Leaving for Chengde

9/28

Chengde is almost here! Tomorrow I leave for a three day vacation to a mountain resort in Chengde, China.  From the sound of it, the location we are staying at sounds beautiful. My only concern is that the day before we get to Chengde, we are stopping overnight at a rural village near a section of the Great Wall. Although I believe this will be an incredible experience, I am worried about the bathroom. Apparently, our group, along with entire village will be sharing one bathroom. To make matters worse, the bathroom is a squatter. For those of you who don’t know, it is basically a porcelain hole in the ground. However, if this village is anything like the village I visited last time I was in China, there will be no porcelain hole but rather, a wooded deck with a hole in the middle. No disrespect to the Chinese but I don’t think I will ever get used to squatters.

As for the beginning of this week, it was not very exciting. It consisted of homework, sleeping, class and eating. It seems as if I have finally fallen into school mode. Despite the strange surroundings and the horribly hard beds, I could almost believe I was back at Linfield going through the daily motions of this life I call college.

Finally, don’t forget, October first is the national holiday here in China! If you can find them, I suggest you all celebrate it by buying and consuming a mooncake!

Thus ends this blog post. Short but sweet.

~ Ashley

Another Adventure

9/23

First, an update on the cold: I am fully recovered. Unfortunately, in the process of recovering I lost my voice. There’s good news in that I have it back and my lack of voice made for a fun girls night in on Thursday. Using Google Translate I was able to invoke the voice of robot Ashley. Not only did the computer mispronounce words and phrases, the mere sound of a robot voice attempting to respond to questions or sing the lyrics to a song left us all in tears of laughter. The bad news is that I did not get to participate in the bartering with my Chinese class. I went with the class but only as a silent observer. I suppose I will just have to take in everything I learned and prove to my professor that I was listening.

Friday, after classes, my roommate and I decided it would be a perfect night for a movie night. So, that’s what we did. We ended up watching three movies, eating chocolate and Pocky sticks and just vegging out. Despite the drive I normally have to go out, see and experience Beijing; a night in, just relaxing is exactly what I needed. I woke up on Saturday feeling refreshed and ready to explore.

Now, the need to explore is a feeling that cannot be squelched easily. Thus, Saturday afternoon a couple friends and I took the subway out to the Olympic stadiums. I will state here and now that I am determined, above all else, to swim at the Water Cube. The entire complex was amazing. Although we did not actually go inside, the atmosphere was invigorating. There were people everywhere laughing, taking pictures and simply enjoying themselves in this extraordinary place.  Interesting enough, my little group was a significant attraction as well. My roommate was asked to pose with two different Chinese babies and I was asked to pose with many of random people whom I will never meet again. With as many cameras as we had pointed at us, I would not doubt that somewhere on the large network that is Facebook, there is a picture of our group that will never be seen by any one of us. I am not sure what the best word is to describe this thought: Interesting? Sentimental? Creepy? I’ll let you know when I figure it out myself.

After our exciting adventure, we all went out to WuDaoKou to have dinner. We had been told about a little diner that carried American food and we wanted to try it out. Turns out it was really good and reasonably cheap, or at least cheaper than the other places we had been that carried American food. I ended up getting a salad and a huge glass of milk. I know this sounds disgustingly healthy and perhaps even boring but first, you must understand that finding real milk in China is like trying to find a Waldo in a “Where’s Waldo” book. Those of you who know me well know that living without milk for three and a half months is like receiving a death sentence.  Secondly, the fruits and vegetables in China are, well, iffy. Some places clean their fruit and veggies well before serving them, other places clean them in the tap water and still, others do not clean them at all. I have known many of people who made the mistake of buying an apple, wiping it off on their shirt and taking a bite out of it. A little while later they are 水土不服. Or they order a salad from a not so reputable place end up sleeping the night on the bathroom floor. These stories and the warnings I have received from Chinese friends has put the fear of fruit in me. Thus, being able to have a big salad with carrots, red cabbage and thousand island was a huge deal for me.  Speaking of thousand island, interesting enough, it is a very common product here.  As I do, they seem to put it on most anything. I recently experienced bliss in the form of a Taiwanese Pancake. It was basically fried dough stuffed with roasted chicken, lettuce and thousand island. The nice thing here is that the lettuce is cooked so I do not have to worry about getting sick and it has thousand island on it! If it didn’t have as many calories as a Big and Tasty, I would probably eat a couple every day.

