Ping Tracker

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Things I’ve Only Seen In China

In China, there are a lot of things you’ll see and do that America just doesn’t have and doesn’t do - here are a few of them. These are probably true in other countries as well, but I obviously haven’t seen the whole world, so…..yeah, here they are.

- Ride an impossibly crowded bus with people literally pushing strangers out of their way in order to get on. I still hate this one every now and then. It seems very impolite to me.

- A country that actually likes karaoke and thinks it’s cool!!

- Students that like studying so much that they will sometimes blow off hanging out with friends to go to the library to study. Dude.

- People have no problems standing on a train or bus for hours at a time with no seats

- A majority of people actually like and genuinely prefer pop music to rock music!!!

- Older parents can legally sue their adult children for not financially providing for them

- People really like to eat cold dishes - many times preferring the 凉菜 (cold food) to the (hot food) 热菜.

 - Some meat and vegetable dishes that would normally be hot in America or in other countries are allowed to sit and get cold and are actually preferred that way. This one actually took me a little while to get used to.

- If you are a *ahem* larger person, then people will tell you ‘oh, I think you are very fat. I am so skinny’ just as a passing comment like ‘oh, you have a beard’ or ‘oh, i like your shirt’. It doesn’t sound like much, but I was genuinely shocked to hear that the first time it was said to me - it just never happened before.

- Boys wearing bright purple and pink is very common and NOT considered gay in the slightest.

- People don’t ever hug each other except when they are little kids or are together romantically (even then, it seems rare). Very, very strange for me. I have only hugged 2 people here - 1 of whom had been to America and gotten lots of hugs in America and missed being hugged (does that count?)

I’m really tired now, so I’m going to bed - if I think of any more, I’ll put them in another post. Here is the latest video:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Xi'an Pictures!! and stuff....

Holy crap, more pictures!!! Like the subject line says - they're from Xi'an. Great trip, great company, great food. Any of these pictures you can click on and it'll make it bigger :)

This is what I called in one of my videos "the poetry rock place" in the Tang Dynasty Paradise - tons of classical Chinese poems carved onto these stones

This is the Dayanta - what Chinese people consider the symbol of Xi'an.

This is an overview of part of the Tang Dynasty Paradise. It's a reconstruction of the Tang Dynasty's fabled imperial gardens, but made into a sort of theme park. It was pretty cool.

Everyone knows what these are :) 

Many of the warriors are broken and slowly being reunited with the original earth that they were made from.

A chariot dug up from the site - so cool!!! It's pretty big - though not quite life size.

One of the famous night markets in Xi'an - this one is just behind the Drum (Bell) Tower that you saw in my videos. The vendors sell a lot of Muslim food and Xi'an specialties.

Dunno....just thought this was a neat doorway

A building similar to the Drum/Bell tower, but not it.

This is the Drum/Bell tower. The night market is not too far from behind where I'm standing.

One of the amazing bronze works of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1406 BC). The Shang Dynasty bronze work was unsurpassed in its time and remained the standard for bronze work until modern times. The details worked into this are just incredible.

These, as you can see are sea shells. They were used as the first form of currency in China (I think so, anyway) and the character 贝,which means 'shell', still can mean money in some circumstances, even now.

This is a mold for the next form of money that was made, which were circular coins with square holes in the middle so people could keep them on strings. Pretty cool!

This is an example of a Tang Dynasty 三采马 (I think that's the right 采). It means "3 color horse" and is a classic image of Tang Dynasty China. I have a souvenir one that my friend bought me 

The sign said it was a mirror - but....I don't see any reflecty-mirror-ness...just really awesome artwork.

This is actually really important in Chinese history. It is the cover of one of the old Chinese Civil Service Examination tests. These tests were given to people who wanted to become civil servants and took 2-3 days to complete. The applicants wrote '8 legged essays' based upon knowledge of Confucian principles. It was used for hundreds of years for people who wanted to serve the government.

I'm going to a city called Jinchang, which is in Gansu, for the Wuyi Holiday - we have a couple of days off for that holiday and it just follows the "sports meeting", which is where students and faculty get together for three days of no class and compete in sports events and showcases of martial arts and parades and some other jolly good stuff, so all in all, we get 5 days off of school! China is great like that. We've already had one holiday and are going to have 2 more, and then the "dragon boat festival" is coming up - another holiday!

Much love, talk to you guys later!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sad News

I don't know if you remember, but in another post I mentioned that I witnessed an accident at the West Campus in which a student was struck by bricks that were blown off of a building during a sandstorm. Yesterday I found out that he died that day. I was really saddened because he was only 20 years old. It's so sad that that happened, and I'm sorry that I saw it. All of that blood on the ground and the student surrounded by people while he was having seizures and spasms on the ground. It's something that I'll sadly never be able to forget.

