Monday, December 23, 2013

Gym Rat Girl

Greetings all! 好久不见!Its been a while since my last post. Swamped. Again. I don't need to go into it.

Been back at the gym lately! Going to the gym just makes me feel so much better: more relaxed, stronger, makes me sleep better, and on and on. I feel alright if I don't go, but I just feel awesome when I start going again, I wonder why I ever stopped! So there is a university gym here for students. 8 kuai to use the treadmill for a half hour and weights! Good deal.

But really, there was a good reason why I didn't keep up at the gym since I arrived in Nanjing. I figured that, like in the United States, the gym would be mostly full of dudes working out.  In the US I can handle being the only girl in the gym, or usually there is at least one other female person. But over here, it is a little different. It is very clear than when I lift weights, I look really really odd. People take long, undisguised looks, and not going to lie, it is really uncomfortable. I even got my picture taken the other day, and no, they did not ask my permission first.

Being here, just doing what I always do, I can feel the differences between peoples' reaction to me. Going to the gym is one of my things, and one of the differences is that people just think it is really weird for me to want to work out. China doesn't really emphasize physical education as something worth pursuing. Sometimes I see people walking around who clearly have never done any physical exercise. People with no muscles. No butt whatsoever. Arms that aren't used to lifting more than a finger. Awkward, uncoordinated running strides. So when I arrive at the gym in my work out clothes and have a good run and do squats and lift weights, I just stick out like a sore thumb.

I feel like another aspect to my awkwardness has to do with my female-ness. Sexism is still alive and kicking here. I feel its presence in odd and subtle ways once in a while, and I get that feeling when I go to the gym. There seems to be so many reasons why someone would stare at me or take my picture that it would be difficult to say definitively why it occurs or attribute it to any one reason, but I feel like the female thing is definitely playing a role here. I feel almost subversive when I show up and pick up a set of weights.

Though its terribly awkward, I will keep going to the gym. I will keep showing up there doing what I always do, because I know there is nothing wrong with me working out, or wearing cute work out clothes, or lifting weights. I actually kind of like the idea that I can make people uncomfortable, because it means that they're going to have to reflect what is is that is making them uncomfortable, and why, maybe. As long as I can take the heat first. Because really, it is really weird.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Test, test, is this thing on?

Hi Everyone,

So this has been the weirdest week I could have ever imagined.

Sunday-Decided to come home to take care of this liver thing, I think I mentioned it before.
Monday-Was on a plane home.
Monday (California time)-Doctor's visits galore.
Tuesday-Thursday-On the phone with the doctors office.

Hopefully I can get in with the Liver specialist tomorrow, considering all the time we spent complaining on the customer service line. Best case scenario they will tell me that I am fine, and that I can just resume business as usual. That outcome seems almost anticlimactic, given the circumstances, but I would certainly be most happy with that, of course. This is still too surreal to like, reflect properly on though, so I will just leave it to your imagination.

Besides that, being on the airplane not even 12 hours after my tickets were booked was crazy. It was like I might as well have take a ride in a spaceship or a time machine or something. Suddenly I was worlds away from where I was just a few hours ago. I packed light, got my passport stamped, and got on my way. Shayn took me to the airport bus, which was such a good way to start my journey. Overall things went well, and are going well, but I just want to get back to my program. I feel like I just suddenly had to leave all of my work and all of my friends behind on no notice at all. I am sad. To say the very least. Being home and seeing my family is wonderful, but such    bad    timing. I'm just trying to trust in what the universe brings, that these are all good things that are happening. It's hard on me. But what can I do? Just relax, stay calm, enjoy, work hard, keep moving forward... I'm trying my best here. Wish me luck people.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving in China, or Life is a Crisp Apple

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Wishing so bad that I was back in the states eating turkey and stuffing with everyone right now. Boy, I do love Thanksgiving. Usually, at some point during the meal, I get to mention what I am thankful for, but since I have no turkey dinner, I will just mention it here! But before I do that, let me tell you a funny story.

On Thanksgiving day, China time, I went to class, and took a test, and then came back starving, and like wolfed down a whole bowl of hot clay bowl mixed rice in like five minutes flat. I didn't even think about it being Thanksgiving for like even a second while I ate dinner! Later while talking to a friend, she asked me what I was going to do for Thanksgiving dinner, and it dawned on me that I have just zoomed right on through it! It was so odd, do think that I had actually forgotten to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Anyways, despite the fact that I am a horrible person for forgetting thanksgiving, I was able to talk to my whole family that morning, which was such a treat. They called me on Skype, and I got to say hi to my mom and dad, sister, uncle, grandpa, and great-aunt. Very cool.

And now, I'd like to take a second to share all the things that I am thankful for. So many things, where do I start?

My family! How lucky I am am to have such an amazing group of people that I get to share my life with! How lucky I am that my parents love and support me enough to put me through school and let me go halfway around the world, and who help me navigate all sorts of stupid problems that I get myself into. Check bounces in a foreign country--call Dad. How to make pie dough--call Mom. Feeling tired and/or confused, don't know what to do, and need a pep talk--call my parents. For times to marvel in wonder at the universe--call my sister. Haha, it makes me sound like a baby, but I just really love my family, and I feel so blessed by them.

I feel grateful for the getting the opportunity to study and get an education, especially here in Nanjing. This experience has been absolutely 100% positive, empowering, eye-opening, fun, and challenging. I feel like my Chinese is improving, I am making wonderful friends and connections, and that I am getting to know a part of myself. Its as if this world is my home, and I am simply getting to know areas of my home that I have had yet to explore. I cannot express how important a role education has played in shaping me as a person, and is such a gift.

I am grateful for my healthy body. I wake up in the morning happy, pain free, fully abled. My body lets me walk to the bus station, lets me read and write papers far later into the night than is reasonable, lets me stay up late and have fun, and still doesn't keel over. I did recently discover that I have a cyst in my liver which I am being urged to handle as swiftly as possible, but oddly enough, these days I feel better than ever, and I feel like this cyst thing is just unimportant in light of all the good things that I have going for me. Maybe not the most practical though, but hey, I'm just saying.

I am thankful for my sweetest, nicest boyfriend, Will, who is working his butt off in SF, doing all manner of jobs, and films, and acting companies. I just couldn't be any happier for you baby. I am grateful that you are doing so well. I am grateful you haven't keeled over yet from all of your 18hr work days!

