Friday, November 27, 2009

Gobble Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving!
My program went out for a Thanksgiving dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Hangzhou. Our teacher/program paid for it of course. There were a lot of interesting dishes...the food was so-so. I definitely missed an all-American feast! But guess this had to so suffice considering we had not other choice. But I had a chance to call my family during Thanksgiving (States time) to say hi and hear about all the delicious food they ate. Wow, I was super jelous. But we had a friend from Valpo school come and join us from the States for dinner and he brought some chocolate and Cheez-its for us. Wow, fake cheese never tasted so good! Ha, and I had a mac 'n' cheese from one my friend's care packages from home that just about made me pee my pants it tasted so much like home. Nothing like a bowl full of sodium and processed cheese. Yes sir.
So I am super relieved to not have any finals in my Chinese classes. We just found out this past week. All the teachers decided the mid-terms were so recent that there wasn't necessary to give us a final...thank goodness! So, next week will be my last week of class and then I will have just under two weeks of free time and relaxing time. I might even travel if I have the money and time to. I would really like to go back to Beijing and spend more time enjoying the scenery without rushing through everything in a day. Plus we really didn't have much time to travel during the semester and kept cramming in site seeing into short periods of time, so it will be nice to have some free time on our hands. We do still have a final in our Civilization Culture class...a paper at that. So guess that will be all the homework I will need to work on.
Can't wait to come home!!!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Wow, it's getting so cold here in Hangzhou. The rain is miserable to be out in because it is so cold and dreary. But everyone has their umbrellas out and continuing to walk everywhere. I have recently come down with a cold and coughing on a daily basis. I finally got over my stubbornness and went to the school's clinic. That place really concerned me...with their different sense of hygiene and how all the rooms were outdoors, or at least looked that way because they never close any doors!
After some confusion, I finally had a thermometer put in my mouth and seated in a small room. The doctor didn't check for anything else after I told him my common-cold symptoms. Because I didn't have a fever, they were not too concerned. So I was given a list of four different drugs to pick up in the next room which cost about $15 total. I got a box of Tylenol Cold medicine, some cough syrup, some other pill which I will not take because I cannot read anything on these boxes, and then some packets of natural herbal medicine to mix in hot water. I tried that herbal it made me miss sugar so bad. It smelled and tasted like poop or something along those lines. But I do feel better having been on the medications for about a day now. I have also slept every free minute I have on my hands. This is hard because we have mid-terms this week and last Friday. *Big stack of flashcards, here I come!*
Friday we had our speaking/oral exam which went okay. Then listening/audio yesterday which I thought was a breeze. And I could actually understand what they were saying for once because they didn't talk a hundred miles a minute. So that was a relief! And then this Thursday I have my grammer/comprehensive test that will take about two hours to complete. It is all in Chinese characters, no phonics! Yikes, that will be interesting.
Anyways, next week is Thanksgiving!! That's crazy and really makes me crave mashed potatoes and gravy. Ha, and some cherry pie on the side with a dash of vanilla ice cream would truly be splendid!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


So tomorrow I have another unit test in my Chinese comprehensive class. That means I have a lot of flashcards to go through! We learn a lot of new vocab every week and sometimes it's hard to keep up. But so many of the international students don't even care and just skip classes and never do the homework. There have already been three students who have been kicked out of all the classes for not coming for over a third of the classes already. I just don't understand if you are paying to study abroad that you wouldn't actually have interest in what you are coming for. Many of the international students are only interested in learning Chinese on the streets and don't care to read or right the characters. I mean, it's not the funnest thing to do and it's challenging, but it also has meaning and it expands you're ability to use Chinese in the future. Well, whatever. Not my problem.
Sense of time has been frustrating me lately. Just the fact that I like to be punctual and for the most part on time for whatever. But that definitely does not apply to everyone and can really waste a lot of time in a person's day. Words can also have very different meanings when moving from one culture to another. For example, if you say you are going to be there soon, it translates into at a least an hour and a half later. And when you say you are coming, that translates into 30 minutes minimum. It's really quite frustrating because then you have to reset a watch in your mind to try and predict and re-plan the time you will ask someone to meet you. But punctuality is really not a word in some people's vocab. I just don't know how I would get through a day when I knew I was making people constantly wait for me. I would at least feel a slight sense of apology.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sarah's Trip

