Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Final Chapter: Tibet

Hello again (and for probably the last time)!  I apologize for how long it's take for me to get around to writing this last post, but I've been fairly busy for the last week.  As a fair warning, this post will be pretty lengthy!

We started off pretty excited about this trip.  We were paying a lot of money to head out there, and we were really excited to see all the really cool things that resides on the Tibetan plateau.  We were planning on heading to the train station on Tuesday (5/3) right after our ME 375 exam to begin our 48 hour trip.  Unfortunately the Chinese government decided to not issue permits that day, and we weren't allowed to board the train.  Why our travel agency decided to wait until the day of to get our permits is beyond us.  It was not the last time we butted heads with our travel agency though.

We had to wait a day to find out if our agency was able to get our permit, and then wait another day for the train.  Apparently the train only ran to Lhasa every other day.  We used this time to enjoy a couple of free days around campus and the city in General.  We got the chance to go to the  Yuyuan market one last time to pick out some souvenirs.  While we were there we got the call saying that we had to permits to travel to Tibet the next day.  Hearing this put everyone's mind at ease.  We had been brainstorming trying to come up with another trip to salvage the extra week and a half we still had in China and hadn't been too successful yet.

The train ride itself was pretty uneventful.  Imagine yourself on a train for two days, that's what it was like.  The hard sleepers that we had beds in consisted of pods of six beds.  We were fortunate enough (sarcasm) to all have top bunks.  This meant that besides the two seats out in the hallway, we were pretty much stuck in our bed.    Fortunately, these beds were kinda comfortable as long as you were just laying there.  I personally didn't mind laying up there and reading for a majority of the time.  The only disappointing part was that I couldn't look out a window from where I was situated.  Tori also made a friend named Apple who helped her scrapbook a little.  A few of us were able to talk to a monk for a little while.  Tori interpreted for the most part, but we all got to sit there and listen too!  He gave us his email address his name and told us that he really wanted to visit America some day.  I was also able to make a friend who's father had recently gone to Europe and as a result, had a lot of really good chocolate.  I was told that eating chocolate was supposed to help with altitude sickness and of course I listened, who wouldn't?  Unfortunately, I was also the one who got the sicked from the change in altitude.  On our last day I climbed out of my bed after a nap with a splitting headache and almost threw up and passed out at the same time.  I got over the stomach sickness, and the feeling that I would pass out.  But the headache stuck with me for the rest of the day.  We eventually made it to Lhasa where we were met by our guide (Dorjee), our driver (Mr. Lee) and our bus for the week.  Dorjee turned out to be the coolest person ever, our driver didn't speak any English so we didn't get to know him very well.  And our bus turned out to have a case of the break downs, but that will be discussed later.  They took us to our first hotel and then showed us a nearby restaurant that served Tibetan food.  Needless to say, this place was amazing and we went there several more times.  After we ate we went back to the hotel to crash for the night, we were planning on getting up fairly early the next day to get started traveling.

The first day we went Namsto lake.  I can't remember if this lake was special for a certain reason, or if it just looked really cool (which it did).  Regardless, it was about a four hour drive just to get there.  Getting there was pretty uneventful.  We got to see the countryside which consisted of a lot of villages, farms, and yaks.  Yaks turned out to be a pretty common animal, I was still pretty excited when I got to see them though.  We also got to go through a really high pass on the way there that gave us a pretty good view of the lake.  At the lake there was a little village that had some gift shops and a  restaurant that we went to.  Before we checked that stuff out we went down to the lake to get some pictures.  The lake was frozen over, but it was still really cool to see such a beautiful lake with the mountains in the background.  There were also locals with white yaks near the lake that you could ride.  It turned out to be pretty inexpensive, and we were all pretty excited to sit on a yak.  After we took some pictures at the lake we ate lunch, and headed back to Lhasa.  This was where the fun with the bus began.  To make a long story short, our bus broke down somewhere around three times on the ride back.  This honestly didn't concern us too much since we were staying in Lhasa and the bus driver would have all day to fix it.  We couldn't have been more wrong.  When we finally got back to Lhasa, we checked our email at the internet cafe, ate some dinner, and went to bed.

The next day we got to see Potala Palace and Barkor Street.  The Potala Palace is where the Dalai Lama used to live and conduct state affairs until he was exiled from the country 60ish years ago.  This was by far the most lavish place I've ever been in.  Parts of it consist of a structure that was built 1300 years ago.  It also contains the tombs of several Dalai Lamas including the 5th Dalai Lama's tomb that consists of 3700 kg (8 tons) of gold and a huge assortment of precious stones .  There were also rooms lined with holy texts and all of these texts were written by hand in gold or silver.  We were all really disappointed they wouldn't let us take pictures of the inside.  Fortunately we have plenty of the outside!  We also got to visit Barkor Street that day where most of the guys bought knives.  We also saw a lot of military walking around the square with shotguns and soldiers on the roofs with rifles and video cameras.  Dorjee asked us to not take pictures of them becasue he would get in trouble if we did.  Tibet really isn't that free.

The next day we left really early to begin our trip out to Mt. Everest.  Not a lot happened this day besides our bus breaking down several times, our driver getting it fixed, and seeing it break down again.  We got to see a lot of the countryside, and hang out with each other.  We also learned about halfway through this day that we were actually going to be able to go to Everest.  We had been told by some European people a couple of days earlier that some tourists had taken a Tibetan flag to the base camp, so the Chinese government shut it down.  Again, Tibet isn't free.  This night we got to the hostel really late and stayed in a really run down hotel room with really bad bathrooms.  Fortunately, we were only there for five hours or so.

The next day we got up really early so we could see the sunrise at Everest!  Such a great experience.  We made it to the pass about 30 minutes too late, but it was still an amazing view, one that I will never regret seeing.  From this pass you could see the five highest peaks in the world with Everest right in the middle.  Dorjee told us that this was called the "crown of the world" by the locals, and it's pretty obvious why!  After staying at the pass for a little while we headed down on the several hour trip to the actual base camp.  Our bus managed to break down a couple more times and the driver tried to get it fixed again while we were in a small town.  We eventually made it to a camp 4 km from the actual base camp.  This was where we had to get off our own bus so we could take the "ecological bus."  This turned out to be a bigger version of our bus that we had to pay money for.  I think it was Paddy who said, "It's just an ecological way for them to make money."  Regardless, it took us to the base camp where they checked our passports again (the 5th time).  They also told us we couldn't climb the hill that would give us the view of the base camp.  We had to stay at the base of the hill where a stone pillar was.  Kinda lame.  After we did that and took pictures there, we went to a nearby stream and had a snowball/ice fight until we were winded and gave ourselves headaches.  A few of us used the bathroom there that was unanimously the worst bathroom any of us had ever seen.  There was literally poop all over the floor of what appeared to be a bathroom.  After this we headed back to our bus and started the trip back to Shigaste.  The second biggest city in Tibet.  We had been driving for several hours without incident until our bus blew a tire.  Dorjee had already been pretty upset at our driver before this for not getting the first problem fixed on his day off.  So when we all piled off the bus for the tire to be fixed, we were a little surprised to see Dorjee walking off by himself down the road.  We joked about him abandoning us, but I'm pretty sure he just needed to blow off some steam.  Eventually he came back and the spare got put on, and we stopped in the nearest town to get the tire fixed and we were back on the road.  This was the last time our bus broke down which brought the tally to 11.  After all that happened, we finally made it to Shigaste around 2 in the morning.

