I apologize for not posting yet! I know you’ve all been on the EDGE of your seats. I have not been bored since we got here, much less had too much time to maneuver around the great (fire)wall of China. My travel partner, K, and I made it safe and sound to Beijing last Wednesday, after what was surely not the longest travel experience of my life but it certainly felt like it.
(Don’t they all?)
We were immediately assaulted with the smog and traffic and flashing lights that is Beijing. However, we were also picked up by several people from the Institute we are working with and our other friend, J. It was so nice to be picked up–that rarely happens when I travel abroad! I am definitely grateful to have guides our first several days in Beijing, as hardly anyone speaks English. I expected the taxi drivers to have some basic knowledge, but not really, beyond “hi!” and “bye!”
Our first night several graduate students at the Institute took us out to dinner. I was running on fumes and the night is kind of a blur, but I learned a few things about Chinese culture, such as their eating style. Luckily I (mostly) can handle a pair of chopsticks, but food being served on a circling plate on the table, with everyone just sampling from various bowls, was new to me! I think I like the idea, though.
The next day we had some orientation with two professors at the Institute. We also attempted to figure out SIM cards for our phones so our colleagues in China can reach us. The SIM card for my phone worked well (iPhone for the win!) but for J and K, not so much. J ended up buying a cheap phone here, but it was amusing to see the grad students burn wax into one of their old phone’s to hold in K’s SIM card. They tried to cut it, too–resourceful and not something I would likely attempt. The language barrier that makes everything take 20 minutes longer than necessary also makes things hilarious and/or confusing. My “is this NORMAL??” blurt out when they started melting the SIM card into the phone was received better than I would have hoped–so far, they are not offended by my often (accidental) bluntness.
Of course, you all know I’m not blunt, at all, so it must be the jet lag. 😉
Our time in Beijing is finished, for now, and we are in Ya’an, a small city south of Chengdu. I will post more about Beijing later–we were only there about half a week, but we did quite a bit!
I have to say, I’m not sure how I feel about Beijing, but now that we are out of it I miss it. We all are sharing a room and it’s prettttty BOILING HOT here.
The language barrier here is also much more intense…and since the only Chinese words I know are thank you, (“xiao xiao”), sugar (“tang”), and my Chinese name a graduate student gave me (“Zhao Mi”), all of which I butcher anyway, my requests at this tea shop for water are not working out so well.
(And yes, the first Chinese word I learned was sugar…)
I’m off to bed for now–we flew across China today (that ain’t no joke–this country is a BEAST) and tomorrow we are attending a workshop. I’m not entirely sure that workshop is what we were led to believe–but the Chinese people clamor to sit with us, while we are at a designated “Western” table with Germans who are very focused on eating. (I get that, though).
I did make one German friend, Bernard. I think we’re going to have some good times over the next week–he’s very interested in a “German-American friendship.” See? We’re already tight.
Farewell for now, and remember, if you want to contact me, try email, since Facebook is a no go here :).