Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas from the States!

Hello everyone,

Merry Christmas! I've been back now for a couple of weeks, and have gotten pretty well adjusted to life here in the states again. I've even been back to a day of work already at the bank in my home town.  It took a few days right away of sleeping in late and going to bed early to get caught up, but I did it, and now I'm back on regular time.  Just in time for the holidays, even. :P

Overall, I'm going to have to say that the China program was a good one.  I enjoyed it, it didn't really take me off course for my degree, and it gave me a chance to experience another country and make memories with new friends and professors.  For example, my Chinese Literature professor bought a copy of the book we were reading in class for me.  Not only that, but this was a printing in mandarin Chinese that is looked for within China.  And if you want to see the memories with my friends from foreign countries, just take a look through my recent Facebook photos.  There are plenty there to look at. :)

Now, it wasn't always easy. The beginning was a struggle, and communication with everyone at home was hard during the entire trip.  At the beginning of the trip, I would have said that, if I could go back, I wouldn't have done it.  However, by the end of the trip, I was very glad I had done it.  I have grown as a person, made many friends, learned a lot of things, and overall had a good time while I was there.  Will I go on another study abroad experience in college? No.  But this experience has definitely made me want to visit other countries through the rest of my life.  Not for four months at a time, but good ten day to two week vacations would be great to take in the future. :) Hopefully to some of the countries where my new friends live as well.

Well, that's about it as far as my experiences, and so this blog, go.  Thank you again to anyone who read this, and to anyone looking to study abroad, I would suggest taking that leap and doing it.  It may seem scary or not worth it at first, but after you get adjusted, its quite the experience.  And it could be a once in a life time experience that you don't want to miss.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, and I wish you all the best,


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Last Week

Hello again,

For the final time in China, hello and welcome to my blog.  Well.  Its over.  I'm just finalizing my last paper for Vani, the other two papers are done and turned in, and the language test is done and I messed up on only three questions. :P We're all winding down our time here, and starting to get everything ready to return to the states.  Doing last loads of laundry, figuring out what to pack and what to throw away, and, the most dreaded of all, cleaning the rooms. :P

This last week is going to be very busy still.  That will make it go quick though, which will be both nice and not.  As I said last time, leaving is going to be both welcome and unwanted.  I want American food again so badly I can't hardly stand it.  After cooking our Thanksgiving food, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  And, even more than that, I want to be back to everyone in the states. Family, girlfriend, friends, acquaintances, even more new people I haven't met yet.  There is so much talking and catching up and hanging out I have to do.

But, I don't want to leave the friends I've made here.  The professors and other foreign students and other Chinese students and even just people that recognize me when I go to their restaurant to order food.  I'm going to miss all of them.  I've made quite a few good friends and not getting to see them again for a very long time, if I ever do get to see them again, is going to take quite the toll on me.  Thankfully, I've got a lot of good people to return to.

As far as the events of this week, I've basically already listed them.  This last Monday through Wednesday were the last three days of our classes.  Next Monday we meet again with Vani one more time to give a short speech over what we've done and experience here, but that's not even really a class.  As I said at the beginning, most of my time has been spent getting everything ready for my return trip.  I am, however, not finished with sharing interesting tidbits about the Chinese culture.  And this time, I want to show everyone an example of how quickly the Chinese construction is.  Following are two pictures.  The first is the view from my window in August, and the second is the view today.

 Ahhhh. The wonderful view of an empty, unpaved, not even leveled land.

Well... that's new. 0_o

And, if that weren't cool enough, they messed up once.  They had concrete poured for another structure, found out they didn't need it, jack-hammered all the concrete away (at two in the morning every morning for a week... not that I'm bitter), and then built all of this. In just four months.  Now, I love America, but all of that would take at least 3/4 of a year there, if not a full year. All of the trees, and dried concrete and stairs and everything.  Props to China for how efficiently their workers work.

Well, with all of that interesting information out of the way, I would like to tell everyone thank you again for reading this blog while I've been here.  Its been fun, and I'm going to miss it.  But I'm also looking forward to getting back and being able to talk to everyone in person.  In just six short days, I leave Shi Jiazhuang for Beijing, and just two days after that, I fly out of China, headed back to the states.  I won't be making another post from here in China, so I hope you all have enjoyed reading everything so far.  I do still intend to write one more when I land, however, just to recap the entire trip and let everyone know I'm back safe.  Thanks again everybody, and goodbye for the last time from China. :)


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello everybody,

As the title says, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! :D Even though I am half a world away, I still got to celebrate the holiday with some friends here, and we even had an American Thanksgiving dinner, although some of the foods were a little different. We had spaghetti, grilled cheese, stuffing (which was made by me, and was my first attempt at cooking :P ), mashed potatoes, brownies, and s'mores.  It was wonderful, and I ate more than I think I have at any other point here.  I was very thankful for all of the food and good company on that day. :)

