Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hong Kong to Mainland China

Sorry, it’s been a few days since my last update. Things have been crazy since we left Hong Kong! So I’ll just take the time right now (since no one is awake – it’s 6:30 AM) to catch y’alls up on things.

{No 1} Hong Kong’s touristy things.

To start off, Bryndi is safely here. Like the rest she is short and nineteen, go us. I’m excited about our whole group, we get along really well.

Anyway, George picked us up at about ten on Saturday morning for our bus tour. Just so you know, the bus seats were lined with the exact same material some of the buses from the Academy were. Bit of nostalgia, yo. 8)

Our first stop was Victoria Peak. Way high up, had the most awesome views even though it was super foggy and windy. Nicole’s ears even plugged up and it took her the longest time to get them to pop once we went back down. Everyone was freaking out because of how crazily our bus driver drove us up there, but… I had fun? 8DDD It was awesome, the roads were so narrow and there were so many cars and our bus was HUGE. But the trip up was fun too, you had more awesome view of the water and boats and everything is so greeeeeeeen. Having come from Ohio, where everything is dead and brown and freezing, it was a great change of pace. :D I do have pictures, but again, lazy.

On the way back down, we did nearly have an accident. There was construction on the road and the workers manning the signs for traffic managed to have both sides saying ‘Go’, so when we drove through, there were cars coming the other way and we did a hard break and I nearly faceplanted into the seat in front of us. Lots of angry Chinese yelling, but the other cars backed up and we were able to get through with no harm done. (:

Next stop was the… we think it’s called the Stanford market, but we could be wrong. Anyway, it’s basically just a huge street faire sort of thing. Jewelry, toys, clothes, paintings, you name it, it had it. I will just have you know, Suki, that I have a present for you when I get back. You had better like it, ‘cause it’s completely GORGEOUS. )8 Just saying . ♥

We did some bartering too! It was funny because Kim’s the only one who’d really bartered before so we had her come over and help us with it when we were looking at things. It’s fun, though not everyone does barter, so it gets a bit confusing… Anyway, not a whole lot of excitement there. We saw some reaaaally pretty dresses and things like that, but we also saw them at the… I think it’s at the Ladies faire? Something like that. Some other street faire thing we found while in Hong Kong.

Next was Aberdeen. George called it the Typhoon shelter and we got to go on these little boat rides and see the Jumbo Floating Restaurant! It was soooo cool. Kind of made me think about Spirited Away. We also sailed through what looked like fleets of gypsy boats. I have no idea what they really were, but it was awesome. The water was this really intense blue-green color too… Lots and lots and lots of fun. The boat we were on were adorable and the fisherman manning it had pictures of his wife and kids and it was cute.

Our last stop was a Jewelry factory. It was pretty much just a quick tour of how they hand make all their pieces (which lasted about five minutes) and then we spent the rest of the time in their showcase rooms where lots of Chinese ladies tried to talk you into buying things (which lasted about twenty five minutes). The jewelry and figurines were super pretty, especially all the jade and pearl. For some odd reason there were saddles propped up in random places.

That was the end of the bus tour and goodbye to George. The rest of our stay was ours to have fun with and have fun with it we did. After we got back to the hotel, we went in search of food. Ashley and Desi were pretty hesitant because of the noodles last time, but Bryndi wanted to check out one of the places we found and it turned out really good. We all got different things and they were all pretty good dishes… I can’t remember what the others had, but I got this seafood curry and it was pretty awesome. ♥

After that, we were going back to the hotel to make plans. A bunch of girls wanted to go to the temple and then to some light show that George had told us about, but since I had been up since 3 AM and Bryndi hadn’t slept well since she had been through her whole ordeal with delayed flights and coming to Hong Kong by herself, and Nicole’s feet were blistering, we decided we’d go see the temple the next day and we’d take a nap and then take Bryndi to go see the area around us, since she hadn’t been with us the night before. We actually didn’t sleep, but we rested and then went out and explored and then we headed back and stayed up talking until the others came back from the light show. Sadly, I was out like a light before 9 PM came.

