When we arrived in Qingdao, we flowed out of the gate, tall foreigners in a sea of locals. The brisk movement of the masses whisked us along towards the customs gate where we would officially embrace the new country, which would be an alternative for our home for the coming two months.
During the early stages, the vowels and iterations of the Chinese language flowed off my ears with only certain syllables forming into coherent ideas. I began to feel vaguely concerned for the coming, constant barrage of Chinese language. However, I felt as I moved throughout the airport, I began to pick up more and more, which allowed for me to feel more and more optimistic about the upcoming study abroad.
Once we exited the baggage line, representatives from 青岛 (qing1dao3) 大学 (da4xue2 – university) arrived, picked us up, and delivered us to the university in a marked bus. Traveling along the roads, I noticed the skyscrapers summiting from the ground along almost every road, foundations dotting the hillsides, and newly planted trees springing up along the roadside. The development of this city that previously I had known nothing about, proved obvious and extremely rapid.
Qingdao was the largest city that I have yet stepped foot in with more than 7.5 million people approaching 8 million. The actual city appeared stretched across the landscape, with skyscrapers stretched along the horizon. Furthermore, red tiled rooftops branched along the western line of the city, intermingled with old green trees, among the seemingly anachronistic European architecture.
We maneuvered our way throughout the city among the seas of people and flooded buses. Slowly we made our way to the central eastern section of the city where the international student dormitory (and what I incorrectly thought to be the entire university) resided. The dormitory was a chipping building of five floors. The assigned rooms each were equipped with their own air-conditioning systems, along with a television that did not fully work and the adequate shelving and dressers. The bathroom was especially interesting in that it was equipped with a semi-functional toilet, toxic sink, and stand-in shower with a drain embedded within the ground.
Once we became settled in our respective dormitory rooms, we began searching for our American compatriots who had already arrived. Being all of our first experience in China, we decided to wander around the “university’s” vicinity by first going to the left and then next to the right. Towards the left of the “university” we found an old grain silo abandoned with attractive stairs leading upwards. Naturally, we climbed it and acquired these spectacular images from around seventeen meters up seen below.
Next, we explored the wilderness to the right of our dormitory and discovered a one-half national park and one-half mountain thing. The park originally appeared like a destitute forest equipped with a red warning sign on the front covered with characters we all knew, but not without a single bit of meaning. (Mandarin utilizes thousands of different characters to represent certain sounds along with respective singular meanings. When ordered in certain combinations they create the unique words formulating the entire language. These particular characters we came across were all readable but in combinations we had never previously experienced.)
We braved the steep slope leading up to the entrance and discovered an idyllic path leading through the scenic country. Along the walk, we found ourselves hearing peaceful music from some Asian wood instrument emanating from within the forest. We began to venture further within the woods off the path, and then too began to hear an accordion being played. Thinking that we had finally entered the Chinese Twilight Zone, we ventured until we discovered the musicians performing the music. The peaceful scenery of China enveloped us and we began to further explore the reaches of the forest.
We returned to the dormitory to find our 同学们 (tong2xue2men2 – classmates) at the dorm. Dinner followed, along with customary 老外 (lao3wai4 – derogatory term for a foreigner that we use lovingly) food of choice CHUANRRRRRRRR (as we affectionately call it). Consisting of anything barbequed over an open flame on a stick, these spicy treats of pork filled our bellies for the small price of around five kuai (less than a dollar).
The remaining hours of the weekend consisted of further exploring the city, touring the surrounding areas, and purchasing towels and etcetera necessary for a functional dorm room. Next thing we knew, we began preparing for our first day of classes on the following day.
|A view outside of my window to the courtyard beyond...turns out this isn't the true Qingdao University. Tune in next update with some pictures of the actual university as opposed to the destitute international student section.|
|The room: maybe clean, unique smell, fairly large, interesting bathroom...what's not to like!|
|The grain tower thing we discovered during our trek. Only later (this weekend) when we ventured here again would we realize that there were still a few more stories to go.|
|A picture of Qingdao towards the water. Behind the office building towards the right of this picture is Old Qingdao.|
|Not knowing where the music will lead them, these five students are about to find themselves in....the Twilight Zone.|
|My first picture down one of Qingdao's metropolises. The high rises and highways were not built until around 1984.|
|My engineering mind loves the informative efficiency of these lights. Each is equipped with numbers on a countdown sequence, so drivers know exactly how many seconds remain in the respective light.|
|Old Qingdao exudes a much different atmosphere. The teal sea and blue sky coupled with the green trees and red tiles on the roofs form a stark contrast that really makes this city appear entirely different than the modern new Qingdao.|
|This cathedral in Qingdao is an especially popular destination for those taking wedding pictures. However, it is closed for "renovation" thus leaving us to find another Catholic church to attend mass.|
|The symbol of old Qingdao, this pier, can be found on the bottle of Tsingtao啤酒 (pi2jiu3 - beer).|
|Qingdao hosted the sailing competition for the Beijing Olympic games|
|Some boats at the docks|
|Across the harbor the city of Qingdao is revealed|
|Hot pot...first meal on Sunday...pretty fantastic. Consists of adding different raw ingredients including meat, special vegetables, and tofu, and it tastes fantastic! I particularly enjoyed the spicy food.|
|CHUANRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They're like explosions of flavor in the mouth...in a hot, spicy, incredibly tasty way.|