Andrew Retallick ’​​​​​14

For my spring break I decided to spend my time a little outside of China, but at the same time still in China, but I needed to fill out exit/ entry cards for my flights, but I didn’t need a new visa… “how is this possible?” you may ask. By going to China’s two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau!

First off, as Cantonese (not Mandarin) is the more popular dialect in Hong Kong, my new Chinese words for this post are 你好 (néih hóu), which means “Hello” in Cantonese. They are the same characters as 你好 (Nǐ hǎo), which mean “Hello” in Mandarin, but pronounced slightly differently. I found it very funny while I was walking around in Hong Kong speaking Mandarin, some of the Chinese people told me I spoke better Mandarin than they did. Thanks CET!

Anyway back to my travels… I spent a total of 5 days traveling between these two Special Administrative Regions (SARs). 4 days in Hong Kong, 1 day in Macau. I first flew directly into Hong Kong, and checked into my hotel on the southern part of Kowloon. Just on my drive to the hotel I noticed a few cool things,

Drivers on the right side. Didn't know I'd be seeing these here.

Of course I had to go here... multiple times...

After checking in, I walked around the area in Kowloon a little. I first had to see the Hong Kong avenue of stars, where numerous Hong Kong film celebrities have a star with their name and (in some cases) hand prints.

Bruce Lee's star!

Jackie Chan's star!

At first I thought this star said "Karl Marx", that'd be weird for him to have a star here

Later that night, I walked along Hong Kong harbor and found out every night at 8:00, the buildings all along Hong Kong harbor light up in a choreographed laser-light show. This was a cool unexpected surprise!

How cool is that? Just stumbling upon a laser light show that is played on the buildings of one of the most amazing skylines in the world.

The next few days I spent going to some really cool places in Hong Kong.

The cable car ride up to Victoria's Peak. This really old cable car system (I think it was built in the late 1800s) brings passengers along a very steep track. Not gonna lie, it's kinda scary at times

The Crusader (he hasn't been seen in the blog in a while) at the top of Victoria's Peak, overlooking Hong Kong Harbor.

The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. I couldn't go in (members only), but if anyone remembers the scene in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond film "Die Another Day" where James Bond swims into Hong Kong Harbor, this is where he first arrived.

I took a hike along the south side of Hong Kong island on a trail called the Dragon Back. Somewhere along here you (supposedly) can see where they shot the scenes for Han's Island in the Bruce Lee film "Enter the Dragon." I couldn't find it :(

Ordinarily, I wouldn't talk about going to a bar, but this isn't just any bar. This is the Ozone Sky bar in the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong. It's the highest sky bar in the world and has great views of Hong Kong harbor (and is probably the coolest looking bar I've ever seen)

One spot that I needed to see to satisfy my inner child was Hong Kong Disneyland! I happened to go on a weekday when it was raining. Many people, if they did come to the park that day, just waited inside buildings or under tents hoping that the storm would pass quickly. I, knowing disney so well, knew ahead of time there were multiple rides that were completely indoors, so I just walked through the rain and as a result of my bravery, I got on Space Mountain 4 times consecutively with no line… AWESOME!

Yup the Disney Castle's behind me!

Had to get a Mickey waffle. It did not disappoint

China section of the classic "It's a small world" ride. Maybe I'm a little old to be going on this ride... Nah

While I loved the time that I spent at Disney, I arrived at 12 pm and by 3 pm I had gone on nearly every ride and seen everything that I wanted to. It was just so small in the eyes of someone that’s only been to Disney World before. Wow this post got long quickly, next post… Macau!

I’m in Shanghai! New Campus, new dorm, new roommate… Oh yeah my new roommate’s name is Yang Xin

My new roommate, Yang Xin

. I took him out to an Italian restaurant in Shanghai for dinner. Turned out it was his first experience eating Italian food and one of his first times going to a restaurant that uses forks and knives (as opposed to chopsticks). I ordered him some linguini with Bolognese sauce and had to teach him how to twirl pasta to eat it properly. (BTW for anyone going to Shanghai, the restaurant we went to, Da Marco, has great pasta).

