Hangzhou baby

CRUNCH TIME

December 24, 2009
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I’ve done nothing the last few days. Exams are coming up for everyone on Wednesday and it’s lonely here. The Aussies all leave Christmas Day and have all this short-term program shit to do so I have to hang out by myself. Which is fine because I have an exam as well. ON CHRISTMAS DAY.

I feel a little bitter, since I should have been in their short-term program as well. The service has been awful. I planned this trip so carefully. I came to Zhejiang University because it was one of the few places that offered a short-term program.

I get here and I’m stuck in the middle of a long-term program. It’s really difficult.

Also, but completely unrelated, they screwed me over with Internet access. And my shower floods. I’ve flooded the entire hall before. So now I have a technique. I splash water on myself, turn the faucet off while I put on soap, then rinse off as swiftly as possible.

I haven’t felt clean in weeks.

Okay I’m done complaining.

But I’ve been studying like mad, which is unfortunate because it’s finally nice out and my room is like a jail cell. It’s disgustingly messy, but those of you who know me shouldn’t be surprised.

It’s better this way though, because I feel like I’ve been having too much fun and not learning enough, if that makes any sense. I’ve partied so much here, which is amazing and is rather enlightening of Chinese people, but I’m here to learn too.

My classes are great. My favorite teacher is Hu Laoshi. I’m one of the few people who actually goes to class everyday, and I always get there early so she talks to me a lot. She’s been really accommodating.

The academic side really has been a pain. I’m in a class with people who have been learning here for almost a Semester; I’ve had to study hard in order to catch up. I’ve also had to relearn all the Chinese characters in simplified in a matter of weeks.

It’s also been extremely beneficial. Chinese classes at OSU are really good, but we move so fast. I have a vocab quiz like every day, and we zoom through everything so I don’t really have time to really learn how to use the material. Here, we go through everything really in depth, and we break up or classes into comprehension, listening and speaking, which has done wonders. I also like our books, I think they are really easy to learn from. The reading and writing book we use at home give me a headache.

Then, after my class, I get to practice my Chinese in everyday life! Which for me involves eating and shopping pretty much. I suck.

Must go, must study!

-Ev

P.s. I took a study break to by these cool Doc Marten-esque style boots that all the Chinese girls wear. Only 160 kuai AKA $20. WOOHOO.


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A lecture on history

December 24, 2009
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I finally have Internet in my room. Sadly, I cannot access gmail, or send my sister blogs to post. I’ve resigned to paying for an overpriced hot dog in a café in order to send her my posts. I’m really behind, so these are out of order since right now I can’t attach photos for some reason.

Last week, I went to a lecture that whizzed through about 7000 years of Chinese history in about an hour. I kind of snuck in. It was meant for the Australian short-term students, but I wanted to do something cultural, and it was too cold to go to West Lake.

There wasn’t enough to really get in depth, but the lecture was really interesting nonetheless.  Our lecturer was an Aussie professor named Doug, who broke down Chinese history by the dynasties and tried to center it around Hangzhou.

It’s strange. When you think of important Chinese cities, you think of Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, maybe Tibet – but Hangzhou has been a big player in China all along. Although, it wasn’t always called Hangzhou.

Seeing as I’m a bad student I didn’t take notes at the lecture, and I obviously can’t tell you everything by heart. Here’s a link to Encyclopedia Britannica and (sadly) about.com to get you started with some brief information about Hangzhou and Chinese history if you’re interested. I’ll try to see if Doug will give me some of the references he used for his presentation. My access to online sources is limited, since a lot of Web sites are inaccessible right now, so forgive me.

What the presentation made me really interested in was Su Dongpo. He was a major literary figure at the time, and was governor of Hangzhou at one point. He knew about water construction projects, landscaping and calligraphy as well. I think he represents Hangzhou very well, as both are multi-faceted. Hangzhou is both a metropolitan city and a quaint paradise; it’s both business and pleasure. I think of Su Dongpo the same way.

Again, I’ll see if Doug doesn’t mind sharing his work. We’re BFFs now, seeing as the day after this lecture we ended up drinking together at Maya Bar. We’d gone to eat Szechuan together as a group. Did you know Szechuan food is amongst the spiciest in China? I hate spicy food. Then someone told me something stupid like, “Beer will take the edge of the spice!” And like two hours later I was arguing about the value of one-night stands, random hookups and the American economy with 50+ year old Australian professors.

