Sunday, September 16, 2007

James Taylor in China

I have to note that I'm listening to James Taylor (a singer from NC who sings "Carolina on My Mind") in the wonderful cafe here in Xiamen, and I must say it's kind of surreal.

Last Friday Sandra, another girl from UNC, and I went to an orphanage in China to volunteer. We played with children aged 1-2 for about an hour and a half. That was all they wanted/needed us to do: play with the children, so it was very fun. The children were adorable, and they were young enough that they didn't mind (or understand) my very poor attempts to speak Chinese to them. I feel privileged that they let us help out.

Yesterday we visited Xiamen's Coca-Cola factory. The Chinese translation of Coca-Cola is a transliteration, but it also has a great meaning: roughly: delicious happiness. Very clever naming! The bottling machines were incredibly cool, and they gave us free Cokes at the end.

I apologize for the short entry. I haven't uploaded my pictures to my computer yet. My parents are coming to visit me next week, and I'm sure I will have lots of pictures after that.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Da Jia Hao

Da jia hao! (Hello everyone!) I'm currently at an adorable little cafe (with wireless internet!) that could be sitting in Chapel Hill. It's so lovely - they even have really good coffee, which is a rarity in China.

Life is going well. My classes aren't too bad, but they do require daily studying and homework. I had my first test on Friday, and it went very well except for the listening comprehension. It's a definite weak point for me.

China is quickly turning me into an extreme cheapskate. The other day we decided to go to the restaurant downstairs in our dorm instead of the dining hall, and I remember being a bit put out because that meant lunch would cost me 10 yuan instead of 5. (I recently bought a very expensive dictionary, whether you count it in yuan or dollars, so I’m trying not to spend too much money on food.) Of course, once I reminded myself that this meant the price of lunch was increasing by about US$.70, I was fine. (It’s about 7 yuan to 1 US dollar.) Now, not that 5 RMB is the price of most meals in China, but that fact that I can get lunch for about 70 American cents points means I’m going to have a hard time buying food in the US.

We went to a Pizza Hut for dinner, and at 50 yuan per person, it was one of the most expensive meals I’ve had here. (roughly US$7.00) The prices were so “expensive” because it was actually a nice sit down restaurant – appetizers and everything. It occupied the entire top floor of a building downtown (21st floor, perhaps,) so it boasted an impressive view of the city.

I’m not the only cheap person in China though. They had a salad bar that costs 28 RMB, which is a lot for China, although it’s also the only place I’ve yet seen that offers salads. A woman there was really getting her money’s worth out of it though! She was starting to stack up pieces of watermelon when we ordered, and by the time we got our food, she was still there, with layers of watermelon cubes and cucumber slices about 9 inches high! It was incredible. One of the girls wanted a picture, so she and a couple guys went over, and at first they tried to take it without her noticing, but then they asked if we could take a picture, and she was fine with it. She even posed with her tower for them. I don't have the picture, otherwise I'd post it.

There is a large Buddhist temple just off campus, and they have gardens there as well. These lily pads are probably a couple feet in diameter.

This is also from the temple complex. I actually haven't been to the temple proper, as it started to rain while we were exploring, so we decided to come back another day.

I think this is all the program participants. I think this is from the day we visited an old military fort, but my camera ran out of batteries. At some point I hope to get someone's else's pictures.

KFC and McDonald's are incredibly popular here. There are some slight menu variations, for example McDonald's serves taro pie instead of apple, and you can buy egg custards at KFC. The Chicken McNuggets taste the same though!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I thought I would post about Japan, before I spend too long in China and forget about my brief overnight in Narita. Our group flight out of Raleigh Durham took us on through Tokya/Narita for one night before we flew to Xiamen. We flew via All Nippon, which was the best airline I've taken yet. They served quite decent meals, and Haagen-Daas ice cream for dessert! It was lovely - as were the stewardesses, actually. Apparently they have very strict appearance standards for the flight attendants - basically, they have to be tall, thin and pretty. Kind of appalling actually, but they were all very friendly.

Once we got to Tokyo/Narita airport, we discovered that it would take far too long to get into downtown Tokya for us to go there, so instead we explored the suburb that the airport is in - Narita. It was very nice and quiet. We found a huge temple complex with beautiful gardens, and a shopping mall that was eerily similar to SouthPoint or Carolina Place.

I've managed to post a few pictures, so enjoy!

This is me at the temple complex. We came straight from our flight from Raleigh Durham, via Chicago, so we were all pretty tired and rumpled.

That's a bamboo forest - there were even bigger ones that we walked through on our way to the temple. The hazy look in the pictures is not some mysterious Asian mist, but the sweltering humidity that occasionally fogged up my lens.

More at the temple complex. We were the only ones there!

A funny store name at the mall. I think it was just a regular clothing store, that happened to be called Drug Store's. That of course is only the first of many funny English translations I've seen since coming to Asia.

I apologize if this grosses out or offends anyone, but I have posted a picture of a "squatty potty" (a squatting toilet.) They're the main form of toilet facility in Asia, and I can't say I am too keen on the concept. As you might imagine, they're often unclean and smelly. Not to mention awkward to use. If you plan on traveling to Asia, consider yourself warned!

And finally, the temple that we saw. I unfortunately have no idea what it's called, since I can't read Japanese. It was quite impressive though.