I also learned that another student died on that day. Apparently he was sitting at his computer for a very long time surfing the internet and watching movies, and when he got up from his computer, his body seized up and he collapsed and died soon afterward. I don't know any more than that, but it makes me even more sad.

Keep these students and their families in your thoughts and prayers if you are into that kind of thing. I'll be in touch

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Videos! AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

Finally, I can upload some videos!!! So excited!!

First: watch the video, then I'll tell you about it:

On one Friday afternoon, (this is from early March) I went my friend Rayna's house to eat lunch and just generally hang out. It was , like I said, a great lunch, but the real value that I found in the experience was being humbly invited into a stranger's house to be treated to a great meal. We watched some footage of the Japan earthquake and talked about it (in Chinese, her parents don't speak English) and I realized that although there are a lot of differences in our cultures, people are just people - they laugh, they cry, they are silly, they are serious, they have hopes, dreams, fears, and hates.

I really enjoyed seeing new parts of the city - the city square, new streets, etc. On Sunday, I made my first trip to the West Campus to meet some friends. I couldn't imagine a better first time to be on the West Campus - I met a lot of my friends that I met online and some strangers invited me to their room to cook lunch for everyone. Although we, on occasion, had some communication problems, it was a great time and I could see from the start that these were friends that I would have for the rest of my time in China, and hopefully my life - it's hard to imagine going back home and not seeing these guys all the time. It's like I've known them forever.

Xi'an was a really great experience, although I got homesick for the first time because there were so many foreigners. That pang of familiarity and hearing people speak American English really made me miss home for the first time. I've missed a few things from back home, but that was the first time that I really had a longing to be back home - I gotta say, I didn't enjoy the feeling.

I'm not sure what my favorite place in Xi'an was, but I was really blown away by how much I learned about Xi'an's history and how integral the city was in the history of China. It was the capital of many dynasties, was the beginning of the Silk Road, and was the central distribution point for the imports that came in via the Silk Road. At the Shaanxi History Museum, there was a map of the Silk Road, and it went to a million freaking places - Rome, the Mediterranean, Europe, the Middle East, the east coast of Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Russia, and even more places! I was blown away by the vastness of the scale of Chinese exports during those times - in school, you only really hear about the Silk Road going to Europe and you never think about just how many places there are to trade between China and Europe. Just amazing.

I could go on and on and on about Xi'an and China stuff in general - so if you have any questions or whatnot about the video, leave a comment!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's Been A While!

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. I have been very sick, so I haven't been in much of a mood to write….or do anything, really. I've kind of withdrawn from 'normal' life during the week or so that I've been sick and now it's a little difficult to get back into the social life. But now the weather has been getting warmer, the trees have been getting greener, the flowers are getting flower-ier, and I'm really happy about it!
Warmer weather has been a really great psychological boost - sometimes the simple things really make the day!
Today's Friday - I don't like Fridays much. I've got my really difficult Listening class and that's no fun...sometimes I feel like I've been learning too much too fast, but whatever. I always get in a little bit of a funk on Friday afternoon, but usually I manage to bump into a friend, which makes the day better. Today I bumped into Alice, who I met on a bus from the West Campus a few weeks ago. We talked about a ton of stuff for a couple of hours by the little pond on the old campus - I really enjoyed it. :)
One thing she asked me was about the differences between Chinese students and American students...I really think they are very much the same - worried about tests, homework, and in some cases, boyfriends and girlfriends. There are a lot of differences, of course - class sizes are bigger here, students take their parents' wishes a lot more seriously, and a lot of them seriously have the desire to learn a new language (English, of course). 
I dunno what else to say….stuff's been pretty much the same - I'm very much looking forward to the May holiday - we've got about a week off - people keep telling me different amounts. I want to go to Hong Kong, but I don't think I'll have enough money - I'm seriously jealous of Derek - he's going to Singapore and Malaysia.
Went to the West Campus today and spent a lot of time with some friends and had two wonderful meals at some restaurants on campus - fabulous! Sichuan Fish dishes, a sort of omelette dish with onions and meat, fried potatoes with spices, some soups, and other stuff that I can't remember. 
On a more sober note, there was a huge sandstorm this afternoon with some really, really strong winds. There was an accident by one of the buildings in which a student was hurt very badly. The way the buildings are built here are a little shabby sometimes - they are concrete blanketed with a thin layer of bricks. During the winds, some of the bricks blew off the buildings and fell onto a student after about a 5 story drop. He was hurt very badly, we could see the blood all over the ground where he fell and where it happened - it was too much blood. As he was on the ground, the head trauma caused him to have some seizures which we could see from where we were. I hope that you can keep that student in your thoughts and prayers, it was very bad. He was carried away on a stretcher and eventually an ambulance came.