Anyway, the new word for this post is not a word, but a custom that Yang Xin is still trying to teach me. Apparently, after you become good friends with someone in China, you should not say “I’m sorry” (对不起-dui bu qi) or “Thank you” (谢谢-xie xie) to your friends. It’s been tough getting used to this.

Well I’ve been here in Shanghai for a while now. Although I miss my friends and teachers in Beijing, I do like living in Shanghai. Shanghai’s weather is much warmer than Beijing and I don’t have to worry about the levels of air pollution in Shanghai. CET’s Shanghai program is a very small one. There are only 15 American students in the program (all from different areas of the country).

Our dorm room at Dong Hua. It's not as big as Beijing's, but it has it's own fridge, TV and Bathroom

Our Dorms at Dong Hua University

Our Classroom building at Dong Hua University

Academically speaking, Shanghai is very different from the Beijing. First off, we do not have a language pledge in Shanghai. Around our teachers, we must always speak Chinese, but outside of that we can speak English as much as we want. It sounds good but at the same time I really miss the language pledge. It really forced us to rely only on Chinese and by doing so, I feel that my Chinese progressed a lot faster in that program. I’ve been trying to keep my own language pledge as much as I can.

Secondly, our classes are very different. Every Monday morning we have a class from 8:30 am-10:15 am. In this class, we discuss our internships (I’ll get to those later), good ideas for keeping busy and being productive in the workplace. It’s also a good way of knowing what everyone is doing with his or her work. The director of the Shanghai CET program teaches it in English.

Every day of the week from 10:15-12:15 we have our language classes. I took another language placement exam and got into the 400 LEVEL!! (The highest-level available here) I am so happy that my language ability has gone up so much (thanks to CET Beijing for that), but the class itself is HARD. Every day of the week (Mon-Fri) we are responsible for learning roughly 60 new characters (not to mention phrases and grammar patterns) and knowing them well enough to have a character-writing quiz. So when we have our bi-weekly tests (every other week), we are being tested on more than 600 new characters… it’s tough.

We still have our one-on-one classes in Shanghai (one student, one professor), which helps me better understand a lot of the grammar and characters. Because in the 400 level we learn at such a fast pace, this class is really helpful for me. This class meets twice a week for 25 minutes.

Dong Hua's two cafeterias. I'll get another picture of the insides of these buildings later

After our language classes, we usually have about 1/2 an hour to grab some quick lunch at the cafeteria at Dong Hua (which is awesome). 2 cafeterias each with 4 floors of great food. It’s not free, but I can usually get a good meal of stir fry, rice and a couple of baozi’s (think of them as big dumplings) for the equivalent of about 1 US Dollar. Yeah I like that a lot!

After our lunch, my co-intern Nick and I, take the subway from the nearest subway stop to our internship site. In CET Shanghai, we are each given an internship in addition to our studies. We have to apply for them, but CET puts us in touch with various organizations. This aspect of the program is one of the reasons that I have wanted to come to China and do this program since I was applying to colleges. Getting work experience in China is something that I believe is really unique and will really help me with my career after college. I was expecting to get a simple job in a small company in Shanghai, but instead I got an internship with the US Consulate General in Shanghai!! I am beyond excited that I got this internship. I have to pinch myself every once and a while to remind me that I am actually working there. I work at my internship 4 days a week, from early afternoon to evening. It’s a lot of work too, but it’s such an amazing experience.

Finally, in this program we also have an elective course. I selected to do a class on the Economics of China. It’s a good class and I really like our teacher, Joe. It’s more like an economic history and marketing class, which is great for someone like me who really didn’t like the very technical side of economics. We have this course every Friday of every other week from 8 am- 10 am and then 2pm-6pm.

Outside of academics, Shanghai is also a very different city from Beijing. A lot of the places around Shanghai are traditional Chinese-looking areas, but so much of it is modern and definitely built to appeal to Westerners. For example:

Xin Tian Di. A fun, kinda artsy area of Shanghai with a lot of good restaurants

Picture taken from The Bund in Shanghai. The area across the river is called Pudong.

