Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Touring China

Well, I have literally had almost no extra time or internet access, so here's a relatively brief recap of the last month or so.

We spent the rest of our time in Shanghai trying to understand philosophical daoist theory relating to the environment from a professor who spoke close to passable english. Other than that, we visited Suzhou and Wuxi, two cities close to Shanghai, and saw the tiger pavillion and the famous Suzhou gardens. My ankle ended up getting better relatively quickly and my ipod even started working about the toilet water dried from the inside. good news.

After taking our final and spending our last days in Shanghai savoring the delicious back gate food that made our stomachs sick afterward, we headed to Taizhou, where we were followed around like celebrities because we were the first foreign group to visit Taizhou. There we met Jojo and Gloria, who were our Taizhou and China guide respectively. In Taizhou we had the chance to ride on these amazing old women with sticks-powered boats, and many other cool things.

Next we took a night train to Taishan, where we climbed the amazing Confucian pilgrimage mountain (or 6 of us did), and I even got to put on a Confucian charm at the top for good health. After Taishan came Beijing, where we visited famous monuments such as the Forbidden City, Tianneman square, The Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Peiking Opera, and many more (Water Cube...MICHAEL PHELPS). Lucky us, we were in Beijing during the 60th anniversary of Mao's declaration of the People's Republic of China, and we got to see some amazing fireworks.

Next we traveled onto Xi'an, famous for the terracotta warriors. The area was packed with Chinese tourists, but it was amazing to see so many warriors, each made uniquely from a real soldier of the emperor. Afterward, we flew down to the Yunnan provence in southern china, famous for its ethnic diversity. There we went to the dragon gate carved into the mountain, and the stone forest, created when the indian ocean packed limestone into forest-like designs.

In our last week in China, we visited Dali, my favorite city of China, where the old city was beautiful and historical, and the Erhai lake was clean with an island full of spiders the size of your hand. We also spent time in Lijiang, visiting Tiger Leaping Gorge, which will be non-existent in 5 years because of the new dam proposed on the Yangtze river.

Finally, after around 3 weeks of constant touring, we left China for Thailand, where we have been welcomed with open arms (albeit sweaty arms because of the intense humidity). We have had about 5 hours of thai language class per day, and had to climb Doi Suthep, a religious moutain with a Buddhist temple at the top.

Last night we got to experience the night-life of Chiang Mai, and I think we all had fun dancing and meeting more thai peple. Other than that, In two days we move in with our thai host families, and all I know is that my family lives on campus and the parents work in the Statistics department. So excited!

Sorry for the short and not very detailed post. Hopefully the next will be better. Love you all.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Run in the right direction please.

So, here we are in China, at East China Normal University in Shanghai. China is a lot more like the Asia that I expected: a little dirtier, full of street food, sounds of people haggling over a pair of shoes for 10 yuan (about 1.5 US dollars). And on one end, I enjoy it more than I did Japan. I admittedly do fall prey to many more stares here, especially while running (not many 5 foot 10 blondes lapping people here), but I enjoy the atmosphere, even if I have no idea what is being said around me (which is probably a good idea as they are probably commenting on the giant!)

After 4 nights in Kyoto, Japan, full of adventure, karaoke, and shopping in little market areas (where I found the cutest winter hat to replace my one from Nepal that some St. Olaf boy stole and is wearing all over campus). we set out from Osaka on a plane to Shanghai, China. The plane ride was nice, except that I seem to have incurred the wrath of the entertainment demons, because again, my entertainment system didn't work. One interesting thing was that when arriving, we had to fill out a health form, and while going through customs, a man shot us with a laser that automatically reads body temperature. Anyone with a high temperature would have been quarantined. Then we took a bus to ECNU, which is a beautiful campus located on the outskirts of downtown Shanghai.

Our dorms were gorgeous, and me and my roommate Becca settled into the airconditiong, unpacking our stuff completely for the first time. That evening I not only went on my first glorious run since leaving the US, but we also went to a traditional chinse restaurant with a former Ole (who mercifully spoke Chinese) before falling into bed. The next week consisted of class with our Chinese professor "Frank", who lead us through infinitely boring lectures on China's environmental history. We also went to Shanghai museum and Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, along with Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau.

Other than that we have also had a lot of time to go shopping, sample the street food (a full meal for less than a dollar), eat coldstone (which they love here), and explore the area. I haven't done much shopping, other than pearls for myself and some jewelry presents for others, but there is still time!

This last day has been kind of a downer unfortunately. #1, I lost my glasses, and Im not sure if I left them in Japan, on the airplane, or if they fell out of my bag somewhere.

#2, right before running yesterday, I dropped my ipod in the toilet, ruining it. FML. Fortunately I have a shuffle, and I think that I will buy another one here, cuz they're cheap, but I was so pissed.

#3 While running tonight, there was this man on the track running fast in the opposite direction of everyone else, and eventhough I tried to tell him to run in the other direction, he would not listen. So, a couple miles later he is running straight at me and I expected him to move, but of course he didn't. So I side stepped and stepped off the track, rolling my ankle and mildy spraining it. FML. The chinese people were really nice tho, helping me get back to the dorm and all.