My life is awesome.

I’ll talk to you all later.

-Ev

P.s. It’s my sister’s 17th birthday! Wish her happiness! (12/22)


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Shanghai pt. 2

December 24, 2009
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Saturday the girls of the group went sight seeing at the Yuyuan Gardens, a really famous spot in Shanghai. It’s 400 years old. A man named Pan Yunduan built it to please his parents. It took 20 years for him to build it. It was finished in 1577. It went through a five-year renovation in the 50’s. For more about it’s history and all the attractions check out Travel China Guide.

Before we took the tour of the Yuyuan Gardens, we we took our time walking through the city to look at “The Bund.”  Unfortunately it was blocked by construction for the World Expo, and there were no ferry’s across the river. Also the smoggy pollution didn’t help. It was still nice to see, knowing how famous it is. 

The Yuyuan Gardens were fun. There were a lot of rocks. A lot. Some pretty trees and flowers. I’m not sure it was worth the 30 RMB I paid to get in but it was still fun. Some of the architecture was pretty cool too, such as the four dragons on the walls surrounding the garden. 

We walked around for hours, acting a fool all the while. We also sat on these great benches. I know that’s weird, but there is a severe lack of benches in the China I’ve seen so far, and nothing is better than a good bench to rest and look around. I’d have to say that the bench in the Yuyuan Garden must be one of the top in the world.

I’m sure that doesn’t make any sense.

The garden also had an art gallery inside dedicated to traditional Chinese art. Take a look!

-Ev


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Shanghai pt. 1

December 15, 2009
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I was in Shanghai all weekend with the Aussies. I’m finally back in Hangzhou now. The Internet at the hostel we stayed at was awful, it took me 15 minutes to send an e-mail to my sis so obviously there were no posts.

The weekend seemed really packed, but when I think back on it, it doesn’t seem like we did a lot. We almost missed our train, so from the get go we were stressed. We had to sprint through the train station just to make it, Jess ran over a child on the way. We made it just in time, and the feeling of success was overwhelming. It was like we’d won an Olympic race or something.

Shanghai is a bit overwhelming, but it’s really fun to experience. Just walking around was great since there’s so much going on. You have these beautiful buildings and high-class fashion shops, but then in the alleyways there are crumbling apartments and street venders and laundry lines hanging over the street. The Ritz hotel sparkles brilliantly, BMWs and Cadillacs parked and gleaming in the lot, but there’s a legless man begging you for change as you look at the hotel, while Dolce and Gabanna clad beauties step around him.

It was a shame though, there’s so much construction due to the upcoming World Expo in Shanghai, so the skyline of the city wasn’t as beautiful as it normally would be (or is rumored to be), but it was still great to see.

On Friday we went to this really great arts district in Shanghai and looked at photo galleries and some shops. We ate at this Australian café (the Aussies were craving a bit of home), which was pretty good. We also went to a museum detailing the history of the Communist Party in China. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take photos for you. It was mostly pics of important people in the movement, old soldier uniforms, clothes and weaponry, and important scrolls and documents.

Afterwards the group divided in two, some people went home to nap / pre-game for a night out, while Jen, Alex, Naomi and I went to see an acrobat show. Shanghai is famous for it’s acrobats.

We basically went to a budget show, it wasn’t the cream of the crop but it was still amazingly entertaining. Some parts were sloppy (aka people falling over and bad dancing) but it was so fun and I saw some tricks I’d never seen before. The only part I didn’t like was this extended act where they were pretending to be American (I think). They were in a diner and wearing fluffy dresses and blond wigs while this guy juggled and really poor magician flailed around some cards and confetti. My favorite act is a tie between this group of men jumping through hoops, and this really romantic ropes act.

I took a lot of photos, but no flash was allowed. Hopefully the photos are still interesting enough for you. Enjoy!

-Ev


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Going to the market

December 15, 2009
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Last week I didn’t do much except go to various markets and eat a lot to be quite honest. I’ll have to make an effort to go to a museum or something cultural this week. However you could argue that these markets are part of the culture. I’ve never seen anything like this. The markets are enormous and noisy.

