Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pikachu and Food

Haha, updating finally.  I’ve meant to do this for ages but kept on putting it off. I’m not even sure why.

Let’s see… We switched our area of teaching again. I’m teaching Games now and it’s… actually it’s frustrating! It’s not that the kids don’t understand most of the games and how I explain them, they pick those things up perfectly well… but it’s not about learning how to play the game, it’s about speaking English. I was doing so well in Kitchen and now I’m having to learn how teach a game and play it while getting them to talk a lot. My last review came back horribly. Boo. T_T

Oh wait! We had our mid-semester visit last Sunday/Monday. Halfway through the semester, the ILP directors go out to visit all the schools and check on the teachers and what not. Steve came to see us and he was super nice and a lot of fun. ^^ He was telling all sorts of cool stories about other teachers and his own ILP teaching experiences and what not.

Guys, Director Visits mean the schools are trying their best to impress and omg, I ate so much food. We went to go pick him up at the airport and Tim took us out to Pizza Hut.  This was the first time I’d had pizza since leaving the states.

It. Was. Heaven.

I got this stuffed crust pizza with seafood (crab, shrimp, squid) and pineapple. So good, soooooo good.

That was Sunday and then the next day they moved classes into the morning. We normally taught from 2:25PM to 5:00PM and this was… well, 9AM. Haha, it threw me off so bad. But the kids liked what we were making and were super awesome and all, so it wasn’t too bad. Then we had a huge lunch and I ate a ton. Then we had a couple meetings and checked out the new teacher’s apartments.

Guys, I’m so jealous. D: The new teachers are in the hotel, which is nearer to where our kids stay and their hallway leads to the roof and there are places to hang your laundry and just. Super jealous.

After that, we were just hanging out until dinner came around and we had another big dinner. +_+ Annnnd I was actually still pretty full from lunch, but I still stuffed myself because the special dinners are just always SO good. While we ate dinner, they played videos of us teaching on the big screen in the main square (which you could see from the dining room we were in.) ORZ, HOW AWKWARD I LOOKED, WHAT THE HECK. D8

And then Steve left. It was a pretty quick visit, but we all had a lot of fun.

… And then the frustrations returned. Turns out that after the mid-semester visit, they decided to change the schedules. Without telling us. So our ILP classes are now 25 minutes later and our ELE classes were at different times. Stephanie (the English teacher for my ELE class) was asking me that morning if I was too busy to teach the class and I was so confused at why she would think that, but it’s because I was late… because nobody bothered to tell us the times had changed. Ticked me off so bad.

But we’re all adjusting and what not. Thursday is the start of our next vacation and we’re doing a Beijing/Shanghai/Great Wall trip. So not as much traveling and what not. I might take my laptop, I don’t know. Depends. Will talk to Nicole about that…

I’ll just finish this update off with a quick funny story.

I’m not sure if I’ve told you guys about Nate. Nate is one of our Primary kids and I’m not sure what he has, but he is a kid with special needs. Often very frustrating, but I’ve discovered that he really remembers song lyrics and what not, so I try to get him to sing and behave… doesn’t always work, but anywho.

We’re rotating one day and I’m talking to some kids in his class and we start talking about Pikachu, because he is a classic and a great conversation starter. This is with Sam and Ted and Yao-yao. Suddenly Nate starts singing at the top of his lungs and I have never heard this song before, I don’t even know how he came up with it or anything, but he’s all…


It was just… at first it was kind of obnoxious, but looking back, it was just hilarious. He sang that line over and over and over and it was just so loud, we had some other kids just staring at us in confusion. Hahah.

Happy Easter, everyone! 

We had a fun easter. On Friday, we decorated paper bags for our easter baskets and the easter bunny visited us early! Cadbury chocolate eggs, I was in heaven. *w*

And today was good too. Church was great and we’re having a devotional with just the six of us later on tonight. ^^

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My kids. ♥

Kimmi told me that I needed to write shorter entries. Mom said I needed pictures with people in them. Here is something to please them both.

So one of the things I did last week besides the normal teaching and planning, we had to create and write our skits. We’re doing an end of semester performance and each home group has to do a skit of some sort. Our theme, we decided, were fairytales/Disney. Bryndi is doing Peter Pan, Ashley is doing Snow White, Desi is doing Shrek, and Nicole is doing the Wizard of Oz.

I chose my favorite Disney classic ever and that is the Lion King.

It’s so PERFECT! My kids just fit perfectly into their roles and I’m just so excited even if it totally fails, because… I don’t even know, it’s just so much fun. Because it’s my home group and all, I have to write the script for my skit.

Guys, I cannot even begin to tell you how much ridiculous fun I had writing it. Here’s an excerpt from the script. I don’t even, it was just a scream to write. I was giggling the entire time.

Timone&Pumba: Hello~
Simba&Nala: *startled* AHHHHHH!
Timone&Pumba: *also startled* AHHHH!
Timone: We mean no harm!
Pumba&Simba: DON’T EAT US!
Nala: … *facepalm*

Yeah, I had way too much fun. It’s dorky but WHO CARES AT THIS POINT!?

In the name of pictures, I present to you my cast. Sadly I have no pictures at the moment of Kevin, who is my Zazu, but I’ll try to get a picture of him in the future.

Oh! And because I forgot one before, here’s a picture of Ashley.

And with that, I present my home group/cast for Lion King. I warn you now that I don’t know their ages because 1) China apparently does the whole one year older than they actually are because they’re born at the age of 1… and 2) they lie about their ages. 8D!

