Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Learning Chinese isn't always hard

Here are some simple Chinese phrases everyone can learn, courtesy of David :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ice, ice baby (Harbin - Part 3)

Harbin is the coldest place ever. That is all you really need to know about this relatively dumpy city. Harbin is in northern China, relatively close to the Russian border and every year they put all the ice and snow to good use and hold these huge Ice and Snow Festivals with enormous sculptures made entirely of ice or snow. This was the main reason we were going to Harbin and the reason we had to go in the dead of winter.

Our first day in Harbin we didn't roll in until the early evening and we decided to get rolling as fast as possible and try to squeeze in as much as we could since we were only going to be there for 3 days. Jeremy, Jenna, Michelle, Sherly and I headed off to find our hostel so we could dump our belongings and head to the first of the ice sculpture parks that we wanted to check out. We, of course, got lost in trying to find our hostel, but because I was so full of energy and excited for our trip I kept running through the frozen tundra with my enormous backpack shouting, "Amazing Race, come on you guys, Amazing Race." Apparently I decided to turn our Spring Festival travels into my own private Amazing Race and make sure we got to see as much as possible while we were roaming around the country.

After over an hour of wandering around the city we eventually popped into a place that we thought was a hotel and hoped they would be able to help us. It was not a hotel, it was a massage parlor and this would not be the only time we would make that mistake during our trip. Anyway we called the hostel and Jenna was able to tell them where we were and convince someone to come meet us and take us back to the hostel. Apparently we were really close, we were just somehow missing the hostel that should have been in front of our eyes.

Turns out the hostel was down some crazy back alley, hidden from the main road. Hmm, that seems logical. Anyway, they didn't have our reservation right and there was nothing else available so we had to take what they gave us. We had two rooms with one bed each and five of us. Score! Jenna and Jeremy bunked up in one room and Sherly, Michelle and I prepared to get cozy in the other bed. As if this wasn't bad enough the place was a total dump. We watched them clean the rooms, which consisted of remaking the bed and emptying the trash can before the next guests came to the room. The bathroom was so gross that we decided we would be cleaner if we didn't shower and used the toilet at the KFC up the road. Also, on the second night Jenna and Jeremy found rat poop in their room. All in all it was horrible.

But, of course, we weren't traveling to stay in world-class hotels. We were traveling as cheaply as possible while trying to see as much as possible.

We decided to just dump our stuff and start seeing the sights right away. We decided to hit up the first set of sculptures on that night, because we were told it was best to see everything ice related at night and see the few other things in the town during the day. We went to the Ice and Snow World on the first night and it was beautiful. There were massive sculptures made from ice and all of them were made with lights inside to make the city light up bright as darkness fell.

There were castles and houses and pagodas and boats and animals all made from ice and you were free to climb on almost all of it, but it was incredibly slippery. Of course, I'm about as clumsy as they come and I was sliding all over the place. Jeremy fell on a patch of ice, told us to watch out and then 10 seconds later I fell in the exact same spot. Of course when I did this I broke the zipper on my winter coat, rendering it ineffective for the remainder of the trip through the coldest place in China.

There was a huge hill made from ice and snow and you could pay 10 kuai to walk to the top, jump on a tube and fly down it, so of course I did! I screamed and cursed the whole way down, but it was really fun. We walked around the park for a few hours until we started to worry about frostbite and decided to look for some dinner since it was getting late.

We found a hot pot restaurant nearby and decided hot pot would be the perfect meal to warm us up. Hot pot and beer, of course. We tried some gold label Harbin Beer, which was awesome, seriously the best beer I've had in China. The strange thing was there was this man who worked at the restaurant who kept making our hot pot for us then using chopsticks to feed the food to us. He was really nice, brought us some free food and helped us out, but his feeding was a bit too much. He gave all of us his business card and told us we were good friends of his. It turns out he was a police officer and he kept calling us all weekend, and we finally had to tell him that we didn't understand what he was saying (which was true) so he would stop.

