The Return

Uncategorized

It was a huge relief stepping off the plane back in the United States, although I was absolutely exhausted. It was really hard saying goodbye to everyone as they left for their connecting flight to Indy, and Ben, Nikko, and I stayed in Chicago. Being greeted by our parents was pretty awesome though. It was great to be home and see them again.

Ben and I and our families went to Lou Malnati’s for a delicious Welcome Back dinner. But I won’t ramble on about that. The last thing I want to do is give a quick summary of my experience returning to the states.

Here is a list off all the culture shocks I experienced in the first week or so of being home.

  1. The flight attendants on our flight speaking English was the first shock, and that’s when it set in that we were going back to America.
  2. Traffic signs and airport signs in English. I can read them!
  3. Tipping on alcohol and food at bars and restaurants (this is quite painful now, and I sometimes almost forget).
  4. Toilet paper in the bathrooms. No more need to carry it around.
  5. Hot water and soap in the bathroom; it is great having clean hands after using the restroom.
  6. The people are larger… Americans are definitely bigger than Chinese people.
  7. “White people bond” is no more. I was used to saying hi to any white person on the street or in a restaurant – now I just get weird looks for that.
  8. No more language barrier – I tried using charades at Lou’s to show what I wanted, but realized I didn’t need to.
  9. Temperatures are shown in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius; just as I am starting to get a feel for the metric system, I am going back to the dumb system.
  10. Water is free at restaurants and bars – this is great.
  11. I find myself converting prices to RMB, especially when looking at food and drink prices. I am not sure why.
  12. Paying for hotel with credit card instead of hostel with cash; there was no deposit for the room key, which confused me at first.
  13. I’ve found myself grabbing a beer to drink on the way to the bar. This is not okay in America.
  14. When meeting new people, it is still my instinct to ask for their wechat. But then I ask for their phone number, like a normal person.
  15. Taking Uber and taxis is weird, I am used to talking about anything and everything with my friends because the driver couldn’t understand. Not sure what to do in America.
  16. No smoking – I am used to smoking everywhere, especially bars. It is nice not dealing with that anymore.

And here is my chaotic sleep schedule for the first week. The jet lag was awful, and made the first week pretty miserable. (This is to the best of my memory and poor record keeping). It took a few more days after this to fully recover.

  • Sunday (technically Monday morning): 12am – 4am
  • Monday: 10am – 11 am; 11pm – 5 am
  • Tuesday: 4pm – 5pm; 2am – 2pm (yes, 12 hours)
  • Wednesday: 1 am – 10 am
  • Thursday: 12pm – 2pm; 11pm – 8am
  • Friday: 11am – 12 am; 7pm – 8pm; 12pm – 8am
  • Saturday: 12am – 7am

Overall, I was happy to be back, but I am already missing China. It was an incredible semester, and I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it (actually, hopefully more…because this was a pain to write most of the time).

Keep an eye out for blog posts of compilation videos and pictures collections I am working on.

Advertisements

The Last Hurrah

Uncategorized

It is absolutely insane how fast this semester flew by. I cannot believe it is the last week already. So many good memories have been made, and I’m not ready for it to end. We made the best of this week though.

*Disclaimer: I had to write this 3+ weeks after it happened because of computer issues. I tried to remember as much as possible*

Monday, I spent studying. I didn’t have any class because my Monday class finished the previous week. I had a hard time focusing, as with any last final of the semester I have ever taken. All I could think about was the fun week I had planned for after the exam. A bunch of us got lunch together to plan out last minute details of our trip to the city. Afterward, Ben and I went to the campus apparel store, to deck ourselves out in SJTU gear. They had some pretty cool stuff, and I ended up spending a pretty penny for a nice shirt, sweatshirt, and some gifts. After that, I spent the rest of the day studying on and off, with a break for dinner. I found myself watching a lot of New Girl rather than focusing on my studying. There was a lot of material that I was seeing for the first time, but I wasn’t worried. I still went to bed at a reasonable time.

Tuesday, I woke up pretty early to get some last minute studying in. I went to Timo’s, the coffee shop on campus (I frequented there earlier in the semester, but it had been awhile since I last went). Once it was time, a small group of us headed to the exam. Two hours later, it was over – the exam didn’t go very well, but it was over, and that is all that mattered. Afterward, I packed up my stuff for the next four nights in a hostel downtown.

The Shanghai Tour

Ben, Brendan, Mike, and I got an Uber to our hostel in the city. I hadn’t stayed at this hostel yet, and it was actually really nice. It was right by Nanjing Road and People’s Square. We got checked it, settled in a bit, and then headed to Shanghai Brewery for dinner, where we met Jonny and Jeremy. We had been talking about this dinner for so long – we were ready for the 2 for 1 burger night, since we hadn’t done it since like the second week in China. Mike, Brendan, and I all got 2 burgers for ourselves and devoured them. Turns out, my stomach wasn’t used to that amount of food though, so I didn’t feel too great for the rest of the night (still worth it because they were delicious). After dinner, we went to Oscar’s to play some pool for a little bit. It had been awhile since we were there too, but the staff still recognized us. After hanging out there for a little bit, we went to Perry’s, another of our favorite bars. It was 18 RMB mojito night, so we all got a few delicious mojitos and played some cards. I was pretty tired from the alcohol and overeating, I actually fell asleep for a little bit at the bar (this is a first). We headed to Zapata’s next, but there was no one there, so we just got an Uber back to our hostel and called it a night. It was a good tour of some of our favorite things in the city, but we were missing a lot of people because they were still on campus. They had a final Wednesday morning and would be joining after that.

Wednesday, I woke up pretty early to relax in the lobby of the hostel and get breakfast. The lobby there was really nice, and great to just hang out in. And the breakfast was delicious. After a relaxing morning, the four of us (Mike, Ben, Brendan, and I) headed to the Science and Technology Museum. This time, we actually went to the museum instead of the fake market at the subway stop! It was a pretty cool museum, but definitely more oriented towards children. This actually made it kind of more fun though because we participated in all the child games and interactive exhibits. We even got to shoot a bow & arrow. After the museum, we did still go to the fake market for some more last minute gifts and whatnot. I also picked up the shirt and sport coat that I had tailored there, and they turned out great. After the fake market, we took the subway back to the hostel, and changed into our nice clothes for a fancy night out. Katie met us at the hostel, as she was staying there too. We all went to Windows Scoreboard to get dinner and some drinks. It was a bit of an emotional meal because we all made toasts and reminisced a little bit, and it felt like this was our last big night together (that was wrong). Jonny and Jeremy eventually joined us, and then we all started making our way toward the Bund. We planned a classy night at the best club in Shanghai – Bar Rouge. It is a rooftop bar/club on the Bund with a gorgeous view. Katie somehow managed to get us our own booth for 10 people, which usually costs a few thousand RMB. It was an incredible atmosphere and a beautiful view (and it was really fun dressing up). It ended up being around 14 of us there, which was almost half the whole class, so that was really cool to see how close we had all become. The drinks were outrageous. The cheapest drink was 100 RMB. I split a bottle of wine for 650 RMB with a few other people – it was well worth the experience though (we felt so classy haha). We didn’t drink much though, and just hung out for hours and got some sweet pictures. Eventually, we called it a night and walked back to our hostel. It was great being close enough to walk back. That was an amazing night and one of the many things I will never forget from China.

Thursday, I got up at a reasonable time again to hang out in the lobby of the hostel. I can’t emphasize how nice this was. We would just sit on the couches together and read, or whatnot. We all made plans together, and we had different priorities, so we ended up splitting into smaller groups. Mike, Katie, and I headed to the art museum on the subway. It was a gorgeous day, and the museum was really cool – the outside architecture is pretty famous, and was probably my favorite part, although the inside was awesome too. There was a lot of cool exhibits, with various types of art. We walked around for a couple hours, and then headed back to the hostel. Katie and I decided to go for a really cool run; we ran through People’s Square, down Nanjing Road, and along the Bund. It was one of my favorite runs, behind the Xi’an city wall. The views were incredible, and the weather was great, just a little hot. I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and some security guard on the Bund tried to stop me. I just kept running and yelled, “tai re le,” which means “too hot.” It was a pretty clear day along the Bund, and we got some awesome angles to see it that we had never seen before. At one point, we couldn’t identify one building…until we realized it was the Bottle Opener at an angle we weren’t used to. We got to go back down Nanjing Road one more time on the way back, which was a great way to finish off the run. Once we got back, we recovered from the heat in the lobby for a bit, and then showered. I rushed off to Yang’s Dumplings because I agreed to meet Mike there for lunch. I ended up running into him on the street on the way there, so it worked out great. We had heard great things about these famous fried dumplings. We ordered a lot, and wasn’t even that expensive for the westernization of the restaurant. I got 10 dumplings (only ate 8) for around 30 RMB. After the delicious dumplings, we hit up Nanjing Road again (I got a good taste of it this last week haha). We got these huge ice cream cones we always see advertised but have never gotten. It was not as good as we expected, but still worth the 10 RMB. Finally, I headed back to the hostel while Mike explored the Apple store. I got some R&R in before we went out. The 6 of us at the hostel headed over to our old Xu Hui campus to meet 2 other foreign exchange students that we had met. We got dinner at the Muslim noodle restaurant right there (again, trying to do our favorite things one last time). After dinner, we went across the street to do some KTV, or karaoke as they call it here in the United States. I did this earlier in the semester and it was a ton of fun, but a lot of people hadn’t done it before. We stocked up on alcohol ahead of time and snuck it into our private room. For 2 hours, we made fools of ourselves singing and dancing to all types of music. It was so much fun, and another great way to close out our semester. Also, our friend, Sameer, planned a club night for everyone. We were going to MYST for one last hurrah at the clubs with everyone. We got there, and started drinking and dancing and having a good time. However, that quickly turned into a disaster when they continually kicked out one of our friends for inappropriate footwear. A bunch of us ended up leaving early and just getting an UBER back to the hostel. Mike and I then went out to get some street noodles. We ended up finding a really good noodle cart about a mile away. We stayed up, just hanging out, for several hours that night. It was actually really relaxing, and almost better than the club could’ve been. Eventually, Ben came back, and we all headed to bed.