Now, another week is starting and it is time to get back to work. I have a group discussion on Wednesday, a test at the end of this week and a debate the week after.  I plan on devoting some of this week to homework as I will be leaving for Chengde on Saturday morning. The last thing I want to do is get back Monday morning and be stressed about all the work I have left to do.

Until next post, thanks for reading!

~Ashley

Sick

9/19

I’m sick. Unfortunately, I woke up Monday morning feeling terrible and by the end of the day, my body had been completely overtaken by a nasty head cold. Despite the many suggestions by Chinese friends and teachers, I decided not to go to the hospital and instead just slept. You see, in China, people go to the hospital for everything. If a Chinese person were to come down with a sore throat, a headache, a stomach ache or any other sort of aliment that left them feeling abnormal, they would go to the hospital. The Chinese seem to take health care very seriously. Pretty much anywhere you go you will find a 24 hour drug store. Also, if you are sick, it is almost a requirement to wear a mask. I have never seen people flee from me as fast as when I told them I was sick. You would think I had the bubonic plague or something.

After lots of sleep, lots of Chinese chicken noodle soup, lots of Chinese hot cocoa and a Diablo date (it is a computer game for those who don’t know) with my boyfriend, I am feeling a lot better. On the positive side, being sick gave me an excuse to stay on campus during the anti-Japanese riots. Interesting thing about these riots, a recent statistic told that over half of the rioters had no anti-Japan sentiments. They were simply there because there was nothing better to do that night. There are other interesting rumors circling around the academic field that perhaps the riots are being encouraged by a higher governing power. I will not; however, state this as a fact. There have just been some interesting stories and pictures. This is most definitely an interesting time to be in China, if not a little scary. We will just have to wait and see if these problems are solved or if they will escalate while I am here.

As for the rest of my week, I am just planning on recovering from my cold, going bartering with my Chinese class, and taking a trip somewhere around Beijing this weekend. Hopefully it will be a fun ending to a not so fun week.

Thanks for reading!

~Ashley

Shopping in Beijing

9/15

The last couple of days have been busy for me.  Most of Thursday was spent doing homework and studying for my test in Chinese. You see, in our Chinese class, we have a test every other week on what we have learned thus far. The written portion of the test, although difficult if you don’t study, wasn’t too bad. However, the speaking portion is a different story. Although the questions were not hard to answer, the test itself was extremely intimidating. First, I was in a small room with only the teacher and a recorder. Second, my teacher asked me to correct my mistakes while I was speaking. Problem, I didn’t realize I was making mistakes and thus going back and trying to correct them was difficult.  Overall, I felt as if I did pretty well. I know the speaking portion will bring my grade down but it can only get better from here, right?

After the test on Friday my roommates and I all went out for a quick lunch before coming back to the room to do homework. I know it sounds pretty terrible to be doing homework on a Friday afternoon/night but we knew that we wanted to spend the weekend having fun and figured it was better to get it done while we didn’t have any plans. So, Friday was not that exciting.

Saturday; however, was a lot of fun. My roommates and I left early in the morning and spent all day shopping our way around Beijing. We hit up the major shopping mall first but that was merely for window shopping purposes. One thing I did learn though is that the Chinese are obsessed with cats. Every store we went into had at least two or three cat shirts and there were probably two stores dedicated strictly to cats on every floor. The malls here are set up a little differently than they are back home. First, there are no major stores. Each designer has their own little cubby hole in which to sell their clothes. This means, you can walk down a single aisle in the mall and see twenty different designers. The cubby holes, as I call them, are basically just sections of a giant wall slightly separated by smaller half walls. This way, you don’t actually have to walk into a store to see everything they carry.

After the major mall, we decided it was time to go to lunch. So where did we go? Well of course we went to the most logical of places to go to eat while in China: Hooters! Boy was it delicious. I did not know how much I missed American food until I took my first bite of the giant hamburger I ordered. Add curly fries to that and I was in heaven. I swear a hamburger has never tasted so good.

