Friday, December 19, 2008

On Vacation

So, I'm finally on my winter vacation. I finished my semester last week, and had my first graduation from CET. I'll graduate again next semester because they only do things by semesters which means a person graduates at the end of every semester they spend here. The graduation event was fun. They had several people speak about the semester, and they gave certain students awards. After being handed certificates for completing the semester we ate lunch and said our farewells to all out teachers. For me it was a lot different to say goodbye because I'll see them all again in two months. My roommate taught me a custom that students have with teachers to thank them and honor them for being your teacher. What you do is you take your class to your teacher and tell them that you would like to "ganxie" which means to thank, and then you thank them for being your teacher and being patient, etc, and then you "ganbei" or cheers with them. Also after we were given our certificates, we were officially allowed to speak English again. I think my roommate enjoyed finally being able to practice her English after I practiced a semester of Chinese with her. :)

After the graduation I finished packing up my meager belongings and we all got ready to take a train to Beijing. Our train arrived in the early morning, and after having some time to set stuff down I got my first look at some of the touristy stuff in Beijing. I was terribly excited when we went to Houhai, a district in Beijing, because there I got my the first Starbucks I've had in over three months. It was just nice to start seeing some more western places. I tagged along with some people and purused the touristy shopping places. I didn't buy anything because I'm living out of a backpack for two months and I don't have room to put any souveniers in it. After two days in Beijing, the evening of the second day two classmates and I got on a train and headed for Dalian. The train ride itself was quiet and uneventful. However, as we got off the train I experienced my first run in with not so wonderful part of China. It is partly my fault what happened, but it is still unfortunate that it happened at all. As we were preparing to get of the train I was fussing with all my luggage, and had taken my cellphone out of my pocket, probably to look at it, and I placed it on the bed. Then we quickly proceeded to get off the train. I was trying to be quick because people were waiting to unload there luggage. In the process of quickly leaving the train I managed to forget to grab my phone. I noticed that i didn't have it as soon as I got of the train, before we had even gone anywhere, but by the time I had gone to go grab it someone had already stolen it. My classmate called it twice and I even heard it but couldn't tell where it was coming from. Turns out it was in someone's pocket and I heard it as they were passing me. I was, as to be expected, very flustered, angry, and a bit paniced. I managed to find some train attendents and explain to them in chinese that my phone had just been stolen, and they were very helpful in helping me call my phone, then call our hotel to get the address, get us a cheap cab, and she even gave me her phone number to call her if I needed help getting a new phone. So at the same time I experience both the worst and best part of China. I experienced the common occurance of petty theivery, but also experienced the Chinese spirit of being willing to go out of their way to help.

We spent three nights in Dalian, and one of my classmates had a friend in Dalian that had formerly gone to WSU for the past two years, but transfered to the UW this year. He was very kind and took us around to all the good places to see in Dalian, helped me get a new phone and number, and invited us to his home. When we visited his home, his mother found out we planned to take the boat the next day but had yet to buy tickets. She said that we were going to have a hard time getting tickets, and quickly called a friend of hers to get tickets for us. She then arranged it so that her son, our friend, would take us the the dock in the morning, and there her friend would meet us, her friend who was a boat captain(I think) then went and found his friend which was the captain of the boat we were taking. The two friends then got us our tickets, gave us a free upgrade to 2nd class to make us more comfortable and took care of everything to get us on the boat. It was quite the fun experience to be experiencing the Chinese networking culture. In China getting things done is all about who you know. The more people you know, the more smoothly things can go for you. So, we had a nice 8 hour boat ride to Yantai, the city we're in right now. We plan to be here for another night and then we hope to head to Qingdao if we don't get stuck here because of snow.

