A Travellerspoint blog

Lucky number 9

Into Zhengzhou

May 21, 2009

Christa and I eventually changed our rooms because our room had a crappy lock and we could never unlock it to get back in unless we asked a housekeeper to use the master key. Now that the bathroom light works, we see how dirty the bathroom is. It'll take some getting used to. I have two papers to write everyday for class. I'm trying with a lot of effort to keep up with the readings. I like that our class size is smal and that we all know each other by now. Later in the day we met our Chinese buddies. My friend's name is Linda who is a freshman in clinical medicine. She's a little shy, understandably (I myself was shy as a freshman...still sort of am...) I also befriended her friend Susan who is of the same major.

Zhengzhou's campus makes me miss the traditional university campuses so much :( They have their own humanmade pond. Wowsers. And they have so many bakeries and markets and clothing stores because they're so far our from downtown (about a 30 minute drive). I'd like to explore more of the campus soon. Around dinner time, they treated me ( I politely turned them down but it's in the Chinese way to be persistent about treating) and I had dumplings and jiaozi. They were impressed that I knew how to use chopsticks. I guess from their perspective they don't put a lot of faith in America reaching out to explore other cultures. But then again, we gave them a reason to think that. Christa has gone out to a banquet for faculty and student assistants and I forgot where the cafeterias are so I went to get some ramen at the market. It tastes okay...alright, kinda ick. Christa has developed some sort of sore throat and cough. I hope she feels better :/

Posted by CelLung 16:45 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 8

Ugh, classes are around the corner...

May 20, 2009

The train was delayed for 20 minutes, then during those 20 minutes it was delayed for 40 minutes. We finally boarded for a 6 hour train ride to Zhengzhou on hard seats. They're not that hard, but they're the lowest class of seats because it was the only compartment that could fit 49 people. The only downside was that there was no comfortable position to sleep in. I was trying to do my work but the train car was so noisy. I wasn't in the best of moods and all of us were pretty crowded in.

When we arrived at Zhengzhou, we ate at McDonalds. The vanilla ice cream tasted like a hint of coffee ice cream. The Micky D here and in the States taste a little different from what i hear on other parts of the menu. I just had a small fry and ice cream. They had melon ice cream (gotta cater to the country, ya know?).

We finally arrived at the International Student Dorm which is actually a hotel on campus a little after 2 in the morning. We were all so tired. Christa and I's room had a light in the bathroom that wasn't working, so we had to shower in the dark. I swear the first thing I thought when I stepped into the bathroom was "Silent Hill". That's never a good sign. The bathroom had a sink/counter, a toilet, and the rest was a floor with a drain with a detatchable shower head. No tub, no shower stall. You stand to the side and take a shower. The bedroom area is hotel-like (well, it IS a hotel...). The building is the place where visitors stay when they're visiting students on campus. The beds are the hardest ones we've come across so far. I actually had sore spots on my hip bones; that's how hard they are. I got used to them, in retrospect. I wonder how i'll react to my soft bed at home..haha. The comforter was wrapped in a thin sheet, so I separated the two knowing I get hot easily if too many sheets are on me. Yeah...old urine stains and, prepare yourself....

old blood stains.

Yes, the difference in American and Chinese standards of cleanliness has made itself blaringly apparent.

Posted by CelLung 16:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

The seventh day....

free morning and last day in Xi'an

May 19, 2009

We had a free morning so Christa and I checked out early and went exploring. We felt that the best way to explore a new area is to just set out on one direction and see what's over the horizon (wow, that was smarmy). We went back to the Vanguard to check out the third floor (the first was all produce and the second was snacks/house items/body and facial care). The third floor had entertainment stuff like DVDs and CDs along with clothing. We scouted for Engrish, admittedly. We found this one shirt, I can't remember what is said, but I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time. I think they made up some words. Anyway, we both found two t-shirts that we liked and bought them. It's a little difficult to buy women's clothing here because they're all so tiny. Even the bra section looks like you're in the kiddy section in the store. I think the biggest cup size is maybe a 34C, and the majority of them are padded. :/

We were also scouting for children's language books so we could start at the basics. Heh, gotta start somewhere.

After wandering around a bit, we found a Wal Mart! I kid you not. But it was only a grocery Wal Mart, not a supercenter. boo. But next to it was this HUGE HUGE HUGE underground shopping center. I bought a hat :D It was a whole lot of individual stalls that sold mostly clothes and shoes. Well, mostly women's and girl's clothes and shoes. haha. We walked to another portion and found a bunch of accessory stuff. We both bought some cellphone charms :) so cute :D I'm saving the majority of my money for Shanghai. That's were the really good stuff is, I hope.

