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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Great Wall

Great Wall pictures are up!


Finally here!

from Monday (8/29)
We made it! We have arrived in Nanjing! I am so glad to finally be in my new home. We are all settled into our apartments and are getting acquainted with our surroundings. The university has taken great care of us. They sent another teacher to help take us to our apartments and to show us around campus. Her name is Jesse and she has been amazing. She knows so much about Nanjing and Jinling and has helped us immensely. She took us to get our cellphones set up and to get internet. Also, Danielle's friend from last time, Sherry, has helped us our tremendously. She picked us up at the train station and got us set up in a hotel for our first night. Then she showed us around the downtown campus, Gulou.

Our apartments are so nice! We are both surprised and impressed. I will post pictures of everything very soon! We live in the foreign teacher's building on the second floor. We are next door to each other, of course! Our apartments have an inclosed balcony where we can hang our clothing to dry and can just sit and enjoy campus. We have a small kitchenette in each of our apartments. It has a fridge, microwave, hot plate, and water boiler. We don't intend to do much cooking, so it should be fine for us. The main area of our apartments is very big. I have a wardrobe, china cabinet, bed, tv, and 2 desks. We do have cable on our tv, but obviously most of the channels are in Chinese. So, we intend to mostly use the tv for movies. We each have our own bathroom. They are basic, the two highlights are the shower doors (very rare) and a light that heats up the room in the winter.

We live on the Pukou campus of Nanjing University. It is across the river from the main campus, but it is newer and very nice. Our campus is huge and well equipped. We have 3 or 4 convenience stores on campus plus a school supply store and a grocery store. We also have a few ATMs and a little area with a phone store, electronics, books, hair salon, fruit shop, stationary, etc. Not much is open yet, but once it is we won't have to leave campus too often. Right outside the main gates of campus is a little area with even more stores and tons of little restaurants. We ate at one of the restaurants with Jesse on the first day. There are also street vendors where we got pancakes for dinner Monday night. I definitely think we will be ok. There is also a larger grocery store there and a Super 8 Hotel.

The Pukou area is about an hour away from the downtown campus by bus. It is more recently developed but is still rather industrialized. We will probably spend our nights out in Gulou. Today we are going over to Gulou to look around and try to find internet. The internet for our apartments won't be installed until Wednesday morning. So we don't have access yet. However, there are a lot of places in downtown Gulou that have free wi-fi so we will be ok until then.

Classes start on September 5, so we have a few days to just get acclimated and figure everything out. I'm so glad to finally relax, we have been going nonstop since we got here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Almost finished with TEFL!

We finally have our train tickets to Nanjing! We leave tomorrow, Sunday, at 6pm and arrive in Nanjing at 10:30pm. It only takes 4.5 hours to go over 1000 km!! I can't wait to see how it is being on the train. More important, I am so ready to be in Nanjing. Our hostel has been excellent, but I want to unpack and just settle in!

Today, Danielle and I both presented our lessons for our TEFL class. Mine was on sports idioms in business and hers was on holidays. They both went well, and most importantly, both are over! All we have left is our test tomorrow morning. Luckily, I think it will be ok. Can't wait for it to be finished!!

Jiangsu, the province where Nanjing is located, is similar in size to Ethiopia! Can't believe how big my new home will be!

Time to repack everything so we can leave tomorrow! I promise I will take pictures of our hostel so you can see where I lived for 10 days! Hopefully internet in Nanjing will be better and I will be able to upload some of the pictures I have taken.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TEFL Course

I started classes yesterday. This is not my actual English class at the university. Right now it is my training class required by China. We started our TEFL course yesterday. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. A few weeks before we left for China, we were told that we needed to take a course about teaching. I thought it was going to be a big waste of time. I'm happy to say, I was quite wrong! Our instructor, Chuck, is a former university professor from the States. He has been in China for 14 years. He used to work in Nanjing & knows people over there! There are 6 other students from the class who are going to various universities in Nanjing. I'm so glad that there are some other people there that we already know.

We have been learning a lot about all the differences between teaching western students vs. Chinese students. Chuck has given us several great ideas for lessons and activities with our classes. He has made me excited to start teaching. I definitely feel more prepared than I did even two days ago.

