Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April 1...

Happy April Fool’s Day! In case you were wondering, yes, I have already been fooled. Here, it’s called 愚人节 (yu ren jie). I can’t believe that the month of April has already arrived. I have been in China for about a month and a half now. Time certainly does fly.

It’s been quite a while since my last update I realize. I have managed to keep every moment packed, and when I’m not busy, I’m trying to catch up on sleep. Let’s see where I last left off…

2 weekends ago the group of us headed down to 西安 (Xi’an), a city southwest of Beijing. We took the 12-hour overnight train, and luckily, I passed out right away due to an overly exciting St. Patrick’s Day celebration. We purchased hard sleepers for about $40USD for the journey there and back. Trains here have 4 options: Hard seats, soft seats, hard sleepers, and soft sleepers. In the cars with the hard sleepers, there are 6 beds triple stacked in each compartment (the compartments are all open). The quarters are definitely quite cramped, but surprisingly comfortable.  We arrived in 西安 around 7am on Friday and were picked up by someone from out Hostel.  We stayed at an international hostel just inside the city walls for, get ready for it, $4USD per night.  All 6 of us stayed in one room with 2 bunk beds and 2 singles, and shared a bathroom with 2 other rooms. We also got a complementary coffee in the morning and beer at night.  Definitely worth the splurge ;).  The day we arrived, we rented bicycles to ride around the city wall (one of those “must do” things), and enjoyed the beautiful 80 degree weather. We then ended up spending a long time in the Artist’s quarters, bargaining with local artists and observing artists work.  After our buying spree, we headed to the Sheraton Hotel to meet one of the girl’s dads who was in town on business.  We had dinner with him and his associates- probably the biggest meal I’ve had in my life.  Everything was absolutely delicious, except for the 56% alcohol drink that we were expected to drink for the numerous toasts throughout the evening.  I’m almost positive they ordered one of everything on the menu, and to top it all off, we were served a 5lb birthday cake at the end of the elaborate meal.  We all slept like babies that night.

Saturday morning we woke up and were taken to see the famous Terracotta Warriors.  We first went to the factory where they manufacture authentic replicas and were again reminded of the consumerism that exists absolutely everywhere.  The site of the warriors itself is always mobbed with tourists, so it definitely wasn’t my favorite activity.  Despite the blatant commercialism, it was incredibly impressive to see the warriors up close.  After our tour we ended up by the Big Goose Pagoda, wandering around, bargaining with more street vendors.  We continued our wandering back to the hostel where we picked up our things and headed to the train station.  At the station in 西安, we were definitely the only westerners.  I felt like I was walking around naked, I was stared at so much.  A very interesting experience.  While we waited for our train, we continued to attract attention. At one point, we had about 25 Chinese people surrounding us, trying to speak English, speaking to us in Chinese, and just listening.  We ended up in the same car as a few young men and talked with them for quite some time. Lots of good language practice!

Now that I’m writing about it, it seems like an extremely short trip. I suppose it was, it was definitely a good one J

I won’t bore you with my daily life, but I will share a few more things.  Last week Dan took us to a Tibetan performance.  For those of you who have been to an “authentic” Luau, it was basically the same thing, but Tibetan.  Overpriced, a bit gaudy, but trying to bring a bit of the Tibetan people to mainstream China (the tourist population, that is).  We all wore traditional Tibetan dress (yes, we always want to attract more attention to ourselves), which was quite uncomfortable (socially speaking). Despite that, the food was great and the music, singing and dance were quite entertaining.  A few of us ended up getting some of the performer’s numbers, and our interactions have been quite a trip.  All of the performers are young Tibetans (19-30) and speak very little if any English.  I ended up spending time with one named Lousan, an incredibly talented singer and dancer.  Lousan speaks zero English, so I really had to be on top of my game with my Mandarin.  I should have known to back off when he wouldn’t stop saying, “我很喜欢你。真的真的。我不骗你!(I really like you. I’m not lying!). Over and over I would respond, “对不起,我不喜欢你。我不想要男朋友。我只住在北京四个月。(Sorry, I don’t like you. I don’t want a boyfriend. I’m only living in Beijing for 4 months). Despite my blatant aversion to him, he has continued, for a week, to ask me why I don’t like him, and call me over and over when I don’t answer his text messages.  It’s incredibly frustrating because what I know how to say is very limited, and I don’t know how to tell him exactly why I don’t want to be his girlfriend.  Finally, last night, a Chinese friend helped me write out something to him, and he called me “cheap” and has decided to stop talking to me. Ah well. 

Life is good, dance is good, and my language is rapidly improving.  Now if only we could have some sun… J


  1. Really enjoy your updates and glad you are packing in a variety of experiences

    a lady friend of mine took me to see a modern dance performance at Zellerbock Hall last Saturday night. Quite an experience for novice like me...I kept waitng for someone to say something...but otherwise enjoyed the performance and certainly appreciated tie athleticism of the dancers

    Keep learning and having fun!

    Kent Black

  2. Your posts are always so enjoyable Rach! Thank you for sharing and Please try to find the time to do so as often as you can! Happy Easter!Much love to you!

  3. Christine SpizzoApril 1, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    Dear Rachel,
    Thanks for taking the time to write such a vivid account of your adventures! I can almost taste the food...feel the train, etc... You must be awfully tired, doing as much as you're doing physically, plus doing "verbal aerobics" all day! You are indeed AMAZING! Here's wishing you a beautiful Spring, and a Happy Easter! Things are OK here...Love, Christine


  5. lady someone would want you to be there girlfriend...your gorgeous...miss your face, about to go to rehearsal...we deff need a skype date soon...much love, ash

  6. Rachel, I am just in awe not only of the experience but of your descriptions of it. Wow, the language challenges and your language mastery are amazing. YOU are amazing but also living life out of your comfort zone and I so admire you for that. Be well!