Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Monday was moving day! Our housing turned out to be less than desirable. We found out that the management handed out room keys like candy. We all had to bleach our rooms because they were pretty much filthy, there were cockroaches, rats in the entry way, and finally - bed bugs. Bed bugs were the final straw. As soon as Dr. Walters found out about them, he set out to find us some new digs.

We somehow finagled our way into the international student housing (where we would have been from the get go, if not for some unfortunate logistical issues). We checked in there and checked out at our old place. Once we got the word, we were all packed within the hour. We were quite the sight on our journey to our new place. We had a 20 minute walk with all of our luggage and all of the cleaning supplies, food, and water that we had purchased since we got here. And we thought people looked at us funny just because we were American. Try eleven Americans hauling all they could carry across a busy campus.

It was a little crazy, but in the end we all feel a million times better. A million. We have a security guard at the university gates and also in our building. We have a beautiful view of campus and there are no bed bugs here! What luck! Maybe they put us in the other place first so that we would appreciate what we have now. The only downside to our new little slice of heaven is that we do not have internet in our rooms. We are working on it, but it is going to take a few days. We leave for Nanjing tomorrow, so I anticipate internet maybe Monday or Tuesday.

As of today we have one month left here in China, and I have officially been gone for 3 weeks. Class is going well and we are finally all feeling at home in Xiamen. The food here keeps making me sick, but we have pitchers to boil water in our rooms now, so I think that I will just be eating a lot of ramen over the next month, and try to avoid the cafeterias with all my might.

We had a movie party last night with some of our Chinese classmates. We watched a Kung Fu movie and now we all want to learn some Kung Fu. I don't know if we will get that chance, but my project partner (Vivienne) brought a friend who is a Tai Chi expert, and he agreed to teach us Tai Chi! We had a lesson today and he wore us out. It lasted just over 2 hours and we were practicing in the afternoon heat. We are not very good at Tai Chi, but maybe we will be experts when we come home. We will see. Tai Chi is usually only practiced by the elderly, so everyone got a great show, seeing seven young Americans trying to play Tai Chi. Good times all around.

Well, the group leaves at 5:45 tomorrow morning, so I had best be off to pack!

By the way, I miss pizza, macaroni and cheese, tap water, safe fruits and vegetables, and dry air.

When I leave China I will miss lush greenery, my classmates, choco-pies, magnum bars, and meals for $1.50.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Under my umbrella, ella, ella....

As many of you have probably heard, there has been a great deal of flooding here in southern China. Last I heard 4 million people have been displaced and approximately 400 people have been killed. Fortunately, we are on an island that is just off the mainland, so we have avoided most of the danger.

We have seen a lot of rain though; just the other day we were eating lunch at the cafeteria when a major downpour started. After eating we ran to Heather and Dr Walter's hotel (which is on campus and therefore very close) to wait out the rain. It didn't stop. We decided that we would just have to brave the weather, as we had pressing responsibilities back at our apartment. (Talia is finishing up TA duties and had to turn in grades ASAP). We walked outside and the rain gutters were pouring rivers of water into the streets. We hadn't ever seen anything like it! So, we did what any good American girls would do. We put up our umbrellas and took pictures under the torrents of water coming from the roof of the building. It was a classic Gene Kelly moment and the Chinese people who were around got a good laugh.

Not long after we set out for home, the rain stopped. It was perfect timing. We did, however, still get our feet wet. It had rained so much that there was no way to exit the campus without walking through 6-8 inches of water. I don't think it had rained more than an hour. I am exceedingly grateful for my umbrella. Everyone loves umbrellas here. They are sold on most every street and in Hong Kong they even had umbrella vending machines. Umbrellas are used rain or shine. When it is sunny it is so hot and humid outside that the shade doesn't really make a huge difference, but anything helps, and it is nice for blocking the sun if nothing else. Sunburns are no fun.

