Thursday, August 29, 2013

One Great Adventure!

Who missed going up stairs?! This girl! After our Mount Tai trip I think I'm pretty sure none of us wanted to see another flight of stairs again, but this is the great wall! It's worth it! (and there was a cable car to it). Not everyone took the cable car, but Jackie, Laura, and I did so we got to the wall pretty quickly. Then we had plenty of time to explore. The view was breath taking, some of us who are from outside of the city felt right at home.

It's a very strange feeling to see something for so many years on television, in books, on posters, etc. and then actually be physically standing there. The connection takes a while to make that is is what you've seen for so long and you can actually reach out and touch it. I'm horrible with heights and it was pretty high, so for some parts I had to take a step back and re gather myself, but it was really worth it.

Fear is not something to keep me from a world wonder! I felt very lucky to be able to see the great wall. More than any of the historical places we've been, here I felt like it really was this little snap shot in time and for a moment you could be a part of the past is no longer present. Maybe it's that the great wall is so big and it must have taken so much power to construct that you feel very small in comparison. It's a very strange feeling. I think we all felt it though and we'll probably hold onto that for the rest of our lives. And someone I'm not going to say who really wanted to hold onto it, and actually took a piece of rock from the wall!

Cheaper! Cheaper! I'm a poor student!

I never thought that line would ever get me anywhere. It never does at home! Today we did some bargaining for things like shirts that said I hear BJ. It means Beijing! Not what you're thinking! As Jocelyn says, if any foreigner from America is wearing that shirt, they're doing it to be funny! Anyway, today we went to the Pearl Market and got to be overwhelmed first hand by all the sellers. Most of them only know enough English to really accost you when you walk buy yelling things like, “Hello! Come look! Pretty ladies need the bags!”

At first it's not too bad, until every shop owner there does it to you! I ended up just walking with my eyes down until I was sure of what I wanted to buy there. The other girls had lists so they ran off in different directions trying to hunt down for the best price on the things they needed. For someone like me though, I just wanted to look around, but it became apparent really quickly that I wouldn't be able to do that. Anytime I would look at something someone would ask me how much I wanted to pay.

Eventually I found Laura and decided to stick with her because she knew what she wanted and while she was bartering things down, I could have a minute to look around without being accosted at every turn. We found the strangest shop owners the first time we both were trying to buy something, you could tell they were pros at this. While Laura was looking at fans I watched some man who wasn't have much luck with the store owner.

He told her 150 for 15 fans.

And the woman had a fit! She was acting like a 5 year old having a temper tantrum. She yelled no no how dare you! How am I supposed to eat, I can't sell them to you for that what do you take me for! The man then took out 200 yuan and tried handing it to her saying 150 repeatedly, but she just got angrier and then they both started arguing again. Finally the man walked away. She yelled at him 200, but he came back saying 150 and the argument started again.

Then Laura and I got to try our luck with her partner. I wanted a wooden fan that smelled like flowers and she wanted to buy 4 fans. Laura said 100 and didn't have much luck with this woman. I said 40 for one fan and she wouldn't go lower than 50. So eventually Jocelyn, our favorite assistant, came to the rescue, but even she couldn't sway these girls.

We left that stand and I ended up buying the same fan I'd offered 40 yuan for for 10 yuan at another shop with a really nice man. I decided to buy some stuff from him because he didn't harass me when I walked by and he also gave me the price of 10 yuan for the same fan I wanted upstairs without me even having to barter for that price!

It's a crazy game! I'll never really know if I got a good price for any of the stuff I bought, but It was fun getting to practice my Chinese and argue with people. Many of the people I bargained with were laughing with me when they would say ridiculous things to try and get me to buy stuff. It was a very fun experience.

What I learned from China

I'm home now, and a little sad. I learned so much from China and I already miss it. I have to suppress the urge when at restaurants to stand up and yell “Hey, waitress!” While in China I learned how to balance on my bike with someone on the back of it. Something I have yet to try at home. My mom doesn't want to try it? I'm not sure why...

I learned how to get into places I really want to go, when I'm not really allowed. Just pretend like you know what you're doing, you're really important, and if anyone is like hey wait a minute you're not allowed in here... just close the show a bunch of IDs at them and press close on the elevator doors. I learned that in Beijing it's acceptable to butt ahead to the front of the line. Especially if you say something like, “I'm sorry I've had a bad day” Even if it's only 7 in the morning.

But one of the most important things I've taken from this trip is how foreigners must feel at home. This experience made me feel like every single immigrant in the states who can only speak in broken English. Even thought I knew the words to get what I wanted done I still felt awful. I felt like I couldn't make the pleasant kind of conversation I would at home with store owners or random people. I couldn't make connections with people I didn't know. The closest thing I could was smile and hope that it portrayed everything I was feeling, but a smile can only say so much.

I realize I'm not completely inept in Chinese. I can go to a restaurant, order what I want, when some other Americans not with our group I saw couldn't even do that. The relief on the clerk's face when I told them what I wanted in Chinese after the group that knew nothing was apparent, but at home I would try and talk to them ask them how there day is, etc. Here I couldn't do any of that.

The best example is the first day I met my friend in class from Korea, Chae ri. She is from S. Korea, but has been in Japan for the past year. I was so happy to meet here because I'd taken 2 years of Japanese when I was younger. The first day of class she pointed to me and I said “April” and she nodded and repeated my name then I pointed to her and she said, “chae ri.” I repeated her name. After this we both just stared at each other and I could tell we were both trying telepathically get our word across to each other. All I could think was, “Know what I'm saying in my head!!!” And for that day we just kept repeating each others names to each other. After the first day our talks were in a weird mix of English, Chinese, and Japanese.

