Thursday, July 30, 2009

China 4

Today was a very busy day. We took a nice walk before we left through a garden at the hotel.

We left at 9 to travel to Nanjing Museum. It is sort-of like the Halocaust Museum in Missouri as it is a memorial of when Japan took over Beijing/Nanjing in China (during the war in 1938). Two Japanese generals got into a “beheading” contest. After the massacre, over 300,000 Chinese we’re killed in a 6 week period.They had these 2 huge giant walls with pictures of the victims on it and every 12 seconds you would hear a “drip” and a picture would light up. They figured out that during the 6 weeks a person would have died every 12 seconds.The museum was okay, but pretty depressing as you would expect. I hate seeing pictures of dead babies, but it is history and it’s a fact. They would shove people into pits and shoot them all, and burn the graves. The museum was built over one of the sites and you could look down and see many of the bones. It was really interesting and built pretty cool. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, which sucks but oh well. I think out of respect?

We were allowed to take pictures outside of the museum:

Some statues:

A cross bearing the date of when the massacre took place:

This comes to a point to represent the end of all wars, there is grass growing to represent regrowth.


We had tour busses and one guy in our group, Wade, wasn’t on the bus. He was sitting in front of us. Barb and I told the tour guide that he wasn’t there, and offered to go look for him, but they said “No, that would be a waste of time.” So… we ended up leaving him. Once we got back to the hotel he came walking in (he took a cab) and said, “Hey. Thanks for telling them I wasn’t on the bus!” all sarcastic. Barb was like, “you’re welcome…” and I was wondering what was going on. Apparently, he thinks we didn’t tell them, and he ended up quitting and just leaving. I don’t think it was just because of that, everyone said he was complaining since we got here.

After the Nanjing Museum we went to the Brocade/Silk Museum. I didn’t understand almost anything our guide said because she was told to hurry and spoke way to fast. With her accent I couldn’t understand her or keep up. So I didn’t get a lot out of that one. Luckilly, when I got back to the bus one of the ladies who has been to China 10 times explained it a little more. It’s pretty cool and amazingly intricate.

Then we went to this famous guy’s weekend palace… (Zijin Shan Mountain? Shank hai Sheck?). It was pretty cool. The house was built around 70 years ago. I think it would have been cooler if all of the original furniture was in there, but most of it wasn’t.

Next, we went to an oyster farm. A lady demonstrated how they keep the oysters. She got one out, cut him open and got out 29 pearls! They had a pearl shop connected to the farm where you could get some freshwater pearls for pretty inexpensive. I didn’t get anything but a lot of other girls did. There was a really cool park, which from what I hear is pretty uncommon here. It was almost like a circus. There was a big bounce house, ride on toys, paint, and exercise equipment, just like in Union.

After the Oyster farm we went to the Confucius Temple. They only brought us to the outside and told us we had to pay if we wanted to go in because that wasn’t part of the tour (We were in a shopping district, so that is what he expected us to do). Our guide said it wasn’t really that cool; it was just a stage and a few pictures. But we decided to go in anyways ($5) and spent most of our hour he gave us in the temple (because it was cool!). We got these awesome pictures made. Some “famous” guy would write your name in Chinese and a poem about you. Then, there’s a picture of Confucius on the front. My poem says something about being “beautiful, well known (famous in the future), talented young woman,” and one other thing I can’t recall right now. I didn’t really believe it said that, so when Peggy (the first guide girl I told you about) came up to our room I asked her. She told me what it meant, and it was the same! Cool!

Next, we went to our “snack dinner,” 16 small servings of food. After that, I can officially say I don’t like Chinese food. If it wasn’t super bland, it was jalapeno hot. Or it tasted like play-doh, or nothing at all. There was a lot of Tofu, which is really gross, and a lot of soups and broths. There was also this weird looking black egg. I found out that they boiled it in tea (it wasn’t good, but a few people did like it). I politely tried everything! I even tried using chopsticks and spilled my soup all over. No, I wasn’t trying to eat soup with chopsticks; I was trying to eat the thing in the soup. I’m getting pretty good at chop-sticks. Rice is the hardest thing to eat, but I’ve been managing. Last night was the first place that didn’t give us forks.