The next day we got up, went to the Tashilhunpo Monastery and proceeded to Lhasa where we spent the night.  Not much else happened this day besides seeing that monastery, driving and hanging out with each other.  At this point we were really excited to get back to Shanghai so we could leave for America the next day.  The monastery itself was probably the coolest one we've seen so far.  It was the Monastery built for the Panchen Lama, the second most high lama in this particular sect of Buddhism.  While were there, we got to see a five story bronze buddha, debating monks, and several tombs of deceased Panchen Lamas.  All of these tombs were made of either silver or gold and had some of the largest precious stones I've ever seen.  Naturally they charge outrageous prices to take photos in these rooms, so I don't have any to show you.

The next day we said goodbye to Dorjee and our driver and got on the train back to Shanghai.  Not much happened the next few days.  When we got back I took some pictures around campus, started getting packed and we all went into the city to get dinner and hang out one last time.  Most of us stayed up pretty late that night in an attempt to start the transition back to the U.S. time zone.  I can't speak for anyone else, but it was kinda helpful for me.  The next day we got up and moved out completely!  The bus to take us to the airport was supposed to be at the dorm at 8:30.  But China happened and the bus didn't show up until 9ish.  When we opened the compartments beneath the bus to load our stuff up, we realized it was full and realized that we were going to have to fit it on the bus with us.  We started filing up the back of the bus with our luggage and probably filled up the last 4-5 rows before we were able to begin putting ourselves on.  Fortunately we made it on the bus and to the airport safely.  Several of the Chinese students we've met throughout the semester came by to say goodbye and take some pictures with us.  Some of them we'll be seeing at Purdue in the fall too!  After we got to the airport it was pretty smooth sailing and the rest is history!

I know that's incredibly long, but I felt like it needed to be said.  Hopefully you enjoy it.  I'll probably post another short story in the next week or so as some sort of reflection.  Links to photos are posted below.  Thanks for reading!


Shared Photos
Photos from Tan Chen

Lake Video
Monks Arguing
Semi Having Problems

Favorite Photo

Saturday, April 30, 2011

End of School

Hello again!  I hope this finds you all doing well.  I haven't written for a while, but this will probably be the last update that I write in China!  Not a ton has happened since the last time I wrote, so this will be pretty short as well.

Last weekend was pretty chill here on campus.  A few of us went to an expat restaurant and when shopping at Pearl City.  The restaurant had a really good salad bar and roasted chicken.  I never thought I miss a good salad as much as I do now.  We've all gotten to the point where we don't have much interest in trying new things, we're all ready to be back.  I guess that's a good thing because we have a little more than two weeks left here.

This last week of school was pretty uneventful as well.  We only had two days of class before our finals.  So we took that time to get a grip on some of the newer concepts that we had learned and some intricacies of our professors.  For whatever reason, asking my thermodynamics professor to see my current grade before the final caused him to laugh at me, and say that there was no way that he would do that.  And before you think it, there was not a communication breakdown here, he was just laughing.  Several of us spent several minutes explaining what we wanted.  All our approaches got us the same result, laughter.

Since then, we've finished our exams for our Chinese classes.  This Tuesday the rest of us will finish out the semester the final for our online class from Purdue.  I'm hoping to do really good on it since it's the only thing I really have to do in the next few days.  The good news is that immediately following our final on Tuesday, eight of us will be getting on a train for 50 hours as we head to Tibet for a week.  We're all really looking forward to getting out there and seeing all there is to see.  I'm not really sure what our itinerary is, but I do know that we'll be making a stop by the base camp of Everest!  The other good news is that we'll be getting back to Shanghai on Sunday the 15th, and flying back home on the 16th!  I'm so excited to be back in the land of unlimited ketchup and free refills on drinks!  Hopefully I'll find some time after I get back to write about everything we did on our way and back from Tibet, as well as what we did there.  I'll be taking lots of pictures too!

That's all for now.  To all my friends at Purdue and at other schools, good luck with finals!  I'm looking forward to seeing all of you really soon!  Peace.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trip to Xi'an 西安

Hello all.  I hope this finds you doing well.  It's been a little while since I've written an update, mainly because of exams and an awesome trip to Xi'an I went on last weekend.  To make up for that, this will be a really log post.  So get some snacks!

Since I wrote last not much has happened on campus, mainly just school work that we wanted no part of.  Last week we had two exams and a quiz.  By far the most work we've had at any one given point this whole semester.  And boy, let me tell you, this was rough for us.  Because of that, I have no idea how I'm going to survive next semester at Purdue.

This last weekend was the last weekend that allowed us to travel, so we decided to head up to Xi'an to check out the Terracotta Warriors and see some mountains.  For the most part, this trip went smoothly and the people I went with were awesome.  We started off by leaving the train station on Thursday afternoon in the "hard sleeper" section for a 16 hour ride.  None of us had used the hard sleepers yet, so we really didn't know what to think of them.  As it turns out, they were pretty comfortable.  I think this might be because we've gotten used to sleeping on much harder beds that what we have in the States (we're going to sleep on clouds when we get back).  These did allow us to get a decent amount of sleep and be ready to go when we got the Xi'an the next morning.