Now for random stories. While I'm traveling I didn't bring a computer with me so in order to get online and use internet, we've been going to 'wang ba' or internet bars. These internet bars are huge rooms filled with rows of computers. You pay by the hour, and the majority of people in these internet bars are men between late twenties and maybe fourties. These people that frequent the internet bars spend HOURS sitting at the computer smoking and playing online video games. To me it's a little digusting, but I suppose a lot of people enjoy it because it's the same in every city I've been to so far. I just wish they wouldn't smoke. :(

When I was in Beijing ever small stall salesperson would try to say some English to get our attention and get us to by something. Normally it was just annoying because they are all so pushy and I just didn't want to be pressured. Sometimes it was a little entertaining. One time a lady said to me, "Hello, sir." The difference about being in cities other than Harbin is that they expect you to not speak Chinese so they try to speak English, but in Harbin it's as if you are expected to speak Chinese because no one really tries to speak English to you.

Dalian, the first city we went to after Beijing, was a very beautiful city. It seemed to be a very rich city and I think had a lot of party people living there. They had a million different squares, and the seaside was gorgeous. It is a seaside city that has mountains, course they don't compare to Washington mountains. Overall it was one of the more enjoyable cities I've been to as far as cleanliness and such go. Yantai is a very small port city, and so far it doesn't seem to have anything too interesting it, but we shall see.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

One week to go for fall semester

I have officially had my first Thanksgiving outside of the country. I have to say it didn't really feel like much of a holiday though because I still had class all week and there was no family get togethers, etc. However, my program did provide a very nice dinner at a very expensive hotel. The dinner was an amazing buffet, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, ham, pumpkin pie, and plenty of other amazing foods. Our roommates and teachers were able to come as well so it was a lot of fun to celebrate the holiday with everyone. I had fun explaining to my roommate all the Thanksgiving traditions, and what is generally eaten with what, i.e. mashed potatoes and gravy.

This last weekend my one-on-two class had an activity where we got together with HIT's retired. We had a list of questions to ask them concerning the elderly population in China, and the affect on them etc. It was lots of fun to listen to some of the stories from there life. Particularly from 1966-1976 (google the time period). One of the teachers I talked to was a very accomplished teacher at that time and he was accused of having wrong thinking. He was sent to go work underground in Harbin with everyone else who was accused of the same thing. He said that it was a very difficult time, and that he knew a man who was working underground with him that commited suicide. They were very direct in saying that life now was far better than then. I only wish I could have heard more detailed stories.

I've got a week to go before I'm done with my first semester! I'm thrilled that I've made it this far, and happy to see the amount of progress I've made so far. Next week is finals, and I have to finish writing a 2,500 character essay and prepare an eight minute oral report on the paper for my one on one final. After all my tests are over I will have break for two months. So for two months I pretty much plan to travel to as many places as I can. I'm so far going to 14+ places. I will get the chance to celebrate the Chinese New Year at the home of a Chinese friend of a friend. I hope to be able to post some of the stories from my travels on my blog. Internet will be intermittent though because I don't really know how often I will find internet. I look forward to sharing some stories though.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm Getting Closer to the End of a Semester

Sorry, it's been a little while since I've posted. Things have been going well lately. I feel as though I have gotten to a point where I'm actually adjusted to living here. It's too bad that it's taken three months to get to this point though. I am happy though that I will still be here for several more months because I'm starting to get the hang of things. My semester is quickly coming to a close. I have three weeks left before I have to back my bags and leave the city of Harbin for two months. This semester has flown by. Before I know it I will be writing my 2500 character essay and preparing for all my finals. In the three months I've been hear I have learned so much. My language proficiency has definitely gotten a lot better. I've gone from not understanding a word of what people say, to generally being able to understand at least the main idea of what people are saying if not fully understanding. In about a week or so I will start decided what classes I will be taking next semester and getting things for the next semester arranged.

