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Shanghai, China

a travel blog by waywardwahoo

Wanderings of a Linguaphile

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” - Dagobert D. Runes

Sights and sounds, tastes and sensations, thoughts and feelings from my nine weeks in Shanghai (and other parts of China).

UVA in Shanghai Program, Summer 2008

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“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” - Lao Tzu

Los Angeles, United States

And so the journey begins …

I am currently on China Easter Flight MU586, watching Will Smith play Mr. Suave in Hitch. I should be studying some more Integrated Chinese, but we just had lunch or dinner (not quite sure which) and my concentration is shot, with help from the man in front of me, who could seriously use a shower.

But I guess it’s my fault, I chose this seat: the plane is really empty and each person has at least 2-3 seats to him or herself. Add that to the smaller stature of the Chinese and this is one of the more comfortable rides I’ve been on (minus the BO of man in 55H).

At least I got on this flight? My flight from Dulles to LAX was delayed an hour, and I wouldn’t have had enough time to catch my connection. American Airlines sent me to United, who flew me with ten minutes to spare to catch my connection. LAX sucks, although some of the scenery isn’t so bad, especially when you’re flying over it.

The hostesses have all spoken to me in Chinese, and continue to do so. I don’t quite know what the options for dinner were, there was rou and shi lai? Took the meat, nothing special. Everything with shui, because I don’t remember the other names, don’t drink soda, and don’t feel like drinking on hour 2 of my 13 hr flight. Although BO55H had a bud, and his face is showing it.

Alrighty, I’m going to try to get through a few more of these lessons, the beginning ones of which I mostly remember. But then again, I’m only two lessons in.

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on May 28, 2008 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Shanghai, China
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School's out for summer. Wait...what?

Shanghai, China

Currently at ECNU; landed on time (if not a few minutes early) only to find that my bags were not there. Filled out paper work, apparently my bags were at LAX. Flustered, I went outside to the airport shuttle busses, and bus six was ready to leave. Got on, couldn’t find the leady, got off, the lady found me. I pointed to the stop and she yelled at me to get back on the bus.

The bus ride was longer than an hour. Walked around a bit and finally hailed a cab. Seemed like the cab was taking me back where I came from, I freaked a little thinking that he had misunderstood my attempt of memorizing the pinyin on the little cheat sheet. At the next red light (the lights at which, the meter moves faster than a second, I swear!), I pointed to the cheat sheet for my safety; my fears were in vain. He dropped me off outside of the gate, I walked backwards and then realized that he had dropped me off outside of the gate, and I entered the campus.

It was very, very… dark. Interesting as well, I don’t know how to describe it. The best way would probably be free time just before lights out at a summer camp. Except most everyone was Asian, something you don’t see at your typical all American summer camp. Had no idea where I was going, so I qing wen’ed someone, only to have him turn me about face and show me that I was right in front of it. I blame the darkness / my inability to read Chinese. Oops. Hopefully that will all be taken care of soon.

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on May 29, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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Hit me baby one more time...

Shanghai, China

A blast from the past right? Not just that, apparently a Chinese favorite!
Today we had our tour of the campus, which is a lot bigger than I expected. I actually got up early (aka: before 5ish). Walked around through the park, which was feichang crowded with different groups of old people doing taichi to communist-Russia style speakers.

Changfeng park is actually really pretty, there are stones on which you can cross the little rivers, and little paddle boats and stuff to rent. Went back, showered, went out the houmen (back gate) to get breakfast. We had jian1bing3, which were surprisingly delicious, and at 2.5RMB (~$0.36) who can complain! Didn't get laduzi, so I guess I'll be eating that for a while.

My tour leader was Zhuo laoshi. She was really nice, and spoke some English, so that was hen fangbian. My group (besides me) was a first-year, Matt, and second-year, Lincoln. All three of us are in the 200 level Chinese.

Lunch was at one of the cantings, where I had noodles. A really big meal for 4.5RMB. We get dining hall cards and they've come preloaded with 100RMB...I think it'll take me a while to get through all of these! Although there are so many things that I want to try them all...(I'll be the only fat Chinese person [no, I'm not Chinese].

Later, dinner was at one of the restaurants on grounds, where we had our welcoming banquet. There was a lot of food, and it kept on coming. Most of which I liked. I think I'm going to gain weight in China, although we were all talking about not being able to eat anything. The banquet wasn't bad, all of the laoshimen were really nice, although lots of times it was awkward jile. But nothing's awkward unless you let it get awkward! (which is what I did a few times...haha).

Banquet food. Taken from M.