The flooding did throw a wrench in the plans of half the group recently. They were supposed to go see the Hakka toulous, (and I was supposed to have a leisurely day here), but the roads were flooded and they couldn't go. There is only one more chance for them to go at the end of July, the rest of our days are booked. Things are going to start getting very exciting. We can't wait. Most of this week has been dedicated to exploring Xiamen, and we are feeling a little "explored out." We have seen most of the area and are ready for new and exciting things! Details to come shortly....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Church in China

We had church today. We all piled into 3 cabs and met Sam (the area group leader) who showed us to his apartment where the meeting would be held. He lives there with his wife Alicia, and their two children Indiana and Havana. They are from Australia and have been here about a year. Skip and Callie were the other two locals who came. They are from Idaho and Skip is here doing business for his family's saddle business. Both couples are relatively young and I think they are glad to have us there. In total there were 17 of us there for the meeting. For church we Skype into Beijing. There is a presidency that meets in a class room at a Beijing chapel and they direct the meeting. The congregation is made up of about 20 groups who are Skyping in from all over China.

This is how it goes: they begin the meeting and after the sacrament hymn the connection is muted for 5 -6 minutes so that each group can bless and pass the sacrament. When the connection comes back on there are two speakers who have been assigned from the congregation. So, wherever they may be in China, they sit at their computer and give a talk. The topic today was the Holy Ghost. It was strange to just sit on a couch in someone's house and listen to church. After the meeting they have a roll call and then they rotate between Relied Society, Priesthood, and Sunday School. (btw they were very impressed that we had a whopping 17) Because there were so many of us, we decided to hold our own Sunday School meeting. Dr. Walters led the discussion and we just followed the gospel principles lesson on the Holy Ghost. It was a very good meeting.

After church Alicia had prepared some snacks and I ate my first fresh vegetables in a week and a half. The Chinese aren't really into raw veggies. They tasted so good. All of us were extremely grateful.

Church was so refreshing and Sam and Alicia and Skip and Callie and all great. It was rejuvenating in so many ways. I am really going to look forward to Sundays here.

Also, we are going to have a big dinner together on the 4th of July. It falls on a Sunday, so we are going to celebrate with our little group. Sam and Alicia, being from Australia, will just be along for the ride, but I am already excited for it. The church is so incredible. Anywhere you go. I am in incredibly grateful. This is an experience that I will always treasure.

Bli-hizzity Bli-zog

So, here in China my blog doesn't work. "That's ok." I thought, "I will start a new one." Unfortunately, that one doesn't work either. So, I will send the posts to my adorable little sister and she will post them here. Now my blog does work!

We are officially at Xiamen University now. We are all moved into our ever so humble housing. After complications with the university we have ended up off-campus in rooms that are, perhaps, less than desirable. However, after many trips to the local super market and lots of bleach and scrubbing, these places are becoming more and more livable. They have AC and that is really the most important thing in the end.

On the last day of our conference we took a sightseeing tour to see the Hakka toulous. They are very old, very round houses that were built at least 700 years ago. They are meant to house 5 or 6 families at a time. They are also in the middle of the jungle. We had a 2 1/2 hour bus ride to get there. We got to see a lot of rural mainland China. On Xiamen motorbikes are prohibited to try to reduce pollution. On the mainland, they are everywhere! Often they will have 3 or 4 people riding on them. It is quite the sight. At the tulous we walked around some old villages and we even saw a presentation of what a traditional Chinese wedding is like. They picked Daniel out of the crowd to play the groom. I told him that he had just gotten the best souvenir ever, but he didn't bring her home.

When we came back we got moved into our apartments and spent the next few days getting settled in and showing the other students around the area as they arrived. When the other big group got in from Shanghi, we all went out for Korean. It was so nice to have something familiar. Talia was the last student to get in. She is my roommate. She is most recently from Detroit, but she has lived all over, including Australia and Germany. Needless to say, she is pretty cool.

We start class on Monday. We will have a 3 hour class from Dr. Walters on M/W and on Tuesday will have lectures on Chinese government from local professors. I am excited, but I am also a little nervous. It is at once exciting and overwhelming to have your first class of graduate school in China. I have certainly learned a lot already and school hasn't even begun!

Today? Today I Ate a Duck Brain.

Originally posted 6/15/10

Right now I am eating a snickers. An hour ago, I was eating a bit of duck brain. We had a 2 hour long welcome dinner tonight that consisted of more than 15 traditional Chinese dishes. It was probably one of the most adventurous meals I have ever eaten. Included were; earthworm gelatin, crab, rock fish, giant prawns, duck soup, abalone, squid, and many other mysterious foods.