I came to China to learn the language and have a fun vacation, but many people come to the states not because they want to, or want a vacation, but to help their families or because they have to. If I took one thing away from this, it's to be as understand as possible to those who don't speak English. We don't know why they're here or what they've come from and it can be kind of overwhelming at times not being fluent in the language of the country you're in, but being angry at these people is not going to help the situation. I've never be one to angry with someone for not knowing English, but I know I could probably be a lot more amiable.

Feats that Surprise and Amaze!

Be prepared to be amazed! And in my case terrified! On July 16th we went to the Acrobatics show. I was amazed and scared for their lives as I'm sure some of the other girls were! There were plenty of beautiful scenes, but I'll tell you about first, but then the last act had all of us speechless. The first act was a woman who kept stacking chairs one by one by one until she got to the top and began to balance herself at the top. There were other performance with beautiful umbrella tricks, juggling hats, and bicycles. I've never been to Cirque du Soleil, but I imagine it's probably quite similar.

By the time the second to last act came out with all the girls piling onto one bicycle I thought it couldn't get much dangerous, but I was wrong. They ended up putting 8 motorcyclists in what seems like a metal circle cage of doom. They all ride their motorcycles around inside and somehow manage not to die! Every time they added one more cyclist Jackie, sitting next to me kept yelling, “no!” Laura one the other side of me had her hand over her mouth the whole time, and I who was almost certain we were all about to witness a death kept filming on my camera phone in case the police needed evidence later, but thank goodness, they were all safe and came out fine. I think we all let out the breath we'd been holding once the last cyclist rode out.

Hi ho, hi ho! It's off to Houhai we go!

July 15th was a first for some of us. It was the first time we rode the Beijing subway! After we attended an urban planning lecture on campus by Ms. Hu Yingjie, we were off to take a look at the changes in the city of Beijing for ourselves.

The first comment I have to make is how clean these subways were! It's crazy! The subway station is like an air port! Another great thing is that the lanes are enclosed so no one can fall in! After a quick subway ride that wasn't really anymore crowded than a NYC subway ride during rush hour, we ended up in 南锣鼓巷 or the South Drums and Gongs Lanes. It was a place with lots of shops and it kind of reminded me of the promenade back home. Most things in the shops were expensive enough to be at the promenade. It was really interesting to see the fish bone structure of the lanes in person, after seeing them on the PowerPoint slides, and try and imagine how the lanes might have looked only a few years ago before the urban planning helped out the area.

Next we went to Houhai for dinner. We had a great traditionally meal full of all the questionable things that you try first and ask what is later. Then it was off to do some more sight seeing. The area was surround a huge lake and had many bars and restaurants. I think this will definitely be a place to come back to once we're all done with our tests. :)

The best haircut I've ever received was in China?!

Today I got a haircut! I know, I know. So what? Well, let me explain. My friend Huiting had always told me if you get a chance to get a haircut in China, jump on it! She had described to me that it was sooo cheap and they even massage your head. So of course, when Sarah asked if I wanted to get a haircut, I dropped everything! Devon, Harry, Sarah, and I all went to a place just down the street that looked like a fancy hair salon your would find in any big city on the good side of town.

Initially I was a bit worried about pricing, but I was told it would only be 50 yuan, which is about $8 American money. So cheap! Especially for me, my hair is like a Chiia pet! Darn you Greek genes! At home it usually cost me 30 bucks to get a even a trim because they take one look at my hair and say, that's gonna cost you extra! But, here in China, I got the same price Harry did who has like 5 times less hair than I do!

We all sat in the waiting room, Sarah told us what to say to only get a little bit cut off: bu jian tai duo. So while the guys were talking to some staff I kept practicing. I had just dyed the tips of my hair recently and didn't want them to cut it off. I could tell they probably weren't used to our types of hair because one of the girls came into the waiting room and exclaimed, “woah!” as soon as she saw us. Harry went first, then I was next. They washed my hair, massaged my head and even my ears. It was very relaxing. Then we went to get our hair cut. I was sitting next to Sarah who'd paid for a better barber, but I really couldn't tell on my end. I was really happy with what I got.

I'm not particularly picky, so I told him to do whatever, just don't cut off the blonde ombre that took me so long to do. The barber took an hour and a half on my hair. I didn't know what to say, he was so thorough. At times he cut some strands of my hair individually to make sure it was perfect. And as many girls know, hairdressers in America don't always listen to what you want and just do what they think you should have, but this guy kept asking Sarah to ask me if it was okay to cut more and he only cut a little at a time. He seemed worried I'd be upset he cut too much off. I was baffled he'd actually listened to me!

For the guys this wasn't something they liked because I'm sure they're used to fast haircuts with such short hair. I however was sooooo happy. I can't count the amount of places that I've gone to that just chop my hair off and try to get me in and out as soon as possible. This guy really tried to make my hair perfect before I left, he even followed me up to the register when I went to pay and continued moving my hair around until he thought it was perfect.

So guys, you probably don't want to get your hair cut in China, but girls I think you should not pass this up. I can tell you first hand, you'll feel like a little doll that they just want to make sure looks perfect before you're done. It was really nice to feel like the hair dresser actually cared what I looked like before I left.

    — April Mavroleon, French major and Chinese minor

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