In short, I am grateful to be alive, to feel the cold air on my face in the morning, to get tongue-tied speaking bad Chinese, to dance Zumba class with all the onlookers looking-on, to drag my ass out of bed every morning and to the office, to eat delicious delicious chinese breakfast burrito that may or may not be cooked all the way. This life just couldn't be any more delicious, like biting into a cool crisp apple and crunching it all up with juice running down your fingers. I say, so what if it's getting a little sticky, to hell with it all, because this apple is just so delicious! And this apple is my life. So thanks Mom and Dad for having me, thanks SF State for teaching me, thanks to China for taking me in, thanks to my friends for loving me, and thanks to the universe for letting me exist here, right now.

Love, Rachel.

Friday, November 22, 2013


So, if you read my last post, you probably noticed I was in a bit of a tizzy--I had just been really working hard on this paper, and it was sort of getting to me that night.

But so then later I had one of those you're-doing-it-wrong epiphanies. So get this.

I was like complaining to my friend Ben about how long my paper is, wah, whoa is me, this sort of thing. By that time I had written about 4 pages, and the word count was only at like 2100 words. So I relate this to Ben, saying that if I go on like this, this paper is going to be like 6 pages long, but then he looks at me and says, no way. He was writing a paper at this time as well, and says he's on page two and has 2000 characters--there was clearly something not matching up.

He goes, "Wait, are you using word count or character count?"

Me: [mind gets blown] "I'm sorry, what?" There is a difference?

Yes folks, there is a real big difference, to the tune of like 4500 actual characters, as compared to 2100 "words."

So I'll explain a little bit. The essay is in Chinese, and the "character count" is 3000. But I was just going off the "word count" that is listed at the bottom of the page in my word processor. I thought that this would be fine to use, because in Chinese each character is its own word. But then two words next to each other can have a new meaning, almost like a new word. We suspect that somehow the program, Pages, was actually counting character phrases, which literally chops the actual word count in half.

So this was the day before the paper was due, and here I was thinking that I had such a long way to go, when in reality I had written far more that was actually necessary. I'm sure that you can imagine, I was so surprised and happy. It was such a relief.

The other funny thing is though, that I have been going off of this "word count" for my entire career in college. So all of the assignments that I have ever written have literally been twice as long as they were supposed to. Surprise! All the time I could have spent....

For all of you unsuspecting Chinese students though, for all that is good in the world, use character count, and save yourself the trouble! Anyways, that was a funny moment this week, thought I would share. Love, R.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A little tiny update, HSK Scores

Hi Everyone!

I've been sitting in this office all day long, feverishly writing this paper, the longest paper I've ever written in the shortest time I've ever been given in a foreign language... And I'm like not kidding about the feverish part, it's all this hot tea and lack of movement, it turns my face all red and hot... GOOD TIMES.

Anyways taking a break from all that to share my good news... I passed the HSK 6! This is exciting news, I didn't think that I would pass! HSK, 汉语水平考试, hanyu shuiping kaoshi, "hsk," is the standard test of Chinese language, 6 being the highest level. The test covers reading, writing and listening. Surprisingly, I did the best in writing, which is kind of cool I think, because I like writing.

I only passed by 6 points, which is to say my score was just above 60%, haha. Among Chinese college students, there is a saying 百分之70万岁, "Long live the 70th percentile," referring to the relaxed standards of passing college tests. In our case, we can say long live the 60th percentile, even better! Haha.

Its kind of a weight off of my shoulders, because from what I gather through the poorly communicated rules of this program, we are "required" to pass level 6 of this test at some point, or something. There will be a second test in the spring that we will take, but since I already got level 6, there will be somewhat less pressure for me to test well down the road.

Having a little personal celebration! Thought I would share with you guys! Wahoo!

Friday, November 15, 2013

光棍节--Happy Belated Single's Day, Everyone!

"Being single is eating wontons in the cafeteria, alone."
Hello Everyone!

To all of my single readers, I would like to wish you a happy Singles Day, and that you soon are able to not be single!

On November 11th, 11/11, this holiday is celebrated by singles across China, popularized by the number of one's in the date. You are supposed to eat 4 油条, "oil sticks," a fried donut type thing shaped like the number one, to signify the date, along with a baozi for the dash in the middle. Singles day in 2011 was especially well received, I'm sure that you can imagine.

If you are single, then people will send you all manner of text messages to wish you a happy holiday and that they hope you will be able to not be single soon. I thought that this phrase in Chinese was particularly funny- 早日脱光, "early day take off your single-ness." A friend in one of my classes is single, and she said she was plagued all day by texts from friends sending their wishes to her. Singles can sort of celebrate being single, but it seems more sad in a way, more like a reminded that you haven't yet found a 对象, a target for marriage.

Another aspect to singles day is, like all great holidays, consumerism! Some people have asserted that this holiday was only created by companies so that they could have Singles Day related shopping promotions. Online shopping websites, ahem, Taobao, 淘宝, have big promotions starting at midnight the day of. Some of our roommates here I heard took advantage of this to pick up some stuff, haha.

Anyways, just wanted to share this silly holiday with you all. Cheers!

Monday, November 4, 2013

So what's with the face masks?

I've had a few people back in the states ask me about the face mask thing and why people wear them. There are a couple reasons for the mask, maybe a little pseudo-sciency, but reasons nonetheless. 

I started wearing one if the bluish green surgical masks a couple of weeks ago on my roommates suggestion. I get really bad pollen allergies, and was sneezing for like 10 minutes solid, and the next day she brought some home for me to wear. She said that it's common for people wear them to help with allergies. I feel like this makes sense, because it's a physical barrier between your face and pollen. I haven't had a ton of allergy flare-ups since I've been here, so I can't say definitively weather or not it really works, but I buy it. 

The second reason that people wear a mask is to prevent the spread of illness. You would wear it if you were sick, so that you wouldn't get anyone else sick. Sick days in china are not really a thing, and you probably have to show up to work or class once or twice while your sick, so you could wear one at that time, on the subway, etc. The drawback is that they make your face really hot and are really annoying to wear inside. 

The third reason for a mask is to prevent breathing in dirty air when you are out in the road. I see so many people riding bicycles, on their motorbike, or just walking around wearing a mask out in busy streets. I feel like the pseudo-science comes in a little bit here, but I invite you to suspend your suspicion for just a moment to imagine being in really dirty air. Like your standing behind a tractor for a few minutes, a California afternoon when the southern  half the state is on fire, your sister left the bottle of nail polish open in the smallest bathroom in the house, a campfire that hasn't quite taken yet and is mostly just smoke... These are the kind if smells that you will get out on the street. The kind if smells which you can't tell if they simply smell bad or if they are actually dangerous. A classmate has even told me she gets headaches when she goes  out for too long, so you really can't help but wonder. When faced with these strange smells, you cannot help but want to cover your nose and mouth. Having a mask on can really help with this. 