Now we're waiting for a train to Zhengzhou that's maybe 40 minutes late. We probably won't get there until midnight; it's about a 7 hour ride. I'll miss Xi'an. It has it's own rugged beauty that I can really appreciate. In comparison with Beijing that was a little too pristine in it's own way, Xi'an is more..."laid back" if you will. That didn't make sense. I know what I'm talking about and that's all that really matters. I do like that less foreigners visit here so less people speak English. It makes me practice my Chinese more.

It's a little bittersweet that we're going to Zhengzhou. I don't want to start school >:P I want to hang around and explore more. From what I hear we'll be more or less confined to campus and be too far from downtown. It doesn't matter, I guess, because I'll be too busy to do anything. Haha..i'm used to it, really. I 'm a little nervous about meeting my Chinese buddy. If anything I hope I can brush up on my Chinese and learn about the culture from someone who actually lives here.

I really can't believe it's been one week. It's flown by so quickly and yet so slow. My space-time continuum is off by far.

Posted by CelLung 16:42 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 6

second day in Xi'an: gazing at the warriors

May 18, 2009

It's raining today...only a light drizzle. After a few hours it became a gorgeous day. Bright, sunny, and warm :) First stop of the day is the Terracotta Factory. The tour was a bit short for a process that looked so long and involving. I would have liked to see the process as done on the scale 2000 years ago. I found it interesting that each soldier had it's own unique facial features. The things you can get done when you're not distracted with television, eh?

We traveled to the actual terracotta site after that. It was divided into three pits; the site for uncovered and covered soldiers, pits of broken statues, and chariots and weapons. I especially enjoyed the chariots (I'm a sucker for horse statues for some reason....). The main pit (Pit 1) looks much, much larger in pictures (how ironic). But considering they're not even done excavating the area means there's much more to uncover. They say in about 100 years they'll have the entire tomb uncovered and mapped out. More power to them, eh.

It's rather mind boggling that a single emperor (Qin Huangdi for those not well versed in Chinese history) could accomplish such a feat. It's a little unfortunate that his 3000 concubines had to be buried alive....

On our way to lunch we passed by the actual burial site of Huangdi. It was a moderately large mound-no signs, bells, or whistles. It just looked like a decidedly out of place mound with grass growing on it. Mind you, the actual burial site was a few minutes' bus drive away from the site of the terracotta army. Quite a gargantuan tomb. He said he wanted the largest tomb in the world and he got his wish (yes, the site is larger than the pyramids...).

In retrospect, I'm glad I went to the High Museum when they featured the soldiers. At the actual site in China, you're standing up over the pit and are unable to get close to them. At the High you were a few inches away and could really take in the detail and craftsmenship of the work. Ah well, I got the best of both worlds...fufufufu.....

The next stop on our trip were the hot springs. I thought they were actual hot springs we could swim in (the only reason I brought my bathing suit) but it wasn't. Apparently there IS a place behind it where you can swim, but we didn't know about that until way after we left. The hot springs were centered around the story of an emperor (forgot which one, shame on me) who fell in love with a woman who was a little plump. The standard for women's beauty at the time were the thin, skinny women. His advisors told him to pick other women (or atleast get concubines) but he refused because he loved her so much. They have a statue of her in one of the fountains. What's left of the hotsprings are the hollowed out pits the water used to be kept in. It was pretty cool, I must say. There was even a spot to soak your feet (after paying some money). I skipped out, mostly because the group had to meet back in a few minutes.

The hot springs also had a spot where Chiang Kaishek stayed (he had his own bath..fufufu). As a brief aside of background story, Kaishek was a Nationalist who hated the communist party and wanted them destroyed (this occured around the 30's). But at this time China was fighting the Japanese and both the Communists and Nationalists hated the Japanese. During the night, communist troops stormed the springs, killed the guards, and hunted down Kaishek. He tried to hide but they found him and more or less forced him to join forces with the communists on a united front against the Japanese. During the raid, as it were, there are still bullet holes in the glass and brick of the some of the buildings. And wow, those were some BIG bullet holes. I can't imagine hearing gunfire in the middle of the night. Oh wait, I live in south augusta. I can imagine.

Kaishek had an interesting saying: "Communism is a disease of the skin, Japanese is the disease of the blood." And of course, you cure the disease of the blood first. And for any of you wondering, yes, a lot of China still hates Japan. Read up on the Nanking Massacre and you'll find out why.

After the hot springs was a really crappy touristy Tang Dynasty show. It was hardly politically correct. The women wore costumes that exposed their midrifts, the characters wore these neon blue and green outfits. Those costumes didn't exist in the Tang period and those colors didn't either. Heck, I wish those colors didn't exist today. The show was only good if you wanted to see a bunch of pretty colors and dances. The music wasn't even politcally correct. Violins didn't exist back then. Some of them were dancing to classical western music. What the heck. One of my profs detested it because it was so off from Tang Dynasty accuracy. If you're going to modernize something, go all the way. Don't half arse it. Yeesh.

