Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back in Columbia

I arrived back in Cola on Wednesday afternoon and started classes on Thursday. All the classes seem interesting and will be challenging. My home and my life are a bit disorganized at the moment. I have not had a chance to slow down and get everything done that comes with moving, starting school, and just returning to the States after being gone for over five months.

Even with being a little busy right now I managed to make it to the gym yesterday and it felt wonderful. I forgot that hardly anyone goes to the gym at 9am on Saturday mornings, so it was nice to have the place to myself. And today I went for my first bike ride in a long long time. I have missed my endorphins. They make me feel sooooo good!

Hopefully by the end of Labor Day weekend, I will have completely unpacked and have a nice schedule laid out for the Fall semester. In the mean time I will be taking things as they come and trying to keep my head above water.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I am back!

I wanted to just send out a quick note that I arrived in the States yesterday around 5pm Mountain time. It is great to be back and I am looking forward to seeing everyone this week in CO and then all my classmates next week in Columbia. More to come soon!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Qingdao Beer Festival Videos

Below are a few videos from my last weekend in China. The Qingdao Beer Festival did not let us down. Many nights of beer pong, funneling, and trying to beat the "bar girls" at the dice game (its a China thing) prepared me for this past weekend and it all paid off. What a blast we had. Pictures will be soon to follow.

Jared and Chris dancin it up on the Tsingdao Stage.

Budweiser Tent Girls on Stage (a bit blurry).

Acrobatics on the Budweiser Stage

Monday, August 06, 2007

My Last Weekend in Wuxi

I have been given the task of performing several restaurant reviews before I leave China. What a welcomed task, since I love to eat. Check out the pictures for a look at some of the foods I have eaten. Yum yum!

Last Weekend in Wuxi

Friday, I went out with some guys in Wuxi. The dinner was pretty good and we ended up at one of the local expat bars drinking and listening to the band.

Saturday I slept late and spent my time doing chores, until it was time to go out for dinner. I was taken to an awesome Korean BBQ place. We got to cook our own food on a pit in the center of the table. It was a lot of fun and was followed up by a visit to the local arcade. The place was filled with smoke, had slot machines for gambling, and most of the games that you would find at a Dave and Buster's but with not as much variety and perhaps a couple of years older. It was fun to drive the cars and after shooting a bunch of some zombies I called it a night.

Sunday I got up early and headed to the tailor. I ordered some shirts and then met some visitors and took them to one of the shopping areas in Wuxi. We walked around the Temple Market for a couple of hours till the monsoon came. Then we bought umbrellas and still got soaked on our way to hail a taxi back to their hotel. The streets flooded quickly and it was fun to watch the scooters and bikers move along with the water near the top of their wheels.

After the rain I went to play badminton. This is a very popular sport here and I had yet to try it with a local. My friend was about as good as I was. The people next to us were clearly great players. I just loved that the badminton ball (the shuttlecock) was made with real feathers and not the plastic cages that you see in the American version I have played with. Dinner followed at a German pub. They had dark beer which is a rarity in China.

This week I am finishing off my projects and trying to figure out how to get everything back home.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

10 days to go

I have begun my count down till my departure. However, I still have lots to do before I leave. This weekend I will spend my time sightseeing around Wuxi one last time, doing some last minute shopping, and hanging out with some friends in the evening. The past week has been filled with lunches and dinners with my Wuxi friends. I had not realized how many people I have met over the last few months.

I have made a few arrangements for most of my possessions that I am leaving behind. I will get a free dinner for my microwave, which is pretty sweet. I found someone who wants my bike and I think I will give my dishes and DVD player to one of the family's I have met while I am here. That is about it. Everything else came with the apartment or I just did without this summer.

At lunch today, I was thinking of the foods that I would like to eat one last time before I leave and I was surprised to find that there were not that many. I love the food here, but it is all available in the US, except that it is more expensive and sometimes is cooked differently than here. The only items I came up with were the dumplings (jiaozis), shalampas, and the baozis. I don't know the English equivalent for the last two, because I have never seen them before coming here.

I am not sure what I miss about the US in terms of food. Only some southern BBQ comes to mind at the moment. Dad...some ribs please;)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Less Than two weeks to go (part 3 of 3)

If you missed part 1, click here or just scroll down.
If you missed part 2, click here or just scroll down.
Anhui Province (Part 2)
The route to our hotel on Huangshan Mountain included two minibuses, a bus, a cable car, and a 2km hike. That is efficiency in China at its best! jk Once we got checked in, we had enough time to walk around the area and check out some of the beautiful views from on top of the mountain.

At 4:30am we awoke and quickly walked out to the sunrise viewing spot. The sunrise at Huangshan is the reason that all the tourist come. It is something that everyone told us was very special and beautiful. If you see the sun rise it is supposed to give you luck and fortune. If it is cloudy or rainy, I am not sure what happens...hopefully nothing too bad.

