Sunday, July 19, 2009

Things from Qingdao

First off, we were approached Monday by a professor on campus (one that we don't know) and he asked if we could speak chinese (me, Jackson, and Garrett) then asked if we would be willing to go on Tuesday to the local beach to hang out with some 12 and 13 year old kids to just interact (in english and chinese). We had no idea what was really going on with that, but we said ok. Tuesday he picks us up in a cab, we go to the beach, there are tons of people there (we live about 10 minute drive from the beach), and there is a group of about 20 kids in blue t-shirts. We introduced ourselves in english and chinese (a few kids could understand okay, but the majority were lost) and we spent the next 4 hours just playing at the beach. We were in the water for a while, and eventually settled on building a huge sand castle/hill with a network of moats around to keep the tide from reaching the castle. That was fun. Then the head teacher wanted us to teach the kids a song, so the three of us talked about it and I decided the Hokie Pokie might be the best idea. So the head teacher had me put on a portable mic and speaker and i stood in the middle of this circle of kids teaching the hokie pokie. They did really well with it, and really enjoyed it. At the end I was singing and not moving, and the kids had to listen to what part of the body to put in and out and they did well. A few came up to me after and said i was a good dancer...haha...

One girl, Zhan (english name, Jan) talked to me a bit. She's 13. We talked about her school, about what she thinks about the big college entrance exams (because she'll start preparing for that within the year...). I also learned the group is from the furthest city away from the east coast of China (in Xinjiang province). This was their first time seeing the beach and ocean (just a class trip/vacation before summer break). She loves going on-line, loves to run, and has no idea what she wants to do when she grows up, as is the case with the all chinese kids i've met.

The other neat thing that happened this week was yesterday. We all decided to go to the beach (on our own) for the first time. Just to chill. So we went, played in the water for a bit, then got on the beach (inland a ways) and started building a sand castle. But as we were each building our own thing, I began making a dragon head instead of a castle, and the rest joined in and we ended up spending about 2 or 3 hours building this 10 foot long dragon that attracted mobs of people. People were standing around for a good hour before leaving, and they just kept coming and watching and taking photos of us, or they'd come stand near it and take photos with it. We liked the attention. We plan to go back in a couple weeks and make a bigger something and see if we can't get in the paper a 4th time (well, me and jackson have each been in the news 3 times sofar).

Last Friday we went out to some clubs and danced and such. Twas fun. I normally don't do that, but we all had a place to stay (one of the upper level students has an apartment so we just slept there, all 6 of us). Today we are going out to eat breakfast, and then buy some HSK (the standard chinese proficiency test) prep material just because we want to see what's in it. I feel like my speaking has been pretty off lately, but my listening has been fine, and I've finally started to read the paper. It's cool... I can now read the paper... not the easiest thing, but I can get through 2 or 3 articles a day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Only a month left

How the time flies.  I'm sitting here in this huge fancy mall at Costa Coffee, now my favorite coffee time/ study place.  The semester has flown by, and as much time that has elapsed since last post, I can speak in general and sum things up pretty well.

Here is my schedule that I've had nearly every day this semester:
5:15am, wake up, go running at the track with all the old people
6:30am, head out to the metro to get to Huangpi Nan Lu
*I do all my reading and vocab memorization on the metro, much easier to focus than when I'm sitting at home or anywhere near my computer...

7:10am, arrive at Hungpi Nan Lu, walk across the street to Wagas, order scrambled eggs with toast and a medium cappuccino.
* They recognize me, always leave the power strip sitting next to my table.  I use the brown coffee sugar on my eggs and toast, makes for a tasty breakfast

9am, get back on the metro and head back to campus

10am, start class

12pm, lunch at the "Foreign Student Cafe", as we've nicknamed it...

3pm, class ends, head home to play some piano and start studying, or head out to some cafe to start studying (Tues and Friday are Internship days, so I go there instead).

10:30pm, try to get to bed... most days by 11pm I'm able to get some sleep.  Just been really tired from all the studying.