So let's start from the beginning. I left for the Shanghai PuDong International airport around 11am last Friday from a travel agency. The bus took me directly to the airport. I was so anxious for Sarah to arrive that I became very impatient as I stood at the entrance of the international arrivals. When I finally saw her a huge hug because I was so happy to finally see someone from home! She looked exhausted as I did when I walked off the 13hr plane ride. And we were off to Hyatt number one...
The hotel was beautiful and Sarah had a room on the 28th floor that overlooked the Bund. It was so amazing at night with all the buildings' lights. I really enjoyed our stay in Shanghai as it consisted of a personal tour and a champagne brunch. We also spent an afternoon at the spa where we got full-body massages and free time in the hot tub and steam room. It was rejuviating and relaxing. Shanghai is definitely a modern version of China so Sarah did not quite get an accurate view of how the Chinese leave. I left that opportunity of experience for Hangzhou!
Well after a scary and confusing night in Hangzhou four nights later, Sarah and I are back at another Hyatt hotel. This one overlooks the West Lake, which is another beautiful attraction in China. We got a chance to check out a tea museum and take a paddle boat ride around a section of West Lake. Sarah stayed in Shanghai for three nights and Hangzhou for three nights. And now she is enjoying her last few days back in Shanghai at the third Hyatt of her trip. She will return back to the states this Saturday. I hope she enjoyed her stay, as I very much loved having her come here. It meant a lot to have a close family member come across the world to visit! And I know it wasn't easy.
Now it's time to crack down and prepare myself for the three midterms I have coming up in less than two weeks!!! I am scared and hope my cramming study habits will work this one last time, haha. Let me tell you, green tea is going to get my through the cold weather and save my voice! I bought a small teapot strainer at the tea museum that is quite handy. I really love tea and having China's loose leaf tea most definitely puts Lipton and Arizona tea to shame! Time is flying and already over half way done! Where has the first month and a half gone? I have no idea. But I know I am loving every minute of it here and hope to be able to readjust to American lifestyle when I return home.
Miss you all and have a great Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sarah is coming!!

Hello Hello, so sorry it's been so long. I have completely lost track of time lately as I have had a big test, a birthday, and a class fieldtrip. So I finally had a test in my grammar class last Friday which I did okay on. Just so many characters we are learning and putting them into the correct order is really hard to remember! But everyone did a pretty good job on the test I believe and our classes are fun.
My birthday, which I celebrated 13 hours before it really was my birthday in the States, was fun fun fun! I invited a nice group of friends out to dinner at a restaurant down the street from our campus. It was such a diverse group of friends that it was slightly difficult to start up conversations that everyone could join on. There were two Chinese, a French, two Germans, three Nigerians, and then me and my friend from the States. But it was still fun. Then after wards we four of us went to a fancy wine tasting party which was filled with classy we felt underdressed and out of style. But they had some killer wine that was pretty delicious. After that we moved to a few other places and finally ended up at some dance club as usual. I had a good time and didn't die, so that's always a plus on your 21st bday! Haha.
Last weekend my program from America went on a group fieldtrip to Xi'an which is to the West of Hangzhou and about a 2hr plane ride. We left for the airport at 6am the morning after my bday party...I was going off of about an hour's worth of sleep. Ha, but we were on time and I was just dandy after I slept on the plane. We had a very busy weekend as we went to see one of the most popular Pagodas, the Tarrocatta warriors excavation sites, a bell tower, a drum tower, and a Muslim neighborhood. It was pretty cool and we all made many purchases. Sunday we shopped like all afternoon because our flight home wasn't til 9pm. So after I had already spent a few hours shopping, I split off from the group and found an awesome video game arcade! Yes, videogames. The only reason why I was so interested in the arcade was because they had DDR! So I made some Chinese friends who I played the game with and had a ton of fun. Two hours have never gone by so fast before! I felt like such a nerd, but I told all my friends back home that was one of the things I was looking forward to when coming here. It was so worth my lunch money!
The mosquitos are still biting the crap out of me even though it's cooling down. Unfortunately, I think my legs will be covered with scars when I return home. And it's not from scratching and having the bites turn into scabs, it's just from the bites in general. Of course I have cream to help the swelling and itching, but dang these mosquitos have some crazy juice in them!
Anyways, off for a nap. They are becoming my new favorite habit here!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Temptation for a vacation invitation

