Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 8: Silk Market and Peking Duck

No, there is not abundant supplies of's just the name of the street and market. We went there after dinner. I bought some things for the girls in the family and myself, something for Gordie as well, oh and some sunglasses since the guy on the plane broke mine. What really gets the venders is when I say how I can get it waaaaay cheaper in the US since they start us at like 2000 yuan when it's worth like 10...I bought the classes for 48ish yuan, still a little high but better than the 1300 she tried to sell it to me for. Most everyone bought things. Lou some knock off converse, and different girls bought knock off LV and etc bags, I also bought a dress that I paid too much for as well. Overall it was fun though, but shopping isn't necessarily high on my priority list during traveling.

After shopping for maybe 2 hours we went to eat Peking duck at the supposedly best place in Beijing for the PD. It was delicious, I forget the name in English. The private room viewed over the streets and it was pretty. They brought us lots of dishes and a guy cut the duck in front of us. I like duck but I think I prefer chicken and seafood over duck and other red meats. I'm still trying to eat healthy here, even though I fail sometimes.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 8: Forbidden City

When entering into the Forbidden City I tried to take a picture and the guard was in the picture so they put a hand in my camera and said no picture...I was confused for a split second until I realized it was them, not the backdrop, that was to not be etched into film. We had to wait for awhile for Lucy to buy tickets for us...some people grew hot and impatient, especially when people would continue to just stare and take pictures of us. There was a very tall black man who was also getting attention from the crowds. We were finally in. Jenny and Tracy came with us.

The architecture is lovely. Gold roofs, only for royalty. (I think). There were parts where you could see the old and new brick pavement. The doors dividing each section of the city are ginormous...maybe 3x my size...
I think it's neat how the little figurines on the roof corners symbolize the importance of the building. The Lion statues are gendered, the one with the paw on the claw is female and the one clawing the world is the male (go figure). Someone snapped at me from our group. The eat, walking and lack of food increases people's grumpiness on top of being with people that aren't necessarily your established friends. But we'll make it through. I still love our group. It took quite awhile to walk through the city. It seemed to never end. And then it did. There was a large Buddhist temple on a hill outside the back of the city. There were many people selling things and food and begging for money. There was a boy who could not walk who had a wooden scooter, a blind man playing an instrument with a child between his legs, women holding children, and men selling nutty fruit bars.

We waited for the bus forever, well not really, but it was longer than some people could tolerate. I find myself dancing when I have nothing to do and so I don't mind waiting...we moved to find the bus again. He picked us up and drove us to the restaurant, which was at the entrance to the Forbidden City! It was delicious, fancy. On the way he got pulled over and was given a ticket, I still do not know why but he had to pay a fine.

I was starving. It was nice to find toilet paper in the bathroom. I get sick of drinking soda and actual just don't drink anything sometimes because it is just empty calories, it is bad for you, and makes me bloated...but the peach juice is nice, even if it's mostly just sugar. I have begun to really appreciate tap water in the US...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Aunt Lorie!

Day 8: Beijing Weekend One

I think I passed out after the hot pot...sadly my blog is17 days behind now...aaaahhghgh!

May 8:
Our Korean neighbors across the hall like to drink often and we woke up this morning to green beer bottles lined outside of their door. It's interesting that you can buy alcohol in the school cafeterias and elsewhere that you wouldn't be able to in most places in the US.

We grabbed a quick bit to eat, some rolls or something. I ate some porridge-type stuff with sugar...

We headed to Beijing around 7:30am. Plan: Tiananmen Square/ Forbidden City; Bargain Shopping; Peking Duck.

It took about 2 hours to get to Beijing and another hour or so to actually drive through the city, park and walk to Tiananmen Square. Lucy (her English name for us tourists who are horrible with Chinese names) is our guide for today and tomorrow.
She is from Beijing.

I love how some of the cities plant roses in the median, yellow and red.