After hot pot had warmed us up we decided to meander a bit and ended up going to a coffee shop. Coffee is a special treat for us here in China and when you do find it it is usually pretty expensive. I drank more coffee during Spring Festival than I have the whole rest of the time I've been in China.

We settled into a both at this coffee shop/restaurant and drank coffee, talked and played cards for several hours. A few hours later these guys sat down next to us in a practically empty restaurant and proceeded to smoke away and be obnoxious. We asked them to stop several times and finally we got pretty angry and told them to stop or to move. Then they felt really bad and when we were leaving they asked if they could take us to dinner. We said no, we had already eaten, but we appreciated their apology.

We got in a cab and headed home. To our surprise they got in a cab and left as well. After a few blocks it seemed definite that they were following us. We all started to freak out a bit at this point. Here we were in a strange town with two random guys following us back to our hostel. When we finally arrived at the back-alley hostel they continued to drive. We threw money at the driver and jumped out of the taxi as fast as we could. We could see that they had pulled over less than a block away and we wanted to get inside before they caught up with us. We didn't think they were trying to give us any trouble, but you just never know.

When we got to the door it was locked! Oh come on, what kind of luck were we having tonight? We pounded on the door for what seemed like forever when an old man finally appeared at the door. He looked at us, then motioned that he didn't have the keys and we would have to wait for a minute. At this point we knew the guys from the cab had to be close and so Jeremy motioned for us girls to hide behind a nearby car while he waited for the man to come back with the key. When he finally opened the door for us we all ran inside, straight to Jeremy and Jenna's room and collapsed on the bed. A minute later we heard some knocking at the main door and then voices in the hallway. The old man had let them into the hostel! Jeremy went outside to tell the man that they needed to leave, but they were just smoking together and then the guys got up and left. It was a very strange series of events and enough excitement for one night.

Sherly, Michelle and I headed next door to our room and curled up in our freezing room with only one bed giggling about the night's adventure. If this is what the first day of our trip held, we knew it was going to be an exciting month of traveling together.

Some photos to share

Hey everyone! I just tried sending out an e-mail, but I don't know if it worked so I thought I'd post on here as well. I've been having some bouts of insomnia lately and so I decided to be productive and start to sort through some of the over 3,000 photos I've taken in the last eight months. I've chosen some of my favorites and posted them on shutterfly for you to check out: China so far.

Let me know what you think ...

Monday, April 21, 2008

All representatives are still busy

I'm on hold with Apple right now, waiting to talk to them about a problem with my computer and it is making me anxious to be back in the same time zone (or at least a closer one) as everyone back home. It will be convenient to be able to pick up the phone and just call people without having to think about if they are awake yet or if it is too late to call. I think I adjusted to the time difference pretty fast and I've always been able to keep track of what time it is back home. The only exception was Daylight Savings Time, which I totally forgot about (sorry Danny) since we don't change the clocks at all in China. Anyway, they answered my call so I'm going to run. I just wanted to ramble a little about the convenience of calling people in the same country.

Ugh, you need a haircut ...

This is how my mom chooses to greet me most of the time when I talk to her via skype. And yes, she's probably right, my hair has gotten long and crazy in the months since I've been in China, but I decided recently that I'm not going to cut my crazy curls until I'm back in America.

I figure I've gone this long without a haircut and my hair has grown as long as it has so I might as well stick it out a few more months and hopefully by the time I get back my hair will be long enough to cut off the required 10 inches in order to make a donation to Locks of Love.

So that's it. I'm not planning to cut my hair until I come home so that I can donate it to someone who needs it a lot more than I do.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Missing you ...

Really missing everyone back home tonight ... that's all.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Our photo shoot

On Monday I received a text message from Miss Shan saying we would have our regular TB check-up at the hospital and then afterward the school wanted to take our pictures and then take us out to dinner. The next day we were told to dress nice, but not too nice. Ross called all of us and said, "Why don't we dress really nice just to show off?" Of course we were all game.

