A Travellerspoint blog

The Countdown Begins

snow 15 °F

Before I apologize for missing three weeks on my blog, I would first like to explain how these past few weeks have gone. Yes, I know, they're excuses, but trust me, they're really good, and kind of interesting.

Two weekends ago, I, for some reason I'm still not sure, decided to volunteer to help organize the American booth for Peking University's International Cultural Festival, and that turned out to be one of the most exhausting decisions I've ever made in my life. So after visiting the Forbidden City (pictures to some...late), I had to rush back to campus to make it in time for rehearsal. There, I found out that not only did I need to have an all-black suit by tomorrow, but that our performance was at 8:30...A.M! So after that, I went on a hunt for black pants, and found a rocking pair of sweatpants that I would wear to an orchestra concert. Swear to God, first time this ever happened. After this, I had to go back to one of the other people helping out with this event's apartments (sorry about the Chinese grammar), and I spent the rest of my evening painting, cutting, and...making capes? Yeah, it was A LOT of fun. About 12am I got back home, passed out for a few hours, then got up at 5:30am so I could make it to campus by 6am and start setting up. THEN, I had a performance with the orchestra at 8:30am, where we played our "red" song, The Red Flag Ode. It was a big hit. Who knew? After that, I spent the rest of the day telling Chinese people about American culture and history, which was quite interesting when they knew nothing about it, and I could make small changes here and there. For example, I told one person that when people came to Ellis Island, they had to sign a book so that the government would know where they were at all times, and also made them eligible to win a fantastic prize. Little stuff like that...Also, I had quite an interesting time trying to explain to Chinese people what phrases like "WTF?", "Dude", and "BYOB" meant in Chinese. I hope that I taught them well and that I will forever be remembered as the kid who spread the word "Dude" all around China. Anyways, I spent the rest of day on campus, leaving myself about 2 hours to finish 6 hours of homework. That worked out for the best...

That following week was pretty much hell for me. I was constantly tired and behind, and had absolutely no interest in studying. Also, it was my birthday that Thursday, so the teachers got me a cake, I had a DQ blizzard, and wrote an 800 character essay. Quite fortunate birthday right? That evening I also decided to have some fun (go on and guess what that means), so I didn't really have that much time to get ready for the next day. The week got even worse, as due to the fact that we were leaving for South Korea on Friday, or test was pushed up to Thursday, which meant one less day of studying, and one less day of sleep. Furthermore, our flight was at 8:30am on Friday, so Austin and I decided to stay over with our friend on campus, meaning we could sleep in a bit longer. 1 hour longer. So instead of getting up at 3:30, we only had to get up at 4:30!! It was so refreshing!! So we finally get into Seoul that afternoon, and decided to go explore the area. We were in a very young part of the city, as there was an arts school in the area, and it was crawling with young, hipster, liberal, South Koreans. It reminded me a lot of Portland and Seattle, but if they mated. And birthed a much bigger baby than the two combined. And was Asian. As you can see, I am very good at comparing things. Funny side note: Seoul has a lot of waffle shops. Don't know why, this is just the way it is. Anyways, back to my riveting story, we are walking around for a few hours, and are trying to learn new words, and at that point we had learned the essentials: "You're beautiful", "Where is the bathroom?", "I would like a beer", things of that nature. Also, we could count to ten. So we decide to test out the nightlife in Seoul, and that was quite fun. That day, in order to make up for the past week of sleep (more like the lack thereof), we slept in until about noon, and then proceeded to devour Facebook for the next two hours like we were Rosie O'Donnell at an all-you-can-eat donut buffet. Later, we met up with a friend of a friend and got some Korean Barbeque, which was absolutely delicious. We also went with some fellow travelers that we met at our hostel, and spent about 3 hours at dinner. Needless to say, we ran out of things to talk about at minute 35. Later, Austin, our new friend an I decided to elongate our night...till 4am. The amazing thing was though that 4am in Seoul looks just like 11am, those Koreans just refuse to go home! Anyways, we were supposed to get back that afternoon to Beijing, but due to the government proclaiming it should snow in Beijing on that day, we were delayed 9 hours and didn't get back till 11pm. We were absolutely delirious in the airport, but it was surprisingly fun, as we decided to speak perfectly clear English to every single person, and spend our food stipend on Dunkin Donuts. Reaalll good idea...
The week after Korea was also quite terrible, but mainly one reason stands out. On Tuesday, it snowed it Beijing, dropping a few feet on the ground. I, for once, decided to leave early to give myself some extra time to get to school. Yeah, you already know how this is gonna turn out. After leaving my apartment at 7am, waiting at the bus station for 45 minutes, standing (yes standing) on a bus filled to the brim with people for 2 hours, I finally made it to campus. Only an hour late. I have now decided that I in fact to NOT like riding the bus. Apart from that, there was really no other difficulties. Well, there were other difficulties, but those were ones I chose for myself. On Thursday, one of Austin's friend's from William and Mary who is doing the semester at sea program landed in Beijing, and he wanted to show him a good time. I wanted to help. Let's just say that we succeed. After a very...interesting...test on Friday, we finally found him after we lost him the night before. We then took him around town, and then decided to help him explore a different part of Beijing. At night. That Saturday, I meet up with a couple of people who were also from Spokane, and we went to a Persian restaurant for dinner. It was so weird talking with two people in Beijing, China about streets in Spokane, mutual associates, and how much we hate it when people mispronounce Spokane.

