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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Time Travel

We were all just reflecting on the math involved with the Time Travel undertaken while going through these time zones and on our journey today we will go slowly backwards in time as we travel west across the pacific ocean until…suddenly, we will move ahead to the next day! The international dateline will do some crazy things. This leg of the journey will eliminate almost the entire day of Friday May 31st because we leave California at 17:00 (5pm) and arrive in Taiwan tomorrow at around 21:00 (9pm) or 22:00 (10pm) of tomorrow, Friday the 31st! It’s crazy!

On our return journey we will experience Saturday August 3rd for much longer than 24 hours which will be quite exciting! The plane approaches its departure, and I am signing off to call my parents and friends for the last time. See ya’ll in Taiwan!

Waiting for Departure

I sit in the Los Angeles International Airport awaiting for the crisp Boeing 747 to spring me across the Pacific on a brief 14 hour flight to the forbidden city of Taipei. I am inundated by a flood of foreign languages and unique, varying cultures, while my cohort entertains themselves with three activities. Lizzy adjusts her computer for the upcoming venture, Maddi and Garrett participate in a solitaire-like card competition, and Evan wanders around in search of a charging station. I’m left to my thoughts in this bolstering airport; the static background noise becomes a still quiet.

The day has passed slowly. A combination of the shock from not realizing how soon I shall cross into this new land and the longing ache caused from already missing my family and friends back at home have made each second long and surreal. My elevated attire, which my Dad recommended for me for the upcoming ice aboard the international plane weighs heavily on me in the populous of the airport terminal. So it goes.

The excitement of the trip grows exponentially. I still can’t fully grasp that soon I will be further from home than the combined total of all of my previous trips (minus San Francisco which, when totaled, exceeds the distance between the north shore and Qingdao). I feel like I’m living some sort of livid dream…whether this is from sleep deprivation, jet lag, genuine surrealism, or a combination of the three, I cannot tell for sure. In less than three hours I will begin the longest flight of my life. I’m praying that I may arrive in Taibei (台北) without any extreme jet lag problems so that my journey into the Middle Kingdom can officially begin.

Fourteen hours of flying…I’m actually extremely excited to undertake this…haha. This is going to be super fun!

Anything but ReLAXing

Before arresting me for the severe rancidness of the above pun, I would like to inform all of ya’ll on the vexations and irritations elicited from this Los Angeles airport. Not only did my compatriots and I have to search through the terminal for a means of discovering flight information of our next flight, but we were also forced into exiting the airport in order to transfer to another terminal. You see, LAX is organized in the perfectly inaccessible way of having only certain terminals connected to one another. While transferring from Terminal 4 to 5 is plausible, going from Terminal 5 to 1 would require exiting Terminal 5 and re-checking in at Terminal 1. Moreover, the airport lacks both an airport tram system, and proper signage to inform passengers on how to move from one terminal to another. In order to make it to our eventual destination, we had to wander around the same terminal (without any signs saying how to get to another terminal) until we asked two police officers how to find the proper terminal. After walking for another hour we were able to discover the international terminal and arrived to find our flight. Although the process was a pain, the eventual discovery of the final destination proved extremely rewarding.

With the ordeal of walking past two terminals outside of the airport behind us, we were extremely fortunate to find a table for four in the food court section of the International Airport. Because we would not be able to access the China Airlines check-in until three hours later (at 13:00), we decided to take a welcome respite. Luckily for one of my 同学 tong2xue2 = classmate, who had recently fallen out of a dangerously stationary car, we rested for the next two hours. She was able to recuperate her foot that had undergone unnecessary walking, and everyone also got to partake in a much needed meal after four hours of flying and two hours of waiting in New Orleans.

I was able to consume an extremely authentic, gourmet Panda Express of the last American Chinese I would eat for at least the next two months. After our meals and relaxation, we continued to the customs to prepare for our international flight newly rejuvenated and reenergized to face the remaining challenges. 

I hope food in China is this Gourmet

My food...

At the Panda Cafe!

Qingdao (青岛)

I will be undertaking an intensive Chinese course at Qingdao University in northeastern-central China. Qingdao is a medium sized Chinese city of approximately 8 million people. It is located on the coast and is analogous to China’s Miami, without the latter’s party-centered culture. Qingdao is also interesting in that it was German-controlled for a large part of its history. That is why Qingdao hosts an international brewing company known in America as Tsingtao…then again I may have just butchered that spelling, but I’m fairly oblivious to the beer drinking culture. In Qingdao I will be participating in cultural activities and intensive studies using the textbook that my own teacher wrote. This program is considered one of the most difficult, and I’m simultaneously quite excited and very nervous. 

Who Am I?

My name is Shawn Wesley, and I am writing this blog for the friends and family that I’m leaving behind as I undertake my first journey to both Qingdao and China, in general. During the course of my studies, I hope to also teach ya’ll some interesting Chinese along the way!

{A Quick Note: in China there exists four tones. To an American, the following characters all may sound the same (shi1=master)   (shi2=time),  (shi3=history) and (shi4=to be) with a sound similar to the English equivalent of Shirt without the t and a weaker r. However, each means something different because of the tones. For now, it’s easy just to think of first tone as an elevated voice (sing songy), second tone is a raising tone that resembles that of a question (shi?), third tone is difficult to describe but easy to mimic and master…it basically encompasses a dip in the voice and then elevation like one making the voice go low and then high in one motion ( \/ ), and then the fourth tone is just an abrupt tone almost as if someone is shouting and cutting it off ( \ ).  }

In Chinese, American names are not always translatable. While names like John and Lisa have respective 约翰 (yue1han4) and 丽莎 (li1sha1), not every name translates, since in Chinese every name is composed of characters with specific meanings. Generally speaking, girls’ names have different forms of “graceful,” “beautiful,” and “elegant,” while boys often have more varying characters in their names. The thing is: each character has a specific meaning and are often seen outside of the name. Furthermore, there are a collection of family names that serve the purpose of sir names. However, these “family names” come before the “given name” of an individual.

With all this in mind, I can share with ya’ll my own name and the name for the blog. My family name is (shi3). When not used as a family name, is a form of the word history. But in this case this is analogous to my last name. My given name is the powerful, wisdom-filled name of 云龙 (yun2long2). means cloud, and means dragon. This is a fantastic name in that it both exudes the pride and freedom of the clouds, and the wisdom and strength of the dragon. I plan during my journey to uncover more meanings for the name given to me by my first teacher, while also living up to the epicness of the name.  

I will be accompanied by fifteen fellow Cohort 10 Flagship students, along with our professor Dr. Lin, and a current senior TA Rob. My journey began early this morning at 04:00 when my wonderful, beautiful girlfriend, caring mother, and I departed for the New Orleans airport. After saying good-bye to my loved ones, I began the first leg of my journey with three of my fellow classmates: Lizzie, Maddi, and Evan. The plan’s simple: travel across the country to Los Angeles, board a 747 to Taipei, spend the night in the rebel country of Taiwan, and then board a plane to Qingdao in what will be the shortest leg of the journey, a measly two hours.

I look forward in keeping in touch with all of ya’ll, but studies, homework, and adventures may delay my blog posts and responses to questions. I need this blog to help me keep my English up to par and also to help keep me sane. One things for certain though…this Chinese venture is not going to help my Spanish out at all.

Feel free to ask blog requests or any questions. You can Skype me questions through the IM service, Facebook message me, or send me an email.

I hope that ya’ll enjoy!