So, with our bellies full, we headed off to our next shopping location. It was called the Yashow Clothing Market. An old boss/friend had told me to go to this place to do my shopping as it was where you would get the best deals. She was right. It was a giant market place with five floors filled with clothing, shoes, jewelry, electronics, makeup and souvenirs. Although most of the shop keepers spoke English, we tried our hardest to speak only Chinese. I have to say, I feel as though I did pretty well both with speaking and bartering. At the end of the day, I spent the equivalent of about forty U.S. dollars and I came away with two very cute dresses, a pair of Toms (shoes for those of you who don’t know), slippers and some other gifts which I cannot tell you for they are Christmas gifts and I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone. My roommate was the winner of the day though. She was able to barter her way to a North Face jacket for the equivalent of about $20. All in all, everyone did very well.

After eight hours of shopping (for those of you who don’t know this, that is a lot of shopping for me as my usually cut off is about an hour and a half), we all headed home to get ready for our evening. We had planned to go out to dinner and then go to karaoke with some friends but when those plans fell through, we decided to just go out and half some fun. We went to a restaurant and had some chicken quesadillas and spent the rest of our night just exploring the nightlife of Beijing.

Today, Sunday, we are all just finishing up our homework left undone from Friday. We have plans to go out to dinner later this evening but we will not be out too late as I have Kung Fu in the morning. As for the rest of the day, who knows what is in store.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

P.S. If you are afraid of bugs, do not, I repeat do not come to China. There are the strangest and scariest bugs here. Not only are the spiders on steroids, there are mosquitoes that have learned to bite in such a way that the bite swells and is itchy for days, there are cockroaches under every piece of furniture and there are ants that will attack at the first sign of a human.  There are also these creepy bugs that scuttle around floors and sidewalks that look a lot like giant brown potato bugs with huge antennas.  I do not know if they bite or if they are dangerous at all but they are just creepy enough that I take great pains in avoiding them.

The Physical

9/12

So feel as if I have accomplished an amazing feat: I ate spaghetti with chopsticks! A friend of mine discovered a new dining place on campus called Hollywood. He took us there the other night and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. They have a variety of foods from all over the world including spaghetti, chicken parmesan, fried chicken, fries, bacon and cheese covered rice, stir-fry, sushi, and a variety of noodle dishes. Another plus, it is cheap. It is about 15-20yuan per dish. I think I have found a new place for dinner.

In other news, I had my physical today. As you may recall, I had to get a physical in order to apply for my residency permit. It was a lot more invasive than I thought it would be. To get the physical done, I had to visit six different rooms and get a check mark for visiting. First, I had to get blood drawn. Apparently the nurse who was drawing my blood couldn’t find a vain and thus she dug around in my arm for approximately five minutes. Needless to say, it was not how I wanted to start my physical.  I then had to get a chest x-ray, an ear, nose and throat exam, and an eye exam. Following this, I had to get an EKG. I felt like Frankenstein’s monster with as many wires and clamps I had hooked up to me. I had something that looked like jumper cables attached to my arms and ankles and rubber stoppers attached to my chest, stomach and legs. Finally, I had a surgical exam. This checked my height, weight and lymph nodes. Unfortunately, I was too tall for their machine and thus I had to have my height taken by tape measure. Now, the guy who went with me was probably 6’4’’. The doctor basically had to get a chair just take his height.

All in all it was an interesting experience but not one that I am looking forward to repeating. I will be glad when all of this is taken care of. Perhaps then I can actually relax.

In other news, I am thinking about doing some networking while in China. Last January, I did some networking in the Portland area. I have kept in contact with the people that I met and many of them are willing to help me find contacts to visit while I am over here. Since I couldn’t do the internship due to my classes conflicting, I decided that I might as well still make a name for myself while I am here. Hopefully I will make some contacts over here and who knows, perhaps it will lead to something greater in the future! Cross your fingers for me!

谢谢你们.再见!

~爱丽

Getting Used to China

9/10/12

Sorry it has taken so long to update this. The last few days have been hectic. Friday I went out to Wudaokou with some friends. This is where the local mall is as well as a bunch of American inspired restaurants and dance clubs. We spent a while walking through the stores in the mall and some of the smaller mom-and-pop shops. After, we went to Pyro Pizza for dinner. Not only do they have great pizza, they have amazing dessert. We all split a giant chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream on top. I cannot begin to tell you how happy this made me. Not only was I satisfying my chocolate craving, the cookie made me feel as if I was at home and just out with some friends.

