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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Week Two: 讨价还价

I apologize for the lateness of this post. However, classes have been especially busy, and we just returned from Beijing. Hope you are prepared for some our adventures.

Adopting the shopping theme, week two passed by quickly in a flurry of super-malls, underground bargaining markets, and dark night processions. Lin’s use of connecting the Chinese education experience coupled with the everyday activities continues to impress me and excite me for the upcoming lessons. While last week centered on the necessities of the history of Qingdao, transportation around the city, and the bare necessity of food, this week gave us the opportunity to further understand the process of buying and bargaining for items.

The first day of the week, June 10th, we began delving into the incredible super-mall culture within China. These 购物中心 (gou4wu4zhong1xin1 = shopping center) sprout up all over China’s larger metropolises like stalagmites, filling up space vertically as opposed to America’s horizontally stretching monstrosities. After class we departed for our large shopping center en masse.

海信 hai3xin4 = Haixin…a name of the supermarketwas massive. A beautiful chunk of steel and glass jetting out of the lightly colored cement instilled a sense of awe and captivation, as if Howard Roarke had jumped out of fiction in order to summon up this sloping tower. We entered through the first floor, an expansive labyrinth of illustrious companies that I had somehow previously never known. Gucci (Goo-chee, not Goo-key as I consistently mispronounced) clothing and accessories decorated one very leathery store while just across the hall a darkly lighted, “masculine” Armani brandished its wares.

Before hitching a ride to the apex of the building, we descended into the depths of the underground in search of good deals, until we quickly realized that none of the items within reach would be remotely buyable. Once on the second underground level (further underground levels served only as parking garages), we began levitating around the winding aisles of goods, occasionally looking at an ornate jade decoration piece or an exquisite, silk suit, all the while trying to question the different salespeople.

Unfortunately, shortly after each attempt to strike up a conversation, the salesperson would lose interest us. We seemed to exude an inability to really afford any of the merchandise, and the employees acted accordingly. While not able to answer all of the questions tasked for the day, we were able to explore all the floors, from the seventh floor food court to the second floor woman’s dress apparel, to the fifth floor’s men’s shoes, to the sixth floor’s children’s products. During our adventuring and interviewing, I learned about a very interesting tidbit of Chinese shopping culture: the 富二代 (fu4er4dai4).

The term 富二代 refers to the children of the entrepreneurs who became wealthy under the 1980 economic reforms. These children (now comprised of our age group of about 15 years to 23 years) often frequented these expensive malls in order to buy all the clothes to their hearts desire. While not exactly an economic problem, these second generation rather wealthy heirs have developed into a social problem. Often fully depending on their family’s fortune, these youth often don’t seek their own jobs and will need to be watched carefully to see what their future holds for them and for China as a whole.

The second day covered the most interesting (and come Beijing, most useful) section of the textbook up to this point: 讨价还价 (tao2jia4huan2jia4 = to barter for better prices). We learned about how to adequately approach a bartering situation and how to execute properly in order to obtain a deal. While no matter how low the price reached, a serious profit would still be made by the seller, through bargaining we could cut the price by more than fifty percent by utilizing our skills. Besides a host of presents that I am not going to reveal on this blog, I came to China intent on purchasing two items: 象棋 (xiang4qi2 = Chinese chess) and 围棋 (wei2qi2 = the game of Go (as shown in the cinematic masterpiece of A Beautiful Mind)).

That afternoon we traveled by bus to old Qingdao where we came upon a rustic building surrounding an open courtyard. While from the outside the building looked very Asian with curvy roof architecture, red tiles, and detailed parapets, the entirety of the structure appeared slightly underwhelming for the bartering city we were led to expect. However, upon venturing through the narrow front doors, a thriving marketplace of Rolexes, North Face jackets, flashy knives, and jewelry greeted me.

While many classmates departed to ask different shopkeepers questions on their wares’ origins or to inquire on shoppers bargaining secrets, I along with my fellow board game aficionado Matthew and Robb (Matthew and Robb are fraternity brothers, and have a big brother little brother thing going on…I don’t fully understand fraternity culture but they’re really good friends) departed in a desperate search to discover a 象棋 set.