A rock slightly larger than a quarter hit the window of the bus on the way to the city. I think the driver is cool. I like his long hair.

Beijing is the 3rd largest city in China with 17ish million people.

I always wondered how they employ so many people in China, but there are so many little jobs that people can do that in the scheme of things they are big jobs, i.e. sweeping the sidewalks and streets, trimming the medians, and a lot of buildings have been going up rapidly.

I don't think I had ever seen a doubled bus until we came to Beijing. I never knew buses could be this long. Somehow they still are packed full of people a lot of times. The double-decker buses are cool. We have not been on one.

We finally parked and walked to the square...which can hold one million people...seriously...there were heads everywhere, covered in colored baseball caps. At first we only saw red and I thought that it'd be easier to get lost with the colorcoding since everyone had the same color. But then I saw some other yellow and orange...and blue, and us. Sooo many people. We took a bathroom break. Wheeew...stinky. I wished some people could just cover their nose without announcing so loudly how smelly it was. There was a small security scanner in a white tent (which is appearing to be the standard for most tourist attractions). I am glad you can bring bags in and we don't have to worry about not being able to take them in. Most places also allow water bottles, otherwise you may die. Just joking, but seriously. It is gradually growing warmer here (as it is May 24 when I am typing this). We didn't really walk around the square...we circled in a single spot and took pictures and Lucy explained some things to us but our tours keep being interrupted by people trying to sell us stuff or people stopping and standing on our shoulder trying to touch or mostly take pictures while gawking at us. We took a picture outside of the Mao portrait and the guy who was trying to get us to buy the photo he was organizing got irritated when we asked Lucy to take our pictures with our cameras.

We then walked under the road in a tunnel to cross the road without worrying about traffic. It was neat, kind of like when I went to the Inauguration of President Obama.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Night 7: Hot Pot Gets Heated

May 7 evening:

After the class we got back on the bus at 5:13 or 17:13 to head to dinner- a hot pot. It was rush hour...I never knew buses could get so packed. The UofM buses have regulations that do not allow passengers to be in front of a yellow I've seen people squashed to the very front of the bus, faces and bodies plastered to the front and door windows. It also amazes me how people can notice us in the bus from s far away and I can see them staring...and I guess it makes sense that since I can stare at them then they can see us and gawk...but one of my photos of a bunch of highway construction works has a man doing the victory sign and smiling at us...and I took it as we were driving past fairly fast and on the opposite side of the highway...

There are always people sprinkling the streets, and on the highways...walking, riding, weeding, pushing, waiting, jogging, carting, wheeling, vending, planting, constructing, cleaning, fixing, etc. Their tanned skin glistening and peeking out from the bright orange suites. I also never knew that 3 people could fit on a bicycle or motorbike until we came here- two women, two men, woman walking older woman on bike, mom and dad with baby, boy and girl. I am almost used to it by now (May 20th).

There is a lot of building development going on right now from what I can see where we've been.

We showed up at a mall type building, they are usually higher than they are wide. The hot pot was inside. It was fancy. I feel like we are underdressed most times we go out to eat. Larry said before we left Michigan that we would be eating at fancier places due to health concerns, not to show off...but some of the places are so upscale I feel awkward walking in with shorts and flip-flops.

There was a huge wine rack that reached from floor to ceiling when we walked in. Red, black and white were the colors that decorated the restaurant. They sat us in a back corner where the walls were painted black. I had wished we could sit somewhere that was better lit...or by a window like the other rooms. We mostly had our own hot pot instead of a having one in the middle. I think this was the meal that people were most picky about. It got a little demanding for me and a few of us got irritated with the number of requests. There were numerous waitstaff helping us and some of the concerns could have been said quieter and patience was in short supply for my standards. Like I have said, I don't like feeling spoiled everywhere we go and so that's the main thing that gets to me. I like everyone, I really do, I just do not always like how we appear or the loudness/word choices people use. Jenny asked us what we wanted and one item was mushrooms and they were immediately shut down, but then they came in the broth stock...and it was to give it flavor and there were complaints about it and I felt I would have just picked them out or not eaten them because you wouldn't taste them if you don't eat them. Allergies I understand, but there are not many on the team. Gia and I mentioned about wishing everyone would be more openminded because we were both getting upset, and I guess that ticked others off.

