Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A post from Danielle

7:00 AM Wednesday June 1st, Xiamen
7:00 PM Tuesday May 31st, Buffalo

It is going on our 5th day in Xiamen today, and I think we’ve all begun to get into routines being here.  Most of us naturally are waking up at the crack of dawn without the aid of alarm clocks, and that’s making us all be completely exhausted by the time the evening rolls around 9:00.  Typically when I wake up it’s the best time to check email and maybe Skype the fam for a bit because most of the campus is still asleep and off the internet.  The group will meet for breakfast around 8:00 AM where we’re never surprised to see yet another salty addition to the buffet menu.  Later morning gives me the opportunity for some personal time.  I’ll possibly walk around the campus today, or find a shady spot to read some more of the course material.  By noon we’ll meet as a group again and make our way towards the cafeteria for lunch, which is always an experience.  I think we’ve all gotten into a bit of a routine for lunch as well, but we’ll see whether Dr. Forest’s absence at lunch this afternoon will throw a wrench into that routine.  Class will begin around 3:00, and discussion will typically last until dinnertime.  Dinner can be an adventure, as well, if we don’t have a native guest to accompany the group and order for us.  Halfway through dinner I’m beginning to yawn uncontrollably, so I’m grateful to pass out under the comforters of my bed the moment we return to our rooms.
Other things are becoming routine, as well.  It’s expected now that at several instances throughout the day we will be bombarded by the Xiamen “paparazzi” while walking somewhere on campus or in the city.  The worst was at the mass on the island Sunday.  Tour groups were going by us on the opposite side of a fence, and we all literally felt like zoo animals on display.  The first few days I couldn’t stop laughing, but time will tell if that attitude lasts.  The food is becoming routine now, too.  It’s certainly different from home, and there are always some surprises at meals, but I think we’ve all done a fairly good job of adjusting our diets.  I even have a few favorites at dinner.

But that’s all for now, it’s time to conquer the breakfast buffet once again.

TTFN, Danielle

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Day post by Eric

First full day in China through the eyes of Eric T.
I thought the jet lag would be brutal after that flight (from our first boarding to our last time stepping off a plane, 22 hours and 19 minutes passed), but it seems the opposite held true for me.  I crashed at around 3am our first night, but I woke up at 7:15am feeling great.  I’m still running strong and not groggy in the least and it’s nearly dinner time.  Milano and I have been getting to know each other a fair bit and we get along pretty well.  He’s a really chill guy, but super outgoing.  We’ve been hanging out while we walk around campus and his friendly demeanor has landed us more than a couple conversations with the locals. 
There have been at least two instances (at least that I’ve been present for) when Chinese people have asked to take pictures with us.  Milano tells me that three other people snapped pictures with him while he hung out in the shade near the beach.  Apparently we’re celebrities here because of our foreign status.  A friend of mine from Taiwan told me that big eyes are considered attractive, so I imagine that may have something to do with our sudden popularity.  I certainly don’t object to all the pictures, but this is only day one so I suppose we’ll have to see how long that mindset lasts.
Our day began at 8:15 with a complimentary breakfast at the campus hotel.  The occasional odd label kept everything lighthearted despite my complete ignorance of the foods offered.  I ate my fill of wheat gluten, tofu, rice porridge, and bread (along with a few things that I cannot identify), but I avoided the “steamed the maize.”  Breakfast was actually quite good, albeit different from my traditional morning meal of Pop-Tarts and pantry exploration.  Along with breakfast, we got our first lesson in Mandarin (courtesy of Milano’s curiosity) when we learned how to say “hello” (nihao), “excuse me” (“doibuchi” or “cheng when” depending on the usage), and “thank you” (shay shay).  “Shay shay” has since been named the phrase of the day.
After breakfast, we went for a walk around campus.  We stopped at the bank to exchange our money.  I traded in a hundred US dollars and got back around 640 RMB.  Suddenly I feel rich.  While the rest of the group was exchanging money, Milano and I went for a walk outside.  We met two girls who told us their names were Demi and Yuriko.  Milano had asked if they spoke English and if they could help us. 
We stopped off at a convenience store and I put my new buying power to work.  I bought a 1.5 liter water bottle for 2 RMB (the equivalent of around 30 cents).  With these prices, I expect I won’t need the other money that I brought with me.  Milano had a cockroach try to get into his shoe at that convenience store.  He’s still a bit traumatized. 
After the convenience store, we wandered for a bit longer, then headed to lunch in one of the campus cafeterias.  That was quite the confusing experience.  The cafeteria walls were lined with counters and menus, but the only things we could read from the menus were the prices.  To buy our food, we had to point to what we wanted, then walk to the cashier (on the other side of the cafeteria) to pay for our food, then come back and get what we ordered.  With the process being as intense as it was, I suppose we lucked out when Dr. Forest took care of most of it for us while we waited for our food to be ready.  Conner attempted to do his own ordering, but from what I understand, his venture was unsuccessful.  Milano and I ended up with a plate of noodles and a bowl of soup that Dr. Forest promised was the Chinese equivalent of a drink with our meals.  Considering the blazing temperatures in the cafeteria, hot noodles and hot soup might not have been the brightest decision of the day, but hey. 
Milano and I spent our lunch with two students (one gave his English name “Ricky” while the other told us his name a good eight times and I can still only give a mildly certain claim that his name was “Sinche”).  So far, we’ve determined based on our experiences that girls seem far more open to talking to us than guys do.
After lunch, we hit the beach to hang out for a while.  Nobody was swimming (that includes everyone outside of our group), but a lot of people were wading in the few inches of water near the shoreline.  We didn’t stay there long because everybody started to wear out, so we headed back in the direction of the room.  We stopped on the bridge between the beach and the campus for a bit to watch the traffic go by.  Drivers in China seem very prone to switching lanes (or not staying in lanes at all).  Horns were a common sound.
After a bit of time napping, we wandered the streets looking for a restaurant where we could get dinner for nine people.  We found one and Dr. Forest did the ordering for the table.  The Chinese take on a hamburger is reminiscent of a burrito as it turns out.  We spent most of our time at dinner just waiting to leave – nobody wanted to be awake by that point.  It wasn’t yet time for us to go back to the hotel though, so we wandered through the street shops to see what kinds of items we could buy.  I made my first attempt at haggling, but it did not go as well as hoped and I walked away empty-handed. 
Now we’re all preparing for bed/already sleeping and it’s 9:11pm.  We’re meeting for breakfast tomorrow at 7:45am and potentially going to a 9:30am mass.  Good night, world.  I’m dead tired.

Friday, May 27, 2011

We've arrived...

We arrived safely and without much incident about midnight in Xiamen.
The flight from Newark to Hong Kong was a doozy - 16+ hours. We are
now in our rooms at the university hotel. The next few days will be
devoted to getting adjusted to the time change and learning about the
campus and the immediate area.