As soon as the semester is over I get a two month Christmas break, where I have an incredible opportunity to travel China and see a lot of the sights. I'm really excited. The plans for where to go and who to go with and for how long are starting to fall together. It's definitely a new adventure though because traveling in China isn't really the same as traveling in the US. Here you can only buy one-way train tickets and you have to be at the train station you want to leave from in order to buy them. Also, for part of my break I will be traveling during China's New Year. It will be excited to celebrate my first Chinese New Year but it definitely makes traveling a little more interesting. I'm hoping to be able to get a chance to post blogs while I'm traveling to keep you all updated.

Winter is officially here in Harbin. It has been snowing for several weeks. It has snowed twice in the past two weeks. The temperature generally doesn't come above freezing anymore, with the exception of today. It's pretty crazy to go outside in November and have your breath taken away because it is so cold. I'm looking forward to the ice skating rink though. During winter here every college makes there own outdoor ice skating rink. I also found out that the Songhua River freezes and you can walk out onto the river.

I went roller skating today with my program. It was lots of fun. I think the last time I went roller skating I was still in elementary school; maybe at the oldest I was in junior high. The only bummer was that they only had skates, no roller blades. It took me a little while to get used to roller skating. I'm proud to say that in a dark roller skating rink that often had traffic jams and people falling, I only fell once when someone ran into the back of me. The people here are all very nice though, because when anyone would fall, or even start to fall sometimes, someone would help you back up. Another interesting thing was that in the middle of the skating rink there were people dancing with disco lights and loud music. It was pretty interesting to watch.

This week I'll get to have a Thanksgiving dinner with everyone else in my program. I'm excited that I will actually be able to celebrate the holiday while I'm here. I look forward to telling you how my Thanksgiving is. The only sad thing is that I don't get a day off for it, but such is life. Love you all. Till next time

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Died More Times Than I Can Count Today...

It turns out that playing lazer tag where you actually are out of the game if you die to many times, has taught me that I have a knack for getting killed. This weekends activity was, of course, lazer tag. When I signed up to participate I was understandably expecting the regular running around in a room with black lights, fog, bright colors, and big bulky vests. Well, I learned today that this is not what Chinese lazer tag is like. When we got off the bus upon arriving, we were greeted by two men in military camis, and they promptly told us to line up in two lines and count off, then we were divided into two teams. After listening and not understanding all the instructions in Chinese, we proceded to go put on different clothes. When I first heard we were putting on different clothes, I was honestly really confused and kinda weirded out. When we walked in the building we were each given a pair of military camis to wear. The pants and belt were hilariously too big, but in the end it all ended up being okay. I was still very confused though as to why we needed to where military camis to run around in a black lit room. I later found out that we actually were going to play outside! So after putting on our issued camis we proceeded to put on the rest of our military outfit, complete with helmet, vest power pack, and huge bulky gun. They were all decked out in camoflauge too. After getting properly outfitted we headed outside to go play a series of military stragized lazer tag games. This was definitely not the run around in a dark room kind of lazer tag. This was like paintball meets lazer tag. This was a hide in the bushes and run crouching close to the ground or even crawl on the ground kind of lazer tag. It was lots of fun and we played several 15minute games, and each game had different rules and different places to play. We were playing in this huge park that had castles and fountains and trees, etc. It turned out to be very useful to be wearing different clothes because you didn't stick out, you didn't have to be afraid to crawl on the ground, and it was just plain fun. Unfortunately I have terrible aim and only averaged about one kill a game, but the last game I was really successful and killed a grand total of four people! :) Granted it was only because I rushed the opposite team and I had 8 lives before I died. So now I know that lazer tag is not the same everywhere you go.