There are a few different kinds masks, which are the surgical type masks, and then novelty cloth masks. As far as I can tell, neither if these masks have any type if extra protection, other than just being cloth over your face, hence my suspicion of pseudo-science. The novelty ones are funny, baecause they come in children's sizes, men and women's styles, big and small, Lacey and pink, checkered... Quite funny. 

I myself bought this really great shiny pink lepoard one that covers most if my face. Will says it makes me look like a ninja hehe. Not only is it totally adorable, it gets warmed up from your breath and keeps you really warm! It keeps the dangerous and gross smells down and potentially helps my allergies stay under control. It helps keep me healthy and keeps out roadside dirt particles. And it covers my face and makes me look less like a foreigner! So for me and many others, the mask is definitely working. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good reasons for a bad habit

Midterms are funny to me, this time in the semester, because the difference between what I want and what the reality is is so large and noticeable that it spills over into absurdity and all I can do is just laugh. 

Come time for midterms, it's like halfway through the semester (obviously). This means that I've been like working my butt off for a good number of weeks already! To my mind, midterms is like, the time when I should be getting ready to take a long weekend or something like this. Of course this is never  the case according to the school calendar: it is the time when the real works starts, as if all that you had been doing before that was just like, for fun. The teachers are all like, "oh you thought that was bad??" And then they pull out the midterm assignment. 

So I just have to work with it. I have a really good method down, where I do exactly what I want when I want  over midterms period. For any sane and reasonable person, I probably wouldn't recommend this. But there are some good reasons why I have made this bad habit work for me. 

The first reason is that up till now if I have been legitimately working hard and doing homework, I usually have a pretty good understanding of the class material. I can just do one really big cram session before the test and work it out. My grades usually are pretty sturdy anyways, so if I do bad on a big test, it won't be totally devastating to my grade. 

And the second reason is that if I don't feel relaxed and happy and ready to get my stuff done, I will just stare at my computer screen for unreasonable amounts of time, or like watch movies online. I might as well admit that I am stressed and not ready to go to work, unwind, and then get to it when I am ready. I feel like doing "fun" things is time spent more wisely than just forcing myself to do something that I am mentally resisting. Then I usually end up spending less time and getting a better product. 

So anyways, midterms is upon us, and I am feeling pretty resistant against the giant stack of papers and presentations and reports that are coming up here... Going to probably do some more fate-tempting here in the next couple of days, so wish me luck! I'm gonna need it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Impressions - Fall is Magic

It's smack in the middle of fall, and you know how it gets sort of romantic around this time.

These days when I go to dinner at the cafeteria, I come outside its already turned all dark. I get to walk back home under the trees in the gauzy orange light from the big round street lamps. Sometimes I wear a face mask to keep my allergies at bay, and since it covers both mouth and nose, it gets warmed up from my breath, and has sort of an effect of a scarf, except on your face. Walking home under the trees with all the other students in the dark with only my eyes poking out from behind the mask is just sublime.

Laundry is hang-dried here. I have the big rack outside of my window where I hang all of my wet clothes, and so does everyone else, and you can see all kinds of socks and underwear hanging around. Even people who have dryers prefer to hang their clothes outside in the sun. One of my teachers said that the clothes just don't come out the same when you use the electric dryer. My roommate also said that I should sun my bed comforter too. It gets fluffed up out there, and makes it smell like the sun, she says. Crawling into bed on an autumn evening with a freshly sunned comforter is so crisp and cozy.

No one drinks coffee, only green tea. Hot water pots are as ubiquitous as coffee makers in offices here. Loose leaf green tea in a sort of tall tupperware-like container, or a tall glass jar. Green tea with goji berries and chrysanthemum in your jar will last you from early morning to late at night, you can just keep filling it up with hot water. After a couple rounds of water, the tea turns this cloudy shade of neon green, and the flowers open up and float on the top. I have gone a few days here and there without coffee, and it left with a slight evening headache, maybe the tiniest of  fevers, and feeling dreamy.

Subway rides to school are long. Long enough to read a chapter in a book, long enough to listen to a whole album, to write a few emails, read a newspaper. Not doing anything productive on my commute is my little way of protesting going all the way out there for class, and it has been a really great idea. I get to school ready to work and listen, because I had just spent that whole train ride just doing whatever, relaxing, enjoying my book, thinking about Will, missing San Francisco...

I feel calm and relaxed and good and happy and open, and just a little melancholy. Its my own fault for listening to this Do Make Say Think album too much, it's anyone's call. Anyways, love to all my friends and family and classmates and supporters, I'm thinking about you.  Thanks for reading,    


Friday, October 18, 2013

Chinese School

So this has been my first week going to a full five days of classes at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine--so cool! Finally going for a full week is really allowing me to settle in, and see things with clear eyes, instead of the initial "ohmygod where is my classroom i'm so late" sort of eyes.

First, I want to say that after all of the headache that it took to manage, I want to say that I am actually really glad that I am going to a different University for classes that my other flagship classmates. NUCM is almost entirely made up of Chinese students, a big contrast to Nanjing University, where I could go all day just speaking English with all of the foreigners. I see a foreigner once in a while, but they are few and far in between. In one of my classes, Basics of Chinese Medicine Theory, and I am the only exchange student/flagship student there! It is really cool to be completely immersed in my classes, it feels like such a once in a lifetime kind of thing: 难得可贵!

Second, I want to say that I think everything that they've ever told us in America about how lucky we are to go to school there, and how school in Asia is really intense, is like 100% true. All the buildings are grey and look exactly the same, and are like a maze. And then once you find your classroom, you're teacher may or may not show up, or the room might have just changed an no one told you, or the class was just cancelled. Luckily I didn't run into these problems, but lots of my class mates did. And then, once you pin down the class, and the time, and the place, you actually have to like, go and attend the class.

Class in China is sitting and listening to the teacher talk into a microphone at the front of the class, while she/he clicks through a powerpoint, which is just lines copied from the book, that you are supposed to have in front of you. There is no eating allowed, but you can drink tea. The desks are indescribably uncomfortable, because the chair is attached to the desk at the weirdest distance from the table, and you can't move it around, and sometimes the chairs are broken. During class, if the teacher asks you a question, you stand up, and find the answer in the book as fast you humanly possible, and then read the paragraph where the answer is; none of this "say it in your own words" nonsense. Also, there seems to be some elusive kind of system where the teacher hopes that you will finish her sentences, and that if you have correctly memorized the material, you will spontaneously say the answer/finish her sentence in unison with her and the rest of the class. The one thing that the teachers seem to be lenient on is talking in class, and at some points during the lecture, a wave of low-pitched talking rises up, and literally every student in the class is just talking, and the teacher's sadly amplified voice is like, completely drowned out. But she never says anything, it is just so odd.

