There is much to be said about my trip to china. Many stories to be explained that can’t, and shouldn’t be explained all at once. Instead, I’ll simply bring up my current thoughts and share things from earlier in the trip as they enter my head.
Last night myself and two of my pengyous (Ryan and Jack), went to one of our more favorite casual night spots.Its called the Fox Pub and its owned by a Chinese guy who speaks great English with a British accent because he spent some time in the UK.He likes to make the pub as westernized as possible and its clear what kind of market he’s appealing to.But not just westerners are drawn to his bar – there are always tables full of Chinese people having a beer and a laugh throwing darts at one of the dart boards in the back. I appreciate the place because he seems to have one of the more cleanlier washroom facilities around. Well it was a slower night out because last night just so happened to be pouring rain. Not many people venture out in rain storms apparently, thus being why it was only myself and two other pengyous.
Before we stopped in at Fox Pub, we wanted to chi some fan so we stepped in at the friendly neighborhood chuar dealer (chuarstaurant) right down the street.We wined ourselves with a bottle of Snow Beer and dined ourselves with a collection of beef, lamb, and chicken…all on a stick. We discussed how a simple concept such as this could really take off on a college campus such as East Lansing.Being that many restaurants are looking to stay afloat in the city….a place with low over head and low labor cost could be quite successful.It could be just me, but I think many Americans alike would agree that meat just tastes better on a stick.Aside from the chuar, we each ordered some bread that is kind of like pita bread.We asked for it spicy – as if there’s any other way to eat it, and as expected, they made it spicy.I think it’s important to note that neither Ryan nor Jack could handle the spiciness.Both had to scrape off the spice with their chuar sticks and yet both of them kept sweating profusely.It was raining outside, but they had more precipitation on their face from the spice than they got the whole walk over to the chuarstaurant.
So after filling our stomachs, we continued our adventure to Fox.We were greeted by the owner of the place and took our normal seats with him at a table in front of the bar in order to ensure maximum efficiency of wasting as little time as possible getting the pitcher out of the bartenders hand and into our eagerly awaiting stomachs.We spent the next few hours exchanging drinking games from America and China.The Bar owner – Alan is his name – also supplied some great stories about his experiences being a small business owner in China. His stories are not only interesting, but extremely helpful in getting a better grasp on how business is operated in China.He also shared us his knowledge about a recent event that caused one of our favorite bars since we’ve been in Harbin to close.The bar called Russian Size suffered from some kind of bar fight where one of the guys involved ended up being killed.I guess that means he lost the fight?Anyways, it’s really too bad because Russian Size was like our stomping grounds.
In any case, the night was a success and we had a great time enjoying a relaxed night out and talking with the locals and hearing about the paths that their lives have taken them thus far.
So today we actually finished our level 3 books!We started on the first chapter of level 4. I must say its pretty exciting and I think I would take this experience including all of the fast-pace, hard work over a normal year of classes any day.Its weird to think that I’m only 2 semesters away from finishing the top level of Chinese MSU has to offer. I hardly doubt I’m skilled enough to be considered advanced in Chinese (as I’m sure my classmates can contest) but maybe a little extra time in China will fix that problem.As I write this blog I am waiting for a phone call from a company that is giving me an interview.If I get the internship, I’ll be staying at least until October in Beijing.
But anyways, class has been a lot of fun, and even though I don’t think I’m very close to being fluent – I feel that I have learned a lot. Our teachers here are very good. Especially Gao Laoshi. It seems that she has a lot of experience and you can tell that she still has a lot of passion for her job.It’s obvious in her lesson plans that she puts a lot of work in all the ways she tries to teach us.She always makes notice in front of the class about how I’m improving. I hope she’s right.Either I really am improving, or she probably thinks I’m just super cute. It’s probably both.It’s kind of funny when I think about our behavior in class though. Really, we’re at the same level of literacy as 2nd graders.Not only that…but our level of humor is at about the same level.We all giggle hysterically at pretty much the lamest jokes.I’m sure our teachers think American’s are all wack jobs.I’m not making excuses though, class can be pretty fun and we all have a great time there together. Cheers.
So recently I’ve started to download a bunch of Chinese music.My dear friend Andy figured out how I could download some software so that my computer can finally read Chinese characters.Then he proceeded to show me how on Google you can download music….for free. So since then I’ve been downloading Chinese music like a fat kid with a free pass in a candy store.Surprisingly, I have come to find that I enjoy female singers more so in Chinese.Rarely do I like female singers in the States.My favorite artist so far seems to be a singer named Penny known in China as 戴佩妮.Tai-Heng says she’s from Taiwan and that he used to listen to her a lot. You have good taste my friend.I’m surprised about how much I actually do like it because I really can’t understand most of it…but I do feel proud of myself when I can figure out what they’re singing.I heard that a lot of people can really improve their fluency just by listening to music or TV shows in another language.Thankfully I can find a lot of Chinese music I like listening to so if that’s true, I should start seeing a quick improvement pretty soon here.I can’t wait to go back to the states and start bumping my new Chinese music on my system.Basically because people will come ask me if I know what the song is saying.Even if I don’t I’ll probably just lie and say I do. Because whatever I tell them they’re saying….they really aren’t going to know if I’m telling the truth or not now are they?
The clubs here in China have a real good mix of playing good American music and Chinese music. Korean music is really big here too. When Michael Jackson died, the club we went to that weekend had a period of time when they just played a Michael Jackson song one after another.Mike Snow took the club by storm when he busted his out his MJ glove and started pulling out some pretty impressive moves.It usually takes me at least a 6 pack before I could start coming up with some of those moves, but Mike held his own pretty good.