They’re also very overwhelming. I get really nervous. There’s so much junk to sift through and I don’t have any patience. I’m also very aware that I could be getting ripped off, because I don’t know what the real value is of the objects I’m getting. The vendors are also really aggressive and sometimes can be hard to deal with because of the language barrier.

First market I went to was the food market I went to earlier in the week. Here are the pictures of that weird fruit I got that I couldn’t post earlier.

It looks bizarre but I promise it’s really good. I ate them until I got a stomachache.

I also went to the night market on Tuesday night, which was an interesting experience. First of all, it was pouring rain and there are too many tents and people at the night market to carry an umbrella, so we got soaked. I’m hyper paranoid about rain here. My mother’s Chinese student, Chai, told me that the rain was so polluted that if I were exposed too long my hair would fall out. I’m sure it’s not true, but still …

But anyways the night markets are pretty junky but it’s still got some nice trinkets. They have some clothes, designer swine flu masks (I bought one with a kitty on it!) and fake name brands that look pretty fake, so I didn’t buy any.

There’s a sort of dance that needs to be done at the markets to get your goods. First, the owner gives you a price. Then you say that it’s too expensive, that your friend got it for cheaper. Then you name your price. They lower theirs. You can go up a bit or stay firm. They will say they won’t sell it. Then you say goodbye and walk away dramatically.

They chase you down, then sell it to you for the amount you wanted. It’s really fun.

I feel bad though. The stuff’s already ridiculously cheap, I feel like I’m stealing. They also quoted me and my friends at higher prices because they assume foreigners are rich and have no idea they’re getting ripped off, which is usually true I feel.

I was too overwhelmed (and wet) to really pour through the junk to find treasures, but I’ll go back on a nicer day and really give it my all.

Wednesday we went to a silk market.

Hangzhou is known for their silk, and they have many many silk markets.

The cab driver that drove us to the market told us the one we were going to was cheap, that the silk wasn’t good. We still went anyways, at least to have a look.

It was cool, but I got bored easily. Silk sounds nice, but I think the cabbie was right about this place. It wasn’t that great. All of the shops had really cheesy traditional Chinese clothes, which my friends bought up but I didn’t want. I mean, where the hell would I wear it? I’m not one to buy it just for the novelty.

Then most of the silk all had that stereotypical Chinese print all over it, which I think, looks really tacky. I want to get some nice silk, at least a scarf for my mother, but I want it to be true Hangzhou silk, and in a nice print or solid color. I’m going to have to keep searching.

The amount of silk was really amazing and a lot of it felt nice and looked pretty. Some of the places you could go and ask to have something made.

My friend Jess and I got bored and decided to wander around the streets. We ended up going to a bunch of cake and pastry shops, so enjoy the photos. Check out the cake-ke-bob! Haha.

There are so many dessert places; I’m going to try and see as many as I can!

-Ev


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Technical Difficulties

December 13, 2009
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I’ve been touring Shanghai and having some serious technical difficulties so that’s why there’s been no posts lately. I’ll post as soon as I figure it out!


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Dissecting Chinese fashion

December 8, 2009
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I basically shopped all day Monday. During my speaking class we went to a food market to practice speaking. I didn’t take photos, I felt bad because the people looked really uncomfortable with me taking photos of them like they were aliens or something. My classmates took pics, and the workers there were not happy at all about it. I decided to let them work.

The market is wonderful. It’s two floors with every veggie and fruit you can want. The second floor has freshly butchered meat too, it’s kind of gross but also looks delicious if that makes sense.

Shopping is a bit disoriented here. It’s hard to gauge what you’re spending since the currency is way different, I think 7.58 RMB to 1 USD. I’m also horrified I’m being ripped off since I have no idea how much things should cost. My teacher saved me from being ripped off for some fruit.

I bought some cherries because I was craving them, and since they were out of season they were too expensive, but I don’t care. I also bought this really interesting red fruit. I don’t know what it’s called, and it looks horrifying but it is SO delicious. It wasn’t too expensive either, so I got a bunch.