I also have a short break between classes, where I like to just walk around and check things out. There is always people riding around two to a bicycle, or best friends holding hands. They broadcast the campus radio program over the loud speakers outside for everyone to listen to, and they really like to play Coldplay's "Yellow." It give things sort of a sweet feeling, walking around listening to "yellow," eating tangerine's in the twilight...

Overall, I am really enjoying my classes out here. I feel so lucky! Also, I took some photos of the campus, you can check them out here.

P.S. Just a note for future Flagship students: If anyone is reading this and is wondering if they would like to take classes at Xianlin area, where my school is located, let me just tell you up front that it take A REALLY LONG TIME to get there. They tell you in the office that it takes an hour, but you best be getting along a good hour and a half before your class starts or your ass is about to be late. *huffing* That is all.

秋高气爽了!Happy Fall everyone!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Clothing in China

counterfeit clothing
Ah yes, I "LOAE" Paul Frank too! ...My guess is that
counterfeiting probably has something to
 do with the exorbitantly high prices in China also. 
So over vacation, Betty and I of course had to do the little shopping trip or two, and let me just say, purchasing clothing here is surprisingly expensive, and not in the like, 物美价廉, you get what you pay for sort of way.

So we are in downtown Hangzhou just checking out the area, and Betty spotted a shirt that she liked, so we go in to check it out.... And this shirt is cute, but its really lacking in quality, practically coming apart at the seams, and the fabric is really thin and this sort of faux-suede material. I would say comparable to something you would find at Forever 21 in the states, the price point, if I were to guess, couldn't have been more that like $15 USD or so. But we flip over the price tag and it was a whopping 540元, which is like almost $100 USD! I couldn't believe it!

This price turned out to be standard at most of the other stores that we went into in the area. Most things hovered in the 450-600元 range, and for anything nicer that like Forever 21 quality, you were looking at something more like 1000元. I couldn't believe my eyeballs, I tell you. I asked Betty what she thought of the prices, if it was just that this area was extra posh or touristy, but she said that most of the shops around our university in Nanjing were in similar price ranges, and seems to be the standard range for clothes purchased in-store.

As we browsed the racks, I thought of my sister Sofie, who has a part-time job at a high-end retail store. She is always talking about the large number of customers visiting from China that she helps. This always struck her as sort of remarkable, because really, they go in and buy  A LOT of stuff, and spend a lot of money. We always wondered what that was all about, and I always conjectured that it was just the Chinese 追求名牌 "chasing brand name" phenomenon that we learned about in my Chinese class, but now that I am in China shopping, it seems like it could also be simply attributed to a cost benefit thing.

For example, if you could pay $90 to get a cheap shirt from some no name clothing retailer; or you could stalk up on name brand, better made stuff for just a little bit extra when you like, visit your Uncle in the US or something like that, which would you do? You would probably just wait it out, to get a whole bunch of the good stuff at one time, right? For like a similar price! So to them, purchasing "luxury" goods in the US is basically the same price, with more benefits: you get the flashy logo on it, which definitely has appeal here in China, and, if that shirt we saw the other day was any indicator of the quality of clothing here as a whole, you also get much nicer and well made pieces of clothing.

It really was an interesting experience to go shopping here, and it sort of put things into perspective for me as far as why American luxury brands are so popular with Chinese people. Very interesting.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wonderful trip to Hangzhou!

Hi all!

Last time I posted, I was complaining about having class on Sunday, but now I feel very refreshed from a really nice vacation. Betty and I had a lot of fun, walked around the lake, took a boat ride, ate delicious dinners, went shopping...

The only hitch we had was with the hotel. Apparently it is common for some hotels to be unable to accept foreign guests, and the hotel that we originally booked ahead of time online was one of these. After several calls with CTrip, the online booking agency for Asia that we used, everything seemed to be sorted out; once we actually arrived at the hotel though, they weren't willing to let us stay. Good old China though, usually if you just refuse to leave and make a big enough fuss, someone will help you out, so, that is exactly what I did (in a nice way of course). Eventually, the workers relented, and helped us out by finding a way around the regulations, and we had a place to stay! So just a word to my fellow travelers, Pod Inn 布丁酒店 is not recommended for foreigners ;)

I took some great photos! I decided that I don't like the way photos display on my blog though, so I posted the on my photo bucket! Please take a look by clicking here. I hope you enjoy!


Monday, September 30, 2013

Going to school on Sundays--Seriously??

Right at the start of the semester here, we have had quite a few days off. We had the Mid-Autumn Festival, with a four day break, and now it is National Day, with a whopping seven day break. But in China, when you have a break, a thing that makes sense is that you should make up for the days that you had off, right?? RIGHT??

When I first heard that we would be required to make up all Fridays off by holding class on SUDAY instead, I was surprised, to say the least. First of all, there is the logical thing of, why would we make up only Friday's class, and not do anything about Thursday's missed class? And what about all of the other days we miss for longer breaks? All of this Friday class make-uping has actually given us a surplus of Friday class sessions, and now we've attended it two times more than classes on other days of the week, and a week of attending class six days in a row!

And then the little anglo-christian deep inside of me was like--"You can't do that, Sunday is the day of rest!" I felt it so clearly, sort of like a violation of the sanctity of Sunday or something. I have not considered myself a religious person for a long time now, so it must have been something left over from way back in my childhood, when my family would go to church.

When we asked our program why the class schedule is arranged this way, we got a few different answers. It turns out that the holiday schedule is different every year, and that schedule does not get published until after the school year starts; this makes it impossible to know exactly how many class hours you will have when you pay your tuition. So that whole making up class things is so that you can what you paid for as far as class hours go. But there is another questions too, which is why isn't the holiday schedule the same every year, and why does it take so long to get it published?

 But its not just schools that are affected: government organizations are making up the days too. That means that thousands of people are living with uncertainty of their vacation time, and without the benefit of a fixed schedule. This creates problems as far as traveling, and creates a rush to buy tickets for the holiday. For example, if you're going to visit relatives, you have to either take a gamble on the dates to buy tickets before the rush comes on, before the dates are announced; or wait until the dates are announced and fight for train tickets and hotels with the rest of 'em. I have a classmate who decided to try and get plane tickets before the travel rush, but he got his dates wrong and had to miss a week of class because of it.