Friday - Sunday, I tend to sleep in till 6am (Sat or Sun I just don't go running, sleep in till I wake up), and study, work on some music, talk to friends in the US online.

Basically, all I do is study Chinese.  Kid you not, from 3pm till about 10pm I'm in my books, trying to memorize the 50 characters or so for the next day's quiz, doing all my readings, written hw, etc.  So much to do!  No time to really get out.  I haven't explored much of Shanghai, maybe a day's worth of tooling around, but really I'm so busy I just head out to a popular area, get to a Costa Coffee (they're everywhere, and they have free wifi and plenty of outlets), and just study for several hours.

The main troubles I've had here are 1) retaining stuff from class and 2) dealing with all the oil in the food my host ma makes.  Don't get me wrong, the food is very tasty and very chinese... just the "thing" with Shanghai food is that Shanghainese people love a lot of oil.  That's one of the reasons I head out for breakfast, just so I don't start off the day with an upset stomach... haha... (other reasons being I study better on the metro and outside my room, and I love being out in the morning).

Speaking of studying a lot, I'm on 'vacation' this week, and I need to get working on my homework for next Monday.  It never ends... well, actually it will.  In 30 days.

Till next time.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day 7

So sorry it's be a while... things have been smooth the past week.  Just adjusting, getting used to the family flow and whatnot.  Tomorrow is the first day of classes, so I'll let you know how that goes.  For now, I'll list off a few things, tell a brief summary of it, and we'll go from there.

Host Family
They are great.  Mama is a retired factory worker who loves to sing karaoke, play piano, dance, and try to guess what foods I like and don't like.  She always says "americans don't like this", but then I tell her I am different... that I do like a lot of "those" things, and it confounds her.  She doesn't seem to believe me, but I eat it, and I think she's slowly getting used to it.  haha..
Baba works about 9am-7pm at one of the local universities.  I reckon my university is English focused, and the one he works at is Russian focused.  So he speaks Russian.  Which he told me, obviously does us no good...haha...
Gege (brother) is a manager at a computer company.  Works from 10am-8pm or so sometimes later.  He loves American Movies... and video games.  Pete would like him...ha

The thing that I like most about them is they aren't overwhelming.  The other homestay kids say their families cook huge meals every night, and shower them with stuff.  My family: very chill, haven't had a meal with more than 1 person at a time, no over feeding, no showering of stuff... exactly what I hoped for.  I reckon the guy they had last semester was said to know chinese, but they told me he spoke next to no chinese, and it was difficult.  He loved sitting in his room watching US movies that he bought for cheap on the street, so they assume I love it too.  I don't watch any movies.  They also assumed I love to drink beer, and that I hate Fensi (粉丝, a type of noodles), which happens to be my favorite (it's the clear kind...).  But they are getting used to me.  Mama is comfortable with my chinese now, and Baba is still not convinced I understand anything .... haha... He hasn't met an american who speaks any decent amount of Chinese.  But I understand most of what they say.  I also translate a lot for the other homestays.  I am the only one who speaks enough chinese... most don't know any.  So some random host mom will come down and ask "Lu-keh, what is he saying!?" and I'll intermediate... it's fun.

Interviews for Internships
Have been alright.  In the least, I've had to figure out how to get around Shanghai all on my own.  The company I think I'm going with is Student Quest, who basically recruits Chinese University students to work summer jobs in the US as part of a English/culture experience.  I like them mostly because their office is right in the middle of a popular part of Shanghai, the metro lets off right at the foot of their building, and they are on the 11th floor with a great great view of the city, and I might get to travel around China with them for presentations and whatnot.