Overall, however, the dinner was great and the food was delicious. I liked cooking it, (besides the heat of all the pots in the corner) and I made my first whole shrimp, head and all. Not everyone can do that (but they begin to as the trip progresses- everyone seems to grow each day, it's great. I have found myself observing more this trip...I always am observing and thinking but I am usually the center of attention as well...running, jumping and dancing-sometimes with a song outburst, but it's easy to be more distant observing this trip because of all the colorful personalities, each getting their time in the light).

There was a guy who did a dance with the noodles...he spun and twirled and sprung it in our face...lack of better vivid vocabulary...
The fancy places always have nice bathrooms, some with a Western toilet as well (not a "normal" toilet but a Western toilet...). The hand washing places in most Chinese bathrooms we have been to are in one area where men and women cleanse together, with or without soap, depending on the place. This place had lotion and a few other things as well...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Pictures for non-Facebook Users

Pictures of Daisy for YOU

Hi Michael's Mom :)

I heard you saw my blog so I figured I would dedicate a post to your son.

He is funny and cute :)

but you may want to watch your makeup stash...

Day 7: Learning to Create a new way

May 7 Afternoon:
After eating I decided to go out on the "balcony" since the lunch room we were in is on the 3rd floor. It is a pretty view over campus so I people watched (as usual), and photo journaled what I saw (as usual). There was a couple holding hands, girls holding hands, girls with umbrellas (it's very popular to have an umbrella during the sunshine. I have noticed a stark difference between skin hues of people who work outside constantly and those who are students or work indoors. I don't think it's a fade to be tan here as it is among wealthier white Americans). People riding bikes. Maintenance workers. Towels hanging out of dorms.

I then went to the bathroom but realized I had forgotten wipes, I guess that I figure it's not that bad to do a little dance and move many bathrooms do not soap so if I don't need to wipe then I don't have to worry about being sanitary. To some it is gross but it's not that big of a deal or me. I save my tissue for 'other' times...if you catch my...drift....but hopefully not...hahaha

After lunch we were taken to a class to create art out of a type of play dough clay. The ones we had were brightly colored and were given the option to create from books or imagination, we did a little of both. Most of us worked with a TNU student. My partner and I made a tomato from the book. Then I told her that I'd make her something if she makes me something. I knew I was going to make her a daisy...sort of...I grabbed some hot pink, green and yellow clay. It was very hard to roll, as it came in pretty solid blocks. I asked Milah for the advanced book and she told me it was too hard to do...but I just wanted to see how they created some of the flowers. I think mine turned out nicely and I kind of wanted to keep it but also wanted to give it away. My partner, Helen is her English name (some students have them and some don't). She was very quiet and we did not talk much, more so concentrated on our masterpieces. I was amazed at the talent among our group. Lakia made a cute hotdog, very detailed. Everyone was amazed at the dragon that looked like Mushu from Disney's inaccurate version of Mulan. Bailey and her partner made the cutest teddy bear and Sunny and her friend made blue and pink penguins. Jia made a bubble bee on a sunflower with her peer. It was fun. They were heated and given back to us while we took Chinese handwriting (calligraphy) from a teacher at the school. Helen made me a cute beeish looking figurine. The calligraphy teacher showed us how to write on paper and also used a projection screen to show us his skills. We tried...a girl next to me helped me and explained what they meant to me. I made her a sign in the end that said thank you and made the characters for friends :)
after class we headed home after decided if we were going to go karaoke or not...everyone was too tired I think...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 7: TNU Primary Edu Dept.

