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.

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