Diao laoshi was set on taking us to KTV (see: karoake bar) after the banquet, so a group of us went. It was def. interesting, both American English and Chinese songs. After a while I got tired sitting there and listening to four minutes of words I didn't understand and only being able to recognize 1/10 of the characters on the TV screen. Diao laoshi was having a ball though.

Oh, I had forgotten to mention that my bags still hadn't shown up. Yeah. Kinda pissed off. But the nice doorman told me that they would be here tonight at 10, so I used that as an excuse to leave KTV w/ Sarah, (and Kira and Jenn) and we went back to campus. I was so excited to finally get out of the clothes that I had been wearing all week (since Tuesday ish?).

Get back to grounds...bags not there. I don't understand what the new doorman is saying to me. I'm smelly, sweaty, disappointed and just want my clothes. Is that too much to ask for?

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on May 30, 2008 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Shanghai, China
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“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” - Paul Theroux

Shanghai, China

Definitely didn't know where I was today. Took a tour to the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai's equivalent of the Eiffel Tower / Washington Monument / Empire State. I'm not big on touristy things. Although, there was a roller-coaster inside, which was literally one-minute long. Definitely not worth the 25RMB.

After that, we went to the water side, from where you could see the Bund on the other side of the river. (Once again, pointless?) We then headed to the People's Square (Ren2min2 guang3chang3). I was confused as to the purpose of today's travels. I truly don't know where we were today/what significance these places had.

Later the group Split up, and because only the Bank of China accepts traveler's checks, we had to find one. My group was Kat, Luolan, Lauren, Chris, and Niko. After a long hour or so at the bank, we had to eat, so we went to this noodle place, where after we all tried to order different things with our wonderful Chinese, five of us ended up with the exact same thing. It wasn't too bad though, so it wasn't an utter failure.

We then got some ice cream, which was different from American ice cream. Went into some shops, and then some malls and the most interesting thing all day: rode the metro several times. It was really fun, although we did get plenty of stares. Some of the metro stations are right cool, they have underground shops and restaurants and flashy colors. Not cool? The mouse that was running around. I scared everyone around me by yelling "there's a f!cking mouse in the metro station! x2. Even not cooler? The guy who first stepped on the mouse's tail with one foot to keep it from running then stepped on the head with the other foot, trying to kill it. He took his sweet time, you could see the thing squirming underneath the pressure of his foot.

Came back to campus, got a few minutes of rest, then got ready to go out to dinner at the Bund, which after much debate I decided to attend (although I was pooped out.)

Oh, for my faithful readers, last night the doorman that I can't understand came to my room and yelled at me for 5 minutes, saying something about my luggage, and then say something about a phone. I went downstairs with him: turns out that they called the dorm because they needed to get in, they were on campus and bringing my bags! I went outside to meet them in the van, they needed my report and passport so I had to run all the way back to the dorm. When I returned, they dumped my bags outside and left. I didn't have any money to give them; I felt bad but tipping isn't allowed here.

I only had one thought at this moment: MES AFFAIRS! haha.


went to the Bund, got dinner at a restaurant where our server had FREAK ears. She was cute at first, but then she turned into an evil elf at the end of the meal (it could have been because I kept whispering to everyone about her ears, and people would laugh/shudder in horror... or it might have been because we took forever to pay; I prefer to think of the latter).

Dinner at the Bund, we ate on the third floor of a restaurant. Do you know what that means? We walked up two flights of stairs, a moving dinner zoo for all the zhongguoren eating at the restaurant.

After dinner, we got some pijiu on the Bund. I really don't like beer, but it was buy one get one free, so I split with Sarah. Why buy one get one free? We figured it out: the Tigers (brand) were expired. Hao. Two beers later, we got on the metro to zhongshan gongyuan, we were loud and obnoxious, inviting all the stares that we got. We then ran to the next line, only to be told that the metro had closed. We took two taxis back home.

I think tonight we are going out to BonBon. Shi openbar de.

I hope we don't die.

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on May 31, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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BonBon was really not bon

Shanghai, China

Sorry that was so tacky.

