A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: saralovett

Hao Le

Hao le, finished, my 6 weeks in China are coming to a close. I have mixed feelings. I miss America and the people there, but I enjoy the independence I have in China, and I have met some really great people here. I don't have much else to say except thank you to everyone who has been keeping up with my blog all summer! I am meeting everyone at the train station tonight at 9. The train leaves around 9:40, and I arrive in Beijing tomorrow morning. My flight leaves around 3 on Saturday afternoon China time and gets to New York on Saturday around 5:30 Eastern time (time change can be cool. 12 hours of my life will simply cease to exist). I get back to MN on Sunday morning. See everyone soon!

Posted by saralovett 20:22 Comments (3)

Free Hugs and a Healthy Dose of Communism

68 °F

Friday
I arrived at school at 6:30, but I did not have class. No, there were no questionably fictional floods today. My classmates and I took a school day trip to DaQing, the oil capital of China. The bus ride each way was 3 hours (aka actually 3 and a half or more). We were given the choice of going to either the museum or to a polar animal zoo. We decided on the museum because 1) apparently the animals are treated cruelly at the zoo 2) there are zoos in America 3) we all had a pretty strong feeling that the museum was the “right” choice (where the teachers wanted to go). The bus ride wasn’t too bad because almost everyone fell asleep, so it was quiet enough for me to read 1984 (I finished it that evening. Incredible novel). The first museum was about the oil industry in DaQing. Aka, the museum of environmental destruction as dubbed by the Harbiners. In that respect, it was disturbing. Plus, it was really boring even though our tour was in English. The next museum was disturbing in a different sense. It was an homage to Wang Ji Xi, a worker in the oil industry from the mid/early 20th century. He lost his leg somehow and continued to work in the oil industry, and he became a hero because he plugged some leak by jumping into a pit and stirring a concrete mixture with his one-legged body. Okay, guys. I know how to solve the BP oil crisis. We take a bunch of one-legged Chinese men and throw them into the Gulf with some poured concrete and use their bodies to stir the mixture. :) or maybe not. The museum was all about this guy though, and, to my knowledge, the aforementioned event was his biggest accomplishment in life. I have left out the most notable aspect of this museum. It was very…Party friendly. A wall-size inscription at the museum’s entrance extolled Wang Ji Xi ad nauseum as a good Party member. The whole thing was somewhat horrific to me because I was reading 1984 at the time, so all I could think of was how “goodthinkful” this whole place was. If you don’t understand that word, again, I urge you to stop what you’re doing and read 1984. That book made me a bit skeptical as to whether this man and his accomplishments were…greatly embellished to say the least. The museum, in my mind, was not about the oil industry at all. It was How to be a Loyal Party Member for Dummies. The whole environment just skeezed me out. One entertaining event at the museum did occur though: Bekah pretending to be blind and actually convinced the museum workers that she was. Imagine a purple-haired girl in a Spongebob jumper wearing black Ray Bans indoors and being led around by her friend. Um, yep. That’s Bekah. It was a little wrong but, admittedly, entertaining. At lunch, I learned a bit about Chinese culture by talking to Vanessa, our AFS liaison, and Li Laoshi. Vanessa told me about her boyfriend, Frank (not his real name. We Americans game him an English name. She approved because she said he is very “frank”). She said she used to date a boy who she really loved while in university, but her parents didn’t approve, so she broke up with him. Her family and Frank’s family are good friends, and they wanted Vanessa and Frank to date, so they did. She said Frank is very nice and dependable, but they don’t have a lot in common. They don’t seem to really be in love from what I gathered from this conversation. They’re probably going to get married. It’s not an arranged marriage exactly, but it’s a strong suggestion like most “rules” and traditions in China are. I asked her why she doesn’t marry someone she really loves, and she told me she wants to please her family because she was a wild teenager and feels like she owes it to them. I didn’t follow this logic at all. This is a part of Chinese culture that I will probably never completely understand. But it’s not true universally. I asked Li Laoshi at lunch about her husband, and she said he’s smart, handsome, treats her well, etc. I asked her if she loves him, and she gave me a funny look and said, “Of course. Otherwise, how could I marry him?” So it really does depend on the person! I just thought that was an incredibly interesting piece of Chinese culture. After the museums, we headed home. Everyone was a little bit crazy on the way home. For example, one person who will remind unnamed in case she reads this blog, had to pee so badly that she actually peed in a water bottle in the back of the bus. And it got on one of the seats. I’m glad I was in the front of the bus! After I got back to school around 5 or 6, my sister was waiting for me. She had a math class across the street for an hour, so she said I should wait with her until class was over. I sat in the back of the class and read 1984, so I was happy. I finally finished it a few minutes after I got home, and I ended up eaten reheated pizza for dinner at 8.