… And woke up at 1 AM. It was so frustrating! I couldn’t go back to sleep though, but I tried for about… five hours. Our internet was down because Desi had accidentally tripped over the cord and I hadn’t fixed it properly until morning. Anyway. So it’s Sunday!

I’ve already gone on my spazzy-flail over Kisumai debuting, but it was such a huge thing and Desi thought something was wrong and Nicole thought I was crazy. I actually skyped with a friend, just to spazz at her about it because I was freaking out and crying and I couldn’t concentrate enough to get dressed properly. Yes, I am that pathetic.

But after that all was going on, we set off to go see the temple. Bryndi had gotten the directions and said that Kim told her the temple was on temple street.

… Lemme tell you guys, there isn’t another street that we ever saw that was the total opposite of where the temple would be.

I think it was the slums, because it was horrible and just… yes, horrible. I’m sure there were worse, but we were sort of dying and gagging and wondering what the heck we were doing there except that was the only Temple street and everything and Bryndi swore that’s what Kim said. (Kim says she didn’t, but we just settled on them both misunderstanding each other.)

The only good thing about that trip is I was in a taxi for the first time ever. Not that it was amazing or anything, but hey, TAXI. :DDDDD

So we go back to the hotel, figure out what was wrong and check out of the hotel. We checked our baggage with the concierge because check out was at noon and our transport to the train station wasn’t picking us up until three. So off we went to the temple again, this time with the help of clear communication and adorable bell boys. Oh my gosh, they were adorable. ♥ I tried to get pictures of my favorite when we left, but I couldn’t from the angle of my bus seat. But Nicole asked him how to say Goodbye in Cantonese and he just waved and got all smiley, going ‘Bye-bye~!’. So cute.

To the temple!

It was so amazing; I can’t even begin to say. It was raining, but that didn’t really detract from anything. We spent about an hour there, just looking and sitting and feeling great. It was such a beautiful place to be and it helped clear out all the scummy feelings from the morning trip to the slums and just… amazing. I’m really glad we managed to make it because it was such a great thing to see, especially since traveling meant we really couldn’t go to church. (Well, we could have, but we didn’t really know that until after we got back from the temple.) But seeing the temple was fantastic and definitely the best highlight of the whole Hong Kong trip.

(Oh, and we saw missionaries on the way back. We ended up rolling down the window and screaming ‘we love you missionaries’ at them and they did hear us, but I think they probably though we were just crazy. ^.~ )

After that, we were picked up by a travel guide person called Matthew. He took us to the train station and explained what we needed to do once we got into the main land and everything like that. The train ride was only about two hours long, not that bad at all! I read Goose Girl most of the time. Ah, I love that book so much.

Now, once we got into the other station in… Gangzhou, I think, we thought we were supposed to be meeting out Native Coordinator and going on an overnight bus to our city… Well, t’was true for our Fuqing companions, but t’was not so for us. We met our native coordinator! His name is Tim… and he explains to us that he has a bus that will take us to a hotel and then he’s taking us out to dinner and we’ll drive to our city the next day.

The hotel wasn’t all that amazing or anything. Kind of run down, but nice, you know? The dinner, on the other hand, was awesome. Tim ended up just ordering for us because it was kind of hard to tell what things were like from the pictures and none of us spoke Chinese and Tim does speak English, but it’s sometimes hard to understand him. But he ordered a million dishes and it was all pretty awesome. Some of them were these hot plate dishes where they have this metal frame and they put a fire in that flame and then put the dish on top of it so it’s all sizzling when you dish yourself some.

Ashley’s dinner conversation mostly consisted of asking Tim if she was doing anything that might offend anyone. Just a tad bit paranoid, as she will admit herself. Everyone else ewww-ed at the chicken that was served with its head, but… eh, it wasn’t that bad.

Our driver also ate dinner with us and nicknamed me ‘The Strong One’. Not sure why, but it may have to do with the fact that I have broad shoulders and fifty pounds on everyone else. Hm. But he liked that one a lot. He’d constantly poke at me and do this shoulder flexing thing. It was kind of hilarious. We ended up naming him Arnold, since he didn’t have an English name and we had no idea how to properly say his Chinese name. So yes, Arnold. He actually smokes, but he does it smartly, so we never ended up breathing it in, thank goodness.