I wish that my first experience with a sandstorm hadn't involved someone getting hurt, although I didn't know them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Some Pictures

Sorry that I haven't put up any pictures, it's been really hard with my internet. I've managed to get a few up on this post, but not a lot. 

The past couple of days have sucked - I've been really sick. I'm feeling better now, but definitely still sick. I'm at about 80% now, maybe 85%. The Qing Ming holiday in Xi'an was great, but it was really nice to be back in Lanzhou - in a familiar place. Some of the trees are getting green, which is actually pretty comforting. In Xi'an, there were a ton of green plants and bright colors, which cheered me up considerably when all I had seen in Lanzhou was brown and grey. I'll be back soon with more pictures, deal?

This is on my first visit to the Western Campus of LUT - on the left is Freddy and on the right laughing is Ethan. They're good friends of mine.

This is another venture to the West Campus - from left to right is Freddy, Jim Green, Janson (peace), William, and Danny. I met a lot of people that day!

The lake on the West Campus - it's pretty cool!

Me at the Gansu Provincial Museum - lots of cool Buddhist sculptures and art. In Gansu and Shaanxi, the historic Buddhist influence is really obvious.

Left/Right - Huan, Jing, Juan - they took me to the Gansu Museum, I really appreciate it and had a great time! Behind us are Buddhist prayer wheels, which are spun while reciting the chants on the bottom.

The Bell Tower in Xi'an - it's pretty much the picture you always see whenever you Google Xi'an.

This is the fountain in front of the Da Yan Ta in Xi'an. I've heard it's the biggest fountain in Asia - and I'm not surprised. It's at least 300 yards long and 100 yards across - although it's probably bigger. There is a really cool fountain show every day at noon that we got to see

Thursday, April 7, 2011

4/4 Xi'an. Day 2: Part 2

Today, we got up early to go to the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, which has an amazing world-class collection of artifacts. However…..when we got there at about 8:00am, there was a line of about 1000 people. Umm, yeah...we couldn't get in, because they have to limit the number of visitors each day, plus we had other places to go. 

We got on a bus to go see the Terra Cotta Warriors, which is not actually in Xi'an, but in a smaller town called Lin Tong, which is about 40km away from Xi'an.

After a long ride, we got there and saw the three different pits of warriors and horses and what was left of chariots. They were in all conditions of shape. Many were broken, some were half broken, some looked brand freaking new. It is a sight that can but can't be captured on video. When I read that each warrior is molded on different people, I was like "oh, that's cool, what's next?", but when I got there and actually saw that each warrior was molded on a different person, I kind of flipped out. 

Every person had a different face, some with facial hair even. Different types of hair, armor, position, poses, even shoes were different depending on the person's rank. Some of the clothing that peeked out from under the person's armor in the back was sculpted differently. I was completely blown away. More than blown away - just imagine doing that for literally thousands of people. Thousands!!! I guess that's why the project was commissioned by Qinshi Huang when he was 13. 

This stuff isn't made out of stone, it's made out of Terra Cotta….glorified clay. And so much of it is intact after thousands of years. Places where water had dripped in or the roof had caved in years before discovery were obvious, because a face or a hand or an arm would look like it was growing out of the ground, because the rest of the warrior had  fallen apart and become one with the existing clay/rock. It's a priceless treasure for China to have.

The place is still being excavated in places, so there are spots with ladders, buckets, tools, and the general archaeology stuff. So much has been done, but there is so much left to do if there are plans to completely excavate it. 

After that, we planned to go to Hua Qing Chi, which means Clear Flower Lake (if my off the top translation is right), but when we got there, the ticket price was a bit expensive, so we didn't (plus, we had heard from the taxi driver that there wasn't much to see anyway). Our next step was going to be Hua Shan, but that was changed to Li Shan, but then we couldn't got to Li Shan because it was too late in the day to try to climb a mountain (it was about 3:30/4:00pm).

After not going to Hua Qing Chi, we took a bus back to Xi'an. The absolutely most crowded bus I've ever been on. It was easily over capacity by about 50 people. There were two rows of two seats and in the middle aisle, the extra people were crammed in in like sardines (yours truly included). They had even developed a special system of standing so they could fit more people - it was ridiculous. For about an hour I had to stand in one spot, without moving at all, hot as h*ll, and with a dead camera battery. I couldn't document one second of it.

