Almost Done!

11/24

Can you believe it? I am on the home stretch! Less than twenty days left and thirteen of them will be spent traveling throughout the country. I still remember sitting in my apartment writing my first blog entry before leaving for China. It honestly does not seem like it was that long ago. Yet, when I think of it in terms of how much I have done and how much I have seen, it seems like I have been away from home forever.

I apologize as this blog will be really short. This week was spent studying for final exams and writing term papers. I have to say, I think my term papers were very interesting this semester.  My paper for International Finance was how the appreciation of the Australian dollar is positively and negatively affecting its economy. My term paper for China in the Global Economy was an analysis of the development of socialist economies and their role in the world today. My term paper for Doing Business in China was a business proposal for a new service company in China similar to Dinners Done Right. I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing these term papers. I suppose that makes me a nerd, huh? Oh well, I can live with it.

Tuesday is my Chinese final. Cross your fingers for me! We have anywhere from seventy-five to one hundred grammar structures to know, not to mention about five hundred characters. Should be fun. Once I am done with the test, I am done. That is the last thing I have to do before I leave on my travel trip. Tuesday afternoon will be spent doing some last minute shopping and last minute packing. I cannot begin to express how excited I am to be done with school and to have the opportunity to travel around China. Hopefully I will have internet but according to my Chinese teacher, we are not guaranteed internet nor heat at any of the places we are visiting. If I do not get to update during my trip, I promise to write an exhaustive account of all of my travels once I get home.

Until next time,

Ashley

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Food!

11/19

The theme of this last week was food. Last Wednesday was my last day of my Doing Business in China class and my generous teacher brought pizza and juice for everyone as a way to celebrate. How awesome is that? It was Papa John’s pizza that tasted just like the pizza back home. I have to say, it made me feel pretty nostalgic. Given that I have less than a month left, I suppose I have a right to be though.  Can you believe it!?! In one week I will be on a train bound for Luoyang. It is going to be a crazy schedule for the following two weeks after that. Below, I have provided a copy of our itinerary for your enjoyment. You can see for yourself how crazy it will be:

