Monday, August 29, 2011

Life at the Chinese school

We haven’t been allowed to leave the school and explore yet because we haven’t been registered at the police department yet and if the police stop us on the street and we aren’t registered we can get deported. So we’ve spent a lot of time playing card games and hanging out in our rooms at the school. It’s been nice to kind of recover from jet lag a little bit. My body is still really confused. I woke up wide awake at 4:30 am yesterday. The food here is definitely rice. I think I’ve had the same meal for five meals in a row. They bring out a huge thing of rice and then we have these bowls of vegetables and meat and other things that I have no idea what they are to put on top. It’s good that we can kind of chose what we’re putting on the rice….they try and Americanize the food for us—stuff like fried chicken instead of a slab of fish. My roommate Dayna and I came a little late one meal so we had to eat at this other table that was meant for the Chinese teachers. There was this fish just slapped down on a plate—head and all. I tried not to look too closely. But I couldn’t help watching this Chinese woman dig right into the fish with her chopsticks and pull out small, white fish meat. She could do things with those chopsticks that I didn’t know was possible! Let’s just say that I am so glad I had “chopstick lessons” before I came because I would probably waste away eating one grain of rice at a time. And if this is my new diet, I might waste away anyway. Dayna came to China during high school and she said she lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks.
Our group went to the store yesterday and it was our first experience with real Chinese life. Everyone stares at us. It probably doesn’t help that we’re walking around in a pack of 20 Americans with our cameras out. The Chinese love practicing their “English” so they’ll just come up to you and say “Hello” and they get really excited if you say hello back. Dayna and I were trying to get a cart out and this boy just pops up and says “hello” to us as if we’d already met him before. It’s kind of strange. And It’s kind of hard to get things like shampoo and soap when everything is in Chinese. You don’t know if it’s shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. We accidently bought fabric softener instead of detergent. We know this because it says fabric softener in English on the front. We were looking at the pictures on the back which had clothes and a washing machine so we thought we were good, but apparently we need to read the English words on it instead...whoops. Dayna and I needed toilet paper and we were trying to figure out if a package was toilet paper. It was rolled really tightly and looked like party streamers so we weren’t sure and Dayna says completely serious, “I wish they had a picture of a bum on here or something.” I think died laughing for a good five minutes. Then we were just walking down an aisle and this woman gets out her phone and starts snapping pictures of us. She didn’t try to hide it at all. I thought I was bad at the Shakespearean festival with getting stalker shots of the actors, but this woman was way more ridiculous. I felt like a celebrity which is a really weird feeling. Unfortunately I’m not a good looking one here. It is so hot and humid which is a glorious thing but my hair kind of freaks out and goes everywhere—so don’t judge my grooming standards when you see my pictures. We’re looking for a straightner still but apparently the Walmart in our “city” is an hour away by train.

Sorry about the pictures

China blocked blogspot so I have to go through a proxy site to blog and it won't let me add pictures. I'll keep trying other sites to see if I can get it to work but you might just be getting a written account of the China experience. Sorry!

The LONG Voyage of the Dawn Treader

(I guess you’re a real nerd when you started naming your own experiences after the titles of books!)
It’s kind of crazy that I left for China on Thursday morning and we didn’t get to China until Saturday afternoon. With all the time differences and then our flight getting changed, we were traveling for a long time. Our group flew to San Francisco first to get on the flight to Shanghai, but when we got off the plane at 2pm Thursday afternoon, we found out that our flight to Shanghai had been changed to 9:30 am the next morning! Everyone was kind of freaking out. One girl was like, “I’m calling my dad right now. He can get us a hotel because I will not sleep in the airport all night.” The customer service line was ridiculous. I think we waited for 3 hours for our head teachers to figure out if we could vouchers. But the airport gave us vouchers for dinner and a hotel and they shuttled us from the airport and back so it really wasn’t too bad. Actually, I think it was really good for our group. We had lots of bonding time and by the end of the day I felt like I had known these girls for a long time, not just a few hours. We weren’t allowed to explore that city that night so we played Phase Ten…which I won. And a girl named Lorilei showed us the towel animals she knew how to make. I guess this is what you do when you spend most of the day sitting on an airport floor.

Our flight to Shanghai was 12 hours and was the longest flight I’ve taken. My mom was so kind to point out that flying for 12 hours straight was like driving from Utah to California without stopping. I thought I might have to start doing lunges down the aisle if it got really bad. But I think I was so exhausted from packing and being stressed that I was able to sleep a lot. Lorilei pointed out that we were flying west which meant the sun would never set during our flight…hence it was a voyage on the dawn treader. The flight attendants told everyone to pull down the shades for a lot of the flight so it made sleeping a lot easier. We arrived in Shanghai at 11:30pm Utah time and 3:30pm China time
We loaded all of our stuff onto a bus the school had sent for us and drove for 3 more hours to Changzhou where to school is. The China I saw from the freeway wasn’t all that much different than America. It was flat with lots of factories and Chinese billboards. I saw this old farmer though who was wearing those old flat wooden hats. I’m sure those things have been around for thousands of years and it’s kind of amazing that it’s still a part of Chinese lifestyle. We cheered when we got to the school but not when we saw the five flights of stairs we had to lug our suitcases up. But some Chinese man grabbed one of my 52.5 pound bags and took it up for me which was great. Our rooms are really nice which was a really nice surprise. Luckily going to college has really lowered my expectations of what my living conditions have to be haha. But the bathroom, on the other hand, was not a pleasant surprise.

Yes, our shower is a spout in the wall and that is a squatter toilet. I knew we had “squatter” toilets before I left but I didn’t really know what that meant. So I was asking this girl in my group—Brittney-- and she said that it was a hole in the floor with a chamber pot and we had to clean it out by hand. So I was almost thankful to see these once I saw that they flushed. However, toilet paper can’t go down them at all or else they clog up and we have to unclog them. It’s going to be a very interesting four months. We haven’t had hot water yet but it should be getting fixed…we hope.