We learned IPA today. IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet. The whole time, DK and I kept thinking about Big Danielle. All the years of her silly words are starting to pay off! ;)

This class is 8 hours a day, so I am surprisingly exhausted. I'm glad we did our touring before we started class. I wouldn't have any energy left otherwise. As it is, I'm pretty worn out. I walked 4 miles today just going to and from the subway station! But, the exercise is good for us and it beats a 30 RMB taxi ride.

Bed time now! Yes, we are calling it a night early.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Palace

Today we went to the Summer Palace. It is so huge! It makes the Forbidden City look small. If you don't know what the Summer Palace is, check out Wikipedia. It is really impressive and just gorgeous! We took tons of pictures and climbed up a lot of hills & steps. Not a good day for a skirt & flip flops... There are signs all over the rocks that say "no climbing" but people were doing it anyway. That definitely wouldn't fly in America. We walked to the very top of Longevity Hill and got some beautiful views of the lake and Beijing. After that, we took a boat ride across the lake to the other side and then ate lunch. We had dumplings at a little restaurant inside the palace. They were ok, but not as good as baozi or my pancake this morning.

Summer Palace is huge, so we were exhausted from all of the walking. We decided it was time to the hostel. We tried to take a taxi but they were being jerks & didn't want to turn on the meter. So, we had to walk to the subway station. By the time we got onto the first of our 3 subways our feet were killing!! We finally got back to the hostel and rested for a bit. Then we had to walk to the bank. Finally, we are back. We plan to stay here most of the night, except we will need dinner.

So, one weird/exciting thing in China is that we are basically celebrities. All of the Chinese people stare at us constantly. They like to take our picture and usually try and act sly about it. The brave ones will come up and ask us to pose with them. This happened like 6 times today at the Summer Palace. It is pretty entertaining. I assume that after a while it will get annoying, but it still is funny now.

Our class starts tomorrow. We have to wake up super early because we need to be at the class by 8 and it is an hour away by bus. That means it will probably be a early night for us. We sound super lame, but I swear we aren't. We are just doing so much during the day that we don't have much energy to do stuff at night.

Nap time! Have a great Monday, America!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 3

So, today we went to the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven. I really enjoyed the Forbidden City. It is absolutely massive. Like beyond all belief, huge. I can not imagine what it would be like for that to be your house. Thank God they had people to carry them around!!

I took a ton of pictures there. When we first got there, some Chinese lady asked to take her picture with me. Being an American is a novelty to them. We went to the Hall of Clocks & Watches and I took like 60 pictures there alone! They had the most amazing pieces. There were clocks that were at least 12 feet tall! I will put up the pictures soon. My internet is a little wonky, so I can't load pictures very well. Sorry!

We made friends in the Forbidden City & some lady tried to grab Danielle. It was interesting just from the people aspect. One of my favorite things to do here is look at all of the crazy clothing. I am blown away by what they think is appropriate to wear. I think that I am going to work on posting pictures of the crazy clothes. That way everyone else can see what craziness I am experiencing.

I got fainty at the Forbidden City because I slept through dinner the night before. We had baozi for breakfast, but they were small. However, they were delicious!! So, after we finished in the museum we came back to the hostel. We grabbed some lunch (dumplings) and lounged for a bit. We did a lot of walking at the Forbidden CIty.

Once we were rested, we headed out to the Temple of Heaven. We somehow completely missed the East Entrance directly to our right and ended up walking all the way around to the North Entrance. So, that kind of made it start out poorly. After that, we bought tickets & I bought water all by myself!! I was really proud of that. We walked through and it was pretty big. It wasn't as awesome as some people said. But it was still cool. Not as good as the Great Wall or Forbidden City.

After the Temple of Heaven we went to the Pearl Market. It's basically a huge flea market. There are 5 stories with all sorts of stuff. The first floor is watches, gadgets, and scarves. You can buy an "iPod" there! The second floor was purses and clothing. Danielle & I both bought purses. Hers is a Hermes knock off & mine is a Jimmy Choo knock off. We got pretty good deals on them, we are proud!

We came home and chilled and then went to dinner. The hostel had free barbecue tonight. It was pretty good, just a lot of food on a stick. But it filled me up, surprisingly.

I think tomorrow we are going the Summer Palace. So that will be exciting. Danielle said it is beautiful!