After traversing the entirety of the top two floors and three floors of the basement, our search proved unsuccessful. However, with a bit of luck from Robb’s careful military powers of perception, we discovered a relatively secret alcove leading deeper into the cavern of illegitimate stores. This particular venture brought us past aisles of illegal movies and Chinese tea sets until we came upon an old room with a kind, elderly Chinese lady who sold Chinese tea, pots, chopsticks, and fans. However, huddled in the back corner, we noticed a small collection of 象棋 sets.

Ecstatic, we began searching the rest of the floor, playing a game as if we were uninterested. Upon stumbling upon a pair of perfect 象棋 sets, we started to comment on our interest and asked her for the initial price. One was priced at 360 yuan and the other 280 yuan. We then proceeded to tell her that was too expensive (around 60 dollars for one and 45 dollars for the other) and remarked on the imperfections in each, including the quality of the wood-smithing, the poor color pallets, and the inconvenience of fitting them into our suitcases (which of course was a lie).

Through haggling and bargaining, we eventually got it so that we only had to pay 500 for the two together. While it took much coercing on our parts, we felt that we had just made the best deals of our lives and would be rolling in 象棋 games thereafter. However, after Beijing, I now realize how much money we lost and how poorly we bargained. The storekeeper played us perfectly, and we fell into her Chinese trap. When questioned by 林老师 about the price we paid, she giggled and thought that we overpaid handsomely. Matthew, argumentative as he is, made convincing solutions to our overpaying predicament, and I went along. However, in the back of my head, I began coming up with solutions to the problem, and my bargaining skills increased greatly. As The Who says, I would not get fooled again. (But the 象棋 sets are amazing and we really did get some high quality products for relatively cheap in America…but compared to the deals I pulled in Beijing last weekend (850 kuai down to 90 kuai), we were completely ripped off).

The final day of the activities for the week, included a trip to the night market or 夜市 (ye4shi4). Here we could further our 讨价还价 skills in a market, which served as a source of living for most of the 老百姓 (lao3bai3xing4 = the commoners; the lower middle class and below). The 夜市 offers everything from needles and thread, to pots and pans, to blankets and quilts. While not as full of knock off products and apparel, the 夜市 offers a lot of interesting products for much cheaper than the bargaining market we visited on Tuesday. Whereas the previous day, prices dealt in the 100 kuai range and jumped up and down by tens, the 夜市 dealt mainly in the lower forties, and prices varied a lot differently.

We began the trip by rambunctiously piling onto a packed public bus and heading west. With the host of Americans and the approaching evening, we became increasingly hyperactive and began breaking out into song aboard the bus along with striking up unique conversations with locals. Once we departed the bus, we emerged in a previously unexplored section of the city. The streets were filled to the brim with stands and tents, each supporting one another’s weight, similarly to the pushing and shoving used by the shoppers.

We dove into the sea of people, and soon our group of fifteen split into two groups of seven and eight, and then disintegrated into even smaller groups of threes, fours, and sixes. We continued flowing down the river of people, stumbling past hilarious “English” shirts and stands selling funny cellphone covers looking for a place to buy some food. Soon my group was just Ben, Matthew, Robb, Maddi, and I, having lost Evan and Lizzy somewhere in the multitude of people swarming behind us. Famished, Robb began searching for a place to purchase food. I was saving the majority of my shopping money for Beijing; however, I desperately wanted to find something to barter for here, where I could at least take off fifty percent.

While searching for a worthy destination, we stumbled upon a most beautiful stand selling a most interesting culinary specimen: live scorpions…well at least alive when first purchased. These arachnid creatures varied in size from that of four love-bugs, to the size of a cockroach with a stinger. I had previously expressed wishes to consume scorpions during my stay in Chia; however, staring down at these clawed, stinger-equipped monsters, I began having second thoughts. However, Ben quickly came to the rescue by saying that he would eat some with me. As a result, Ben and I purchased a group of scorpions and then watched as they boiled alive in front of us in a vat of oil. As we listened to the air pockets escape through their exoskeletons in an eerily melodious scream, we awaited the foreign experience to bless our taste buds.