As I was standing there in my spot, slightly amused and slightly angry, I noticed the looks on the faces of the other people on the bus (they were all Chinese). They were as calm as Hindu cows, as if it were completely normal as sitting at home watching TV. As I was standing there in the middle of the aisle, my stomach poking into the shoulder of some random guy sleeping in his seat, his head rolled over in sleep onto his shoulder (AKA my stomach).

It was in this moment - on an incredibly hot and crowded bus with a Chinese man sleeping on my stomach - that I was reminded that being in China or being Chinese isn't all about eating fantastic food and getting to see places thousands of years old in the world's oldest culture. There are always some spots that could use some polishing. 

As Dane Cook says about owning a monkey: "It's not all about bananas and dancing with toothbrushes". 

It's really difficult to explain how I felt in that moment - all I have is this really strong feeling, but I don't know how to explain it. Words can't always encompass what we we've seen and felt, as much as we wish they could. Just for a second - only a second, I felt like I had crossed the cultural bridge and took one step onto the Chinese side, but someone on the other side was waiting for me and said, "sorry, but you can't go any further - this area is off limits to you". 

This is a terrible analogy, but it's the closest I can come at the moment to how I felt. Although this trip to Xi'an has been really fun, it's also been incredibly educational in terms of vocabulary, patience, Chinese hotel service,  and cultural gaps. 

(Oh, and by the way, I disconnected the phone in my hotel room so that I wouldn't get any more 'service' calls)      :)

4/4.....Xian, Day 2: Part 1

It’s story time! This is one of the most awkward/embarrassing things that’s ever happened to me. It could have been avoided if I hadn’t been so f##king tired. I was in one of those I-can’t-really-think-because-I’m-so-tired states of mind.

So….the hotel called my room around 10:00 or so and asked me how I was doing and everything. They asked me a few questions, and I was a little confused about why they were asking me. I could make out “what are you doing now” and “how many people are in your room” among other things. (Usually, when I don’t understand something, I’ll say “yeah, uhh….” in that kind of ‘I’m thinking’ voice). After talking on the phone for a couple of confused minutes on the phone, there was an awkward end to the conversation. I got in bed, about to go to sleep, when there’s a knock at the door.

I opened the door, and there were two women there asking me if they could come in and some other questions. They kept asking where my friend was (I had told them on the phone that I was waiting on a friend to come, which was true) and they kept saying something about giving them 600元, which I was confused by. They saw I was confused, so they pulled out two condoms….which only further confused me. I was trying to get out of the situation, but couldn’t express myself, so I had to embarrassingly go to my friend’s room, wake her up and let her defuse the situation.

After Jing sent them away, she said, “sit down, there’s something we need to discuss”. She told me that most hotels call the rooms every night wanting to know if they need any services. Oh yeah….then I remembered hearing the words "fu wu” on the phone (which means "service"), but being so tired at the time, I hadn’t processed it. Services which included condoms……

Oh…..then my tired brain put 2 and 2 together…..2+2 in this Chinese hotel = I’m screwed (ha. wordplay.). In my attempts to translate and answer their questions, I had pretty much said “yeah, uhh….I could use some female company for me and my friend *wink*”. Being a considerate hotel wishing to keep their guests happy and relaxed, they naturally provided.

Wow. When that all hit me when I was sitting with Jing, I wanted to vanish on the spot. Damn. I had woken up my extremely tired and achy friend in order to ask her to send away my hookers. Damn.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

4/3 - Xi'an, Part 1

(I didn't use the internet while I was in Xi'an, so this is a little dated)


Today I went to Xi'an with Jing - met some cool people on the train and got to practice my Chinese, although it could have been better (but I guess it can alway be better). I gotta talk about the train - dude, it sucked. We didn't take a sleeper car because of prices, so we sat in hard, unmoving seats from 10:00pm to 7:30am. Couldn't sleep much. Without a doubt, the best part was the students who sat across from us who we got to know, they were really cool and after we got off the train, we had breakfast with them. I gave one of them my QQ and I hope that she will keep in contact with me :)Anyway, back to the good stuff.
Xi'an seems to be a really cool city - it the streets are a lot like Beijing - some parts of the sidewalks are copy/paste. I guess that's Communist planning for you. It provided a little sense of familiarity and brought back a lot of good memories - a lot of my best experiences here have been in Beijing, so I'm always glad to relive them :)