In other news, this week was the last week of regular classes.  Next week, we are handing in our final papers, and taking our final exam in Language class.  The semester is quickly drawing to a close, and its really a bittersweet moment.  Even with the struggles to begin with, this has been quite the adventure.  I've met a lot of new people, made new friends, and had many experiences I don't know that I'll get to experience again.  Leaving it all behind is going to be sad.  However, I am very excited to be returning to everyone and everything I have waiting for me in the states.  My family, girlfriend, friends, professors, and everyone else that will play a role in my life are all waiting, and I can't wait to see them all again. And, two weeks from this posting, I'll get to. :)

The final thing that I want to talk about in this post was a trip we took this Saturday to a Buddhist temple and a garden here in Shi Jiazhuang.  The Buddhist temple was very interesting, and had many statues that were intricately carved and very cool to look at.  We also ate lunch at the temple before heading to the garden.  This garden had many different sections that represented different parts of China, such as the Great Wall.  It also had a fountain show that we were lucky enough to catch while we were there.  Overall, it was a very good Saturday, and I'm glad I got to go on the trip.

Well. that about wraps up my post for this time.  I'm thinking there will probably only be one more post from here in China, and then the final post will be once I get back to the states. :) Thank you to anyone that has stuck with me through this whole blog.  I hope I've been able to give you at least a little sense of what this trip was like. Until next time. :)


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Xi'an Trip

Hello everybody,

As the title says, the biggest event of the week this time around was our trip to the city of Xi'an.  This city is located in the same province as my solo trip to Pingyao was.  However, this city was farther away than Pingyao, and so we took a plane to get there instead of a train or a bus. This was a chance for me to see how flights within the country run, and I must say that they run much more smoothly than flights I've taken within the United States.  When the boarding is called, people are for the most part at the gate and ready to go.  Within a half hour of the first call for boarding, our plane was taxing to the runway on both trips.  Everything seemed very organized and ready to go as far as travelling was concerned.

As far as the city itself was concerned, Xi'an was interesting.  We visited many locations around the city during our three days there.  The two major stops on day one were the Great Wild Goose Pagoda and a history museum nearby.  These were both small stops, as we were only there in the afternoon after our flight, and we were all tired from getting up early that morning to catch the plane.

The temple at the Wild Goose Pagoda.

An ancient chess board with jade playing pieces, found at the history museum.

The high light of the second day was visiting the location of the terracotta warriors.  These warriors are fascinating to hear about, but even more interesting to see in person.  The rows of warriors, all crafted from clay and designed to look different from one another, stand in three separate pits.  The warriors, all of which are taller than me, are very intricately designed.  There are still locations in all three pits that are being excavated, and they hope to continue to find warriors the longer they dig at the sites.

This is just pit number one.  It is the largest of the pits, but all three are massive pits full of standing soldiers.

This is the best close up of a face I could get. The crowds are kept well away from the warriors, so getting detailed close up photos was difficult.

On our final day, we went to visit the old city wall, which is still standing in the city.  Development has happened on both sides of the wall, and roads go underneath the wall in many locations.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the wall, as I forgot my camera in the vehicle when we arrived at the wall. :/ However, it was very similar in design to that of Pingyao's wall. The biggest difference between the two sites is that the city of Pingyao is contained intisde the wall, while Xi'an has grown and absorbed the wall into the city.  I apologize for not having any pictures to share from that location. :/

Other than that, we celebrated one more birthday this week of a friend from Nepal.  That was entertaining, and involved more singing and eating, just as the first birthday did a while ago.  Also, with only three weeks left here, we have started work on our final papers for our classes.  That has started to eat up some of my time as well.  Hopefully all keeps going well during these last few weeks, and I can make the most of my time left here.  Of course I'll keep you posted on anything that does happen during these final weeks, especially the interesting things. ;) Thanks again for reading,


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The One Month Mark

Hello everybody,

Well, its been another rather uneventful week here. There are a couple things that deserve mentioning, but the exciting update will come again next week, after our big trip to Xi'an. That leaves this Friday the 15th, and we'll get back on Sunday. Hopefully, I'll get a post up either Monday or Tuesday so that you all don't have to wait too long before finding out what happened there.  Anyways, with that short update out of the way, lets move on to the couple of things that happened this week.

Firstly, one of the girls in our dorm from Nepal had a birthday on Friday, and we celebrated that with traditional, homemade food from India and Nepal.  It wasn't exactly the same because they couldn't get all of the same ingredients here.  But if it was anywhere near the same, they eat very good food in those countries, and I definitely wouldn't mind eating it more often.  Unfortunately, I don't know anyone from Nepal when I return to the states... :/ I think I may have to go to more of the UNK cultural events and try out many new foods, as well as meet new foreign students on our own campus.

The second thing I did this week that was slightly less important, but still very fun, was that I went to see the new Thor movie in the 3D IMAX theater at one of our local malls.  It was even in English, which made things that much better.  And I must say, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly.  I don't know if it was the fact that I was watching a movie in English, or if it was just a good movie, but I definitely enjoyed it more than the first.

I know, that doesn't really explain much of the culture here, but I think this next part might a little:  there were actually a lot of Chinese people in the English theater watching Thor, even though there was a Chinese showing in the same theater.  I don't know the reason for that, but it could be that they like watching the movies in English to practice their language skills, or maybe they like watching it in its original format, without the dubbing.  I know that when I watch movies like Ip Man or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, I prefer to listen to the original actors and just use subtitles.  Maybe that's what they were doing as well.