Our Pretty Table

Egg boiled in tea with nuts Tasting. This was actually pretty good.
The bathroom situation is… hard to get used to. Yesterday, in Confucious Temple, I had to go to the bathroom. So I went in and there was a girl pooping with the door open! The other stall was full, so I had to stand there and wait. I looked away. I was embarrassed, but I don’t think she was. It smelled so bad in there that I just did my business and ran out. I fixed my skirt once I left. I have seen babies peeing in the street. Some other people said they saw grown men doing it, but I haven’t.

A nicer ladies toilet which you can actually flush with your foot: Bleh. Not so nice. And no... toilet paper...ever.

I have been wondering…
Many babies don’t wear diapers, even ones that are 6 months old. How on Earth do the mothers know when they’re going to go pee? Or poop? Their little butts are just resting on the mother’s arm. (I figured this out later...)

There was also a change of plans. The original plan was that Barb and I were going to teach 3 weeks. Then, Barb’s 3rd week was cancelled, so she was going to come stay with me the third week. Charles and Gloria came to tell us that my program might be cancelled altogether and they wouldn’t know until tomorrow. If that was the case we had 2 options. We could take the $150 Barb was supposed to be paid and leave. Or we could stay at the hotel for free the third week. I looked at changing our plane tickets and it was nearly $300 per ticket, so I suppose we will have to vacation our third week if this is the case.

I met Brittany. She is the girl I will be with if we teach the children. She didn’t know any more than I did. She’s from Missouri; I think she said she was from the southwest part (Neosho). She is going to stay a year. I took a picture with her at the hotel in Nanjing in case we didn't see each other again...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

China Trip 3

Today Barb and I got up early and headed to town to find some breakfast. Barb got this delicious egg and pepper thing from a street vendor and I got some fresh fruit: a banana, a plum, an orange, and something that I don’t really know what it is. It looked like an apple, but it tasted like… a potato. I also got a green thing that I don’t know what it is… I haven’t tasted it yet though.

We came back to the hotel to prepare to travel to Nanjing. We left at about 9am and arrived at about 2pm. What a long bus ride! The bus was pretty nice, though.
I just found out that at the hotel I’m at right now they cut the grass by hand. Okay, that was just a side bar.

I enjoyed walking around in Nanjing and seeing everything. I saw a big huge fish tank that made me think of G. It had a whole bunch of these one particular fish we have at home.

It’s hot here, but you can’t see the sun. You actually can’t see much of anything. It’s as though it were dusk all day. You can see maybe a half mile to a mile in front of you. Today we saw some mountains that just looked like a silhouette; you couldn’t tell any colors or anything.

Traffic continues to scare the death out of me! A 4 lane highway easily becomes 7… and people riding bikes almost get brushed on the side by passing cars. They don’t even flinch! I've been told that if you get into a bad accident in China that you get your license taken away forever. I don't know if this is true or not, but I haven't seen too many accidents. It's kind of fend-for-yourself. I noticed a sign that said "Do NOT Drive Friendly."

I do like the traffic lights. They count down how many seconds the light will be green/red. Usually there is no yellow light. Our tour guide said that studies have proven that the lights speed up traffic considerably, and that they first originated in Nanjing about 10 years ago and have spread throughout China.

I’ve also been noticing some other unusual/ different things:
-Babies don’t wear diapers or underwear. They have these big slits from the front to the back that they just… lift open I suppose. They urinate in the streets, or whereever they need to...

-Where we are (I don’t know about the rest of China) there aren’t a whole lot of trees. We asked why and apparently, during the Cultural Revolution the leader had all of the trees cut down to use to make firewood to run the machines that made bullets for the army. All of the trees are very little.
- We haven’t seen one, even slightly, overweight person here. I guess because of all the walking and bicycling? We’ve been looking too!

Also, today on our bus ride I got a chance to talk to “Peggy.” She’s with the program, and she was very friendly. She picked her “American name” out of a book she liked.