That night I went shopping with my Australians instead of doing my homework. I’m awesome, I know. My goal was to end up at the night market, where everything is awesome and cheap, although you have to bargain. We never ended up there.

My friends wanted to go to this fancy shopping area first, where they have Hermes and Versace and Dolce and the like. Why? Dunno, I didn’t go to China to go there.

After we went to a couple of Chinese malls and boutiques.

Chinese fashion is interesting. I’ve tried to put links to things that look like what the people wear, if you’re interested. The young people are really steezed out.

The guys have really nice jeans and shiny bubble jackets (very popular here). They also wear many accessories, like scarves and (sadly) lots of man purses. A lot of them. But they pull it off.

The girls are amazing. They dress to the nines. High heels with fur and chains and pearls, really REALLY short skirts (shorter than the one linked). They top it off with and furry or puffy jackets and lots of accessories. They also like the Doc Marten look paired with bright tights and cute skirts or shorts layered on top.You’d never think of China as like a fashion mecca but almost all the young women I see here look fantastic.

So I decided I wanted to dress like one. We went to this really fancy mall, which had an H&M as the anchor. I lost my friends there. I guess in Perth, Australia they don’t have an H&M. I wandered around the rest of the mall. There are no distinct stores, just like little boutiques that have a cubicle like wall surrounding it. I stopped in one and ask the women there to show me how to dress like a Chinese girl.

They had a blast and so did I. They didn’t allow me to take photos (a few places here don’t let you take photos) but trust me, I looked ridiculous. The best outfit was a tiny leopard print frilly skirt, it barely covered my butt. Then a strange t-shirt with sparkly cats on it, with a matching leopard print cropped bomber jacket. I thought they were making fun of me at first, but they were dead serious.

I made a few reasonable purchases. There are other things I wanted, but I know I couldn’t wear it in the states. The store was a bit upscale, so it wasn’t worth it to wear for just 3 weeks. I

The clothes sizes are bizarre. I’m a petite person. But Chinese girls are tiny. They don’t have curves. I was busting out of some of the clothes at these special boutiques. They should fit me, but are made for a girl with the body of a twelve year old. I wasn’t discouraged though, I had a lot of fun, and I think I made some retailer’s boring day a little more humorous.

Overall the experience was enlightening. I’ve found out about a Zhejiang University language exchange practice program, which I may join, with the sole purpose of finding an awesome girlfriend who will go shopping with me. Besides, I could use a Chinese friend about now, don’t you think?

Although my makeover gurus at the mall said I had great legs, so they are my new best friends.

-Ev

P.S. Going to the night market tonight! Unless it keeps raining … 😦


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School days

December 8, 2009
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I’ve had three days of classes. Can’t say it’s going fantastically well, but at least my books were super cheap.

First of all I’ve always been bad at following directions. Plus OSU’s classes have a certain structure that’s been drilled into me since I started taking Chinese, and I find myself falling into that routine.

First things first, apparently when you do your homework, you do it in a special notebook and then turn in the ENTIRE book. So I did my homework in my Wallace and Gromit notebook, and then started to rip out the page to hand in, like usual, when she grabbed my whole notebook.

My WG notebook does not only contain homework but it functions as a little journal as well (as all my special notebooks do). It has little dated entries of random thoughts, poems and doodles. And my Chinese professor is looking at it right now. I am really embarrassed. Hopefully she’ll find the right page my homework is on and move on …

Or she’ll think I’m a crazy person. But whatever.

I also have been really awful at following directions, meaning of done several assignments and in-class work incorrectly. The professor’s have been kind so far since I’m new, but I should have just paid attention, right?

The work is easy though, just tedious. I think I’m in a class a bit below my level, but it’s still helpful to practice. Everyday we have an hour and a half of grammar and composition. Three times a week we have spoken language class and twice a week we have listening class. It’s really helpful to have that much reinforcement. At OSU it’s kind of all rolled together.

When classes our done we have an option of doing little elective classes. Mondays and Tuesdays is Tai Chi. I’m not very interested in it, and it has been raining and you have to do it outside.

I think the other choices the other days of the week are calligraphy (which I heard was boring) and painting and Kung Fu. I think I’ll do the latter two. Should be fun, although I will be awful at both.