Friday, I somehow got up at a decent time again. I had big plans to go to Century Park, amongst other things. However, the weather was not cooperating. It ended up raining almost the whole day. So we just hung out at the hostel, until lunch time. Mike, Brendan, Ben, and I went to Punjabi for lunch – which was absolutely delicious, as usual. Afterward, Ben and I went to Tea City. We got in a taxi, since we didn’t have data for an UBER. Traffic was terrible, and we were in the taxi for almost an hour for only an approx. 10 mile drive. It was miserable. But we got there, and we met our old friend, Jason, there. He was the one who helped us with the Shenzhen flight and everything in the very beginning. He ended up being very beneficial because we needed a translator at Tea City. I got a bunch of tea and accessories for family and friends and myself. It was a successful trip. Jason tagged along back to our hostel afterward. We all just hung out at the hostel for a while, and I decided to plan another club night for everyone that would be successful and at our favorite club: 7th floor. More on this later. After everyone was back from their adventures, we all went to Grandma’s Kitchen for dinner. This is a restaurant that one of our teachers told us about, but it turns out we went to the wrong location (it’s a chain, but one is better than the others). It was still a great dinner, especially since we had Jason to order the best food for us. After a long dinner, we took the subway to an unfamiliar part of town. We were on a mission to pick up some Maymester students (Purdue does a program in China for 2 weeks, called Maymester, and they had just arrived that day). We navigated to their hotel and tracked down Dianne, our program coordinator. It was great to see her and I know she loved seeing us. After a bit of catching up, she provided us with the room numbers of the students we were looking for. We began knocking on doors, and we ended up getting 2/3 guys we came for, and recruited one more random guy. After they got ready, we all got taxis or UBER to Windows Scoreboard, where we met most of the other people going out that night. We got the Maymester kids a beer and introduced them to some of our other friends. After a little bit there, a few of us decided we wanted one last drink at Perry’s too. Mike and a few others got an UBER. I was stuck getting an illegal taxi with a couple others because all the taxis were taken. I got one last whiskey and coke bucket at Perry’s and had to chug it because we had to be to the club very soon. We literally spent all of 15 minutes there, but it was well worth it, to see it one last time. Then Katie, Abby, and I got another illegal taxi, a Mercedes, to the club. Our driver was pretty crazy, and we actually got into a car accident. This was the first car accident of any magnitude I have ever been in. And I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt (with much regret) because I was trying to be respectful to the driver and his driving skills. Fortunately, it wasn’t too much of an impact, and we were all okay. The other car just tried to turn left in front of us and we hit front quarter panels at roughly 30 mph. The driver handed back half of our money, and we were left to find another illegal taxi. This wasn’t easy, and we were all flustered from the accident too. It was a pretty crazy experience. We got to 7th floor safely though, and I was shocked at what I saw – almost our entire class was there. The turnout was better than the previous night; there was probably 25 of the 35 of us. It was incredible to see everyone coming together again for one last night out. And it was great to see our favorite promoter, Teejay, again. He helped us out so much earlier in the semester, and it had been awhile since we had seen him. I actually bought him a flower from one of the street vendors, just to show him our appreciation. It was such a fun night with the whole SJTU together and it was great showing the Maymester kids a good time; things got pretty crazy, and rightfully so. I had a heart stopping moment where I lost my phone. I jumped off the stage and it fell out of my pocket. I immediately told one of the bouncers, and he found it a couple minutes later. It was a bittersweet moment leaving the club for the last time, but it was a great way to go out. This really was our last time out in Shanghai. We all made sure the Maymester kids got taxis back to their hotel, and then we got back safely to our hostel via UBER. Mike and I decided we needed street noodles again, but we had no luck finding any. Eventually, we settled for some noodles in this restaurant a few blocks from our hostel. It was a weird experience, being in a restaurant at 2 am. We went right to bed after we got back though.

Saturday, I forgot to set my alarm (for obvious reasons). Luckily, I woke up around 8 am. I had to get to the fake market one last time to get some last minute gifts that I forgot. I ran to the subway, and through the stop to the train. I got to the fake market, and it wasn’t open. I was still not feeling great from the night before, but some guy approached me and offered me help. He got me in a back door and a few stores were opening in the market. I found what I was looking for, but didn’t get the price I was looking for because I had no negotiation leverage, since the other stores weren’t open yet. I reluctantly bought it, and ran back to the subway, took the subway, ran back to the hostel with my stuff, and then packed up my stuff. I ran into four of my hostel buddies already heading back to campus. So I knew I was running late. I packed up at the hostel, and then Mike, Abby, and I took an UBER back to the Minhang campus. It was one of the saddest rides I have ever taken. The Shanghai Tour was over, but the Last Hurrah was still going strong.

Minhang Goodbyes 

We got back to Minhang just in time to drop our stuff off, and race off to the dining hall. The reason we had to get back so early was because we were meeting the whole Maymester group for lunch at 11. The lunch was actually really good, and it was great socializing with other Purdue students about our time in China. We had so many stories to tell, and they were genuinely interested in hearing them. It was actually a great way to reflect on the semester with all the great friends I made. After lunch, we headed out to the quad area for a photoshoot and some more socialization. We got a beautiful day for it too. After the Maymester kids left for their day of adventures downtown, we headed back to our dorms for a fun day of packing. For dinner, we did a last tour of campus food as well – we got burritos at the burrito stand on campus, and then went to get street noodles right outside of the main gate. On the way to the noodles, I let Abby ride my bike while I rode on the back, and it was terrifying but a lot of fun haha. When we got the noodle stand, I noticed a gorgeous sunset forming. And realized that I didn’t have enough pictures of campus. I ran around campus all the time and saw gorgeous things, but was never able to capture in a picture. So I decided to ride around campus for over an hour taking pictures of my favorite things, with the gorgeous sunset in the background. I have included a lot of these pictures. After getting back to the dorms, I enjoyed the noodles, and then our group of original 8 watched the last Harry Potter movie with some wine. It was crazy how perfectly we timed watching the movies. I had finished the last book like a week prior, so it was perfect timing. The movie was great, and we all had a great time cramming into a dorm room for one last time. After the movie, Mike, Katie, and I went to the street burrito stand to meet Katie’s Chinese friends and get another burrito (these things are delicious, I miss them a lot). We hung out for a while with her friends and it was actually really fun; I hadn’t gotten as much interaction with Chinese people as I had wanted, so this was nice. We called it a night right before curfew at midnight, and headed back for our last night of sleep in the dorms.

Sunday, I woke up really early. It still didn’t feel like I was leaving. A bunch of us went and got street burritos again for the last time. This was actually the last time, I promise. I also sold my bicycle, which was actually a really sad and difficult moment for me. I had so many good times on that bike… Anyway, I finished packing up after that, and then had the pleasure of carrying 2 oversized suitcases and 2 large backpacks down 5 flights of stairs to the lobby of the dorm, and then lugging them across a bit of campus, to where we got picked up by a bus. Brendan organized a bus for us to take to the airport, instead of having to get taxis. We paid for it, but it was well worth the 40 RMB, or whatever it was. The bus ride was fun, we all told stories about our last few nights out, and some other memories. We got to the airport crazy earlier, and couldn’t even check in for a while. Mike, Katie, and I watched an episode of The Office while waiting. Finally, we got checked in, and it was a huge relief having the large suitcases out of my hands. Ben and I split the $100 fee to have an extra checked bag for all of the crap that we bought. In the terminal, I got my last meal in China: Burger King. And it was really good. We all hung out like old friends, until it was time to board the 747. We got on the plane, and instant culture shock – the white flight attendants speaking fluent English. This is when it finally set in that we were going home.

The flight home was 14 hours, and a lot more bearable than the way there, because we had friends to talk to this time.

This is the end of my journey in China. I had so many cool experiences, in beautiful places, with awesome friends. It was an absolutely incredible semester, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China.

Thank you to all of those who took the time to read my ramblings and/or look at my pictures. I will have one more post coming up about my return to America (that should be a short post).

“Finals” Week

Uncategorized

Finals…this probably the dullest blog post yet. But enjoy, nonetheless.

I apologize for how late this post is; I just got my computer back from being serviced – it broke a couple days after moving to Houston. Luckily I didn’t lose any files.

Monday was a rough morning. I woke up, still feeling like crap, but a lot better. I just lounged around, glanced at a few notes, and then headed to the exam at noon. Never have I prepared less for a final exam in my life, and it was terrifying. There was material on that exam I did not recall ever learning. However, I struggled through it and passed the class with flying colors (C+). I spent the rest of the uneventful day laying around, binge watching New Girl on Netflix and then Brendan, Katie, Mike, and I watched an episode of Game of Thrones. That was the extent of my day.

Tuesday, I woke up feeling quite a bit better. I had class at 10; I was unable to do my homework that was due, but I think I will be fine. After class, I got a light lunch (my first real meal since Sunday), and then took it easy again for the rest of the day – watched New Girl and browsed the internet while lying in bed. That night, our group of 8 reconvened to watch the 6th Harry Potter movie. And that was the extent of my day.

Wednesday, I was nearly 100%. This was crucial, because I had a lot of studying to do. I woke up early to watch the Blackhawks game, which was a great taste of home. After that, I spent pretty much the entire day slowly studying – we had the final exam for our online engineering class the next day, and I was way behind on lecture videos. I took breaks for two quality meals: lunch outside on the roof at canteen 2, and dinner at the Italian restaurant in canteen 4. The pizza for dinner was incredible. I stayed up pretty late studying and watching videos, finally getting to bed around 1.