We sat at a round table with all of the food on a rotating platter in the middle. There was fried rice with caviar and a big fish that was looking at me with it’s beady eye. At one point Jasen pulled the duck head out of the soup and the next thing I knew, he was offering me some duck brain. How can you say no to that? I didn’t. Yikes. Mostly, it tasted like tofu, but I am pretty darn proud of myself. Overall, tt was a perfect introduction to mainland China!

The conference was good today. Many of the sessions were rushed, and most of the presenters were very difficult to understand, but for the most part, I feel smarter already. I think that is a good sign.

Good Morning, Hong Kong!

originally posted on 6/14/10

When I woke up in Hong Kong I looked out of my window at the skyscrapers across the harbor on Hong Kong island. The Samsung building flashed the time and then the message “Good Morning!” Hong Kong was glad I was there and so was I. The art museum was across the street from my hotel and there were 2 women doing their morning exercise, dancing with fans, just outside the museum. The day looked cool and cloudy, but that was definitely not the case.

When we walked outside it felt a lot like jumping in a pool. The air was hot and sticky. Hong Kong is basically a massive sauna. The first place that we visited was the Wong Tai Sin temple. It is a Taoist temple and it is beautiful. We walked around the Good Wish Garden and then we went to get our fortunes told. Each of us were given a container that had 50 or 60 sticks in it. We were to shake the container until just one stick came out. That stick had a number on it that would correspond with a fortune poem that would help to discern your future. The number on my stick was 42. I though that was pretty incredible, as 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. (The fortune-teller also told me that I would be successful, get good grades on my exams and go oversees a lot.) My overall out look: quite good. I can feel good about that.

After the Wong Tai Sin temple, we went to see the Hong Kong LDS temple. It was closed for cleaning, but we did meet up with a guy named Colin who was also visiting HK before going to the mainland for school. He came to lunch with us and then we all parted ways. When I say ALL, I mean ALL. I was headed to Disneyland, and for some odd reason no one else wanted to come with me.

I can now say that I have been to every Disneyland in the world. I am kind of blown away at this, besides Anaheim none of the trips I made were Disney-specific. I just kind of happened to end up where all of the parks were - and this was my last one. Kinda geeky, kinda cool. I love it. HK Disneyland is just as small as everyone says, but as least the Jungle Cruise ride is in a real jungle. You just can’t beat that.

For the next two days we took the city by storm. We ate chicken feet as part of a traditional Dim Sum breakfast. We walked about 10,000 steps on the day we went to see the 10,000 Buddhas in the New Territories. (Which btw, was one of the most incredible things I have seen anywhere in the world). We rode the subway across all of HK and up to the mainland (even though our visas did not permit us to leave the station). We visited Victoria Peak to see the view of Hong Kong that has been on my desktop at work for the last two months. While there, we also saw the spot where Hong Kong was dedicated for missionary work in 1949.

On Sunday we had church in Mandarin and we went to the art museum and the Hong Kong history museum. I do love me some museums. My favorite part of the art museum was an exhibit of pieces by Wu Guanzhong. He recently donated 30 pieces of art to the museum and I loved, loved, loved them!

That night we had Bombay Delight curry pizza at Pizza Hut and watched the light show down by the river. The next day we just ran around Hong Kong island and went to some local markets. Soon it was time to leave and we headed off to the airport. The flight to Xiamen was only an hour and 15 minutes. On the way I started to read The Piano Teacher, turns out it is set in Hong Kong. How crazy is that?

A group of students met us at the airport, brought us to the university, and helped us get checked into our hotel rooms. I can’t believe I am in China. Real China. Mainland China.

Now it is time for the real fun to begin…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The only thing constant is change...

As I was sitting in Institute tonight I realized that one week from that very moment I would not be sitting in Institute. I would be sitting on a plane -- on my way to China. This is it folks. The countdown begins. In one week I will be eating noodles and rice. In one week I will be about a foot taller than everyone around me. In one week I will be officially starting my grad program.


I had another realization this week that shook me a bit;I have been on UVU's campus since the Fall of 2000. I left for my mission and to teach in Korea, but UVU had been a very big constant in my life for the last 10 years. 10 years. And that ends in just a few shorts days. Everything is changing. I like change. Change is good. That doesn't mean that it isn't hard. This is incredibly hard. It isn't just a couple of little things that are changing, NOTHING is going to be the same. However, this is usually how things go for me. I don't like to do things small.

So here goes...

It all starts in t-minus 7 days...