May 7, 2010

One thing that is hard to convey to anyone not here is the different smells. You can take an image and capture part of the visual experience, also the audio with video; however, we cannot bottle and preserve all of the different smells. Driving past the garbage dump to the university again today did not bother me as much but it is still a potent pungent smell that engulfs my inner nasal cavities, lingering long enough to cause me to breath through my mouth only.

It is difficult for students in China to study abroad because there are so many trying to travel to the US/UK/Australia, and elsewhere.

Today is the Primary Education Department at Tianjin Normal University. We were late and classes had begun but were taken to a class to wait and found students waiting there. The class was taught in English by a Chinese teacher. Her English was fairly good to our standards. She appeared a little strict and the rest of the class was basically just a free-for-all talking with the students. I talked with two female students. They were shy. I took out my laptop once I saw Professor Gant showing them things on his and I decided to show pictures of our campus and of Vincent and I dancing and some of my family. We talked a little and asked/answered questions to each other. Class ended and we exchanged emails and photos.

The next class came in and it became apparent that we would be observing and participating in learning from her students, and then conversing. I was at a table with Amanda, Milah and 3 guys named David Zhang, Ivan and Augusting. I talked with David the most but we all had mostly a group conversation. David's right eye was mostly closed but I did not want to ask him about it, but now I wish I would have because I tried not to stare at it when conversing. The teacher told us to only talk about the theme of tourism and traveling...but they wanted to talk about other things. We mainly talked about China and names and etc but then she interrupted us, as Augustine (he spells it Augusting though, but maybe just in his email, I am not sure...) says she likes to do. She was interesting. She then had two girls perform a play dialogue they had practiced before. She said they usually just read or memorize but today was special for they did a short skit. It was cute and had a moral attached to it about spending more time with your children instead of working all of the time. They then asked the class questions and we were invited to participate as well. After awhile the teacher kind of looked annoyed that it was taking this long and more or less told her they were done...
Then a few different groups presented places around the world, including Tianjin, The Great Wall (indirectly), London? I forget the names of some of the sites. One girl was presenting a wall in Europe and got on a tangent of TGW and basically said it was the greatest wall and better (for my lack of better terminology) than the European wall she was presenting...and then got into tips about the GW. After awhile the teacher hurried her up. David's group was supposed to present Italy and they had notes and pictures about it but the teacher skipped to another group. Milah and Amanda told them about Detroit and a lot of places to see there. The teacher kept telling them to ask us about Chicago...where we were from...and everyone would bust into giggling spurts until after about a 7th time she found out we were from Ann Arbor... We then talked again and Augusting wanted to know what American books said about China but by then the teacher cut us off I told him we'd get in touch to talk more.

Then we played a game of telephone...tragic hahaha we staggered her students with us and played 3 or 4 games...the sentences of about 20 words were chopped dramatically down to about 2 or 5 and usually had nothing to do with the first sentence. After taking more pictures and exchanging emails we left the building for lunch. I had Caryn help me with lunch...she ordered me fried rice with just shrimp, instead of the entire seafood fried rice...but I was handed a huge plate of white rice and little shrimp sprinkled on it...I figured I would never order a meal and have it be what I ordered...but I was still hopeful. It was good, just kind of plain so Lou let me taste some of his seafood fried rice. I also ordered a smoothie and it came back as a green tea smoothie with strawberry ice cream on top in the form of pink soft serve. I am not a fan of bitter and the crushed ice tea was soo bitter but it was tolerable if I mixed the ice cream in with a spoonful of green team smoothie.

Things I have yet to notice:

coins on the ground


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 6: Lights Out!

