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!