15.07.2010 - 19.07.2010
I don't really know what to write, but I haven't written in about a week, so here goes! My most exciting news has nothing to do with China, but I got my AP scores yesterday, and I was really happy about them especially my Statistics one. Hooray! That's not what this blog is about though haha. On Thursday, the Harbin kids took an overnight train to Beijing. The train was nicer than the previous trains we had taken because there were only 4 beds per car rather than 6, and there was an actual door to the room that we could close. I roomed with Alexis, Jordan, and a Chinese girl named Kelsey (we gave her an American name) who is going to Denmark. I really wanted to learn Danish after talking to her. Denmark sounds amazing :D. It's definitely in my top 5 on my travel wishlist. Anyways, we were all headed for the AFS volunteer conference in BaoDing, China. None of us actually knew what this was at the time, so I will tell the story chronologically and leave you in the dark as well. Anyways, we got to Beijing the next morning, and then we went to KFC for breakfast. Lots of random happenings occurred there: writing down the astrological signs in order with Alexis, talking to another foreigner...I don't remember where he was from, but he was Middle Eastern, talking to a Chinese boy who was probably 9 years old because he approached me spontaneously with his mother and talked to me in English (I subsequently asked him to take a picture with me), and eating an egg and cheese sandwich...with mayonnaise on it. After this eventful meal, we all went back into the train station and got on a train to BaoDing. This train had seats rather than beds because it was only an hour and a half ride. I watched the first half of Watchmen on my iPod with Alexis. We got out of the train (by the way, at this point we we are tired and stinky and just wanted to reach the destination...wherever that was...), and we were herded towards taxis. I ended up in a taxi with Joy and some lady who was presumably a chaperone. I asked where we were going...in Chinese of course...and she said a hotel (I think). Joy and I just kind of sat there for the next 15ish minutes hoping we weren't going to be kidnapped/raped. Finally, we got to the stupid hotel. We got a schedule, but it wasn't useful, and we weren't allowed to go to our rooms yet. The hotel people also made each room pay 100 kuai (roughly $17) which would be refunded at the end of the weekend. Luckily, my roommate, Bekah, had enough because I was basically out of Chinese money. I didn't end up going to an ATM until Sunday afternoon. (Until then, I borrowed money and paid people back in American money). Anyways, we were finally allowed to go to our hotel rooms. Most of the people from my city planned to go out and get lunch/go shopping somewhere, so I let Bekah shower first so that she could go with them. After she left, I finally got to take a shower. However, after that, I realized that everyone else in my city was gone and that I was alone in my hotel room with no food. I ate a Fiber One bar because it was the only food I had on me. I read for a while, and eventually got bored and ventured out of the hotel to a nearby store (note to world: it's usually not a good idea to wander around foreign cities alone especially when no one knows that you even left, but I was really hungry, so it was quasi-excusable) and bought ice cream and grape juice. I was careful though and made sure there were multiple people working in the shop and that some of them were women before going in. I walked around with my ice cream and grape juice for a while and discovered a random koi pond in the hotel, so I sat next to it on the ground and watched Charlie Wilson's War on my iPod for a bit while enjoying my lunch-like meal. Soon after, I got a call from Bekah. She wanted to get into the room, and I had the key, so I went back upstairs and let her in. I then watched the Bekah/Kenzie/Olivia rendition of the "Bye Bye Bye" dance...it was quite entertaining! Then, we all had to meet downstairs in the lobby to go to dinner. The Beijing kids were in the lobby when we got there!! I got to see my friend Jen! We all got on a bus and headed for Hebei University for dinner. The cafeteria was filled with half of the NSLI-Y kids (we were still waiting for the Anshan and Changzhou kids), AFS volunteers from around the world, and Chinese kids who are going to embark on various study abroad programs this September with AFS. After dinner, we NSLI-Y-ers all went to a small lecture hall/ meeting room at the university and a couple of Chinese volunteers asked us what we were/were not happy with so far. In the middle of the meeting, the Anshan kids arrived, and us Harbin and Beijing kids literally jumped over desks to greet them. I got to see my friends Sammi and Wisconsin (Michelle). We all chatted noisily until the volunteers called for order. The rest of the meeting was relatively uneventful. We all headed back to the hotel afterwards. A lot of people went upstairs to catch up (and/or party in the case of some certain boys in the city of Beijing who will remain unnamed :p), but I stayed downstairs in the lobby with Jen and Becca from Beijing. We were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our Changzhou friends! Finally, their bus pulled up, and we ran up and hugged all of them. I was thrilled to see Paul and Joseph, my closest NSLI-Y friends who are, unfortunately, in a different city . The CZ kids got there room assignments, and then a bunch of people met up and hung out until really late. I didn't go to sleep until 4 and woke up at 6 :p. Oh the joys of catching up with friends! Haha. Anyways, the next day, we had a bunch of random assemblies about AFS/different cultures/studying abroad/etc. Half of it was in Chinese, but it was pretty boring in any language. There was a cultural show that night that was pretty interesting though. On Saturday afternoon, we all visited a Sino-Japanese war monument which was about a two hour bus ride away. If it's significance had been more sufficiently