Thursday, I woke up early again to finish studying before the exam. I still had a decent amount of videos to watch, and the exam was at 1. Around noon, I finally finished (just in time). I then got lunch on the roof of canteen 2 again and then headed to the final. The final exam was brutal – I didn’t come close to finishing and I didn’t know what I was doing on a lot of it. However, everyone else was in the same boat, so I wasn’t too concerned. After the final, I went for a run with Katie, which really cleared my head from that test. I got some more relaxation in after the run, which was much needed. After 4 weeks of constant travel and whatnot, I needed this week of not doing much to catch up on rest. That evening, I watched 2 episodes of Game of Thrones with Katie, Brendan, and Mike. It is a great season, and it is fun sharing the experience of watching it with new friends that I have become so close with. That was the end of my night.

Friday morning thermo class went as usual. After class, I managed to get a quick nap. And then Mike, Ben, and I decided to go check out a Slamball facility that was supposed to be near campus. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Slamball is a fairly new sport involving trampolines and basketball. When we got to the place, we were in awe of the setup. This place actually existed and looked like endless fun. We talked to the people there, and found out our university had a team practice in a few hours that we could participate in for free. So we went back to the forms to relax a bit, and then headed back. It was me, Brendan, and Mike that decided we actually wanted to play. When we got there, we were the only ones that showed up to practice. And Stan Fletcher greeted us at the door. He is arguably the best Slamball player of all time, and it turns out, he would be our coach. For the next two hours, he taught us the way of the sport and showed us some sweet moves. It was extremely exhausting, but so much fun. We were throwing down some pretty cool dunks. We also tried to play a 2v2 game against 2 Chinese students that showed up later. They had been playing for a few months, and absolutely destroyed us. But it was a ton of fun, still. We headed out, completely spent, and got dinner right away. It was raining that day, and riding our bikes through the rain felt kind of good. After dinner, we chilled out for a while, watched a couple episodes of The Office later, and then called it a night. I actually managed to get a little blogging in that night too, which was the first time in a long while. That is why I am so far behind.

Saturday, I got up and grabbed some street burritos for breakfast. Around noon, Mike and I headed into the city for a day of fake market shopping. We had realized that with only a week left, we still had a lot of stuff to purchase – for ourselves, and for friends/family. We took the long subway ride in, and stopped first near the Xu Hui campus for lunch. I might have mentioned it already, but we were starting to get a little tired of Chinese food. So, we decided to change things up and we went to Pizza Hut, which is a fancy place in China. The restaurant was really nice and the food was great. We ordered the most expensive pizza on the menu, the large super supreme with stuffed crust. It was incredible. We devoured it, and were completely stuffed. Afterward, we hopped back on the subway and continued toward the fake markets. Finally we made it, and the fun began. We ended up shopping there for about 6 hours and I spent almost $200. I got a lot of stuff, but the most notable was a tailored shirt and sport coat – don’t worry, there will be pictures of me rocking it next week. It was crazy cheap, only 450 RMB for a high quality jacket and shirt, custom tailored. We also got suitcases to bring all of our extra stuff back to the states. Without realizing, Mike and I got more matching luggage. We now have 2 matching backpacks, matching suitcases, and a matching money belt. Anyway, that was a great purchase. I also got a few nice ties that were only 10 RMB. We finally headed back after getting dinner in the fake market. Instead of taking the miserable subway ride back, we got an Uber back. Once back, the whole Thailand crew got together and watched Harry Potter and drank wine. It was the first part of the seventh book, and a great movie. A few of us got street noodles after and hung out in the lobby for a bit, enjoying our wine drunk noodles.

Sunday, I did almost nothing. I spent most of the day laying in my bed, watching New Girl. I knew I should be studying, but it was also nice to just have a chilled out day of doing nothing. I did leave my room for street burritos and ice cream for lunch and eventually dinner. Later on though, I decided I needed one last hurrah at our campus bar, The Highland. I figured it would be my last chance to go, so Mike and I made the long bike ride over there, and Ben joined later. We just got a 3 liter tower and played pool. It was a really relaxing time, and nice to get out of the dorm. After Ben joined, we finished the beer, played one more game, and then headed out. Since we were already over there, we felt obliged to get street noodles. And after getting back, we hung out and ate them again. It was great doing that these last few nights; we wished we had realized the greatness of the lobby area earlier.

May Day in Guilin & Zhangjiajie

Uncategorized

Well, I am back from China now… But still way behind on my blog posts. This is the post about 3 weeks ago, which was a pretty awesome week. I apologize for the tardiness and for the excessive spelling and grammatical errors (it’s probably worse than usual because I wrote this on the flight home and I was exhausted). There is a lot of writing here, so just skip to the pictures, unless you want excessive detailed accounts of everything.

Monday, I woke up pretty tired after a night of minimal sleep. Luckily, I had already done the homework that was due before I left for Xi’an. So I was able to relax in the morning, and then head to class after lunch at noon. In class, I spent most of my time doing thermodynamics homework as I had a very busy schedule. I did my best to pay attention too, though. During our class breaks, I talked to my professor and TA about traveling around China. It was actually a really eye-opening conversation – previously, I had felt bad for the lack of effort I had been putting into these classes. However, from talking to them, they know that we are here to experience Chinese culture and travel around the country; studying isn’t our top priority. They were actually really excited to hear about the places we’ve been and planned on going to. After class, I began packing for my next trip – I would be leaving Tuesday afternoon for Guilin and Zhangjiajie. This travel stretch was crazy, I had approximately 36 hours between getting back from Xi’an and leaving for my next trip. I was still exhausted the whole time, so I took a lot of time to relax this evening, sacrificing some quality on my homework. I called it a night early, and got some sleep.

Tuesday, I woke up pretty early to finish up packing. Thermodynamics class was alright, and then we got lunch on the third floor of canteen 2 outside – this quickly became a nice routine, especially as the weather got nicer. I spent the remainder of the afternoon working on homework for my online engineering class (the last homework assignment of the semester). Around 3, it was time to head off for the final trip of the semester.

Guilin – Zhangjiajie (May Day)

William, Josh, Abby, and I caught a taxi to Pudong International Airport to catch our flight to Guilin. At the airport, Abby and I worked on our online engineering homework together to try to finish that up, as it was due in a couple days when we would be busy having fun traveling. The flight was delayed an hour, but we got out of the airport and made it to Guilin, which we later found out was very lucky – all of our friends flights to other places got cancelled that night and rescheduled for the morning. The Guilin airport was the smallest we had seen yet, and pretty run down. The taxi stand was unlike those in the busier cities we had been, as they didn’t make taxi drivers use the meter and they were all in it together to rip off the Americans (turns out 100 RMB wasn’t that bad though, since it was about an hour taxi ride to the hostel). Our first priority was food once we got to the hostel, but it was after 10 already, so there weren’t many places open. We walked down the street for a bit and found a little shop with noodles. Upon inspecting the menu, we discovered that they served horse meat. This was quite a shock to us, but apparently that isn’t terribly uncommon in Guilin. We chose not to eat horse meat, and just got some regular noodles that were actually really, really good and cheap. We even treated ourselves to some sweet, doughnut like dessert at the same place, which was also great. After dinner, we just walked back to the hostel, where we looked at tour packages to see the various aspects of Guilin. Normally, I enjoy going out and doing my own thing without formal tours, but the sites to see in Guilin require long busses and whatnot. We booked a tour for seeing the rice terraces for 300 RMB each and then a tour to see the Li River for 200 RMB each. We went to bed after that, which was much needed.

Wednesday, we had to wake up early around 7 to get breakfast and leave for our tour. The hostel breakfast was pretty good, and then we boarded a bus to go to see the rice terraces, which was about a 2 hour bus ride away. As soon as we got on the bus, we knew something was wrong – all the other people on the bus were Chinese. Turns out, the tour was almost entirely in Chinese. The tour guide did speak English, but since we were the only English speaking people, he didn’t make much of an effort to explain everything in English. The bus ride was great for sleeping though, it took about two hours to get to Longshen, where the most famous terrace are located. First though, we stopped at a minority village – the Longhair minority group. We saw a little bit of the village and then watched the women perform a traditional dance/show of theirs. Midway through the show, they asked for volunteers to participate in the show. Without hesitation, I got on stage, followed by a couple other guys from the crowd. We introduced ourselves to the crowd, picked a wife, and then headed backstage to get dressed up a little bit. They also asked for money at that point, which caught me off guard – they wanted us to buy a bangle for our ‘wife,’ since she would be giving us a gift. I insisted that I didn’t have money because I’m a student (all in Chinese), and they ultimately understand, and let me get off with a 10 RMB donation, which was definitely worth it because the gift I got was pretty cool. We went back on stage and did some dances and singing (I sung happy birthday in Chinese, which the crowd loved). We even took a couple shots of rice wine on stage. They had some weird traditions too, including pinching butts to show affection – my butt was pinched quite a few times. After this awesome cultural experience, we hopped back on another bus to continue on to the terraces, which was another hour or so away. We finally arrived, and then had to hike quite a bit through the mountains to get to the terraces. Midway through the hike, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Lunch was provided for the most part, but the most famous dishes weren’t (classic tourist trap). The most famous dishes in Longshen are cooked in Bamboo over a big fire. We got a bamboo rice and bamboo chicken, which were both outstanding. The rest of the food was very good too – especially the rice. The rice was incredibly fresh and delicious. After lunch, we finally made it to the famous part of the terraces and saw some incredible views. The terrace were very impressive and beautiful. We spent an hour or so there, and then it was time to head back. The bus ride again was long and not very fun, but we made it back and by then, we were starving and ready for dinner. We walked down some street nearby our hostel with a lot of restaurants on it, and picked one that looked crowded (this is how we determine the good places to eat – if the locals go there, it must be good). We weren’t wrong – the food was great. The highlight was the fish we ordered. We saw them grab a live fish and kill it, and then ten minutes later, we were eating a delicious fish. The weather all way was beautiful, but toward the end of dinner it looked like it was going to storm. Sure enough, as we were wrapping it up, it started to pour. I forgot to mention that we eat outside on the sidewalk area, which was really nice until it started raining. We rushed inside with the remainder of our food, and finished the meal in there. Since it was raining a lot and we didn’t want to walk back in that, we ordered dessert. It was sautéed bananas with caramel and sugar and I can’t even do it justice – but it was great and so different from what we have been used to because China isn’t really into sweet desserts. With good timing, the rain stopped and we walked back to the hostel. Unfortunately, Abby and I still had some homework to finish. We did it quickly though, submitted it, and then the four of us played some euchre before heading to bed.