So the boys wore their suits and I wore my suit skirt a blouse and a sweater vest and we went to meet everyone for the photos. The two headmasters who were supposed to be in these photos suddenly looked pretty shabby compared to us so they went back inside to change. When they returned we meandered around the school and posed for numerous photos. No doubt these pictures will surface in some recruiting material for the school, but it was actually kind of fun and I got some nice pictures of the four of us, which will be a good memento.

After posing like models we were carted off to dinner, but we still aren't entirely sure why. Perhaps the school wants something for us. Perhaps they were bribing us. Who knows? But it was a fun meal, we ate a ton and joked around and it was nice. I also got to try rabbit, which was really good. The meat was smoked and it was really tender. We also had duck and donkey at dinner. How many people can say that they had rabbit, duck and donkey for dinner the other night?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ohhhh baijiu was a bad idea.

Last night I consumed entirely way too much baijiu and now I am definitely regretting it. I casually dropped the idea of having some baijiu with dinner last night and Ben and David were game so we decided to have some fun. Two and a half bottles later I was drunkenly riding my bicycle home and screaming random Chinese words. It should also be noted that Amy had written the Chinese character for "lamb kabob" on my forehead and "free please" on Ben's. I also had the names of random songs that David said I would like scrawled all over my left arm. Ben and I pulled over and got some lamb kabobs, which we inhaled and then I went home and spent the night in the bathroom. My head is still throbbing, but it was a funny, very Chinese night so mei shi.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reunited and it feels so good (Harbin - Part 2)

After our luxurious train ride Sherly and I finally embarked on the cold, frozen ground that was Harbin. This is the city where we were hooking up with Jenna, Jeremy and Michelle, the rest of our traveling group. It was crazy to finally arrive in Harbin and see everyone because we had been planning this trip for so long. We had tossed around ideas during our pre-China class back in May and had firm plans since October.

I had seen Jenna and Michelle back at the beginning of December when we went to Xi'an together, but I hadn't seen Jeremy since we traveled to Shanghai together. It was really good to have our little mini-reunion and to kick off our stellar Spring Festival travels together.

Is that really his body? (Beijing - Part 1)

Spring Festival started for me on January 22 when I finished teaching. That night we had a big Mexican fiesta in Handan so we could all say goodbye before I left town for the next four weeks. The next morning I took an early train from Handan to Beijing. My friend, Sherly, got on the train in Shijiazhuang and the two of us were ready for our first trip to the capital city.

It seemed funny to me that I had lived in China for five months at this point and had still never been to Beijing except for when we arrived at the airport and didn't get to see anything. Sherly and I immediately went to the ticket office to buy train tickets to our next destination, Harbin. We had a list of available trains on the day we wanted, but of course they were all sold out. Our only option was to take a D train (the fastest and nicest trains) a day earlier than we wanted to leave. We called Jeremy, because he and Michelle and Jenna were meeting us in Harbin and we wanted to see if they would have a similar encounter. Turns out they had just bought their tickets and the only thing available would get them in about 30 minutes before us. Sweet.

Sherly and I spent most of our time in Beijing getting lost. Seriously, I don't know what was wrong, but I normally have a fairly good sense of direction and yet as soon as we got to Beijing all of that was thrown out the window.

While we were in Beijing we got to go to the Forbidden City, which was disappointing because almost the entire thing was under construction. They are trying to get Beijing ready for the Olympics (trying being the operative word here) and so EVERYTHING is under construction. It seems to me that cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong are much more prepared for the Olympics than Beijing, but I guess they will have to pull it off somehow.

We also went to the Temple of Heaven, which was really cool. Apparently the whole thing was built without the use of a single nail. That is quite impressive if I may say so.

We went to Tiananmen Square, where all the protests took place in the late 1980s and again it was cool, but it wasn't really what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a lot bigger than it was (it is still massive, the largest public square in China) and I didn't realize there was a street between the square and the Forbidden City.

