A Travellerspoint blog

Final Update

As I spend my final days in China I am simultaneously anxious and relieved. We have our last finals and then a farewell banquet and then its off to America. It’s hard to say what I will miss most after coming back this time, since my experience was quite difference than my last semester here.
Anyway to change subjects, I went to see Ironman a few weeks ago and found some interesting adjustments. At the beginning of the movie Ironman talks to a man at the party and it appears the Chinese have superimposed a Chinese dude in, and very convincingly so….Ironman talk in English and the man responds in Chinese, and some how Ironman understands him and is not at all confused as to why he is speaking Chinese. Then towards the end there is a fifteen-minute dialogue added in between two Chinese surgeons that I completely did not understand and was also completely unnecessary. Apparently, in order for these big blockbuster movies to enter China they have to be willing to allow these adjustments or something. This included some disgustingly blatant product placement oh and also, one of the “surgeons” was a famous Chinese actress so they could then say she was in the movie…clever China.
Other things that happened:

A friend of mine and I went to eat Thai food and I ended up getting a free dish. We had said no meat in our Pad Thai, but during the last few bites we discovered two shrimps at the bottom. I stared downed the waiters until they gave me a free mango rice desert yummm.

Another friend and I went to climb Huangshan, a famous mountain in nearby Anhui province, during our reading week. We took a bus from Hangzhou to what we thought was going to be the bus stop at the base of the mountain. Instead, the driver decided to stop at the hotel where most people were staying, leaving us stranded there as well. Since we only had directions to our hostel from the stop we decided to stay at that hotel. The next day we rushed off to climb that mountain. Our plan was to climb with our tent, drop it off, then go continue climbing. The only issue we thought we would have was that buses the next day only left at 7:30 am and earlier and after that at 3:30 or so, and we needed to get back by the afternoon because our program was treating us to Middle Eastern food the next day at 5. That was an issue, but I’ll get back to that later. Reaching the point where we could drop off the tent was rough. The stairs were super steep and there were SO MANY STAIRS. Huangshan is not just one straight climb, its many climbs to various peaks and viewpoints and then climbing back down to climb another. It was quite exhausting. We finally found the tent people, only to discover they were forcing us to pitch on this awkward concrete circle surrounded by a store, a restaurant and a bathroom, as well as many lingering travelers. We tried to sneak off to a nearby patch of grass only to be reprimanded. During the night I awoke from my concrete bed to the realization the tent had become wet from all the mist. We ended up playing several games of the card game “war” instead of sleeping, while waiting for the sunrise. The next day we waited until five thirty at the famous spot where the sun rises, but found it was too misty out to see. We then booked it down the mountain, both of us about to collapse, but knowing that we needed “free” falafel. We reached that bus at almost exactly 7:30, but did not have enough money to get on and they would not take credit cards. In a move that definitely would not happen in the states, one of the bus people made everyone wait by running with us, well we were more hobbling, to a nearby bank. Our debit cards were rejected there and the bus person then convinced the driver to stop along the way for us to take money out. After stopping, our cards we rejected by several more banks and overall I would say we made everyone wait about 20 minutes or more…woops. Well we made it back for falafel after about 6 hours of climbing, sleeping about 3-4 hours, and racing down a mountain. Oh, and Huangshan was really really pretty.

On another note, our rooms all have cockroach infestations and its funny how everyone has different ways of dealing with them. I usually don’t mind them too much, just try to leave them alone and not make contact with them, others were quick to buy the deet, and one of the students, interestingly, started raising one in cup. However, recently things have taken a turn for the worse. I used to only see them in my bathroom, but one night I was having trouble sleeping and suddenly realized I was hearing a very soft noise coming from behind me. It sounded like something scratching against my bed’s headboard. I sat up a turned around staring at the headboard in the dark. There was a pattern in it with various degrees of darkness but one spot looked darker than the rest. I turned on my phone light and sure enough a huge cockroach darted down into my bed. I ended up moving to our lounge and sleeping on the weird plastic chair-coach thing there until someone came in to sweep at around five. I told them there were cockroaches in my room, but they were steel weirded out that I was sleeping there I think. Also, it seems the cockroaches are evolving into a more fearsome creature. One of the student’s said he had a huge cockroach and when he tried to catch it and put it outside it flew around and another student had to spray it with Deet.

That’s kind of a weird note to end this blog on, but I don’t really have anything else to say right now and need to prepare for a final tomorrow soooo…that's all! I may write some kind of concluding thoughts at some point, but am heading back to America in a few days, so that's about all for my experiences this semester!