Bonbon was... an experience. 120RMB for guys, 80RMB for the ladies and the scene was all the hip guys and skanky girls. It was kinda crazy. Occasional bairen, but mostly just very Asian. Some observations/lessons learned:

- they took our tickets, so we were confused as to how it was an open bar: the solution? Signs that say "Don't lose, reuse!" So if you have a cup or a bottle and take it to any of the bars, they will refill you
- it's okay to throw up in the communal bathroom area, just not in the sink. The fuyuan will direct you to the specially placed toilets
- if you're sitting at one of the tables, expect to play the dice game, which according to Luolan, is like yahtzee, but it reminds me more of the game that they play in Pirates of the Caribbean (iMdb says: Liar's Dice).
- bumming cigarettes isn't that hard, but if you're Korean, like yours truly,they will try to talk to you afterwards in Chinese, only to be disappointed with you afterwards
- Waiguoren love meeting other ones, and will tell you where the good bars are. At least most of them
- If you're going to offer a girl a cigarette, make sure you have a phone to get her number; oh yeah, and if she can't speak English, and you can't speak Chinese... it probably won't work out
- canker sores = might allow you to catch something. Just saying

After Bonbon, we came back, but I was so hungry but the back gate was locked, so I stood behind the bars of the back gate basically begging the meat sellers to bring me something, that I had money. They wouldn't come. I went back and asked the doorman what I should do, he said to climb over the fence. I looked, and I was in no physical shape to do that, so I climbed underneath. I ate five of the laduzi sticks, as I like to call them. They were really good, and not laduzi-ful, and there only 1RMB each! I stayed out there and talked to the woman, went inside the 24/7 convenience store and bought some water, started to climb back under, when I met some of the Vancouver students. Three girls, one highly intoxicated, who were all wearing silk dresses that they had made. Not bad, but they proceeded to crawl on asphault in them. They were really friendly, but they were leaving the next day, so bu hao.

Went back home, and Niko was in the kitchenette with a Russian student from NYU. We played some Texas Hold 'Em, Durak (ja russkij jazyk!), and this slapping game of which I forgot the name (not ERS). Stayed up 'til 5 just hanging out, then went to bed and passed out. I was exhausted.

I woke up at 10ish today (don't know why) but I couldn't fall back asleep. I've basically had a migraine all day (perhaps alcohol triggered? I love trying to figure out what triggers each migraine; it's normally allergies, but it can't be here...) and so I stayed in bed having taken 6 or so tylenol. Because I've had a really bad headache all day, didn't start studying my two lessons until after I had woken up (see past 20:00).

Alrighty, I really need to go study, we have our first dictation tomorrow and I want to make a good impression. It's going to be a very, very long night...

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on June 1, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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Seriously? No, are you for seriously?

Shanghai, China

So for those of you that know me/ my study habits, you know that this past semester at University was a toughie. Moving into the 400 levels for two of my departments as well as having some classes every day tested my limits. I pulled countless all-nighters and went through some pretty rough times. Add on top of that maintaining some sort of social life and a pledge semester and you have one burned out me.

I pulled an all-nighter last night.

"To get away from one's working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one's self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change." ~Charles Horton Cooley

What's the point of me coming to China to study Chinese, I could have done this back at UVA and been with wo de pengyoumen!.


Class wasn't so bad. Here's our daily schedule:
- 8:00 Tingxie, first hour of class. Introduction to the grammar and the text. (today was Wang Laoshi)
- 9:00 Second hour, grammar review / vocal practice making the constructions our own (Zhou)
- 10:10 Third hour, activities / situations that we may encounter and using the constructions. (Gao laoshi)

Between hours, the laoshimen come into the room and find us and set up a time for us to meet with them one-on-one. Today I met at 12:00. Topic began with the grammar and text, but eventually moved on to other stuff, like my family, my fraternity (she was really obsessed with fraternities), and the date auction for Relay for Life! Xu laoshi was hen nice, I hope all the one-on-one sessions go that well!

Took a long nap, then woke up to do homework/study for Tingxie.

At this rate, it's going to be a long... nine weeks... :(

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on June 2, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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tagged FirstDay and AllNighter

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Day 2. It's going to be a long nine weeks...

Shanghai, China

Pulled another all-nighter, basically.

Class was not bad, still excited about them, even though it's a load of work. My one on one laoshi today was Zhang laoshi. After talking (again... they are obsessed with the idea of fraternity.) with her for most of the hour, we went to the post office to send Liang laoshi (program director / the teacher from the University) a letter. Yeah, what? lol. Had to go to the chuangkou to buy the supplies, then write it (poorly, under the watchful eyes of Zhanglaoshi), glue everything together using rice (insert stereotyping joke here) and then mail it. To mail it, Zhang laoshi had me ask the police officer/official person sitting there in the youju.

Let me just say that not every thing in China looks like it has moved out of the backwardness it was once in. The official looked very Commie, and scared the living daylights out of me. I stumbled up to him and began to stutter at him with rice-glued envelope in hand. He angrily pointed me towards the mailbox outside of the post-office and I scattered off to the laughs of Zhang laoshi, who was commenting on the fact that I should be lianxi-ing (practicing) my Zhongwen.