Their was a crowd near the railing that had formed, but it wasn't too bad yet. In true Chinese fashion no one had dared be different by jumping over the railing and sitting on the rocks. So, I didn't hesitate and hopped the railing and we had the best seats in the house. Others soon followed as we were slowly surrounded by people for the sunrise.

A side note...I found it interesting that the person who tried to move the furthest out on the rocks and almost fell off the mountain was a Chinese man who moved to America and had brought his daughter for vacation in China. Maybe it was coincidence, but the man taking a risk on the mountain, made a big risk to move him and his wife to America at one point in time. Or maybe I am full of it.

Back to the story...the sunrise was beautiful. Oddly the Chinese quickly left after about ten minutes into the sunrise. They were done and most went back to bed. They came all the way to the mountain to see the "famous sunrise" and only spent ten minutes watching it. Weird, I thought, but I don't understand most things that happen here. Cindy and I stayed for a bit longer with the other foreign family that was there. We were the only ones to watch the entire sunrise.

After finishing the nights sleep, we awoke and did some more hiking and then proceeded to hike down the mountain. The line for the cable car was two to three hours and to walk down was two hours or less. It has been five days as of the writing of this post and my legs are still trying to recover from this last hike.

Our last night traveling was spent in the town of Tunxi. I persuaded Cindy that our legs would thank us for walking around and that we should leave the hotel for dinner. Thank goodness we did. We told the taxi which restaurant we wanted and he told me us it was terrible and that he knew the place to go. I said great! We learned that the restaurant was owned by President Hu's family or had been in the past. Either way, I found this food to be the best Chinese food I have had since arriving in China. It is considered Huizhou style food and it was so tasty and good, that I was sorry I could not eat more.

A leisurely walk along the famous "Old Street" in Tunxi ended the night. We woke up early to catch our bus back towards Wuxi. However, we decided to try to visit Suzhou for the afternoon and then finish the trip back to Wuxi by train. Almost eight hours later we were in Suzhou. Such a long bus least no one lost their lunch like the last bus ride. We saw the nine-storey North Temple Pagoda and one of the famous gardens which Suzhou is known for.

The heat was unbearable (104 F) and we ended up taking a car back to Wuxi, sense all the trains were booked for the next seven hours. I think I will talk about China and how I think it will affect tourism in the future on another posting.

So, that about brings you up to date on my recent travels.

Less Than two weeks to go (part 2 of 3)

If you missed it, click here for part 1 of 3 or just scroll down the page.

Anhui Province (Part 1)
Once I made it back to Wuxi I barely had enough time before I was off with a friend from DC, Cindy. While I had made most of the arrangements for the trip to Anhui province, traveling with Cindy was a joy. Her language ability opened all kinds of doors and provided one of the smoothest traveling experiences within in China I have had. It is amazing what three years of living in China can do for your language skills!

We visited three old villages with buildings from the mid-nineteenth century. They were filled with narrow alleyways and beautiful architecture from the rich elite of China at the time. Only a few years ago foreigners were not allowed to stay in these towns overnight. While I am unsure what has changed sense then, we were allowed to stay in one of the old houses, which had the hardest bed I have slept on in China.

*This might be a good to bit of information if you are visiting China and some other Asian countries. Unless you stay in an upscale, western owned hotel chain you will be sleeping on a hard bed. I find that most of them are comfortable and I sleep very well. However, occasionally you run into the ultra-thin mattress that feels like a thin sheet was put on top of a piece of plywood. Usually that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but at the hotel mentioned above this was not the case. It really was a sheet put on top of a piece of wood. At least it was better than the stone pillows we saw in some of the houses throughout the village.

After touring our third village, we were about to drop from the heat. We jumped in the car and headed out to Huangshan Mountain. The adventure will continue in the next post...

Less than two weeks to go (part 1 of 3)

Benny and Bobby's Visit to China
With less than two weeks to go, my time is running short. I am starting to scramble to take care of all my last minute shopping and sightseeing. Since my last post I have done a lot. This will be the first of a three part series of posts.

First, Shaun had some friends, Benny and Bobby, come in town and so I headed to Shanghai to spend a couple of days with them. We went out to dinner, then a club on Saturday night. We ended the evening with breakfast full of French toast and a Denver omelet at the City Diner. The next day we took it easy in the hot sun, but jumping on a three hour cruise along the Huang Pu River. This cruise took us all the way to the mouth of the Yangtze, which looked as if I had reached the ocean it was so big.

A few days later Benny & Bobby came to Wuxi, so that we could catch a train to Beijing together. But first we had dinner and a quick foot massage before boarding our train. We slept very well for the ten hour journey and woke up shortly before we had to get off. The next few days were spent seeing the sights in Beijing and hanging out with a few classmates. My favorite was the Great Wall! It was an awesome sight and quite humbling when you started climbing up and down the wall to each tower. My legs had that good sore feeling the next day, that you get from sense of accomplishment. Don't forget to check out the picture album by clicking on the picture above!