We had Halloween here yesterday. It was fun to see everybody attempt to dress up for Halloween. It is kind of a challenge to find costumes here because Chinese people don't celebrate Halloween so you kind of have to be exceptionally creative. I didn't end up dressing up, but I ended up following everyone to the place everyone ended up hanging out. The place we ended up going had a lot of foreigners and it was fun to see a bunch of foreigners together in one place celebrating a common holiday, even if it was just Halloween. I do miss the corn mazes though. :(

I ate Pizza Hut for the first time since I have been here today. I never, ever thought that I would enjoy pizza so much. It was the most American thing I've had since I got here, and it definitely helped cure my craving for cheese. (They don't eat cheese here normally)

This week was my first week of class after my fall break. In some of the classes they have definitely kicked up the difficulty. It's all of course to 'improve my Chinese' and I am grateful that they care so much to push me, but it does have an effect on my stress level. So safissed to say I have been pretty stressed lately and I don't really know if the stress level will really every go down. If you could all keep me in your thoughts concerning that I would appreciate it. My midterms turned out pretty good and I ended up doing well on all of them. So I think that's it for now. Love you all!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Half-way done!....with half-way

Sorry I haven't posted anything new lately. The creative juices haven't been flowing as of late. This week I am finally on mid-fall break. I just finished up my midterms last week, and I think they went well considering it's all in a foreign language. It strangely actually felt more like finals than midterms because they canceled classes and such because of our tests. It's definitely crazy to know that I've been here for about two months. The time has kind of flown by, but I still have several months here.

Let's see what stories could I tell....

I went to the post office for the first time today. I was pretty proud of myself for mailing a letter all by myself. Mailing a letter, mind you, is much different in China than it is in the US. Here nothing is pre-pasted, and they don't like to do things for you. So they gave me the stamps and had me glue them on myself with the paste they provide, and then when the lady was all finished she had me paste the envelope closed. It was pretty easy to mail a letter, but it was definitely an experience to see things done a little different.

I was mistaken for a Russian the other day. I walked into a restaurant on campus and I was staring at the menu and the waiters proceeded to hand me a menu and turned it to the page with Russian on it. I was kind of thrown off so when I tried to tell him I was not Russian I totally messed it up, but it was okay cause I got a second chance. The other waiter thought I was Russian too and he tried to show me the Russian menu as well. This time I was prepared though and I told him I was an American, but apparently I look Russian.

I learned how to play Mahjong the other day. One of my American friends here invited me to go learn to play Mahjong with two of her Chinese friends that she had met through a series of connections. We went and met them by their school and ate a great lunch and then headed over to the Mahjong hall where you pay a certain amount of money per person to play for four hours, and you get unlimited tea and milk tea and ice cream. It was lots of fun learning to play a game that is a large part of the Chinese culture. Normally when you play Mahjong you're supposed to bet, but because gambling in China is illegal we used poker cards as money. :) So if you win and depending on how you win you get a certain amount of poker cards from everyone else. After four hours I ended up winning in amount of cards.

I visited one of my teacher's homes the other day and got to see what a real Chinese home is like. This home in particular was very small. Everyone in the city lives in apartments and it is not uncommon for several generations to live together. So my teacher's home has four rooms, his and his wife's bedroom, his son and his son's wife's bedroom, his granddaughter's bedroom, and a kitchen. They also have one room that is the bathroom, laundry room, and shower all in one. I don't know if I've mentioned, but here, the bathroom is the shower and the shower is the bathroom. My teacher was very hospitable and gave me two books, one that he had actually written and one he had written an essay in. I was just amazed at how kind he was trying to make me feel at home so that I wouldn't have to miss my mom as much. One funny thing about visiting your calligraphy teacher's home is that it means you have to practice your calligraphy. :) Before I left he made sure that I had practiced all the characters we had learned and I even had an audience watching me write, honestly it was a little nerve wracking to be put on the spot, but I certainly appreciated the practice.

I've been starting to make some Chinese friends here that are outside the CET program. One girl works at a coffee shop near campus and her name is Lulu. She is so cute. She saw me studying my Chinese there and started asking me about it and then just starting talking to me while she was waiting for something to do. So I ended up spending several hours there just talking with her. Then I went again today and talked with her again and she introduced me to a friend of hers who is an English teacher. I ended up talking with this lady as well and now I might end up helping with a winter English camp over my winter break. All the girls I have met are so sweet and I certainly hope that I will get lots of chances to really get to know them.