This is Grace. Grace is the only girl in my homegroup and she’s a sweetheart. Automatically Nala, obviously.

This is Andy. Andy is… well, if he isn’t the oldest, than he’s definitely the biggest. He’s Mufasa.

This is Gobster… who is a pain in the rear, but he can be a cute chub when he needs to be. He’s Pumba.

This is Phillip. He can be a bit of a snarkbutt at times, so he’s my Scar.

… Admittedly I saved the best for last. I LOVE ALL MY KIDS, but if I had to pick ones… It’d be Miles and Colt.

This is Miles. He’s truly adorable and intelligent and sweet and he’s just got this humor that translates so well, despite the language barrier. Look how cute he is. :( He made the crown box while we were in class and posed just for the camera~! He is my Timone. This is Colt and he’s just the most energetic, enthusiastic, and sweet kid I have ever meet. He loves learning whatever I’m teaching him, he picks up fast, and he’s actually fond of me. He’s my Simba and I have mad love for the kid.

No Kevin, even if he’s a nice kid and I want to show you him. He was at ping pong practice and was therefore not around for pictures.

That’s all for now. I’m actually thinking about taking a nap while the girls are at painting class.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Epic long update of doooooooooooooooooooom

Guys, she isn't joking. This is an EXTREMELY long update. VERY LONG. SUPER GINORMOUSLY LONG. And to top it off, I have to go through and link her pictures up properly because it didn't transfer from email to blog which wasn't really that difficult to do because blogger is smart like that. But hey! Pictures. -Suki


… So, I expect this update to be freakishly long because I just got back from a nine-day vacation and there is much to update about! There’s actually some stuff to update about from before the vacation. Oh, and you lucky people, you get a handful of pictures from me. ^-^ Only a couple though, cause I’m resizing them and I’m only doing that to a few cause it’s a pain to get them to decent web-uploading size. 8D;;; Just know that there are like, 800 pictures to be had for this vacation. I had such a blast~!

But let’s start to all the stuff before that.

First off, is the explanation of how we ended up with this nine-day vacation when we were initially just supposed to have a four-day one. Well, we were making plans for our four-day one, planning to go to Yongzhou/Guilin (I think), which is apparently a very lovely, scenic area; more a touristy hotspot than anything, but it sounded like it had a lot of fun stuff for a couple days.

Well, we’re trying to get Tim to help us buy train tickets and he asks if we can push our vacation back a day and the school will extend it as well, so we’d be teaching all week but we’d only be teaching the Friday of the next week (that Friday being the first of April). It turned our vacation into six days.

So we decided that the Saturday before we leave (the 19th of March), we’d go into Nanchang to get some food to backpack with us, at least for the first train ride (more on that later, obviously). Well, at first Tim was saying that we could go to Nanchang with him that day and go shopping while he went to a meeting.

Turns out the school wanted us at that meeting. We had no idea what that meeting was, but a day before we went, we were told that we’d be going to it and things might happen. (‘Maybe we do acitvity’ as Tim put it.) Well, we’re sort of required by contract to get weekends off and this definitely did not sound like having the weekend off… so Kim went to Tim and said that if we did this meeting, we’d get the 19th of March off as well. He agreed. Thus our four-day turned into six-day and then onto a nine-day vacation. And Guilin sounded fun, but Ashley (our resident, super amazing vacation planner) was pretty sure it wasn’t going to keep us occupied for nine-days, so we moved that one to the last four-day vacation (because we were supposed to have two four-days and one eleven-day vacation and all) and ended up doing… a lot of things. More on that later. Right now, the meeting.

This meeting turns out to be a little college expo for Mayflora students. There’s only about twenty or so students there, but they have a guy from Michigan, a guy from Quebec, a guy from Arizona, and a girl from Australia repping various colleges (and a couple private high schools). You should realize how excited we were to see white people (which we haven’t seen since we left Hong Kong) who speak fluent English (which they all did). Except the girl from the Australian school, she was Chinese and all. But anyway.

There wasn’t really much point of us being there except for the English speaking factor… we didn’t even interact with the students at all, the schools just did their presentations and waited for kids to stop by their tables if they were interested. So we hung out with the reps instead.

The first guy Nicole and I talked to was this man called Juan and he’s from Western Michigan University. It was fun talking to him. ^^ He told us a bit about his previous trips to China and the other places he goes while trying to get foreign exchange students. I didn’t realize that a lot of schools apparently have a certain quota to fill of exchange students every semester. Anyways, he ended up leaving after the first hour or so because he had to get to a plane and fly to Shanghai for another expo of sorts. But he was nice to talk to.

After that, we wandered a bit and ended up settling between the guys from Quebec and Arizona, hanging out with them for pretty much the rest of expo. Why wouldn’t I want to hang out with the super tall, blue-grey eyed, French speaking dude? Haha. Anyways, their names were Robert (Arizona, older dude) and Nicholas (Quebec, only 25 :O~!) It was fun getting to know them both and talking about… a lot of things. We covered a lot of subjects and just had fun hanging out. Nick told us about all the places he’s been and where we should go if we ever go to Quebec or France or Italy, etc. Nick was actually super interesting to talk to because he’s only 25 and he’s been almost everywhere in the world besides Southern Africa and Russia, I swear. He also owned a bar and sold it at some point and all this other stuff. Super cool dude. Nicole, Desi, and I had tons of fun talking to them both about lots of stuff.

Randomly, but in the middle of that, we had lunch at the hotel buffet and mmm, yummy food. :D

It was overall… a drag to be there. But we had fun hanging out with the reps!

