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 postcard...email 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 news...my 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 email...like 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