Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shooting at Virginia University

Yesterday's shootings at VA Tech have shaken me. I just wanted to express my condolences and heartfelt sympathy. This is incomprehensible. I am speechless.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chinese Singer

Here is a clip of one of the women that I watched perform while I was in ShaoXin.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

绍心 - Shao Xin

Ah, China China.

We went to Shao Xin, the home of famous writer Lu Xin. So, at 8:00 on Thursday morning we boarded the buses and headed out between 8:30 and 9:00.

The school decided that this would be a guided tour. So, we had a wonderful tour guide from the moment we left TongJi until the moment we returned. A wonderful addition if anyone other than the teachers would have been able to understand him. My bus had two C-level classes and one G-level. I think that some of the G level people knew what he was saying, but I think that class has about 10 people. The rest of us C 班-ers (班=class, sounds like "ban" said quickly) were lost about 80% of the time and completely gave up attempting to listen after the first 2.5 minutes. We tried to ask him to speak slowly, but he was not getting it. So, everyone turned up their MP3 players and chatted with their neighbors.

The ride to Shao Xin takes about 4 hours, so we stopped for lunch after a little more than 2 hours. I have no idea where we were when we stopped for lunch, but I do know that was some of the nastiest food I have ever attempted to eat. So, I went outside, in the 28 degree (Celsius) heat...wondering how we managed to skip the wonderful season of Spring. The area outside had a few good photo locations, and so I headed out with my little brother and camera and took a few pictures. Then we got back on the bus for the last two hours. We finally arrived in Shao Xin, and it was hot. I wore jeans, a rarity for me, and I spent most of the day wondering how on earth people wear jeans in the summer.
So we went did the tourist site thing. I am not opposed to visit tourist sites by any means, but this one was serious hard for me. First, trying to organize over one hundred people by speaking in Chinese into a megaphone is simply a waste of time. Very few of us could understand what they were saying even without the megaphone. And then, there was a tour guide for each bus, which means 4-5 megaphones simultaneously, along with all of the other groups of tourists and students. Then, in order to get into the various buildings, we need a ticket. But we have a group ticket. So, that means that no only are we limited in our freedom, but the buildings HAVE to be crowded. Even if it is just us, and it wasn't just us. The tour guides finally realized they were fighting a loosing battle, split up and each just rotated buildings. That way, we could go from building to building, switching guides and groups, and move more at our own space.
So, after getting over the frustration, I walked around mostly alone, interacting with my classmates occasionally, and tried to understand as much as I could. I also enjoyed looking at the architeture, and trying to understand more of the rich history of this nation. Thankfully, I have an excellent Chinese teacher, who gave me an overview at the end of the day in Chinese that I was able to understand, and English when she used vocabulary that was too advanced.
After leaving "LuXin Native Place", we went to the hotel which is in Shao Xin's city center. After locating our rooms, we headed back to the bus and off to dinner. Dinner, thankfully was good. As usual, I ate Halal, with the mostly Muslim crew (and also most of the Africans irrespective of religion). And I sincerely enjoy eating with my African and Muslim brothers and sisters. First of all, they are mostly males, from loud, boisterous, male-dominate societies. And, to me, they are quite entertaining. Especially because they do not hesitate to the let the wait staff know what we do and do not like, to ask for more of the things we like, and to tell them that it is not nearly enough. We call the waitress at least 4 times as often as the general eaters. The girls often end up serving the general food (rice & meat) although sometimes we will pass things around the table. I don't mind serving, as it is the only way I get what I want, because those men tear into the food like crows. So, I serve them like they are used to, and they let me breach most of their customs and serve myself first. It works for all parties involved. We also laugh a lot, and truly enjoy our meal, and we are often among the last to leave. I often wonder what the impression is of Muslims
among the servers and other employees at these restaurants after we leave.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel and decided what to do for the night. In the end, we walked to KFC, and I got pictures along the way. Then, I ate ice-cream (with strawberry sauce), and went back to the hotel to go to bed. Some people had a party (iPod with speakers and a boom box were among the items that made it into the overnight bags of some) outside in the little garden of the hotel. Lots of liquor and a good time were had by all, I heard.
I slept horribly, as I often do in hotels, and woke up after two hours only to watch the rest of the night fade into day. I would have made some phone calls, but I didn't think to buy a calling card before I left Shanghai. I didn't want to join the revelry, and my roommate for the night was asleep so I didn't want to turn on the TV or the lights. What is a girl to do?
Anyway, the next morning, we went to LanTing, which was made famous by a famous Chinese calligrapher, Wang XiZhi. This time we could wander freely, and so I did. It was a nice and relaxing day, although I was clearly overdressed for the 29-degree heat. So, I spent about one hour sitting in the cool shade, enjoying the breeze, and about 30 minutes of that time conversing with my little brother. It was a relaxing day, but after four hours in the hot sun I was ready to go home.
Lunch was at the same place as dinner, thankfully, because breakfast was worse than the previous days lunch. Then we headed out for the four hour ride back to ShangHai. For the first two hours, the ride went smoothly. Then after our 2-hour rest-stop, the bus started having problems. Apparently, our bus does not like being in first gear, because every time the driver had to stop while in first (5:00, Friday, big city - traffic) the bus would stall...and then shut off. And we would have to wait a little while, and then it would restart. So, we were fine when he could cruise, but when he had to slow down, or sit in traffic, we had problems. And so this made our 4 hour bus ride considerably longer. And then, finally, the bus completely broke down. Thankfully, we were already in Shanghai, and not far from TongJi. Everyone else had already arrived, so they sent one of the others buses back to pick us up. I was wondering if God was trying to teach me a lesson, being as I was so anxious to get home, and I got stuck on the broke-down bus. Maybe I'm learning to step back a little, be patient, take things as they come. By the end, I was cool, and although happy to finally arrive in my room, I was able to get there without angst.
So, that was ShaoXin. I provided way more detail than most of you really wanted to know, but being as you are visiting China vicariously through me, I figure, hey, why not?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Birthday