Saturday
I went to Tai Yong Dao (Sun Island) with my host family (sans mama who is in another city visiting her father again) and Tian Tian. Sun Island is basically a giant park. We walked around and took pictures. The weather was nice and warm, so I didn’t mind (although I’m not a huge fan of taking pictures). After lunch, I met up with my friend, Maggie, on Central Street. She was late, so while I was waiting, I sat on a ledge in front of Pizza Hut and read. Suddenly, three Chinese women approached me (cornered is perhaps a more accurate word) and began speaking at lightning speed. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about at first, and then I realized that they were Christian missionaries. They were telling me that God loves me. I was kind of in shock, and I didn’t understand the individual words that they were saying. The whole thing was strange! Finally, they asked me if I could say “Amen.” I said it, probably with a rather inquisitive inflection. They handed me a piece of paper (which Maggie later confirmed was indeed preaching the Word…) and went on their way. So this blog kills two birds with one stone. When people ask me about arranged marriages or about Christianity in China, I can direct them here :D. After Maggie arrived, she said she had seen five of our classmates giving Free Hugs a little way down the street. They had made signs that said both “Free Hugs” and “Mian Fei Yong Bao.” We walked to find them, and we decided that we would join in. The street guards (not really police) were not pleased with this event, so Free Hugs relocated to the open space in front of a famous Russian church, St. Sophia. We got a lot of hugs, and Olivia (future director) got the whole thing on tape. The best part of the day, however, was when we saw a blonde guy and a brunette girl walking around in front of St. Sophia. We all stopped and stared. They were, without a doubt, Americans. Not Russians--Americans. We ran at them yelling, “FREE HUGS!” It turns out that they were on a similar program studying Chinese for the summer. The guy attends Yale, so I talked to him about that for a bit. He was from New York and knew of Jordan’s school; the girl, like Olivia and Maggie, was from D.C. It’s a pretty small world. After Free Hugs, Maggie and I explored the church’s interior. It was cool but nothing breathtaking. After I got home, I skyped with my friend, Paul (my long lost brother), who is in Changzhou, for a ridiculously long time and ended up going to sleep at 4 AM. That was just a brilliant idea because I had to wake up at 7:30.

Sunday
This morning, I woke up hating Skype. Seriously. Why did I go to sleep so darn late? I got up and got ready, but I was not exactly captain enthusiasm. We left the house around 8:30 and picked up Maggie and her sister before heading to the Japanese Germ Warfare museum. The museum was incredible (not opulent in any way, but it was eye-opening), and I learned a lot. For anyone who doesn’t know, Unit 731 was a Japanese unit that occupied Harbin during WWII. They experimented on locals and POWs in disgusting, twisted ways: vacuum chambers, frostbite, hanging people upside down, putting people in centrifuges, infecting them with Anthrax and the bubonic plague…the captors referred to the captives as “logs” because they considered them to be subhuman. Few Americans know about the Unit because America was given copies of the medical research and, in exchange, did not persecute the Japanese. Some of the Unit leaders were venerated for their actions, and war memorials still honor them today. How anyone could revere people who committed such heinous, dehumanizing crimes is beyond me.

On a lighter note, I only have three days of school left. I head to Beijing on Thursday night, and I leave for the States on Saturday.

See you soon !
Sara

Posted by saralovett 15:45 Comments (4)

