Sunday, February 26, 2012

Getting Settled

Hey everybody!

I have finally figured out how to configure my VPN so I can get to this website because apparently it is blocked in China.  It took forever to figure out how to work the internet here because my room seems to eat all the signal ever making it really difficult to use my computer in my room. I had to go to the internet office and figure out/play charades with the guy who does the IT stuff to get a broadband cable and then again the next day to ask him to come up to my room and set it up for me. So as of right now I am thanking God that I number 1 have internet, and now number 2 that my VPN service is working so I can have access to facebook and

I have to say this, Beijing is nothing like home. I initially had a problem because Beijing is such a big city and living in such a place is something I'm definitely not used to! All the noise, people and especially traffic is enough to make me go crazy but I've managed so far. I'm thinking probably about half-way through my time here I will get used to it. As for China in general, I was neither prepared nor do I think anything can prepare you for the amount of people here. Traveling on the subway is a harrowing ordeal and there are no lines. I've learned that pushing your way through crowds is the only way to get to where you need to go. I still feel incredibly rude doing it, but really, you gotta do what you gotta do. I tried to take a picture of how many people were on the one car I was in, but I'm too short to get the whole experience. 

I've adjusted in many ways in the week that I've been here. I am living in a dorm room for the first time in my life and living with someone I had never met before. My roommate's name is Michelle and she's from Pasadena, California. At first I thought it was kind of awkward being in the same room, but now that we've gotten used to each other it's great! She's so nice, awesome and good at painting nails. She's said that she's targeting me next for a makeover :)

The two big issues I'm having here are the food and the language barrier. In Rhode Island I didn't eat Asian food very often, so I don't know what kinds of things I like here. I'm having difficulty finding things that are to my tastes and usually blander than the things I have been offered. Thursday morning I went outside the campus gates and found a street vendor selling something like a flaky pancake with an egg cooked inside it. The woman put a piece of pork and lettuce on it along with a bean paste sauce and wrapped it up like a taco -- sort of. It was pretty good for breakfast, even if it was a little too spicy.  I came back up to my room really proud of myself that I had managed to buy something all by myself! Other than that and a few small victories buying things, I'm still hungry a lot and constantly on the hunt for things that I like. 

The language barrier is a huge issue. In any other circumstance if I needed help with or didn't understand something I could always ask someone for help. Here, this is not a solution. I may have taken 1 semester of Chinese at URI, but it was nowhere near enough to get around with here. I feel absolutely helpless for the first time in my life. It's really quite a terrifying feeling. I get both frustrated and nervous when I need to interact with a salesperson or a waiter because I have such difficulty trying to get my point across and get what I need. Chinese classes start on Monday and I've been placed in class A2, so I'm sure that learning and using the language will allow me to minimize this discomfort.  

I am also seeing what it is like to be a minority for the first time in my life. It is obvious that I don't belong here, and I think the people that I interact with are a little more forgiving about my lack of abilities than with the other students who are of Asian descent but do not speak Chinese well. I'm relieved that my obvious foreign-ness seems to be helping me and I have made friends with the people at nearby Wu-Mart and in the convenience store here in the dorm.  

That's a whole lot of information for one entry I think. If you guys have questions leave them for me and I'll certainly answer if I can provided that my VPN and internet continue to cooperate so nicely.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Getting Ready to Leave

I've been learning quite a lot about the power of anticipation these past couple of weeks.  Going to work everyday while everyone else has school has been really weird and I still feel like I'm on winter break, which will be coming to an end very soon.  A few weeks ago I started getting nervous since this is my first time out of the country and my first time away from people I know for an extended period of time and once that feeling hit, the work weeks just flew by. I remember thinking "oh God, I only have two months before I leave" now there's only about 12 hours left. I couldn't slow down the weeks even though I really wanted to sometimes.  I know it's only 4 months, and that's nothing in the whole scheme of things and it's going to fly by just like the preceding weeks have. Sometimes I can make it seem like a very short time I'll be gone and other times I can't imagine being away for months. 

So tomorrow morning at 5am my mom, sister, Max and I are heading up to Logan airport in Boston to begin my 21 hour travel.  I have a 2 hour layover in New Jersey and then a straight flight to Beijing, China from there. My roommate Nelson said the plane is going to go right over the north pole and I'm super excited about that, even if we're going to be too high up to see anything.  And I'm hoping to sleep some of those hours, but I actually doubt that will happen.  How quickly do you think I can adjust to the time difference between the east coast of America and Beijing -12 hours? At least it'll be easy to figure out what time it is when I'm trying to make Skype calls. 

I've packed, unpacked, packed and unpacked like 4 or 5 times now with checklists and everything.  By this time I think anything I forget, I'll just have to buy when I get there. I found it really hard not to over-pack, but I'm pretty sure I failed at that. Right now my stomach can't decide whether its hungry or panicking, and neither can my brain.  I've found out that someone will be meeting me at the airport in Beijing, so no worries about finding my way to campus. I will make sure I get you guys pictures of everything!  Wish me luck and I'll see you in a few days!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Introductions :D

Hello there readers!  My name is Nicole and I have created and will be maintaining this blog during my preparation and 4 month-long trip to China :D  I thought I would let you guys know a little something about me so we can be friends. I'm a college student at Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island. The subject that I chose to study, also called a major, is Anthropology, or the study of people. It may sound like a big topic to cover, and it can be, but I have had the best teachers to help me learn about all the exciting people and cultures in the world. I am 24 years old and an example of a person who has followed their dream.  Picking what to study in school was really hard for me because I like so many different things! 

While I'm in Beijing, China I'm going to be learning Chinese. There are a whole bunch of different types of Chinese spoken in China, at least 129 different languages. Mandarin is the main language used in Beijing and it's also the one I will be learning in school.  I will also be learning about the people of China in another class. After school during the week I will be spending some time volunteering at a school that teaches English. I do have a lot of school time, but on the weekends I will make a point to travel around Beijing and see the sights, make friends and eat a whole bunch of new foods. Right now when I go out to eat Chinese food, I really just like to have chicken fingers and some fried rice so I'm going to go out of my way to eat new things all the time. I'll try to remember what things are called so I can let everyone in on the best foods in China! 

All the way across the U.S. and across the Pacific Ocean
What I want from everyone reading this journal is...QUESTIONS!!!  I'm looking forward to interacting with you guys and taking your questions to the streets to get answers. I want to know what you want to know about China, stereotypes, places you want to see, what I can do to make my trip interesting and anything you feel like asking me about. A few times a week is what I'm trying for for a journaling schedule so keep checking back to see what I've been up to!