to see us all studying for our exam that was on Monday, but I mean even though we had all day Sunday to prepare (and I started to prepare the week before) we were slightly freaking out. But with the mandatory 10:30pm light outs, I actually got a good couple hours worth of sleep this time. I think it was because I was so exhausted from everything. But we arrived at the train station around 6am, and got back to our dorms before 7:30. Even though a slept a little on the train I was toast, so I uploaded all of my photos onto Facebook, downloaded new TV episodes that I had missed, and slept until about 11am.
Before I move on and talk about midterms this past week, I think it import to comment that in China you can see two things at once, you can see what you are thankful to have, and what you wish you had. Even though majority of China’s popular is in extreme poverty, there are a lot of millionaires. I mean everywhere you look in China there are the most expensive brands of cars and clothes. With this being said, anywhere you guy in China there are people begging on the streets with deformed bodies, and starved bodies. It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness, but the only thing you can really do is look away (I know that is horrible to say, absolutely kills me every time I see these beggars).
On a more positive note Chinese boyfriends are whipped. Everywhere you look you see a Chinese boyfriend carrying his girlfriends books, purse, etc.
This past week was our midterm week, so with that comes the horrible overwhelming stress. I had a total of three big oral presentations, one written exam, and 4 essays. Now that it is Friday evening, it is such a relief to have this week over with. Beside exams, I have worked out 6 times and ran about 30 miles since being back from Luoyang. Working out seriously has become my outlet for stress, which I do not know if it is a good or a bad thing sometimes. But at the gym they have a lot of trainers, who majority of the time just stand there and watch you work out. One even has a popped collar, lanyard, and a fanny pack, which makes him even cooler. Interestingly, tonight at the gym there was an arm wrestling competition. I did not really watch it, because if I do anything at the gym I typically have people following me with their eyes. This being said, most of the time I go to the gym I am the only female who looks like she is trying to get a decent workout in (i.e. not working out in jeans walking at a rate of 1 km/h), and the only foreigner. The only other people I know that work out at that gym are three people in my program, but we rarely go to the gym at the same times.
This past week a good friend of mine back at school, told me he was planning on doing the same program that I am currently doing in the winter term and in the spring. When he messaged me, he asked me what I thought about the program. So I thought it suitable to write out my thoughts of the program here. The CET-Middlebury program overall is absolutely amazing. It is a great program, great teachers, and great curriculum. However, there is too much pressure here in my personal opinion. In a normal semester I typically pull multiple all nighters a week, but here the stress is always there. If you are not in class, you are studying. And if you are lucky, you have an hour to go squeeze in a workout. Now I know some people doing this program do not have the same opinion, but our program also has some people whose grades do not transfer back to their GPA, whose parents are Chinese, or some students who started learning Chinese in high school. The classes are not really put into different language levels, because we are at some-what similar Chinese levels I guess. Also, we have a couple students that are Middlebury Chinese majors or minors, so they are used to having the same level of difficulty.
Well it’s 1am my time, I am toast after a week of midterms. A couple of my friends decided to go out tonight, but I decided it was best to finally update my blog. But for now, Ciao! Ciao!

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Quick Update

I really wanted to update before we went to Luoyang for our MIC group trip, but last week was more hectic than I expected. Just got back from Luoyang this morning at 6am, and midterms start tomorrow. I just wanted to give a quick update, and tell you all I that will not have time to update until after midterms this week; so Friday at the earliest. Next week is our Fall Break; it is a full 11 days.

Quick Note: One of my major pet-peeves I have developed in China, is after going and running for 50 minutes and getting my cardio in… Is walking back to our dorm from the gym, and every single time I end up behind one of China’s many avid smokers. As I previously said, if the air pollution does not kill you, the secondhand smoke will.

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72 more days till stateside!