May 6 still:

We ended the class, exchanged numbers/emails, hugged, thanked, and took photos. We recollected in the lobby area and left campus for the International campus in which we are staying most of the time. Sunny and I went to the dining room after chaning clothes and no one was there so we went up to the 8th floor where everyone else is staying to talk about dinner plans...
We decided to split up for dinner, half of the group ordered pizza, while Nevena, Bailey, Chaz, Sunny, Lou and I went to dinner at the dumpling house across from our "hotel dorm." I was tired and wore the large t-shirt that was given to us. I realized I should have dressed slightly nicer once we entered the restaurant. Chaz dropped his chopsticks on the floor during dinner and tried to ask the waitress for new ones and he put them on the ground to get the message across...but a cook (with a very stern and scary look on his face) came out and handed Chaz a fork and steak knife...the waitress returned with chopsticks but our faces were interesting to see...
We felt like we were "fending for ourselves" because no one was ordering for us...We ordered some different dumplings, I picked a shrimp and zucchini one. We loved the shrimp and pork ones the best though and reordered it 2 more times. Dr. Gant gave us money for dinner, the dumplings are about a dollar a cheap...but the tea was the kicker and bumped the bill up a lot.

After dinner we walked a bit and went to a bakery and I bought a delicious looking cake with fruit on it for a dollar (and I am sure it would have cost about 5 or so in the US at least). The cakes here are beautiful and so cheap compared to the ones in the US. It had a strawberry, kiwi and peach slices on the top. The supermarket is inside a mall. Many stores you cannot bring bags in but the lockers are free here and you push a button, open pops a locker, you grab the ticket, leave your bag, then scan the ticket when you're finished. I swear the US overcharges for many things. I figured I could carry my cake in but the guard made me leave it at the front of the store and I was just hoping he wasn't hungry. I bought some foods and juggled it out the door because I was not given a bag. We headed back and I bought a McDonald's ice cream for about 30 cents US on the way home when Chaz did.

I asked Taylor to save me a piece of pizza. She did and it wasn't the greatest, plus I was already full...I brought back some dumplings, too. I passed out as soon as we were back and was too full to even eat my cake, plus it looked a little gross by the time I took a picture at home.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 6: Round 2/3 of classes

May 6 after lunch:

The weather is beautiful, in my book. We returned to the honor room in the Literature department around 2 to wait to be taken to the next classes. We decided that a few of the groups should switch after an hour instead of being in a class for 2 straight hours and we were divided up into 4 groups this time, our original groups. We were taken to a class on the first floor past the giant mirror near the front of the building (it is giant). I feel so foreign entering these classes and the kids smile, gawk, and laugh, along with perplexed gazes. We decided to start with a stretch and moved all of the tables and chairs to the sides of the room, formed a circle and Jamilah led warmups. We then divided into 3 smaller groups and Sunny, Milah and I facilitated each group, asking questions about dance, health, activities and whatever conversations spawned from there. It is easier to encourage people to talk in smaller groups because they get more of a chance to speak and allow others to assist them with words without feeling mounds of pressure to hurry a statement up in front of an entire class full of peers and strangers.

After about ten minutes we circled back up and then decided to teach Salsa...because it seemed to be working and entertaining. They enjoyed it, especially when I threw in a few 'fancy' moves that 'look cool.' I am thankful that I have dance teaching experience and am the daughter of a teacher/dance teacher otherwise I wouldn't know what the hell I was doing ever. It is really fun. I like feeling like a student and facilitator at the same time. I don't really consider myself as a teacher here, nor any of us, because the angles seem to be more at an equal level rather than us coming in at a teaching angle. I like the cultural exchange and exchange of learning, excitement and entertainment. Sometimes they ask questions and other times I ask questions and sometimes we just perform for each other, giving nonverbal communication.