Saturday, our program set up a mountain hike for us. “A mountain hike,” I thought, “that could be relaxing.” I was wrong. What the program failed to tell us was the hike was pretty much straight up a mountain side. It involved a couple miles of steep incline followed by 1299 stairs to the top. On top of this, we did it in 80 degree weather. Don’t get me wrong, the hike was fun and view was amazing but I wished I had been a little more prepared. On the plus side, I was the first of my group up to the top which I think impressed some of the guys. Apparently all my hiking around Yosemite did me some good. As a reward for getting to the top, we all got key chains when we got back to the buses. I know that it isn’t much but I swear, every time I look at that little key chain, I will remember that hike.

So, although Saturday was a pretty good day, Saturday night was not so good. My roommate, a friend and myself all went to dinner at a local restaurant. I am not sure what I ate there but I will never go there again. I ended up being sick all night and most of the next day. It was terrible. As of right now, I have had enough Chinese food for awhile. All I want is a big American hamburger.

Again, let me remind you that I am having fun here but there are definitely things that I have to get used to. First being cockroaches. They have infested our building. You cannot walk down the hallway or down the stairs without seeing a couple live or dead ones. Today, as the maid was changing my bed, she lifted the duvet and two big cockroaches scuttled out. So, in case you haven’t figured it out, I have been sleeping with cockroaches. Second thing I am going to have to get used to is the internet. For some reason, our internet has issues staying on. We will be in the middle of doing something online and it will just shut off. On Sunday, our internet was out for a little over nine hours. Now, I did bring other things to do besides play on the computer but unfortunately, I had homework due. This meant I had to crawl through the bushes in the middle of the night to reach the signal coming from the history department (the only place on campus we have access to internet other than our dorms). I did get it turned in eventually but not without my share of bug bites. Third, I will not get used to the showers here. The school shuts off our hot water during the day so if you want to take a shower, you have to take it in cold water. I believe they shut it off about 9 or 10am in the morning and do not turn it back on until about 8pm. They also turn the hot water off in the middle of the night so, if you are up late doing homework, you are out of luck. Finally, I do not think I will ever be used to the spiting. Most Chinese do not think it is bad manners to hock a loggie in public. So, everywhere you go, men and women alike are spitting out their loggies. AKA watch out!

It is now Monday and thus, another week of school has started. I am meeting with my Chinese conversation partner today. Hopefully with enough sessions with her, I will be a Chinese speaking machine!

Until next time, Ashley.

Bad Luck

9/6/12

Not much has happened here over the last few days.  For the most part, my schedule has consisted of going to class and doing homework. I did have a new class Wednesday night but I am not sure about it yet. The teacher was very dry and constantly got off topic. Now, I have had teachers who got off topic before but usually it has some relevance to the topic we were previously talking about. This professor will go off on a random tangent but by the time the rest of us in the class catch up to what he is talking about (his English is not very good and he has a very heavy accent) we haven’t a clue of how we got there or how this relates to the class. Hopefully the class will get better as the semester goes along because this professor seems to have a lot of practical business experience and I believe I could learn a lot from him.

Chinese class is still just as difficult but tomorrow is our fun day. Earlier this week, our professor taught us the customs and the language of how to order a meal in a Chinese restaurant. So, tomorrow (Friday) she is taking us all out to lunch and having us order for her. There are rumors that this is supposed to be an all Chinese lunch, meaning we are not allowed to speak English. We will see how that goes.

Yesterday I met with a friend who I had met the last time I came to China is high school. She took me out, showed me around Beijing and eventually took me to buy a camera charger. It was really nice to see her since it has been almost five years since the last time we saw each other. Hopefully I will have a chance to see her again.

Finally, I suppose I should report on my bad luck. I got an email from the program director here a China Studies Institute stating that I had the wrong visa. Apparently, the company I purchased the visa from gave me the wrong visa so after 30 days from when I entered the country, I will technically be in China illegally and they will deport me.  This means that I have to apply for a residency permit here in China and boy is it a hassle. Not only does it cost almost $200, I have to go to a hospital to get a physical, go to the police station to get proof of residency and finally, apply for the permit. I will say that although this is extremely frustrating and I might have to cancel one of the around China trips I was planning on taking, I am trying to view this in a positive light. It will be an experience trying to get this all done by myself. Perhaps it will even improve my Chinese. Hopefully, everything will turn out alright.

~Ashley