So again I have to apologize for not updating when I said I would, because well the internet here in China is not reliable. For one, Sunday evening the internet crashed for the whole campus, so nobody could access internet. And then when the internet came back up last Monday they restarted the monthly fees, so even though I paid for this coming month the guy won’t be here until October 8th. So that is almost two weeks after I paid for a new month’s worth of internet. So am being forced to write this on a word document, put it on a USB, and use someone else’s computer to be able to post it online.
Well let’s see the last post I had was talking about the Great Wall and Diao Yu Islands. Since then the Diao Yu Islands ordeal has become less serious, at least on the protesting side of it. A couple of weeks ago on a Friday afternoon some of us went to the Summer Palace 颐和园. It was absolutely gorgeous except for the fact that the air pollution that day was around 250. Anything above 201 is said to be very unhealthy, or everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. While we were at the Summer Palace, a little Chinese girl in the middle of a temple, just sat down and started peeing. I was absolutely shocked, however the parents did not really seem concerned about it. Here in China, little kids often wear pants with holes in the back, to make it more convenient for parents to help their kids. However, lately I have noticed this just allows parents to hold their kid over a drain or a dry patch of grass to do their business for all to see. Anyways…At the Summer Palace I saw a statue of a dragon, really easy to find in traditional Chinese architecture, and I absolutely had to take a picture with it because my dad is loves saying the line from the movie Mulan, “I am the great stone dragon!”
That was the only break we had that weekend, because we had huge exams that next week. Talk about a lot of pressure. I think that Saturday and Sunday together, I probably studied over 20 hours. As I have said in previous blogs, school over here is extremely time consuming. When we are not in class, I am attempting to get some studying time in, because there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. And sometimes this even calls for waking up at the ungodly hour of 6am to finish homework before my 10am class.
For our huge exams that we had, they were all oral presentations ranging from 5-8 minutes, as well as a couple of essays. For my Hot Topics class, our exam was on blind dating sites in China 相亲网站,so I created an online profile on one of their Chinese blind dating sites and presented what kind of information these sites require you to give, and what other people are looking for in a person on these sites. I have never used an online dating site, so I do not know what kind of questions or what kind of information American sites ask you to give. But the Chinese sites want you to give information like your monthly salary and what kind of person do you want to marry.
Another thing that might be worth mentioning is that we went to 798, China’s SOHO district, two weeks ago for our Beijing class. Even though I had previously been to 798, it was fun to go back. 798 is a place where extremely avant-garde artists can feature their work. An example of how avant-garde some of the art is, my friends Cire and Brian went to an artist’s gallery, whose art was all about pregnant women. All in all, I got to take a lot of cool pictures, and witness a famous Chinese television show being filmed. The TV show was interviewing Chinese actresses about their upcoming films. However, because we were doing a class trip we could not stay and watch.
As I said in my previous post, I had planned to go to Xi’an for China’s National Day, but my stomach was not doing so well. I was really upset, because I had already bought my tickets to travel to Xi’an, and reserved a room at a hotel. Even though I was not able to go to Xi’an, our break was an absolutely blast. I got to relax, wake up when I wanted to, and hang out with other MIC (the program I’m doing) students. This break definitely has many stories that need to be told.
Over break a group of MIC students and I went to KTV twice, went shopping in a couple small markets in Xidan, witnessed an older Chinese woman start a huge confrontation on a bus, and got to experience Beijing’s late-night club scene. KTV is an absolute blast, if you like dance, sing, and sometimes act like an absolute crazy person…it is the place to be. Also our group of about five people went to one of Beijing’s most happening nightclubs, Element. I have never really experienced anything like this place back in the states. For starters, all girls get in free without having to pay the 100 块 entry fee. As soon as you walk in, you immediately hear the booming base of the music playing, and see so many foreigners you forget that you are in the middle of downtown Beijing. Right before we left this guy who worked at the club, a Chinese guy, came up and asked if I could speak Chinese. He really was impressed that I could speak Chinese, so you gave me his number so that the next time we came to Element we could get a table (typically 2,500 块) for free. This past weekend we took him up on that offer, and he held true to his word. We got a extremely nice table, with free champagne. However, that being said the club scene typically starts around midnight and can go until 6 am or longer. It goes without being said, going out can definitely wear you out.
Over break I also joined a gym. Which is extremely convenient because of how horrible the air pollution has been lately. The gym has the standard things like treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and weights. Even though the membership was quite expensive, it is definitely worth it. I am planning on getting my money’s worth; having already been 5 times in the last 6 days I would say I am doing a pretty good job. Another reason I am very happy for joining a gym is because after being in China 40 days I can no longer do more than one pull-up. Before I got to China I became a Crossfit junkie, and after working out at a Crossfit gym all summer I could do more than 10 pull-ups at a time. I am also having a difficult time attempting to figure out when the machine is asking for my weight in pounds or kilograms, or if the mileage is in kilometers or miles. This past week I have become a workout-junkie, if I don’t go run for 45 minutes or so, I will feel guilty for the rest of the day. Which is great because when I get back stateside, my dad and I are planning to do a half-marathon.
This past week, we luckily only had two days of class. In my one-on-one class we discussed the previous text and watched “The City of Life and Death”, which is film about the Rape of Nanjing. I recommend this movie to everyone. Even though is a really sad movie, you learn a lot about the Sino-Japanese War. (The movie is on Netflix, for those of you that want to check it out!) A couple of weeks ago we finished discussing Sino-American relations during World War II, and we are now discussing Sino-American relations during the Korean War. It is interesting to learn a different side to all of these topics, especially the portrayal of Americans during both of the wars. My next project for this class is our upcoming midterm on October 16th, and coming up with a 10-minute presentation to give our entire program (which is only ten students and their teachers…but still, lots of pressure) with regards to what I learned in the past six weeks of class about Sino-American relations.
Well tomorrow is the start of another full week of classes. I will try to post another blog this week about Beijing pizza and other little fun anecdotes about the past couple of weeks, before we leave for our short MIC group weekend vacation. For now مع السلامة . (goodbye in Arabic)

