Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We have reached the end my friend

Well I have arrived safely back in the good 'ol US of A. The flight back from Shanghai was so much better than the one to Beijing which made it much easier to survive. I was up for a grand total of 30 hours this go around so my bed Monday night felt fantastic. 

The wrap up in Shanghai was pretty fun. A fellow student and I, Robert, took the subway to the Shanghai Aquarium which is supposedly one of the best aquariums in all of Asia. It was pretty interesting, but nothing that I have not seen before. The penguin exhibit was shut down for maintenance which was very disappointing but the aquarium did boast the longest under water tunnel which was very cool.

For the final day I spent it with another student, Cosmo, who took me to a parkour gym so I was able to watch people run around and jump off extremely high places. It was a lot of fun, we went out to dinner afterwards with all the people from the gym for our final Chinese meal.

Overall this was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot not only about China but about myself.
I learned that I can do things on my own.
I learned that I can wander around a foreign city and not die.
I learned that I can handle a lot more than I ever thought I could.

For the final night we had a very nice dinner and shared our final thoughts on China. I think that if you are ever given the opportunity to travel to another country in a fashion such as this, you should. There is nothing like experiencing a different country (a VERY different country) like a local of some sorts.

Always take each experience for what it is and try not to put any expectations on the local people. Each city has its own vibe and feel and it should be respected for that.

Do not be afraid to try new things, I ate a scorpion for heavens sake!

There likely will not be a next time, for this blog at least, so I leave you here faithful readers with one of my favorite quotes from Confucius:

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Video from the Great Wall

My professor, Hamilton Bean, put together a video from our trek up the Great Wall.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Personal Space

I have realized that I hate being touched. I knew this before I came to China but this country has really solidified it for me. The concept of personal space is non-existent in China, well that is probably a fallacy, I am sure that they know what it is but they do not abide by it. I also do not do well in large crowds of people so visiting these historical sites has been . . . an adventure to say the very least.

Today was one of the worst days we have had so far as amounts of people are concerned. We went to the French area of Shanghai which was really interesting. We had about an hour to walk around a hu-tong (I think I spelled that right . . .) and I bought a fabulous clutch with brass knuckles and skulls on it (picture in slideshow). After that we went to a very traditional Shanghai(ian?) restuarant and had a noodle lunch. It was delicious! Following lunch we went to another garden that was beautiful but it had many more people than the one yesterday did which made it obnoxious. There were more huge koi that were being fed by people, it was super entertaining. When I worked at Petsmart my favorite part of pet care was the ability to feed the koi because they always lose their minds.

After the garden we were able to walk around and do some more shopping in the area. The amount of people was insane. I believe I heard one of the ICB students saying that today was children's day and so it seemed that there was a mass group of children everywhere you turned, and we all know how much I just love children.

So far we have bid farewell to two of our students that had to leave early, one of them being my roommate Jourdan so I will be in my room alone for the duration of the trip. It should be interesting but I am sure that I will manage, I always do.

Till next time gentle readers . . .

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shanghai slideshow

Shanghai express train

Well we are not on a train anymore but we did take a train to get to Shanghai. The forewarning about Shanghai was completely accurate. Beijing (if I failed to mention it before) has a very rustic feeling about it, there are run down buildings and areas of the city that could really use some upkeep but it is very friendly. As one of our ICB (International College of Beijing if I have failed to mention that as well) pointed out Beijing people will accept anyone, it does not matter how much money they make as long as they are a good person.

The silk worm factory
& process
Photo courtesy of Amy
Well Shanghai has been describe by many as a New York City or Chicago and they are not wrong. It is very Westernized and feels like you are back in the States, except you cannot read any of the signs. There are parts of me that really enjoy this because it makes me more comfortable but at the same time, the rustic nature of Beijing was just what you think of when you think of China.

Also, apologies for the lack of a blog yesterday, we had a camera melt down.

Yesterday we went to the Pearl TV Tower which is the 3rd highest building in Asia and you are able to go up in the ball of it and look around the city. There is also a level that has a sky walk and so you can see down. It was really cool to get a view of the city but it felt again, very Western like we were at the Space Needle or something of the like. On the first level of the Pearl TV Tower there is a museum about the history of Shanghai which was really interesting. Shanghai has only been in existence for a few hundred years compared to the thousands of years of Beijing or a similar city. I think this is what has lead to the mass amounts of Western influence really. After the TV tower we took a very non-amusing cable car ride under the river. It was not amusing simply because it was slow and built for 5 year-olds.