The creepiest thing we did was go to the mausoleum where Chairman Mao's dead body is left on display for everyone to come through and take a peek at. We had to dump all of our belonging in lockers across the street and then walk quietly and in a single file line past the waxy looking body wrapped in a Chinese flag. It was eerie and pretty disturbing.

After seeing the big sites in Beijing of course we had to hit up the silk market to test out our bargaining skills in Beijing's third largest tourist destination (or so their web site claims). I was on a mission to get some shoes for the rest of the trip because my gym shoes were falling apart and I didn't have any boots for the next lef of our journey. The woman started out asking 700 kuai for a pair of Uggs and another 700 kuai for a pair of Adidas shoes. In the end I got her down to 300 kuai total for the two pairs of shoes. That's 40 bucks US, so I was pretty happy and I knew the shoes were going to come in handy. I also scored a Burberry scarf for 20 kuai (3 bucks) and some Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses for another 20 kuai. I didn't do any souvenir shopping because I knew this was only the beginning of my trip and I would have to drag along any purchases for the entire rest of my trip.

The next morning Sherly and I set out north to Harbin on the incredibly comfortable D train.

I guess we should start to play catch up

I know I've been updating you all on what has been going on in the last week, but I guess I should fill you in on everything that went down while my blog was floating along with no new posts.

The biggest thing that happened was all of my Spring Festival travels so I'll take a few entries here to update you on all my crazy adventures. Be patient because it will probably take a while for me to tell all of my stories from a month of trotting around China.

Everybody is working for the weekend

It was a cold one here in Handan, and it just kept getting colder all day long until it finally started to rain a few hours ago. The crappy thing about rain here is it never seems to storm. We get light rain that lasts for hours or even days, but it never progresses to anything more than that. I would really love a good thunderstorm tomorrow, the kind that makes you glad to stay inside and watch a movie or curl up with a good book.

Anyway, I had two classes today and I just let the kids study because they have a big round of exams this weekend. It sucks that we didn't get to do anything in class, but I know how important these exams are to them and I know their other teachers don't give them the time they need to study.

After that I taught my private lesson where I've been working on the weather and seasons with my little ones. I had been getting frustrated with that class because all of the moms kept coming to class and because they are all teachers they all had their own ideas of how things should be done. Of course, they all decided to keep telling me what to do and none of their opinions agreed with one another. One week they told me to do only group activities, the next week I was berated for not spending enough one-on-one time with the kids. I played too many games, then not enough games. Finally I got really frustrated and told our headmaster that if they wanted me to keep teaching the class then only the one mother who translates for me would be allowed to sit in on the class. Apparently they wanted to keep me on as the teacher because today when the other mothers arrived my translating mom (who I really like) kicked them all out. Today's class went much better than the last two and I was glad I stood up for myself.

I came home from class and relaxed for a little bit and then headed over to Ross and Landy's for dinner. After we ate Amy and Landy told me they had to tell me something. Apparently the pork dish that I had enjoyed had come from the pig's face, which goes against my rule of "no eating face." The meat was really delicious though so I won't complain too much.

After dinner we just hung out and talked and play mahjong for a few hours and now I'm getting ready for bed. Amy and I are supposed to hang out and watch movies and talk tomorrow because it is supposed to rain all day. Then Sunday Amy, Landy and I are supposed to have a girls only day so it should be a pretty fun, low-key weekend.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm an old Chinese woman

A week or two ago I finally learned how to play mahjong, an awesome Chinese game that little old ladies sit around and play on the side of the street all over the city. I've been bugging my Chinese friends to teach me how to play for months now, but they all claimed to not know how to play. Apparently during Spring Festival they all went home and learned, because when we go back they were all ready to teach me and to play.

It's a little difficult to explain via my blog, but I can tell you it is nothing like the mahjong game people play online where they try to match tiles. These rules seem to be fairly similar to the way we play the game, but we don't get too involved in the whole scoring system.

