Figured I’d synthesis a blog post out of some emails I sent today, seeing as I have the rest of the day free and nothing else to do..
We arrived in Guilin this morning. This province is in the south-east part of the country and shares a boarder with Vietnam. It’s really gorgeous here, but as my camera is unfortunately dead there’ll be no photos from me till after Guiling and Shanghai.. The others have been taking plenty though, so I’ll try and find some good ones to post once everybody gets home and uploads them to Facebook and whatnot. Right now looking out our hotel window I see these really cool hills not too far in the distance. They’re no mountains, so they’re not really massive, but they’re extremely steep, pretty tall, and there’re a lot of them. Really cool.
Left Lijiang and Kunming behind yesterday afternoon and took an overnight train to get here to Guilin. Was a totally miserable 17 hours. It was a sleeper train, but we all way overestimated how luxurious it would be, haha. We were arguing if we thought our compartment would have power outlets and wifi… Big mistake. Turned out that not only did we have no power outlets and no wifi, we also had no compartment.. The beds were set into the side of the train, so people just walked by constantly and the only privacy came from being on the top of the three bunks (which I was lucky enough to get). So yeah, definitely not a fun way to travel, though I guess it could have been worse. I was imagining like… the Hogwarts Express though. So I was disappointed. We played a LOT of Capitalism and a LOT of Spades… And some Hearts, Go Fish, and ERS. Nothing much else to do.
In Lijiang, we went hiking near the “Jade Dragon Snow Mountain,” visited lots of temples, some tea houses, and the Stone Forest (石林), which consisted of miles and miles of these giant vertical natural rock formations.. Wish I had some pictures of my own. :(
Also saw a vibrant double rainbow the other day on the road, and saw it end in the field right next to us. Stopped the bus for some pictures, haha. Other people did too.
Not a whole lot else to report here.. We’re going to dinner at 6pm today, and then some friends and I are planning to hit up the KFC nextdoor to our hotel for a latenight snack. They’re all open 24/7, and we haven’t gotten good KFC for a while.. It’s become out default “I’m hungry let’s go get some food that is guaranteed not to be disappointing / gross” dinner of choice.
And speaking of dinners that are gross, I’m still not okay with some of the things people eat here. For example, fish eyes / duck tongue, which both tasted awful. I’ve discovered though that I love pretty much all the not meat foods here in China, though. Fried eggplant is like my favorite food at every dinner, along with lotus roots, when we can get them.. Only had cucumber flowers once, and had yak cheese once, and those were both amazing.. Both from Yunnan.
According to our teacher we are “Spending half of tomorrow on a boat, then we have free time once we get to our next hotel.” I’ve kind of given up trying to understand our schedule at this point though, so I’m just following the group and accepting our plans without question. I know at some point in the next 2-3 days 9 of us will be flying to Shanghai, spending two nights there, and then flying back to Beijing for two weeks before home.