Besides having a little hiccup finding the city bus station by the train station, we got to our hostel without any trouble.  It turned out that this hostel was in prime location for a lot of things in the city.  We got a meal right when we arrived and checked in right after that.  When we went up to our room, there was one guy still sleeping in there (around 11 am).  He would still be there when we got back from our adventures that evening.  We still had a lot of time that day though, so we got showered and went off into the city to check some things out.  We went to the Bell and Drum Tower, both of which were nearby.  Then we walked a few blocks south to the city gate.  We had heard that you can rent bikes to bike around the wall, so we did that and enjoyed the beautiful day outside while we got to look at the city.  After biking we stopped at a Baskin Robbins to cool off and relax.  After getting ice cream we just wandered through the city on our way back to the hostel.  This was when we ran into the first Wal-Mart that I've seen since arriving here, and for the most part, it looked just like any normal Wal-Mart.  Except for the part where we kept getting weird looks and the abundance of Chinese food.  It was around 5 pm when we made it back to the hostel.  We were expecting our stranger roommate to be gone by this point.  But unfortunately for us, he had just rolled over from his previous position.  We finished off the evening by getting dinner, playing pool, and enjoying each other's company.  We decided to get up early the next day so we could get an early start on getting to the Huashan Mountain.

Pretty much from the moment the day started, everything went wrong.  We started off by assuming that the hostel would serve breakfast at 7.  They didn't open until 8.  Because we were already up and ready to go we went over to a McDonald's and got breakfast quickly.  By the time we left it was roughly 8 am.  We did not arrive to the top of the mountain until 4 pm, eight hours later.  To start this off, our hostel gave us bad directions and we wound up going 30 minutes out of our way on the city bus.  When we finally got to the bus station that would take us to the mountain about an hour and a half had passed.  Our time at the bus station was ridiculous.  We got in the back of the line where we thought most newcomers would go.  As it turns out, when tickets for the next bus started to be sold, it turned into a free for all.  Tori and Mike tried blocking for me as I moved forward in an attempt to get us seats on three different buses.  It wasn't until the fourth bus, when I had to pull a man's arm out of the ticket seller's face, that we were finally able to get on the bus.  Now it was time for a 2 hour ride...to what turned out to be the wrong place.  We got there and walked around for a little while until we realized that there wasn't a cable car to take us to the top of the mountain.  We remedied this by playing with charades with some people at a restaurant.  We eventually were able to communicate that we needed a ride to another entrance and it turned out that they were willing to help us.  When we first got into the van we realized that there was something lost in translation when we wound up at a junky train station.  We got this figured out and we finally wound up at the entrance we needed.  Unfortunately from this entrance we needed to take another bus ride farther into the park so that we could take the tram up.  We finally made it to the tram queue line around 2 pm.  Next we had a 2 hour wait for the tram.  This wait was made a little better by the man that just happened to be in front of us in line.  He was a Purdue Aero-Astro engineer who had returned to China after graduation.  We got to talk to him about all sorts of things and without his help, we probably wouldn't have made it to the plank walk in time.

The top of the mountain was pretty different from Huangshan (where we went a couple weeks earlier).  There was much less real estate and a lot more narrow ridges.  Most of our time was spent hiking up or down stairs that were chiseled out of the rock that were so steep that chain hand rails were very necessary.  After booking it across the mountain, we finally made it to the main attraction, the plank walk.  This was a section of the park that was essentially a path built into the side of a sheer rock face.  Most of the path was made with three 4x4's nailed together, but other sections were chiseled out of the mountain.  We had to rent harnesses as the drop off the dangerous path was one that would definitely kill you.  The only information that I can find estimates the drop at about 1000 meters (3200 feet).  I enjoyed the hike thoroughly as most of our group was freaking out.  It will definitely be one of my favorite experiences from China.

When we got done with the plank walk, we realized that we only had half an hour to get back to the cable car station before it closed and we would have to walk down the mountain in the dark.  It had taken us a couple hours to get to where we were on the mountain at that point and we weren't really sure if we'd make it.  Fortunately we did and were about 50ish people from the end of the line when the tram closed.  At the end of a day where everything was going wrong, it was good to see something go right for once.  We made our way back to the park entrance while trying to avoid an unnerving fact.  We were two hours outside Xi'an with only a vague idea how to get back.  When we got back to the entrance and found out it would be 450 rmb per taxi to get us back to Xi'an we got a little worried.  Fortunately the taxi drivers were really nice and offered to take us to a train station where we thought we might have a little more luck.  We were able to get a train back to Xi'an for the same price as the bus out there, but with the transit time being 30 minutes instead of 2 hours.  The only hiccup here was when we got the tickets 7 minutes before the train was supposed to arrive.  With how things were going that day we were really worried about missing the train.  So we sprinted through the terminal only to get to the platform with plenty of time to stare at each other and laugh about how worried we were.  We finally made it back to our hostel around 10:30 pm.  It had been a very long, but exciting day.

The next day we went to see the Terracotta Warriors.  This trip turned out to be a lot less eventful, but a lot of fun nonetheless.  Getting on the bus to head there was a lot better experience as we got on the 2nd one that was leaving.  Tori and I made a human wall and let our compadres file onto the bus fairly easily.  The Terracotta warriors were really cool to see, but I don't have a ton to say about them.  You'll just have to look at the pictures I took.  It really was amazing to see all the work that went into making them, and then hiding it all from people for a really long time.

After we got done at the Warriors we headed back and got ready for our train ride back.  We weren't able to get hard sleepers for the return trip so we got stuck in hard seats for 16 hours.  Hard seats translate to a three person bench with a vertical back rest.  Which means really uncomfortable after a little while, let along an entire night.  It did turn out to be a really good trip with a lot of laughs.  We wagered bunnies playing poker, listened to a hilarious story from Tori and Emily about a fox named Blade who hunted vampire bears (we were all laughing through tears at the end of that one), and trying to get some sleep.  It was a great end to the trip.

That's pretty much all for now.  We just have a week and half of classes left here and then I'll be heading off for my trip to Tibet.  I'll try to get an update included sometime in between.  I have some pictures and a video or two linked below.  Have a great week and take care!

Pictures from Xi'an
Mountain Video
Traffic Video

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mount Huangshan

Hello everyone!  I hope this finds you doing well.  It's been a little while since I've updated this so I'll warn you that I'm going to have a lot to say!

I'll start off by quickly talking about my most recent kite flying experience.  Thankfully this one ended much better than the last one (Bagewell).  We had a picnic with some Chinese students from the Chinese/English club I frequent and they brought some kites along.  We only had luck flying the giant squid though.  Besides that, last week was pretty much school as normal.  The real fun started on Thursday when we set off for the Yellow Mountains!

The left the bus station around 10:30 am and fortunately this trip didn't have near as much excitement at the departure as our Beijing trip did.  We met up with Simon Cheng, the man we planned pretty much everything through.  A couple guys were fortunate enough to meet him earlier this semester when going to Huangshan.  Needless to say, he was awesome.  If anyone plans on going out there, let me know and I'll get you his contact info.  The first night we were there we went to a small park where Dan and Tori jumped into a freezing river, had an amazing meal that Simon and his wife made, and went to bed early.