The kids in the class are nice, and very lively. It’s strange, at home I feel our Chinese professors are strict. We can’t eat in class, our feet must be on the ground, no talking, texting, nothing. Also, when the professor walks in and says, “let class begin” (in Chinese), we have to say, “Hello teacher.” When class is done, we must say (in unison) “thank you teacher.”

Here people stroll in whenever they feel like, eat, talk, text … it’s a little rude sometimes I think. Like people will be blatantly having a conversation out loud like the teach isn’t there.

I’m still stuck in OSU class mode so I look like a complete model student. Sweet.

If only I could stop staring out the window …

-Ev

P.S. Sorry for the lack of posts yesterday, I’m having technical difficulties. I also cannot upload photos. So may have to ask sis to do it again.


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Hackers …

December 6, 2009
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So … my friend Jess just introduced me to this site that lets me access most blocked sites! So now I can post my own blogs and even get Facebook. So I’m pretty excited. But thank you Marisol for your help. And if it stops working (or I get arrested by the Chinese) I will call on your assistance again.

Other than that nothing exciting. It’s Sunday. I cleaned my room, read a book instead of studied … a normal Sunday I guess.

-Ev

p.s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LITTLE BROTHER.


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I was lost, so I decided to go sightseeing

December 5, 2009
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So after my epically long nap, I decided I should go do something cultural. The day before I went to Leifong’s Pagoda. I have photos, but I didn’t have a memory card so I couldn’t take many so I borrowed Jen’s camera. I’ll put those up when I can.

Anyways, I got up at like 1 p.m., got dressed and tried to find a bus. The bus is really cheap. I needed bus K7, but none of the stops seemed to cater to it. I went to the photo shop and got a memory card, and asked for directions. They told me to get on bus K15 and then to get off, then get back on K7. (I’m getting kind of good at getting directions).

I was at the bus stop, ready to do this, when the Australian boys suggested I walk, it was close. I looked at my map, decided it was doable, and departed on my hike.

HUGE F*&%ING MISTAKE.

I’m awful. I have a terrible sense of direction. I get lost at OSU all the time and I’ve lived there for FOUR YEARS.

My goal was to go to some guy’s tomb temple thing (I forget the name). Between being lost and getting distracted, I never got there.

I hiked up this mountain trail and back down. Then I walked around half of West Lake. I checked out some other guy’s (free) tomb. Saw a beautiful fountain thing with flowers and watched a cultural singing performance. It was good time.

Photo 1: part of the mountain path

Photo 2: Pretty fountain. This was the only place where the flowers were somehow still alive. I mean, it is December after all.

Photo 3: Me and the fountains. MY COAT MATCHES!

Photo 4: This is a pretty famous bridge. They rebuilt it. I think it’s called something like Lotus Bridge in Rainbow Shape. Everything is pretty long-named.

Photo 5: They gave pleasure boat rides. I didn’t want to get in one by myself. The yellow hay stuff usually is beautiful flowers. It’s winter, so they’re dead. They still go well with the scenery though.

Photo 6: DELICIOUS FRUIT CANDY. I dunno. It’s a fruit kebob, but they put some sort of sugary candy coating on it. SO GOOD. My stomach was happy with me. It wasn’t before after I made it eat some mystery meat from a street vender.

Photo 7: I sat on a bench for a while and watched the boat rides. Pretty, I thought.

Photo 8: Street performers.

Photo 9: Street performers

Photo 10: I don’t know what this is. But it looks cool.

Photo 11: I watched the sunset. It was beautiful.

Photo 12: This is another famous bridge but I don’t know why. I couldn’t read the sign.

After what seemed like a lifetime I made it to my room. Grabbed some fried chicken for an early dinner. It was delicious. I must say whoever made up the stereotype about black people and fried chicken is an idiot. EVERYONE LIKES IT. I got this from a street vender. Here they sell it at almost every restaurant. It is so popular with everyone in the galaxy it should be the main dish at presidential parties and world summits. I’m just saying.

I took another nap when I was done, around 6:30. Is it really okay to sleep this much?

-Ev


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About author

I'm a 21-year-old journalism student from The Ohio State University. I'm currently in Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, soaking up the culture and having an adventure.

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