It is a really fun game that actually isn't too difficult to play. I'm still working on a few of the Chinese words, but I've got the hang of it now and have even won a few games. One weekend we played for like three hours on Friday and then played for three more hours on Saturday. It seems as though mahjong seems to be all we are doing when we hang out these days.

I'm hoping to gather the courage to go sit down with some old ladies on the side of the road and go play the game with them, but my skills aren't that strong yet.

Everyone back home had better be ready to learn how to play, because I'm going to teach you all when I return. Then I'm going to sit around and play mahjong and drink tea all day.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The construction has to stop

So it's 11:30 p.m. here in lovely Handan and the buzzing that has been going on all day is still continuing. Apparently they are installing air conditioners in all of the classrooms in the building where I live.

This is great for the students because I know it will start to get really hot in the rooms soon.

This is not so great for me because it means that I've had to listen to all the clatter all day long. I woke up around 7:30 this morning to the sound of drilling in the hallway and still, now they are drilling away. Thankfully I don't have early class tomorrow or I would be one very unhappy camper.

They have also been doing a lot of construction outside my building, which has been keeping me awake at odd hours and providing plentiful headaches. In addition that they are renovating a building right by the classrooms where I teach so there has been non-stop jackhammering all day long the past few days.

No wonder I can't get rid of my headache.

Wo ai cafe nai cha

In English: I love coffee milk tea. Mmmmmm ... milk tea. This is one of my favorite drinks in China and I figured it was due time to give this tasty beverage a shout out on my blog.

Milk tea is a drink they sell in China, although I'm not really sure why they call it tea, because I don't think it is really made from any tea at all. Basically it is a powder that you mix with hot water, shake and drink. In the spring and summer it is also really great as a cold beverage.

Milk tea comes in all different flavors from wheat to strawberry, but my favorite is definitely coffee. There are also these awesome tapioca balls that you can get in the drink that I really like.

They sell milk tea in containers at the store that you can make at home, but they also sell it in stands on the street where they make it for you. That is the way I prefer to buy my milk tea. I think the ones on the street taste better, they have the tapioca balls and they are cheaper than the ones in the store.

There is one girl who always works at the milk tea stand by my house and whenever I pull up on my bike (which is usually two or three times per week) she starts to make my drink for me because I always get the same thing. I guess it's like my Starbucks here in Handan :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tearful goodbyes

Tonight I had the opportunity to go to properly say goodbye to my junior students. I cried on Monday when I found out I wouldn't be teaching them anymore, but I thought I had things pretty together to say goodbye tonight. I walked into the classroom and the kids seemed really happy to see me. When I got two sentences into my goodbye I broke down and started crying in class. This only made things harder because half the class was already crying and then most of the other kids started to join in as well. I looked around the room at all of their sad faces and knew I needed to pull it together. Once I stopped crying and finished thanking them for being such a great class and for welcoming me so warmly as their teacher we headed outside to take a group picture. When I snapped the last picture of just the kids they all shouted, "We love you!"

After the group pictures the kids came to give me hugs and say goodbye to me one at a time. This was really hard because I've become so attached to so many of these kids. They came up and hugged me and most of the girls were crying, telling me that they love me and they will never forget me. I had one girl give me a drawing/card that she and her mother had made. Another girl gave me an old key chain of hers that she looks at whenever she is sad.

There was one girl in class who seemed particularly distraught about the whole thing and she had come to hug me several times while I was at school. Finally she stopped crying for a few minutes and came over to talk to me. She said, "A few weeks ago I was crying at school. It was the first time I have cried at school (she had gotten bad scores on a recent round of tests, and she is one of the top students in the class). On that day you comforted me and gave me confidence like no one has given me (I told her the exam was in the past and she couldn't dwell on it, that she was a smart girl and if she had a positive attitude she would do better the next time around) and I will remember you and miss you always."

Of course I started to cry again.