Again, it's all tasty, but so so much oil.  I love the food at the small restaurants, get a meal for $1.20 USD.  My host mom and dad say... "you are young, and so need to eat more."  I say... I'm honestly full enough.  If I eat too much, I'll feel sick.  And other past homestays say they gained a ton of weight, which I don't want to do... ha...  Also, another logic thing that isn't so much related to food, but along the same lines as "if you don't eat more, you'll be hungry...": they keep telling me I'm not wearing enough clothes, that it's too cold in the house.  But I'm a warm blooded kinda guy.  I'm fine.  I feel hot with my sweatshirt on, but they aren't convinced even when I tell them "I'm too hot, so I'll take off my sweater..."

That's all for now.  Need some sleep!  Oh, and my class schedule is great: 10am-3pm, Mon-Thurs.  12-1 we have lunch, so yeah.  


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adventure from Day 1...

Basically what happened, was I needed to get my electronic dictionary fixed. For some reason, it was doing fine for the 1st several weeks of my owning it, but then it would either not turn on, or it would turn on to the 'welcome' screen, but not let me use it. Yep.

So I explained all that to the lady (who works for this electronics place) in Chinese, and she was messing with it, and she eventually says "it's probly the battery, go to 'this' place and you can find one for cheap." I tell her... "ok, where is 'this' place?" She says, "don't worry, I'll take you there."

Very kind and not normal. She goes to the back, takes off her work apron, tells a few people she'll be back in a little bit, then we start walking. 5 minutes later, we get to this battery stand, and she starts explaining things and trying out batteries... really helping me out a lot, taking care of the situation. Granted, we finally come to the conclusion that the issue isn't the battery, it's my dictionary that has the issue, so yeah, no need to have made the trip but oh well.

We walked back, I thanked her (a ton...) and she kept saying "oh, it's no big thing, don't worry about it!" So I learned some strangers will help and they are honest. Fun, and totally 100% in Chinese.

More on Day 2 coming soon...!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 1

It's begun.  (technically, yesterday...).  We went through orientation, which was basically a 3 hours talk on alcohol.  Very dissapointing us "Americans" have to be lectured on this so much... They played us a video of a bunch of Chinese students on campus, asking them questions about American students.  They said we like to go out to bars, and are normally "strong-willed and spontaneous", which I took to mean "noisy and reckless".  Hmm.

I like the staff.  All very nice and professional, they speak Chinese to us (when appropriate... a lot of kids here don't speak much Mandarin).  After introductions and the alcohol talk, we were split up into groups of 7.  My group was me, Ken (Penn State), and 5 other girls.  They're all very nice, talkative (but not excessive), and we've all been bonding in our experiences here sofar.  Granted, I'm used to the Asian-ness of things, like traffic and food and whatnot, but it's still fun to see them wide-eyed about it all.

Our group went to a homestay to eat food, as did every group.  I was the only lucky one of the homestay students, cuz we ate at my homestay!  Joy.  My host mom was the only one there though, with her friend, but she's very nice and oh so excited to have us over.  I reckon she had a student last semester, whom they said 'spoke some chinese', but she said he didn't speak any... and she was so surprised I could speak, so she talked my ear off about the house and 'do you like your room?  is the bathroom big enough, cuz if not you just come and use the big one in our room..." etc... haha...  But yeah, I move in tonight or tomorrow... she says tonight, the program schedule says tomorrow.

My room, btw, is sweet.  At least as big as my hotel room here (2 person room).  Got a bed, lazy boy chair, big closet, a tv, speakers, a great view... I'll take some pics and you'll see better...

Speaking of which, here are some photos of our hotel room (I'm rooming with one other homestay, Matt from Lawrence, NY.)

Next we went to this huge 15 story mall, Zhongshan Park Mall.  Spent 2 hours buying, waiting for others to buy phones.  Finally, time to go home, I take Matt and this other IU girl to eat at a local small place, help them order chinese food, and it was delicious.

Not much more than that... one adventure to tell from yesterday, but I must be off.


Saturday, February 14, 2009


Hey everyone.  It's been a while, but now I'm in Incheon Airport waiting to get on a 1hr 50min flight to Shanghai. Great weather sofar in Korea, maybe 40-50 degrees out.  Sept for today, in which case it snowed.  It also snowed the day I arrived in Korea, so... a sign?  haha...