Shui

Water. Today, my life revolved around water. Biologically speaking, every day revolves around water, but that's very much beside the point. At 6:30 AM, I was eating breakfast when my host father and sister informed me that I would not be having class today. Haha...I started writing this 2 hours ago and got distracted because I decided to learn the Spanish lyrics to the World Cup song. Okay, continuing on...so I didn't have school because "the rain will be very big." I thought this meant there was some kind of storm was coming, but then, I found out, floods were predicted according to my teacher. I looked outside and saw that it was barely raining. A few hours later, when it stopped raining entirely rather than getting worse, I came to the comical but likely conclusion that the teachers had exhausted their lesson plans, and banana split an excuse to not teach us today. It was pretty lame, but I wasn't complaining. Except I was a little bummed out because I found this whole thing out AFTER I woke up at 5:20. Joyous. I got a lot of reading done today though. I think I'm going to finish 1984 before the end of the weekend. Anyways, my sister took me swimming at an indoor pool with Tian Tian this afternoon. Chinese pools are strange for a number of reasons. First of all, my sister and her friend told me--while we were in the locker room thing changing because apparently people don't just change at home even though I did because I foresaw such an incident, so while they were telling me this, her friend was completely butt naked except Chinese people don't really have butts so really just regular naked, and I was just thinking why is this naked girl talking to me? why isn't she wearing clothing? seriously?--that I needed a swim cap. Haha. Wasn't that an anti-climatic sentence? I told them that I didn't have money. Lie. I did, but my locker was already closed, and I wasn't about to spend money on something I didn't want anyways. So we went swimming, and they told me that I you yong li hai (swim awesomely). That's kind of funny because I'm not really that awesome, but they barely know how to swim, so I can see why they'd think that. I know strokes well, but I can't swim in a straight line very well. But I can't really walk in a straight line. And sometimes I can't drive in a straight line. Maybe I just move crookedly? It's irrelevant. They had a swimming lesson, so I swam in the lap pool for almost an hour. That was exhausting. After we got out of the pool, we walked into the naked person room again, and they were like, "We need to clean ourselves before we leave." And I was like..."No?" "Wei shenme bu?" (why not) "Um, wo bu xu fu?" I'm uncomfortable. I didn't know how else to convey my longing to NOT participate in this public bathing ordeal. So they let me not shower. Mwahaha. Non-nudity FTW (note for parents/grandparents who don't know such acronyms: this mean for the win). I didn't actually bring clothes to change into anyways. And I didn't bring a towel because I assumed the would be provided. WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ASSUME. Your clothes get wet because you were dumb and didn't bring a towel.

see you chicos y chicas en una semana !
he ping!
-liu yi han/sara

Posted by saralovett 14:12 Comments (6)

One Taxi Window

rain 72 °F

Sunday
I asked my family's driver if I could borrow his Linkin Park CD...IN CHINESE. He understood me the first time. It wasa semi-complicated sentence, so it was sort of an accomplishment. Hooray! And now I have the CD on my laptop. Win. So I basically lazed around on Sunday. I really don't even remember what went down until my sister randomly called me (I was home alone all day again) and asked if I wanted to go shopping with her and my host mom. I just wanted to leave the house, so I agreed, and I asked if I could bring Alexis. She took a separate cab and met us there, so when my sister, host mom, and I got to the mall, they got out of the car and told me I could wait in the car for my friend...okay...? I'm glad that they went off on their own though because the mall mostly had American designer brands, and it would make no sense for me to purchase such clothing in China especially since it costs more here than in the States. We basically bought random food and sat around and talked. Because it's the American (teenage) way! My host mom bought me a shirt. It was weird. You're never going to see it because I wore it once to please her, and I'm going to give it to my friend once we're out of Harbin. The shirt says "dance dance dance w/ me" in black letters against a white background and has a vest thing that only exists on the front of the shirt, and it's brown/pink plaid. It sounds uglier in description than in real life. It's not horrible just not my style.