Thursday, we had another early morning. After grabbing breakfast at the hostel at 7 again, we ended up waiting around a while for the bus – it was over an hour late. We did meet a couple guys in our hostel that were going on the same tour though. One guy was Italian and the other was Canadian. It was fun talking to them about China, as they had just arrived and would be traveling all around, so we gave them some suggestions. The bus finally arrived, and we took an hour bus ride to the dock on the Li River where we would be taking a raft from. Our tour guide was much better for this tour. He went by the American name of KFC, and he dropped the F-bomb within 15 minutes of being on the best. Anyway, we hopped on a bamboo (fake) raft to cruise down the Li River, which is flanked by gorgeous mountains and the views are incredible. We had about an hour on the raft, but it flew by because we were just soaking in the beautiful views. It was supposed to rain all day too, but it held off for the whole tour (this became a pretty common trend in China). The raft dropped us off in Xingping, a small village along the river – we had about an hour there, but there wasn’t much to do or see. Then, we took a bus to our final destination: Yangshuo. This was much larger town, where there was a lot to do and see, but we had limited time. We had heard that the best thing to do in Yangshuo is eat their fish, so that is what we did. We walked around the city for a bit and saw some cool stuff, and then found a good looking restaurant to eat lunch at. We sat at the table and wanted to order fish, but didn’t see any live fish out front. I asked to see the live fish, and the lady took William and I through the kitchen out their back door to a huge aquarium in the back. We picked out the fish we wanted, which was about 3 kg. William speaks much better Chinese convinced the guy to let us watch him kill and cut up the fish. It was really cool seeing him work magic with the knives, turn a live fish into something ready to cook in two minutes. I did get a little fish blood splattered on me, but it was worth it. William then convinced the lady (turns out she’s the chef) to let us stay in the kitchen and watch her cook it. She loved our enthusiasm and even gave a mini cooking lesson throughout. Finally, she presented the finished product, and insisted that I bring it out to the table. It was a cool feeling bringing out that delicious looking dish that was just a live fish ten minutes ago. We all devoured it, and it was even better than I had expected. I really think this was one of my favorite experiences in China. After lunch, we caught a bus back to Guilin, which took about 2 hours. We took a tuk tuk from the station to our hostel, where we just grabbed our things, and then walked to the train station. Our time in Guilin was coming to an end, but it was incredible. We picked up our tickets at the station, and boarded the train shortly after. The first train was a one hour bullet train to Liuzhou. It was a pleasant journey, on which we met quite a few really nice English speaking Chinese students going home for the long weekend. We had an hour layover in Liuzhou, so we left the station and got some street noodles. The street noodles were very, very different from Shanghai, and anything else I have had in China. They were delicious though, and you could tell how happy the street vendor was – I am sure she doesn’t get many foreigners coming through (it’s not really a site-seeing city). The next leg of our journey was a 12 hour train ride in a regular seat, it was from 9 pm to 9 am, and bound to be a brutal ride. It started off not too bad, we met some nice people again, but the train was packed. Around 11 pm, it started to empty out, so we had some more space to move around and spread out. However, around 11:30, an old man approached our group and tried to talk to us. He spoke no English, and we spoke minimal Chinese. However, we had some translators around. It was an interesting conversation, to say the least. He was kind of crazy. And he finally left us alone around 12:30, but that was only temporary. He came back over around 1 to give Abby some fake Jade bracelets. He tried putting them on her, but they didn’t fit – that didn’t stop him. He kept trying to put them on, causing legitimate pain. We had to practically pull him off her. The night kof calmed down after that. At some point, we all shared a small bottle of bijou. And then we finally got some sleep. The train was almost empty, so we were able to lay out on the seats.

Friday, I woke up pretty early, and I was kind of just in and out of sleep all night anyway. Once the sun came up, there were some gorgeous views, although it was raining. We arrived in Zhangjiajie around 9 am, and then took a taxi to our hostel, which was way up in the mountains, just outside the gate to the Zhangjiajie National Park. We met up with Ben, Mike, and Kevin, who were staying at the same hostel (they chose to just stay in Zhangjiajie for the whole trip). We all got lunch at the hostel together, which was some of the best hostel food I have ever had. It was still raining, so we hung out for a bit until it lightened up, and then we headed into the park. The park is massive, but has an extensive bus system throughout, which is free with admission. We used that right away, and then took a cable car up to the Yuanjiajie part of the park. The cable car was interesting because they are very expensive, and everywhere else, we have gotten a student discount. We even got a student discount into the park itself. However, the cable car people wouldn’t give us the student discount. They said we had to be Chinese – this was the first time I felt discriminated against in China and it didn’t feel good. We argued and ultimately yelled, and finally paid the full price. It was very annoying, but we finally got on a beautiful cable car ride up to Yuanjiajie. This is the most famous area of the National Park, and is the location of the Avatar Mountain – the most famous peak that inspired James Cameron’s Avatar. Although it was raining early, the weather cleared up, and the clouds looked really cool in the mountains. We explored the breathtaking mountains for a few hours, and then headed back, hiking down this time, instead of taking the cable car. It was a short day at the park, but still great. We all got dinner at the hotel, which was even better than lunch. We also had a couple beers and just hung out for the night, before heading to sleep early – the four of us that came from Guilin were pretty exhausted. And the beds in this hotel were really comfortable. Probably the most comfortable bed since the days of fancy hotels the first few weeks. I slept very well.

Saturday, I woke up really early to catch the sunrise, but I heard it raining, so I went right back to sleep. I got a couple more hours of sleep and then went down for breakfast with everyone. The hostel breakfast was pretty good too – all traditional Chinese food. We got out of the hostel pretty early that morning around 9 am, and the rain had already stopped and the sun was coming out. After a quick bus ride, we started our hike down the Golden Whip, another area of the huge park. This part is in the valley of all the mountains, along a nice river – it was beautiful seeing the mountains from that different perspective. It was actually more impressive seeing them from the bottom than the top, as we did the previous day. There was a ton of walking that day, and we saw some gorgeous sites. There were also a lot of wild monkeys along the way, which was really fun. I fed a couple some bananas. Around lunch time, we all split off and did our own thing for a bit. I found a secluded spot along a river with a great view of the mountains; I just sat on a rock and read, while taking in the tranquility. We all met up again, and headed out the east end of the park (our hostel is on the west end). Outside the park over there is another famous attraction – Baofeng Lake. We had to pay extra, but it was worth it. We did a really fun hike through these off-the-beat paths (it was way out of the way and we lost a lot of time because of it, but it was fun). Eventually, we made it to the actual lake, where we took a boat cruise and some gorgeous mountains along the water. It was a little annoying though, because the tour guide was speaking quite loudly into a microphone, entirely in Chinese for the duration of the cruise, somewhat ruining the moment. After the lake, we parted ways from Mike and Kevin – they were catching a flight back to Shanghai that night. The rest of us headed back into the park to catch the busses back to our hotel. Unfortunately, we also needed to hike about 6-8 miles on the way back. It was dark well before we got back, and an absolutely brutal hike. We finally got back around 8 pm though, and ordered dinner immediately, since we were starving. It was another incredible meal, and we got to eat it outside too because the weather was so nice. We all called it a night pretty quickly after that, wanting to get some rest for a big day ahead of us.

Sunday, we got up early and checked out with all our bags – we had to hike the day with our backpacks because we would not be able to return to the hostel. The first priority was another area of the park called Huangshi Village. It is a misleading name, as it is not really a village, but just another beautiful area of the park. The views were comparable to Yuanjiajie, but still very unique and pretty. It was a beautiful day out too. We took the cable car up and down, this time getting the student discount without any problems. The most memorable part of this area was the Echo Cliff – William, Josh and I all chanted “USA, USA, USA!” off the cliff, and it sounded pretty awesome. We were just excited to be going home soon, and feeling patriotic. I was also feeling the need for an adrenaline rush, but I couldn’t find any good cliffs to sit on. So, I improvised and went out on a tree branch hanging off the edge off the mountain. It was exhilarating and had a beautiful view. I was safe about it mom, no worries. It took a few hours to hike around the whole area, and then we took the cable car down. Abby wasn’t feeling well, and actually threw up, so we got a bus down back to the city of Zhangjiajie and got her to the airport, making sure she was going to be okay. Then, William, Josh, and I went to Tianmen Mountain as the last big thing to do in Zhangjiajie. In the city is the cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain outside the city center – it is a 1 hour cable car ride, and the longest in the world. Once on the cable car, I started feeling sick myself. The weather turned to crap, and the visibility was awful. On top of that, I felt really sick and threw up a couple times. It was a pretty miserable experience. The most memorable part was Heaven’s Gate. It is the most famous part of the mountain, and the weather had cleared up a little bit for it to still be really cool. I enjoyed the views quickly, while still feeling awful, and then we all got on a bus to head back down to the city. Without a doubt, the most miserable bus ride of my life. Having a stomach virus with stuff constantly wanting to come out of me, and bumps everywhere on a beat up mountain road is not a good combination. Once we were finally in the city, Will and Josh helped me get a cab to the airport. The taxis were trying to rip us off, and being really mean about it. Will did a great job standing up to them. It didn’t work however, and I ended up getting a cheaper ride on the back of a moped. It was a fitting end to my travel in China. The wind in my face on the moped actually made me feel a lot better, temporarily. And then I had 6+ hours to hang out at the airport with the stomach flu. When I got there, I found Ben with Abby – Ben got the same virus as us. We were all in misery together. I don’t want to give any more detail on that hellish day, so I’ll stop here. Some things went right though; our flight got out on time, and we got back our dorm around 3 am. It was comforting to know that I had a final in 9 hours (sarcasm). I went straight to sleep.