My time in Korea was good, though not much to report about.  Parents went to DC for interviews and such, so I was alone for a week.  Pretty much just go up, went for a run, went out to one of the local pastry shops, got some coffee and ate breakfast while studying chinese, get home, make lunch, make some music on the computer, teach piano after school, go somewhere for dinner, and the day is done.  Not too much venturing, but it was a good time.  No school, no stress.

It feels like I'm used to Asia now.  I hear "10,000 won" and it's no biggie (10,000 won is about $7.50 US right now...).  So I'm not super excited for Shanghai.  I'm ready to be there, to get things going, but I'm not bouncing off the walls or anything.  I just hope my mandarin is doing ok... I've been studying a lot, but not speaking a ton.  I mostly just watch Shin Chan in Chinese, and it's amusing.  I understand everything they say now.  So yippee.

I hope I get to move in with my host family today.  Living out of my suitcase in the dorms doesn't seem so great... but I'll keep you posted.  Once I get some internet, let you know what's up.

Till then, 再见!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I've been home since last Wednesday, and boy does it feel good.  No stress, mom cooking, snow, and central heating.  I enjoyed Hefei, don't get me wrong, it's just things really are different between a US military base and some not-completely-modernized-China-city.  For now, I'd like to share my internship experience.

Basically, my duty was to come up with activities and lesson plans for kids.  That's all the instruction I got when I arrived.  Originally they were going to do an english class focusing on furniture, but then bagged that for something more fun and made by a "native English speaker", aka moi.  Really, no direction, but no worries, I was prepared for something like that.  I knew things in China tended to be a bit less directed, with lots of phrases coming from my Chinese counterparts that sounded like, "yeah, sure, sounds good, whatever you think, that'll be fine...what do you think should happen?" and so on.  Nothing negative. 

Great and not great.
Great because the pressure of doing things perfect for their standards is eliminated, even though I don't know their standards.  I want to stand out from other interns, but at the same time be me. 
Not great because I'm completely indecisive, not to mention I have no idea if they're really impressed like they say, or if it's just nice words to not hurt me.

Either way, things got going.  Not until about 2 days before (after 1.5 weeks of planning an event I had no specs on, like duration, attendance, ages, English level...), June, my go-to lady, asked, "so how should we do the class?  how many hours?  what ages?  what days?"  Of which I had no clue.  Eventually I got them to give me a list of their clients and kids they thought would come, and divided it all up.  2 parties for kids 8-13yrs old, then 1 party for 14-20, all 2 hours each.  I had several topics and activities lined up, of which I whittled down to 3 activities and 3 topics.  Things worked out to be Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, 2-4pm.

Our topics were "Snowmen and wintery words", "winter clothes", and "winter foods".  The 1st activity with the little kids was cutting snowflakes out of paper after we discussed snowmen.  I'm sure you've all done this; fold a piece of paper a few times, cut designs, then unfold and voila, a personalized snowflake.  They loved it... twas like a magic show when we first introduced it, since none of them had experienced this before.

The 2nd activity was taking pics of animals doing winter activities (cartoony, not clothed), and adding color and clothing.  This was just great fun.  I made my own example, using yarn and different colored paper to make something everyone oohed and aahhed over.   That was just a great time.  They enjoyed being creative and talking about the clothing they were making, what they liked to do in the winter, why choose their colors, etc.  This we did with the older group too, and they thought it was a great way to study English...

The 3rd activity, the coup de gras, was marshmallow snowmen.  Going along with the food theme, and the 1st theme, we took very chinese versions of snacks and made edible snowmen.  We handed out the marshmallows (filled with orange goo), vegi flavored breadsticks, strawberry jam, and fruit rolls, and said "don't eat a thing.  just wait and watch".  There of course was curiosity in the air, what did this stuff mean?  Then I take the 1st three marshmallows and stack them ontop of each other... then everyone erupts in unison into a "ooohhhh....i see!" Then it was off to the races.  This was my favorite activity, since it was very unique, and they hadn't done this before either.  They loved it to.  Go to my facebook and check out the photos.  Fun times.