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–input blog title here–

I sincerely apologize that it has already been two weeks since my last post. However, school over here is more time consuming than you would think. I know some study abroad programs allow you to be in class for a couple of hours and then give you time to go out and explore the country you are studying in…well here we spend from 10-2 or 10-4 in class (or the occasional days from 10-8), and then to the complete the day around 6-7 hours worth of homework. Also for the past few weeks I got some sort of bug, so having to attend class and deal with that has been quite a difficult task.
However, this weekend is China’s National Day Holiday. So we all finally have a chance to relax. I was planning on going to Xi’an by myself for this break, but because of this bug I thought it best to not go. So I will spend the next 5 days running, eating fruit, and getting to relax for the first time in almost 5 weeks! Another interesting thing that has been going on is that my parents sent me a package almost three weeks ago now…well it was supposed to been delivered to my university last Friday. Well it arrived in Beijing last Thursday, but Customs did not want to release it to me (even though my parents filled out the customs form). So after multiple phone calls in both countries, multiple emails…according to the UPS office in the States my package has been released, well here it is a week later. no package. Also currently right now I am downstairs in the lobby, creepily stalking the office in which the packages are received at our university. Well the office just closed down, so I guess the earliest I might see my package is next Thursday. I am going to KTV tonight with some friends from MIC. I will update more on the past two weeks tomorrow. For now, auf wiedersehen. 🙂

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Translation: “You are not a hero unless you have climbed the Great Wall” -Mao Zedong