Here’s what I know about her. She’s 20, but her birthday is tomorrow (July 4th here). She doesn’t have any brothers or sisters, but she used to have a turtle and birds. Her family is 12 people large: 2 aunts, 2 uncles, 2 parents, 2 grandparents, and 2 cousins, herself, and I’m not sure where she got the 12th.

Peggy is on the right.

Her given Chinese name is Wang Zhu Xin pronounced (wan tsu shie). Wang is her “family name” equivalent to our last name. She is going to school to be an English teacher. Peggy knows Chinese, English, and Japanese.
Anyways, we have a packed schedule tomorrow:
We’re going to the Memorial Hall of Nanjing Massacre and Nanjing Brocade Museum (silk) Nanjing Museum
Qinhuai Scenic Zone, Confucius Temple
Snack Dinner near Confucius Temple
A “snack dinner” is where we get sample sizes of 30 foods.
Which brings me to food. It’s just after 7pm here and I just finished a buffet-style dinner. Some of it was okay, but most of it was bland and… just blah. Cold too. Even the fruit wasn’t as sweet as I’m used to. I hope it was just today that it was like that. I tried a lot of new things though.
Since we traveled today I am super tired. Barb went for a walk and I am borrowing someone’s room, because they paid for internet. I guess they wanted to get their 5 bucks out of it, because they told everyone in our group we could come use it. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

China Trip 2

Day 2- Technically- Thursday
Technically it is day 2 of the China trip. I, however, am still in the plane. We have an hour and a half left of our 13 hour flight. It’s 2:05pm Thursday in Shanghai, and 1:06am back home. I must admit that the plane (a Boeing 777 I think) is very nice. We all have tiny movie screens on the back of the seat in front of us.

Barb and I "scared" on the plane before takeoff.

I have kept busy thus far. I started “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Piccoulti. I only read about 120 pages on and off. I also played solitaire and Battleship. I watched “Seventeen Again” and “Confessions of a Shop-a-holic” which were both pretty cute movies. I’m glad I didn’t rent them for G and I to watch, but the choices are pretty limited. I also got some pretty uncomfortable naps in. My back hurts and my neck hurts, but most of all, my nose hurts. It’s hard to breathe up here. The altitude is 40,000 ft. So far our speed has ranged between 500-615mph (I think that’s about the highest I’ve seen it).

Barb has been writing down our stats at different points in the trip, and I will share those later.
The menu? We had some beef, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, salad with your choice of chicken or beef in it, cookies, a roll, crackers and cheese for lunch. I wasn’t even close to hungry when they brought our dinner, but I ate it anyways. It was a delicious ham and cheese croissantwitch with Dijon mustard. Just now they brought us a snack of either pizza or noodles. I chose noodles…. Because… well… I’m in China! Earlier we got some mixed nuts and sesame which was also delicious. I think I gained 5 lbs just on this flight. Ugh.

I miss my little V already. There are tons of babies on this flight and each time I see one of them I think of him. But I know he is doing great at home! More updates later…

Day 2 still- It took forever, but we’re finally in Shanghai! The first thing we saw was a sci-fi looking group(dressed in protective clothing, gloves, face masks, goggles, and even booties as if the virus could get under their pant leg) of Chinese officials who waved radar guns across our foreheads to make sure we didn’t have the H1N1 virus. They also had a moth thermometer incase the first one didn’t read. Barb’s didn’t the first time, so she had to use the mouth thermometer. It would have sucked to be quarantined! We stepped off the plane into an eerily quiet airport. I got in trouble (not really, but waved at) for using my camera. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to, but it turned out there was a sign that said no cameras. That sign, coincidentally, said to “be quiet.”Oh yeah, and no cell phones. It took awhile to get through the airport, but we finally made it out to a taxi.

I got in trouble for taking this picture at the airport...before I saw the sign.

Oh man! The taxi ride was a nightmare. The seat said “For your safety, buckle up”. But there weren’t any buckles! The guy we got (it seemed) didn’t want to take us, but his boss said yes. So off we went. I forgot to mention that it was raining… that’s an important part of this story.