So the's great! No classes and good weather. I just got back from Shanghai last night from a short weekend trip with a few friends from Hangzhou. We stayed at our friend's friend's apartment and he took us out on the town Saturday night. We had some amazing sushi and then went to a really nice cocktail joint on the roof of a really nice building. The tables were lit up in the dark and there was a great view of all the city lights. Then we just explored some other places to hang out and had some great "American" at the end of the night. This included hamburgers, ceasar salad, fries, and a reuben sandwich! The next day we just lazed around in the apartment then went shopping and out for dinner. Ate pizza the second night which was just as delicious as everything else we ate. Shanghai pretty much spoiled my appetite and as soon as my day started back in Hangzhou, I was craving American food again. Dang it, and I was doing so well too! But Shanghai is such a modernized version of Chinese culture that it is not very accurate to how most of Chinese people live. It's like saying New York City represents America or something.
Anyways, sent off my second batch of postcards last week so hopefully one of you will get them! It's always crazy for me to think that all of you back home are just doing your thing 13 hours after I do mine! I am so caught up in Chinese culture that I truly loose track of time on a daily basis and I can't believe that I've already been here for a month. It feels like I've been here for a while because it was so easy and fun to adapt to the culture here.
The weather has finally cooled down and I can walk outside without feeling like a sticky jar of honey. But the mosquitos are still biting me on a regular basis. But not as bad as the first time when two of my fingers looked like sausages for a few days. That was painful! I also saw something typical happen while I was Shanghai that just made me run but laugh at the same time. Danita and I were walking around shopping when we passed a group of Chinese people on the sidewalk who were hovered over some filled plastic bags. As I looked over, I see a dead and skinned duck being transferred from one bag to another. Ha talk about raw black market! There stuff is so fresh here though. Another friend told me when she went to the market and walked through the fish section, there was a box of squirming crabs and then a water tank filled with eels. The eels were so jumpy and energetic that one of them slithered out of the tank onto the floor! My friend jumped and ran the other way...wish I could have been there to play with the eel!
I have officially given up on my search for a piano to practice...because everyone I've asked on campus doesn't seem to have a clue where one would be. So I guess I'll just have to play catch up when I get home and devote all my time to the music building...NO ROSCOE'S!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Almost there

Getting ready for the Chinese holiday coming up at the beginning of October. We get a week off school and many people travel all over China! Hangzhou will be packed with tourists so I am hoping to find a way out of here for that time. So far my friend and I are looking at a small island in the Southern part of China along the coast. It's right across from Tibet, of course we are not going to Tibet! But in that location. This place has beaches, night life, and is known for their historic music. I think there is some piano museum or something there that I would really like to see! Anyways, from our research we have found some great ticket prices for the train ride (about 13 hours) and then a really nice hotel that is right by the water. I really hope it all works out and the rest of our friends can come with us.
I have come down with a slight sickness that is basically due to lack of sleep and the extreme changes in weather from day to day. The humidity is wicked and then we will have a random day of cool breezes in between. I also have been sneezing due to the trees letting go of something in their leaves during the beginning of the fall season. It makes a lot of people sneeze. But I lost my voice last Friday and still have not gotten it completely back. I sounded like a young boy going through adolescence for a few days. And now my voice has come to a steady raspy sound. Bad ass? nope, not quite. It is cooling down though and I have finally been able to just open my window instead of blasting the A.C.
If you would like a me your address!
Peace, JBird

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Found Korean food!