Nov. 28:  Beijing—Luoyang 

Taking an overnight train to Luoyang   

Nov. 29:  Luoyang 

Arriving in Luoyang in the morning and taking a bus to Shaolin Temple

Nov. 30:  Luoyang 

Visits to the White Horse Temple and the Longmen Grottoes  

Dec. 1:  Luoyang—Xi’an

Taking a train to Xi’an and visit to the Great Mosque  

Dec. 2:  Xi’an 

Visits to the Terra-cotta Soldiers Museum and the city wall

Dec. 3:  Xi’an—Chengdu—Leshan

Taking a flight to Chengdu and then taking a bus to Leshan

Dec. 4:  Leshan-Chengdu

Taking a bus to the Leshan Giant Buddha

Taking a bus to Chengdu

Dec. 5:        Chengdu—Guili

Take a bus to the Giant Panda Research Center and visit at Jinlin

Take an evening flight to Guilin

Dec. 6:  Guilin—Longsheng

Taking a bus to Longji

Dec. 7:  Longsheng

In the mountains

Dec. 8:  Longsheng—Yangshuo

Taking a bus to Guilin and then to Yangshou

Dec. 9:  Yangshuo

River drifting in the morning and free afternoon

Dec. 10:  Yangshuo

Free day

Dec. 11:  Guilin—Beijing

Taking a bus to Guilin and then taking flight back to Beijing

Now back to the topic of food, on Saturday I met up with a Chinese friend that I had met the last time I was here in China. She took me to a famous shopping area which was really no more than a glorified alleyway that had been spruced up and filled with shops. Although the term alleyway does tend to provide a bad image, it was actually a really fun place. The biggest problem was that there was a ton of people but very little room to walk. Add cars that would come shooting down this alleyway and it definitely made for a unique experience.  The best part about this shopping street was that one side of the street was all food stalls and tea shops and the other side was all fun little gift shops. Surprisingly enough, most of these stores were pretty high end. Anyway, as we walked through this alleyway, we stopped at a couple little stands to try some food. I had chicken and beef skewers (they were very yummy) and crabapples on a skewer with hardened sugar (also very yummy). After that, we went to one of the more famous restaurants there. I have to admit that I was a little frightened at first because in order to get into this restaurant, you had to walk through a set of curtains, then down a not-so-friendly looking alleyway, through another door into a kind of dingy looking room before finally walking though sliding glass doors into this cute and fun looking little restaurant. Now, this may sound a little weird given that I am only in China once, but we had pizza at this said restaurant. However, it was not just any pizza, it was Chinese style pizza. It had Chinese style lamb sautéed in a red pepper flake sauce for the meat, a sweet tomato sauce for the base and some sort of salty cheese for, well, the cheese. Putting it all together, it was a really good pizza but nothing like I have ever tasted before. I also had a hot chocolate at this little restaurant. Of course, it wasn’t any run of the mill hot chocolate, it was a lot sweeter as if they had used soy milk instead of regular milk and it came in an old fashion milk shake glass which made it even more interesting.

After lunch, we continued to walk around a bit, stopping in shops here and there. We stopped in a tea store which was supposed to be one of the highest end tea stores in the area. They gave us a little cup as soon as we walked in and as we wandered around, they allowed us to sample any of the tea that was out on display. I happened to try a strawberry hibiscus tea that was to die for. It was naturally sweet due to the strawberries (I asked if they put sugar in it to make sure) but yet had just enough bitterness to still taste like a tea rather than juice. If it had not been 150 yuan a pound, I might have purchased some.

As we were heading out of the little alley, to go find some dessert of course, we stopped by a stand to buy some of the emperor’s favorite cheese. Apparently during the Qing Dynasty, the emperor acquired the services of a cheese maker to create a cheese just for him. Over the following years, the family of the man who had made the special cheese kept the business alive and continued making the cheese. About five years ago, the family decided to open a shop to sell this now famous cheese within this alleyway. My friend told me that her and her grandfather had come to get in line for opening day only to find the whole alleyway filled with people who had the same idea. Apparently, people had started lining up five hours before the store’s grand opening. I figure if that many people came to the grand opening, it has to be one famous cheese. Although I continue to use the word cheese, the final product that we had was similar to a sweet cottage cheese with the consistency of custard. It was surprisingly good and I would have it again given the chance.

Our last food adventure of the day was at a little café called Youth Cheese. It was an interesting little place. It was cute but given the amount of pictures of cats, it bordered on creepy. At this little café, we both ordered slices of cheese cake. I got one called black chocolate which was a creamy milk chocolate filling with a dark chocolate crust and shavings of white chocolate on the top. My friend got a mango cheese cake which was a vanilla and mango filling with a graham cracker crust and a mango sauce and fresh mango on top. Can anyone say delicious?

Well, that is my story on food for the week. Hopefully it made you all hungry just in time for Thanksgiving!

Until Next Time,

Ashley

Unforgettable Experiences

11/12

Well, it is getting harder and harder to post my blog. Not only am I getting busier, I can no longer get on to the site where my blog resides. Thus, I will apologize but blog posts might come few and far between. That being said, I would like to update you on what I have been up to the last week. First, on November 7th, I spent my day at a local café watching the election.  I happened to get there early enough to have an All American Breakfast which consisted of eggs, bacon, pancakes, home fries, toast and hot chocolate. Let me take a moment to describe this breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, it was good but it was different from what we would normally eat. First off, over easy eggs means no yoke. In order to have a yoke to dunk your toast in, you must order sunny side up. The bacon tasted more like ham than the traditional bacon. The pancakes were extremely sweet, as if they had dumped extra sugar in the batter. The home fries were good but had different seasoning on them than I am used to. Overall, it was an interesting take on an All American Breakfast and one I would most likely try again.

Now on to the more exciting part of this day, I got to watch the election, live, in China. How many people are that lucky?  There were probably fifty people all squeezed into a small room around a giant projector. The energy in the room was amazing. I will say that it was a little difficult to sit there seeing as I was surrounded by a room full of democrats when I happen to lean more toward republican. Everyone would cheer when Obama won a state and boo when Romney won one. Despite this fact, it was an interesting experience and one I will never forget.