The next day (Friday) we got up early, had breakfast at Simon's, and got started on our trek.  We decided to hike up the whole mountain since it was a little cheaper than taking the cable car and we felt like we could handle it.  This hike turned out to be one of the hardest things that I've done.  Even though the path was paved with stone, the combination of stairs, and packs we took left us all exhausted.  The scenery was so beautiful, and the company was great.  I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else.  While going up we also encountered men that were hauling things down the mountain.  They had bamboo yokes with huge packs hanging on either side that they were carrying around.  We also passed a guy carrying up tofu in buckets of water.  Regardless, these guys, and what they carried, were amazing.

The first night on top of the mountain was pretty uneventful.  We were just too exhausted to do anything.  We had convinced Simon that we wanted to sleep in a tent the first night.  We thought this would be in the woods or something like that, it turned out to be on a patio in front of a restaurant.  And besides everyone around us being loud and annoying, it was a pretty good experience.  We had also decided to get up early to watch the sun rise.  This mean getting up around 4 am to head up one of the peaks in the dark.  Fortunately Daniel Flavin had a head lamp and several of us had our handy phone flashlights to light the way.  In the end we just saw the sky go from dark to light because it was too cloudy to see the sun.  Being up so early did have it's perks though.  While the rest of our group went back to sleep, Dan and I hiked around in a fairly empty park and found a cliff with a great view of a large ravine.  This turned out to be really handy later.

Saturday turned out to be a lot better than we expected.  The forecast called for snow and rain all day so we packed warm clothes.  It turned out to be a great spring day with the perfect mixture of sun, shade, and temperature.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  The rest of the day we just hiked around and lounged at a couple of the peaks.  On our way back from towards our hostel we noticed mist forming in one of the valleys.  It turned out that the cliff that Dan and I were sitting on had a perfect view of the mist coming into the ravine.  It was amazing to see the mountains look like they were just floating there in the mist.  It was by far one of the most beautiful things that I've ever seen.  The best way I can describe it is like the mountains in Avatar...except real...and right in front of me.  The pictures I have just don't do it justice.  Dan and I also went back after dinner to try to watch the sun set.  Unfortunately the angle wasn't right and we wound up running up one of the peaks to try to catch it.  We weren't able to, but we did see mist envelope the main area where our hostel was the night before.  That in itself was pretty amazing.

We got to spend that night in a hostel with five other Chinese people.  I was amazed by the cell phone charger one of them used.  It was some mixture of a strobe light and rainbow that lit up an entire corner of the room.  I have no idea why anyone would want one of those, it was just so obnoxious!  The hostel was also located in the drop off zone for one of the cable ways to the top of the mountain.  This resulted in a bunch of screaming tour groups right outside our door.  And when our Chinese roommates managed to leave the door to our room open, it got even louder.  Needless to say, we didn't sleep as well as we would have liked to.  When we finally crawled out of bed, we realized how bad the weather was outside.  It was foggy, misty, rainy, cold and all around nasty.  After we got all packed up we started our four hour hike down the mountain.  It was really cool to descend down into the mist as we headed down.

The rest of the trip was pretty chill.  We had a couple more meals at Simon's and rested our weary legs.  We also got to wander around in the town and check some things out.  I would up buying some cheap sunglasses and some candied kiwi.  I don't know if I've just been missing it in the States, but it's very good!  By my estimates, we hiked about 35ish kilometers or around 20 miles.  Most of it on some sort of incline.  I wouldn't have changed any of it though.

That's pretty much all for now.  As of this afternoon I have six weeks left in China.  We're getting geared up for another round of exams and quizzes.  But after that I'll be planning a trip to Xi'an while Tori and Dan finalize our plans for Tibet.  Both of these look to be amazing trips and I'm looking forward to telling you about them!  Anyway, have a great week back in the States!

Huangshan Pictures
Blurry Video
Minhang Photos

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekend Update

Hello again, I hope you' all had a great spring break last week!  This post is going to short and sweet since nothing too new has happened this last week.

The week started off pretty cold and rainy.  Wednesday was a great relief when we were finally able to go outside and enjoy playing some sports again.  One student went back to the States for his sister's wedding and brought a frisbee back with him.  We had a blast playing that with a Chinese student that came over when he saw us playing.  We also had two exams this last week that kept us pretty busy.  For one, we didn't really know what the exams would be like since they were written by Chinese professors.  It turns out that they weren't too bad.  Now we have a few weeks without exams until the next round rolls though.  It's really weird to think that, as of Monday, we'll only have five weeks of class left.  Time is really flying by here, it's crazy!

That's pretty much all for now.  We're going to they Yellow Mountains next weekend so there will be a lot more to update you on.  Till then, stay classy Indiana!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Laser Tag 激光标记

Hello again!  It's come time for me to type up another one of my updates.  This last week has been pretty normal.  If you talked to me you probably just heard about one thing, thermo.  There was a lot of it.  Apparently our professor thought we new how to use a specific program for our homework, but we didn't.  So instead the 6 hours of work turned into 20 or so.  Not fun.  Fortunately we have it down now and the homework shouldn't be too bad.

As for a finger update...I got the cast taken off.  I'm so glad to have the majority of the fingers on my right hand back.  I can write and use chopsticks again, happy day!  I can' say much else was too exciting about this trip.  The subway ride was long and the time at the hospital was short.  I did get some time to walk from the subway to the hospital, it was gorgeous outside and I got to enjoy the weather.

The main source of excitement this last week was an invite we got from Chris, a Chinese student we met who will be at Purdue next fall.  He and a bunch of friends were getting together on Sunday to play laser tag.  Mike, Tori, Bailey and I were able to make it.  We really had no idea what to expect so we went into it with open minds.  It turned out to be a blast, we played for 4.5 hours  We couldn't understand the guy explaining it all, but Chris and a couple other students helped in translating for us.  We had "vests" that we wore, hats, and giant guns that made it a lot of fun.  It helped a lot that it was really well put together and ran well.  We really enjoyed interacting with some of the Chinese students here.  We took some group pictures, one of which makes me look pretty crazy.  We all decided that it would be great if there was a company around Purdue that set up the same thing too.  I'd definitely want to do it again!

That's all for now.  To all of my Purdue friends, have a fun and safe spring break.  And when making your brackets, be sure to remember one thing, Syracuse is the worst ever!

Minhang Photos

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hospital Run

Hello again!  I hope everyone is doing well back in the States.  We're beginning to manage here at our new location.  For the most part, this last week has been pretty normal.  Besides missing my first class last Monday due to our Beijing trip, we've begun to get into the swing of things.  Classes have started to pick up and most of us are starting to get back into the routine of an engineering student.  This has been the case for me with the exception of my new hand jewelry.