These are just the facts of life in China: waiting on government bureaucracy, odd regulation... No one bats an eyelash when this type of thing happens. Most people just shrug and say "It's just China," and get on with it. And it is a rather trivial matter...

Anyways, food for thought! Happy National Day everyone! Cheers~

Monday, September 23, 2013

中国改变得非常快:China is changing so fast...

At like a breakneck speed. Back in America I always heard people say this, in both Chinese and English, but it was sort of hard to get a grip on what it meant to me, as a young person, from a small US town.

But now that I am here, I know exactly what it means. It means 24hr/day construction. It means leaving for a year and not knowing what your town might look like when you come back. It means new structures going up so quickly you kind of wonder if they are structurally sound. It means ditches in the road, ambiguous traffic directions, and dangerous intersections. It means NOISE, all the TIME noise, the oh god did I just damage my ear drum a little bit kind of noise. An army of men in orange helmets out on the street running cement saws in flip-flops.

 Right down the street from my house, there is a big sports stadium where they will be holding the Youth Olympics next August, so in preparation they are putting in all manner of new underground stations and flower planters by the road.... SPORTS *shakes fist*

Sometimes at night I can here the high powered trenching machine at work. It makes my boyfriend's flat in San Francisco, conveniently located on 19th avenue (aka the freeway), seem like a sanctuary of peace and tranquility. It is very odd to see everything torn up like this. I am not sure if I just happened to get plopped right down in the middle of one tiny construction project, or if this is really related to the ubiquitous "China is changing" trend. I feel like it must be, on some sort of grand scale.                    

Saturday, September 14, 2013

观光中山陵和明孝陵: Mausoleums at Purple Mountain

Yesterday we went to Purple Mountain 紫金山 to see the Sun Yat Sen's Mausoleum and to see the Ming Xiao Tomb (I don't really know the official name in english). WOW so magnificent, you must look at these pictures.

These places are particularly beautiful not by accident; they are chosen specifically because they have the best fengshui 风水.They are south facing so that the sun will be shining on them the whole day long, and also must be facing water, a symbol of clarity. They must back up against a mountain for protection, and must themselves be up in a high place, so that you must look up towards the tomb, a sign of respect. Very cool, had a fun time walking up all those stairs.

Had a great birthday!

I had my 22nd birthday last weekend, everyone, yay! It was really great! Barbie took me out to dinner, and we had a giant korean hot pot feast. Then drinks at Alec's place, and then to karaoke! I have to say that I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, it was so fun. Maddie gave me a card with the cutest bookmark ever, and Brian brought us little cakes! And of course obligatory singing of happy birthday. Karaoke was that it was so luxurious! You get your own private room to fit in a ton of people, and they bring your drinks, and there are TV screens everywhere. I was just really impressed. Also, it was so wonderful to have so many new friends together, it was just a good time.

Me and Sean breaking it down
Birthday noodles! Hopefully they will bring me a long life!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The only thing I have to say is: WTF Wells Fargo

I get it all the time: “You still have Wells Fargo? Why don’t you switch to a credit union?” After all of this nonsense, I think I just might do that. And to all of you little lambs out there who are thinking that your mega bank has treated you right so far, and why would they do you wrong when you are abroad, think again. 

I will tell you from the beginning the story of why my bank sucks. 

So I brought over a whole boatload of cash. I went to the bank and got $2000 USD exchanged into RMB and took it with me on the plane in my parents ancient money belt. It is a little zip pocket which you strap around your waist and lug with you all over the planet. I would REALLY recommend doing this. I would even recommend taking more cash, like 4000, or even 5 if your feeling ballsy. 

I recommend this not just so you can feel like a baller with a huge stack of cash strapped to you like a gangster, although will most certainly be the case. I would mostly recommend this because around here, cash is king. They do not accept Visa at the tiny jiaozi market, or the corner baozi place. There is no visa card reader at the second hand bike market. There is not even a card reader in my realtors office; I have to pay all of my five months rent up front in cash! You need to get liquid real quick, and if there is a block in your cash flow, you’re going to be hurting.

So for the first week or so, everything was great. I had all kinds of money, was paying for expenses left and right, checking things off of my list. Until the day that all of the cash that I had brought with me was gone. I went to the ATM, and lo and behold, I could only take out 1000 kuai per day, as opposed to the promised 2500 that all of my classmates had referred to. This only comes out to about $150USD, a much smaller number that what I can normally take out in the US. And the only reason that I can think of as to why they would arbitrarily change this daily limit is simply to make you pay the $5USD surcharge more times in order for you to get the same amount out of the ATM! 

Think of it: in order for me to get 2500kuai out of the bank I could either a. take 2500 out at one time, and pay a one time fee of $5USD, or b. go to the ATM three times, and pay 3x as much in fees. This is clearly the only reason why wells fargo has done this to me. 

So now, in order to pay my 15,000kuai in rent up front, I have to remember to go to the bank every single day and withdraw my measly 1000 kuai, and pay $5USD each time. By the time I actually get the rent out of the bank, I will have paid 15 ATM fees. 

Some things you should ask your bank before you leave: 

-What is your cash withdraw limit abroad? Can you raise it? Make it the highest amount possible. 

-Does your bank have any sister banks abroad? Wells fargo does not. Charles Schwab Is supposed to have some pretty good deals. Also Bank of America does have some relationships with Chinese Banks. 

-What is the ATM fee to withdraw abroad? 

-What is the fee to use you debit card to make purchases abroad? 

-Most importantly to ask yourself: How much cash will I bring with me abroad? How will I get direct access to my money when I need it on the spot? Even ask you bank what they recommend, and try to decipher their answer as coming from a blood draining money hounding perspective *shakes fist*

First day in Nanjing

I can't believe I just got here yesterday, so many things have already happened. I was jet lagged and woke up super early, got up and searched out some coffee on Guangzhou Lu and then Me and Barbie met up and headed to the Flagship office together, where we filled out some forms and were sent to go with realtors to go look at apartments. We split up and headed out with separate realtors on the back of motor bikes, at one point we were three to one bike! The sky was dark when we left, and then not a moment after we stepped inside at the first house did it start pouring rain. It poured for a few hours, but we dawned ponchos and looked at a few places. 

A few useful tips for looking at houses:
-rent is usually about 3000-3500. If you pay more, it will be bigger and nicer. Keep the in mind if you are a penny pincher going for under 2000. 