Despite getting sick at the end of this vacation, it was incredible. It was my last trip outside of Shanghai, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got to see some of the most beautiful parts of China, and I could not be happier with the way everything went.

Enjoy the pictures below.

Xi’an Adventures

Uncategorized

This was a pretty awesome week, and I’m sorry it took so long to get around to writing about it. Enjoy the lengthy descriptions of my adventures, as well as the 100+ picture gallery (there’s some good ones in there). Sorry again for the endless typos throughout – no time to proofread.

Monday, I had to wake up to do my homework that was due in class at noon. I got it done in time, and made it to class, where I remembered we had a quiz that day – it didn’t go over too well. We also had an experiment, which no one knew was a requirement of the class. Nonetheless, we finished the brutal experiment, and then it was time to officially celebrate Ben’s birthday. A big group of 9 of us went out to a Korean Barbeque restaurant right outside of campus for dinner. We ordered a ton of food and it was delicious, and fairly inexpensive since it was split amongst so many people. Afterward, Mike and I went to Highland Bar with Ben to celebrate with a quick drink and some pool. It was a relaxing, nice time. After some fun, we knew it was time to work on our thermo homework, so we headed back to the dorm where we worked on that for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, I still had some homework to finish up in the morning unfortunately, but I finished most of it. Class was the usual, and then I got lunch in the beautiful outdoor dining hall with a couple friends. In preparation for my upcoming vacations, I got a fresh haircut (my third in China now), and it went smooth as usual. I should’ve spent the rest of the day doing homework and stuff, but it was such a beautiful day that I went to play basketball with Mike and Kevin. We played 3-on-3 against a bunch of Chinese guys that would rotate teams. We won like 10 games, and then decided we were tired. It was a lot of fun completely dominating the court. I did do some homework after that though, and spent a lot of time planning out the last minute details of my May Day trip. I got some good rest and relaxation in there as well.

Wednesday, I woke up early to get some work done and do my final packing since we would be leaving for Xi’an later that day. I went for a run in the afternoon and it was an absolutely beautiful day out – maybe even a little too hot for an afternoon run. I spent the rest of my time before leaving catching up on my blog – I was way behind (and evidently, still am). We all got burritos for a quick dinner, and then headed out of our dorm to the subway around 5 to start our Xi’an adventure.

Xi’an

On our Xi’an trip with me was Mike, Brendan, Katie, Abby, and Josh. We also met Annie in Xi’an and spent a lot of our trip with her too. Anyway, the walk to the subway took longer than we anticipated, and when we arrived at the train station, we realized we were cutting it too close to our 6:40 train. We started running through the station, yelling, “Jia you! Jia you!” We made it in time, with about 6 minutes to spare. Our tickets were fore sleeper cars, as it was a 14 hour train ride to Xi’an. Since we booked the tickets kind of late, we weren’t all near each other. However, a few were able to switch beds, and we had 3 beds in the same compartment. For the first few hours of the ride, we hung out in those 3 beds (I shared mikes bed – the bed was smaller than a twin). We played some fun games, talked, and Mike and I each had a bottle of wine to make it even more fun. The lights turned out at 10, so I returned to my bed, where I read some Harry Potter and then fell asleep. I was in the very top bunk (it was 3 beds high), and about 2 feet from the ceiling, so it wasn’t terribly comfortable. I slept pretty well though, and, for some reason, I thought it was really cool sleeping in a bed on a train.

Thursday, I woke up pretty early because the whole train seemed to get an early start around 6. I just laid in bed and read Harry Potter though. I eventually packed my stuff up from the top bunk, and made my way down to the aisle. There were little seats along the aisle that I just sat at and enjoyed the view. The countryside was actually quite beautiful. We arrived in Xi’an around 9:20 am, where we disembarked and were immediately met by an employee from the hostel we were staying at (prearranged to pick us up from the train station for free). He had a sign with my name on it, which was pretty exciting. He showed us the way to the hostel via bus and then a little walking. We dropped our bags off at the hostel, met Annie, and the seven of us headed off to explore Xi’an. For lunch, we got handmade spinach noodles from a restaurant across the alleyway from the hostel, and they were delicious – unlike anything I have had in Shanghai. We made our way to the city center where the Bell Tower was located. The Bell Tower was pretty cool, but nothing crazy special; we spent about 30 minutes there, and then made our way to the nearby Drum Tower, which was very similar. The famous Muslim Quarter was right there, so we spent quite a bit of time exploring this. It was basically a street solely dedicated to street food and fake merchandise/souvenirs. The most famous thing we had heard about was fried bananas, so that was the first thing we got, and it was delicious. Some of my friends got pomegranate juice, among other delicious items. We headed back to the hostel shortly after to actually check in and get our room. Don’t worry, we made a few more trips back to the Muslim Quarter. After getting settled into the hostel, we made our way to the Xi’an city wall. This is perhaps the coolest and most popular thing to do in Xi’an, and it is most common to bike around the wall. We all rented bikes and spent about an hour and a half biking the 13.7 km (8.5 miles) around the wall. It was a beautiful day for a bike ride and the view from on top of the wall was quite extraordinary. After the fun bike ride, Katie and I decided it would be a good idea to run around the wall too. Turns out this was a great idea, and probably the coolest run I have ever done (although I did it in my khaki shorts). We finished the whole wall in just about 1 hour, so that put us at 7:00 mile pace. We were exhausted, and then had to walk the mile or so back to our hostel. On the way, we actually met some people from Chicago, so we talked to them for a little bit and gave them a little travel advice for when they visit Shanghai. After getting back to the hostel and showering, it was dinner time. But we had time for a pre-dinner drink first, so we ordered some long islands and beers, and then the bartender, Lei Lei, started giving out free shots to us too (we later found out Lei Lei is the owner). We got dinner at a nearby Muslim hotpot restaurant – it was all-you-can-eat and delicious, for only 30 RMB ($5). I don’t think I have ever gotten more food for less money in my life. We went back to the hostel after dinner, and booked a tour through the hostel (I’ll explain more on this later), which we bartered to include a beer tower for Thursday and Friday night. We were enjoying the beer tower, and then we met a few Canadians at a nearby table. Eventually, it was basically a huge party at our table with Americans, Canadians, Swedes, Dutch, Irish, and of course, Lei Lei. It was a ton of fun just sharing experiences with each other over a few drinks. I called it a night pretty early because I wanted to get up for a run. Some of my friends stayed up and went out to a bar with Lei Lei and the others.

Friday, Katie and I woke up early to go for a run. We wanted to run the city wall and along the perimeter, but got very lost – eventually we made it to the wall, but it was time to turn around by then. After the run, we got free breakfast as part of our tour package deal. The tour for the day was to see the Terracotta Army. We each paid 190 RMB for the tour, free breakfast and coffee, and the two beer towers. It was a pretty good deal. We set off for the Warriors around 10, and it took almost 3 hours to get there because traffic was so terrible. We had to go in two separate vehicles too, because there were so many people. The majority went on a bus, but Mike, Abby, Brendan, and I were in some guy’s VW Passat. Still not sure who he is. Anyway, the Terracotta Warriors were awesome. They have it in 3 separate pits, which are enclosed in buildings. It was surprising to learn that they had just discovered the warriors about 40 years ago, and they are still looking for more. We saw pits 2 and 3 first, which were very cool. Pit 3 had the only Warrior that was discovered fully intact. Pit 1 is the most famous one, so that was saved for last. It was incredible, seeing all the Warriors in formation – it was a little disappointing to learn that they had to have artists reconstruct them though, since they were discovered in pieces. It was still quite fascinating though. Out tour guide for the day, Zha Zha (went by Lady Zha Zha), was awesome too. She spoke great English, and was a lot of fun. After seeing the Terracotta Army, she took us to the souvenir shop, where she casually pointed out the farmer that discovered the first Warrior. We were all shocked to learn he was still alive, and sitting feet from us. They had books we could buy that he would autograph, but I didn’t really want that. Mike, Brendan, and I decided to buy replica statues of the first Warrior discovered (the Kneeling Archer) that was fully intact. It was wrapped in a nice box, and we asked the farmer to sign it. He refused, but then Lady Zha Zha came to the rescue, said something in Chinese, and then he signed each of ours. Lunch was the last part of the tour, and it was absolutely delicious. It was Chinese style with a ton of dishes, and all of them unique and incredible. We were starving too, so it was quite welcome. On this tour, we met a lot more people from our hostel. There was a really nice French couple and a guy from San Francisco. They guy from San Fran actually used to work for Cisco (shout out to my Dad here). He worked for them for 6 years, lived a frugal life, and then decided to quit, and travel for 18 months around the world. He is planning all his travel around sports, so he is seeing all types of sporting events across the world – it sounded like a pretty incredible experience. Anyway, we made our way back to the hostel (much quicker ride this time), and then headed some of us out to the Muslim Quarter. I got another fried banana, as they are so delicious. We also tried what they call ‘Muslim Hamburgers.’ They are essentially delicious biscuits cut open, and filled with shredded beef that is marinated and topped with a delicious spicy sauce. They were all over the place, but we found a cart with a long line (this usually indicates higher quality). We waited for about 15 minutes, but people started letting us skip in line because they could tell we were in a hurry and because we were white. They guys at the stand loved us, and they hamburgers were unbelievable. After enjoying this, we the four of us (Mike, Brendan, Katie, and I) hopped in a Tuk Tuk to head to the Wild Goose Pagoda. Every night, there is a water and light show in the plaza in front of the pagoda that we had heard good things about. We got there just in time for the 8:30 show, and most of the good spots around were taken. So we got creative with some other Chinese people and went into the fountains where there were little walkways. It turns out we got possibly the best spot in the entire place. We did get a little wet at times, but it was definitely worth it. The show was absolutely incredible – it was reminded me of something that would be in Vegas, although I have never been to Vegas. After the show, we got another Tuk Tuk back to the Muslim Quarter for more adventures. We all got some snacks for the next day in which we would be hiking. I also stumbled across some fake Zippo lighters that looked pretty cool. It was only 10 RMB, so I got one. He filled it up with lighter fluid, and I tried it out using a lighter trick involving my pants. Lighter fluid leaked everywhere and the entire lighter and my hand caught on fire. I tried again for whatever reason, and this time, my pants and hand caught on fire. I had to stomp out the lighter and pat my pants out – it was actually pretty scary. I put on a show for the locals though, and no burns, mom! We called it a night after that and started to walk back to the hostel. On the way, I stumbled across street noodles. I had heard that Xi’an street noodles were amazing, so I had to try them. And they were fantastic, as I had heard. This was a great Friday – much better than we would have had back in Shanghai, where we were supposed to be for class in the morning (oops).

