Friday, July 29, 2011

Longest Post of All Time

An Experience with Busking:
One day, as I got off bus 307 at 清华园 station, I saw a guy singing next to a bus stop and he not only was getting paid, but had a circle of fans around him. He was my inspiration. As a result, I decided to take my talents with my side kick, Charles Stone (AKA Chris Bosh) to Wudaokou. Our first attempt was at the Hualian Plaza where we were promptly kicked out by security guards. But before we were kicked out, there was this one young couple that had previously studied in Australia for a few years who came and talked to us. They offered to help us with Chinese and said that most students in China would be more than willing to help Yale students learn Chinese for free. I felt really bad about their generosity because I realized that they did not understand our sarcasm... The most disappointing thing in life is unappreciated sarcasm...

wudaokou subway station
translation in broken english:
(because this was written in broken, terribly written chinese)
we go yale university
no money study china language
please help us
(if you take a pic, you have to pay. thank you for your cooperation)
However, this experience was a success, it was a lot of fun. In the end, we sang at a bus stop for a whole hour, alternating between Chinese and English songs. The most popular song was Sunday Morning. We got a total of 58RMB however the cost was 140 because I bought one of those really annoying tour guide speaker things. Still need to go back out onto the streets and sing...makin' a living is hard.

Pronunciation Problems:

  1. One day we were eating "Chinese Table" and there's been a new policy going around where students have to start ordering dishes that they want to eat. A certain student, when it came to be his turn, wanted spicy chicken. In Chinese, it is called "辣鸡" pronounced "la (4), ji (1)". However, with a slight pronunciation hiccup, he asked the waiter for "垃圾" pronounced "la (1), ji (1)", which means trash.
  2. At the train station in Hangzhou coming home from Huangshan, everyone was extremely tired and hungry. Before getting on the train, people tried to get some food so they don't have to eat on the train. Word got around that there was a place that sold tea eggs, which are essentially hard boiled eggs that are boiled in liquid containing certain spices including tea leaves. In Chinese, this is pronounced, "茶蛋", which is "cha (2), dan (4)". A hungry HBA (Harvard) student screamed out loud repetitively because he couldn't find the tea egg stall, "我要买炸弹" when he should have said "我要买茶蛋". He pronounced "zha (4), dan (4)" which means bomb. So literally, he ran around telling everyone that he wanted to buy a bomb. Luckily, most people knew this poor Harvard student was just having some trouble with his pronunciation, and was not a terrorist
Interesting Pictures From Huizhou, Anhui:
on a tourist street in huizhou, maybe he's carrying potatoes?

at a factory that makes tea cups from bamboo
no safety regulations for workers, no one bothers to wear goggles, shoes...etc

"love our country's flag, sing the national anthem, speak mandarin"
this was at a school in 汤口 where most people spoke their local dialect

the tiny little village/town that we stayed at during our trip to huangshan

my new friends were teaching me 唐诗


tea factory in huizhou
Tourist Locations at/around Huangshan:
Huangshan was easily the most impressive natural scenery location I've ever seen in my life. It was breathtaking, AWEsome and inspiring. It really made me feel minuscule and powerless. The mountains look exactly like the ones in Avatar and when there were clouds it was as if I was floating in the clouds. This region is China is particularly fertile and has a lot of rainfall. There's lots of soil trapped within the cracks of the mountain/stones and therefore there are trees growing out of nearly every crack. The trees have incredibly strong roots and many trees grow horizontally. In addition, we visited an old city in Huizhou called 呈坎. The city was surprisingly very scientific. There was a very sophisticated water system which ran through the city and the city ordinance said that the water was potable anytime after 8am til sunset and that after sunset or before 8am, people could use the water to wash their clothes, vegetables...etc. The waterway ran next to each street and the building had very tall walls in order to keep thieves outside of their buildings. A very fascinating architectural design was the ceilings of many buildings. According to the tour guide, there once was a competition all over China to create the best architectural design to prevent fire damage. Apparently, this place hailed the winner of this competition. The houses were all made out of wood, and what he did was he separated the ceiling into multiple layers and in between each layer of wood, he would fill it with sand. That way, when one layer caught on fire, of if the building caught on fire and the ceiling was burnt, an entire ceiling full of sand would drop and extinguish the fire. Very clever. Many people use Huizhou as a location for film: Avatar, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and other less known movies...etc