Once the scorpions were complete, the server placed them in a bag and loaded them with an MSG and salt mixture with just a dash of spice. Ben and I stared at the fried, batter-less specimens and with a “bottoms up!” placed the crunchy little creatures within our anticipating mouths. They tasted fantastic. With a perfect blend of crunchy exterior and crispy, meaty interior, I devoured my first scorpion quickly and then the others followed suit. Maddi, Robb, and Matthew then followed our example and each consumed their own little scorpions. Only Robb was lucky enough to acquire a stinger lodged in his tongue, which forced him to have to manually pry it from its place.

We then continued on our way through the market, my classmates occasionally stopping to bargain for a ping pong paddle and ball or look at the interesting pipes offered. However, I broke from the pack upon discovering a most beautiful artifact: a calligraphy practicing set. Consisting of a black felt backdrop covered by a translucent, synthetic rice paper, this roll allows for the practice of calligraphy by using water to seep through the rice paper in order to reveal the backdrop underneath. It allows for unlimited uses for practicing stroke perfection and would serve as great practice for bargaining.

I approached the vendor and began investigating the roll. I asked him lots of questions about how it was made, its uses, and the inner quality. Furthermore, I began looking for other items to supplement the item, and my eyes stumbled across a nice little horse hair brush that in America would sell for around five dollars…I planned on doing better. After talking with the vendor for a while, I asked him the cost of the calligraphy paper and the brush. He said the paper cost thirty kuai and the brush eight. I laughed internally and began the process of bargaining.

“I’ll give you ten for both.” It was his turn to laugh as he believed this prospect ludicrous. He said ten would only suit the calligraphy paper if I gave him an additional two kuai. By this small revelation, I knew I had him. Internally, I would not pay more than fifteen for everything so again I told him firmly ten for both. He told me to forget it and left to another corner of his table. However, I did not budge; instead, I held my ground and just stared at the product, I intended on purchasing. Finally, he returned and said twenty for both, but I relayed I’d only pay ten. He refused a second time, but I maintained my patience. Finally, I pulled out fifteen kuai and put it in his hand. He asked if I had any more, but with a perfectly straight, honest face (although technically I was being quite dishonest) “没有” (mei2you3 = I don’t have). Disgruntled (which means I did the right thing), he gave me the brush and calligraphy paper and I went on my way.


The rest of the evening passed by quickly as we finished up our trek through the market and returned to our dormitories. The next day involved studying, tutoring, and more studying. Also in a moment of necessary procrastination, I finally did my first load of laundry complete with the very enjoyable task of hang-drying. Friday ended with the most difficult test I’ve ever taken in my life and the weekend had begun. 

Just the normal chip flavors of Pork Ribs, Cucumber, Fish flavored Pork, and Meaty Italian

The market on the second day

Above market's interior

My 象棋 set

My first American food experience...and KFC is delicious here...like phenomenally good!

夜市 "English" shirt. As you can read it says:
Southern
Methooist
University
Hdjiahkua
Tttt
Rr
Which is of course English...

Get in my belly

Exterior for the scorpions

Rob eating his scorpion...picture taken prior to stinger becoming embedded in tongue

A typical meal for Shawn Wesley

My first day of laundry

We visited a book store movie place...and well...this is the King Lion....featuring it appears elder Bambi and strange white poodle mix

Squid fried in a wasabi batter

Our Japanese restaurant meal...some sort of duck.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mass

On the second Sunday we finally had a plan in place to go to an actual Catholic Mass. After discovering that the German cathedral was “closed for reservations” for the third year in a row, we were all concerned we would be unable to discover another Catholic church. Rob, our TA student who had already been to Qingdao and was in two cohorts above us, spent the entire week figuring out how we would be able to go to Mass. He eventually discovered a small church an unknown distance away on bus that we would try out that morning. What time it began was a mystery, so we agreed to begin our journey early in the day.

We all rose at six and headed to the bus stop around six forty-five. Arriving there at seven, we boarded the 227 bus and began the long journey to the church. After reading the readings in English on our phones, we prepared for Mass by saying a group rosary and kept going towards our unknown destination. After about an hour, Robb noticed the correct bus stop and told us to get off the bus.