Jing An Temple. A cool Buddhist temple that I pass by almost every day.

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In an area near the bund, Shanghai hosted an international literary festival with dozens of authors, journalists, specialists, etc. from around the world giving presentations. This one was given by Mathew Polly, who wrote American Shaolin and was the first American to be admitted to the Shaolin Temple in China.

Because of my internship times, by the time I get back to campus, the cafeteria has already closed, so finding dinner here has been a challenge. I’m gradually finding more places to go, but I’m disappointed that I haven’t found a great pizza place like Kro’s nest in Beijing. :( … I still have hope!

Yup! Janterm has officially ended and I have successfully moved my three enormous bags of luggage into my new room at Donghua University in SHANGHAI!! Because I’m currently living in Shanghai, the new word for this post is a phrase in Shanghai’s dialect. The phrase is 侬好 (pronounced “Nong Huo”). This is the typical way of greeting someone speaking Shanghainese.

Well Janterm ended the same way as last semester. We had our long final exam and then CET held a banquet at a local hotel. We ate, casually spoke Chinese with our teachers and roommates, received diplomas for completing our Janterm Semester and had a countdown to the end of the program after which we could finally speak English.

Finally our language pledge is finished! But I gotta tell you, it was harder than you would expect to go back to speaking English

After our countdown, we all took pictures with our professors…

This is Gao Lao Shi. She was my 1-on-2 professor for both Fall and Janterm


Chen Lao Shi. One of my professors from Fall semester. We're about to dance to Gangnam Style


Jiang Lao Shi. The head professor of my 260 class for Fall semester.


Bai Lao Shi. My 1-on-1 professor from Fall semester and Janterm. I don't know what she's pointing at


Peng Lao Shi. My advisor for my independent research and my head professor for Janterm.


Qi lao shi. One of my Janterm professors


Yang Hui. One of the two office workers at CET.

I could keep going on and on with pictures of all of my professors, advisors, the office workers at CET, etc., but I think that might get a little excessive. All I can say is that I loved each and every one of my professors and all the people involved in the CET program.

All the Holy Cross students from Janterm with our diplomas

After the end of Janterm, a few of my friends and I tried to go to Harbin (a city in Northern China famous for having a winter festival in which they build enormous sculptures of ice) for Winter break. Unfortunately, because it’s so close to Chinese New Year, the only train tickets we could find were 18 hour train tickets, and we wouldn’t even have seats… yeah 18 hours standing… needless to say we decided to stay in Beijing.

We spent most of our winter break trying to see as many famous sites around Beijing as we could. Because everyone in Beijing was gearing up for, and eventually celebrating Chinese New Year, there was a ton of exciting things going on around the city. However, at the same time, once the celebrations started, almost every shop, store, restaurant shut down in the afternoon. It was a little inconvenient when I went to get dinner, but being in Beijing for Chinese New Year was truly an unforgettable experience.

Tiananmen Square. I've been here before. The building in front is The Monument to the People's Heroes. Behind is Mao Ze Dong's mausoleum (which I had never seen before). It was so cool to see Chairman Mao, but security there is tight. They would not let me enter the building with a camera

The Beijing Zoo. I've only ever seen Pandas here, I had no idea there was more


They have white tigers here! Before anyone gets worried, the tigers and big cats are only kept in these smaller pens because it gets really cold in Beijing in the Winter. They do have bigger enclosures for the Summer.


Hippo with a baby hippo!

Of course during Chinese New Year you would expect fireworks, but I would never imagine it would be like this. They are huge, loud and every block of every street (almost) sets up their own. I swear sometimes it's so loud that I feel like I am in a war zone.

One of the big festivals at Di Tan for Chinese New Year. These festivals are a ton of fun, but by mid day, the parks are packed with crowds

The Temple of Heaven! The day I came here, there was a huge reenactment of how, in ancient times, Chinese Emperors would come to the temple to pray.

Last day in Beijing. I spent it thoroughly exploring Olympic Park (i.e. The Bird's Nest, The Cube)

Well I didn’t quite get to Shanghai yet… that’ll be covered in the next post.