So after dinner, we went back to the hotel and fell asleep pretty instantly. It was only maybe nine, but we had to get up early anyways. Tim served us breakfast as well! There was this little place next to the hotel that was open at six in the morning and they served the most AWESOME dumplings ever. They tasted just like Dad’s wontons only they were steamed. I ended up eating two servings of them, plus a bowl of rice porridge, which was bland, but not nearly as bad as some of the girls made it out to be.

The drive was about eleven hours long, including a stop for gas and bathroom (for those brave enough to use the squatters) and then for lunch, which was gigantic and awesome and I felt bad because there were like, eight huge dishes and we couldn’t eat half of it. So much food. O_O But really, Tim was spoiling us rotten. I guess it really is a huge thing to have us coming to stay with them for four months and he got us snacks for the ride too and always said ‘If you’re happy, I’m happy’. He’s a total sweetheart.

The drive was super long and tiring, but we arrived! And… it was not what I was expecting. I knew the school had campus housing, but I didn’t realize it was basically a boarding school for kindergarten to 12th grade. The campus is SO FREAKING HUGE, I DON’T EVEN. Like… no, it’s bigger than some of the other girls’ college campuses. We went bug-eyed.

Our dorm rooms are nice. There are some problems, but we shall overcome them! One of them is that they’re not very well insulated, so even though we have heating, it doesn’t heat very well. We’ll work something out about that, though. Another is that the teachers before us did NOT clean out their fridges and they’re so gross. |: Guess who’s going on a cleaning spree once it warms up a little more. So rude! We all vowed that we would not leave our rooms like this when we left.

But we met Angel! I’m not sure who she is or anything, but she speaks English and she’s absolutely adorable. She has that cute asian fashion and everything and I want to keep her in my pocket even if she’s three years older than me.

During dinner, we also met the Dean (affectionately called Tiger, I guess. Something about his family name using the same kanji as tiger.) And the Headmaster! We feel like we’re at Hogwarts when we address him. ^_^V

Dinner was also pretty awesome and hefty. I swear, they had better not try and feed us like this all the time or I won’t be losing weight at all. So much food! We ended up trying turtle too, which was pretty okay. It was a lot of fat and the meat tastes like clams. I also ate a fried shrimp whole. It was surprisingly yummy, even if I didn’t peel it and it had its head and tail still on. We did a lot of toasting too. And Tim, of course, had to make fun of us and our randomly weird eating habits. I think it’s Ashley’s fault for being so paranoid, because it’s not like we were eating that different.

Anyway, Angel and Tim got us settled and they’ll be installing the wireless in our rooms soon and it’s cold, but we’ll survive. We do need to get toilet paper… And luckily Kim is rooming next to me and Nicole, because we got a squatter toilet and she got the flushing one. But we have the washing machine and shower, so I guess it’s an okay trade…

Random tidbits, but the exchange rate for money in Hong Kong is 1 US dollar to 7.09 Hong Kong dollars. In the name of pricing… I don’t know. Hard to explain it all and I’ve actually got to go take a shower and face the day. I slept through the night at decent hours though! I went from 10 to 5:30! So that’s all for now~.

Edit: We had breakfast and lunch and went to the city! The city is about 40 minutes away, so the school is actually kind of isolated. Oh! And Chinese roads are insane. There’s a million cars and buses and it’s like it’s okay to go onto the other side of the road as long as you honk your horn and get back in your own lane before another car hits you. +___+ How do they do it? I don’t knoooow.

Oh, and I tried a chicken’s foot. I didn’t really eat it, mostly because it’s way too difficult to eat to be worth it, but eh, the bit I gnawed off didn’t really taste like anything anyways. I think I’m definitely the one adjusting to the food the fastest… So far nobody’s tossed anything at me that’s so different than what I’ve had at home or in San Francisco.

It’s now almost 2 PM… But the wireless router should be installed sometime soon, so after today, I shouldn’t have to wait for internet. It’s required that we have internet access, so we can keep in contact. Cool, nyan? I haven’t found out what stuff works and doesn’t yet, though.

1 paper stars:

Valerie said...

Cool, you tried turtle! I've always wanted that.