Overall, although I've had a bit of struggs in China, I'm loving it here. But I would love to here from you guys, so drop me a comment/FB message me/or set up a skype date.

Love, LJD

P.S. Look for postcards, and if you want one, feel free to ask. : )

Friday, September 4, 2009

Too busty to go to the shrine

Hey all, so this is my first update from abroad, and right now we are in Kyoto, which is a major city in central Japan on Honshu island (It was also the capital before Tokyo). When we first got to Tokyo, we spent our time at Sakura hostel, where we visited places like common Shinto/Buddhist shrines, the Edo-Tokyo museum, a modern art gallery by Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei, the Tokyo emperial palace, and many more. One day we spent with a family and we were dressed in kimono, learned calligraphy, made sushi, and tons of other family oriented stuff. It was great to feel as if we were part of a family and not tourists. At one point we were going to a Buddhist shrine in our kimonos, and the ladies stopped me and had to redo the tieing of my kimono because I was busting out too much for the shrine. Bahaha.

After 3 nights in Tokyo, we took a night train and then the bullet train to get to Hiroshima. The night train was so neat, and we each had our own little rooms to sleep in! When we got to Hiroshima, we first spent time at the A-bomb dome, which is a building that was very close to the hypocenter of the atom bomb, and therefore the shock of the bomb didnt knock the building completely down like most of the other buildings in Hiroshima. It was kind of a tough thing to see what war, fear, and desperation can cause. We even got to hear about it from the youngest survivor of the A-bomb, who has 4 months along in his mothers stomach on August 6th, 1945, when the bomb was dropped. He did have a pretty slanted view of the war and Americans in general, just like I would expect a survivor of Pearl Harbor would have towards the Japanese, or a Nanking survivor as well. Then we went into the Abomb museum and learned about Hiroshima before, during, and after the war. To be honest I couldnt really decide if the Abomb was a good or bad idea, but all I know is that the repercussions of that decision are so immense that I cant imagine being the person who decided to drop the bombs. One of the great things was the overwhelming message of peace that was felt in the museum. Afterward, we took a lightrail and then a ferry to an island filled with tourist attractions and shinto shrines. The deer on the island were so tame, and after one stole a piece of my kiwi skin, it followed me for ten or so minutes before realizing that I was not its meal ticket.

That night in Hiroshima, our hotel had this amazing bath/spa, complete with numerous hot tubs, saunas, pools, and we relaxed and relished in the luxury before taking numerous trains to koyasan the next day.

Koyasan is a mountain and a world heritage site, where a certain sect of Buddhism is actively studied. We had the amazing opportunity to stay in a Buddhist monastary, and participated in a meditation session along with a chanting ritual early in the morning. We also got traditional monastic meals, and so although I tried every food, Im pretty sure that I could not live of the vegan diet of a monk. The mountain had beautiful redwoods and graveyards of all the shoguns and important feudal lords that were buried in this sacred place. And I even had a chance to buy a yukata, which is like a cotton summer kimono, but for woman that are married.

Then we had a day of traveling various trains, bullet trains, subway systems, and taxis until we arrived in Kyoto. Our hotel is wonderful, and after a night of rest, we had class the next morning with a speaker, Henry Adams who is actually a former St. Olaf student. He studied asian studies at St. Olaf and has now converted to Buddhism and is a Buddhist priest in Kyoto. We learned all about Buddhism and his path towards the religion, which I found very interesting. Then we had a free afternoon, where I bought a baguette and some cheese and sat in a park next to a school watching some students practicing traditional dance. Then I wondered around the market place for a couple hours trying to keep myself from buying these beautiful silk kimonos that I tried on. Thankfully I stood fast and didnt buy something that was really expensive and I would never wear.

This evening, after I finish my blog, were going out to a Japanese Karaoke bar to drink and make fools of ourselves. Wonderful! Hope everyone is having a great first semester, or is excited about moving in! Ill try to post some pictures soon.

Love Always,


Thursday, August 27, 2009

T-minus 5 hours!

Hey Everyone!

So it is 12:05 am and I have to leave for the airport at 5:30 am in the morning! I have to admit to feeling a little nervous and scared that I'm not ready to go yet, but I know that once I get there I'll forget all about that piece of clothing that I had to leave out. 

After chilling with friends, taking family portraits and eating mexican food for the last time, I'm ready to leave for Asia. My next post will come from Japan, and look for pictures as well!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

23 Days

How does one mentally prepare for life abroad in a culture completely unlike one's own? I guess I have 23 days to ponder that question. 23 days! I can't believe it. For some reason the realization that I will not be in Northfield on the 9th of September, ready to start classes hasn't hit me. I still find myself writing facebook wall posts that say "can't wait to see you in a month, or can't wait till school starts!"

Anyway, hopefully my blog posts will get more exciting, so if any of you are interested in learning about study abroad, complete culture shock, or about asian culture in general, I hope that you find my observations and stories of my cultural blunders amusing!