Our bus stop was in a very poor neighborhood of Qingdao, but not an especially dangerous one. The buildings were evidently low-income, but any evidence of crime or destruction was absent. We began walking along a path that Robb’s military mind followed precisely. After another twenty minutes, we reached our destination still unsure of when the Mass actually began.

The church lied hidden between the backs of multiple buildings in a small courtyard adorned with a few trees. When we arrived, we realized we arrived late, as the readings had already begun to take place. Regardless of us being in the back, people began turning around to look at us, with man going so far as to “leave for the restroom” in order to snap a few photographs of us. After the readings, and a long detailed homily (with me very confused due to my as-of-then, complete lack of knowledge on Chinese religious words), the congregation began to sing many different detailed songs and chants. It became evident that everything from the Nicene Creed to the Our Father was sung. This beautiful chant with their almost haunting melodies proved especially moving and made this small building in the middle of the big city even more homely.

When Mass ended, we met most of the congregation and exchanged numbers with a priest and deacon. Afterwards, we got onto the bus again and headed towards a lunch destination where we could feast. We stumbled upon a Korean restaurant entitled, in English, “Korean Restaurant.” Inside the ambiance was fantastic, and the food was delicious. Furthermore, the restaurant provided free wifi, which allowed for checking the internet after more than four days without it.


We returned afterwards and began the day with studying and preparing for the coming week. 

While this happened the evening before Mass, well two evenings before, ascending the large structure we had found previously on our first adventure turned out extra rewarding as we discovered an additional two stories worth of climbing via exterior ladders. While some of my classmates had too much of a healthy fear of heights to surmount these obstacles, getting to the top provided a most spectacular view of the city. 
Moreover, we also found a hollowed out interior that we descended into in order to explore. This new area was quite peaceful and allowed for cacophonous echoes whenever voices escalated.

And as we began our descent, we realized daylight would be nice with the treacherous ladders. Luckily, I captured a shot of the sunset right before reaching the bottom.

Hidden away in an unforgotten corner of a poor neighborhood in Qingdao, this church was particularly beautiful, especially with the lovely voices of the congregation, which either sung or chanted everything save the readings and homily.

The interior of the church. Note: the responsorial psalm can be  seen on the blackboard.

Returning home, we couldn't help but notice the delectable advertisement for peas, red beans, and whit-stuff ice cream.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Qingdao? Is that where they make Tsingtao? ...like the beer

A week into the trip and our first week of class has been completed along with a plethora of cultural activities each afternoon. Today began with an early alarm set for seven am (as most Saturday mornings are) and a Skype call with my parentals. Today was the first weekend activity with the appropriate tour of the Tsingtao beer factory, which of course, is brewed right here in Qingdao. After the discussion, my classmates and I all prepared to depart from our ghetto, wherein we lived, and headed towards the international students building's parking lot adjacent to our classrooms. Once there we discovered an additional activity had been graciously awarded to us: the tour of the longest bridge over water. Qingdao's bridge across the. Taking an estimated forty minutes each way my classmates and I were expectedly ecstatic for our adventure. This bridge beat out the causeway in length around six years ago. After driving thirty minutes, including passing the Qingdao brewery longingly, we arrived at the bridge and began the wonderful two hour journey across the bridge and then back. I'm actually currently on the bridge now. About ten minutes into it, and only a twelfth of the way, I've decided I would much rather be sleeping right now. So it's time to take a nap. I'll let you all know if anything else exciting happens, but I hope just to return back to the main part of Qingdao and go tour the factory.

After awaking from the very boring bridge ride and long drive back to the factory, we entered the Tsingtao brewery factory and were greeted to a very well-orchestrated tour. The tour began at a side building hosting a collection of fun facts about the Tsingtao brewery along with most of its history from German formation to Japanese occupation to its current standing as the greatest, most exported beer offered in China. The museum tour was especially informative, with different interesting tidbits of information including ancient advertisements, a very modern Tsingtao dance team, and selections of beer bottles from throughout history’s many municipalities.