The next exciting experience I have had since my last update was a trip to the zoo. I felt like a kid again as I ran around discovering new animal after new animal. The Beijing Zoo is much like the zoo at home only with different and more exotic animals. The zoo had a variety of different stations in which animals lived. There was an African section, and Australian section, an American section, an Aquarium, a panda house, an arctic animal house and a children’s zoo. How cool is that? I got to see a kangaroo! Also, I got to pet a zebra! Can you tell I am excited? I think I took about two hundred pictures of different animals. The aquarium was also pretty amazing. There were hundreds of species of fish and other aquatic animals. The one weird thing I saw while I was at the zoo was that the Children’s zoo consisted of only two types of animals: cats and dogs. I have never been to a zoo that has had cats and dogs on display. I did find it a little sad though as I think cats and dogs should be in a loving home where someone can rub their bellies every night before going to bed. I don’t know about you, I just find it kind of sad.

Now, some of you may have heard that the Beijing Zoo mistreats its animals. I, however, did not see a lot of evidence of this. Yes, there were a few things such as the elephants and giraffes having smaller than necessary cages and one of the pandas looking miserable but for the most part, the animals seemed happy.  Sure, they ate anything in sight but it was hard to tell if the animals were truly hungry or if they were just so used to people feeding them that they gobbled up the food. Yes, it was unfortunate to see what the people were feeding them as I saw a woman feeding a zebra cotton candy, but I can only hope that they get real food more often in their diet.

Overall, the zoo was another amazing experience that I will never forget. This is especially true considering I took over two hundred photos to prove I was there.

And now it is back to the grind, as usual.

Until next time,

Ashley

 

And You Thought American Elections Were Bad…

11/4

So, you all thought the elections in America are bad? Think again. This just in, this year is election year for China as well. Unfortunately for me, the Chinese do not just sling mud as we do back in America. Oh no, they take their elections much more seriously. In fact, they take it so seriously that the current party in power as taken it upon themselves to cut off all access to American search engines and news sites. This means Google barely works, I cannot even get to The New York Times and only if I am very lucky, can I get to local Gig Harbor news. If that isn’t bad enough, sometimes, they decide to just shut down the internet connection all together, which would be just fine if I did not have research papers to write. Finally, to show how serious they are about winning the election, they will randomly shut off power to different sections of the city. In the past week, I think we have lost power four times.  Now, the only reason I know that all of this is happening due to the elections and not just because of an unfortunate series of events is that our program director emailed us, warning us that these events may occur and that it was nothing to worry about, just the elections. Sure enough, she was right. So, in four years from now, when everyone is groaning about all of the election ads on television, I will be able to look back on this and remember that at least I have electricity and internet. If I can have electricity and internet, I will be glad to suffer through a few political ads.

In other more exciting news, it’s snowing! Although it is suppose to all melt off over the next two days, it is still thrilling to have snow this early in the winter. In hindsight, I may not have brought the appropriate clothes for a ton of snow but coming from Gig Harbor where we are lucky to get traces of snow during the winter, I cannot help but be a little giddy.  In the words of college students everywhere, I hope it snows enough that they will cancel classes and I can spend the day playing in the snow and drinking hot cocoa. It sounds like a dream come true to me. When else in my life will I have a chance to have a snowball fight in China? It will definitely be worth the frozen fingers.

In more exciting news, the government finally said let them have heat and heat we have! Beida is officially a heated campus and I could not be happier. I cannot imagine being without heat right now. I feel terrible for the people who won’t get their heat turned on until November 15th. With snow already hitting Beijing, it is said that this winter will be a cold one. Hopefully they will get heat soon.

Finally, going back to the topic of elections, there is a little café in WuDaoKou that is hosting an American election day. They are serving half price apple pie and playing the elections live. Thus, that is where I will be most of Wednesday. Should be exciting!

Finally, to everyone back in America, hope you enjoyed your extra hour of sleep this weekend!

Until next time,

Ashley