coolest invention ever. it's a 'self-heating' meal and there's a
bag of chemicals that you put in the container and then fill it with water
that was provided in the pouch and THEN, it gets REALLY hot and the food
heats within 15 minutes. yum

a lot of the bridges have locks on them with people's names, pretty sure
they have this in france and all over europe as well


it would've been a long fall

many of the old cities that are now tourist sites are still inhabited

i love the natural coloring of the wall

the man is traditionally supposed to sit on the left, there's a very specific
cultural norm about the setup of this living room. the vase behind the male
has a pun that means peace and the artwork behind the woman also means
peace in a different way. and when combined, it means peace! and there's
a clock in the middle so it means there's ALWAYS peace.

we went to a mountain next to huangshan that has a specific breed of
"huangshan monkeys"

national geographic submission?

film spot of crouching tiger hidden dragon


no one knows...

cable slide!

Exchange Program with Southeast University: WuJianXiong College
So luckily, a friend of mine at Yale that's from China helped me get connected with this college and in addition to IvyCouncil, an organization that I'm a part of at Yale, we formed a conference at this university. It was a real treat to go and to take the high speed train which tops at 300km/hour. The trip from Beijing to Nanjing was a mere 4 hours and it was an incredibly comfortable ride with these cool seats that can actually be rotated 360 degrees! There were also plugs in front of the seats so you could easily pass time by going on the computer. A scary thing that happened though was the day before we went back to Beijing, there was the huge train accident in ZheJiang, which is right next to Nanjing. Two high speed trains (DongChe) collided and lots of people were killed. I'm pretty sure the government is still looking into how that's even possible and what the problem was. From what I'm hearing from friends the Chinese government is probably hiding facts about the real incident, in terms of death toll and reasoning. 

For the conference, our delegation of five people spoke about America's Education System and America's Viewpoint on China. I spoke about applying for colleges in America, and other spoke about studying abroad, financial aid...etc. They also spoke about interesting topics however their's wasn't as specific to a single topic. For example, they spoke about a specific major that's offered at their college. This one presentation talked about how there was a groundbreaking experiment which allowed two frogs, one in Nanjing and one in Beijing, to interact with one another via sensory technology. It was pretty eye opening that they also were conducting research on creating an invisible cloak that would currently is undetectable by various sonar methods. Exchanging with the students was an incredible experience and they were very open about their thoughts and ideas about US China relations, and various sensitive topics. I spoke to them about their view on the Chinese government's role and what they thought the most crucial societal problems in China were. It helped open my eyes to different problems that I had never known before, and it also helped me not just see the problem, but understand its existence. This was something that I could have only gotten from going to this program, where they created a very open environment for exchanging ideas and eliminated many barriers that would have arisen if I had tried to talk about the same problems with a random Chinese college student or civilian.

Lastly, we were able to visit a lot of cool Nanjing tourist attractions. It was an overall great experience, it was nice to get out of Beijing for a weekend and also the scenery was nice. All expenses were paid for which made it that much better, and we stayed at a hotel that was directly across from where apparently Kobe Bryant and Jay Chou stayed about a week before we came in order to do Sprite commercials.

talking about application timeline made my head hurt

asia's largest train station: nanjing

tourist attraction in front of confucius temple

a huge drum in the confucius temple

our delegation and their students in front of their newly constructed library

so, prior to coming to southeast university, i had no idea who wujianxiong was. but she was
probably one of the most, if not the most influential female figures of the 20th century. this is just her
list of degrees. look her up on wikipedia. had a hell of a life.


tomb of the founding father of "modern china". there's a statue on the top of him sitting in a chair that
reminds me of the lincoln memorial