explained, then it probably would have been really cool. I did get to see and walk through some tunnels dug during the war though! That was cool. Anyways, I hung out with Paul and Joseph all day, and we decided to go to McDonald's for dinner with our friend Holli because we were all sick of the cafeteria food. We got the address from the front desk and when the taxi driver dropped us off, he said it was under the building. We were all confused and looked everywhere for the McDonald's and asked a bunch of people. We eventually gave up and ate street food. My meal consisted of a giant piece of cantaloupe, juice, and half of a Fiber One bar (not street food). We headed back to the culture show at the university, and after that we went back to the hotel. I hung out with everyone again and ended up going to sleep at 1 and waking up at 6. Not TOO shabby. The next day was more of the same. We (Paul, Joseph, Wisconsin, and I) went to Pizza Hut for lunch, and it was absolutely blissful. I ate four pieces of pizza! That was a lot especially considering I barely eat anything here. Anyways, the Changzhou people had to take a bus back to CZ, and the other three cities had to take a bus to Beijing, so we said our goodbyes on Sunday afternoon. It was really sad because I won't get to see them again for almost 4 weeks (August 13th), and they are the people on the trip to whom I am closest . After many hugs, the three remaining cities trekked to some room in the university where we had stowed our luggage, and then we boarded the bus. I sat by Wisconsin and got to hear her life story :D. Once we got to Beijing two and a half hours later, we dropped of the Beijing kids somewhere without a real goodbye, and continued on. The Harbin and Anshan kids got off at the train station, and we went our separate ways. The other Harbiners and I were taken to a Chinese restaurant WHICH WAS RIGHT NEXT TO A MCDONALDS AND A KFC....torturous. The four (yes, four) vegetarians in my city were asked whether we liked mushrooms. The two of us (Bekah and me) who did not were taken to a dumpling restaurant next door, and we had some yummy jiao zi (dumplings), and I had strawberry juice. Finally, some Chinese food that I can still tolerate/even enjoy! Finally, we got to the train. By then, I was in an irritated mood because I had been taken away from some of my really close friends and was also really tired and wanted to take a shower, and the combination was just unpleasant. I shared a room on the train with Alexis and four Chinese people, but it didn't matter who was there because I just slept the whole time. We were supposed to have a half day of school the next day, but we were all exhausted and needed to shower, and I was losing my voice, so I asked Li Laoshi (teacher Li) if she would allow me/all of us to go home, and she agreed :D. My driver and sister came to pick me up from school at 9, and they said Yitong (my sister) had to go somewhere, so I should take a taxi. they hailed a taxi for me, and I got in. This was an interesting taxi situation because there was already another passenger in the taxi who had to be dropped off before I did. I was a little skeezed out by this, but I'm not really sure why because by this, of all things, wasn't really too sketchy. I think half of my worry was rooted in the fact that my cell phone was almost out of battery, so if I had needed help, I may not have been able to get it. The first guy was dropped off, and then I was taken to my home. The taxi driver overcharged me, I think, but I didn't care too much at that point. I went up to my 18th floor apartment, and tried to get in. Um, keyword=tried. We have three keys to get into our apartment. The first opens up to a hallway shared by my family and one other family. The second opens into our personal hallway, and the third opens into our house. I opened up the first two just fine, but I had some trouble with the third. I tried to open it for probably fifteen minutes. It was an unpleasant experience because the light in that hallway is a motion sensor light, so I had to slap the wall or stomp my feet every few minutes in order to keep the light on. Eventually, I went downstairs to ask the guy who works in the lobby for help, but he was outside smoking, so I did not bother him. I went back upstairs, and tried some more before calling my sister. She told me that I should try again, but I told her I had been trying for the last 15 minutes!! She showed up about 10 minutes later and let me in. She told me that I could help myself to the food on the table, and then she left. My mom was (and still is) out of town, and I think my dad was at work. I took a shower because that was the one thing I wanted most. I ate a peach, a Fiber One bar (thanks for making me pack food, Mom!), a piece of chocolate, and two pieces of cheese for lunch. Definitely the meal of champions. I hadn't eaten since breakfast, yet this was hardly a real meal. I spent a couple hours on the computer and then took a four hour nap. When I got up, my sister and dad were home, and I did finally eat a semi-substantial meal. After dinner, I emailed some more, and I got to Skype with my real mom!!! Yay! I went to sleep at 11 and got up "late" at 5:45, so I only ran about a mile this morning. School was pretty educational today, so I was happy. I had ping pong class though. Ping pong class is atrocious. The teacher doesn't like me because I couldn't care less about his class. We actually had some free time to just play the fun way rather than the "right" way with each other today, so at least part of the class was enjoyable. We got out of school early today, and my driver picked me up and took me home. I was home alone except for my ayi (maid/cook). She made dinner for me, and, luckily, she is beginning to figure out what food I like. I got to eat purple rice, mangoes, cheese, and toudousir (shredded potatoes). I actually ate a normal amount of food, and it was sort of healthy! Go me! I'm exhausted now, and this is a ridiculously verbose post considering I had nothing to say . I hope you all enjoy reading it!