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Study Abroad in China

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Los Angeles, United States

After hours of anxious waiting for time to slowly pass, I finally took a taxi from BNU to the Beijing Capital airport about 5 hours before my 9 pm flight. After lots of nuisances such having to reduce my overweight luggage, making my carry-on heavier than I weigh, being stopped by Chinese immigration cause I apparently didn't look like my passport picture, and waiting forever to retrieve my luggage in the US and getting through customs... I'm finally home.

The first thing I did when I came back was eat PHO (Vietnamese beef noodles). It was the best tasting bowl of pho ever.

Now I'm back home in East Los Angeles in my cozy home. I come back and my brother tells me he heard gunshots a couple blocks down the street yesterday, but that doesn't surprise me. I'm not in Beijing anymore.

Although I feel like I left a part of me back in Beijing, I am extremely happy to be back home. It will take a couple days to get used to all the free toilet paper and soap in the public restrooms, and everyone not speaking Chinese.

I learned a lot studying abroad. I learned about China, friends, family, and myself. Studying abroad made me realize what a bubble I was living in and there are so many different ways of living beyond imaginary borders. I realized that I missed my family a lot, even though back home I would be annoyed or irritated by their constant worrying. In China, I looked forward to talking to my parents and missed them when I didn't get their call. I learned that I can do a lot when I'm by myself, and I can set my own goals and find my way around without any help, even though it does get lonely sometimes.

Now it's time to unpack, repack, move into my new apartment, go back to work, study for the GREs, continue my research project, and turn 21.

This is the end of my Beijing adventures... for now.

permalink written by  jlu on August 18, 2008 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
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About 2 more weeks left :(

Beijing, China

I'm happy and sad that there's only about 2.5 weeks left before I leave Beijing. I miss home, my family, friends.. and Target in the States. But I know I'll miss all the fantastic people I met here. I won't have internet after tomorrow, so I might not update again until I get back to the States unless I go to the internet cafe.

So things to look forward to... this weekend we're going to the Beijing Zoo, xi dan for shopping, wang fu jing for more shopping and eating scorpions, and KTV for karaoke-ing. Then on the 11th, I'm going to the Olympics to watch archery! After that.. final exams, and our graduation performance and luncheon.

permalink written by  jlu on July 29, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
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Inner Mongolia: desert sands and grasslands

Hohhot, China

EAP took us to Inner Mongolia for the weekend. We left on Thursday night and traveled about 8-10 hours by train to 呼和 Hohot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. After breakfast, we traveled by bus to one of the biggest sand dunes in China, xiang sha wan 向沙灣, where we rode camels, sand surfed and had a statistically significant chance of obtaining skin cancer from the hot desert sun. Or at least my skin fried and made me even darker. Mmm crispy.

Luckily, we stayed at a decent hotel after desert fun so we still could shower. The next day, we went to the Da Zhou temple 大昭 and wandered around for an hour or two... and had lamb hot pot. Normally I would enjoy hot pot but the weather was already hot, the restaurant had no air conditioning or fan, and stupid me forgot to bring the fan I bought from some other temple, so you know what all this means... it equals teh sux.

After lunch we traveled to the grasslands 煇騰錫勒 where we stayed in a yurt 蒙古包 and didn't get to shower. They had community restrooms but they were so rancid that I decided to pee in the fields. That night we had roast lamb, which was better than I expected because I normally hate lamb, had a bonfire party and watched performances. We went to sleep pretty early because we wanted to wake up for the Sunrise.

My friends and I woke up at 4 am to watch the Sunrise.. which didn't really come until 5:15 am, so we freezed our asses off because it was freakin' cold in the morning. We rode horses in the afternoon for an hour and got ready to leave Inner Mongolia. We took the train back to Beijing and I took the best shower ever.

permalink written by  jlu on July 27, 2008 from Hohhot, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged InnerMongolia

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BNU Campus, Olympic park, Noodles, and more McDonald's

Beijing, China

So yesterday I had exams and afterwards our whole class went to eat with our teachers! It was cool.

After lunch I went with a bunch of EAP kids to xi dan 西單, where I spent too much moneys and walked around for about forever. and later that night, we had an interesting clubbing adventure. Today I went to the Olympic park and a shopping place called 五道口. ...Walked way too much and tomorrow I'm going to 王府井商業街。



permalink written by  jlu on July 19, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged Shopping and OlympicPark

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Chengde, Temples, the Great Wall and bad knees. :(

Chengde, China

-How hot is it there exactly? Sometimes hot, sometimes warm, but mostly stuffy. The weather fluctuates to generalize.

-Are there a lot of tourists there because of the Olympics? I've seen only a few (maybe a handful) but I'm in the more, uh, ghetto part of Beijing, so most of the tourists are in the "nicer" part, that is geared towards tourists.

