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.