Saturday, we all woke up really early to head to Huashan (Mt. Hua) for the day. We met up with some hostel friends to head to the mountain with, and we all left for the subway around 7. However, a few people for forgot their passports, some people didn’t get on the same train, and other complications happened that caused us to get separated into several groups. Anyway, we took a bullet train from Xi’an to Huashan that was only 40 minutes, and then a taxi to the park, where we hiked up the entire 2000 meter mountain. It was me, Mike, Josh, Katie, and a French couple from our hostel. It was a really fun group to hike up with. We went at a pretty good pace the whole time, and stopped to see some breathtaking views along the way. This was by far the highest and longest I have ever consecutively hiked. It was not an easy hike either – there were some obnoxiously steep and long staircases, most of which had tiny stairs with minimal traction. There were also some so steep that they were referred to as “sky ladders.” They had chains along the side that you had to hold onto because they were around 80-100 degree grade. It was actually really dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed at all. Our first priority was getting a hostel on the mountain, as we wanted to see the sunset and sunrise – so we went and got a room on the East peak, which was a crappy room and way too expensive (150 RMB per person), but it was ultimately worth it. We then made our way to the South peak, where Plank Road is located, or as it is more commonly known, the Most Dangerous Hike in The World. There, we ran into Abby and Brendan and some of the other people from the hostel. Anyway, the hike is just 3 planks on the side of a mountain, but there are harnesses and wires to clip into. I am very scared of heights, but I knew I had to do it for the incredible experience. It was absolutely worth it. The views were outstanding and the adrenaline rush was great – it was one of the most breathtaking things I have ever done. The hike was somewhat crowded, so we had to go around other people, which involves unclipping from the wire at times (but there are 2 clips, and you never have to unclip both at the same time (although I did, for the extra adrenaline rush (sorry mom))). There were plenty of spots where it wasn’t too crowded though, and we were able to sit down and relax. Some of us also did some crazy things, like leaning off the board, relying on the cords and clips. I can’t express how much fun this whole thing was – I already want to go back and do it again! After the hike, we went to the West peak to watch the sunset. It was a really pretty sunset and we found a nice, secluded spot to watch it. The hike back in the semi-darkness was a little cold, though. We got dinner at a restaurant near the hostel – it was a pretty miserable meal experience; they didn’t offer water and bottles were obnoxiously priced, they wouldn’t let us order some dishes, and the other people in there were obnoxious and staring the whole time. The food wasn’t bad though. Abby and Brendan weren’t able to get a bed at the hostel, but they did rent these awesome surplus Chinese Army jackets. They were only 50 RMB to rent for the night, and it was pretty chilly, and it would be nice for the sunrise – so we all got one. In the comfort of this, I was able to lay outside on a mountain and stargaze. This was the first time in as long as I can remember that I had laid on my back and admired the stars, identified the big dipper, etc. It was incredibly relaxing. We went to bed fairly early around 9:30, and Brendan shared my bed, and Abby shared Katie’s bed (both of us on the top bunk, some reason).

Sunday, we woke up really, really early, around 4:45, to go get a good spot for the sunrise. They were all full already though. Chinese people take their sunrises very seriously, apparently. We have heard that a lot of people start climbing the mountain at 10 pm, and climb through the night so that they arrive to the peak for sunrise. Nonetheless, I found a nice spot over the railing and just hung out on a rock and watched the sun rise over the city. It was nothing spectacular since it was quite cloudy and not rising over the mountains. It was really enjoyable and peaceful though; waking up on a mountain and having some peaceful alone time, watching the sun come up and the sky changing colors – it doesn’t get much better than that. After the sunrise, we got our stuff together, took some awesome pictures in our ridiculous coats, and then headed down the mountain. We hiked for about an hour, then took the cable car down to a bus, which took us the rest of the way down. It was a lot quicker this way, and we needed to get back to our other hostel in Xi’an. We got our train tickets (first class again because they were sold out of second class), and made our way back to Xi’an. Once back at the hostel, we all packed our stuff up to check out of the room there, and hung out in the lobby for a little bit. Then, Mike, Brendan, and I went to the Muslim Quarter for one last hurrah. We got our Chinese hamburgers again at the same place, and the guys recognized us immediately. They took us to the front of the line, skipping everyone else, made us our burgers, and then took a bunch of pictures with us. It was actually pretty awesome to see how excited they were, and they were very nice about it all too. After that snack, we explored the fake markets there. The street with fake markets is nearly endless and had all sorts of items, most of which are similar to what I have seen in Shanghai. I wanted to get a silk robe like some of my friends had gotten from there before, but I couldn’t get them down to the same price. I did, however, purchase a fake North Face backpack with Mike – we have a lot of matching travel gear now (2 backpacks, money belt, and microfiber tower). Anyway, we kept going down the street and then we ran into our Irish friends from the hostel that told us about the Great Mosque. We had heard about it, but couldn’t find it. Turns out, it is quite hidden and just off the side of the street with the fake markets, so we decided to check it out for a little bit. It was beyond disappointing and the furthest thing from ‘great.’ We didn’t spend much time there, and then made our way back to the hostel. On the way, Mike and I got some street tofu, which we had tried some of the other night. It was so delicious, I cannot find the words to describe it. They are so good at seasoning everything here. Once back at the hostel, Katie and I decided to go for one last run in Xi’an. This time, we successfully ran straight to the city wall, and then along a really nice path along the outside of the wall. It was a beautiful day, and we took it pretty easy because we were a little sore from the mountain. We also tried running along the moat, which required hopping a fence. We successfully hopped the fence (I tore my shorts in the process), and then a security guard yelled at us to come back. So that was fun. It was a really good run though, and a nice way to close out our time in Xi’an. When we got back, I hung out in the hostel for a bit, then headed out to get some food. I got my last pineapple from there, which I don’t think I have mentioned yet – the pineapple was delicious, and only 3 RMB for half a pineapple. I also picked up some of the spinach noodles we had the first day, and got them to go. Our hostel called two taxis for us, and we were on the way to the airport. Our plane got delayed an hour, and we were already scheduled to get in late, so that wasn’t fun. I passed out on the flight back, and we landed a little after midnight. We got Uber to take us back to campus, and our driver got lost on the way – a great finish to the night. Eventually, he got us back to our dorm, and we were able to call it a night. The trip to Xi’an was absolutely unreal, and possibly my favorite trip in China.

Enjoy the pictures below! Unfortunately, I had trouble uploading 15 pictures to this gallery that I really wanted… But there are still some good ones here!

Nanjing, etc.

Uncategorized

The bulk of this post is about everyday life, and might not be worth your time. But the end (Friday – Sunday) covers my trip to Nanjing, which was awesome, so you should read that. And check out the pictures I got!

Monday, we had to wake up early and take care of some logistics with the new dorm – we finally actually got the key to our room, and got electricity in our room. I also procrastinated my homework all week, and had to do it the morning it was due. I didn’t have a problem finishing though. I endured another long Monday class, but this time, it was only four hours – she let us out an hour early if we agreed to go to a welding seminar Thursday morning. After class, Ben, Mike, and I went to the big grocery store right outside of campus and loaded up on snacks and alcohol. We also got an impromptu dinner on the way back that consisted of dumplings and street burritos. I spent the rest of the night still catching up on Game of Thrones, and finally got caught up to watch the newly released episode with Brendan, Katie, and Mike. I still had a lot of thermodynamics homework to do after that ended at 10, but I managed to finish it without a problem.

Tuesday, I woke up early for a nice run. I thought it was going to be a nice day out, but it was chilly, and I didn’t dress accordingly. So, I turned it into a temp run, which actually felt great – I miss going fast sometimes. I got a healthy burrito breakfast after that, and enjoyed 3 hours of thermodynamics. After class, I got lunch and joined in on the usual bible study. The group is getting rather large now, and that is actually making it less enjoyable for me, so I am not sure if I will continue going. It is still really interesting stuff though, and William does a great job leading it. That evening, Brendan helped us get the internet set up in our room – we were finally moved in and fully functional. With the new resource of internet, I spent basically the whole night planning out our May Day trip. We are going to Guilin and then Zhangjiajie (where the Avatar Mountains are). I was having trouble with the airlines website though, so I was unable to book tickets.

Wednesday, I woke up early, although I had the day off from class. I was feeling really stressed, as I was trying to plan this May Day trip for seven people, and I was simultaneously trying to find a place to live in Houston this summer (finding housing in Houston while in China is not easy). I spent the majority of my morning dealing with those two things. I also booked a quick trip for upcoming weekend – just Ben and I were going to Nanjing, and this great trip is talked about shortly in this post. I was still unsuccessful booking anything for May Day, and it was almost time for football practice. Mike and I biked to football practice, but just dropped our pads off because we didn’t want to get hurt before all our traveling coming up. Instead, we borrowed some tennis rackets and played tennis for a while. It was a lot of fun, and great form of exercise. Mike won 6-4, 6-4. I finally started my homework for my online engineering class after that, and got a little bit done. Ben and I got dinner that night, and afterward got ice cream. I feel like this is an appropriate time as any to admit I have an ice cream addiction. I have been trying to hide it and haven’t mentioned in my blog until now. I get ice cream at least once, if not twice, a day from family mart. It is strawberry ice cream in a large cone for 6 RMB and absolutely delicious. I do not plan on stopping any time soon. I spent most of the rest of the night struggling to try to order everyone’s tickets for May Day and failing over and over again – the good news is, I have all of their birthdays memorized and some of their passport numbers! But it was seriously miserable, and we decided we would just go to the office of the airline the next day and order them in person. There was also a bit of a split in the group; some people wanted to just go to Zhangjiajie. This would all be settled the next day when ordering tickets at China Spring Airlines office by People’s Square.