Nothing too special happened after that… Oh, that is until Tuesday comes around and we find out that Peter, the Indian foreign teacher, has already gotten fired. We have no idea what happened or why it happened or anything at all, but he was gone by the next day, having only taught five days and already had at least one vacation to Hong Kong (because we had to teach his ELE class, I remember that much. Oh, and that ELE class misses me and Nicole, awwww ♥) So yeaaaah… Peter is gone.

An update on that, but the other foreign teacher is here. He’s from Pakistan, apparently, and he makes me think of Johnny Depp (I only saw him briefly, walking back to our dorm). I will give more details if we ever speak or anything. So yeah, the school might replace Peter, but who knows, really.

My notes say I was supposed to talk about Kung-fu master, but I don’t really have much to say… except that my kicking apparently impresses the male students (ZOMG, A GIRL CAN ACTUALLY KICK!?!?!?! LE GAAAAAAAAAASP -_(\ harr harrrrr) and he managed to bruise my arm THROUGH the foam pad. The last time he gave me bruises with the pad was because the end of it was slamming into my upper arm. But no, my lower arm started bruising from behind the pad, because of his kicks. But haaah, he didn’t make me stumble. TAKE THAT, YOU SHRIMP! 8|

Okay, so now that I’ve gotten all of that out of the way… shall we move on to the vacation?

The first thing you need to know is that three and a half days were spent traveling be it on a bus or a train. Like, this vacation was pretty hardcore. We went a lot of different places and saw a lot of different things, but due to our school’s location, we’re pretty far from EVERYTHING there is to see, so it was inevitable that we’d have to do some traveling and taking trains is cheaper than flying and all, so… trains it was.

Second train of my life and it was… an interesting experience. Due to the fact that Tim didn’t purchase our train tickets until the day before we left, not everyone got sleepers. Kim asked around, and since the other tickets were cheaper, I opted to take one of them, along with Nicole and Ashley. What we didn’t realize was that they were ‘standing tickets’. There are three kinds of train tickets for super long train rides in China. There are the tickets for the hard sleepers and then there are the ones for the seat coaches. If you’re from the starting destination, you can purchase a seat ticket. Everyone else gets standing tickets. Which means that besides everyone sitting in their seats, there can be up to twenty or thirty people just standing in the narrow aisle ways, waiting for the people in the seats to get off so they can have the seats. Yeah… lots of fun. We had standing tickets. Spent three hours standing up and constantly squishing myself around because they kept on having carts going up and down and it’s not like there’s a ton of room in the aisles. This train ride was 20 hours long. As you can imagine, I thought I was going to die.

However, the foreigner card worked in my favor and a girl offered me a seat. I swapped out with Nicole after a few minutes because the smoke (she was hanging out in the coach connection area, where everyone’s allowed to smoke) was making her sick. But then the guy sitting across from this girl ended up offering me his seat. So it was Nicole, the girl, who spoke some English, and her boyfriend sitting on each other (they switched off) and across from them was this lady (I have no idea about her, she didn’t speak any English at all) and me. On the other side was some random family of older people and the guy who gave up his seat for me was bunking over there as well.

Ashley was separated from us, a little bit. She was with Nicole and was talking to a couple guys who spoke some English (one of them was a complete douche, talking about how he wished all of Japan died in the earthquake and I was ready to slug him, but Ashley handled that nicely). Then some guys offered her a seat further down in the car, so we didn’t see her until the next morning.

It was certainly an interesting experience. I… well, don’t know a lot of Chinese. I’ve picked up some phrases and what not, and I’ve been wanting someone at the school to teach us some Chinese, but Stephanie is busier this semester than she was last year and we’re also super busy with our ILP classes and ELE classes and what not, so… yeah. Anyways, don’t understand enough Chinese and most of these people don’t speak English besides the girl, so we’re having this conversation without actually having a conversation because nobody understands anything besides the girl, but they all want to talk to the Americans. And the guy who gave me his seat kept on making fun of me! I have no idea what he was saying, but he kept on pointing at me, making some comment, and then he’d start laughing and everyone else would too. And the girl wouldn’t tell me what he was saying. Weh. :| Not that I thought he was saying anything bad and it wasn’t like he wanted his seat back. I offered to get up again a couple times and everyone was like ‘SIT DOWN, WOMAN’. u____u So yeah, no idea what that all was about, but they were all super nice. Oh, randomly, but the girl’s boyfriend looked like Jackie Chan.

Didn’t really sleep that night. The train left Nanchang at 10PM Friday evening and I didn’t even sit down until 1AM Saturday morning. I dozed off at one point but that only lasted about an hour and half, maybe. Eventually all the people we were hanging out with left and nobody else was getting on, so we moved to where Ashley had ended up. We got hit on a lot on this train. There was this one guy who would do nothing but stare and say hello over and over and over again and then he’d smile all big whenever one of us looked his way.

I’m not sure how it all went for the other three except Bryndi’s metal waterbottle nearly brained a kid and Kim’s hard sleeper section had a convict and all his guards in it. 8D! Exciting times.

I was so glad for that train ride to get over. I somehow failed hugely and lost my ticket (I have just now found it) and Nicole was a sweetheart, giving me her ticket and then going up with the phrasebook to tell the man that she’d lost hers. They totally didn’t care about it, actually, thank goodness.