So I think I'm actually learning how to live in a city. I never thought I would ever catch myself enjoying living in a city, but I guess after you live somewhere for a while it will always start to become home. I still prefer the quite of living out of the city, but I'm definitely seeing benefits to living in a city, you never run out of things to explore.

I think this is about it for this post. Please keep me in your thoughts as I have many opportunities to build relationships with lots of people. Love you all!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trip to Dandong

So this last weekend I had the chance to go to Dandong with CET. Dandong is on the eastern edge of China surrounded by the Yellow Sea and North Korea. While we were there we stayed on an island named Daludao Island (which when literally translated means large deer island). Getting to and off the island threw a couple wrenches in our itinerary because the wind was too strong to get to the island the first day so we had to wait a few hours. Then the next day when we wanted to get off the island we had to wait most of the day because the wind was again too strong. The free time on the island was fun though. This island is apparently considered one of China's paradises and the writing a bus on the island said it was "China's Hawaii." Now I haven't been to Hawaii to compare at all, but this island was definitely beautiful and peaceful. My roommate and I during our first free time went and rented a tandom bicycle for an hour and had a great time filled with lots of laughter as, me being in the front, I attempted to keep from killing us both. After this excursion we went out with two other classmates and rode in sand buggy, which was rented by the circle, and then we rented an awesome four person bicycle. The four person bicycle was an absolute hoot and we successfully managed to get every person that passed us to stare at the two Americans and two Chinese people. I think they thought we were a bit crazy as we laughed the whole way down the street.
After getting off the island we headed to Dandong and had the night free to get dinner, etc. My roommate and I ate dinner with a large group and I enjoyed my first Korean food at a table where you sat on the floor. After dinner we all walked down to the river and we got our first look at North Korea. My first look was pretty interesting. Standing on the riverside you look across and see...a black abyss. Compared to the lit Dandong with building, street, and even bridge lights. North Korea really did look like nothingness. The most interesting part was how the colorful bridge lights ended at the North Korean half of the bridge.
The next day we made our way to the eastern most half of the Great Wall of China. I was incredibly excited and who wouldn't be excited to climb a wall that was built thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, I wish I had been warned ahead of time that along with climbing the Great Wall comes scaling a mountain! I should have been smart enough to put together that this being "Tiger Mountain Great Wall" it was not going to be any easy day hike. The beginning of this Great Wall is pretty deceiving too. It starts out as a nice sloped incline and then all of a sudden you come to a mountain wall that has stairs, and I think to myself "oh, those stairs aren't too long, this won't be too bad at all" not knowing that I can't really see all of the stairs because they immeadietly turn left and I find myself scaling steps that are abnormally deep and go on for what seems forever. As soon as you come to a landing you look up and see a ton more of steep steps. After a climb that was harder than expected I got to the top and it was well worth the climb. We were able to see North Korea from the top. (A little random thing about North Korea: in Chinese they do not refer to Korea as north and south. South Korea is simply Korea and North Korea is called Chao Xian. ) So after a nice view from the top we make our way back, but we don't go the way we came. We go the other way that eventually lead around the mountain itself and not actually on the wall. It was quite the surprise to first be walking down incredibly steep steps, that made someone without a fear of heights a little nervous, and then to find myself hiking a mountain on a dirt/rock trail that was bordered by mountain cliff on your left and a green fence on your right. The green fence was quite helpful when we found ourselves practically rock climbing. :) All in all it was a great experience and quite the workout all at the same time.
After the Great Wall we got an up close and personal look at North Korea by boat on the river that divides the two countries. Then after lunch we headed back to Harbin. The train ride back was pretty fun because I was succesfully able to learn how to play new card games in Chinese, granted the practice rounds and the showing with the cards helped alot.