The kids all told me that the loved me and they would never forget me and thanked me for being their teacher and their friend. I don't think they realized that they meant as much to me (probably even more) as I did to them. I got choked up every time I tried to express my gratitude to them. They were great kids and I really will miss them.

I told the kids that now they just have to work hard so they can come to America and we can see each other again. In the mean time I gave them all my contact information and told them they have to keep in touch.

While I was at dinner I got a text message from one of the boys in the class saying even though he was a boy he cried when he found out we wouldn't have class together anymore and that he was glad he had a teacher, and a friend, in me. Ah, I can't go on because it makes me head and my heart hurt to think about how much I will miss all 68 of these fantastic kids.

Saying goodbye was really difficult, but the good thing is this was the class that was going to be the hardest for me to leave. I have other students that it will be hard to say goodbye to, but it will be easier to say goodbye to other classrooms full of kids. The only other goodbyes I'm really dreading are Ross and Landy and David and Amy. I try not to think about it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If the Iowa State Fair took place in China ...

Last night Ross invited us to join him for this outdoor street fair filled with crazy food vendors here in Handan. Apparently they all went last year and had fun so we decided to check it out. Basically, it was a bunch of booths selling crazy foods on a stick.

I decided to be adventurous and use my mantra, "You moved to the other side of the world by yourself, this is easy," to put my stomach to the test. We walked down the aisles of food, watching the crazy cooks sling sticks of meat on the grill, flip and season them all while grooving along to some sweet techno beats.

After seeing all that the street fair had to offer, Ross and I decided to start with some skewers of ostrich meat. As everyone knows I hate birds more than anything else in the world and so Ross decided this would be a good way for me to overcome my fear or to plot some sort of revenge against the birds. The meat actually wasn't bad though, it isn't like I'd go to a restaurant and request ostrich, but I probably wouldn't shy away from it at a dinner party.

Next up we all dove in and had some squid on a stick. It was basically just a chunk of squid with tentacles coming off the top of the skewer. I had tried squid in Sanya during Spring Festival and I really liked it, but this time it was really tough and I had a hard time eating it off the skewer ... I didn't really care for it too much.

Then we went and tried some deer, which Ross had had before. It was awesome. I really liked the deer, the meat was really tender and just delicious. I was glad we tried it, I would totally eat Bambi again. :)

Ben and I also tried some crazy glutenous rice jelly thing that was OK, but I'm pretty sure there is just a lump of slimy rice setting in my stomach now and it is not a pleasant feeling.

All in all it was a good little adventure, and it was the perfect spring day so it was a fun outing for all of us.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Uh, thanks for the notice

So this morning I was walking back to my apartment at about 8:30 and stopped by the second floor to see the director of foreign affairs, Miss Shan, to see when she wanted me to bring down my passport so she could go pick up my new residency permit.

When I popped in she told me I wouldn't have class with my juniors this morning (that class was supposed to be at 10:20) and I said OK, because I've grown accustomed to the Chinese style of giving no notice for anything. Then she kept talking and I wasn't really understanding what was going on and the next thing I know she says, "So you won't teach them anymore." Ever.

Apparently in that moment my biweekly class with 68 smiling 14 year olds came to an abrupt end. I didn't have any advance warning, no time to prepare, to decide how to say goodbye, to even say goodbye at all. The class is just over. It turns out the kids are preparing for their high school entrance exam and so they are going to be in review classes for the rest of the term and so my oral English class was deemed unnecessary.

I told Miss Shan that I needed an opportunity to say goodbye to my students, to let them really know how important they've been to me this year. She told me she would talk to their head teacher and work out a time when I could go in and say goodbye.

I'll still see the kids once a week when they are on the high school campus for P.E. class and I'm sure I'll have the occasional run-in on the street, but I'm crushed that I don't get to see them every week anymore. I came home to my apartment, sat down and started to cry.

I had always assumed I would make some sort of impact here in China, but I didn't at all expect how deep and impact my students would make on me. I've been thinking for a while now about how hard it will be to say goodbye to all the people I've met here, the people who have really touched my lives and taught me about China, themselves and myself. I knew it would be hard, but now that I've come face-to-face with the issue I am finally realizing exactly how hard it is all going to be.