Anyways, off we went. Then, our taxi started to overheat! We Americans, we take shoulders (of the road) for granted. But in China, there aren’t any! So cars were swerving around us and they were ALL honking, as if our driver didn’t’ notice he was stopped in highway in the rain. Next, a cop (silently… he has lights, but no sirens) comes by and starts yelling at him, and just drives off! No help! So our poor little driver gets a 2 liter bottle and starts filling it up with rain water running down the street to cool down the car!

This episode happens twice. And each time we stop (which is at least once a minute or two) he has to shut the car off and restart again. We did make it alive to the hotel though!
Another thing about driving… The Chinese have 4 lanes, “passanger, light cars, light-heavy, and trucks” or something like that. There are actually lines that mark the different lanes, but I think they were just put there for decoration, because NO ONE uses them! They just swerve in and out avoiding other cars and honking, a lot. There are a ton of bicycles and motorbikes. Traffic is a nightmare!

We got off the plane at about 4:45 (their time) and got to our hotel at 7:45 I’m pretty sure. As soon as we got here, Gloria called to see if we wanted to go shopping, which we did. I didn’t get too into it today, because I’m not good with the bargaining thing yet. Nothing is priced. They hand you a calculator and tell you to put a price… it’s hard if you don’t know the currency or how much stuff is worth. Plus, if I get stuff today I have to cart it around for 3 weeks.

Nanjing Road is famous for its pedestrian mall.
Everyone was hungry during the shopping trip, so they stopped at McDonald’s (yep…). But Barb and I weren’t even close to being hungry because we ate so much on the plane. We sat outside and waited and these kids came up to offer us some of their cigarettes and I think to mess with us a little bit. They were laughing and the people behind us were laughing… at us… but after a few minutes they were being really sweet (I think?). Especially the girl. She kissed Barb before she walked away, which made it seem like she was being genuine. Of course… we don’t speak a word of Chinese so we’ll never know.

There are tons of peddlers here, each one trying to get you to buy some crazy thing. I will give in eventually (Barb did!) but I didn’t today. I’m pretty sure I got called a B* for not buying a laser lighted spinning top… (now that I think about it though... a lot of Chinese words sound like something in English, but totally isn't...)

Tomorrow will be another travel day. We will be going from Shanghai to Huai’an. It will probably be a long day and I haven’t slept in almost 48 hours, so I better get some sleep. I was barely able to keep my eyes open for our taxi ride. I might have even started to doze… I’ll tell you more when I can.

post script:
The posts will get better as I go along, but for now, I haven't even finished writing about my trip...

China Trip 1

Day 1-Wednesday- At the Airport (July 1)
I woke up at 3am, but I didn’t really sleep much the night before. I tried to bring V to bed with me, but he didn’t want to sleep in my bed. He wanted to sleep on his huge “love sack” style bean bag. So I moved in there. Then, he was convinced that “he didn’t want a nap.” He wanted to get up. I had to tell him that it wasn’t naptime, it was bedtime and I finally got him settled. I woke up when G finally got home from work at nearly 11.

I told myself I would be brave, but I had a really hard time leaving Vincent at the house. And my eyes did tear up. We left for the airport at 4 and got there at a little after 5. A beautiful chocolate man, named Frank, helped us do the “self check-in.” So we didn’t have to wait in line. That was very nice. We made our way down to our gate and that is where I am sitting now. My stomach is in knots and doing summersaults. I’m terrified of only the flight right now, I suppose because that is the first thing I have to do.

The airport wasn’t as busy as I expected. It was actually quite empty, but it’s starting to fill up now. As I walked through the hallways I made it very obvious that I was new at this. Staring ahead of me, like a lost puppy, I watched what everyone else did and I made it!
I just talked to V on the phone. I told him I was going to China today and he said “yeaaah.” He had just woken up. He told me he loved me and kissed the phone. Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat” will be at our library today, and mom is taking V. I asked him if he would be scared and he said, “No! I like Curious George!” Aww. I hope he has fun. Alright, I’m signing out for now to keep my battery charged.

post note: He did not like Curious George. I'm told he was quite terrified...

Here's a muffin I got from the airport. It was HUGE, and delicious.


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