I have officially been here for a little more than a month and I am now in my fifth week of classes. It's pretty wild to think that in a couple weeks my midterms will be here and then soon after that my finals. Time is beginning to go a lot faster here as I have gotten into a routine with school. Now I'm at that point where there are so many things I want to do and see around the city that I don't know if I'll actually get to see them all, but I still do have a lot of time here. Anyways, that's all for this update. I love and miss you all.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Learned Something New Today...

So this morning at about 9:00am in my conversation class, we were taking a short break and I began to hear sirens outside. I quickly asked my teacher what it was and come to find out they were air-raid sirens. She proceeds to tell us that today is 9-18 and that in 1937 on this day, Japan invaded China from the north and made their campaign down to Beijing. She said that Japan had come saying they wanted to "help" China, but instead they attempted to take over the country for its resources. So every year on 9-18 in order to remember what Japan did, China sets off their air-raid sirens. My teacher said that if Japan were to apologize, China would stop remembering, but to this day Japan has yet to apologize. I found it incredibly interesting to find out that China and Japan still did not like each other very much. So anyways that's what I learned. I hope you find it interesting.

Other interesting stuff that I've encountered/come across...
If for some reason you ever decide to come to China, particularly Harbin, and want to take the bus, here is how to successfully survive using the bus system. First, get over any sense of a bubble. This is the most important thing because every single bus is always full to the max and it is squished standing room only. The only limit I've noticed to how many people can be on a bus is if you physically can not get on the bus because there is absolutely no room. (This actually happened to a group of us once.) Next thing to know is that the bus will not wait for you, whether you're getting on or off. If you want to get on the bus you'd better know exactly what number bus, and as soon as you see it you follow it till it stops completely then join the mad dash to get in. You have to be kind of pushy to get on because you don't want the bus driver to leave without you, and you have to be standing by the door with your money ready as soon as it stops. To get off the bus you must make an attempt to move through the sea of people to the back of the bus where the exit is, about one stop before you need to get off. When you reach your stop be sure to move quickly to get off because if the driver doesn't see anyone trying to get off within a few seconds of stopping and there's no one getting on he will leave before you can get off. If the doors do close before you get a chance to get off you can yell in Chinese "xia che" and the bus driver will open the doors. Be careful though, I've observed the bus driver get very upset at someone not getting of the bus quickly enough. Lastly, while riding on the bus be sure to hold on tight because the bus does a lot of jolting and stopping due to the crazy traffic. If you're not paying enough attention you could go flying forward. (This actually happened to me, it was pretty entertaining.) So now you all know how to ride a Harbin bus, and since you all know you should come and visit me now. :)

Classes are still going well, still challenging, but I'm learning lots. I bought a Chinese copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I'm looking forward to attempting to tackle it. I'm liking the food here, but it's definitely interesting trying new food items because I never really know what I'm eating. I think I've begun to adjust to life here. I still have a lot to learn about how to live in a city though. It's a far cry from the small, quite town of Pullman. Love you all!


Monday, September 15, 2008

My First Chinese Holiday

So this Sunday was 中秋节(zhong qiu jie) or mid-autumn festival. It was quite the ordeal and was really fun. For the past month there have been people everywhere selling mooncakes. Mooncakes are these little round bread things that are filled with stuff. The filling can be pretty much anything. So far I've eaten a green tea mooncake, a red tea mooncake, a white lotus mooncake, a sesame mooncake, a coconut mooncake, and a bite of an unknown mooncake. The filling is generally kind of a jelly-like consistency but more just like a mashed up something. The taste is definitely different and some are better than others. I liked the white lotus mooncake the best, but it is still something I would not eat everyday.
In China this holiday is generally a three day break and they compare it to our Thanksgiving in how big of a deal it is. Families are supposed to get together and eat food, mooncakes, drink alcohol, and enjoy the moon. Sunday night my roommate and I and four other people went to a big shopping street that is a pedestrian only street. At night the buildings are lit up. The combination of the lights and the crowds of people because it was a holiday made me feel like I was at Disneyland, along with the mickey ears and minnie mouse ballons that could be spotted frequently. We went there and ate some dinner at a very nice restaurant. Afterwards my roommate and I did some shopping, watched fireworks, took pictures, and enjoyed laughing together. There were a lot of people that were lighting these wishing lamps that had a flame at the bottom so the lamp would float like a hot-air ballon. After hanging out watching fireworks my roommate and I took a taxi back to the campus and bought ourselves some mooncakes. We ate the mooncakes in our room and watched a little TV while I studied. I had school the next day so I had to go to bed earlier than she did. :(