Thursday, I talked with my parents for the first time in a while (I have been very busy), and that was really nice. Miss you mom and dad! Then I had to go to the welding seminar I agreed to attend to shorten Monday class. The seminar actually seemed pretty interesting, but I didn’t get to pay much attention – I spent the whole time trying to figure out a place to live in Houston this summer. I continued this effort after the seminar for a while. Finally, I gave up searching, and splurged for a really nice place in downtown Houston. After that was settled, I got lunch with Ben and Mike on the open roof of canteen 2, which was fantastic on such a beautiful day. Some homework was attempted in the afternoon, but around 3, Kevin, Ben, and I headed into the city to book flights with China Spring Airlines. We took the subway to People’s Square, and the office was right there. It was actually a really pleasant experience – they spoke pretty good English, and they took care of all the details after I headed everyone’s passports and told them which flights we wanted. The coolest part was paying for it. They didn’t accept foreign credit cards, so I had to pay in cash (luckily I kind of saw this coming, so I brought some extra cash). I handed the lady 5730 RMB, which was a massive stack of bills. After Kevin and Ben got their tickets too, we decided it was worth it to just hang around downtown for a little bit. We walked down Nanjing road for a bit, until we saw a nice alley to go down and get dinner – obviously we got street noodles in the alley for dinner, and they were delicious. Afterward, we all grabbed a beer to finish off the walk down Nanjing road until we got to the Bund. The Bund was incredibly gorgeous this night. It was a clear night, all the lights were going, and it was breathtaking, as usual. It never really gets old, although I have been there quite a few times now. We spent some good, quality time just hanging out there. This was also the first time that the park in front of the Bund was open (it was closed for winter), so we got to see some cool gardens and statues, etc. After a good while hanging out there, we decided to head back to the subway to get back to campus. On the walk back, we witnessed a fight on the street. 2 guys were trying to go at it, while one of their wives was trying to break it up. There was quite a large crowd. Only a few punches were thrown, one guy fell, and then they parted ways. Kevin got a video of it, and I started yelling, “Put that on world star!” The Chinese people thought that was hilarious – not sure if they actually know what world star is… We made it back at a reasonable enough time to go get some end-of-the-night ice cream, my favorite kind of ice cream!

Friday started off with the normal early morning thermo of minimal paying attention. After class, it was time to pack up and get ready to leave for Nanjing. Just Ben and I were going on a weekend trip to the former capital of China. We got packed up in a couple hours, left our dorm around 11, got some fried rice to go at the dining court, and we were off to the subway station – this is the beginning of an excellent journey to Nanjing.

Nanjing

We took the grueling 1.5 hour subway trek to the train station, over four different lines, and realized we were cutting it close. The line to pick up our tickets was long. We waited for a long time, and then with ten minutes before our train departure, I started cutting and telling people (in Chinese) that we had a 2 pm train. We got the tickets, and were running to the train. And then we realized he only gave us the tickets from Nanjing back to Shanghai. It is a long story, but it turns out this is partially my fault. We obviously missed our 2 pm train, and then had to get back in line to buy new tickets. We bought tickets on the next train, at 4 pm, which only had first class available – so we paid 230 RMB extra because we missed our first train. But we figured it was worth it for a nice trip, and that is only $37. We got on that train, and had a pleasant journey. Once in Nanjing, we attempted to get a taxi, but the taxi line was too long. So we decided to take a risk and take the subway. We had a rough idea of where we were going, and we got to the correct stop. However, after the stop, we had quite a tough time navigating. We took over 3 hours to find the hostel, but this is partially because we did some sightseeing on the way. We found Confucius Temple, which was really pretty lit up at night. The area around the temple was a huge tourist area too, there were lit up temples, street vendors, shopping, etc. It reminded me a lot of Yu Gardens in Shanghai. We spent a good amount of time there, just soaking in the culture. There was a river running through the whole area too, that was lit up really nicely, with boats running through it. Eventually, we continued our search for the hostel, which we were told was very near Confucius Temple. We started asking people, and they continually said different directions. Finally, around 9, we found it on our own using GPS and internet from our WiFi hotspot (cannot believe we didn’t think of that before). The hostel was tiny, and our room was the size of our dorm room, but with 4 bunk beds crammed into it (8 beds). We were really hungry, so headed right out to get food. On our way out, we asked a nice Chinese guy if he knew any good places around. He decided we was hungry too, and wanted to go with us to eat. We went to his favorite restaurant, where he ordered the food for us (foreigners don’t know how to order good food). We talked to him quite a bit, and it turns out he is the former part-owner of the hostel we were staying at. He was just spending the night though, traveling back to his hometown. He was a really nice guy, and spoke great English. We talked about a lot of American things – he is big into American movies (Fast and Furious series), Americana video games (Grand Theft Auto), and American shows (Game of Thrones and Arrested Development). He also revealed halfway through dinner that he is a part time chef, and taught us about the yin and yang foods. This explained why dinner was so amazing – he ordered a very balanced, delicious Chinese meal. We got a fish dish that was in a spicy broth, a chicken dish that was in a spicy dry rub, and then two vegetable dishes, the best of which was the eggplant. This eggplant was incredible, absolutely incredible. The whole meal was 45 RMB, and it was one of the best meals I have had in China. After dinner, we got back to the room just in time to meet our roommates. 3 guys from Australia, a couple from Czech Republic, and a girl from New Zealand (all students studying in Hangzhou). They were all really nice, and invited us out to the bars in the 1912 district with them. We ended up meeting more of their friends once we got there, who were studying in Nanjing. We all went to a bar called Ellen’s, which was remarkably similar to Perry’s. At our table, we had seven countries represented: America, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Mexico, and China. It was really cool just hanging out and making new friends with people from around the world. We were out pretty late with them, and ended up going to another bar afterward. Eventually, just Ben and I decided to get a taxi around 2 am since we would have an early morning the next day. We got a taxi back, and the 15 minute taxi ride only cost 10 RMB – I am still not sure how that is possible. But that was the end of our night.

Saturday, we woke up early at 8 am to get a head start on the day. We wanted to go and see all of Purple Mountain, and there is a lot to do there. The hostel told us how to get there by bus or subway, and we opted for the bus, since it was closer and busses allow you to see the city while you travel. However, we accidentally took the bus headed in the wrong direction. It took us a while torealize this, but once we did, we decided to make the best of it and explore whatever we came across. We got off the bus where a lot of other people did, assuming there was something worthwhile. There was something worthwhile – the Memorial of Revolutionary Martyrs. It was a huge memorial park with a monument, all commemorating the fallen martyrs during the communist revolution. We spent several hours there, just exploring the beautiful grounds. We did not see a single foreigner, as this was definitely a Chinese attraction. I had never heard of it before, and neither had any of our friends. It was a really cool experience seeing what the Chinese tourists go to see. The weather was absolutely gorgeous that day too. We eventually hopped back on the same bus (this time in the correct direction), and ended up at Purple Mountain. We first explored the Linggu scenic area, which consisted of some pretty cool tombs, gardens, and a pagoda. In front of the pagoda, we took about 50+ pictures with Chinese people. They just started lining up after we agreed to take one. We spent a few hours casually exploring this beautiful area. After we had our fill, we headed to the main attraction at Purple Mountain – Sun Yatsen’s Mausoleum. This is a huge memorial with a lot of stairs leading to the top. It was really crowded, but still enjoyable. We climbed the stairs, checked out the Mausoleum, and then headed down. The next (and last) stop on the mountain was the Ming Tombs. This was by far the biggest area on the mountain and we spent almost the rest of the day here. We were started to get tired, so we took it pretty easy casually exploring the vast gardens and tombs in this area. We ran into some of our friends from the hostel and talked to them for a bit, and then there was one really cool temple that we checked out. The most memorable part of this was a 10 year old girl with her mom – the girl was wearing a shirt that just said, “I am okay.” It is hilarious because Chinese people love wearing shirts that say things in English (usually not making sense), her mom obviously got that shirt for her – it was perpetuating the stereotype that Chinese parents are hard on their children to be perfect. Anyway, we spent quite a bit of time there, and then went to take the subway back when it started to get dark out. In the subway station, we ran into two of our friends from Australia, again. We took the subway back to the hostel together, but then split ways. Ben and I went to dinner at a stick food restaurant – where they cook all kinds of meats and veggies on sticks and grill and season them to perfection. We got a lot of food to fill up after an exhausting day. A quick nap was in order after dinner, and then it was time to go out on the town again – at midnight, Ben would be turning 21! None of our hostel friends were up for going out, so it was just the two of us. We went to get a taxi to Ellen’s with the address we found online, but taxis were hard to come by. Eventually, a really nice Chinese guy started talking to us and decided to help us find a taxi and split it with us. He was going in a similar direction, so he used his phone to order the taxi for us, told the driver where to go, and got in with us. He even paid for the whole taxi ride for us – he was an incredibly nice guy. When we got to the bar, we quickly realized it wasn’t the same one as the other night. There was one foreigner in the entire place, and that was the DJ. We each got a bucket of whiskey and coke, drank it quickly while standing (it was crowded), and got out of there. We found another taxi and somehow navigated our way to the correct Ellen’s, where it was only foreigners. We hung out there for quite a while, drinking and playing a fun Chinese dice game – “Liars Dice.” Ben even got to show his ID at midnight for a free beer. Around 1 am, we decided it was time to head out, so we left and got a tuk tuk back in the rain. It was the weirdest tuk tuk ride I have ever taken, because it was basically a tricycle, and he put a tarp over us, since it was raining. We made it back safely though, and went to sleep, getting ready for another big day Sunday. Fun fact, we took 40,000+ steps on Saturday.

