Saturday, September 22, 2007

Less Words, More Culture. 字越来越少,文化越来越大

I have an incredible Chinese culture professor. He's an older gentleman that has taught for more than 20 years and is full of stories about China's past and his own experiences. We were talking about how complicated the Chinese language is because each character, word or phrase can be tied to a long line of history or customs and possibly an entire story behind it. He said Chinese is very different from English in that the less words your can use to express yourself, the more culture you are thought to have. (字越来越少,文化越来越大) By these standards, my blog would definitely be marked as the work of an uneducated peasant! I like this unique part of Chinese, because English seems to be a race to use the longest, flowery sentences with the largest vocabulary words in the dictionary. Chinese has books full of idioms (成语)that are four characters but take paragraphs to explain in English. Mastering these is nearly impossible, but learn to use a few and you can certainly impress some locals!

I also have a truly wonderful set of classmates this semester. The class is more lively and willing to get together for fun than last semester. Friday we celebrated an Indonesian classmate's birthday at his house with homemade Indonesian and Thai food.

And Saturday I spent the afternoon at a Chinese family's house chatting about everything under the sun and learning how to make 饺子,or Chinese dumplings. I met their daughter on the plane coming to Beijing in February and have been in touch ever since. They were so sweet that I will have to go see them again!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

And a new semester begins...又开学了!

It is time to get back in the mindset of school again. No more spending my time with part-time slang/conversation classes, meeting friends every night, traveling sporadically, etc. At the moment I have class from 8-11:30 and again from 3:30-5:30. That's a lot of Chinese. But I have a newspaper-reading class, and international business class, a slang class, a business writing class (first assignment: translate my resume), and a Chinese culture class. Very well rounded and enough Chinese to make you dizzy.

In other news, I sometimes teach Koreans and Chinese English for spare Yuan. Boring, but true. Weekends in Beijing are so much fun that I will miss them dearly when I leave. Still doing acupuncture a few times a week, only God knows if it actually has results. And it's time to get the internship search rolling. I will be doing more research and making contacts in the next few weeks, in hopes to have something tied down before I come home for Christmas. End of life summary.

Lastly, thought I'd share a couple photos. Went with a friend Chi to a gorge outside of Beijing.

Sang Karaoke again, and I'm little embarrassed to say that I really had a blast this time!

This is what a rock stage looks like in Beijing before the lights go down. I went one day to the Beijing Pop Music Festival and had a great time watching the young punk Chinese crowd.

And then it was Elsie's birthday. We all got carried away with this pink wig, wearing it on and off. As if the Chinese don't have enough to stare at already!

The group that went bowling for the birthday...

And myself..always unable to turn down a crown!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sichuan 5 and Final! Chengdu- The Capital City. 成都,四川

This is the last entry about my vacation...I will revert back to Beijing soon. I started and ended the trip in the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu. It is a pleasant city with a slow pace to it. I especially enjoyed the parks with the older people playing cards, chess and drinking tea all day long. Here are some of the highlights of the city...

Pandas- just around 1000 left in the world and most of them are from Sichuan, China! I went to the breeding reservation and even saw the hairless babies!

Sichuan Opera- it was a variety of plays, singing, face changing, acrobatics, fireblowing and instruments. Very cool!

The friend I stayed with while I was in Chengdu!

Let the locals order, and you never know what you are going to get! These are rabbit heads. (Sorry vegetarians)

Famous spicy roasted fish. Enough peppers to set your mouth on fire! But that is what this whole province is famous for.

A video of us on the first afternoon in the pouring rain riding a rickshaw. The two umbrellas proved useless and we showed up dripping. The rickshaw didn't even want money from us because we looked so pitiful!

Sichuan 4- The village of Songpan 松潘,四川

Different from the National Parks I went to, Songpan was a relaxing village with its colorful minorities and slow pace of life as its best assets. Settled in a mountain valley, most people went to stay there because it is inexpensive and in a central location for seeing other parks or going on a horse trek. I enjoyed meeting the locals, seeing all the animals wander around the street, and hanging out at the hostel.