To make a long story a little less long, we were playing (American) football last Thursday and while tagging someone down I got my hand wrapped up in their shirt.  I didn't notice it immediately, but the last knuckle on my ring finger was bent down slightly (with the joint) and I couldn't extend it.  After going the next couple of days with the finger braced with popsicle sticks and a shoelace I decided to get it checked out.  That's where the fun part begins. 

I started off Saturday by going to the Med-Check on campus to see if they could help me.  They didn't speak any English but I met a couple friends who interpreted for me.  The nurses said that I needed to go to a hospital in Minhang where they could tell me if it was broken or not.  If it was I needed to go into the city to get it fixed.  If it wasn't, then they could give me water to sprinkle on it.  As it turns out, one of my new friends needed to go to the same hospital to get blood work done so they offered to drive me there.  Once we got there they helped me fill out paperwork and get me to the right place.  My friends left to get their stuff done while I sat in a waiting room by myself for what was supposed to be an hour wait for the doctor.  I got called in sooner than expected and my friends hadn't come back to interpret for me yet.  That was when another woman who was with her husband stepped in and helped me.  Seeing the doctor was very different because the room contained him, a desk with a computer, me and my new friend, and about 10 other people listening in.  It seemed like this was the normal procedure for everyone, much different than the States.  This doctor said I needed an x-ray.  By then my original friends came back and I left with them.

While we were waiting for the x-ray to print we went to get lunch which they refused to let me pay for.  After we ate we went back to get the results of my x-ray.  The x-ray itself turned out to be about $20 and I got to keep it, souvenir!  After that, I went see another doctor in the same building.  Again, there were a lot of people crowded around and what I think was an operating room adjacent to where I was standing.  This doctor told me that I would probably need surgery and that I needed to go into the city.  I left pretty quickly then and took the metro into the city where the doctor gave me a cast saying that it would be all that was necessary.  I go back Friday to find out if it was.  Needless to say, only having two available fingers on my right hand is a big pain.  I'm looking forward to being done with this thing.

Throughout all of this I was amazed at how nice people were to me.  There was absolutely no reason for any of these women to help me out, yet they went out of their way to interpret for me and help me understand what was going on.  I can only hope that I would do the same for someone if I were in their position!

That's all for now!  I'll hopefully be writing you next week with a fully functioning right hand.  I'm attaching my pictures from Minhang again mainly because I don't have anything new to post.  Check 'em out if you haven't already!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beijing 北京

We made it!  (That comment will make sense later.)  Since I wrote last time the group has finished up our classes from the first portion of the semester, I've gone on a great trip to Beijing.  And with the beginning of a new week, our group has started the next set of classes.  Not much interesting happened between last Monday and Thursday besides a couple tests and making the decision to go to Beijing for the long weekend.  Grab a snack or something before you get too far, this is a pretty long one!

My sleeping location.
On Wednesday we finally realized that we didn't have class on Thursday or Friday and we felt compelled to take advantage of it!  Dan and I decided we'd try to get ticks for a train leaving Thursday during the day and meet up with another group of our friends that were also heading to Beijing for the weekend.  As it turned out, tickets for that train were sold out and the next train's seats were ridiculously priced.  We had decided that we were willing to do anything to get to Beijing that weekend so Dan bought us standing room only tickets...for a 10 hour train ride that started at 9:30 pm.  Another group had already traveled standing room only and said that they were basically in a boxcar with a bunch of people standing for a long time.  Regardless, we were willing to try it out for the experience.

There was some excitement getting to the train station since we thought that the train would be leaving from the same station we bought the tickets at.  With only 50 minutes before our train departed, we learned that we had to go to another train station 13 subway stops away!  To make a long story short, we got on the train less than five minutes before it left the station.  The standing room only situation didn't turn out to be as bad as we originally thought.  The three of us were able to stake out spots by some sinks and bathrooms.  I got to sit down and I even got to lay down a couple times before people woke me up to get to the bathroom.  I'm guessing that I was able to get about 2-3 hours of sleep that night.

When we got to Beijing we dropped our stuff off at our hostel and immediately left for a bus station.  I had read online that there was a bus that took people to the portion of the Great Wall we wanted to go to for 16 rmb (pretty cheap).  What the internet forgot to tell me was that the bus only ran in the summer.  This got me pretty worried since the weather wasn't supposed to be very nice the next couple days.  Fortunately we came across a woman and her husband that drove people out to the wall in their van for a reasonable price.  We bartered with them for a little while and eventually got a pretty good deal.  There's one thing I must say about the Great Wall, it's amazing and quite possibly one of the most spectacular things I've been to!  We also got to see some interesting things there too!.

The next couple days were a lot of fun as well.  We stayed in a hostel for $4.80 a night.  When I booked the place online it was listed as New Dragon Hostel, when we got there, it had been bought out by Motel 8.  But besides part of the ceiling breaking from water damage right over Jacob's bed, it was pretty nice.  It snowed the first night we were there which made the next couple days pretty interesting.  We got a trip set up through our hostel that went to The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, and The Summer Palace.  It was really cool to see all this stuff with snow covering it, but it wasn't cool for it to be so cold outside.  I managed to buy some authentic North Face gloves for 10 rmb ($1.50).  On Sunday we made it to Tienanmen Square and  Beihai park which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the largest Chinese parks.  Both of these places were really cold too, but it was still really neat to see everything.  Towards the end of the day at Beihai Dan and I started to get a little competitive with artistic photos, so that made it a little more fun.

I don't know if any of you have followed Chinese news this past week, but a few protests against the government were scheduled for the Sunday we were in Beijing.  Apparently a place called Wangfujing Street was a main center for these protests.  This part of Beijing was only a few blocks from our hostel and we were walking up and down that area the night before.  It only crossed our mind that something might be going on until we saw all the museums were closed by Tienanmen Square on Sunday.  It was pretty crazy to hear about that afterwards.

The train ride back was pretty uneventful.  We actually missed our first new class because they hadn't given us a schedule yet when we got our return tickets.  The classes haven't been too bad so far.  On most days we only have two 45 minute sessions with a ten minute break in the middle.  I also picked up my tailored suit today and it looks really nice, hopefully I won't gain too much weight when I get back to the states now!  Besides that, everything has been pretty uneventful here.  Everyone take care back home!  I've got A LOT of pictures below and a couple videos.  Don't watch the second one if you get motion sick.

Oh, and I had an orange tonight, it was pretty awesommeeee!