Jing's friend here is cool - but it's frustrating sometimes because they both speak their local Ding Xi dialect and it's nothing like Mandarin, so when they talk, I can understand absolutely nothing. I tried - really tried to listen and understand, but it is just really different. I guess that I've now experienced a little bit of the regionalism of China. They are old friends from middle school, so I am not hating on them for speaking it, I completely understand! If I ran into someone from Tyler or Dallas here, I'd totally speak fast and slang-filled English - it'd be a nice reminder of home! In the airport, I showed her most of my iPhoto pictures of Colorado and Tyler, and for the first time I got homesick. It didn't last long, but it was not a pleasant feeling - just like an empty hole filled with longing for familiarity and the reliving of memories of family, home, and my favorite state, Colorado. New Orleans is still my favorite city, but I love Colorado the most overall - I don't think Louisiana as a whole can compete with Colorado. 

I spent most of the day with Jing at the Tang Paradise park. It's a restoration/commercialization of the dynasty's fabled gardens in Chang'an (present day Xi'an). It's a really big place - I think it's over 165 acres, which doesn't sound like much, but that's a lot to cover in 3 or 4 hours, we were both really tired. Her friend (I can't remember his name….sorry, dude) was trying to buy the equivalent of a season pass to the park and the line was forever long, so he told us to go on ahead and have a good time. He lives in Xi'an, so he said he had plenty of time to visit later.

One thing I love about Xi'an is that the upkeep is infinitely better than Lanzhou. Being a city that attracts a good amount of tourists, it is pretty clean and for the first time since living in Lanzhou, I saw green plants. I know that doesn't sound like anything worth writing about, but think about it - if you had only seen brown grass and trees that had not begun to come out of hibernation for a month coupled with tons of dirt and dust, you'd be excited about lots of green foliage too. I took a lot of videos and pictures, so you can compare the two places - there's a huge difference. 

Tomorrow we're going to the Shaanxi Provincial Museum and climbing Li Shan (Shan means 'mountain' in Chinese). We might go see the Terra Cotta Warriors as well if we have time. We're going to do that, without a doubt - it's a must for Xi'an, and really any historical trip to China. 
I'm really super tired, so I'll go to bed now. Talk to you guys later!

Friday, April 1, 2011

to Xi'an!

Tomorrow night I am going to Xi'an for the celebration of Qing Ming Jie. Qing Ming Jie is on the 4th of April and it is a day for Chinese people to honor their ancestors. They visit graves of deceased family members and clean the headstones/plots and honor the dead. I would say it is like Mexico's Day of the Dead, but I don't know enough about either holiday to be able to say.

We have no classes from Sunday to Tuesday - awesome! Something I did not know about the Chinese University system is that it is quite common to have class on Saturday and Sunday....dude. I'm so glad I go to school in America - it would suck to have classes every day of the week. But the Chinese have a lunch/free period from 11:35am to 2:30pm, which is cool, but their classes go later. The free period is kind of like a siesta - a lot of people take naps. I have unknowingly woken a few of my friends up from their naps when I wanted to ask them something. It's an interesting difference. 

Anyway, back the main thing. I am going to Xi'an with my friend Jing. We are meeting a friend of hers in Xi'an who will take us around the city. We are planning to go to Hua Shan (Flower Mountain), see the Terra Cotta warriors, go to a few museums, and do a lot of other stuff. It's late now and I have a headache, so I can't really remember where else at the moment. I will be sure to take lots of pictures and video so I can share. The pictures will be up as soon as I can get them up, but videos will have to wait, of course. I'm still having trouble uploading - the files are just too big.  If I compress them any smaller, the quality is crap.

I had some pictures of Xi'an in one of my first posts, if you'd like to look. I am sending this blog post via email and I don't think you can put photos on a Mail2Blogger post.

I'm hoping to have some Western food while I'm in Xi'an. I'd love to have a cheeseburger. I don't really miss Western food very much, but I do get cravings every now and then.

Tonight, I went to the "English Bubble", which is a place where the Chinese students can go to practice their English. No one is allowed to speak Chinese. Tonight was "Louisiana Night", so Jeff and Thuy (who were born and raised in the Shreveport area) talked about crawfish, bayous, jumbalaya, plantations, alligators, rednecks, the Bible Belt, Jazz, and all kinds of stuff. It was nice to be reminded of somewhere that is close to home. Although I haven't been to New Orleans that much, I have to say that it's one of my favorite cities. Someone mentioned me doing a Texas themed night, which would be cool - I'd like that.

Anyway, that's all that's new for now - I've got to pack and get some homework done before we leave. Later!
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