Last week we finished our second class of Chinese folk music. I really enjoyed this class and was really excited that we got to listen to Harbin students play their instruments. All of them were really terrific and I was really amazed at their skill level. We got to see a lot of different instruments and were also able to watch a lot of videos of a bunch of different performances. There was even a cool video of a skit done at the Beijing Olympics where a bunch of men hiding under some kind of box statue all synchronized different movements to make it look like it was a gigantic computer image. It was very impressive. One of the instruments we got to see is the Er-Hu. Its like a two stringed violin. I was really surprised about all the different sounds the student could make with it. Then there was also the Zheng. It’s like a very long harp with lots and lots of strings. I even got to play it. I did better than I thought I would, but it’s still a pretty challenging instrument. There are just so many strings! There was also a guitar looking thing that I can’t remember its name. I think it was my favorite instrument too and the student was absolutely superb at it. Apparently she has only been studying the instrument for 3 years and rumor has it that she is already the best college student in all of China. She played a really terrific song for us that was really up beat. The first instrument that was played for us was a flute that was made out of bamboo. He played us songs from the North that were more of a fast paced and upbeat tempo that resembles all the happy people outside. He also played us Southern style music that was a softer tempo at the pace of rain and such. Personally, I think I’m more of a Northern style kind of guy but the whole music experience was very enjoyable.
We just returned back from Inner-Mongolia which was definitely the best 4th of July I’ve ever had. Who would have guessed that the best 4th of July I’d experience would be halfway around the world? Our weekend kicked off with a bang when we got to the Inner-Mongolian wetlands and took a bamboo float ride down a cleared path. We tapered 2 American flags to our boat to show our support for our country. Myself, Dave, Jack and Braden all came prepared to enjoy the great day and brought an assortment of drinks to relax with that included our favorite Chinese lemonade, passion fruit juice, and of course our beloved American soft drinks – coca-cola and sprite. As other boats went by us (we told our driver to go extremely slow so we could enjoy the moment) some of their raft captains would splash us with their extremely long oars. But we came prepared. We came with some water cannons and proceeded to blast them back with streams of water. When a few of the girls came by us and saw our water cannons, they instantly warned us to not dare get them wet. Even though it was glistening sunlight and the water was perfect temperature, you can’t really blame them because when you’re in Inner-Mongolia, the most important thing is to make sure your hair doesn’t get wet in risk of messing up that stylish perm. Once we got to the end of the path, there was a wooden hut that was really quite beautiful secluded away from everything erected in the middle of the wetlands. However, we really wanted to take in all of the sights and the water so we asked our captain to continue taking us around. He was happy to, however for all his extra work, he asked for an extra 40 kuai. We happily obliged. So we continued on our way and circled around the shimmering small lake and soaked in the scenery, good company and good conversation. We were so secluded in the wilderness that it seemed as if the water surrounded us. Almost as if we were in the water ourselves. When we returned to our final destination, our riverboat captain had such a great time that he refused to accept the 40 kuai we had promised him earlier. Instead, we all settled on a group picture to commemorate the perfect day we had all spent together in the Mongolian wetlands.
The night after the boat ride in the wetlands was a terrific follow-up. However, I must say that the food we had eaten was a little suspect.The first thing they brought out was a plate full of lamb.Sounds good enough right? Well admittedly I did eat a decent amount of that dish, but this was no tenderloin.I had to kind of sift through the meat to find the parts I was willing to eat.Though I got less and less picky when they brought out the next dishes: lamb face, lamb feet (or so was the rumor) and weeds. The lamb face – not all that bad.The lamb feet were pretty much impossible, and the weeds were just that – literally weeds that certainly they just had picked from outside the tent that we were currently in.I was half expecting a dandelion mixed in there for good measure.No one took advantage of this weed salad, but to our surprise there were large cuts of cucumbers in the bottom.Just happy to see something familiar, I devoured a good helping of those.Finally we got a couple dished of fried food with good tasty sauce.It wasn’t so bad, but I tell ya – I won’t be taking Harbin cuisine for granted again.During the meal we had a few performers visit us treating us to a song or two.We were told that if you enjoy the performance we must “ganbei” our glasses.Of course we enjoyed these rare and unique performances, so we drank up.Except for the last guy – I didn’t care too much for his. I ganbeid anyways and I don’t think he knew I was lying.After our meal we went outside and to our delight, a camel was outside waiting for us to notice him.Ellen named him George.I think he liked that name.If he didn’t, I’m sure he would’ve told us.
As the night went on, the locals set up a bonfire.Once that fire was lit, everyone started to get a little crazy.Immediately everyone started to dance circles around the fire.I particularly enjoyed watching it, but before long everyone was taken by the hand and led into the dance.At first we started just doing what everyone else was doing – a hybrid of skipping and jumping with a little twisting added in for flare.Before long though, we all started throwing in our own little style.Everyone seemed to be interested in what new moves we were performing for them and quickly tried learning so they could join in.Everyone was really enjoying themselves, and they sure were excited to show us some extra attention.At one point, they bunched us all together before joining hands in a circle around us and continued to spin around us.I wasn’t sure exactly what the protocol was during this dance, so I just let my inner inhibitions run wild and just continued dancing in which ever manner I saw fit at the time.Eventually people decided to go over to another fire where there was a bigger speaker.This gave us some quiet time where we actually got to roast s’mores on the fire.Ally, Allison and Mike were extremely generous in providing these for us.When it got dark enough, we had one more surprise for everyone.A friend of ours in Beijing had some left-over fireworks from their spring festival and gave them to us.So before long, we went out to the field and put on quite an impressive display to commemorate the 4th of July holiday.It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.Well….almost. Before boarding the bus, someone hooked up their Ipod to the speakers to play “Cupid Shuffle” for everyone.Nothing could have topped teaching everyone in Inner-Mongolia the Cupid Shuffle. Now THAT is how you celebrate the 4th of July.