I thought this title fitting as it’s a combination of most of the major holidays that have passed since my last post. I apologize. As always, the new Chinese word for this post is “闹太套” (Nao Tai Tao). This phrase is meant to sound like the English Phrase “Not at all.” It’s not the most commonly used phrase, but I found the story behind this phrase worthy of putting in the blog. It comes from the singer Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) in his song “One World One Dream.” The chorus of the song has a number of oddly placed English phrases, and Huang’s vocalization of the phrase “not at all” sounds like he is saying “闹太套” (nao tai tao), three characters meaning “noisy,” “extremely” and “cover”, which have no real meaning when placed together. The phrase subsequently came to mean an embarrassing moment, particularly when one attempts to do something flashy or impressive and instead ends up looking foolish.

*For some reason I’m having trouble uploading photos right now. Once I get that sorted out I’ll make sure to post photos from all the exciting events that I have been participating in.*

Well it has been busy here in China! I completed my Independent Cultural Immersion Project (ICIP) for Holy Cross. I found my topic of “Music in the Lives of Chinese People” to be really interesting and it was a great way for me to practice speaking with Chinese people. My advisor even gave me a thumbs up at the end of my presentation. I felt pretty good! The Fall semester ended with our huge final exam and a banquet that CET held at a local hotel. It was really a bittersweet moment.

On one hand, I was finally allowed to speak English (even though part of me still wanted to only speak Chinese). However, on the other hand, this meant I had to say goodbye to all of my friends and teachers from this semester.

After the semester ended I traveled to Shanghai where I was really excited to meet up with my family! I had decided last year that I would probably not go home during winter break. So my family decided to come out to China to visit me. Despite the fact that they all had some bad jetlag, it was definitely a little more Christmas-y having my family here. I had a blast taking them around Shanghai and Beijing, showing them all the famous places and showing them how much my Chinese has improved since coming to CET.

*photos to come

As soon as they left, I moved back into BIE for our January Term. I was SOO excited to start January Term with a bunch of new Holy Cross students. I have had a blast going with them to some of my favorite spots in Beijing including the Forbidden city, Tiananmen Square, Kro’s nest pizza, etc. I hope they have just as good of an experience in Beijing as I had.

We started January Term the same way as last semester, with our language placement exam. Despite having taken one before, it was still a bit stressful. After completing the 260 class last semester, I was expecting to place into the 300 level class. But instead I placed into the 400 level! I was surprised and really proud of myself.

We started classes with another language pledge. So once again we are only allowed to speak Chinese. The new students are still having a tough time adjusting to it. However, I really believe that my language level would not be where it is right now if it were not for this language pledge. Next semester in Shanghai will be fun, interesting, and (I’m sure) challenging, but honestly I think I will miss having the language pledge to give me that extra push to only rely on Chinese.

Anyway, classes this semester have been more challenging than I thought. Understandably, because the teachers have to cram an entire semester into one month, the class moves at a fast pace. We’re learning more and very challenging words and grammar; we have 3, 1 on 1 and 1 on 2 classes every week and we also have a new review class in which we do a number of different things. For example we have had to speed read in Chinese, we listen to movies and music to practice listening to difficult-to-understand chinese speakers, and interview Chinese people about their daily lives. So overall, this semester has been challenging, but now that I’m getting the hang of it I’m starting to like it more and more.

Oh yes, finally, in addition to our tests, every Friday we also have to prepare a short skit in our class that we perform in front of all the classes. My group and I will be doing a short interview skit that we are loosely basing on the “Silly Job Interview” skit by Monty Python. I’m excited.

People are really starting to get excited about Chinese New Year! I’ll be sure to have some new photos to show you all of what Beijing has to offer around this time!

First off, new character of this post is a Chinese character emoticon called “囧” (jiong). This character, as it looks like a face, is used like smiley faces (for example :)). It is used mostly on the internet and is meant to express awkwardness or embarrassment.

Back to adventures… In the end of November, after our weekly exam, CET threw a Thanksgiving party for us. It was a nice party and it was nice to eat such traditional American food. CET bough all the necessities of Thanksgiving i.e. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables that no one likes, etc. So at the start of the meal I was happy. I must admit, it was a little weird eating all these foods with chopsticks though…

My third plate of Thanksgiving Dinner. I tried to get a picture of the giant turkeys that CET bought, but there was always too big of a crowd around them.