Posted by Maia L 03:40 Comments (0)

Group Trip to Xiang Shan

This weekend we all went to Xiang Shan, an area outside of Ningbo. The entire place seemed to smell like sewage and seawater and there was all kinds of seafood displayed for people to try at their own risk. Basically, it was not the kind of place I would normally choose to spend what little free time I have. To make matters worse, I lost out on my precious weekend sleep, which I usually desperately hoard by not waking until around 12pm. The hotel was shoddy and I ended up waking up at 6am the first day because every time a car would pass by outside, it sounded like a helicopter was landing in my room. Also, in terms of how much give the beds had, they were basically boards, though I guess I am used to that by now. Anyway, we went to the beach for what was my second time in China. We all swam in the filthy water, though it felt a lot less hazardous swimming with the company of everyone else. I also found a huge amount of beach glass; I guess Chinese people aren’t into collecting it. There was even some Settlers of Catan played a la playa.. people really can’t seem to get enough. Today, Sunday, we went to some random area where they had once filmed some movies. To my dismay, we were not provided breakfast, but were instead taken to a KFC to fend for ourselves. I bitterly ate their large fries. When we arrived at our destination, everything was fake. None of us knew anything about any of the movies that were filmed there, but the rocks were fake, the trees were fake, and there was an elaborate fake cave. Inside the cave were randomly some skeletons, one of them wore a single boxing glove, and another skeleton had regular human hands instead of bones, creating a very strange effect. Again to my dismay, we were not provided lunch, but stopped first at an area with seafood vendors (ew), then at a McDonalds, where I again had no choice but to shovel down some french fries. Obviously, my stomach is now revolting against me. On another food related note, I only have one more month left in China, and I am most looking forward to eating food that is not completely drenched in oil. End of entry.
sunrise on the day I couldn't sleep

sunrise on the day I couldn't sleep

skeleton with boxing glove in the fake cave

skeleton with boxing glove in the fake cave

Posted by Maia L 06:24 Comments (0)

Spring Break

So staying in Hangzhou this past week turned out to not be a super terrible bummer. Ok, well I kind of cheated and went to Ningbo for a few days.

Ningbo is a city about two hours away where a friend of mine, who I met at Oberlin, lives. This girl is a piano major and was at the conservatory, but is now in the process of transferring, so she is back home and invited me to visit. Her family arranged for me to stay in a hotel, which was really nice, but at the same time was the beginning of a bunch of backhanded favors suggesting that they thought I couldn't function on my own. My friend accompanied me everywhere and always linked her arm with mine, as if I might get lost or fling myself into a car should she let go. I’m going to stop complaining now, I have learned that sometimes the line between customary host responsibilities and treating your guest like a child is kind of fuzzy, but she and her family were doing me a huge favor and were very welcoming so I really am grateful. Ningbo was a nice city, though my friend, named Sisi, described it well, saying it is prettiest at night. The main square, Tianyi square, is pretty impressive all lit up, and the nearby church is also really interesting. Church


I believe Ningbo, like Xiamen was a place foreign traders resided when China was first opened to the rest of the world, and like Shanghai, Ningbo has a bund area. My last day in Ningbo, we went to a hotspring outside the city. There, we relaxed in about ten different hot spring pools filled with various Chinese medicines said to help the body in various ways. That last pool was basically a swimming pool sized hot tub with water jet massage chairs…pretty cool. They also had those fish that eat of the dead skin on your feet, but I had had enough of them in Thailand and did not partake.

I should mention that my goal this break was to try as many vegetarian restaurants as I could and I think that I had some success. Before going to Ningbo I found a restaurant by a temple where I was served vegetarian beef slivers. Despite having attended Oberlin for two years, Sisi still did not get the concept of vegetarianism. Our first meal she ordered tofu with shaved pork on top as well as little mystery tentacles dispersed throughout the dish. When I told her I couldn’t eat it, she replied with the typical “but there’s only a little bit of meat!” This time I made up another excuse saying that, because of the bird flu I wanted to totally avoid all meats, including pork. Anyway, to her credit she later took me to a great vegetarian restaurant in Ningbo where we ordered veggie soup dumplings among other delicious dishes. The downstairs also sold a great variety of fake meats to take home and eat and I ended up buying a rather large fake sausage, which I have yet to try.