So, I've been thinking a lot about my birthday recently. I'm not quite sure why. I've been trying to decide if I should ignore it as seems to be fitting for someone approaching 30, or throw myself a big birthday party.

You see, for the past few years, I have had this secret desire to have a party. Birthday, going away, just cause it's Friday, whatever. But, moving often, lack of space, lack of people to invite...those and other reasons have kept me from following through or even really mentioning it. I have a thing about disappointment, not to mention failure. And throwing a party, for me, is a big deal. It is not something that happens often, and because of the two issues mentioned above, something I want the guests to really enjoy (and have good memories). I've been to quite a few birthday parties since I've been here, which also makes me think more about having one.

For the first time in a long time, I know a lot people that would actually come to my party. None of my family or close friends would be there, but I have a relatively large network of friends, co-workers, associates and classmates that I would invite, a good portion of whom would actually come. I think I would throughly enjoy being the center of attention for one night, and I'm sure I could recruit a few people to help with the work. Alas, I do not have enough space, and would have to ask a friend for use of their apartment. Parties also cost money, which I could put towards something more important, like traveling around Asia. And I wonder if the night would feel a little bittersweet, without the folks that live thousands of miles away. I am approaching thirty, which might be the new twenty, but nevertheless a little old to be throwing yourself a birthday bash.

As you can tell, I haven't made up my mind. So, if you have an opinion, I'd love to read it.

And, if you are thinking of sending me a birthday present and are not quite sure what I like, here is a list of things that will fit into a 9x12 or smaller bubble mailer:
Lotion and/or body wash from Bath and Body Works (Sweet Pea, Cotton Blossom, Moonlight Path, Night Blooming Jasmine); A pair of size 4 (US) Long and Lean Jeans from the Gap (dark wash); Hand Sanitizer (gel, any brand); Great Grains (Raisins Dates and Pecans or Crunchy Pecan-take the bag of cereal out of the box and make a small hole to squeeze the air out, fold over and seal with tape); $1,000 USD or GBP (Hey, you never know); grease/hair oil/scalp conditioner (I have naturally curly hair, so something really light, I can't remember the name of what I had at home); Thera-Flu (lemon, nighttime or daytime); Boots Botanics Skin Softening Body Butter (available at Target in the US, and, obviously, Boots, in the UK); a card with handwritten words; pictures of you (and your spouse/children/fam/loved ones); lots of love - in a bubble mailer.

And after writing this list, I realized that I need to say a big THANK YOU, to TMW, MTM and my wonderful Grandmother for keeping me supplied with cereal, beans, tights, hair stuff, Ribena, Ovaltine Biscuits, Thera-Flu, a few other things, and, of course, HOT CHOCOLATE. You have no idea how much it meant to me, that you paid quite a lot of money to send large, heavy boxes with stuff for me. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Turn Your Lights...

This is for all of you that don't have myspace. Jah Bless.