I became very unhappy when I realized CET had also bought pies… and there was none left :(

The pies are gone... sadness

Since around mid- November, I’ve been noticing a number of buildings have started decorating for Christmas. It’s not nearly as elaborate or as traditional as many places in the US, but it’s still cool to see Christmas decorations over here.

Ribbons and ornaments hanging from the ceiling inside Xizhimen Mall (the closest big mall to CET).

On the academic side, CET had us students participate in a really exciting activity. We traveled to a local Chinese middle school and each of us gave a 5-10 minute presentation on an aspect of American culture (done completely in Chinese). I chose to teach the students about American music. I had them listen to an American Rock song (“Dream On” by Aerosmith) and an American Pop song (“Call me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen) to give them an idea of popular music in America.

At the end of the presentation, 3 CET students and myself gave the middle school students a short a cappella performance. I arranged and translated a 4 part a cappella version of the song “Moves like Jagger” by Maroon 5 (sorry I forgot to get a video of it for you guys). It was so much fun to sing a cappella music again and it made me miss my group at Holy Cross (Sons of Pitches) a lot! Afterwards I talked to some of the students about their experiences with music (favorite styles, whether or not they play instruments) and I taught a small group of students how to beat-box.

My small student group!

All the middle school students waving goodbye to us as we head back to CET.

My presentation at the middle school was fun, but the best academic experience up till now was my Independent Cultural Immersion Project (ICIP) presentation, which I gave this past week…

First off (as always), new words of this post are not Chinglish words, but rather words that I am very excited to know how to say in Chinese. The words are “绝地武士” (Jue Di Wu Shi) and “光剑“ (Guang Jian). These (according to Yuan Quan) are how to say Jedi Knight and Light-saber in Chinese. We got on this topic of conversation while we were talking about watching eachothers’ countries’ movies.

Anyway, as I’m sure everyone at Holy Cross can understand, I am in the thick of studying for final exams (Yes they have finals abroad as well… sorry :) ) This week we are just spending our class time reviewing all the new grammar and words since midterms. It’s getting a little overwhelming, but I’ll give you a quick catch up as to what’s been going on since my last post.

To start off, we did end up going to see Beijing Opera! I was so excited about seeing it, but unfortunately I realized it’s just not my cup of tea. I’m really glad I saw it and it was definitely interesting, but between the actors not using microphones (meaning it was hard to hear them over the live orchestra) and the fact that no one, including Chinese people in the audience can understand the lyrics, it wasn’t like seeing an opera or a musical in the USA. In Beijing Opera, the actors speak in Mandarin, but they use very archaic words and phrases that even my teachers and Yuan Quan sometimes cannot understand.

This is one of the performers in Beijing opera all suited up. Just also want to point out that he's wearing 4-5 layers of clothing under that outer coat. It must be SOOOO hot in that costume.

In mid November CET took us on a trip to Nanjing (a large city about an hour West of Shanghai) and Yuan Quan came along. Nanjing definitely seemed like a cool city, but unfortunately the weather for the days that we were there was absolutely miserable and it was hard to find places with good reasonably priced food. So to sum up, it was cold, raining and I was usually starving… yeah I wasn’t a happy camper.

But aside from that, we did get to see a lot in Nanjing.

The Yuejiang Tower. A beautiful building that really shows old Chinese architecture. This picture also shows what the weather was like for the two days we were in Nanjing.

Yuan Quan, Me and Yong Kai (another CET student) pretending to take an imperial exam in an old imperial school in Nanjing. The guy standing up is a bystander that we asked to pretend to be our instructor.

The memorial of the Nanjing Massacre. A very important and saddening site to visit in Nanjing.

This sign reminded me how old Chinese history is. Can anyone think of a figure American History who we could celebrate their 2563th birthday?

Had to bring the Crusader with me!

