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