After completing the tour of the informative museum house, we moved outside and headed to the actual brewery where the Germans used to experiment and brew this unique lager. After surmounting multiple ladders, stairwells, and escalators, we made our way towards the current day brewing facility. After getting the chance to resemble farm animals by eating handful of hops or hobs (I am still unclear on what it is that makes the beer), we exited the building and passed the beer fountain physically separating the old brewery (which essentially was an extension of the previous museum) from the modern Tsingtao manufacturing facility.

Manufacturing...now that is beautiful

Ultraviolet light destroys impurities...the things one knows in Chinese

The actual manufacturing brewery facility showcased glossy, metallic walls and piping. We walked down the cold hallways listening to the chirping of our tour guide, wherein we could only understand a few words including the ubiquitous 啤酒 (pi2jiu3 = beer). For all we know, our guide could have revealed all of the inner secrets of the Tsingtao brewing processes; however, we walked through the facility watching the golden brew pour into the emerald bottles along endless conveyor belts and intricate barrels.

After walking past the construction site of all the various beers, we descended upon another collection of Star Trek-esque escalators towards a new section of the factory. We found ourselves within a tavern equipped with wooden paneled walls, Michael Scott St. Paul’s Girl neon light shining along many corners, and special Tsingtao brewery honey-roasted peanuts along with the “raw” Tsingtao beer. Since the concept behind the raw was explained in Chinese, I did not fully grasp the entire meaning behind the “rawness” of the brew. After consuming our complimentary glasses of what I discovered was the taste of beer, we descended to the next area of the facility.

We found ourselves in a great hall, illuminated by tall, opaque windows and fluorescence. Along the walls, many intricate, expensive rarities were being sold to whoever had a substantial enough wallet to buy large Qing dynasty Jade and ancient calligraphy tapestries. After making our way past the riches of the East and stealing a few photographs, we made our way to the final attraction: an “all-you-can-drink” Tsingtao beer bar. (The “all-you-can-drink” clause equated to around six pitchers per group, much to the disappointment of my classmates). Afterwards, we prepared to exit when we discovered a most intriguing advertisement.




So beautiful


Ecstatic, we each partook in purchasing our share of ice-cream, and the taste was eloquently fantastic and just 不可思议 (bu4ke3si1yi4 = unbelievable). Coupled with the chocolate, true dairy, and sugary cone, the ice-cream proved delectable!




And we board the bridge longer than the Causeway

We excitedly spend fifty minutes on a bus for no reason other than to cross over 
Panorama shot of the brewery entrance

Matthew with good ole Dionysus

A description on ye ole Dionysus

Facts about Tsingtao beer

The three delicacies of Qingdao. Tsingtao beer, Gala, and the Beach

Outside of the actual brewery...not the museum section.

Some of the original German facilities

Beer fountain...

All the different types of Tsingtao beer

The Tasting Area

The wonderful taste of honey roasted peanuts...and the beer was good too I guess



Guide Alice

The day after meeting our tutors—and actually after my first tutoring session come to think of it, my classmate Will approached me with a most interesting proposition. Will is one of our group’s coolest characters. Coming from deep within Mississippi, equipped with an extreme Mississippi accent, Will is one of our most knowledgeable classmates and is adept with computer processes, while at the same time being just a normal college student. I had just returned to my room, when Will and Garrett approached discussing a most interesting opportunity which had arose as a result of going to dinner with their tutors.

According to their 辅导, a single student was in need of some American fellow students who could serve as her support during the performance. Will was especially ecstatic, more so than I really remember ever seeing him, being a rather source of calm within most settings. As they described the “play” to me, I began to comprehend it as more of a speech contest than any sort of theatrical performance.

Hosted by the Tourism Department, this event pitted six sophomore students against one another in various talent performances, dance competitions, and the most important tour speech competition. Will’s tutor turned out to be the host of the entire event and knew a girl looking for additional props to her act: a set of 老外 American tourists. Will asked me if I was interested, since Garrett really did not want to sacrifice his Friday evening showcasing his American-ness in front of a small crowd of upward of 2000 people; I told Will that I was in.