Anyways, with my pondering aside, that has really been the extent of my week.  Again, there has been the usual studying, sleeping, going to class and all those other wonderful things that don't really liven a post up.  We had a quiz over section two of our language book this week, and I only missed five points on that, so my language skills are still staying up there.  Hopefully they just keep improving the rest of the time, and I don't lose them as soon as I leave. :P As the title of my post says, this week also marked the point in the trip where we only have one month left.  Looking back, the time has really gone by quickly.  There have been some struggles, but there have also been some really cool parts.  Its going to be a bittersweet moment leaving Hebei Normal.  Thanks again to everyone that's reading these, and I'll update you as soon as I can with the details from Xi'an.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Slow Week

Hello everyone,

I don't really have much to tell you about this week. Not too much happened this week, in comparison with past weeks. To jump right into the meat of the week, Halloween was on Thursday. However, China doesn't really celebrate that holiday, so we ended up going to our UNK professor, Vani's, apartment.  We had good food there, and got to chat with her and a group of students from Nepal that were also invited.

The next thing that happened this week was then on Sunday.  Vani is of the Hindu religion, and this Sunday the 3rd was one of the biggest holiday's celebrated by Hindus:  Diwali.  This is the "festival of lights," and is celebrated often with the lighting of candles around the home.  Vani said that there can be up to 1000 candles lit on this holiday, although there weren't anywhere near this number at the apartment we celebrated at.  Other than that, there was a prayer to begin the night, and then we shared good food and most everyone performed some sort of entertainment. When it was my turn, I sang a couple songs for the group of almost 20 that were there. So even though I couldn't sing for a festival at the college, I did still get to perform for a group, which was fun.

Other than those two events, this week has been mostly devoted to studying some, sleeping, and otherwise just being lazy. :P With only 37 days, a month and a week, as of this posting, my time in China is rapidly coming to an end. This also means that my posts will be ending soon as well. Five more posts from China, and then possibly a post after I return home, recapping my overall experiences and highlights and low points of the trip.  Hopefully everyone has enjoyed reading this blog at least a little bit.  I'm sorry again that this post is so much shorter than normal. Hopefully some entertaining things happen this week/weekend that I can update you on next time.  Thanks again to everyone who has been reading this.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pingyao - A Solo Experience

Hello again everyone,

The combination of my laziness and the things we are doing here mean that from this day on, or well, from when I started missing my Monday mark on, I won't be having a set date of publication any longer. :P I will get a post up each week for sure, but I can't promise when exactly they will show up.  With that little disclaimer out of the way, let's move on to the big event for the week:  my trip to the walled city of Pingyao.

The trip began strangely, as I ended up being the only non-Chinese speaking member to go.  The other guys here from America either had other plans for the day, or were sleeping when we were supposed to leave.  Granted, at 6:00 in the morning, I was wishing I was still asleep as well.  But instead, I boarded a train with six native Chinese speakers, hoping that the trip didn't turn into a total wash because I couldn't speak the language everyone else did.

And I wasn't disappointed.  Our tour guide spoke English, and so was able to answer all of my questions about the sites we visited.  The first of those sites was a slight (1 hour bus ride) detour from Pingyao.  Just like last week's update talked about the Rong Guo Mansion, where our book was turned into a film, this site was called the Qiao mansion, and was also the location of a movie.  However, unlike the first mansion, this mansion actually housed a family in an older dynasty.  I managed to get a few pictures here, and I'll share with you the ones that show the house the best, in my opinion.

This photo really shows the scale of the mansion. This expanse was one courtyard of the mansion.

This is a wooden replica of the mansion that is kept inside a room there.

While this garden has been, of course, refurbished and maintained, the original layout has been preserved.

After that, we drove into Pingyao, which is the last remaining walled city in China, and one of the few remaining in the world.  With a six kilometer perimeter, the city is not terribly large. And yet, it houses 45,000 people, which means that walking through the streets can be very crowded.  We took a small tour of the wall, a tour of an ancient prison and the oldest bank in China, and finally were given a chance to do a bit of wandering. Below are some pictures from my different tours in the city.

This is just one of the torture devices that was on display in the prison.  This one was used to publicly humiliate criminals, as they could be pulled around town while hung up on this smaller version of a cross.

This is the North Gate of Pingyao, and the location we were able to walk around on for our tour.

This was a small section of an old Chinese "check" which demonstrated that they used watermark techniques long before the modern era.

The wandering around town was interesting, but was also a little strange because I did my wandering alone. With no one that spoke my language very well with me, I had a lot of time to just stop and look at whatever I wanted, without having to please other group members.  Other than this trip, my week has been uneventful.  We finished the second third of our Chinese language book, and so will be taking a small test over that next week.  That means I've been doing quite a bit of studying and will continue to do so.  Hopefully, there will be some word on this music performance I talked about earlier, but as of today, we haven't heard anything. :/  I will keep you posted on anything fun that comes up when I make next week's post.  Thanks again for reading this.