Terrible Experience with Chinese Immigration Dept
I have time to write this blog right now only because I'm not in Hong Kong. I should have landed about an hour ago actually... So originally, I had planned to go to Hong Kong for a weekend. The tickets were ordered and everything and it would have been an amazing weekend getaway from Beijing, however the entire plan kind of just collapsed as I went to the Chinese Immigration Dept. First off, I want to clarify that I'm still technically a Chinese citizen. I moved to the states when I was 5 and never applied for citizenship; I actually just finished the process before coming to China and will take the oath when I get back. Oh, how the Chinese passport has been a 负担 in my life... It's a burden. Honestly, I can't think of a single time when having a Chinese passport has given me any 优势. Forgive me for using Chinese, but I can't think of the english term off the top of my head. They say a man is born free but everywhere he is in chains, and I feel like a lot of the chains that are on me are from my citizenship. I'm not going to go into details but for this instance, I'll let you decide how absurd it is. I (first off) had to get a visa for HK because I had a Chinese passport. US Citizens: You do NOT need a visa to enter this "special rights district" that BELONGS to the P.R.C. Okay, so I'm still okay with that. I went, filled out all my forms, took my picture, waited in line, and then was deeply disappointed. I was told that I needed to go to my hometown, in Lanzhou, China to get my visa. Seriously? Am I not in the capitol of China? Nope, that doesn't matter. PRC policy says that going to HK would require me to go IN PERSON to my birthplace to go to HK. Now, because it's a 3 hour flight, I decided not to go. But it just amazes me how going to HK is so difficult, especially as a Chinese citizen, and even when I told them I don't even live in that city, and haven't lived there for the past 14 years of my life, they didn't care. No HK for me...

HBA Student Life Updates
Last week, we participated in a singing competition and Charles and I won first place along with another student. We sang 安静 and 童话, and messed up a little but still luckily got first. As a reward, we got a box of music videos of Communist "Red" Songs. Interesting. This past week was another incredibly busy week, we had 7 hours of testing today alone. 4 hours of our weekly friday test along with 3 hours of HSK, which is the Chinese Proficiency test (equivalent of the TOFEL or GRE I think). I took the high level and it was definitely beyond my ability. Many people just completely gave up. I don't think I had a chance, every section was incredibly hard and even the audio portion, which should have been my strength, was very difficult. Two weekends ago we got to go to a Beijing Acrobat showcase which was stunning. Some of the performances seriously looked like they were humanly impossible.

look closely at how they are supporting themselves..

not an optical illusion

the most under-appreciated girl: the one who has to act as the tank on the bottom

Anyways, that's all I can think of for now.
Goodbye blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Huizhou Research

Okay, I owe 2 weeks worth of posts and I will make up for it within this week. I was gone for over a week in Anhui Province for a social research project that HBA hosts. We had internet on and off, depending on where we were and it's been a crazy time transitioning back to Beijing. So for this first post of week 4.5, I have attached a copy of my final research report in Chinese. It has to do with Huizhou, Anhui's status after the Economic Reforms and Openness (改革开放). If you don't read Chinese, you can always use Google Translate, I'm not sure how accurate it is can just copy and paste it into the box provided and it will give you an instant translation (ps if the translation mentions soup, it is supposed to refer to the name of a small town)

For my next post, I will be updating:

  • Pictures, lots and lots of pictures...after I go through them with Aperture. They will include: Huangshan, Beijing Acrobats, monkeys, factories, 
  • An experience with busking
  • A terrible experience with Chinese Immigration Dept
  • A few funny mistakes that foreigners make when they fail to pronunce a word correctly
  • An exchange program at Southeast Nanjing University with Yale Ivy Council
  • HBA student life updates

But for now:


我在徽州一个礼拜了一个很丰富的从鬼斧神工的黄山到古老的用了周从不同的角度了解徽州安徽的酒店就在黄山的山脚下个地区叫个镇非常小它的经济发展和存在性都依于黄山第一、二试图找一些好吃的饭馆儿可是一次又一次都失望第一天找了差不多一个小算找着一个价格合适的饭馆知到那一刹那做的决定中国最吃的那个饭馆儿是一个生非常差吃的米里面甚至有 顿饭不只很也很大概有我在北京吃价格的三倍第一天都感到非常荒从北京到徽州的区我来比从美国到中国的得就像我突然被放在一个鬼城一除了一些本地人都是空空的酒店和饭馆