It was about 6PM when we got into Chengdu and thankfully we had someone from our hostel picking us up. His English name was Alex and he was SUPER nice. I don’t know, he was just adorable and funny and super helpful. And I loved that hostel. It was called the Traffic Inn and it was just… I don’t know, it was awesome. The set-up was just so nice and it wasn’t like, super fancy or anything, but the rooms were nice and comfy and they had western toilets and all that stuff. And other foreigners. It’s not like I don’t love Chinese people, they’re great, but having grown up in America, I’m not used to where everyone… looks the same. So yes, we did get ridiculously excited over seeing foreign people.

Pic of our hostel. There were six beds and all, which was perfect for the six of us and I liked the shade of green. ^^

Not that we were staying there long. We had the evening to spend there and then we were moving off to Kangding for a day and a bit. We ended up going to the Sichuan Opera, which was not at all like the European type Opera, but rather much like Takizawa Kabuki, face-changing masks and shadow puppets and all. It was a lot of fun! Here, have your first picture. I don’t have a lot of pictures of the opera, mostly because I broke out my flip and was taking videos.

We did it through our hostel so we had transportation to and from the opera and hostel and there was this Scottish lady on the bus with us. I can’t remember what her job was, I think it was an accountant, but she was talking about stuff to see like the Tibetan street (but we were going to see a Tibetan town, so we never really considered that, but anyway, she was nice.)

Random cool story was that there are no smoking signs around the opera house but there were these guys smoking right in front of us. Bryndi was brave, tapping them on the shoulder and pointing at the sign, trying to tell them to stop smoking (because it would seriously have sucked if they’d smoked the whole opera) and they actually put them out! :D Happy day.

Again, I really liked seeing the opera. There were lots of random skit-type things and dances and no coherent storyline, so far as I could tell, just random small stories, but I loved it. There was this section where they put all but one light out and this guy did shadow puppets and then there was an actual puppet master woman and her puppet did a million things that she controlled with… one hand or something like that. But yeah, it made me think of Takizawa Kabuki… only, you know, Chinese. And not as many boys dancing around. Anywho.

It was actually kind of late by the time we got to bed and I didn’t wake up until I absolutely had to, it was so comfortable and warm. But since we were in Chengdu, an actual city, we had arranged to visit the home of the members who lived there and take the sacrament, so I ended up getting up eventually.

Going to church in Chengdu was such a nice experience. Everyone was just so nice and welcoming (there were about twelve people total, but five or so of those were kids) and it was just nice to have the sacrament after so long. I feel bad for not remembering the name of the people who were hosting it in their apartment, but here, have a pic of their place.

Oh, I guess I should explain everything else. We were supposed to be trying to get tickets to Kangding. Kangding is a Tibetan town… in China, rather than Tibet. We can’t go to Tibet because of our visas, so Ashley really wanted to see this place. However, I guess they close the surrounding roads during march and Alex was telling us about how sometimes the police will pull foreigners off the buses to Kangding and turn them back. I guess the bus station next to the Traffic Inn wouldn’t even sell us tickets, but there was another station near the train station, so we were considering going there, because they also had a bus to Kangding and they still had tickets. But we weren’t sure if we wanted to risk it because it was still March (the end of it) and there were the stories about getting pulled off buses and what not… not really fun-sounding, to be honest. We still hadn’t decided if we wanted to by the time we were at church.

Sister Weaver, one of the sisters there, an older lady, offered to let us hang out at her place and we could make cookies and stuff. We almost took her up on that offer, but in the end, we chose to try for Kangding and set off to the second bus station.

They did have tickets and they did sell them to us! Kangding is about an 8 hour drive away from Chengdu and it’s nestled in some pretty dramatic mountain scenery. Here’s a picture of one of the more greener areas. I swear, there was this point in time where we were driving and suddenly BAHM, there was snow. X_X I did not dress for snow. I had no long-sleeve shirts and all I had for warmth was my SF Giants jacket, I was pretty nervous about how this whole thing was going to turn out. (It was cold, but the sun was shining, so I never really felt all that cold. :D )

Since it’s such a long drive, they made two stops to let people go use the toilets and get food or drinks, etc. One of the places was at this little kitchen place and we ended up getting noodles. It’s literally just this random kitchen on the side of the road, but the noodles were pretty awesome. (For less than a dollaaaaaaar~♥)

When we got to Kangding, there was a slightly sticky situation where we didn’t know where our hostel was and Kim’s phone wasn’t working. It was supposedly near the bus station, but we didn’t really know where.

And we had this herd of people wanting to be super helpful, but it was hard to tell them that no, we didn’t need a taxi or another place to stay. Some guy even called his English speaking friend, trying to help us out. Eventually we got a hold of the hostel and it was like, a block and a half away but we’d have never found it on our own because it curves back into this second street that’s almost like an alley and then the actual hostel is even farther back into the mountain.

Guys, this hostel was hilarious on so many different levels. I swear, it was like a bunch of college kids were like ‘Let’s make a hostel!’ and the Dengba hostel was born. It was just a wood and wall structure, super new and all… built into the mountain. I kid you not.

The way the hallways and stares were structured with bare wood and all made me think of those computer/video games, the kind that Jonathan used to play all the time. The Tom Clancy ones? Yeah. There’s a video about that and all. Somewhere around this time, Nicole and I decided that our trip to China was like a video game and we were leveling up and all that good stuff.

We got there kind of late on Sunday night, so really, all we did was get our rooms and go to sleep. Kangding, again, is in the mountain. It was so cold and there were NO heater, so we were kind of convinced we were going to die… but they had super thick blankets (and extras) and underneath the sheets was a heating blanket! Yay!