Today we went to a different province which was another 2 hour bus ride away, it was really interesting to see some of the country-side and the amount of factories that are out there. Once we arrived we went to a garden that was amazing. It was very peaceful and serine . . . except for the mass amounts of people. They also had some of the largest koi fish I have ever seen in my life and I have seen some big ones. After the garden we got some lunch at a very Western buffet. They served all American food and looked like there was only Americans in there. I think the culture shock of that was more than any other place that we have gone to. After that incident we went to a silk factory and watched them actually take silk from silk worm phase to product phase. It was really interesting to see the entire process in work. After the silk factory we went to another Buddhist temple which was far more commercialized that any of the other ones that we have gone to. In a way it is very sad to see these once revered places of worship be dwindled down to yet another cash cow.

It was an interesting day and the contrast between Shanghai and Beijing is very interesting to see. I am looking forward to continuing to explore.

Till next time gentle readers.

We have reached the breaking point

I had a whole blog written here and it was deleted when I added this picture . . . hope the picture is awesome and worth it. =( So apologies if this blog seems short and sad, I am sad but not short.

17 days is a long time to be away from your life . . . an even longer time when you are in a completely different place that is so far from what you are used to. I have reached my breaking point in this trip (SIDE NOTE: making this whole deleting of an entire blog all the more obnoxious I might add) and its for reasons that I never imagined would cause it. 
Before this trip I had a lot of fears about coming to Asia. I took a history of China class my first semester of college and it was one of the worst experiences of my life and it turned me off from all things Asian until the opportunity to actually come was put in front of my door. Once I made the decision to make the leap I had a whole new crop of fears arise.

I was worried about the food and whether it would be to spicy for me. I was worried about getting lost and never being able to find my way. I was worried about being kidnapped and never to be heard from again.

All of these were obviously unfounded fears, the food has been great and it is very easy to find non-spicy dishes. I still cannot read a street sign to save my life but I have gotten by bearings and I find my way back to the hotel with a fair amount of ease. I also have obviously not been stolen . . . there have been a few moments where it got a bit sketchy but I made it through.

The things that I miss and make me want to go home are things like my dogs, if you know me at all then you know that my dogs are my dudes and I hate being away from them for hours let alone weeks. I miss being able to turn around without bumping into someone and I miss being able to not worry about what the situation is in the bathroom. For those that are not aware, China is apparently not to big on toilets and so a lot of bathrooms simply have a hole in the ground. It is . . . interesting and it took me a good few days to get used to (and actually use) one. I miss being able to go to the grocery store and buy whatever I feel like. Its not that I cannot do that now but I would have no clue what I was buying.

I am excited for the rest of the trip and am looking forward to how the conclusion of our narrative is going to come together but I am excited that the conclusion is close.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The top of the world!!

. . . Or pretty dang close to it. Today we climbed the Great Wall of China and it was a climb. I am not an in-shape person so this is the most I've worked out in years but it was a really great feeling to make it to the top or at least one top points.

The day started off at about 8 A.M. with most of the group intact, we had a late night last night celebrating another group members birthday at a FABULOUS karaoke bar (I think I'm gonna try to open one in Denver). A little worse for the wear we all made it on to the bus and then it was a 2 hour bus ride to the site and a small (it was not small . . . it was quite long actually) hike to the Wall itself. The view reminded me of King Kong or Lord of the Rings, it was amazingly beautiful. We trekked along the wall for almost three hours and made our way back down. Luckily there was no injury or death I am pleased to report . . . not that there was ever a risk for death, but its always possible right?

Another 2 hour bus ride back to the hotel in which maybe one person was awake (it was not me). After we got back and showered my roommate, Jourdan, and I walked to an absolutely delicious dumpling restaurant where we ate for a grand total of . . . wait for it . . . $1.62 a person, and we ate a lot!

Tomorrow we leave for Shanghai at 6:30 A.M. I am really looking forward to the perspective of a new city, I'm told it is completely different from Beijing.

Until next time gentle (and faithful) readers, we'll see you in a whole different part of the other side of the world!