After coming back to Beijing, I was determined to find a lot of really good food. I explored an area in central eastern Beijing called “San Li Tuan.” San Li Tuan is known for being a very modern and better looking neighborhood in Beijing. It also has a number of great restaurants. I have googled “best place to eat (X food) in Beijing” multiple times and nearly every time, of the results listed, more than half are in, or close to San Li Tuan. Some of the better places I’ve found include…

Kro's Nest Pizza. The best and biggest Pizza in Beijing! This pizza, which covered most of the table I was sitting at, is only their medium pizza.

Blue Frog. This place, in addition to serving massive and delicious burgers, also has a good american style breakfast.

I have also explored another interesting area in Beijing called Yabaolu. This area is known as being a Russian area in Beijing. In case you missed it in one of my earlier posts, I started studying Russian at the start of my Sophomore year at Holy Cross and I ended up loving it. I was excited to walk around this area a little and recognize some of the words. But it was also a nice reminder of how much Russian I’ve forgotten since the end of last year… I hope that next semester (When I’m in Shanghai) I’ll be able to start taking up Russian again.

The inside of one of the shopping centers in Yabaolu. Yup, it looks Russian

First off, the characters in this post’s title, 鬼魂(Gui Hun)’s meaning, is ghost.

The week after our travels in Xian and Chengdu, was the week of Halloween. Yes there is Halloween in China. It’s not nearly as popular as it is in the USA and many Chinese people, including Yuan Quan had never really experienced it before. So in that spirit, I decided to go… not all out, but at least make a good effort to show Yuan Quan what happens in the USA on Halloween.

1) Jack-o-lanterns. I didn’t know if I’d be able to find a pumpkin, but there is a tree on BIE’s campus that grows large gourds. Yuan Quan and I picked one and carved a face in it to make our own Jack-o-lantern. By the way carving a pumpkin is a lot easier than carving a gourd.

Our gourd jack-o-lantern!

2) Costume. I didn’t have enough time to go out and get a real costume, so using our jack-o-lantern, my holy cross snuggie (yes I brought it with me), and two belts I made my own costume.

My costume. Considering I came up with the idea for it the night of Halloween, I'd say it turned out pretty well. I even got candy from some CET people for it.

Here I am!

On the academic side, since coming back to CET we have started using a new textbook, one that was written by the professors of BIE. By starting to use this book, our teachers also told us (the 260 level students), that our knowledge of characters and grammar patterns is now at the 300 level. Classes are still challenging and we still have multiple presentations and essays due every week, but I really believe that learning Chinese has gotten a lot easier for me and the characters and information that I am learning are really useful.

In addition to CET, I also had my interview for Holy Cross Summer Internship Program recently and I was accepted! AWESOME! Hopefully I’ll be able to find a good internship for the summer after I return from China.

Well I think I’ve finally caught you guys up on everything that’s happened in China up till now. This next week we CETers will be traveling to Nanjing (a city just outside of Shanghai) and after returning we will finally see the Beijing Opera!

On our 3rd day in Chengdu, our small group traveled about 2 hours outside of Chengdu to a town called Leshan, which is known for having the largest buddha statue in the world. This buddha is absolutely enormous (I’d compare it to the Statue of Liberty in terms of size) and is carved into the side of a cliff. When I saw this buddha, it was first time, since coming to China, that I lost my breath in astonishment and excitement. For anyone studying abroad or traveling in China, I highly recommend going to see it.

The giant sleeping buddha carved into the side of a mountain near the entrance of the park. This is not the famous giant buddha.

To get to the buddha you have to walk through a small Chinese (for lack of a better word) jungle. In this jungle are a number of monkeys, both wild and tamed.

The Crusader at the Giant Buddha of Leshan

Me and the Giant Buddha of Leshan!!

Near the Giant Buddha there is a real buddhist temple. I got one of the monks to take a picture with me!

The day after our trip to the Giant Buddha was our last day traveling. We went to the Tibetan area of Chengdu (I’d compare it to Little Italy in New York, this was Little Tibet). Unfortunately I forgot to charge my camera the night before so I have no pictures… Sorry.