I was super comfortable, but for some reason I couldn’t really sleep. I lay awake, thinking about this and that and the other for hours, dozing occasionally, but I kept on waking up about a half hour later.

Until around 5AM. That’s then the rockfall happened. Yes, rocks falling down the mountain. And our hostel is built into the mountain… Nicole and I were on the third floor along with Ashley, but Bryndi and Desi were on the first floor and Kim was on the second one.

It wasn’t like there were a ton of rocks falling or an avalanche, but it definitely was hitting the building and making tons of noise… Gave me a heart attack. Ironically, it wasn’t until after the rocks fell that I was able to fall asleep. Slept solidly for another four hours.

It wasn’t until the morning came that we discovered there were some small casualties… mostly Kim’s window. Yes, she was in the line of fire! Had the rock been any bigger or fallen faster/harder, it might have actually gone through her window and hurt her. As it was, it only broke her window frame and stuff. She ended up staying with Ashley.

Really, the rocks only fell that one time (well, twice, but within ten minutes of each other and not again after that) but still. Interesting times.

Anyways… Nothing was really planned for Kangding, sight-seeing wise. It was just a play by ear thing and we decided to just explore the place.

Speaking of playing by ear… I loved this thing. It’s a circle of tiling in the middle of this square and I guess at night, people dance around it and stuff. I just liked the musical notes carved into it.

And here’s a picture of Kangding. At first, to be honest, I was sort of thinking that we’d gone through all the trouble of getting there and it was going to be just like every other Chinese town we’d seen, but it really was different. The people were different. It was just… it was a really fun experience. (I admit, I also did some present shopping here, just telling y’alls.) The people were just so colorful and... actually, they’re taller too.

We visited one of their temples while wandering around. It was just SO colorful. I loved it so much.

We got some street vendor stuff to snack on while wandering around. I got this deepfried sticky rice with red bean patty and it was sooo yummy. There was some other stuff too. Guys, food is so cheap heeere. X:

Speaking of food, we ended up going to this one restaurant, purely because it said it had yak meat on the window. Yaks are apparently a big thing in Kangding and none of us had ever had it before, so we decided to try it out. For three bucks, I got amazing Yak dumplings and some Tibetan noodle soup dish (and milk tea). There were some other dishes and they were all sooooo good. Except, the other three wanted to try this butter tea thing and it tasted and smelled like watery mac and cheese stuff… not good at all.

But the dumplings were sooooo good. *~* Seriously, I was in love.

So that’s pretty much how Kangding was. It was a great experience, probably the least touristy thing we did the whole trip and I actually loved the whole place a lot. I missed out on the night-life and the dancing because after dinner, I was just so tired, I ended up crashing as soon as we were back in our hostel, but apparently the others have pictures, so maybe I’ll be able to show y’alls that later.

We spent a second night in the Dengba hostel (with no rocks falling) and got up super early in the morning to catch a bus to Leshan.

Leshan… we only did one thing there, really. It was another 8 hour bus ride and the place we were going to closed at 5:30PM and it was already 2PM by the time we got there on Tuesday. So we got a bus to take us to the Buddha and then we got a bus back to the station because our bus back to Chengdu left around 7:30PM and that’s pretty much all that happened in Leshan.

Which was impressive enough. Guys, I went to see the world’s biggest Buddha. It was carved out of a mountain and it was MASSIVE. Like… a family of three could have a picnic on his big toe nail. It was just…. So, so HUGE.

And a picture of a bridge we passed on the way to the exit.

It was a great experience. There was more in the park besides the Buddha and the place was just so clean and fresh, I swear it was the first time I could breathe in without mentally grimacing (Loving it in China, but 99% of this place smells awful or at least bad…) And really, I have a ton more pictures than you’ve seen so far, I promise you (I took at least 800 overall and there are also some videos smattered in there) but I refuse to resize them and so you’ll have to wait until I get back to the states.

On the way to the exit, we passed through the fishing village, which I guess also doubles as the restaurant area. It had already closed, but I thought it kind of looked cool with all the lines strung between the buildings.

I wish to tell you again that if my legs are not completely awesome by the time I leave this place, I will have failed majorly. I cannot tell you how much hiking I’ve done in the past three weeks and how many stairs I have totally pwned. 8| Seriously. So. Many. Stairs.

So it was back to Chengdu… which actually only took about 2 ½ hours… Which was nice. Back at the traffic inn for the night and then on to the Panda Reserves on Wednesday morning! :D

Okay, so meet some friends we made. There were the six of us going and a bunch of other guys from the hostel, so we ended up hanging out with them while going around to see the pandas. The brits, that is. The French dudes didn’t seem to like us much. Anyways, there were these two guys from London who were taking a five month trip around Asia. So this was their China month and stuff. One was named Jake and the other was named Hilal. Jake is 100% British and Hilal is half Irish, half Yemeni/Arabic. So he’s fluent in Arabic AND he had an awesome accent. They both did. They were also hilariously fun, despite the fact that they smoked and swore (they didn’t smoke around us, though).

Hilal is the one next to me and Jake is the one next to him.

Oh, I just realized you probably haven’t seen all of our group! Okay, so it’s me, obviously, the brits, and then it’s Kim (master head teacher), Bryndi, Nicole, and Desi. Ashley is taking the picture, so hold up, I’ll upload a picture of her from before. (She deserves her own pic anyways, for putting together the vacation. Seriously, it was awesome.)