I think leaving China is going to be more difficult for me than leaving America was, and I don't say that as any offense to anyone back at home, if anything I mean it as a compliment. When I left home, I knew I was going back. I knew all of my friends and family would be there for me and that I'd be able to see them all again as soon as I returned from this one year hiatus. With China that's very unlikely. Most of the people I've met here I'll never see again. And that crushes me every time I think about it.

I'm a different person than I was eight months ago, not drastically so, but enough that I can notice the ways in which I've changed and I know I owe the positive changes in my life to the people here. People I'll probably never see again, but who I will carry with me forever.

Long weekend in Qinhuangdao

So Friday was the grave sweeping holiday here in China, which means the people go visit their ancestor's graves and give them a good cleaning and burn some money for them. Mostly it meant that I didn't have to teach classes. Since we had a three day weekend I was itching to travel so I headed to Qinhuangdao with Ben and three of our friends from the Shiz to visit some friends of mine who live there.

Thursday night Ben and I took the D train (the fastest and nicest train in China) to Shijiazhuang to meet up with Sherly, Emily, Stephanie and Caroline to hang out for the evening. Friday morning all of us except Emily boarded an eight hour train north to Qinhuangdao.

When we arrived in Qinhunagdao we jumped on a bus to go to our friend's Grady and Claire's school. Once we jumped on the bus we discovered that we had gotten off at the wrong train station and that we should have jumped off half an hour earlier in Beidahe. So, an hour and a half or so on the bus later and we finally arrived at their school. By this time we were starving because for some reason there was no food for sale on our eight hour train ride, so we hadn't eaten all day. We headed out for a really good Chinese meal with a bunch of their friends and ate a ton of good food. After that we headed back to their place to clean up and settle in for the night. We all snuggled up and watched Jurassic Park and then called it a night.

The next morning we got going and after a breakfast of champions - Oreos and peanut butter, courtesy of Grady - we all headed out for the day. We traveled almost two hours to go to the Old Dragon's Head, which is the beginning of the Great Wall, at this section the wall meets the sea. It was really beautiful and I got some great pictures that I will eventually figure out how to post on here.

After walking around the wall and meandering down the beach, plus almost cracking my skull open we decided to go get some food. We found a cool Korean restaurant and settled in with our shoes off. We debated eating some dog, but not everyone was game like me so we went with some other dishes instead.

From dinner we went to the Olympic Park in Qinhuangdao. Some of the games (I think soccer and sailing) will be held in Qinhuangdao and so they have a beautiful park with statues and carvings of past Olympic games that was really cool. We walked around the park and took some goofy pictures before we had to head back to the school. We decided to have a marathon "Office" watching party that really only lasted six episodes before I passed out.

Sunday morning we woke up, packed our bags and were greeted with a homemade breakfast of giant pancakes with a delicious apple cinnamon, banana, raisin topping. It was fantastic. Then we made our way to the train station and jumped on our nine hour train back to Shijiazhuang. As per usual we made friends with the people on our train and made our way through some "Chinglish" conversations.

We finally arrived in Shijiazhuang at 7:30 p.m., an hour late, which meant Ben and I had to hurry because our train back to Handan left at 8 p.m. We made it though and got back to school before 10, which was good because I had class at 7:30 this morning.

I'm ba-ack

OK, blog stalkers, after a very long absence and a switch in hosts I'm back to the blogging world. Admittedly, this one isn't as fancy as my old blog, but it will just have to do while I attempt to get things back on track on the old blog. My Mac has never failed me before and I have confidence that I will eventually be able to work through whatever the problem might have been there (although I still firmly believe that China caught on to my blog and put the kibosh on the whole thing). Anyway, this post is just a welcome back to my life in China. It's been a crazy time since I wrote last and I'll get some posts up here ASAP to let you all know what has been going on.