When we returned to our hotel, a few of us went to the Vanguard, a Chinese supermarket three stories tall. A lot of products were really cheap. I was looking for some facial wash and almost every single one said "whitening". Being pale is considered beautiful in China, so they have a lot of products that essentially bleach the melanin in your skin. No offense, but I don't want to "whiten". Ironically, they have some of the clearest, healthiest skin I've ever seen. Of course, when you have a thin veil of chemicals covering something, it almost always looks pretty.....

Posted by CelLung 16:40 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day 5

First day in Xi'an

May 17, 2009

We took the overnight train to Xi'an (pronounced Shee-an). It was my first time on a train and we slept in first class compartments. As a brief aside, American and Chinese standards are very different. First class to them isn't neccessarily 'first class' standards to us. Four of up slept to a room. The beds were kinda hard but the Chinese believe hard beds are better for your back (even my mom believes that...). Anyway, I woke up early (maybe around 6am) courtesty of remaining jet lag, I'm sure. I just sat up and gazed out the window and took pics of the countryside. The mountains are gorgeous adn the waterfalls were beautiful. I saw a lot of small houses and piles of trash as well. Some people were tending to their gardens and others feeding goats. It was definitely a side of China and I enjoyed. There were bits and blurbs of factories that I definitely wasn't expecting in an otherwise serene landscape.

I especially enjoyed the mountains, though. And the caves dwelling carved in the sides of some of the cliffs that ranged from fairly small to fairly big. I saw some that were three in a row side by side. The train ride itself was fairly comfortable. Before we initially left we were waiting in the train station. Christa told me the water the woman sold was 1 yuan, but when i went up to by the same thing she charged me 2. I thought something was up but didn't question it (and I was tired from the day). I went back and told Christa and I think Jessica overheard and they were said "yeah, it's because of your race". It never crossed my mind that they would have been the cause (not that i'm a victim of blind racisim, I just give people the benefit of the doubt). That and notherners aren't fond of dark skin, whether you're a fellow Chinese or foreigner, it seems.

After getting things partially settled at the hotel, we went to the Wild Goose Pagoda. It was so gorgeous. It felt interesting to be around sacred space in another country (heh...like I go around sacred space in the states...fufufufu..). We climbed all the way up to the top for 20 yuan. The view was nice, but it was a little crowded. and what is it with China and hella steep stairs? Fuuu.....

In all seriousness, the grounds we were on IS sacred space, and there were actual shrines erected with Buddha statues that people prayed to. I detested how some tour guides would come over on bullhorns talking about the history of the temple when someone was trying to PRAY. I guess you learn how to block things out, but still.

The gardens were beautiful; we saw a family of chickens (so cute!) and caged birds the monks were keeping both hanging in the trees and on the ground. The unusual thing was the kittens in hanging cages on the trees. No one we asked could tell us why they had cats in trees. None of the China expert professors even knew they were there...mysterious....

After that excursion we went to the Xi'an city walls and biked. Christa, me, and a few others biked the ENTIRE city wall, all the way around. 8 miles of biking. I was so out of practice! I started off so wobbly but I eventually got better. I was had the handle bars in a death grip. Some parts of the wall were super bumpy. It kinda hurt to ride too fast over some parts, but I sure burned a hellish amount of calories that day, fuFU!

We had a free evening after that. Christa and I set up our internet then headed out to eat. We settled on a Pizza Hut and it was out of this world! It's like eating in some high class restaurant. Escargot and cheese filled chicken wings were appetizers, among other items. They had different types of coffee, smoothies, salads, grilled items; so much you wouldn't expect from pizza hut! they even had a dessert menu at the end with chocolate brownies and cakes and pies! It was like a combination of CPK and Olive Garden. We both ordered a personal pan pizza. I got a 7up and Christa bought two beers. For dessert I had a chocolate cake and she got tiramisu (yes, that was on the menu. Crazy, right?). The total was 142 yuan, so....around 25 bucks? That's if I did my math right. The menu had about 12 pages, crazy. I want to bring friends to China just so they experience the craziness that is a Chinese Pizza Hut. The States really abuse their restaurants. It's all grease and oil.

The hotel we're staying at is the Prince International Hotel which is a four star hotel. It's a rare occasion that the hotel room actually looks like the picutre on the website. When we first moved in our particular room was only temporary because they were doing renovations and stuff. We finally got our rooms with fancy decorations and furniture and stuffs.

Posted by CelLung 16:34 Archived in China Comments (0)

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