Monday, June 13, 2011

Here is a list of some big differences between China and the U.S.:

Tipping is not practiced in restaurants.

Prices for street food are negotiable and you can haggle for lower prices.

Food is much cheaper in China and it's easy to get a hearty meal for 2-3 American dollars.

Traffic is insane and drivers are crazy! Mopeds are common and it seems that they aren't officially considered vehicles because you can see them going in any and every direction and weaving through traffic erratically.

Restaurants don't usually supply napkins, so you have to ask for them and pay for them.

Smoking is allowed indoors in China

So far, it's been really interesting getting used to these differences. When I went to New Zealand people would ask me what's different and I didn't have much of an answer. But here, it is different in so many ways, and it's really fun to experience it. Many people stare at us because we're not Chinese, but I realize it's just curiosity. They seem flattered that we're here to see their culture and learn their language, especially since Wuhan isn't really a touristy spot.

This past week I also intensified my food adventurousness by eating liver, fish eyeball, and cow brains. In general, the food is very good, and they have much variety to offer. Lots of dishes are spicy and very flavorful, which I love. On Thursday, there was a crazy thunderstorm unlike any I had seen before. The lightning was almost constant and looked like a strobe light sometimes. The thunder was mostly low and rumbling with only a few big cracks. It poured so hard that the bathrooms in two of our rooms started leaking , and the rooms flooded! It was insane, and the water was pouring in and flowing straight through to the hallway! Needless to say, the students in those rooms were moved to different rooms.

This past weekend, we went to see the 3 Gorges Dam, which is the largest hydro power station in the world. It was pretty impressive. We also went on a tour through natural caves, which was awesome. There were bats flying around inside, and it reminded me of a scene from Scooby Doo or something. We saw the Yangtze River and took a short boat ride, too. After that, we went ziplining across the river, which was exhilarating! Our leaders and guides from the university have been VERY good to us, and they paid for our food and excursions. The class is going fast, and we're finishing this week. I'm kind of excited to not have to worry about it for the last week, and I will be officially done with classes forever! I'll have another blog entry in about a week!

Monday, June 6, 2011

First week in China

When I got off the plane in Beijing, China I was met by the rest of the students from our group. We were rushing to get the bus to the train station for our train to Wuhan. It was a bus provided by our school, and I realized then that we were lucky to have people leading us, because it is a little scary navigating through a foreign country where you don't know the language.

We missed the train so we stayed in a hotel for the night and all got to know each other. It's really cool being surrounded by people with this adventurous spirit. The next day we had our first authentic Chinese meal at breakfast in the hotel, and it was really good. We got the train and had to sit on little stools on the floor in the overload car because we were supposed to be on the previous train. Out the window we could see some views of rural China in between Beijing and Wuhan.

When we finally got to the university, we dropped our stuff off at the dorm and then our Chinese student leaders took us out to dinner. It was a restaurant with traditional Dinner tables with a rotating glass circle in the middle, so the food could easily be passed around to each person. I had some food i never tried at home, such as several types of mushrooms and fungus, and fish cooked with the head on. You can't go to a place to China if you're a picky eater.

On Monday, we took a tour of the campus, and it's pretty, with a big lake in the middle of it. In the afternoon, our leaders took us to the biggest mall I have ever seen. Throughout the rest of the week, we began taking classes, and we had several cultural activities. We practiced calligraphy and saw an expert actually write some. We saw a Tai Chi performance, played on a traditional Chinese 2-stringed instrument, and saw a famous artist draw a picture of Confucius.

One of the coolest parts of the trip is this market just a few minutes' walk away, where outside vendors sell all kinds of food. We had dumplings, meat on a stick, and a whole bunch of other food with unknown ingredients. We also went to karaoke in this neighborhood. In the restaurants we had a lot more good, and spicy food. On Friday, we went to an International bar with a friend we made from Costa Rica. It was kind of bizarre seeing so much diversity after being in China for a week. That was really fun.

I realized that we are very lucky to have our student leaders because it would otherwise have been very difficult to figure out how to live and get around here. The language barrier is sometimes frustrating, but we are quickly learning the basics in our class. I feel like it is a character-building experience to immerse yourself in a completely different culture and language like this. Next week, we have more class and activities, and soon we will be visiting Xi An and Beijing.