Pictures Form Beijing
Vendors on Wangfujing
Biking around Campus (don't watch if you get motion sick)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Arrival at Minhang

 Hello all!  I hope you all enjoying this warm Indiana weather you've had the last week or so.  I keep hearing about it from all my friends at Purdue!  Just don’t forget that it’s still February haha.  Not much has happened this last week because of all the class we've had, but I’ll try to spice it up a little for you.

This last week was pretty awful when it came to class.  Consequently, I don’t have too many pictures to share.  On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we had class from 8:30 to 4:15 with a one hour break for lunch.  And on Tuesday and Thursday we had class from 8:30 to noon.  I guess it’s the price we have to pay for not really having any class for the first 6 weeks…in China!  The wasn’t too bad the first couple days, but once we got in to the second half of the week, getting up and going to class all day was pretty awful.  Fortunately we got an awesome care package full of tasty stuff from Kathleen, Laura and Courtney back at Purdue!  They were nice enough to send us cookies, peanut butter, some snickers and a few other goodies.  We can’t say it enough, so thanks again for that!

I was really excited about my Dog Baby towel
For the last week or so Dan and I have been trying to order suits for ourselves.  This has turned into a multi-day exploration as we tried to find the place (The South Bund Soft Fabric Market) we wanted to go to.  We knew the Subway exit we wanted to get off on and the general direction we needed to move in.  The first time we went there we went down the road I thought it was on.  When the road seemed to end as it went across a river we turned around and wandered for a little while before heading home.  The second time we went to look for it we were fortunate enough to find it.  As it turns out, the market was directly across the street from where we stopped on our previous excursion.  But alas, it was not to be on this day.  The market was still closed for New Year's celebrations.  Finally, on our third trip to the market we were able to go in and order what we wanted.  The custom tailored suit I ordered is going to be about $108.  We're going back to pick them up on the 27th.

On Saturday we got up early and moved to the new campus.  We haven't had much time to go exploring, but the campus is incredibly spread out.  The building that most of our classes are going to be in on the other side of campus, a 30 minute walk.  We had heard about this and came to campus prepared to buy bicycles.  I got a fixed gear bike with brakes that I can pedal with when fully engaged for about $40.  It cost a couple dollars more just to get a longer tube so my seat could sit higher...it's still too small for me thought.  We also met up with some Chinese students that we had met earlier in the semester.  They were really excited to meet us because they're going to be going to Purdue next fall for a couple years.  They've been incredibly helpful and nice to us while we've been here so we're really excited about getting to show them around when they arrive at Purdue.T

That's pretty much it for now.  I'm heading off to Beijing tomorrow for our long weekend.  I can already tell it's going to be an interesting trip so there'll be plenty to write about next week.  I'll also be adding more photos and videos as I take them.  Have a great week!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Ni Hao!  I hope this finds you doing well!  This last week has been full of exciting adventures and relaxing days.  I’ve had the opportunity to visit a town about 3 hours outside of Shanghai as well as explore the city a little more.

On Monday we took a 45 minute subway ride to a town on the outskirts of Shanghai called Nanxing.  The main reason we went here was for a type of food called xiaolongbao that supposedly originated there.  We also stopped by another garden/park area for a little while as well.  The really interesting part was when we went to a coffee shop across the street from where we had dinner.  The menu they gave us was completely in characters.  I wound up trying to tell the waitress that I wanted hot chocolate, but I had a feel my request didn’t really get across.  A little while later we got all our drinks and I wound up with a mountain of ice cream, wafers, cream and soda.  By far one of the best drinks I’ve had in China!

On Tuesday we left for our trip to Anji.  About 30 minutes away from the town is a bamboo forest that has become famous because it was where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed.  While the forest itself was amazing to hike through, getting there was half the fun.  The trip there was uneventful, but Dan later informed me that we traveled down the wrong way on an interstate to take a left into the Anji bus station!  After arrival we walked around a little market by the bus station and got some lunch, we also ran into a stand that was selling bunnies for about $6.  If we had any idea what we'd do with a bunny, we would've gotten one.

After finding some food we went to get a few taxis to take us to the hotel we had reserved.  We had no idea where the hotel was, or how to say the name in Chinese.  I don’t know how, but the taxi drivers figured out where we wanted to go and started laughing at us and telling us to get into the taxis.  They proceeded to drive us a few hundred yards down the road to our hotel.  We could still see the bus stop.  This was the first of several times we overpay for transportation.  We got settled into the hotel and headed off for what we thought was the bamboo forest.  We walked back to the bus station because we knew there were a lot of taxis there.  We left without a hitch, but they took us to a bamboo museum we really didn’t want to go to.  There were a bunch of shops outside the “museum” and we started looking around.  I’ve gotta give props to Tori for making a friend there who offered to get us to the actual forest.  She told us that we would take a bus to get there and told us how much it would be.  It seemed a little high, but we really wanted to get to the forest.  It turned out that we paid her for her husband and his friend to drive us out there in their vans.  Combined, they had room for 10 people.  We had 11.  Dan wound up propping himself up between two bucket seats for what turned out to be a 30 minute ride.  He survived but his left leg was completely asleep.

The park itself was amazing.  We started hiking around and we really enjoyed all the scenery.  There was an observation tower at the top of the first hill we climbed that we spent some time at.  We continued to move through across the mountain enjoying the scenery.  It looked a lot like the Smokey Mountains, except this was a forest of bamboo.  Not a ton happened the next day or so as we hiked around the forest and went down the roller coaster that had been built into the side of the mountain.  We had bought some PB&J and had a little picnic in the forest and they were amazing (more props to Tori).

Since then we’ve been to the Shanghai Museum, as well as the Yuyuan Gardens and the World Financial Tower of Shanghai.  The Museum had a lot of cool stuff from China’s history.  A lot of pottery (this exhibit never ended), calligraphy, coinage, paintings, and some other stuff.  It was all pretty interesting.  The Yuyuan Gardens were just really cool, it looks very Chinese and it was very relaxing to walk through.  The 101th floor of the Financial Tower was really cool too.  We stayed up there for the sun set and got to see all the buildings light up below us.  We met the Dyson’s for dinner that night and I really appreciate the generosity they extended to me and my friends.  I must also thank Mrs. Dyson for the amazing cookies she made us, it takes me back to all the D.I. meetings so many years ago.

On a quick side note, Dan has been trying to start a stereotype for Americans here in Shanghai.  For the last few weeks he has taken the stairs instead of the escalator at the subway.  I would say that it’s been picked up by a few members of our group whenever we’re around him, it’ll be interesting to see if it sticks.