That Thursday, June 6, we met up outside of our classroom to meet our tour guide and practice the skit. Guide Alice was already waiting when we arrived. Besides Will and I, Frank, Lizzy, and Maddi also joined us. Ready to begin the preparation, Guide Alice began her speech: a complex detailing of the wildlife and customs of Hawaii. Using perfect, albeit unnatural, English, Guide Alice walked us through the motions we would need to practice along with our different lines. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my past Language Festival competition-thing back at St. Paul’s when we performed my original masterpiece “El Hobra del Teatro.” While Guide Alice’s performance lacked my murder mystery vibe, didn’t even have Scooby Doo or Sherlock Holmes, and incorporated a lot less singing, Guide Alice’s speech made us excited for the following evening adventure. 2000 people was still a lot of people, even if it was in China.

On the night of the event, we each began trying to dress up in the most touristy, American outfits we could assemble together. I equipped myself with a motley, blue plaid pair of golfing shorts, and a sentimentally excellent Captain America t-shirt. We departed the dorm wearing different assortments of bathing suits until we arrived at the site of the competition. An hour early, we were able to view the rows of seats and the large stage in the front decorated ornately. Will’s tutor stood in the center of two formally dressed girls and began practicing his master of ceremonies’ lines.

We sat and awaited our practice round, when Guide Alice arrived slightly exuding the demeanor of an anxious wreak. We assured her of our mastery of the lines and approached the stage to practice. Evan, who had accompanied us to the event, stayed behind to keep a row for us; however, many college girls were inching towards him from all directions, casually talking with friends and pretending to be looking for something before plopping down adjacent to Evan in order to start up a conversation.





Short girl taking picture of Evan. Happened all night long.



Once on stage, Guide Alice began her practice round with us figuring out staging and proper blocking. However, the first go-around proved disastrous as we Americans lacked the adequate energy, and Guide Alice just wanted the contest to end. Will’s tutor than pulled us to the side and told us something new. Alice was the only contestant speaking in a different language; moreover, she had us as her props, which set her apart. Alice had a definitive chance at succeeding in this competition!

After learning this new tidbit of information, I analyzed our problem spots and addressed the remainder of the group. Drawing on theatrical experience, I notified the plenty energetic Frank on how to properly pour out his energy during the actual performance, along with some clever ideas for the remainder of the group to utilize. We slowly developed into a team, working towards bringing Guide Alice home the golden trophy, which in this case was some sort of red booklet that signified greatness.

As we awaited the actual performance, crowds of people began pouring into the center. Who knew that tourism majors were so popular? As the crowds progressed, more and more Chinese girls began flocking over to our group in order to take pictures…mainly of and with Evan.

Once the ceremony began, we watched the other competitions’ host of skits. Different dance numbers and speeches slowly lead the competition to our act. We ascended the stairs and waited back stage, only pausing to take pictures with different students who weren’t too shy to ask. Finally, we descended upon the stage in a whirl of theatrical energy, exuding our own we-are-in-China-so-honestly-this-doesn’t-exactly-matter-and-this-will-actually-be-incredibly-fun carefree spirits, while feeding off the intense inundation of energy flowing from the now crazed audience. With blinding smiles brandished on our faces and wide curious eyes capturing the moment while focusing on Guide Alice, we executed our parts effectively and efficiently. We joined into the celebration of the Hawaiian locals by breaking into spontaneous hula dancing; we safely put our scuba safety equipment on; and I delivered my line of “Wow! That green sea turtle is so big!” in perfect English. We finished the performance, embraced by a colossal ovation, and left back stage with almost celebrity-status admirers along with hateful glances from Guide Alice’s competition.

When we returned to our seats, Will notified us that the performance would last at least another two hours, so we should go look for some food. Once he said Sichuan, I hopped up and moved out of the building, still ecstatic about the outcome of the performance and excited for the food. Unfortunately, the food was never discovered due to Will’s and Frank’s erred senses of direction. We settled for the next best option, which was a selection of true American food: 麦当劳 (mai4dang1lao2 = McDonal’s). Although the meat had a distinctive rubbery texture to it, the bacon and fries were phenomenally filling and the Christmas-music ambiance of the interior was both interesting and satisfying.

