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'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