But anyway, in this area you can see a number of shops with traditional Tibetan clothing and food. We went to one of these restaurants for lunch and I tried yak meat for the first time in my life. It was a lot like beef and it wasn’t too bad.

After lunch, we walked around the area a little more. One guy in our group bought a Jianzi (a chinese hacky sack) and we started playing with it on the side of the street. While we were playing a Tibetan monk was walking down the road, saw us playing and joined in with us. So yeah, we played hacky sack with a Tibetan monk… I was SOOO mad my camera wasn’t working!

Finally at the end of the day some of us left for the train station to take a 28 hour train ride from Chengdu back to Beijing. When I first heard 28 hour train ride, I, along with a few others in my group, decided to look for a plane ticket from Chengdu to Beijing. It was a little bit more in cost, but it was also only 5 hours on a plane as opposed to 28 hours on a train.

After half of our group left for the train station, I hung around in the hostile restaurant and met a few other people staying at the hostile. I met two people from Australia, and two couples from the Netherlands. I talked, had dinner and played cards with these people for what must have been 5 hours. We all told stories about our adventures in China and our home countries. It was such an amazing experience to see how people from these countries were drawn to China the same way that I was. This made me even more excited to return to BIE and continue studying Chinese.

By the next day, we all made it back to Beijing safe and sound. The next day, after our exciting week of traveling, we started up CET classes again.

Our train from Xian to Chengdu lasted about 13 hours. We arrived at our hostile with no problems and again we found a very nice and cheap hostile. This hostile, called the Lazy Bones Hostile, also had a restaurant with western food, a bar, decent rooms and cost us (each) less than 10 U.S. dollars a night to stay there… again SWEET! (Sorry I forgot to take pictures of this hostile)

Immediately after arriving, the first thought on everybody’s mind was… FOOD! Chengdu, being located in Sichuan Province, is known for it’s very spicy food (particularly it’s hot pot dish). For those that don’t know, hot pot is special dish that can be found all over China. When you eat hot pot you are brought a big pot filled with boiling oil (either spicy or not spicy) and you cook raw food (meat, vegetables, seafood, noodles, etc.) in the oil at your table.

Oh side note… for this blog post there is no new Chinglish word, but I do have a new term that is useful when traveling Chengdu. In Chengdu restaurants, if you want to get your waiter’s attention, you say “老板” (lao ban), which means “Boss.” This is different from Beijing restaurants in which you would say “服务员“ (Fu wu yuan), which literally means “service employee.” I do not know why there is this difference, but according to a friend we met in Chengdu, saying “Lao Ban” is the way you get a waiter/ waitress’s attention in Chengdu.

So we tried the famous hot pot dish at a restaurant that had been recommended to us by the hostile staff. It was very good and spicy, but I didn’t realize exactly how much oil is used. Not only do you cook the raw food in the oil, but afterwards you let it cool down in a small bowl filled with cold oil and spices (or at least that’s how we were told to eat it at this restaurant). Again it was good, just A LOT of oil.

Next day we got up very early (around 6:00) to go see the famous Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center. This place is not only a reserve, but also (as you can probably guess by it’s name) a panda breeding center… Yes I saw baby pandas.

This was just one of the exhibits in the reserve. This one had at least 5 pandas living in it. Also, before you get any ideas, this exhibit was huge (lots of open space) and had plenty of food

1 month old baby pandas!! I'm not ashamed to proclaim my appreciation of such extreme cuteness

The reserve also had a number of red pandas

After our trip to the panda reserve, our group went to a park in the center of Chengdu called the “People’s Park.” In this park there were a number of people ballroom dancing (Awesome!) and practicing martial arts. There was also a small lake in the park where you could rent a rowboat. But, my favorite part of this park was a small tea shop near the lake that served good jasmine tea, and also had a number of men walking around that came up to us and asked, (I’m not kidding) “May I clean your ears?” Having never been asked this question before, I was a little taken aback, but eventually since no one else in my group wanted to, I said yes and had my ears professionally cleaned.

My friend Melody getting her ears cleaned after me. You can't see it in this picture, but all these men carried around small sharp metal instruments (kinda like what you'd see in a dentist's office) and used them to clean people's ears. They also offered massages, but the ear cleaning I found particularly interesting.