We returned back to the performance auditorium, we found seats again and awaited the results. Almost immediately, results began to be handed out and Alice stood forward! Excited, we cheered jovially until we noticed her face. Disappointment swallowed her face in a shade of emotion, and she then stepped back, now clearly awarded the American equivalent of Honorable Mention. Distraught, we wondered what had gone wrong with such a stellar performance. Indignant, we sat in protest as each the winners of the competition were announced to the crowd. Feeling like we needed to go congratulate Guide Alice and apologize if we were at fault, we began making our way along the side aisles towards the stage. However, suddenly, a new voice filled the auditorium announcing some sort of special recognition award. Having the first place competitor step back, they asked Guide Alice to move towards the front where they asked her where she would most like to go. She replied, “England,” (much to our displeasure and offense). The judges then conveyed to her that Qingdao University would help her find a job in tourism in England for the next year along with housing and education. Bewildered about the gravity of the award, we began hooting and hollering for Guide Alice’s newfound ecstasy.

After the lights came up across the auditorium, we approached Guide Alice and officially congratulated her. Then we took a few pictures with her before turning to leave. However, leaving wouldn’t be nearly that easy. Almost in an inhuman drove, we were assaulted with requests for different pictures with practically every student on the stage. Working our way down through different poses and smiles, the students all seemed very impressed with our Chinese, English, and height skills.


However, that night ended soon afterwards, and we returned to our dorm. A new weekend had begun along with Jackie’s following day birthday KTG Karaoke bar bash! But that’s an adventure for another day…like when I’m home day.

I don't know what face I'm making...but yeah that's the Captain America T-shirt.

The contest's Master of Ceremonies. Will's tutor is in the center.

Some Qingdao at night...

Oh American food...how could I miss you so much that I would stoop down so low and enjoy so much

And here's another picture of someone taking a picture of Evan. Next time round  we plan on getting some pictures with our own phones as well.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Beautiful Qingdao

Sorry for such the late post. Internet has been acting up lately, and I finally had time to break from the activities of constantly studying to post these. As of right now the posts are streaming in from the first week of adventures. I am currently finishing the third week. So it goes.

The first chapter, entitled 初到青岛 (chu1dao4qing1dao3 = arriving in Qingdao) allowed us to become familiar with the city throughout the education process of the week’s lessons. By utilizing Lin’s textbook, we not only became knowledgeable on the history of Qingdao, but also began learning about the different food cultures within China and began to observe the large wealth differences within China.

The first lesson within the unit (each chapter consists of three lessons, so that Thursday we can review everything, and Friday can be spent testing), detailed a simple history of modern Qingdao from the German occupation to China’s post-reformation period.

Qingdao has changed a lot throughout its history, from its days as a German colony to its now modern role as a major port city. Qingdao can be split up into two parts: Old Qingdao, which is on the Western shore of the bay, and New Qingdao, which was developed on the Eastern shore. Qingdao’s old area is symbolized by its large pier stretching out into the Yellow Sea. This pier can be viewed by looking at Tsingtao Beer’s logo. Furthermore, it has many German structures including a large (but closed) German, Catholic Cathedral along with multiple mansions left behind by the German occupants.

New Qingdao is vastly different, being supported by immense skyscrapers and wide roads. It’s also littered with beautiful parks filled with greenery along with the Olympic memorial museum area and dock. We spend a lot of our time in New Qingdao’s downtown, whether we are at the karaoke bar, the multitudes of restaurants, or the immense supermarkets and book stores. The university campus is also located in New Qingdao, along its outskirts in one of the poorer neighborhoods. The university hosts a massive campus, at least two times the size of Ole Miss’s campus, filled with trees and different educational buildings and dormitories.

After finishing our first day of class, we prepared for the activity wherein we were bused over to Old Qingdao’s 八大关 (ba1da4guan1 = literally meaning eight forts, but used mainly just as the title of the forts and their accompanying areas) and were asked to go engage in conversation with locals from Qingdao. This proved to be our first true experience of interviewing locals, and speaking Chinese with people who weren’t classmates and teachers was both humbling and rewarding, as it slowly developed my listening skills.