So things are getting into a consistent schedule here and I am falling into a better sleeping pattern. It was difficult to sleep in, but then hard to get up every morning which was annoying. But I think my body is pretty much over jet lag or something like that. It's cooling down and raining a lot here so that's always more tolerable when walking outside for everything. People's faces are beginning to become more familiar every day which is a nice feeling to have. Even if it's just the cafeteria women who recognize me every day at lunch. But hey, all the international students do stick out like sore thumbs. I would say we are making our time here worth while as we bring new energy and different ways of having fun to the campus, as I'm sure every group of international students have brought to this University. It's really awesome to finally be in a pool of true diversity, not just a few international students drowning in a sea of Caucasians like most American schools. This school is truly diverse and full of such unique experiences.
My group of five that I came over here with have moved past hanging out with just each other for security and familiarity. I would say most of us have parted our separate ways and don't hang out nearly as often as the first few days we were here. It started with James and I meeting the two Chinese boys, and then as soon as classes started, it only broadened with new friendships of international students and Chinese students! The others seem to stick close to each other which is good because I already feel kind of out of the loop with them and it's good that they have one another. But it's been awkward every once in a while because the time you devote to spending with people has obviously had a toll on how they treat you. But it's alright, I've made new friends and I am happy, which is all that matters.
Homesickness has not struck me yet! I wasn't expecting it would any time soon just because I was gone in Denver all summer and in a close living situation like here. But I know that I have plenty of resources if the symptoms of homesickness do begin to strike in the near future. I don't think they will because I have been in consistent contact with the people I care about back at home and Skyping has really been awesome! I've seen my whole family (including my dog, Clover), and had a goofy conversation with some of my besties, Dcov and TuttaButta.
Things are really going good here and I am ready for a field trip soon so I can get some more great pic's that I will be able to share with you all when I return home and have full access to facebook! But in the mean time, it's always great to hear from everyone and have frequent updates with people's lives back at home. Because I honestly have no idea what's going on in the United States! It's kind of weird, but then again I am half way around the world so guess I put myself in this situation. Haha.
Okay, off to a Korean restaurant (got to stay true to my heritage that I know nothing about).
Peace and Love, JBird

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Go put your records on, tell me your favorite song

Well, it's been a few days due to business. But I have exciting German friend Carolyn and me have met some really great guys who are locals. No, this is not a dating situation, but honest and fun friendships! These guys are part of a band that plays every night at a dance club here called CoCo. They remembered us because we are usually the only ones who sing along with the English songs and interact with their music. The Chinese are so reserved and a bit scared, so they just sit like stones at the tables in the club. But this band is so fun/funny. They sing both Chinese ballads and some American rock songs that are pretty old like "play that funky music white boy". But they just have so much energy and full of spunk.
Tony, the lead singer, and then the drummer and base player took us out on the town tonight. Carolyn and me went to hear them play for a third time this week and afterwards Tony took us to a nearby place to play pool. The drummer and base player showed up soon after and we had a great time learning each other's languages. They also teached us how to play pool and not scratch every other time we shot. They are very nice and Tony, especially can speak English pretty well. The others are working on it as we are working on our Chinese. But after pool we got a bite to eat and that's when we really started having fun because we got into some interesting conversations, made lots of jokes, at great food, and enjoyed each other's company. This was a memorable night because the five of us developed such a fun and exotic friendship that will always have us on our feet, as we are so curious to learn about one another. I think Carolyn and I will be going to CoCo regularly :)
Tomorrow I am going to the travel agency with a "translator" so I can set up Sarah's trip out here!!! I am very excited to have a true American visit me and share traditions that remind me of home. But at the same time, I am going to teach Sarah how to barter, eat, and "squat" like a Chinese.
Oh yeah, still haven't gone on my piano hunt. Du, don't be mad!
Peace, JBird