Friday, August 19, 2011


So, the Great Wall was really impressive. We went to the wall on a tour with our hostel. We had a Chinese tour guide who spoke really good english. She took us to the Mutianyu section of the wall. It is the newest section, from the Ming dynasty. We took a chair lift (so scary, held on super tight, but I made it!) up the mountain to get to the wall. We walked from Tower 6 to Tower 11. It was so cool seeing the towers where the guards used to live. We took tons of pictures of the wall and all of the stairs. Sadly, none of the pictures do it justice. All of the stairs were at different heights and were just a little bit slippery. After we were done on the wall we took a toboggan down the mountain! It was pretty cool, definitely better than walking.

After the wall, we went and had lunch with our tour group. Our restaurant was named "Mr. Yang's" and was pretty good. We had 11 dishes and ate family style.

Then we got back on the bus and had our 100 minute trip back to Beijing. Our driver was crazy! He kept weaving in and out of traffic, passing on the shoulder and in oncoming traffic, using his horn constantly, and getting so close to other cars. But, we survived. It was definitely a fun trip. We met other people on the tour: 2 girls from England, boy from Holland, boy from England, girl from Canada, girl from Japan, mother & daughter from Madrid.

After the Great Wall we came back to the hostel. We intended to nap for an hour and then go to the night market. That didn't work out as planned, we just woke up at 4 am. Guess we were more tired than expected.

That's all for now. I'm going to try and go back to sleep for a little bit. Then we are off to the Forbidden City & Temple of Heaven. We are going to eat baotzi (steamed buns with meat inside) for breakfast & I am super excited!!

Here is our picture site for the year: I haven't added Great Wall pictures yet, my computer is about to die. But I will soon.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


So, just a really quick post, but we made it!! We got in yesterday around 6 China time. We went to sleep pretty early. Now we are up to get ready and see the Great Wall. I will write a real post later today when we get back. I just wanted to let everyone know that we survived the flight and are all checked in to the hostel!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Yeah, so, freak out time!

5 days, that's all I have left in the states. I guess this marks the start of my inevitable freak out. I'm so excited, but I'm still very scared. I am leaving everything that I know. I'm leaving every person I have ever known (except Danielle) and going to a foreign country where they do not speak English and I don't speak their language. I won't be home for a year. My connection to the internet is still only hopeful. I should have access, but I don't know to what or when. Bottom line: I'm scared!

I am more than excited about this experience. It will be so worth it, I'm sure. But, I know that it is going to be completely outside my comfort zone and totally different than anything I have ever done before. I am so grateful that I have the freedom to take advantage of this opportunity. I know it will completely change my life.

Despite all the good stuff, it still terrifies me. I am half-way done packing. I have one suitcase full and the other is partly finished. I just need to cram it with shoes and random clothing and goodies.

Tonight was my last "happy hour" with the bf & his work friends. Yeah, I have only been with him for 6 months, but it is still so incredibly hard. It's sad to say goodbye to his friends. We left dinner & there were definitely some tears. I can't imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to him on Wednesday. I need to make the most of the few days that we have left. They will help me get through the tough days in China.

Right now, I just need to vent about my fears and get it all out. The next few days will be a roller coaster. I know that in the morning I will be extremely excited again. And at my family goodbye party, it will again be tough. I am going to miss the birth of my 15th cousin. I will miss cousins starting school, grandparents settling into their new home, aunts & uncles visiting, and so much more. But, the best part about family is that I know they will be there when I get back. I can't wait to come home and tell them all about my adventure.

This post might seem like a downer, but it is how I am feeling. Mom told me I need to post more, so I am. At the least, now you know how I am feeling! I just can't wait to write about all of the exciting and new things in China!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

15 days!

Holy cow, two weeks from tomorrow, I will be on the plane to China. We got our Visas back in the mail today. I guess this means we are official!!

I can't believe how real this is getting! I am working on organizing everything so packing is easier next week. Luckily, I think I have bought almost everything that I will need. Now I am just trying to make lists of what specific items I want to bring.

Soon, I will send out an email link for anyone who is interested in following my journey in China. You can have updates sent to your email inbox by entering your email address in the box on the right. As I upload photos to my Picasa album, they will be shown on the bar up top.

That's all for now. I'm trying to spend as much of my remaining time in states with my family & friends. Tonight it's family time with Mom & Dad.