After interviewing four separate groups of people, having around seven different pictures taken of me, and fulfilling the lesson requirements, we boarded the bus and headed for New Qingdao. There we interviewed more people and slowly began to realize the differing opinions between the youth and the elderly regarding the economic development of Qingdao. The youth all were exceptionally pleased and happy with the influx of material wealth, convenient transportation, and social advantages, while the elderly mostly seemed wary of the quick development and wished to not have the great western influence it currently possessed.

This enlightened me further into the opinions surrounding the different demographics within China…things could only get much more interesting as the program progressed. The second day involved a much more enjoyable activity during the hours of lunch. Our chapter dealt with the different delicacies within China along with the eight many styles of food preparation in China and their associated cultures. When we split into four groups to go try out the foods, I decided to go to the 川菜饭馆 (chuan1cai4fan4guanr3 = Chuan dish (Sichuan’s Chuan) restaurant) so that I could again partake in spicy deliciousness. Our teacher for the restaurant was the class favorite Fu, and the lunchtime experience was exceptional.

We arrived at around 12:37 to a back-alley Sichuan restaurant. Fu did most of the ordering, but what she did order was exceptionally delicious! The fish we ordered was initially brought out to us for our inspection. Once it passed the test, it was delivered to us in a heated oil broth filled to the brim with special red peppers. Although the fish’s head and fin’s floated around in the dish and our given chopsticks weren’t the best tools for scooping out the fish meat, the meal tasted delectable, and was only further complimented by the two special rice desserts also ordered. I enjoyed the meal very much and also happened to notice that they too cooked a special type of crustacean known as crawfish. Excited, I made a mental note of the location so that I could in the future return to experience the taste of the 小龙虾 (xiao3long2xia1 = little lobster, i.e. crawfish).

That evening, we participated in the official opening ceremonies hosted by the language professors and deans of the university. After the short ceremony, we all received pink packages with different Qingdao inspired goodies that could prove useful for our future stay here, if we ever got around to opening them. Next, we moved to the Qingdao University International Students Hotel, wherein the professors treated us to a multitude of dishes that seemed to go on ad infinitum. Although this may be a bit Martin-esque, I could only hope to describe all of the foods brought forth for us. The first items consisted of different hosts of dumplings each filled with different forms of vegetables, meats, and seafood. Another plate arrived next filled to the brim with braised eggplants in a special red sauce (the Chinese love their sauces). Next arrived a plate of plane white rice accompanied by sweet and sour pork. Orange glaze accompanied the following shrimp platter, which too was followed by a vegetable laced bowl of specialty noodles. Another dish arrived consisting of fried eggplants stuffed with shrimp and seasoning (a particular favorite of mine). Following these, both chuanr and 蛤蜊 (ga1la1 (as pronounced in Qingdao) = small clams) arrived in respective sauces of red peppers and hot glazes. Next, a platter overflowing with unique fruits and doughy desserts. Baozis followed and the night continued with Chinese chatter and liveliness not rivaled sense. Afterwards, we returned to our dormitories completely stuffed before beginning the following day anew…after some more intense studying of course.

During Wednesday’s activity, we learned about the local farmers market and spent the afternoon bargaining and getting quality food. The market was full of all sorts of vegetables and fruits, red meats and seafood, and seasonings and spices. Even more, it had a very unique section consisting of only the highest quality cow hearts, pig blood, and sea cucumbers. While not the most intriguing activity, seeing the different foods and purchasing dragon fruit proved rewarding. Upon returning to campus, we were greeted with meeting our 辅导 (fu3dao3 = tutor) for the first time. My tutor is named 姚舜 (yao2shun4) and is an athletic, basketball enthusiast, majoring in Environmental Chemistry Technologies. His major sounds fascinating, and I look forward to shadowing him during the education chapter.

On Monday (of the first week) we arrived at a nice park in New Qingdao

The symbol of New Qingdao comes from the May 4th protest that signified a new spirit within China

The Chinese really like their kites

The restaurant we attended. Some excellent Sichuan food was consumed. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the dishes...next time I'll get one...


Entrance into the Chinese farmer's market

Alive Gala squirting around at the market

My lizhi and dragonfruit! They tasted super excellent!



The first week ended with a cumulative test and a special tourism banquet contest, which was very similar to the SELU Foreign Language Festival competition…now there was a story.