-Is your dorm dirty too? Have you met any natives? Nope! my room is soo clean :) Fu wu ren 服務人 come to clean it everyday! I've met my tutor, who is a native.. but haven't really met too many natives.

-Are they friendly or are they like people in Chinatown? They're pretty friendly, but sometimes they're just frustrated cause they expect me to be able to speak Mandarin. But if you're white with blonde hair and blue eyes, I heard they'll be super friendly and want to take pictures with you.

This weekend I went to Chengde, some temples (Puning and some other one) and the Jinshanling Great Wall. We stayed at a really nice hotel for the first night, I say 'nice' because the next night, we stayed at some shanty-ass 'hotel' in Jinshanling where my bedsheets were yellow and covered with specks of mysterious green/black bug-like guts. The bathroom looked like someone died in it. I didn't shower that night because I was too scared and it seemed like other people's rooms sucked as well. (whine) I really wanted to shower too, I was so gross and sticky (end whine). Now you can gauge how scary it was.

For the first two days of the weekend, we went to the Chengde Summer Palace, rode an electric boat, walked a lot... went to the Puning temple and some other temple called 'Pu hua zhong cheng' something or other. Then we visited a Hebei Tourism Vocation College (where students train to become tour guides) but I didn't really know why we went there. All we did was talk to Chinese students and watch some tea ceremony demonstrating how to drink tea (but not actually drinking it) sadness.. way to tease. So maybe we were there because the tour guide company we were traveling with had employees who graduated from there?

Sunday, we woke up at 3 a.m. to climb the wall at 4 a.m. So I hiked on the wall for about 4-5 hours and covered 10.5 km (maybe 6 miles). My knees are still killing me. I ended up hiking with one other friend because I originally wasn't going to hike all the way, so I went really slow and took lots of breaks. But the wall was so treacherous that I did not want to climb back down after I worked so hard to get up the damned wall. Some parts of the Great Wall didn't really have walls, so you can just fall off the side. I was also obligated to buy things from random farmers traveling the wall to sell things because I was scared they would kill me. Serious. They didn't threaten me, but you never know... one push off the wall and you're gone. Anyway, I have many stories about the wall but I'll save those for real conversations.

Class starts again tomorrow and I also have a calligraphy class. Yay. :(

P.S. once again, excuse the weird fob pics of me by myself. I feel so awkward in those pics.

permalink written by  jlu on July 13, 2008 from Chengde, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged GreatWall, Temples and Chengdu

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Classes, Tian an men, tea

Beijing, China

It was a challenging first couple of days of classes, but I'm getting the hang of simplified characters. A couple days ago, I went to a tea house called Lao She Tea house 老舍茶館 and drank tea while watching bombtastic shows. There was a shadow puppet show, acrobats, magic, singing, gong fu, and some other crazy shows that were all very entertaining. I'm typing more now since Phil said he wanted to read more, so this is for you Phil! I'm usually too lazy but today is sort of an exception, I guess.

Besides being a bit homesick for the first couple of days, I've learned to enjoy the time I am abroad 'cause I'm only here for a month or so. I wasn't used to the weather being so hot and humid in additions to everything being so dirty here, but food and goods are cheap so that's a plus. Also, I watched this video in class and it made me feel lucky to be here in Beijing during the Olympics, so I'm coping well.


I got sick a couple of days ago and I'm slowly getting better. Being sick in college sucks, and being abroad is no different. I might've caught a cold from eating food family-style (which is how Chinese usually eat.) Basically there's a bunch of plates of food and everyone just has their own bowl of rice and share the other foods, so yay germs galore.

Yesterday, I went to Tian an men and Forbidden city. We took the subway and it was very very hot, humid, sunny, and crowded. There were MASSES of Asian people and I wondered, why are there so many Asian people here? Why would they come to their tourist trap sites when they already live here..? One of life's unanswered questions..

I also think my English is deteriorating, so excuse the bad grammar and such! Also, please excuse the multiple tourist pictures of me. My parents were wondering why I hardly had any of myself and wanted me to post some so they can see it. HI 媽媽,爸爸!

p.s. i really hate how the image quality is decreased when it's uploaded

permalink written by  jlu on July 7, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged TeaHouse and Classes

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Placement test, Hutong, Ducks and Rickshaws

Beijing, China

Answers for some questions before I start...
-So when you shower does your whole bathroom get wet?
Yep, but all of the water goes down a hole so we just wear slippers.