So yeah, that’s our ILP group. ♥

Back to the pandas… Guys, pandas are so CUTE. Like, they’re just roly-poly and they look so fuzzy, I think I might dieeeee. Seriously, I loved just wandering around and squealing over the pandas. There were some adult pandas and some teen pandas and even some toddler pandas. I guess giant pandas birth in the fall, so we didn’t get to see any super tiny babies or anything, but it was so much fun.

The very first panda I saw.

Some of the teen pandas eating breakfast.

One of the more active pandas, an adult male, also enjoying his breakfast.

And this is just here because, hello, Jackie Chan. 8D!!!

Also, the Panda Reserves had Red Pandas as well. Most people didn’t seem to know what they looked like and it was funny, telling them that they looked like cats had mated with raccoons. 8D They were so adorable, I want onnnnnne. It was feeding time when we were around so they knew someone had a bowl of apples and kept on begging the visitors for them. They even started standing up and stuff, until the staff fed them, like below. :D

So yeah, it was a lot of fun. We spent the morning there and then headed back into Chengdu where we were left for our own devices. Our train to Xi’an didn’t leave until 10 that night, so that left a lot of free time… more wandering!

First thing we did was try hot pot, which I guess is a dish Chengdu is famous for.

Lemme tell you this, hot pot is not a dish you should order when nobody speaks the same language and you don’t really know what you were ordering. I mean, I liked what we ended up with, but the others were not so pleased… also, I’m pretty sure we weren’t quite doing it right. In any case, I tried eel! :D

After that, we headed off to the People’s Park. It was nice… I mean, there were lots of people there, it was pretty, there was lots of stuff going on. People dancing and singing and there were tea gardens and stuff like that. Nothing utterly stunning, but it was fun to walk through.

And the trees are blossoming! It made me so happy~.

Randomly but… Super Junior’s Sorry Sorry and Wonder Girls’ Nobody are hugely popular, apparently. They’re the songs I hear the most (outside of Lady Gaga). I find it amusing.

After the People’s Park, we ended up going to the Green Ram Temple. It was pretty. I love the pagodas and how they designed the garden areas.

I can’t remember what was so significant about this place, something about the Jade Emperor… but I think the most important part was what happened before I got into the temple. I was just about to go get my ticket when I heard this music. I turn around and voila! I found a guy playing the hulusi and selling them as well!

This is the one present I will show you, since the rest will all wait until I’m actually back home. But Val, you should love me. :P I carted the dang thing around with me the rest of vacation and it was a tricky bugger too, because I didn’t want to break it! I also got lucky with that one, all the other ones I found on this vacation were for nearly triple the price, if not more. This one? T’was $7.50. Hee. 8DDD

After that, we went to Jewelry Street. Took us a bit to get there, we ended up in some park before that… but then we found it and all was well. Jewelry Street is basically a street of stores all selling – wait for it – jewelry. And it’s super expensive stuff too. But have a picture of my favorite part (aka, the insane statue).

There was also this girl at the very end of the street and she was doing this… it was like a tea dance. O.o It was pretty cool. You can’t really tell from the picture (she was across the street and it was hard enough getting that one) but she’s pouring it from behind her neck. I thought it was so cool.

After the Jewelry Street, we wanted to find the night market… it was kind of a ways off, so we figured we’d get a taxi. Couldn’t get the stupid taxi, so we decided to walk there and try and get a taxi on the way… never happened, so we walked for forty-five minutes and eventually found it. Bryndi and I had fun singing Moulin Rouge on the way there. It’s the Jinli Temple Faire and it was fun. I wasn’t much for most of the merchandise but at the very end of it, there’s the food market and it was AWESOME. I tried a couple different things (including quail on a stick, yummm~ and fried ice cream! :D) and was well pleased.

Our next train ride! Chengdu to Xi’an, 16 hours long and due to the fact that they’d sold out on all the seats, we ended up getting sleepers that time around. It was a little crammed on the top (the top sleepers are cheaper) but in the end, it was great timing, I slept through the night and then you can get down and have seats along the hallway during the day. ^^ I think it was my favorite train ride, if only because I wasn’t conscious for eight hours of it.

We were heading to Xi’an to go see the Terracotta army but we ended up doing a lot more than that. Ashley’s sister went to China with ILP a little over ten years ago and was still in contact with one of her ELE students, Chris. Chris was now living in Xi’an, so we enlisted his help with getting around the city and to the Terracotta Warriors. Originally, we were going to see this gigantic bronze Buddha, because it’s the tallest statue in the world, but I guess Ashley skyped with Chris while we were finalizing plans and he was like ‘Why would you want to go see the artificial Buddha?’ so we ended up axing that out of our plans before we even started. He told Ashley that he’d wear his Northface so we’d recognize him… hahaaa.

We did eventually find Chris at the station… or rather, he found us. All was well in the end, whatever. He took us out to lunch and it was super, super yummy. I have apparently built up a decent immunity to spicy food… Who’d have thought? Haha, but we had all sorts of stuff, including sweetened and stuffed lotus root and awesome bowls of noodles. I really am a noodle girl, this vacation made me so happy because we ate a ton of noodles. X: Anyways…

We ended up getting a guy in a nice mini-van to take us to our hostel after we met up with Chris… and guys, the hostel’s location is hilarious. The Han Tang Inn is my second favorite hostel that was stayed in, it was just so nice and pretty and everything… it’s in the middle of this shady looking alley, I kid you not. It was hilarious when we pulled up to the hostel because we’d just driven through this dingy alley and Chris gives us this weird look, all ‘Where in the world did you even FIND this place?’ But the hostel turned out to be super nice.