In addition to that, I prepared and taught the weekly Staff English class, last hour of work on Friday.  This I had no idea.  Twas alright, but the staff turned out to have no english skills.  Could read a little, but I had to translate the entire lesson on the spot...
1st topic was "Fighting the Cold", and was pretty simple vocab to be applied.  What I figured out was they had a small vocabulary, so words to describe were alright to use, but then they also had no grammar training, so the vocab, though appropriate, was not easily carried to everyday talking.
2nd topic was better, I think, and was appropriately titled, "Whadayathink?", or "what do you think?"  This one we explored some adjectives and short phrases that you could link to a feeling or situation, but needed no grammatical skills nor restructuring.  Things like "fantastic", or "who knows" or my favorite, "for some reason".

Overall, I felt it was a learning experience.  Nothing that I really ever wanted to do, but I'm glad I did it.  I don't like being a teacher of English.  It's not terrible, just I either need more preparation time, guidelines.... don't know.  I'm not very talkative, so it's hard to be entertaining.  Luckily, this was a Winter Party, so we did activities along with lecture, so it all worked out.

Alright.  Bedtime.  Oh, and it snowed today, quite a bit.  I'm happy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I fear I'm sounding like a pessimist when I talk about all these differences and such.  However, now that I and you have recognized that, I'd like to talk about a few things that I've noticed over that week.  

Today was good.  Nothing big or too special.  I'm almost done making the invitations to go out, and I'm mostly done with the powerpoint slides, and have a few pages done for coloring activities.  Luckily the other american girl at the office is willing to help.  They want me to change my flight plan to the 23rd if possible, but I'm pretty sure it's set in stone already.

Riding the bus has been fine, but the traffic is just stressful.  I'm not worried or anything, just all the people go as fast as they can till they absolutely have to stop.  And there are no lanes.  People drive where there is open road, even if on the opposite side of the street.... And I am growing tired of all the older people snorting and hawking and spitting.  It's gross and loud.  Even in stores with tiled floors, they'll just spit.  And most everyone talks way to loud on their phone.  At the restaurant this evening, this lady by me was literally yelling in her phone, but she wasn't yelling at anyone, just giving directions... sheesh...

But I've had a good day.  Talked to a few people in chinese.  Now I'm at this Vienna Cafe.  Kinda expensive, but they let me pick a red envelope hanging off their christmas tree yesterday (i think cuz they like me) and I got a free coffee for today.  Otherwise I'd be at home.

I feel like my Chinese really hasn't seen much improvement.  I can talk to people just fine, but I still feel like my tones aren't clear, and for some reason it's difficult to get the words out how I want.  I don't talk to older people cuz they all talk too fast, and a good chunk of them speak in Hefei dialect, which is incomprehensible.  

That's about it for now.  1st Winter Holiday Party for the kids is more than likely this Friday, so any of you planning to have a chat with God soon, put one up for me.  I have no idea how I am with kids....

Sunday, January 4, 2009

China is different than America...

The first thing you notice is traffic.  People in the city drive where they want, no mind road signs, lanes, other cars, etc.  Granted, unlike in Korea, everyone stops for redlights.  People drive in both lanes at one time (half car in each lane), and they even drive on the opposite side of the road if they don't feel like waiting.  Horns blare the whole time, sometimes just to let others know where you are, other times just to help the driver yell at whoever's in the way.  Pedestrians dart out in the road to cross the street, and there are motor scooters and bikes everywhere.  Everyone pays attention though.  Everyone moves out of the way, even when it seems like the other driver is just carelessly changing lanes.  Also, everyone drives really really slow.  Everyone.  So as crazy as it is, I doubt you'd cause any damage if you ran into anyone.