Sunday, we woke up early again to get a head start on the day. We first went to Presidential Palace via subway, and it was a very worthwhile trip. The place was full of beautiful gardens, as well as historical buildings. We didn’t spend a ton of time there though, because the main thing we wanted to do that day was visit the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. For those of you that don’t know, during World War II, Japan invaded China and conquered many cities, including Shanghai. When they made their way to Nanjing via Shanghai, things got worse. In Nanjing, the Japanese army raped and pillaged the entire city, torturing and killing innocent civilians. The total death toll was 300,000 Chinese. It was awful, and the Japanese have still yet to apologize. Anyway, the memorial was absolutely breathtaking. Ben and I spoke very little during our 2 hours there, as the mood was very depressing. The memorial was massive and mostly outside. We walked through the whole thing, and it gradually became even serious. They had open graves where they found the skeletons of victims. I had never seen human remains like that, and it was feeling unlike anything I had ever experienced. I don’t want to go into great detail about the methods the Japanese used, but you could see the results of the torture methods in the skeletal remains. This whole memorial was extremely well thought out and designed, and extremely moving. I can’t think of a better way to remember the innocent lives lost than that beautiful place they built to commemorate them. Afterward, we made one final stop at the Nanjing city wall. It was quite a massive wall, and we walked on it a little bit, but it had started to rain. We cut our visit a little short, and tried the gray ice cream at McDonalds – turns out it is sesame flavored, and not that bad. We hopped on the subway to the train station, where we successfully caught our train back to Shanghai. We got in around 8, took a taxi back to campus, by which time we were exhausted. Some of our friends had just got back from various other trips, so we all congregated in the common area and shared some stories for an hour or so. Then it was time for bed, and it felt great to get to bed at a reasonable time without a super busy day ahead of us.

Enjoy some of the pictures below, and let me know if you have any questions or anything! As you can tell, I love talking about my adventures!

Football, Tricycles, and… School

Uncategorized

This past week was pretty uneventful. I know this is still a late post, but I might catch up some day! Again, feel free to skip my senseless rambling to the pictures.

Monday, I woke up early to finish my homework for my class at noon (my homework habits are getting worse as time goes on here). Class was another five hours of planning trips and doing homework for other classes. After class, I had the pleasure of filing my taxes, which was a great relief. I spent the remainder of the evening relaxing, still catching up on my rest. Ben also got back from his trip to Xi’an, so we had a lot of catching up to do, as it had been almost a week since we had seen each other. This was a great excuse to not do homework.

Tuesday, I woke up and went for a nice morning run. I went to class as usual, and then attended bible study after class. I still really enjoy attending this, just to hear what other people have to say and get a better understanding of the bible. After bible study, I caught up with Mike and some other friends, since we had all been traveling a lot and it had been awhile since we had talked. It was really nice just to chill out and talk. We also spent some time planning our last few trips. We are going to Xi’an one week and then Guilin and Zhangjiajie the next week. After a lot of discussion, we decided it was time to catch up on our online engineering class – so I went back to my dorm and watched some exciting lecture videos. In the evening, Ben, Mike, Brendan, and I had an impromptu wine night in which we each took down a bottle of wine and just hung out.

Wednesday, having no class was fantastic. We woke up without electricity in our room though, so we went and put some more money on our account so we could return to our normal daily routine. In the afternoon, I went to SJTU football practice. They have an American Football team, but they are not very good, so they try to get a lot of Americans out to help the team. My friend, Josh, is actually the head coach of the team. Mike, Brendan, Brett, Caelen, Jeff, Ben, and I attended practice, although they didn’t have pads for all of us. I was there early, so I got full pads. Practice was crazy – this was my first time playing tackle football. My hockey hitting experience came in handy though, I dished out some big hits and took some huge hits. I can’t remember ever being as sore as I was the next couple days after this. All the white football players all got dinner together after this, and then the night was spent doing homework for my online engineering course. During a much needed two hour break, I successfully booked everything for our trip to Xi’an.

Thursday, I woke up early to finish homework for my online engineering class. After that, a few of us headed into the city as we had plans for the evening, and went to spend the day there. Mike, Josh, Abby, and I took the subway to Xintiandi, an upscale, western shopping and food district. We were looking for a place to hang out and maybe get a drink, but all the places were too pricey. Eventually, we stumbled into Shanghai Fashion Week, where a fashion show was going on. Without hesitation, we bought tickets from a scalper to enter the show, but it turned out that we were 5 minutes late to the show, and they wouldn’t let us in late (the tickets were 10 RMB, so it wasn’t too disappointing). Seeing the reception area was fun in itself though. After that spontaneous adventure, we walked around more and ended up at Windows Scoreboard, where we got some beer and snacks and played a few games of pool. It was a nice day out, and the bar is on the 11th floor, so we got a good view of the city while doing so. For dinner, we went to a nearby restaurant that is known as Mao’s favorite. I got an interesting spicy chicken dish, and a delicious sweet corn dish. It was a little expensive, but delicious, and I can see why it was Chairman Mao’s favorite restaurant. Over dinner, we were discussing how close we are getting to the end of the trip here, and how we need to start taking more pictures of the little things. As such, I got some good pictures of the restaurant, crazy traffic, etc. After dinner, we got in a taxi to go meet Ben at Perry’s, one of our favorite bars. However, the taxi driver took us to the wrong Perry’s. We still stayed and got a drink before heading to the other Perry’s and meeting Ben. Shortly after our arrival, Katie arrived with her sister – it was her sister’s birthday the day before, so that is why we were going out on a Thursday night. We all got a few drinks, played card games, and had a good time. To give Maggie the true Shanghai experience, we took her to Zapata’s afterward. Unfortunately, there was almost no one there. We still got on the bar and danced, but it wasn’t much fun because the place was fairly empty. To close the night out, we had to show her a club. We went to Myst, where almost none of us had been yet. The club was one of the nicer we had been to so far, and we had a great time there for about half an hour. We needed to leave to get back into our dorms before curfew, which the club and our promoter was not happy about – apparently they have a policy that if you get into the club free with a promoter, you have to stay until midnight. They threatened to blacklist us if we do it again. We got a taxi back to Minhang, and it was the first time we successfully got five people in one taxi (the drivers usually don’t allow it), so that was a feat in itself. We got dropped off at everyone else’s dorm, but I had to bike back to my dorm a mile awhile – drinking and biking isn’t a good idea, as it was a pretty rough ride back. I did manage to get street food and get back into my dorm by 11:59 though.

Friday morning was a little rough for me with an 8 am class. After class, we realized what a beautiful day it was. I just hung out outside for a few hours – there was a huge market set up outside one of the canteens, with fresh vegetables, breads, etc. I didn’t get anything because none of it looked appetizing to me, but a lot of people bought fresh vegetables for really, really cheap. Ben, Mike, and I got lunch on the third floor of canteen 2, which happens to have a little spot open on the roof to eat at – this was a great discovery. After lunch, I spent most of the rest of the day relaxing and taking a break from my busy life. I laid in my bed for hours, only breaking for dinner. Finally, I had to get up and go to the football walk through at 8, to prepare for the big game the next day. I found out I would be starting slot receiver on the team, and was really excited about that. After the walk through, I got a few street burritos, and then called it a night.

Saturday was the big day. Our game was at 2, but we met at in the morning for another walk through, got lunch, and then met well before the start of the game. It was really cool just hanging out with all the guys on the team, it felt great just being part of a team again. We suited up with full pads and jerseys, and it felt amazing. I was running some routes before the game, making some great catches. But when it came to game time, I didn’t play much – they only played Chinese students on offense, as they are trying to develop their own players. I got in for 4 snaps on offense, all run plays, and one kick return. The kick return was extremely disappointing, because I was supposed to be a blocker, but they onside kicked it – I had a chance to catch the ball and return it, but it went right though my hands. They did allow foreigners to play on defense though, and my friend Mike took full advantage of that opportunity. He was playing safety, and single-handedly destroyed the other team. He had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. One fumble recovery, returned for a touchdown, and an onside kick recovery for a touchdown (this was no traditional onside kick – it was kicked the full length of the field, and laid in the end zone, and the other team chose not to touch it, so he grabbed it and it was a touchdown). Brett also had an interception that he returned for a touchdown. These four touchdowns were the only scores of the game, and we won 26-0, making two of the four extra points. After the game, we got a team dinner at a nearby restaurant that had delicious food and the best milk tea I have ever had. We order many pitchers of the milk tea, and kept taking it down – I will make it back there for this reason only. The food was good too, but a little expensive for my taste. Some of the team joined us at Highland bar after dinner, where we just hung out and played pool. Mike and I dominated the pool table for a while, until a few semi-pros came in and knocked us off the table. After getting back that night, I was informed that the new season of Game of Thrones would be starting in two days. I wanted to catch up to watch the new season with Brendan when it was released. I immediately tracked down season 4 to catch up, and watched several episodes before calling it a night.

Sunday, there was a sports and activities competition put on by the Mechanical Engineering student association, so I felt obliged to participate in a few events. The first event of the day was a tricycle race, which involved a team of two people, one biking the tricycle down the path, while the other hangs out in the back of the tricycle (these aren’t your typical tricycles – see pictures), and then switching roles on the way back up the path. It was absolutely hilarious watching some of the Chinese students trying to use these things. Several of them crashed into bikes, wall, trees, and almost cars. It was 100% worth going, just to watch them. Ben and I formed a team, and ended up getting third place. Brendan teamed up with a Chinese student and they got second place. The second event I participated in was the volleyball jumping game. This required holding a volleyball between your legs, below the knees, and jumping down the track. It was more difficult than I expected, but I still managed to get first place. Both of these events came with certificates, which are actually pretty sweet. In between events, and after, I spent a lot of time packing up all my stuff – we were finally moving to the other dorm with the rest of our friends! It was a miserable move, several trips of suitcases and bags and crap, but it was worth it. Thank you to Brendan for helping so much with the move and logistics. We got dinner with our new building-mates, and then tried to unpack a little bit, although we didn’t have any electricity yet. I also managed to squeeze in some Game of Thrones before heading to sleep.