LuoLan waited for me at the post-office, we stopped by a book store, but they didn't have any gridded notebooks. Went to Trustmart, and Zhang laoshi parted with us there.

I remember what Zhuo laoshi told us about Trustmart the first day during our campus tour: it's a little pricey for their likings. Trustmart is actually, as I found out, a branch of Walmart, which makes sense, as you can by the Walmart generic brand (Great Value?) inside. The prices, as high as they are, are generally still cheaper than their American equivalents, but that just gives you a glimpse at a comparison between the two countries.

Went back, did some homework, slept, same old same old. Time to start studying for Tingxie, the most painful thing in the world. At least today is just one lesson! The gifts you start to appreciate in life!

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on June 3, 2008 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Shanghai, China
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Shanghai, China

That's right, I've switched to characters!
What it says for my anglophone readers:
Early to bed, early to rise = a healthy body.

Does going to bed at 1600 and waking up the next morning at 0500 count as early to bed, early to rise? Yeah.

Went to dinner with a large group; it wasn't bad but I really don't mind the cantings as much as everyone else complains about. The restaurant was near the school, out the houmen.

Yesterday's one on one with Bao laoshi wasn't so bad. Made it my goal _not_ to talk about fraternities during today's, just so I wouldn't sit there struggling. Lu laoshi's today was more about my major, international relations, political views, oh, and recommendations of TV shows (Family Guy, South Park, Grey's Anatomy, LOST, Desperate Housewives, ANTM...etc.)

It was fun. What was not fun? The hour-and-half-long lecture with Professor Wang from USC about Chinese economics for the past 30 years. Yeah, there was some interesting stuff... but I was struggling to stay awake during the whole lecture. He talked about the program that Kenny did (I'm pretty sure), as he was one of those organizers.

Had noodles again for dinner. Friggin beef gets caught in your teeth.

Just hung out with everyone which was really fun. I'm not gonna lie, I'm feeling a little homesick. I miss my home, I miss my friends, I miss my Beta brothers, I miss Charlottesville; I sound like a little girl, but I could really go for a chicken parmesan sub, in the wise words of Sarah.

Should be doing those take home essays, or studying for tomorrow's test.

I think I'll just faire le systeme "d".

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on June 5, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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TESTing 1.2.3...

Shanghai, China

TEST day. WOO, woke up early. not. Studied up until the last minute. not. Took the test, which actually wasn't that bad. Used up 30 minutes of the two hours allotted, WeiAn and I went back to the houmen and split some jiaozi. Chilled out in the sushe with Duofu, Luolan and Weian and went over the questions that we were going to ask for today's practicum.

Practicum 1: Visiting a Chinese Dorm.
- Chinese dorms are shitty
- The Liuxuesheng sushe (ours) is like a 5 start hotel compared to their dorms: why?
They stick 4/6 people in a room half the size of our current rooms, their mattresses are about the thickness of my laptop, they get to share one desk fan on the ceiling between the four of them, all of their beds are lofted. The desks are nice. The bathrooms are crappy, the sinks are dirty and they have to wash their clothes in there/ hang their clothes in the room. Oh, there's a balcony though!
Aside from the few questions we had been assigned, I came up with one: because girls aren't allowed in the dorms, when you and your girlfriend want to make whoopee, zenmeyang? That was a poor choice: it was too personal of a question as I was told. That guy never talked to me again after that during the interview.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant with the laoshimen, well four of them: Wang, Lu, Li and Zhang. My table ordered the Chinese equivalent of Kung Pao Chicken, Candied Sweet Potatoes (which are apparently Korean...they come out really hot, you need to dip it in a bowl of cold water before attempting to eat it), and jiaozi: beef and carrots (which were salty), pork and corn (AMAZING), and cucumber shrimp (refreshing!). Haohao chi yi hou, we gave the laoshimen a tour of OUR dorms, and they really liked them. I feel bad. We had some of NiKe's chocolates, sang some S.H.E's superstar and just chilled.

After they left, I passed out for a several hours.

Woke up, we went to Kat's suggestion of a noodle place by Zhongshan metro stop. (BTW, Kat has an awesome blog, check it out at http://katinasia.spaces.live.com) She refers to the guy that makes our noodles by hand as the noodle man. It was you amazing, you pianyi, hen fangbian! On the way back I got a strawberry milkshake thing from tea storm, it was good and the fuwuyuan were kind enough to teach me the name for it, although I forgot what it is now...oops.