Truth be told, I’m kind of looking forward to that flight home. China’s fun, but I think these last two weeks in Beijing are just going to be depressing as hell. :(
This morning we woke up around 5am in order to catch our flight out out of Chengdu and into Kunming. I was sad to leave Sichuan, because I really did enjoy my time there a lot more than I enjoyed Beijing, and made some good friends at the University there. I am glad that I have internet again though, as we’re staying the night in a relatively upscale hotel here in Kunming. So far I’m pretty certain that I’m going to like this city a lot; the air here is noticeably superior to that in either Beijing or Chengdu, the sky is clear and blue, and there are flowers everywhere. :)
Since I didn’t have much internet in Chengdu I’m going to upload some of the pictures and videos from that city today all at once.. A description of what we did with some of the highlights:
1) Everybody was assigned a language partner from the University we stayed at (UESTC, or the University of Electrical Science and Technology of China). The 10 of us and the 10 language partners spent pretty much all day of every day that week together, so I got to know a few of them pretty well (I’d say I made 3 good friends). Mine was this guy named 小马, a 21 year old Chinese guy at the college who studies EE, knows more about American rock music than I do, and plays League of Legends at about the same level I do. Also made good friends with Austin’s partner, Mark, and went out with him and David a few times to play some basketball. On campus there were about 30 basketball courts in this one area, and they were all perpetually occupied with scrimmage 4v4s and 5v5s. First time we went out I swear the people we played against were like 26-27 years old, haha. Second time we played vs a group of 18-20 year olds who didn’t go to the college, just lived in Chengdu. They all had really heavy Australian accents to their English, which was a little cool and probably the result of the television shows they watch, they explained. Lastly made good friends with Duan Yimeng, Mike’s partner, a 21 year old girl who studies communications at UESTC and doesn’t like it (Apparently you select a major when you apply to University and can’t change it afterwards, even if you don’t like it). I’d say I spent more time talking to her than any of the other language partners, because she was more willing than most to speak Chinese with us. Some of the other kids wouldn’t speak Chinese no matter what, and insisted on practicing their English at all times, which was really annoying.
2) We went to a tea-house where we drank tea and watched an hour and a half long show with many different entertainment acts, all of which were pretty impressive. Unfortunately, few of us could understand anything that was said, as it was all in Sichuan native language.. I was lucky in that the girl I sat next to spoke it as her native language, and she translated for me. Most of the performances had no real language barrier though, so all of us still really seemed to enjoy it. We also visited a couple of museums and historical houses which all seemed to blend together in my mind. Nothing really standout, but a lot of generally interesting stuff. Also visited the “Giant Buddah” which was, as it sounds, a giant Buddah statue carved into the side of a mountain about 3 hours outside of Chengdu. Some people hit me up to take pictures with them there, but that was the only time in Sichuan that happened.
3) Did Karaoke for my first time! And it actually wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. I was drafted to solo Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and had fun with that. :P Also sang parts of “21 Guns,” “How Far We’ve Come,” “I Want It That Way,” and “I Gotta Feeling.” Song selection was about 50% Chinese, 50% English.
If I think of something else to write about I’ll post it later, this seems like enough text for now.. ><
Oh yeah I did the worst job ever of packing from Tsinghua to Sichuan, and forgot my camera charger and my razor charger… So I’m rationing my remaining battery and I guess I won’t be shaving till I get back to Beijing… >< Ah well…
Do a lot of people stop you to take a picture with you in China?
I’d say well over a dozen people have, mostly at public touristy places (Bird’s Nest, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, etc). Supposedly it’s more common in rural China, which is where we’re headed next week on our study tour! So we’ll see.
The black kid in our group gets the most attention. His goal is to make a custom deck of cards by the end of the trip with pictures of him + a random Chinese person on each card. He’s on track to finish it too.
1) It’s really hard to get one to stop for you. Particularly around Tsinghua, because they keep driving past our group and stopping a little later on to pick up Chinese people. QQ Not sure if it’s racism (“I don’t want to drive that group of white/black kids, I’ll go pick up that Chinese guy over there”) or if it’s convenience (“Foreigners probably want to go somewhere far away”) or what, but whatever it is, it’s annoying.
2) The drivers are pretty talkative; some want to practice English and some are fine trying to speak Chinese with us. I was in the car with Tsepo, and when the driver asked where he was from (South Africa) we had a discussion in Chinese about Nelson Mandela and the politics of South Africa.. Same guy asked where I was from and replied with “Oh, we don’t like Americans..” When asked why his response was that “美国人大哥!” which basically means “Americans are big brothers (bullies).”
I think I’ve already mentioned that you can’t really see blue in the sky most days, and there’s only been about 2-3 days in Beijing where we’ve seen clouds at all. It’s not really noticeable (to me at least) outside of the colour of the sky, though apparently some Chinese people don’t like it, because a lot of (girls) wear like, surgical masks around the city to block it out..