During the smaller group talks I asked what they did outside of school work. Some play piano, some sing, some like to shop, basketball, table tennis, tennis, swim. It is interesting that the hobbies are as different as the hobbies amongst American students. Some say they are lazy. Some students are very shy while others are fairly vocal, but the majority tended to be more shy at the college level. Cathy was in that class with us, one of my penpals. It was the first experience actually doing something on our was fun but new because many of the students had a decent handle on English but not fluent. A lot of the times there is one or a few people will have talk most of the time and sometimes translate. Most students studying English learn it for multiple years but have no English speakers to practice with, which is why many students are excited to have us at their school for a few days. We have English corner on Tuesday, which is a program led by students that allows students to just go practice English speaking together outside of class.

After the lesson, which took many people awhile to grasp the harder steps, but went well overall, we took pictures and exchanged some emails.

Then off to the next class. The tables were already pushed to the sides and there was a powerpoint on. I guess later on we found out that they had a presentation for us but we didn't realize it and started our lesson. But there was no protest so we did not know. We skipped the isolation warm up and moved into small group conversation. Some similar questions and answers but also some different ones. Sometimes questions are misunderstood or not understood and the answers do not always correspond. It is interesting to struggle together. When we moved into the salsa lesson it is usually difficult how to communicate to get a partner and then divide up the partnership by leads and follows so I have learned to use a visual demonstration of the process. It is fun, I like what we're doing and each day brings a new agenda, despite whatever we thought we were supposed to be doing...

The second class was also fun but we were getting tired. A group of 4 girls held hands and did a 4-way Salsa and wouldn't split up until encouraged to. One told me that they were creative. They were. After we circled up again and discussed what happened and comments. Some said it was sexy. We asked why we dance. Some said for boys, expression, happiness, joy, because it's sexy...haha everything.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 6: Lunch Chaos

May 6 lunch:
On our way to lunch we were pulled to a table outside by the Giant Pen Tip to write Happy Mother's Day, etc, on paper heart cutouts and post them on a board, as well as sign our name on a banner...I still do not know what it said...
We were followed by camera/photographers the entire time. Never would I ever wish to be a celebrity I have come to discover. I always knew I might like some of the perks but just being followed this little is annoying. Since I don't have a phone I thought to take pictures of the hearts and tag my mom on Mother's Day :p Lame but an idea.

Then some kids with a camera interviewed a few of us about Mother's Day, looked like a student television station? We headed to lunch and I went with Cathy because she is one of my penpals :p
Chaz, Jamilah and a few others followed. There began many questions and requests and I think she was overwhelmed. Some people wanted chicken. I was okay with almost anything and did not even know what to get. The lunch room on the 3rd floor (there are a number of dinning halls) is painted green and has many options for dining. After awhile some people got frustrated with our lack of understanding the menus and choices and Cathy had a hard time with translating food items (she since has sent me an email apologizing and informing me that she has studied up...she is SO sweet and I am sorry our group caused her some distress.) Chaz and I were the only ones left with her and we said anything and he pointed at a picture at one of the spots and I pointed at a dish that was waiting to be picked up. She then picked me a drink that was green bean was delicious but different, kind of like soy milk and was a creamy color. She instructed us to sit down and then she went and ordered her food...she brought us back our food...and somehow we ended up with the same thing...and not what we requested...I tried to eat it, as did Chaz, in order to not make her feel bad at all...but it was hard, I keep recalling it as hotpeppers and chicken bones...i just couldn't do it, especially after he found a chicken foot in his. Sometimes I am on the verge of vegetarianism and that put me over the edge. I snuck some of Ellen's seafood fried rice when Cathy left. She returned with the exact dish I ordered...and offered me a bite when she saw my facial expression...I only took 2 and said I was full....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 6: Making friends

May 6, 2010:

We came to a classroom and entered not knowing what to expect...and were we surprised. They decorated the room with balloons and made a cute welcoming sign on the chalk board. We were instructed to sit down and we did int he front of the class where no one was really seated, the student 'translators' sat amongst us. We have no idea where the teacher disappeared to the entire time...they said she left. "Fancy Nancy" (her name because she was dressed so cute?) played music while one girl went to the front of the class and performed a dance for us, it was beautiful. 2 other students sang a song, which was also wonderful. They wanted us to perform, and we did not really have anything as a collective group so the music group performed Stand by Me and we said we would dance later in the afternoon (after creating something). They had a game planned for us (basically our curriculum was not needed for this class...) which involved a Chinese student and an American student, a piece of newspaper, and music. Whoever guessed the song when it played could remain on the paper while everyone else had to fold theirs in half...this continued until the paper was too small for both to stand one point I was Koalaing my partner and Chaz had his on his back. It was fun :)
Milah and her partner won and they gave her decorated silk, very sweet :)
Then two students showed/taught us how to use a Chinese yo-yo, pretty difficult but fun also. I proceeded to conduct a mini Salsa lesson with half of the class and Milah and Sunny helped. I plugged my iPod into the class laptop and played some Salsa musica. Simultaneously there were girls teaching Chinese handwriting (calligraphy) in the middle of the classroom. Besides the boy who was my newspaper partner, the boys in the class were quit and cliqued in the back of the room, I wish we had drug them more out of the comfort zone but we were still trying to get adjusted to being out of ours...
After 2 hours we had to leave and took a group photo...I realize more and more that I always have to take the photo...
half of the people were chopped out of the one with me iiinnn it...

It is interesting to see that there are many personalities amongst the students, like us, and that "they" are not all the same like people sometimes assume or reference to. I notice a little ethnocentrism amongst our group at times but more so when referencing to things being "normal" or "weird." I notice people growing each day, which is great, even myself. I think you learn the most about yourself and where you come from during trips such as this where you are taken away from what you are used to and have to navigate through different contexts and "normalities."

Day 6: Expected Guests

It was interesting to see the Chinese flag (one star each for the workers, soldiers, students and farmers?) instead of the American flag on the campus. There is a beautiful sculpture of a ginormous ink pen tip. There were students playing tennis on the tennis courts. There are also basketball courts but I did not notice them at first. The campus is gorgeous, very enclosed- apart from the city, and very...'gray.' Today was the school of literature and literature majors. The students may have minors but there is really no choice for classes among concentrations, the school assigns set classes. It was about 9am. The weather was beautiful already, fairly warm. We walked to the school of literature and were greeted by a grand reception of photographers, filmers and faculty.

We were taken to the 'Honor Room,' and boy is it an honor. The decorations are so beautiful and the furniture amazed all of us, very nice style. One wall contained awards won by students, which the school kept, which is different than in the United States. They are documenting everything with video and photo. I bumped the filmer a few times because he was squatting an inch away from me. A student (teacher?) from the performing arts department performed a piece from a Chinese opera that we related to Mulan. It was different and I was hoping no one started to giggle because we're not used to it. Thankfully everyone was great :)

We then were directed outside to take a picture with a huge red banner that said something...
Some of the students came out and 2 girls asked for me and rushed up to me, proclaiming that they were the penpals that I had communicated with before we traveled to China. I only wrote once in the states and the night before due to exams, work and etc. They both wanted me to come to their class but they were in different classes so I agreed to do one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Their names are: Ding Ke and Yang Yi (or Cathy is her English name). They are so beautiful and sweet.

We split into 3 groups so the music and dance group combined together, which made 7 of us. We were taken to different classes by student guides/interpreters. I have found out more and more that Tracy's English is not standard but exceptional. They do not have much practice conversing in English and some have said this is the most English they have ever had to speak. We are also trying to brush up some Mandarine.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 6: Travel to TNU