Came back to dorms, debated the plan for the evening. A group went out to bonbon, but it was too soon for me to be going there again. Decided upon drinking in dorms (VSOC). I didn't feel well (canker sore + headache) so I started my laundry, but then got convinced to head out to a jiu ba/coffee bar. Didn't drink there, had a blueberry milkshake instead, which was quite tasty. Dressed like a bum though, because my clothes were in the wash.

Santi and NiKe got their flaming B52's. That was pretty cool: here, a pic!

I spent the night playing Liar's Dice (see Bonbon, the POTC game) after Santi explained to us how to play. Santi, Kat and I played the whole time, and I think it's my new favorite game.

Came back to the houmen 5 mins before it closed, went back to dorms, moved my clothes to the dryer and basically chilled all night. Drank with Luolan, NiKe was to join us but he disappeared. Went to get my laundry, but turns out you need to push a button to start the dryer, so I waited another hour, people chilled some more. Saw people come back from BONBON hahaha. What a show. Had a one-on-one with RuJin over raisin bread w/ peanut butter and nutella, which was amazingly good as it wasn't Chinese. Laundered, showered, and now it's time to fall asleep.

WAN AN (I think?)

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on June 6, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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tagged LiarSDice and NoodleMan

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I'm only happy when it rains...

Shanghai, China

Yesterday was quite the adventure. Finished catching up on some blogs in the morning. Went to lunch with DuoFu, only to have his appetite ruined by a chicken foot sticking out of his meal. Can't go wrong with Bokchoy!

Came back, tried to get some work done, but it turned into a massive hangout in my room (fun, but wish I didn't waste so much time on the weekend that way, would have rather spent it that way during the week). Basically did nothing until 4, the time we had decided on to go to Old Town. But then it Xia Yu'd, and so we held off.

Right before the rain, LuoLan rang'ed wo get ready suoyi women could go to Tea Storm. Got my strawberry milkshake drink and she got her bubble tea. Went with SiDe (sp?) and stopped by to watch some volleyball on the way. Got to hit the ball back to them because someone hit it off the court. Some of those guys could spike like mad, it makes me want to practice / learn how to play volleyball (review what we learned back in Physical Education, haha).

Due to the rain we all just hung out more, but eventually the rain tapered and we decided to leave. Took four cabs for about 40 RMB each and went to Old Town, or the Yuyuan Gardens. Grand architecture of the gardens is known world-wide, but at night the lights adds to the beauty of the place.

We ate "dinner" at the famous Nanxiang Mantou Dian, or the NanXiang Steamed bun restaurant. There is always a long line outside of people waiting to just get some of the xiaolongbao, or the little basket buns, especially the crab meat filled ones. We ate on the third floor, however. Our group of 15 was split, and we each got 5: 2 pork/crab, 1 just crab, and 2 chicken. I'm not a big crab fan, so I enjoyed the chicken ones. The buns come in little baskets (hence the name).

We walked around a little, shopped around a little, and then we got dumped on. Almost bought a fake LV wallet, but I could only bring her down 50% (10% or bust!). Spent too much time in a jewelry store selling jade items even up to $100,000.

Tried to catch cabs home, but for some reason there weren't enough/the few that were empty would not pick us up. Eventually we walked out to the main road (my little group of four as everyone had to split up and fend for their group/selves) and we were the first ones back. The taxi driver could have made it in 30RMB, but got lost looking for the houmen so dropped us off at the front gate after 40RMB. How convenient for him.

Walked back, went to the houmen to eat some noodles, pianyi shi pianyi, keshi bu tai hao chi! Got some laduzi sticks, went to the 24-hr kedi and got some traditional Chinese spirit (52%) for real cheap and a big bottle of fanta, ingredients to a promising night. When we got back inside the sushe, the 5th floor was already gone.

The night went on and people tried the drinks, which were not so good, but they did the trick. Later, when the party "ended" (multiple parties + people watching 27 dresses in a room), went up to LuoLans to watch an episode of the office. Santi, NiKe, LuoLan and myself went to get some laduzi sticks (although my normal vendor wasn't there!!!, I feel like I betrayed her) and we had a good 2 sticks each before walking down the street a little. We then came back and got more sticks (another 2 each?) trying unknown meats and even some veggies. Man, they were/are tasty!

Crawled under the gate, hung out/photoshot, and eventually came back to sleep. Some water and a flossing lesson from LuoLan later, I drifted to dreamland to the tunes of Korni and 25-om jetazhe.

permalink written by  waywardwahoo on June 8, 2008 from Shanghai, China
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tagged Yuyuan and Xialongbao

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