After leaving Ningbo, and regaining my independence, I found another restaurant across from a famous pagoda in Hangzhou. I ate their sizzling fake lamb hot pot and some pretty questionable spring rolls....but the fake lamb was good! The next day me and the only other student who stayed in Hangzhou made pizza and it was soooo good. We went to a store with a mediocre selection of imported groceries and I bought about ten Hersheys bars and a pack of snack pack pudding….sticking to the necessities. The next day, we trekked out to the Longjing tea fields to climb a mountain. We had a lot of trouble finding the suggested route. When we asked where "美人山“ (or "beautiful person peak") was people seemed shocked we wanted to walk that far and in an attempt to discourage us one person basically said "Oh that's far, you know there aren't actually beautiful people there, right?". I guess hiking isn't that big here. However, when we got to the peak our struggles were totally worth it. The view overlooked the tea terraces, the city, west lake, and other mountains.Mountain


The weather was also perfect, as it basically has been the whole week. To finish off the day we traveled to a place I had read served hummus and falafel. Upon arriving, we frantically flipped through the menu, searching in vain for the falafel, when I noticed some interesting disk shaped paddies. I asked the other student to look up the Chinese on her iphone dictionary reading out the characters to her: 菲来菲 fei-lai-fei. Then we both realized that’s obviously Chinese for falafel, or as close as they will ever get to giving it a genuine name.

I’m a little sad the break is ending because there are a few more things I want to do, but I trying to promise myself I will make more time for things during the next half of the semester (maybe at the expense of my grades).

Posted by Maia L 01:07 Archived in China Tagged hangzhou Comments (1)

That time I stuck it to my abroad program and went to Xiamen

(I'm more stories of blowing of my program to come, as they work us too hard)

Tomorrow I have a midterm presentation of what I have learned this module, so needless to say, tonight is a perfect opportunity to update my blog! The weekend before last, I decided the program was overworking us, and convinced a few other students to randomly buy train tickets to Xiamen, a southern island city in Fujian about seven hours away. It was awesome. The first day we went to an island off of Xiamen, called Gulangyu, which apparently was the home to western traders before China was completely opened up. You could really see the European influence in the buildings and setup of the island. It was a tiny island, with no cars allowed and narrow streets, and pretty much the whole time was really confused about why I was in tropical chinaeurope. Also everyone on the island is in to music, and they have a really cool piano museum and an organ museum. We then went back to Xiamen and tried this jello stuff with worms from the sea in it and it was really gross and we had to immediately go to Starbucks after to get the taste/texture out of our mouths. The next day we took a bike ride around Xiamen, and I swam in the nasty polluted China ocean water for a few seconds. I also sat down to rest on a rock and ended up seeing two dolphins playing in the water. I don’t know, I was really excited, but no one else seemed to care.
Since that trip, I have been basically preparing for midterms and have a break next week where I will explore Hangzhou, hopefully. Most of my classmates are going to a very scenic area of China, Guilin, where I have already been, so there is a chance I will update this blog many times next week our of boredom and loneliness (just kidding mom and dad, don’t freak out).

Posted by Maia L 05:52 Comments (0)

First Month

Language Pledge Shmanglage Shmedge

I’m sick and decided to take some time to update my blog. It’s been around a month since I arrived in Hangzhou and started my program. Surprisingly, the language pledge is by far not the biggest challenge. It’s true that due to the language barrier, there are many missed opportunities to say something sassy under my breath, but other than that and how gross my Chinese sounds, it really isn’t a problem. The most frustrating thing is how much work we have each week. I understand having some busy weeks, but everyday it’s the same: spending all our time in class and scrambling to get homework done. I know it’s what we signed up for, but I also feel like we are not given much choice in how studious we want to be during our semester abroad. For instance, we cannot take any time off to travel, even, as one student found out, to see our parents.

Anyway, enough complaining, I’m in China! So here are my classes: Everyday Chinese, which is pretty basic and a good review, Business Chinese, which is pretty boring, but kind of useful I guess, Hangzhou studies, which is divided into terms, this term my focus is Hangzhou art, and finally my One on One course is Traditional Chinese Medicine. All of the courses with the exception of my one on one require you to go out and survey random Chinese people, which I find really awkward and tedious. I find it an ineffective method of improving my Chinese and having to do so at least once a week to be quite excessive. However, I think my Chinese has gotten a lot better partially from classes, but mostly from the pledge.

My living situation is pretty nice…a two person bedroom with a bathroom. My roommate, named Xiao Ba, is even taller and skinnier than me and also likes to play basketball. She is from Xinjiang province in northwestern China, is Kazakh minority and can speak Kazakh and basically is really cool. What else….The food situation is pretty good, but not great. We have no meal plan, so we either pay for the dining hall or eat out. There are three other vegetarians, however the vegetarian options are rather lacking. There are a few token veggie dishes that we end up eating most of the time. They are really good, but even eating my favorite eggplant dish everyday can be tiring. Since the school is not in the center of the city, and public transportation require at least 45 minutes of leeway, we really don't have time to explore new locations during the week.

To change subjects again, Hangzhou is gorgeous. It rains here a lot but when it is nice out, it is beautiful. I think it is the best location out of what CET and Middlebury offer.

Oh, also I've managed to pretty much single-handedly get all the Chinese roommates obsessed with Settlers of Catan.

Posted by Maia L 04:59 Tagged china abroad hangzhou semester Comments (0)

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