Looks like the only time I have to write down my complete thoughts is either on a Saturday or a Sunday, my apologies. Just finished the second week of classes, and it honestly feels like we have been in session for months. This past week we learned about the increasing number of single women and men in China, the Great Wall, and the development of Ebay and Amazon as internet shopping websites. Homework is still really time consuming, but somehow some of the other students finish the homework in record time. (I swear they have a time-turner…sorry for the Harry Potter reference) Fortunately, starting this week the director of the program wants us to start recording how long it takes us to do each classes homework, to see if any of the classes need adjusting.
Some good advice for anyone thinking about traveling or studying in China, watch out for some kinds of food that us Americans are not used to, that may cause you serious discomfort (also known as 拉肚子). Most of you that know me really well, know I love “American” chinese food, well after being in China 19 days I honestly am a little tired of having rice for every meal. Even though it is a great staple to have when you do not feel well, it can get old fast. But onto an interesting food tale…this past Friday we had Chinese Table where we have lunch with the MIC(CET-Middlebury) faculty at a chinese restaurant of their choosing. This past Friday’s choice was a really nice resturant right down the road from our dorm, however one of the dishes that our teachers ordered was 牛肠子, or cow’s intestines. I know I said in my last post it would be rude to not eat something that someone gave you, but I had to make an exception with this. “But to each his own,” right?
Later Friday afternoon I went to Xidan with Brian, Derek, and Cire to look for a few things, and we ended up going to the Bank of China so that Cire could exchange money. The architecture in there was absolutely brilliant, I wanted to take a picture, but with signs saying no pictures and a lot police following our every move, I unfortunately could not take a picture. But after looking around Xidan for a couple hours, we went to get ready to meet up with a friend of Derek’s for Chinese Karaoke. Even if you do not like to sing, you must go to KTV and do karaoke. It was an absolute blast. We danced, sang, and laughed so hard. By the end of the night I barely had any voice at all. At KTV I found out that I could rap (can you imagine me rapping haha), and that Bohemian Rhapsody is an absolute classic song to bring everyone together. And surprisingly at the KTV place we were at, I ran into three other Wofford students: Cory, Ashley, and Sabastian. We are all ROTC Chinese majors, but they are doing the Beijing IES Program this semester at Beijing Foreign Studies University. It almost felt like a piece of home to have the opportunity to say hey to them. We ended up getting back pretty late for having to wake up early to go to the Great Wall the next morning, but it was totally worth it.
The ride to the Great Wall was about two-and-half hours, almost everybody slept except for me. I could not fall asleep, so I ended up starting on this week’s homework assignments. This fortunately gave me brownie points from my teachers, who said that I was 最努力, or hard-working. This was my second time going to the Great Wall, but the beginning of this trip began with about an hour hike up with hundreds of steps to reach the beginning of our portion of the Great Wall. The section of the Great Wall we hiked on was located in HeBei Province, called JinShanLing (金山岭), the closest part of the wall from Beijing. Hiking on the Great Wall was great exercise both physically and mentally, because parts of the wall’s steps were extremely steep. I enjoyed every minute of it, I even enjoyed the locals we followed us around begging us to buy their souvenirs. This one lady would not leave me alone, and kept saying that she was extremely poor and had no job, so I eventually gave into buying a 30 块 fan. I can officially now say I have two Great Wall fans, one from my first trip and one from this one. Almost ¾ of the way done with the hike, we reached the portion of the Great Wall that I had visited two years ago. It was crazy that I could just tell it was the same portion, because of the type of trees that surrounded that part of the wall. To commemorate this, I took a picture in the exact same place Jessica Newton, Ashley, and I took a picture two years before. Here are the two pictures!
I think around 3 or 4pm we stopped hiking and got off at Zhuanduo Pass. The ride back was extremely quiet because everyone was so worn out from that hike. On the way back I saw construction advertisements for the “New Times Square.” I thought that was quite an interesting sight, since we have the “Old Times Square” in New York. Also on the way back it amazed me that in a country where the average population’s income is $4,930 (U.S. dollars as of 2011), that everywhere you turn you see an Audi, Lexus, Range Rover, or a Land Rover. Most Americans cannot even afford to buy these types of luxury cars. However, if you see a Chinese license plate that is white, it is a high-grade party member, either in the military or part of the government.
Now the hot topic in China the past few weeks has been the Diaoyu Islands controversy, or Senkaku Islands, depending on what side you are on. If you have no idea what I am talking about, please go and find a newspaper or Google it. But in the past few days, everything around our campus that has anything to do with Japan is being vandalized or covered up. The two Japanese restaurants by our campus that I have eaten at many times, had the Japan part of their restaurant sign messed up or covered up. In Beijing there have been many protests, especially in front of the Japanese Embassy, but luckily I haven’t personally seen any. However, some protestors are calling for war with Japan, saying things such as “Down with Japanese Imperialism”. Tomorrow in my “Hot Topics” class we are discussing this controversy. But let’s hope for all of our sakes, this issue can be handled through dialogue.
Well that pretty much sums up what’s been happening in China in the past week. I’ve actually had the opportunity to run more often, which I am really excited about. The air pollution the later part of this past week was extremely low, which has been absolutely beautiful. Brian has been my faithful running buddy, he keeps me pushing myself during the run. I am extremely excited about the package that is headed my way from my parents, which is said to include Halloween decorations (my favorite holiday besides Christmas), some goodies, and a Nike GPS watch so I can keep track of how far I am running.
Well it is almost midnight my time, and I have classes tomorrow morning so I bid you all farewell. But I will leave you all with some more Chinglish posts.