That’s all for now!  I’ve got some more pictures posted below and a video or two.  Have a good week!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lunar New Year, The Beginning of Spring Break...and a Frenchman

Hello to all, I hope this finds you doing well.  I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been pretty busy with China!  This past week and a half I’ve got to see some traditional areas of Shanghai, see the New Year festivities, and see some more areas of China.

Fireworks going off between buildings
Last week our Chinese language teacher showed a couple people a traditional market close to our campus.  A couple days after that we convinced them to go back to show us where it was.  It turned out to be a really cool place where you could buy anything from chickens, fish, beef, vegetables, and fruit.  You can pick out the chicken or fish that you want to take home, and it will be prepared for you right there.  Since we don’t really have a need for whole chickens, we got decided to get some badly needed fruit.  I wound up getting some strawberries, cherries, a couple oranges, a couple kumquats (identified by Elaine, thanks!) and a couple of things called dragon eyes.  The dragon eyes are a pretty interesting fruit, they have a brown, husk-ish peel and the fruit looks a lot like a peeled grape with a large seed inside.  I don’t remember exactly how much all that cost, but I think it wound up being around $2-$3.  It’s definitely going to be worth a return trip.

Tuesday was our last day of class before we started our “Spring Break.”  We call it that because it’s the only time this semester we have decent amount of time off from class (about a week and a half).  It seems odd to have our spring break in February though.  Fortunately the weather is starting to get to the point where it actually feels springy around here.  The forecast for this coming week is mid to upper 50’s until Wednesday until it drops to the upper 40’s.  Enjoy your snowpocalypse Indiana!

Dan with a dog!
The lunar new year was last Wednesday here.  As I quickly found out, the lunar new year is kinda a big deal in China.  I started off new year’s eve by talking to some friends back home who were beginning to get snowed in.  After I got off skype with them I went out to the sport field here on campus and played football for 3 hours in shorts and a t-shirt.  It was glorious!  We got to have another traditional dinner with the group that evening where we got to see off our teacher from Purdue.  After that a group of us took the subway to the Bund in hope of seeing some awesome fireworks.  After walking around for an hour or so, we started to see a bunch of fireworks off in a residential area.  We made our way over there and found some guys setting off fireworks from the middle of the street.  We continued to walk around for the next couple hours and watched the fireworks shows as people started them.  It was amazing to walk through the smoke in the back allies as people set off fireworks a few feet from us.  The skyline was beautiful when it was lit up by the multitudes of people putting on their own shows in front of their houses or apartments.

Stone Buddha carving
The downside of staying out so late watching fireworks was having to get up super early to go on our only group trip of the semester.  Apparently this trip was included in our program fee so we were pretty much just along for the ride.  There wasn’t a ton of exciting things that we did on this trip, but we got to see a lot of countryside.  We went to three or four temples and pagodas.  All of them had their unique story, but none of us could really understand the guide that was with us.  You’ll just have to look at the pictures to see what the places were like.  We got the chance to see a couple of small cities (Suzhou and Hangzhou) that lie on the outskirts of Shanghai.  We really stood out at these towns since they aren’t as westernized as Shanghai is.  We finally understood how pampered we’ve been in Shanghai where a lot of people know a little English.  It was also really interesting to see how crowed some of the markets were.  In some areas I just had to follow the crowd because there wasn’t anywhere else to go.  I also enjoyed being able to see over everyone, it was awesome!  We had the opportunity to have tea in Hangzhou that is apparently very famous for its tea.  We also went to a cave for a short period of time, it was the most commercialized cave I’ve ever been in though.  You’ll have to see the fake dinosaur bones that they had put in it.  In the end I really enjoyed our trip, but nothing was really that memorable.  Our tour guide went through a list of our names at the end and said something about all of us.  Apparently I look French?

Today I got up to watch the Super Bowl. We got to the sports bar around 7 am which turned out to be a nice change from the 4 am NFC championship we watched a couple weeks ago.  Personally, I thought it was a pretty good game.  But I would've been completely fine with both teams losing!  I’ve enjoyed reading your responses so far, so keep ‘em coming!   And stay safe with all the snow and ice going on back home!
I also have posted a bunch of new pictures and a video here:

Video of Fireworks


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chinese tea, KFC and Japanese food

Hello again!  I hope this post finds you all doing well.  I’d like to thank everyone who commented the last go around, it made me feel a little more confident in myself!  We really started to get into the swing of things this last week, at least as much as we can in a foreign country!  This post covers everything from KTV (karaoke), tea houses, old people, amazing food, and 4am football games.

Last Thursday we were officially greeted to Shanghai Jiaotong University at a formal dinner.  This was honestly the first time that my tastes have been challenged.  We had cold duck, jellyfish, bean paste desert, cuttlefish, and a multitude of other interesting dishes.  I left with a full stomach, but it was full of odd things for sure.  Apparently there was a bit of a mix up and we were put in the same room as a rambunctious group with only wicker screens to “divide” us.  We could easily see and hear them though this screens though.  They were having chugging contests with full glass of wine and other forms of alcohol and they also had karaoke going which turned out to be painful for us.  For whatever reason, the restaurant was unable to keep the microphone from squealing every 30 seconds.  I thought my head would explode.  It was later explained to us that this was an employee only dinner to celebrate the previous year.  Talk about a company party…

After this dinner we were taken to a different area where we took part in KTV, or for those of you not familiar with Chinese terminology…karaoke.  None of us really knew what to think when we were told that we were going to a karaoke club after dinner, but we decided we would go a long with it.  It turned out to be rooms of varying size with a laser show, tv, microphones, and touch screen for song selection.  This actually turned out to be a really fun time since we got to hang out and sing with our T.A.s and each other.

I had a really interesting run in with an older gentleman last weekend.  I was in the dining court eating lunch at the time.  I had my head down in my bowl in an attempt to prevent the noodles from my soup flicking the delicious concoction all over myself.  This has been a meal that I’ve spent a long time mastering.  After I got some noodles into my mouth, I immediately checked my jacket to make sure I didn’t get anything on myself.  Then I looked up and was shocked to see this old guy staring at me from about three feet away.  I’ve gotten used to people staring, but they generally keep their distance.  Fortunately this guy knew English and just wanted to chat a little.  He was absolutely thrilled to hear that there were 30 of us from America studying at the university.