Well, that's all for now. I'm sorry it's all over the place, and doesn't make much since, but I guess you can chalk it up to the fact that I'm trying to fit in a lot before I leave Beijing. It is such a great life here, and I don't want to leave. In fact, I probably wouldn't, if not for the fact that you who is reading this right now if back home. I do miss you, and can't wait to tell you everything. Well, sorry Mom, maybe not EVERYTHING. Miss you guys and I promise I will write again next week. That is a Ben promise, which means it's absolutely worthless, so I'll consider writing next week. I kid. Until next week.

White on the outside and yellow on the inside,
Ben

Posted by bengully 07:01 Archived in China Tagged foot Comments (2)

Chuck and the Plastic Factory

sunny 66 °F

Had a midterm on Saturday that went pretty well, and our teacher gave us a present for all of our "hard work". It was a bookmark, so just a word of warning, someone's gonna get it for a gift when I get back. Just putting that out there...So after the test on Friday, Austin and I were picked up by a driver and driven to Tianjin. We took a high-speed freeway and I'm pretty sure we were averaging 100mph. So we get there and Chuck takes us to this restaurant called Dico's, which is a fried-chicken restaurant, and it was absolutely delicious! Actually, I think it was much better than KFC, maybe some of the best fried-chicken I've had, in China nonetheless. After that, we got a tour of the plastic factory. Well, actually it was a plastic and paper factory, and there were hundreds of tiny munchkins (Chinese) making hundreds upon thousands upon millions upon...(can't count that high) of plastic cups, bowls, containers, pie tins, biscuit packages, toys, utensils, etc. Even Chuck doesn't know how many products they make, let alone what the daily output is, but it's pretty safe to say it hovers around the population of China. It was really fun because we got to wear those white hat-thingys (my Engrish is becamin absoltily teribowl), and the machines were so loud. Chuck said they don't turn off, except for major holidays, like Groundhog Day, and Boxer Day (Canada).
After the tour of the "old" factory, we headed to the new factory, where they simultaneously produced bowls and the ramen noodles that go in them. The noodle section has 6 machines that are each 180 meters in length, each producing 500 bowls of noodles a minute. Easily the most efficient thing I have ever seen in my life. Well, second most efficient, I have to say my morning routine is pretty wicked. Anyways, it was a pretty amazing day, and to top it all of, he took us out to dinner with his wife and kid. His wife was so nice, and his kid kept saying he was gonna puke, so it was a fun time had all around.
Saturday was pretty busy; I went to the silk market and bought some winter clothes, and even thought about heading over to the pants section, but it was too far--10 meters is so much further in China. After that had orchestra rehearsal, and then went to an acrobat show. It was pretty amazing, especially considering we almost saw the same person die twice. He was an a glorified hamster wheel that was suspended in the air, and while he was running on the outside it, he got the great idea of not only jump-roping, but also blindfolding himself. Yeah, great idea, dude. Sunday was uneventful, just slept in a bit, wandered around, and did some homework.
That's all for this week, there should be a lot more to come next week, so please come back. Please??