Monday
Okay, so a lot of you have probably heard that once you dream in a language, you have probably grasped it pretty well. What about dreaming in Chinglish? Does that count? Because I definitely had a dream in Chinglish in which I asked my sister if people said "He ping" (peace) in the same way that people in the States say Peace Out. It was so random. I'm pretty sure the rest of the dream was in English. But then I had a dream the next night, and it definitely had Chinese in it. I woke up and realize that the Chinese in my dream was used incorrectly. It was pretty weird. I'm still a little confused. So on Monday, school was a waste of time. We didn't do much of anything in class, and then we went to lunch early to learn to make jiao zi (again for me). Everyone was snapping at each other especially a lot on Monday. I don't know why. I think we're all (not so slowly) going crazy. I have to laugh sometimes just because everything is a little bit ridiculous. OH. and Friday morning I came back from my run, and I couldn't take a shower because my host mom was using the bathroom...TO WASH CLOTHES. She said she would be done soon. And then she combed her eyebrows(?) and was doing all this random stuff while I was standing in the doorway waiting for her to finish while probably reeking of sweat. Oh. I was so irritated. Also, I've noticed that my host mom often showers in the dark (at night) with the door unlocked. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to know when not to open the bathroom door. Another random fact about Chinese culture: apparently menstruation is a big deal. My friend told her parents that she had cramps, and they took her to a hospital (they don't have doctors' offices here) just to get Ibuprofen. And she's not allowed to play sports or have drink cold drinks(?) this week because she's a woman. LOL...so glad my family was not informed when I was having my period. I borrowed the book 1984 from my friend Alexis. The dystopic (not a real form of the word dystopia) government chillingly parallels that of China. If you haven't read 1984, stop reading my blog, and go read some Orwell!! It's excellent. I went to Alexis' house after school on Monday. First, we went to a coffeeshop, and I got ACTUAL GOOD COFFEE. Somewhat of a miracle. Wow I love all of my sentence fragments. Um yeah and this shop had environmentally friendly light bulbs, and that was pretty ku (cool). Then we chilled at Alexis' house till 8:30 when I took a taxi home. Hanging out was refreshingly normal. We went online and ate ice cream and chatted about life. It was very...American. Random side note: there's a Chinese show that we all have to participate in next Wednesday. It's basically a talent show. I don't want to do it. I wonder if I can claim to be talent-less. I really dislike talent shows :(. And I don't like being a zoo animal for random Chinese people. It's weird. Just to confused you further, I'm going to tell you about more things out of order! I had history class on Monday and Tuesday! It was really cool and educational and almost entirely in Chinese (Maggie had to translate a lot. She's really good at Chinese). We learned about the Japanese doctors who performed horrible medical experiements on Chinese locals and POWs during WWII. I had never heard about it before, and it was really interesting yet horrible. I asked my host family if we could go to a museum in Harbin about it (there's one in this city bc it happened here), and they said we can go this weekend.

Tuesday...Wednesday...
Nothing much has happened. Hanging out. Shopping. Random time-wasters in class that scream "we are disorganized and didn't plan a detailed curriculum. We don't know what to teach you, so we're going to show you pictures of a cartoon dog from a Chinese TV show, and read poorly translated wise sayings and puns from this show that make absolutely no sense." Yes. It's a long scream. Nothing else is happening I guess. I can't wait to get to Bejijng. Being in such a small group so class to the end is making everyone go a little bit mad. And it's pretty funny.

About the title of this post: halfway through my taxi ride home from Alexis' house, I realized I had been looking out of one taxi window the entire time. I do this often, but this particular time I stopped and thought about it. Purple elephants could be tap dancing on the other side of the cab, and I would would never know because I was so fixated on looking in one direction--the same direction in which I always look. Metaphorically speaking, this applies to how so many people look at things in life: single-mindedly. I'm sure I'm as guilty of anyone. So today, I challenge you: look outside the other taxi window for a while.

Posted by saralovett 14:25 Comments (8)

Chinese People > Vampires

Who needs blood when you can drink bone marrow?

Last night at dinner, the meat eaters (my family and their friends) were served chicken legs. I would normally be okay with this. But this was not normal. At all. At least not by my (broad, in my opinion) definition of normal. They put on plastic gloves and took out straws, and they sucked the bone marrow out of the chicken. Through. a. straw. I kid you not. If one person had done this, it may have been okay, but it was about eight people all at once, and the cacophony of repulsive slurping made my intestines cringe. It was atrocious. Later, during dinner, the woman seated to my right kept pouring glasses of juice for me (because that's how they do things here--they pour drinks for each other), but my sister was like, BU YONG (not necessary). No, no! She can do it herself. She knows me well :D. I'm actually kind of surprised that she picked up on that aspect of my personality because I was just going to let the lady pour my juice and not say anything. It was cute though--the lady figured out that I like to mix juices (in this cases orange and peach), and she poured in a little of each. But then she tried to pour juice into my water. It was pretty funny actually. I probably would have drunk it too. So...that's a Chinese dinner (or at least part of it). Chi fan! Eat!

This morning, I woke up at 7 on my own (I'm incapable on sleeping in...darn getting up early for school/running). My host mom and ayi (a word for aunt. She is our cook/cleaning lady) taught me how to make jiao zi dumplings. It was really fun, and they were hen hao chi, very delicious. It took a long time though! I'm hoping that I can teach people how to make them once I'm back in the States.

So that was short, but not much has gone down this weekend.

Two weeks left
Peace.

-Sara

Posted by saralovett 20:05 Comments (7)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 16) Page [1] 2 3 4 »