All the old guys spit.  All the time.  Very noisily.  I can't imagine what you'd need to spit out?  Saliva?  It's not that I think I "shouldn't" spit, but personally I can't think of what I need to spit out.  It's not just old men.  Most any person, young or old, guy or girl, spit, just old guys more noticeably.  Also, people don't spit in the traffic, or even on the side of the road or sidewalk.  They just spit right down at their feet.  Even on the walk paths on this mountain we climbed today, there's all the space in the world to spit and not be in anyones way.  But there was still spit all over the path.  ....  ew ...

It seems like everyone but Anna smokes in China.  All public places are fine to smoke in.  Even the elevator.  Maybe not Walmart.  Haven't seen that yet.  But that could be the exception to the norm.

Everything is cheap.  Mostly.  My cell phone was around $120 US.  A good example is I bought a washcloth for ¥5 and a travel mug for ¥10.  In US dollars, they were 7 dimes and $1.40, respectively.  Food is cheap too.  In Fuzhou, me and Anna had a plate of Cabbage Hearts, this spicy beef and red pepper dish, and a large bowl of spicy stuff with a big cooked fish in the middle.  Each dish was bigger than what you could get at Applebees for $10.  And the total price for all three was about ¥60, which is just under $9.

Not as available as in the US.  And the prices are quite high.  In the airport in Fuzhou, 1 Caramel Cappuccino is about ¥58,  or just under $9 US.  Other places aren't so bad, but still not so great.  Starbucks is still about $4-5 per cup.  My usual Tall drip coffee is ¥15, just over $2, whereas in the States it's only $1.34.

All cheap, all tasty.  Though, much too much oil!  I'll take a photo.  So now I feel fat eating so much oily tasties.  I figured out I can eat a good breakfast for ¥2, lunch for under ¥5, and dinner (if I go really fancy) for under ¥20.  ¥27 per day means my 2 weeks here in Hefei is ¥378, or just over $55.  I kid you not, that is on the cheap side of things!  It'll probly turn out to be less than that.  Though, I might buy some Mandarin oranges for snack, which cost about 10 cents in US dollars.

They tell me "don't do it."  Supposedly the air is so bad pretty much everywhere that going running will do more harm than good.  I think I'll go running anyway.  I feel like crap, since I haven't been exercising, and all the food is oily.  Granted, we walk a ton, but that's still not enough for me.

I'll post more things like this when I find the time.  For now, enjoy your clean water and clean air...!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Day 2 is nearly over. Technically, I got in last night, so this was the 1st full day of stuff. It's been good. Way too much food, but that's never a problem. Anna's parents are fun, kinda quiet at times (especially when I first arrived), but now that they're getting used to speaking Chinese around me, and figuring out what I understand and don't understand, they speak a bit more to me. Most of the time though, they speak Chinese to Anna, and through her talk to me. She basically dumbs it down for me...

Fuzhou is big and busy. In the middle of the city, you probly wouldn't be able to distinguish between there and Beijing. Granted, there may be a few less skyscrapers, but it certainly isn't lacking in people and noise.

Today I met up with Anna's friend Dingding, whom I helped earlier this semester with her english oral presentation over the IM. We went and bought me a dictionary for 998 yuan (about $150 US), and a cell phone for 680 yuan (about $80). Both very sleak and neato. We'll see if I can get picks up soon.

The cool thing about today was that I saw no other white people. All Chinese since I left the airport yesterday at 6:30pm. Lots of people looking at me, others not seeming to notice. Most of the people we had to talk to (like attendants and waiteresses) were surprised I knew any Chinese at all. The conversation is normally (they say in Mandarin), "Is he from America?", then Dingding or Anna will say, "Ask him yourself" then they all "oo" and "ah" and "you speak chinese?!" It's fun. granted, I still feel like a nuisance since I'm not really that good at the language yet. I understand most everything that isn't technical language (like buying a phone, I catch only very little, talking about where I'm from on the bus is easy).

We had a huge meal at this restaurant tonight, and thus I'm tired beyond my thinking capacity. I'll depict it tomorrow, get some photos up, and all will be right in the world.