汤口:I don't know why this picture makes the town look so big but just imagine the buildings you see mirrored
onto the other side of the stream and that's the entire town. in the background is Huangshan. there's only one bridge,
the bridge in the further background is actually a highway that passes by the town.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Settling In

so this week went by pretty quickly, a lot of it was more or less just classwork and some mini adventures. in terms of academia, i think i definitely have learned more characters and grammar, but i dont think my speaking ability has improved much. prepping for class only takes about 2-3 hours a day now, which is really not that much compared to how difficult the program was at the beginning.

last friday i went to houhai, unfortunately i didn't have my camera with me. houhai is this area that is northwest of tiananmen and it is a large lake that is surrounded by restaurants and bars. it was a really beautiful night and the night life there was pretty active, next time i'll definitely go there again to spend some time just enjoying the atmosphere. one that that many people found annoying was the fact that there were live performances by random singers at nearly ever restaurant/bar and it sometimes didn't sound too pleasant... oh! and that reminds me...we coincidentally bumped into a group of yalies from the duke program when we went into a restaurant there which was really surprising but also a lot of fun

on july 4th, HBA bought us pizza for our "chinese table" for us to celebrate u.s.'s independence. although i'm not a fan of pizza, this time it came at a good moment, i'm starting to get a little sick of chinese food everyday. the good thing about the u.s. is that although a lot of the foreign food it offers isn't authentic, it has a lot of variety. in beijing, unless you make an effort to do so, you won't find many foreign food with the exception of fast food... i don't really miss american food or any other food specifically, but i do want to eat some other food occasionally.

i'm very experienced now with the public transportation system. bus 307 goes straight to 北大 and one stop later goes to 中关村. it costs only 0.40 RMB if you have a transportation card, so it's extremely cheap. public transportation gets heavily subsidized by the government because beijing's traffic is soooo bad. apparently there is on average, 6000 new privately owned vehicles that are bought in beijing each day. one of the biggest reasons for why beijing's pollution is so bad is because it's becoming industrialized so quickly, and despite the fact that the government has moved all the factories out of beijing's city limits, the amount of dirt created by building new buildings and paving new roads each day is enough to really mess up the environment. in addition, all the cars and what not only worsen the situation. my allergies are really bad in beijing, i spend most of the first 大班课 sneezing everyday. luckily, some of my friends from the states brought me some claritin when they visited beijing so i'll be okay for a little while.

for our weekend interview project, we had to interview someone about the cultural revolution. personally, i don't think this was the best question for us to ask because as expected, we really didn't get much response. perhaps that was the point of the whole interview... but anyways, we interviewed some 70 year old men sitting outside of the hutong area we were at. their responses were pretty hysterical, i don't know if it's because they were brainwashed by the government or because they simply didn't trust us because they knew we were americans and were weary about actually talking about this kind of stuff. politics is an extremely sensitive topic in china and of course, any negative information about the government can lead to very serious consequences.

some of the things they said (which i think were lies):
-they were about 40-50 years old during the cultural revolution and were workers, and so all they did was work. they were not affected by the revolution AT ALL, and that it was a matter that was dealt with by government officials and intellectuals at the time.
-i heard from my grandparents before that during the 1940s before china's "解放" china was so poor in some places such that people actually ate one another and were forced to sell their children to each other to eat... although this is an extremely example, the two people we interviewed acted as if china was not lacking anything at the time. they said my grandparents were just too old and telling me lies, and that during the time, the chinese were very wealthy and there was never a problem of starvation.
-they also said that before the communists came into power, a piece of bread (馒头) was almost 400 RMB but after the communists came into power, one piece was only one CENT, and a piece with oil and sesame seeds was only two CENTS. a 油条 (the title of my blog), which is a traditional breakfast item, cost less than ten CENTS. (this one might not be a lie. i verified)
-lastly, they said they saw chairman mao on the bus all the time and that america sucks and is not safe because the presidents always get shot and have to hide in bulletproof cars... (the chairman mao part was definitely a lie)

something very interesting coming up in my next blog post...if it happens this week.

south gate of imperial palace from 景山公园

just outside of the 西四 subway station

old vs new? 胡同 @ 鼓楼街

found at a hutong that has been commercialized



public bathroom @ hutong

warning sign(s) outside a public bathroom

tao and charles
playing with aperture too much..