This was a wedding that I watched...each friend presented the couple with a white scarf and put it around their neck to bind them together...

Being very close to Tibet, dried yak meat and yak butter tea are favorites in the area!

All of the older people sit around and talk all day if they are not playing Chinese chess, wearing straw hats to keep the sun out.

This charming man sat next to me on a bench because he was curious. He wanted to talk to me and see what I was writing in my notebook. We stumbled through the local dialect, but understood each other, and he agreed to a portrait!

Chinese chess. Rules vary according to the province, but very similar to Western chess.

Minority women also watching the wedding.

The streets don't just belong to cars, but to a whole host of animals. There is some patience and a lot of honking.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sichuan 3 - Munigou Park 牟尼沟,四川

The third and final National Park I went to was Munigou. The least known, and only a couple hours of a hike, but it was still relaxing and beautiful. There were probably 10-15 other people in the entire park, which was such a relief after the last two places I mentioned. The water was again beautiful, and somewhat reminiscent of Jiuzhaigou. Just look at the fallen trees underneath the water!! (And I promise I did nothing to the picture to enhance that intense color!)

This is me with the three Beijingers that I went with! Although we met by accident we live within a couple of blocks of each other in the big city.

At the top of the mountain we got to rest, have a picnic, and put our feet in natural hotsprings!

On the way out of the park, we saw two Tibetans herding yak across the road. As I videoed it, he thought I might scare the yak and actually spit at me! He didn't speak Mandarin and I didn't speak Tibetan, but I'm not sure I liked his methods...

On the other hand, we met these two very nice locals that lived in the village nearby. We stopped to take pictures and they were naturally curious. We stumbled through Mandarin/Sichuanese, but we got our point across!

Sichuan 2- Huanglong National Park 黄龙,四川

On the way from Jiuzhaigou I met three people from Beijing who were looking for a person to add to their rented car and share the costs. Perfect! I spent two days traveling with them and speaking Chinese nonstop. One of the places we went was a national park called Huanglong or "Yellow Dragon." It is called a yellow dragon because calcified pools have formed all the way down the mountain, making what appears to be the scales on a dragon's tale. The scenery was completely different from Jiuzhaigou and also breathtaking!

The water came in all shapes and colors! Just look at the difference in colors in these two pictures:

Finally, as we were driving back to the village, we were stuck behind a large mountain that trapped air and made the whole area foggy. In 15 seconds, we rounded a corner and were suddenly in a different world overlooking these mountains. It was so sudden and beautiful that I had to remind myself to breathe. We got out of the car and played on the mountain tops like a scene from Pride and Prejudice! If you've been in Beijing for a while, this is just what you need.

Sichuan 1 - Jiuzhaigou National Park, 九寨沟, 四川

I'm back from my 11 night adventure away from Beijing! I went by myself to Sichuan province and saw the capital, Chengdu, a village called Songpan, and three national parks. I'm not doing this in order, but I had to start with my favorite- Jiuzhaigou. This park might be the most beautiful national park I've ever seen. It has everything- mountains, waterfalls, turquoise water, Tibetan villages, ancient forests, etc. As I hiked around the trails, scenes like this kept popping up...

As you can see, the water is all different shades of blue and green, and the fallen trees and stones beneath the surface are all visible. The Chinese have a saying that says once you've been to Huangshan you needn't see anymore mountains, and once you've been to Jiuzhaigou, you needn't see anymore water. At this point in my life, I'd agree, because I haven't seen more beautiful water! And with mountains and water, comes beautiful waterfalls...

The Tibetan minority and culture is spread throughout Northern Sichuan and the park. I met the Tibetan woman on the left who actually took me to her house in a village in the park and introduced me to her family! The boy in the middle is a friend I made on the bus on the way from Chengdu.

A few other interesting characters I met- (And Americans think they know what a cowboy is! Try riding a yak while shirtless with a wooden saddle!)

Of all the great places I went, this was my favorite, and my recommendation if you are going to Sichuan 四川!