After getting my ears cleaned, we next came upon a large group of people standing around a stage where a man was dancing and writing characters with a huge brush on the stage simultaneously. The man saw me grabbed my hand, pulled me up on stage and had me dance with him for a while. It was a blast! Afterwards he took the giant brush, wrote the characters “中国“ (Zhong Guo- meaning China) on the stage and then gave me the brush to see if I could also write characters. To many Chinese people’s astonishment, I wrote the characters “美国“ (mei guo- meaning America) on the stage. They were all so excited that I (an American) could write Chinese characters.

Overall, there was a lot of excitement and fun in Chengdu in just these first two days. (Now do you get why I divided up break into multiple blog posts?) The third day in Chengdu was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had since coming to China…

Hello out there… is he still alive!? YUP still here… in China.

So Andrew, what has happened since the last blog post? Well hypothetical questioner, its been same old same old here. Climbed the great wall of China, took my midterm, traveled to Xian and saw the terra cotta soldiers, traveled to Chengdu and saw giant pandas and the Great Buddha of Leshan… see same old same old.

Ok I’ll go into a little more depth… but first, new Chinglish phrase of this post is “三颗油“ (San ke you) A Chinglish way of saying “Thank you.”

Back to adventures. To start off, in early October we CETers and our roommates traveled to probably the most famous site in China… the Great Wall! We went to a less well-known section of the wall called “Jinshanling”, but I can say (having seen the other sections before) this part of the wall was the best. Jinshanling is divided into three sections: the wild wall, the restored wall and the green wall. All are very appropriately named… climbing along the wild wall is a challenge!

We arrive at the Great Wall!!

Wild Wall, The first section of the Wall. This part is really dilapidated and a rough climb

This climb was optional, but still shows you how hard it is to climb some parts of the wall

Had to bring the crusader on the wall!

After our trip to the great wall our next interesting adventures were our midterm exams. Yes, midterms exist in Study Abroad too… :( They were doable, but hard… imagine this: every week we learn approximately 150 new characters and 30 grammar structures in Chinese, and we’ve been in classes for over 7 weeks. It was a lot to remember and, for those planning on studying abroad here, it’s not something you should procrastinate for (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything…)

But anyway, after midterms we had our fall break. A group of friends and I spent it traveling to different cities in China. Our first adventure was taking a sleeper train from Beijing to Xian (a 12 hour train ride). It was an experience for me (as I had never taken a sleeper train before) and it wasn’t too bad. Only problem is that the beds were not really built for anyone 6 ft tall (like me).

My bed on the train from Beijing to Xian. It was a little small, but I did get to sleep during the 12~ish hour train ride.

Anyway, arrived in Xian with no problems. Found our hostile, the Xiangzimen Youth Hostile, which I loved. It’s a small hostile right near the city wall of Xian. In addition to being built in an old Chinese architectural style (which I found awesome), the hostile itself has a restaurant (with western food), a bar, nice rooms and it cost us less than 10 U.S. dollars per night (each) to stay there… SWEET!

The restaurant of our hostile. I couldn't find a better picture, but you can see the cool woodwork and bricks that are used throughout the rest of the hostile.

We spent our time in Xian checking out the more famous tourist attractions… the Muslim area, the terra cotta army, and the big goose pagoda.

A very beautiful and famous mosque in the center of the Muslim area of Xian.

The crusader at the site of the Terra Cotta soldiers. A little history of the soldiers... they were built for the Emperor Qin Shihuang in 209-210 B.C. The emperor had over 7,000 statues of infantry, cavalry and chariots buried with his tomb believing that by doing so, he could maintain his army and rule after death. Each one of these 7,000 statues has a different face so that no two statues look alike.

Who knows, one of the statues might even look like this... (BTW this is my face)

The fountain outside the Big Goose Pagoda. P.S. does the tower look crooked to anyone else?

After 2.5 days in Xian we boarded another train from Xian to Chengdu… (Next post will be about from Chengdu and after, this is gonna get way too long if I put all of break into one post)