Suddenly wanting to open my own factory in China,
Ben

Posted by bengully 06:08 Archived in China Tagged motorcycle Comments (1)

Bananas

semi-overcast 54 °F

The Chinese fan-damily went to Hong Kong this past week for their vacation, opting to leave their strange American house-guest at home (weird, right?), so I had the apartment to myself for the week. Normally I would think this is pretty awesome, and for the first couple of days I did, but pretty soon I missed my family. Actually, let me clarify that statement, that came out way too nice and sincere. The only reason I missed them was because I had to make my own food. There, that sounds so much more...like me. Anyways, it was alright, I got by on reheating dumplings and raiding their kitchen while they were gone, but it was very weird coming back to an empty apartment every night. Now I guess I know how my dad feels, except for the fact that he's in America, with American food, and then there's that whole HBO thing...Anyways, classes went the same as always, nothing new there. However, this weekend was great because Austin and I went to the China Open on Friday, which is a big professional tennis tournament in Beijing. It was held at the Olympic Tennis center, and we were able to buy tickets AND get in early, so we were able to see Elena Dementieva lose, Marat Safin lose to Rafael Nadal, and then a doubles team lose. It was nice to see someone other than me lose for a change, I'll admit. However, we decided to spice up the event by being as raucous as possible, and apparently the Chinese love being raucous because we were the highlight of the night.

Saturday I had meeting for the Beijing University International Cultural Festival in which I, yours truly, will be responsible for the materiel that will be displayed to the public that "best represents America." I'm so sorry, and I apologize in advance for the increase in terrorist bombings that will no doubt arise after China sees how offensive (through my vision of course) America is. My only hope is that we a right next to the North Korea booth. Suck it, Kim Jong-Il! Anyways, that's what I'm up to for the next couple of weeks. Had orchestra rehearsal after that, and we're starting to play some Western music. We also have a concert apparently in a few weeks, but I don't know where, when, or what I'm supposed to wear. This whole language barrier thing might present a problem. And then Sunday, as usual, devolved to phone work and home calls, as every Sunday usually turns out. However, next weeks should be different, so stay tuned. For those of you who still tolerate me, I applaud you aplomb, and I look forward to seeing you here again next week. Until next time, take care.

Too tired to think of a parting phrase,
Ben

Posted by bengully 08:17 Archived in China Tagged travelling_with_pets Comments (4)

Long Time, No Blog

sunny 70 °F

Sorry for the delay, but I've been busy with other things, mainly sleeping. This past week was great because of the anniversary of the PRC, so we got Thursday and Friday off. On Thursday there was a massive parade in Tiananmen Square that involved over 200,000 members of the People's Liberation Army. Every single one of them was dressed to perfection, and not a single finger was out of place when they marched into the square. There were tanks and fighter jets and helicopters and missiles. Also, there were floats that represented all the provinces of China (including one for Taiwan) and there were giant portraits of past leaders, including Hu Jintao. Yes, Hu Jintao was watching a giant portrait of him march by. There were also thousands of people standing in the center of Tiananmen Square for hours, changing their hat colors to make different sayings or shapes. Later that evening I went towards Tiananmen Square to catch the fireworks, but couldn't get very close because I wasn't commmunist, so I had to settle for watching the spectacle from the streets.
The rest of my weekend was pretty uneventful. On Saturday I headed outside of Beijing to check out a temple, but trust me when I say that once you've seen one Buddhist temple in China, you've seen them all. However, the weather was absolutely fantastic, and it was up in the mountains, so it was great to be there. That evening a friend and I went to a local coffee shop and played some Chinese chess (me winning, of course), so it was very relaxing. On Sunday I went to a mountain range that is close to my home and did some hiking there in the afternoon, and spent the rest of the day doing homework and other menial chores. However, overall it was a very relaxing weekend.
Not much more to report for now. Going to be heading to South Korea at the end of the month. OH! I almost forgot! I joined a Chinese orchestra while I was here, and not only did they just let me join, but the conductor took me to the storage room and gave me a brand new cello to use. We also played a song called "Red Flag Ode". Probably the most repetitive song I've ever played. It's been great though because I've been able to meet some new people through the orchestra, and play Communist songs at the same time!!
I've also updated the rest of my study tour pictures, so check those out. Until next week...