After checking in, we started talking about what to do (over lunch, actually). It was too late to go see the Terracotta warriors that day, so we were talking about things to do in the meantime… and eventually it turned into cutting our next stop out and staying an extra day in Xi’an. We were going to go to Denfeng Friday night, which I guess is the spiritual center of the world (as well as super close to the Kung-fu capital of the world) but we decided it’d be better to see the stuff in Xi’an and have ample time for the terracotta warriors.

Our first stop was the wall of Xi’an. Xi’an used to be a capital of China and this wall is anciently old and rather thick. It encircles the inner part of the city and it was pretty cool, to say the least. We were supposed to bike around in, but a government official was coming, so they were roping off this one section and closed the bike rentals early. We decided we’d just wait until tomorrow and decided to walk around a bit. Have some pics of the wall.

After that, we headed off to the Antique Street, which was a vendor street with all sorts of stuff like personalized stamps that they’d put on pretty rocks and lots of fans and other stuff. I did get the second half of J&K’s presents but I shan’t tell you what they are. ^^ It was a nice stop though.

We were supposed to go see the Bell and Drum towers, but it got to be too late for that (as well as the Muslim Quarters) so we decided food was the next thing on the list.

And so we headed off to dinner. Chris took us to this crazy noodle place, run by Muslim Chinese. Yummy noodles (and cheap) and we tried plum juice! It was okay. It was a bad combination with the noodles, but Byndi likened it unto drinking a smartie and it was kind of like that.

After that, we went to this bakery to get stuff for lunch, because the Han Tang’s food was expensive and there weren’t very many good places to get food near it either. The bakery was called Maky and it was so cuuuuute. All shiny and pretty and the pastries looked so good. I restrained myself from getting the mango pudding and the cheesecake and got a loaf of red bean bread, which was a great breakfast. ^^

We finally headed back to our hostel and just hung out for a while, talking about various things like college applications (because Chris wants to move to the US to get his Masters) and our plans for the next day. We decided we’d meet up at 9:30 the next morning and head off to the Terracotta warriors and everything else would happen once we got back.

Chris didn’t show up at 9:30. We waited for an hour before we decided it was better to leave him a note with the hostel and go by ourselves. There are buses that go specifically to the Terracotta warriors from the train station, so we just did that.

Once we got there, we’re walking through the village part surrounding the Terracotta… museum? area. A guide stopped us, offering to give us a tour of the place, and at first we didn’t take it, because it was 25yuan each and we didn’t want to feel like we were rushed. But she went down to 15yuan each and promised that we’d have time to take pictures and stuff whenever we needed it.

The Terracotta army was SO COOL. I didn’t realize that they’d only been discovered within the past forty years. O_O I thought they’d been around for a lot longer. Nor did I really know the story around them, which is also pretty cool. Rather than trying to tell you myself, I direct you to the ever so helpful wiki page.

And here are some pictures to go along with. The kneeling archer was by far my favorite piece, he was just so detailed and he photographed awesome. :X But I’ll not send you a ton of them, so here’s just a couple.

It was hard to get a picture that really showed how impressive that pit was. +_+ With all the warriors in it and all. It was soooooo cool.

It started raining while we were at the Terracotta warriors, but it wasn’t too bad. We finished up the tour and the lady took us back to the village and ordered lunch for us (which was nice because ordering on our own can be such a pain). After that, we headed back to Xi’an.

We ended up getting there later than expected and Chris was waiting there for us. I felt bad, because he lives like an hour or more away from our hostel and had now spent about five hours on buses because he’d come (twenty minutes after we’d left for the warriors), gone back home, and then came again at the time we’d told him we’d be back. But I guess we were both late and it made the scores even.

But once we got to the hostel, we had a mess to fix. Originally we were going to head over to this other hostel we’d booked, because the Han Tang Inn didn’t have any rooms available for us the second night. But the first hostel Ashley booked ended up emailing her, telling her that they’d accidentally hadn’t updated their online availability and didn’t actually have a room for us. We booked a second hostel and got the confirmation and everything, but while we were collecting our stuff from Han Tang’s baggage room (because we needed to check out early and we didn’t want to haul our stuff around) and the guy was asking about where we were going. He checked their rooms again and they had two three-person rooms available and offered them to us instead (business, business, business).We talked it over for a bit and Ashley went to call the other hostel before making a decision… turns out the second hostel didn’t have our reservation AT ALL. So in the end, we stayed at the Han Tang again. It was more expensive this time around, because we had two different rooms and they were nicer rooms, but it was nice that we even had rooms. U_u;; Seriously.
Anyways, since it was raining, we weren’t able to bike the wall… Chris said that since we’d already seen the Bell tower, there wasn’t much in the way of excitement on the inside and the Drum Tower was pretty much the same… So we went to go eat dinner (Chris took us to this dumpling/dim sum sort of place) and then went exploring a bit. Hit up the super cheap DVD store and checked out a couple other places as well. (Randomly and slightly off-topic, but Chris is a total germaphobe. He carries three different hand sanitizers and actually, that’s a good thing, because using them before eating meals was good, but he gave me and Ashley weird looks for getting street vendor food because ‘hello, diarrhea’ sort of thing… It was hilarious.)

Xi’an was probably my favorite city of all. I just… liked it a lot. Have a picture of Xi’an at night.