-What's McDonald's like there?
It's pretty much the same except the portions are smaller. A super-sized meal in China is equivalent to a normal meal in the US, fries and drinks. The burger itself is pretty much the same. I ordered a crispy chicken and it was actually way better than the US version, it was crispier and they didn't use crappy chicken (It wasn't really completely ground up chicken)

So the past few days I..
-Took my placement test and got placed in level 9 class. The highest is 11 and lowest is 3. I'm kinda scared I might not be able to handle it.
-Ate some food that made me go number 2 a couple of times. That was fun. (Not really)
-Met my Chinese tutor, she's really sweet and gave us a tour of the campus. I also found out she's the same age as me.
-Bought a sim card for my phone for local calls.
-Supposedly ate the best Peking duck from... Peking! (aka Beijing)
-Went to traditional old Beijing streets (Hutong)
-Went to a tea house where we got to sample some delicious tea. I <3 tea.
-Rode a rickshaw
-Took a boat around Shisha Lake. The boat had a lady playing music for us.

So anyway.. school starts tomorrow!

permalink written by  jlu on July 2, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
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First couple of days

Beijing, China

I arrived in Beijing around 5 am yesterday. The first thing I learned was that the people here are early risers; there were masses of people walking to work at 5:30 am.

I felt a bit of culture shock and was pretty miserable until I went out of my bubble/dorm room and went on an adventure exploring some of the nicer parts of Beijing today. Instead of blabbing on, I'm just going to compile a list of what I did...

-Figured out how to use the subway system
-Ate McDonald's
-Walked A LOT
-Having fun talking to locals in broken Mandarin and using the excuse that I'm a GuangDong ren (Cantonese)

The people here are really nice if they know you're a foreigner (but it can be bad if you're haggling). It's kind of frustrating sometimes. I look Chinese so the people here expect fluent Mandarin out of me. When I look at them with my blank "huh?" face because wo bu dong (I don't understand), they get impatient. Most of the people in the area around Beijing Normal University (Bei shi da, short for Bei jing shi fan da xue) or maybe just Beijing in general talk really fast and have a really strong accent--they add "ar" to everything. But I did get one compliment from a local, she said my Chinese was pretty good for a foreigner. Yay! I'm not that much of a noob after all.

I miss you people (sometimes) :D, so please comment and let me know how you're doing and/or ask questions about my experiences/the weather in Beijing/if I'm getting traveller's diarrhea/etc.

permalink written by  jlu on June 28, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
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Leaving tonight

Los Angeles, United States

Okay okay, I lied, I'm not in Beijing yet, I actually leave tonight/past midnight but I have nothing to do now since I'm all packed and I can't play the Sims 2 on my laptop. My flight departs 2 am (Cali time) and I arrive in Beijing around 5am in Beijing time (Which would be about 2 pm on Thursday in the States, I think). I'm trying to relearn some Chinese with my old textbook because there's a placement test sometime before classes start. I have been going over the simplified form of characters since that's what they use in China and because I chose to study the traditional form throughout UCLA, it'll be a challenge for me to adjust.

For those who don't know what simplified and traditional characters are all about, the traditional form is more difficult since there's more strokes. I don't really know much of the history, you can wiki it, but from what I know, China standardized all Chinese characters to be in simplified form to increase literacy at some point when they reformed. Traditional characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. So here's a sample sentence, first in simplified, then in traditional, and finally in English:

"Our shirt is on fire."

Notice only some of the characters are different.

What I'm really anticipating on the plane ride is boredom, so I brought a few books: Lonely Planet for Beijing (of course, I put a book cover so people don't know I'm foreign), Pastoralia by George Saunders (satirical book from class that I never really finished), and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Yep, that is all for today.

permalink written by  jlu on June 25, 2008 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged PreDeparture

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2 more days...

Los Angeles, United States

So I leave in 2 days and I'm pretty sure I'm ready to go. I've packed most of my stuff and unlocked my phone.. all I need to do is call my bank and maybe my health insurance company about logistical things. I'm kind of dreading the weather over in Beijing as it'll be extremely hot, humid, and super smoggy.. mmm fumes. I guess it'll prepare me before I go to the real motherland someday, Vietnam. Which I'm hoping will be my graduation present from my parents.

The next time I blog will probably be from Beijing. I don't know how the internet situation is over there in the international dorms but I'm sure it'll be fairly easy to gain access to the internets. I'm also bringing my DSLR (which I had difficulty deciding whether I should bring this $700 camera to a land of pickpockets), but since my cheap 2.0 megapixel camera with video recording capabilities died on me, I have no choice. I'm refraining from bringing expensive items I'll regret losing, so I'm keeping them to a minimum. The camera is probably the most expensive item I'm bringing--besides my laptop. But that's a piece of crap anyway.

Here's an unrelated moment you might enjoy...
(watches some soccer/futbol sport on tv)
me: (looks at scoreboard) isn't it funny how all the teams are European? they must like their futbol there.
phil: um, it's the Euro Cup?

permalink written by  jlu on June 23, 2008 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Study Abroad in China
tagged PreDeparture

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