-ask if the have Internet equipment installed already. This is convenient, and you won't have to wait the two days for them to install it. Ask if the is an air conditioner and heater in the apartment. Ask if utilities are included in the rent price.

-see if you can get a deal for five months only. This will be better than 6 months most likely, and certainly better than a year. Your realtor will help you with the six months, but you'll have to fight for the five. 

-you can choose to use a realtor or not. The realtor will charge you a fee of at least 50% of one months rent, and up to 85%. Try not to pay the full month. They will find you a place quickly and take you around to look at the apartments which is pretty fun in itself.  

-don't split up with your classmate, and have someone who has already been the a few days To along to be your advocate. Sometimes the realtors can be pushy. 

Anyways, had a really fun time looking. Will tell you about my new place soon!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Printing my own passport photos

If you follow my directions, you could look as ballin' as these people in your passport photos. 
   At $9.99+ a pop, printing passport photos is just a real pain. I see all of these prints, 2x3, 5x7 portraits for like half a penny at the drug store, and then there it is, the required 2x2 passport size photo, listed and the most egregious price. It is true I am a penny pincher, but ten whole dollars, for a picture that literally costs the store a penny?!? I say NO!

This all started when I first found out that I needed 8 passport sized photos when I arrived in Nanjing for various ID cards. That is 4 sets of passport pictures y'all.

Then I really started sweating when I got the same message from a different group that I will be joining in Nanjing, the Confucius Institute. I thought, well I'd better be safe than sorry... 16 passport sized photos?! That is $80 for an 8x11 sheet of photos!! How can this be!! I absolutely refuse to give WALGREENS or any other giant mega drug store that amount of money for literally a single sheet of paper.

So I am on a real mission here to print my own passport sized photos. It turned out to be more difficult that I thought. There is a whole slew of rules and regulations on a passport sized photos. Literally too many to list. You can marvel at it here.

Then comes actually taking the picture. Go through your house and find the best lit area. I used my bathroom. Make sure it is really bright so that your face and neck won't be in shadow. This is really important; there is a whole other set of guidelines on how your photo should be in the proper light and contrast. You will also need to have a white background. I used a pillowcase, but I have heard of people using sheets or large poster boards. Have someone else take the photo for you; sorry no selfies.

Next you'll need to crop the photo to the elusive 2x2 size. has a photo cropper to help you. Due to all the rules, the program is very particular, and if it is only slightly off, it will throw you an error message. So go back and marvel at that list of rules again until you understand what is wrong. There is also a "help" bar to help you (duh).

Next, you'll need to print your photos. If you can print photos at home, you will be home free! Just crop it to the right size and you will be good to go. If not, you have a couple options. First, you might try to haggle with your local drug store. The passport photos are expensive in part because they need to actually take the photo for you, so if you explain to them that you don't need any of that portrait taking nonsense and you just need the size of the photo, then you might get a better deal at the store.

Now when I did that just a few moments ago, the lady told me she couldn't because here manager was out of town (lies) so I think I found another method This will take your photo, crop it, and then it will fit the 2x2 photo into a 4x6 panel, yielding 5 2x2 photos and 1 2x2 sized passport corner logo for good measure. Download that file, which you can then take back to the drugstore to have printed as a 4x6. Cut out the photos yourself, and voila, you have yourself some bonafide passport photos at a damn good price.

There I just saved you $10 YOU'RE WELCOME ;)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Awesome and Hilarious Films!

Hi everyone! 好久不见了!

Lately I have been watching so many great chinese films, and they are SO FUNNY. If I was choosing a film for myself, I usually go for comedy, because I just want to laugh. But these films all seem to have a great mix of silly laughs and real moments.

The first one I saw was Let the Bullets Fly, 让子弹飞. It plays out like a western, the movie opening with a gang of bandits 贼 who kidnap the soon to be magistrate. The dialogue is quick and modern even in subtitles, has all the proper twists and turns of a regular Chinese tale, and is complete with names like Pockmark Zhang and Mr. Wolf.

The next one that I would recommend is called Lost on Journey (yes, the english title is that chilglishy!), the chinese is called 人在囧途。This one is a comedy about two men heading to Changsha during Chinese New Year and all the crazy things that happen. There are some really funny shots of holiday travel, often referred to as the Spring Migration 春运, which I hear is just out of control; you get a good snapshot of what its like. It also addresses some of the differences between rural people's and city people's lives. Of course this is definitely a comedy so do take it with a grain of salt. Very silly and fun. You can watch the whole thing on youtube (in chinese haha sorry). 

The latest one is called The Great Magician 大魔术师. It is really magical and fun, with a love story, political intrigue, and magic shows that are really fun to watch. The dialogue is straightforward and piercing, and the female lead is pretty much a badass!

Check them out, I hope you enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

ISIC Revisited

So, I ended up buying an ISIC card, because it is indeed a requirement of OIP.

It does actually seem legit as a form of insurance, and I would recommend it just for this reason. Covers the following:
Trip Delaypage1image37440
Emergency Accident and Emergency Sickness Medical Expense
Emergency Medical Evacuation and Medically Necessary Repatriation
Repatriation of Remainspage1image40912
Accidental Death and Dismemberment 
Accidental Death and Dismemberment – Common Carrier (Air Only)
Baggage Delay 

But while you are on the website, it is a little bit finicky. When it says to select your country of study, choose the country that you are from, no matter where you are traveling to (this confused me). And then once you are on the US page, the only option is to purchase an ISIC Card with a MasterCard account attached to it. OBVIOUSLY I didn't want this, so I called their customer service line, and I found out that you can purchase an ISIC card without the MC account over the phone. They also said that over the phone for $10 extra, they would ship the card to me without actually processing any of my paperwork. I am not sure how that makes any sense at all, as they didn't verify that I was a student or anything like that, but it was a heck of a lot more convenient, so I would suggest this route. 

Also, if you are traveling but aren't a student, they have youth cards, and other options like that. Meh, I give it 2.5 stars. Check it out at

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

异地恋: Long Distance Relationships

I have been doing a lot of thinking about Will and I's relationship, and how it will evolve after I leave in August. Having just moved back home to Rocklin, splitting us up by about 200 miles, I feel like it is a good transition phase: it is easy to just take the bus to see one another, and we have been getting used to long distance communication. Things have been going well, and frankly, I feel excited for our future together, even though it won't be the most traditional type for the next little while.

I have been mulling things over to myself, but I finally did what I do for all of my problems: Google it! so after googling it, I came up with a few interesting pages/articles that I might recommend to others who are in the same boat.