We ended up hanging out in the hostel for hours and hours (stayed up pretty late too). Nicole took some April Fool’s pictures where she pretended to get engaged to Chris (because she had a fake engagement ring and all). After Chris left, we separated to our respective rooms and passed out for a couple hours, because our train left in the morning on Saturday.

One of our hostel rooms at the Han Tang Inn.

There’s a high speed train that goes from Xi’an to Luoyang, but we took the normal train, because it was four hours longer, but it was also a fourth of the price for the high speed train. Luoyang was our last stop before heading back to the school and we were there to see the Longman caves.

Saturday was probably the most miserable day of the entire vacation. It was wet and cold and FREEZING. Like, Kangding had snow all over, but it was sunny and nice, so I never felt cold. But Luoyang was grey and windy and we were just dying. On top of that, this hostel didn’t have any private rooms like the other ones did, so we ended up being split into two groups and staying in the common rooms. Co-ed common rooms, too. :O There was a girl staying in the room when we got there and later that evening, Alex arrived. Alex was this super nice guy from Germany who was going around China on a three week vacation. It was fun talking to him. The other two people who had the room booked didn’t show up until late in the night and I think they were two Chinese dudes. Anyways. This hostel was okay but hardly amazing or anything.

Since it was too late to go to the caves, we ended up going to this place called Shanghai Street… Bryndi, Nicole, and I got separated from the other three because the taxis dropped us off at different places and we were the ones who didn’t really want to shop anyways, so it was a little miserable. We did get super cheap dumpling bun things from a street vendor and there were a lot of cute clothes, but we ended up heading back to the hostel to just wait for them there. So. Cold. Ugh.

Anyways, the next morning we got up super early to get to the Longmen caves, which is why we were in Luoyang. Took a bus to get there and it was a nice, foggy morning. Much warmer than the day before though, thank goodness!

The Longmen cave Grottoes are… amazing. It’s like this entire civilization of Buddhas carved into a hillside. Big Buddhas, little Buddhas, it was just ENDLESS. The whole thing was just riddled with little niches and caves and Buddhas, Buddhas, Buddhas… The west caves were the most impressive, but the east caves were cool too. We also went to see the temple that was part of that area but called it quits before we got to the tome. Have some pictures.

And this was just one of the many amusing Chinese to English signs. If you can’t tell, the sign in the back says it’s the ladies restroom.

So yes, that was truly impressive to see. O_O Though I kind of wonder why they felt the need to make the Grottoes, but I haven’t read up on that yet.

There was a little shopping district in between the bus stop and the entrance to the caves and it was fully alive by the time we got back to it after the caves. One of their specialities (I guess?) was this thing that was like… pulled sugar. Like, they’d have this blog of hot candy on a hook for people to watch and they’d just pull these strings and strings of the candy and lay it out to harden and once it was done, they’d just sit there and cut it up into small pieces. It was pretty cool. Have a pic!

I ended up buying some and it’s okay. Not my type of stuff, to be honest, but nice enough. It’s almost like it’s spicy, which I think means it’s some sort of ginger candy…

So that was…. Sunday. And then it was time to head back to the school. The train ride was supposed to be 14 hours and we’d get back to Nanchang around 3:30AM. And we ended up with another round of standing tickets. Nicole and I were in a different car than everyone else, but I guess we got lucky. Nicole was in a seat by hour 2 and I was in one shortly after. Apparently it took until hour 4 for the others to get seats. D: Ouch.

Nicole and I were a popular hotspot for our train car. Lots of people liked to come and stare and talk to us, even though they knew we wouldn’t understand anything they said. We named a couple of the ones who spent most of the train ride with us. It made the train ride tons of fun and distracted me from my stomach, because I was fasting. (Which is hard to do when traveling, but I figured it’d be good to get at least one church thing done properly that Sunday.) The train had some random, unexpected stops, so we didn’t get off until just past 4AM, but we got to Nanchang in one piece! Almost back to the school.

The last part of the journey was the most frustrating. We get to Nanchang and Kim’s phone starts working, so we give Tim a call to see if he’s picking us up, because he’d said he’d see what he could do about it and all that good stuff… Well, I guess he wasn’t picking us up, so we had to find our own way home.

We ended up finding a bus that would go past Mayflora… Problem is, it was PACKED TO THE BRIM. I thought I’d seen some bad buses in China where they were crammed in like sardines, but there was no comparison to this bus. It was so crammed, I don’t even. I had this woman using my backpack as a pillow and then I was squished between another woman, Desi, and the railing that separated the driver from us. Couldn’t move an inch if I wanted to. Luckily for us, there was no traffic at 5AM and our driver was booking it, so we got there in an hour instead of an hour and a half/two hours it usually takes to get to and from Nanchang and the school.

Got back, passed out for a bit… Got up, HAD TO TAKE A SHOWER BECAUSE I STANK SO BAD. Ugh, it was so gross, I don’t even. Teaching went surprisingly well that day, but now I have a ton of stuff to do because I don’t have any of the supplies for this week’s lessons and I passed out after dinner (It’s Tuesday now, just so you know.)

I think you should be proud of me. We estimated that each four day vacation would be $200 each and the eleven day one would be $600 ish. Obviously the vacation turning into nine days threw that out the window, but Ashley said it would take about $400 total and I will have you know that I did it all on $375 and that is including buying some presents and food. (Actually, most of that money was spent on the actual traveling, like train tickets and getting into things like the Longmen caves and what not.)

Epically long update is epically long and I have stuff to go do now. I’d like to make a list of requests now and that is pictures of preggo Val and updates on everyone’s lives. 8D Isolation, I has it. Talk to me peeps.