Always in the mood for a good military parade,
Ben

Posted by bengully 06:16 Archived in China Tagged vegetarian Comments (2)

Day to day

sunny 76 °F

So this week went by really quickly for some reason, in spite of the fact that I am apparently allergic to my room. Or my Chinese family, I haven't decided yet. Anyways, my schedule during the week is three hours of Chinese in the morning, an hour and a half for lunch, back for another hour and a half of Chinese, and then a one-on-one meeting with a Chinese tutor. After that, I become one with the Chinese people (literally) when I take the bus back home during rush hour. At home, I always have a filling dinner with my Chinese family, usually consisting of 5 or 6 plates of home-cooked Chinese food (amazing!), and then do some homework and go to bed. Typing this, I just realized how absolutely boring it sounds, but it's surprisingly night. There are just two of us in my Chinese class, the other person being my friend Austin, and the teachers are really cool, so the class is a lot of fun. For the most part we learn a new chapter every other day, with about a total of 100 new words a week. However, every Friday we have a test over the materiel, but it's nice because it forces you to review what you learned, and make sure you remember it. Furthermore, it means we get out of class early, which doesn't hurt.

Weekends are almost completely opposite of my weekdays, as I go from having no time at all, to all the time in the world. Fridays I like to spend time with my classmates, as I am in a nerd-quarantine during the week, stemming from the fact that my class of two doesn't associate with the real world during the week, and that for some strange reason only speaking Chinese is a big turn off for some people. Haven't quite figured out why yet. Anyways, Friday evenings usually start off in the library with a good social-issues discussion that is currently affecting our world. Following such a riveting discussion, we move to a friends room, where we end the night playing riveting game after riveting game of bridge. Fortunately, I'm always home by 10:00pm. After such wild Friday nights, I usually take Saturday easy, either doing some homework or running some errands, and Sunday's I usually spend with my family, sending emails, or doing homework. However, every other Saturday during this semester, we have some sort of large group activity. The first one we did was a trip to the Summer Palace, which is where the Empress Dowager (pretty awesome name, right?) liked to spend her summer's. Did I mention there's a palace too? It was so beautiful there. We rented a boat with our teachers and just cruised around, grabbed some lunch, and then found a shady spot by the lake under some willow trees and dozed off.

Yesterday was great because all of the Immersion students were invited over to one of hour teachers house, where our teachers made food for us. They showed us how to cook some dishes, and then we just sat around for a couple of hours and talked. We also watched some old Buster Keaton silent films. Yeah. In China. With Chinese people. Later on in the evening (and I mean later), as we were heading home, we discovered that we could not cross the street as it had been blocked off by the police. Why was that? you may wonder. Well, it was because there was a tank parade that was rehearsing for the 60th anniversary of the PRC. Yes, my friends, a rehearsal tank parade that lasted for about 20 minutes at about 2 in the morning. Not that I would know exactly what time it was. Try as I might, I could never make something like this up.

Which brings me to my last statement of this entry. I was watching the Chinese version of the Emmys, or the Oscars, I really couldn't tell, and was surprised to find myself watching a synchronized swimming interlude. There were pools installed in the theater, and there was a synchronized swimming performance between awards presentations. All I can say is, only in China.

Suddenly a fan of synchronized swimming interludes,
Ben

Posted by bengully 06:11 Archived in China Tagged boating Comments (2)

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