Loving From a Distance: It is a little cheesy, but it has some fun ideas for the more adventurous long distance lover: lists of activities, fun gift ideas, inspirational stories... A community for people in long distance relationships. There are even forum boards where you can chat with LFAD Alumni.

Long Distance Relationships .net: This seems like some legit info about long distance relationships. From the Former Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, it claims that long distance couples do not have a higher rate of breaking up than regular couples, and that many feel just as fulfilled as if they were living in the same location. It also has some great questionnaires to help you and your partner know what to expect, and some recommendations for time away and transition periods. Watch out, Will, I might be coming at your with some questionnaires soon ;).

Of course, Oprah has something to say about this, so go ahead and check out The Long and the Short of Long Distance Relationships, on her website. The article is barf-tastically gushy, but has some truth to it too.

And lastly a funny article from GQ, titled "Honey, this FaceTime is torture." Also has some spot on nuggets of advice and a good description of what using Skype is actually like.

After looking at these articles, I feel more prepared to get more real about my future. After thinking about it, it doesn't seem so scary any more. If you have been in a long distance relationship and have advice, or will be and have thoughts, please share with me in the comments! I would love to hear! 'Till next time, adieu mes amis, 拜拜!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I won the Confucius Institute Scholarship! Yay! 谢谢孔子学院!

I just heard the news yesterday by email! I won a scholarship from the Confucius Institute at Nanjing University to study Chinese! It covers my tuition and hopefully some of the cost of living! I haven't won a ton of scholarships, and, this one being kind of a big one, I feel super excited.

The Confucius Institute is a Chinese organization promoting Chinese language and culture abroad. There is probably a chapter on your campus! They host many cultural competitions which have some really wonderful awards for funding and study abroad opportunities, so I would urge you to go in and say hello! For this particular scholarship, I was the only one on my campus to apply, which really upped my chances, and I hear that this is not a situation which is unheard of. If you want to study abroad, want funding, and want ways to practice your Chinese, definitely go check it out.

You can check out there website here.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

ISIC Cards?

There is sort of a loose "requirement" from the Office of International programs that says you should buy an ISIC card. It is supposed to be an international ID card that comes with discounts around the country. But I say, isn't my passport an international ID card? And the benefits aren't all that great in China. Most of the discounts are in Shanghai, only one in Nanjing.

 It's $25, and I feel like it wouldn't really be worth it. Has anyone ever used the ISIC card abroad? Did you find it convenient? Would you recommend it?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Life is Good

Feeling good today, last day in SF. Itinerary:

-Trouble Coffee with Sofie

-Pick up Flagship stipend check at SFSU   ------------------------------->

-Drop off some documents at OIP

-Say goodbye to will's roommates at the Brochelor Pad

-Cook one last dish of Chana Masala at my place

-Last shift at work, last paycheck (see above!!)

-Maybe a few celebratory drinks after work

-Move out of my place tomorrow.

Things are pretty sweet. Its been a ball, SF. Thanks for taking care of me, until next time~~

Monday, June 17, 2013

Saying goodbye is tough

It is that time again when I have to leave one place for another. We all have to do it. And it always feels the same. When I first moved away from home; and then when I moved back out of the college dorms; and then when I moved out of my first apartment. But also the other times. All of those summer trips I have been so fortunate to take around the US and abroad.

Leaving really hits me hard. When you leave a place behind, you also leave behind a time and once you have left it, you won't get to go back again. Space and time swirl up together as one, and so I know that each time I shift my place in this world, I also shift to a new time in my life. A photograph, a scent in the air, a melody plunge you into the feeling of an old time for just a split second, but you are always in the present. 

Talking with a friend the other day, we decided that some people are particularly transient, and they just move around more. It has just always been this way for me, and I have more or less gotten used to it. I still mourn a little and cry when I say goodbye, because crying is all you can do in the face of the ticking of a clock. And it continues to tick, sadness fades, suddenly there you are in another city, another state, another country... Change occurs as a system, and one alteration brings change to all aspects of your life, but eventually its outward ripples will subside. That thought keeps me calm when it becomes time again for me to pack up and head out.  

When I had just moved to college and was having trouble, I remember my dad quoted one of his favorite movies and just said, "No matter where you go, there you are."And though it was a little off kilter, I always remembered that. I like to think of that quote and imagine the planet with me and all of the people I love on it, just being right where we are. If we are far away, it makes us seem closer. And then it makes me remember that I am exactly where I am: right here, right now. 

I move out of my apartment on Friday, and its coming up real quick. It really hit me today, prompting me to write this post. Saying goodbye to this place, to this time, is hard, but I know in my heart that good things are on the way. I am so blessed by my family and loved ones for all of the support I have. Sending love to everyone!! 

Thanks for reading~~

Friday, June 14, 2013

I was on the Chinese news!!

KTSF came to my class a few weeks back and interviewed my teacher, classmates, and I about learning chinese, and why we had an interest in the language. Check out the clip online!

you can see me at the 3 minute mark! it is short, and I look funny but whatever.

As soon as I heard that it aired, my friend texted me and told me that she saw me on TV! I hadn't even told her to watch it! KTSF is a pretty popular news channel in the bay area, so it sounds like quite a few people saw it. Even a few of my co-workers saw it, too! hehe we are local celebrities :">

EDIT 7/2/13: It looks like the link above no longer links to the video! You can find them on Facebook now, as well as an additional segment!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Some sites that I have been enjoying...

Just a few sites here that I have been enjoying, you might like them too!

China Mike
China Mike is the greatest! Between the snarky commentary and the really useful tips, Mike really gives you the DL on what you might expect in China. it is a must read for anyone looking heading to the Middle Kingdom.

Off Color Otter
My friend’s blog from his stay in Hong Kong! We met back in Chinese 101 class. He hasn’t posted much lately, and I have a feeling that he has actually returned to the US by now. Nonetheless fun to browse through.  

A great blog from two honeymooners traveling around the globe. Fun stories and great photos as they stop in at great destinations all over the world. All of the post re: china are all really fun too.

WWoof stands for the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In exchange for 4-6 hours of work a day, you will be provided room and board on a local farm. WWOOF farms are all over the world and seem accommodating to many lengths of stay. Flagshipers might be interested in this organization to fulfill the volunteering portion of the program; I know I am!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Chinese Friends from Work, Some Travel Advise

Lately, I have been making friends with some coworkers of mine who are from China. They have been so wonderful to talk to and hang out with, and they have given me some great advise on in country travel that I would never have gotten anywhere else.