On Sunday a group of use decided to go to an all-you-can eat Japanese restaurant for someone’s birthday.  It’s the most expensive meal I’ve had here, but it was still only about $26.  This got us all the food we could eat as quickly the chef could prepare it.  We had some of the finest cuts of beef and lamb that I’ve ever had.  We stayed as long as we could manage and when we left I was by far the most content I’ve been on this trip.  For the next day or so I couldn’t even imagine eating anything more.  Unfortunately the next day we had a formal lunch for our culture class which resulted in me eating even more.  Then, sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, 7 of the 11 of us that went to the Japanese place went down with some sort of stomach bug.  Thankfully, I didn’t get the worst of it and by now we’re pretty much back to normal.

We have also gone on a couple field trips with our Chinese culture course.  We went to a tea house where we were able to snack on some interesting fruits and nuts that were provided and order some tea that no one seemed to really enjoy.  I only heard of one person ordering something that was enjoyed by everyone in their group.  We also got to go to the Shanghai Museum of Arts and Crafts.  This was a really neat place to go, they had everything from needlework to ivory carvings.  Some of the things were priceless while others could be bought from $7 to $60,000.  It was really interesting because we got to meet a lot of the artists while they were working. 

Well that’s all for now.  I know it’s still kinda long, but there’s so much going on here that I wanted to write about.  I also have a good friend from back home wondering why he hasn’t been included yet.  Ben Hebbe, this is for you!  Just follow the link.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who knew that shopping could actually be fun...

Hello again!  I hope this finds everyone doing well back home.  Just as a warning, this post is a little longer.  I know a lot of you are busy with school or work so let me know if this is post is an acceptable length or a too long.  I fixed the commenting section so you should be able to do that easier now.  Just choose anonymous from the drop down menu, just include your name in your post so that I know how to respond to you.  Thanks!
The hotel we're staying at

This last week has definitely had its ups and downs.  We dove into classes this week and so far, they have been long, boring, and cold.  Classes start around 8:30 or 10 in the morning and end at 3 or 4:15 respectively.  We do get 10 minute breaks every hour and a half or so and a break for lunch.  In the end, it means for a long day in a cold room.  Fortunately, our language course has immediate application and our culture class is pretty interesting if only because of our teacher.  It’s really interesting to consider that Chinese culture and history goes back for 4,000 years while America is less than 300 years old.

Lost in translation...
I also want to take some time to talk about a couple of the stereotypes that follow Chinese people over to America.  Keep in mind that these are just observations.  Smoking, everyone does it.  I have no idea why it’s so popular, but it seems like many Chinese people smoke.  The weird part is seeing people smoke in restaurants and other public places.  It’s been a long time since people have been able to do that in America and it took a while to get used to.  Driving also comes to mind when discussing stereotypes about the Chinese.  I can completely see this, the driving here is insane!  With all the mopeds, bicycles, cars, trucks and pedestrians weaving in and out of each other, I’m amazed that I haven’t seen someone killed yet.  I myself have almost been hit my several mopeds, and on one occasion, a bus.  (Don’t worry Mom, I jumped out of the way in time!)  It truly is an amazing thing to see the way traffic moves here.  It all seems so much more efficient.  I now understand that if a Chinese person, with a lot of experience driving here, goes to America and tries to drive the same way they would be considered a menace on the roads. 

On Thursday, I realized that I needed some more essential clothing supplies.  This resulted in me going off into the city to find a Carrefour store.  This store was described to me as the “Meijer of China.”  I can only describe this store as a Meijer, underground, compacted, with traffic comparable with the vehicles above ground, and samples of alcohol (Baileys).  I went there to find some shirts/underwear/socks but the only clothing items they had really confused me.  It amounted to what appeared to be fleece onesies in sizes much smaller than what I need.  I think they are also considered men’s intimate apparel based on the number of couples looking at them, the ornate boxes, the words “enjoy yourself” written all over the packages, the women’s lingerie positioned next door to the display, and all the quizzical looks I received by looking at it myself.  In the end, I left with a demonic looking rabbit that was in the Chinese new year section.  It was also interesting going through the city myself to see how many people stared at me, which in groups it isn’t as noticeable.  But by myself, I was able to see that most people stared at me as I walked past them or stood at an intersection.

On Friday evening I finally got a taste of bartering here in China.  And I must say, if shopping was more like this in the States, I wouldn’t dread doing it so much!  It’s very satisfying to see an item listed at 400 Yuan and immediately give and offering price of 75 Yuan.  The shopping center also had an older feel to it.  That was really nice since all we have seen so far is modern looking architecture.  I was also able to walk out of a couple of the shops with really nice things that I’m sure people back home will really enjoy.  I’ve decided that I need to go there with a pre-determined amount of money so that I don’t spend more than I can afford.  This is honestly the first time I’ve ever had the sentiment that I can spend more than financially feasible, good thing I have the parent’s credit card for “emergency” situations!  (Again Mom, just kidding!)

If you want to send me a letter in the mail for some reason, the address is as follows:
Shanghai Jiao Tong University Faculty Club
Grant Robinson - Room 318
No. 1954 Huashan Road
Shanghai 200030
Anything you send to that address needs to arrive before February 19th.  I have no idea how long it takes for something to get here.

Check the links to more photos below.  The new photos start with an empty juice bottle.  I know, really exciting.  And that's all for now, leave comments if you dare!

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Impressions...

Hello from Shanghai!  For all of you who were wondering, we all made it here safely and without any problems.  The flights themselves were not as bad as I originally expected.  The 14 hour flight from Chicago to Seoul, South Korea had plenty of food and several horrendous movies to help me fall asleep.  I had a window seat for the flight from Seoul to Shanghai and it gave me a great view of some of the islands surrounding the airport when leaving Seoul.

This is the end of my third day in Shanghai, and all I can say is that the city is amazing.  There is so much to see and I know I’ve only scratched the surface.  The first night we were here, a group of us walked around an area that had a huge amount of malls and shopping centers.  The next day (Saturday) led to more exploring as we tried out some local restaurants and looked around some of the shops.  We found some great places that I’m sure we’ll go to frequently throughout our time here.

On Sunday a group of us decided to tackle the subway system here in the city.  After beating the language barrier we were able to get our passes and picked a random stop to get off at because it was close to a river that we never saw.  This section of town was much less western with most of the shops being holes in the wall that didn’t sell designer jeans.  We did find a plethora of places that tailored suits and jackets.  I know that I’ll definitely be going back there for a couple suits in the future!  It was also amazing to see that way that people lived in this area.  I can’t even begin to describe some of it, you’ll just have to go see the pictures here.

Another thing that most people will find strange is that the buildings here do not have heat.  Each room in the hotel and university buildings has its own heater.  In most cases, doors to outside are left open which can leave the hallways very cold.  This has become a much larger problem now that classes have started and we’re sitting in the same room for six hours a day.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now.  You can check out more photos below.  I look forward to hearing everyone!