This weekend I was able to get out and see a lot more of the city. I didn't understand how big this city actually is. I've spotted my first and second Mcdonald's so far. I've also seen their Wal-mart. They have a lot of Russian stores here and a lot of Russian looking buildings. I'm looking forward to exploring the expance of the city and finding all the fun places to go and see. The weather is starting to get a little cooler here already. It's cool in the mornings and evenings, but still in the seventies during the middle of the day. We get thunder storms pretty often here, and by that I mean we've had maybe three or four since I've been here. I'm taking a calligraphy class now, and that's been really fun. So far I've only learned how to make a dot :) I like my roommate alot and as my ability to communicate increases we are able to bond more and more. Classes are still pretty challenging, but I've decided it's good for me.
I think that's all I've got for now. I love you and miss you all!!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Observations for a rainy day

So this morning it rained a lot, and I made some more observations that I've added to my growing list of cultural observations. I thought I would share the ones I can think of with you.

1. EVERYONE uses umbrellas. I find this one kind of entertaining because coming from a state that supposedly rains the most, we hardly ever use umbrellas. I find this one very practical though and it makes walking in the rain quite a bit less miserable.

2. If you are a foreigner expect to be stared at wherever you go. Walking down the street or minding your own business in a supermarket you are being stared at. It's not the worst thing in the world, but it can definitely remind you that you stick out like a sore thumb. :)

3. They have a Chinese version of pizza here. It's interesting how they have taken the concept of pizza and put very irregular toppings on it. It tastes good, but I never would have thought that a pizza with either curry or corn would taste good before.

4. Chinese people like buffets...I thought that was only an American thing.

5. There is a lot more PDA between couples here than I expected to see, but still conservative compared to what you might see in the states.

6. You can't take your bag with you into a shopping store. They have these giant cubby things with a door on each cubby that you have to put your stuff in before going in to a grocery/supermarket type store. You also can't take any drinks or food in.

7. I have yet to see a Mcdonalds here....I've seen one KFC, but no Mcdonalds yet.

8. They do sell forks and spoons here. I definitely wasn't expecting that, however in the cafeterias they have a giant chopstick dispenser. Kind of like a straw dispenser but for chopsticks.

9. If you are a foreigner you are easily memorable and people you buy from have a high likely hood to remember you.

10. Taxis are cheap.

11. I haven't seen grass, but there are quite a few beautiful willow trees here.

12. They use chalk boards here in the classrooms. It feels like a flashback to elementary school.

13. They sell lots of tea here. :) and bubble tea too for those that like it.

14. It's different being able to walk to class in about two minutes and not have to scale any hills to get there. :) The largest hill on campus is nothing but a slight slope, and I mean slight. I will have to rebuild my cougar calves in a year.

15. There are a lot more buildings on this campus than I thought. They are really close together and it's a little confusing because things look different from a window than from the ground.

That is all that I can think of for now. I hope you all enjoy these few observations. Till next time. :)


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My first week in Harbin.

Hey everybody! So I have finished my first week of classes and I have officially been in China for a little more than a week. So far it has been difficult to adjust to living in a new country and speaking a foreign language 24/7. They told us it would be hard though, and it should get better in another week or so. The city of Harbin is fairly large and has some cool underground shopping areas. There are also lots of people and a fair amount of Russians. Walking outside reminds me of being in New York. The pedestrians don't have the right of way, but you can also cross where ever you want. In some of the cross walks it's pretty much a battle between person and car for who gets the right of way. If there are enough people to stop the car, the people win. If it's only a few people, you pretty much dodge cars to get across the street. The city buildings and such are necessarily appealing to the eye, but the inside of many buildings are pretty nice. I have a video up on facebook that shows what driving is like.