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

West Lake

So one of the main things to do here in Hangzhou is to go to West Lake and either walk or bike around it. Me and some classmates did that today even though it wasn't very sunny. But it was really fun. We took a taxi there and back and then rode our bikes around most of the lake. It's pretty big so it takes an afternoon. I have met some really cool people in my Chinese classes who are from Germany, Spain, and Japan. They all speak Chinese much better than I do, but they speak English pretty well and we mostly communicate through that language. But it seems like most of the international students I've met know a minimum of three different languages which definitely makes me jealous that I only know 2.5 languages and I would only consider myself fluent in English. Lame, but oh well.
Anyways, got some beautiful pictures of the lake and some silly ones by random statues we passed by. But the thing that really stinks is that I cannot upload pictures to my blog or I said pretty much everything is blocked on the internet. So I guess that includes Java software.

I feel so bad for my three female classmates I came over here with. They have all been sick at different times since we've been here. One of them has thrown up and feels sick most days, the other had a fever last week, and they have all dealt with some bad digestion issues. I'm not really sure why I haven't gotten sick yet, not that I'm asking to be. But guess my body really likes oils and doughy foods! The only thing is that I wish I had time to take a few naps here and there because we walk a lot almost every day for some reason or another. But it's better than absolutely no exercise which I think is hard to not do while you're here. I still can't believe how frickin' small Chinese people are, especially females!!! They all wear size zero like size and I would say an American small would be a medium or large here. Well maybe if the clothes came from Abercrombie or some insanely small-sized clothing store like that. But it's funny because whenever we've gone shopping, the sales people always run up to us with a piece of clothing saying "extra large, extra large." Oh happy days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I think it finally rained!

It's cooling down slowly but surely as the humidity is making me sweat less each day. It was crazy how humid it was the first week we were in Hangzhou. I mean, us Iowans think we know humidity, but this was worse! Plus everyone walks and bikes everywhere and most places don't have air conditioning. But at least I don't have work out for awhile, considering how many calories one can sweat off here.
I do like that people walk and bike to many of their destinations. It's fun and adventurous way because we get to enjoy the beauty of this city more easily. And most people barter and shop in the black markets for their clothes, jewelry, bags, and shoes. It's really fun to barter and I'm sure you will not be surprised to hear that I am pretty good at. I mean hey, I like to shop! But for example, lets say I was buying a pair of earrings. The person will start off at like 150 Yuan and type it in the calculator. Then I give some amazed look of disgust of how expensive it is and begin to walk away. They will then holler at you to come back and type in the price you pay. And eventually you typically get things down to half or a third of what the starting price was. It's so much fun!
Did I mention how cheap things are here too? Breakfast in the caf costs about 50 cents, lunch about $3 and dinner still under $10!!!! How crazy is that. I also got a haircut much cheaper than LaJames' prices. And those I must say are pretty cheap for the states. Anyways, hopefully I can find a way to upload photos on this thing so you can see me Asian-looking haircut. LOL
Second day of classes was dandy. I really like all of my teachers (three Chinese-speaking classes)so far and my class mates are fun for the most part. We are taking it easy this first week just to get us introduced to what the classes will be like. But I know it will pick up quickly as China is known for fast-pace academics. But that's how my Chinese teacher from Luther ran our class so I am sort of, kind of used to it. I can't wait though to become more comfortable with this language because speaking and writing is so beautiful!!
I had to bring some "home" to my dorm room. I have an Obama poster with his big speech written out above his face, a Frank Sinatra poster, and a big calendar from Oyama! And then I have some postcards of the Hawekeyes, Englert Theatre, and pictures of friends up on a board. But I forgot my Korean flag! That has been replaced with a rice-patty hat:)
I have noticed there are a lot of foreign exchange students from Germany, Britain, and Nigeria. It's crazy because they all hang out in large packs. Like the Germans and Brits always sit out on the front stair case at night just to chit chat and smoke some cigs. Then the Nigerians just travel in packs, if you see one, others will not be far behind. I guess the group I came with is so diverse and small that it's hard to be obvious about always hanging out with them.