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“If you can’t laugh in China, you will cry”

First I apologize for not posting sooner, but it has been absolutely crazy here in the “Jing” since we arrived. This also includes the spotty internet we pay 160 yuan a month for (about 24 U.S. dollars). but luckily I got a VPN so I can stay up to date on everything going on back at Wofford.
After spending over a week in China, I pretty much over my horrible jet lag. If you have never traveled overseas to somewhere that has a completely different timezone, it is tough the first few days to adjust from U.S. time. Luckily the time change is only 12 hours difference from Eastern-Standard timezone to China’s timezone. I found it strange to learn that all of China has one time zone, you would think a country as big as China would have multiple time zones.
Since arriving I have met the other 9 students participating in MIC, CET-Middlebury Beijing Intensive Language Program. I can honestly say it is a pretty good group, and all of Chinese roommates our Assistant Director chose are perfect. My roommates name is 诗琪, she is really nice and is a senior at CNU studying International Relations. She wants to go to graduate school in the U.S. for International Relations.
The first week we were here was filled with orientation meetings, placement tests, and traveling the city. The highlight of those first few days was when we were at the 鼓楼 (Drum Tower) and a three year old came up to me and asked me in english “I want to take a picture of you!” Everyone in our group thought it was hilarious, because here this three year old has a professional camera is taking pictures of me.

3 year old Chinese girl taking pictures of me

This last week was the start of the semester. In total all students have to take 4 classes, my four are: 热点话题 (pretty much the hot topics to talk about in China),体验北京 (literally translates to Learn from experience in Beijing), 商务汉语 (discusses thing we should know or can use when doing business in China),and 一对一: 中美关系 (this is my one-on-one class where we are discussing the Sino-American relationship. I knew this program was a language intensive program, but after doing two summer sessions that had nothing to do with Chinese, and being thrown in to a complete immersion program it is rough. This past Monday we took a language pledge saying that we would only use English in emergency cases, or with our parents behind closed doors. After doing a Middlebury Chinese immersion program last summer its not too bad, except when you have a point to get across and you can’t, then it quickly results in hand motions. The worst days I have are Tuesday and Thursdays, where I have three classes in a row from 10:10-4pm, with only about 50 minutes to grab lunch. Almost every class we have a quiz with about 30 or more new characters. Unfortunately, once we get out of class we have to studying from 4 or so to 11ish. My favorite class would probably be the Beijing class because we have out of class activities (besides those ever so fun quizzes and presentations). For example, this past Wednesday we had to find our own way to the Metro and get our way around and ask “Beijingers” some questions.
Since the start of the program I have made two really good guy friends, Brian and Derek, both of their parents are Taiwanese and they are both amazingly smart. They have said that they would run with me, but it has yet to be done.
Because we are at a university we have some really great tiny restaurants right by the campus. Close by are a Sichuan and Japanese restaurant, and because they are so close I think I have been to both about four times. Both restaurants are relatively cheap, in the end I only have to pay less than 30 yuan (about $4.50). The most interesting food experience I have had since being in Beijing was today after we visited the Temple of Heaven (天坛) and we ended up at a lamb restaurant. Where I am always down to try new things, the dish of the day was lamb backbone meat. When I say this it was not just the meat, it was the actual backbone in huge globs in a bowl. I started to think about the poor lamb, so I stuck to the great Chinese staple…rice. However, it is important to remember it is respectful in the Chinese culture that if someone puts something on your plate to at least try it.
Today was a great day, because it was the first chance we had to “catch our breath” more or less. We had an optional trip to the Temple of Heaven this morning. It was amazing to witness what man power can build. The Temple of Heaven was where the Emperor went to pray about harvests and other important matters. It was thought in Chinese history that the Emperor was the son of God, so only he could communicate with the heavens. The designs of all the buildings and colors were absolutely beautiful.
Since being here there have been a few interesting cultural differences. The first being that our dorm is an international dorm, where there are people from ALL OVER THE WORLD. The majority of the students here are Korean, Russian, or Italian. Well luckily for us, these students all love to smoke inside the building, even though it clearly says all over DO NOT SMOKE. Well as can be expected, nobody listens… so they even smoke in the cafe where I do my homework. I swear I am going to get lung cancer from all the second hand smoke, if the smog or the water won’t kill you…the people living in international dorms will. (Just kidding) Secondly there are the ever so convenient toilets in China. We really are super lucky in the western part of the world, because in a lot of parts of Asia toilets are literally a hole in the ground. Besides the toilets there are the little cute outfits they have for kids to help make it convenient for parents to help their kids take care of their business. These are pants with open flaps in the front and back. And last, another thing that makes our lives in the west ever more luxurious…having a dryer. Tonight I did my laundry for the first time since being in China and there are no dryers, so you must lay our your clothes and wait for them to dry. I miss the times when my mom did all of my laundry!
Well that pretty much is the extent of my life lately in a nutshell, I will try to post more often with quick little quirks. 🙂 I will leave you all with an example of Chinglish…

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