May 6:
The first day of meeting the college students on their campus. Today was the school of literature students. TNU is a teacher campus.
The waiter that took a picture with Taylor made a square picture signal to her but we are not sure exactly what he means. We were supposed to take the city bus to the campus but "they liked us so much" that they hired a bus for 20 dollars (100 Yuan) for us to take. There is combination of private and public buses so there are some students on the bus but the bus driver kicked them off when we came. I was horrified (this feeling happens a few times every so often when I feel like we command attention and royalty). Larry told Jenny to tell them to get back on and that the driver would not get in trouble or anything of the sort. It made me feel better. Hau was still in the shower when we were leaving. Her group was slightly irritated and almost upset...
We were early for the bus though.
The bus ride was long. There are random times in the city where your nose just refuses to breathe because a funny/bad smell sweeps in with a furious vengeance. My lungs burn at times, I assume from pollution, like any big city, but I am not used to it. Traffic is takes skill to drive here...the stereotype that ignorant people like to refer to Asians is actually the opposite of have to witness the interaction of bike, car, bus, truck and pedestrian to understand. Helmets are inexistent...I doubt the concept exists. Little children on the back of motorbikes still makes me cringe. I am curious the stats for accident occurrence/physical damage.

I was taking pictures of everyone's ear pieces because it was just interesting to see everyone listening to their iPods.

The school is close to a dump. I guess some people live there. Men working on the construction site for university additions live in tents right next to the site...Larry said for connivence, and maybe working longer hours...

After 25ish minutes...depending on traffic...we arrive at the campus. It's beautiful, but definitely a secluded campus where it is just the campus and no city. There are guards at the front.

We still did not know entirely what to expect entering the campus. Larry gives us ideas about what's going on...but most of the time we are confused on what we're supposed to be doing or have planned...some people stress about it, others like me have learned to just go with the flow and have a semi-plan but be flexible. It amazes me how little things can irritate each of us about others while not other people...just interesting...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 5: Chinese Lessons

May 5:

I think everyone is sugar deprived...we are dumping sugar into our rice/water breakfast soup and dipping our buns in sugar, at least most people are. We swear the waitstaff here at the hotel hates us, at least some of them. It's an exaggeration but I think they just do not understand us...
Today was the "official" start of our program according to TNU. Larry told us to wear what we were wearing at breakfast, but we all felt like we should have been dressed up a little more. I wore all black so I felt okay- black works for everything...
We met the dean, the heads of the departments, the head of the international something something department, a couple teachers and a translator, named Ms. Kong. The dean introduced everyone and Ms Kong (Susan) interpreted for us. We had a welcome speech from the head of the international department (?), who introduced the wise leader aka dean.

Larry copied the Rules for International Students and told us to read it so that he could save us from sitting there during the opening ceremony and reading it to us (some of the rules are not to have a job or participate in any religious activity openly, it's interesting and different than UofM...) This tactic cut the meeting short by about 40 minutes so we had extra time after meetings. We all introduced ourselves at the ceremony and Susan translated everything. They gave us Tianjin University T-shirts..all XXL's which look like Larges...fat Americans.

The lunch was we've had here. Courses just kept coming...shrimp was great. Frog legs. Gristle chicken legs, a whole fish, duck, chicken, pork, amazing vegetables, a semi-sweet pastry, rice, watermelon...I wish I could go into more detail...
Jia told Taylor and Michael that it was good to eat the head eyes...and they tore that shit apart...only to find out later that the waitstaff was giggling at them. When inquiring they found out that it was not supposed to be done? I've heard so many stories I am confused and Michael was upset for a few days about it and hounded Larry about it, even though he reassured him that it was okay...
Soda is demanded a lot. I don't mind drinking it sometimes but I really don't like to, and I feel like we are just so demanding sometimes and gets on one of my nerves.

After lunch we had until 2pm to relax and then we had Chinese lessons with Ms. Kong across the way in room 510. We learned the tones, basics, counting, how to introduce ourselves, ask for names, say how we are...I am slightly struggling when the paper is not in front of me...I counted in front of the class...oye vey...

We had a break again. Then dinner. I went to bed at 8pm, accidentally, in my clothes and woke up at 1am to change into my new XXL shirt. I slept until 6 am.