Anyways, off to do some homework and then dinner at our Professor's apartment.
在见, JBird

Monday, September 14, 2009

First day of class

Okay, so they are a lot more strict here than any classes I've taken back home. At Luther, if you are late you can still straggle in and not have it be a big deal. You can also wear anything from your pajamas to work-out clothes too. Here, it does not hold true. Fiver minutes late equals one absence, ten minutes late equals two absences. And people always look nice for class because there are no saggy pants and clevage shirts. People are fairly quiet too and you don't hear someone yelling to another person across the room or hallway. But since this is an international school, there are plenty of people who do not act in this manner too.
Geeze, okay, it's out

I have the three Chinese-speaking classes with the same set of students and we have two in one room and the oral class in another. But they are all three in the same building as our dorms so getting up early to prepare will be avoided as much as possible! We are taking listening, writing/reading, and grammar courses. I have already run into a guy who goes to Central in Iowa, so guess it's not such a big place after all! James, my school mate from Luther, is also in my class. But that doesn't really effect anything because we don't hang out that much. But I am excited for classes to finally begin because I have been anxious to meet new people and make new friends. Don't get my wrong, I love the girls who are in our group, but since there are only five of us totally, time with them can feel a bit cramped.
Now my next project is to try and get Sarah out here to visit!

All for now and 在见 (see you later)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A late start

Hey, first of all I am terribly sorry about my first blog not working...something to do with all the proxy usage and almost everything on the internet is blocked off here.

Anyways, Hangzhou is amazing! I live in a single-person dorm room on the same floor as my four classmates. We all get along and have had many memorable experiences already from eating to shopping to climbing the Great Wall in Beijing! It's hard for me to put into words how awesome it is to be here right now and all the good things that I am seeing and learning from one culture to another. I have honestly become skeptical on returning to the United States...JUST KIDDING, but seriously there are so many things I wish could be changed back in the states.
Chinese culture is quite fascinating and I have found myself trying to blend in more and more every day. One of the first things that I noticed was that every motor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian must fend for themselves meaning there is a lot of close calls in my opinion. Cars whiz by and play chicken with each other while mopeds whiz by pedestrians with only a few inches to spare...which gives me a scare every time! But I have gotten used to it and realize that the Chinese are in fact very good drivers because they have the skills to maneuver in the manner that they do.
The food is absolutely the bomb-diggity because I know I am loading myself with light oils, not salt and butter. Also, the simplicity of their dishes also have the most amazing effects on the tongue because nothing is really over seasoned and people enjoy more of the natural flavor or meats and veggies. By the way, I have not seen one bottle of soy sauce at any meal, that is just an American stereotype (surprise surprise). Also, I have come across some interesting, yet popular delicacies such as fried duck tongue, duck feet (toenails, web and all), and whole shrimps that have eyes looking at you while you eat them. I have not tried any of those for now due to fear and the reaction of my stomach after looking at it, but oh well. Maybe over time I will even learn how to cook it and make my family eat it for dinner!

Well, I am glad to say that I am living in everyone's future back at home and I hope everyone is having a good semester, month, life, etc. I am crossing my fingers that this blog will work and if so, you will be seeing posts at least ever week. Thanks for reading and hope to hear from you all!
Take care and spread the peace, J-Bird