I have a total of four classes, and all but my one on two class are two hours long. So every week I have 21 hours of class. My earliest class starts at 8 and my latest class ends at 5. My teachers are difficult to understand because they speak quickly and use a lot of words and structures that I haven't learned yet. I've already had to learn several new words to express things I already knew how to express. For example, we all learned homework as "gongke" but here they say "zuoye." I'm taking a Newspaper class, a Conversation class, a one on two drill, and a one on one tutorial. The one-on-one tutorial will be the hardest because the words I have to know are far beyond the "hi, my name is..." words, but so far I have been successfully learning about economics in the class.

The food here is pretty good. I've only eaten a few things so far that I don't like. The only difficulty is it's hard to tell exactly what I'm eating. I'm sure though that sometimes it's better not to know. The cafeterias are nice and to pay for your food each counter that has food has a machine that is like the pay pass machines. So, you tell them what you want, they type it in the machine, and then you touch your card to the machine and you've paid for your food. The lunch rush is huge so you have to be kinda quick and decide what you want or it will all be gone. You can also buy some food and everything else you might need at the grocery type store on campus.

The campus is pretty big and it took me a while to notice how many buildings there are and how tall and close together they are. It is definitely a far cry from the WSU campus but it will end up being home for a while for me. The campus is gated, but I've never seen the gates closed. The dorm is the international dorm and has several floors. I'm on the fourth floor. Today I successfully did my first load of laundry in a foreign country. :)

So I think this is all for now. I hope I have answered everybody's initial questions. I miss and love you all!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Application Process

So I have submitted my application to CET academic programs and am waiting to see all of the pieces checked off. As soon as everything is checked off it means that they will start processing my application. I am hoping that everything will go quickly and smoothly now that it is out of my hands and is now in theirs. The admission for the program is rolling so it is a first come first serve program. If the program is full by the time they get to my application then there is nothing I can do about. However, I trust that I will get accepted.

My dad was looking up the climate of Harbin this week, and come to find out the, weather there is incredibly cold. Averages for Harbin are:
JanuaryAvg Low: -10°Avg Hi: Avg Precip: 0.14 in

FebruaryAvg Low: -2°Avg Hi: 20°Avg Precip: 0.1 in

MarchAvg Low: 16°Avg Hi: 37°Avg Precip: 0.28 in

AprilAvg Low: 34°Avg Hi: 56°Avg Precip: 0.74 in

MayAvg Low: 47°Avg Hi: 70°Avg Precip: 1.06 in

JuneAvg Low: 59°Avg Hi: 79°Avg Precip: 2.48 in

JulyAvg Low: 65°Avg Hi: 82°Avg Precip: 4.2 in

AugustAvg Low: 62°Avg Hi: 79°Avg Precip: 3.47 in

SeptemberAvg Low: 48°Avg Hi: 69°Avg Precip: 1.52 in

OctoberAvg Low: 34°Avg Hi: 53°Avg Precip: 0.75 in

NovemberAvg Low: 15°Avg Hi: 31°Avg Precip: 0.37 in

DecemberAvg Low: -2°Avg Hi: 15°Avg Precip: 0.19 in
So, it's going to be a little chilly there. It will be quite the adventure to get adapted to such a different climate.

I'm not sure if I will actually be able to write on this blog in English while I am in China. One requirement of the program is that I take a no English pledge. I will try to find a creative way to post on my blog. I might try to find a way to write in Chinese and then translate it to English using some sort of program. No matter what I will do my best to make some sort of update on this in a timely fashion.

So until next time...

Nicole :)