We were all hanging out on Sunday night, chatting and having a snack, and I realized that I hadn't told them I would be leaving work soon. When I told them about when I was leaving, I became unexpectedly sad! I hadn't thought about how we might not see each other again for a long time. So if any of you guys are reading this, 離開了科學館以後會很想念你們!你們給我的建議真幫我很大的忙!我們保持聯絡吧!

If you are reading this as a flagship student, I would really recommend that you get in touch with the Chinese community at your work. It is a wonderful opportunity to use your language skills in real life situations, and your coworkers or people that you help there will be so impressed and glad that you can use their native language. I have had the opportunity to practice Chinese at two of my jobs since I started studying, and I really think that part of the reason why my Chinese progressed as fast as it did.

Additionally, here are some tips from my friends for getting to and around China:

-Beijing and Hong Kong airports are the largest international airports in the country.
-Fly into either of these, at which time you can catch a domestic flight to the city of your choice.
-Domestic flights should only be about 400 RMB (~$70!!)
-Check both Chinese and English language websites for prices. I have a suspicion that Chinese language ones will be less expensive. I was recommended this website: 携程旅行網
-When you book your flight, book a hotel for a night or two as well. These should also run about 400RMB. There WILL be less expensive options, but these will come with less amenities. Go for the mid range one.
-Make sure that you know the address of the place you are staying at. Have a printout with the address, and hand it to the driver.
-You will want to google the distance between the airport and your hotel. Look up local taxi fares, and do the math. Know what to expect regarding prices, so you don't get tricked.
-You might consider getting in touch with a Chinese travel agent when you are still in the US. They can help you navigate all of your options, and some even have some connections, useful if you (heaven forbid) run into some trouble.

Hope this helps! And thanks for everything CAS Friends!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A poem/What I have "learned"

A poem for you--

Brain turned to mush,

on last day of finals week;

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?

Or just the glowing of my computer screen?



Insurance policy has come back from the Office of International Programs, finally, so I get to buy that tomorrow. Also and ISIC card, which has a good deal on emergency evacuation (hah yeah i'm serious). And hopefully finish my capstone acceptance packet.

What I have learned: probably the same thing that I always "learn"-- that I should have started all of this much earlier.

haha CHEERS~

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Visa Good News

Finally done (for the most part) with my visa app!! Turned in my forms to Mia this morning. Bus ticket purchased for my second trip back to Rocklin to get my final physical exams. And Mia said that there is a delay in sending the forms to DC, so they won't be late after all!!

When will I learn? I was freaking about about all of this so bad, and here in the end,  there is no problem at all. 

I bought myself a mocha to celebrate ^_^

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Travel Physical, pt. 2 or, Things Get Testy: One Quick Trip

I messed it up!! I thought I wasn't going home until Friday, but here it is on Tuesday, and I am sitting on the MegaBus heading towards Sacramento.

It all started yesterday when I was (still) working on getting my visa packet together. It dawned on me that it was due this coming Friday, only a few days from now.  So I was going through my things, seeing what else I had to do, and there it was: PHYSICAL EXAMINATION RECORD FOR FOREIGNER. Remember all of those forms I told you about in my last post, Travel Physical, pt. 1? The giant one that the doc refused to take? That is the one that is due in the visa packet. I about had a heart attack when I realized it. 

The good news though? By some stroke of luck, it just happened that the day I scheduled my health exam for was the same day that it is due in Washington D. C. Mia said it would *most likely* be okay if I just FedEx them over on the same day. 

So why am I going to Rocklin today, Tuesday? Well the forms include some lab tests, like blood work and an X-ray, and if I were to take those lab tests on Friday, I wouldn't be able to have the results ready to be recorded and FedExed. SO. Here I am on the way to Rocklin. Only to head back to SF tonight. 

Now that you are up to speed with all of that, let me just tell you that I am not feeling my best. Lab work comes with fasting, no eating for ten hours prior to the tests, which wouldn't be so bad. Except for... COFFEE. I don't do so well without any coffee. My head feels like there is a clamp on it, and my eyelids have need drooping since I got up this morning.  I got up pretty early so I'm a little low in sleep too. 

But that's enough whining for now, plenty of good things await in Rocklin. My dad is going to pick me up from the bus station where it will be nice and warm, so I am looking forward to that. My mom has the day off too so we will also be able to hang out. And of course Wolfie my mom's dog will be there to play with. So it's not all bad. 

Should be making it home in just a few hours!! Hopefully this trip goes smoothly. What if I go into the office and my doctor goes "I ain't doing it!!" Lol. We shall see. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013


QQ is neat. Its like a mix between AOL Instant messenger and Facebook. You add friends and post statuses and pictures and stuff. Fun times on Thursday with my tutor Xi Li, who helped me make a QQ account. This way, I can hopefully make friends in China, and stay in touch with them a bit easier. 

It was sort of strange because when you make an account, you not only get a name and password, you also get a number to go along with it too. Its like a long 10 digit number that you are required to use to add people. I mentioned it to my dad, and he found that sort of intriguing, in light of some of the recent policy reforms that have been passed, trying to make people online identity easier to trace back to their real life identity. It also brought to mind that I was asked for my passport number (!!!) when registering for Sina Weibo, another social media platform, which I kindly declined to. 

But then again I am a total n00b at the internet, especially the chinese internet. Does anyone know what the long number is for? Have they always done it that way? And why did it want my passport number??  

Anyways, thanks so much Xi Li for helping me out with this! Now i just need to add some more friends! 真謝謝李曦姐姐幫我裝好QQ的軟件!這次在一起超好玩的呀!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Processing my Visa辦簽證/Medical Forms Update

Making more progress with my visa! I was discouraged last time when the Walgreen's people were somehow unable to take a sufficient visa picture of me in after 30 minutes ((shakes fist)) so I just got a refund and left... I have pulled about my visa form once again!

So I've mentioned before, but the Chinese visa application is complicated, and the "instructions" are not much of a help. I have it mostly sorted out now, thanks to MIA!!, but I just wanted to point out a sort of interesting feature, Part D of the Supplementary Visa App Form. This section says, "If you are applying for a visa in a country or territory other than the country of your nationality, please fill out the following." That seems pretty straightforward, like this box would apply to everyone. Then in box 2 asks "What kind of visa or residence permit of this country or territory do you hold?" This question seems irrelevant  because if this visa application is for a country other than that of my nationality (as stated above), wouldn't the answer be "none" ?? THEN it asks for the "number of your visa [for this territory] and its expiration date." Well that just takes the cake because if I already had a visa, why would I be applying for it here with this form??

After talking this over with my colleague, she had the idea that this portion might be relevant for residents of special economic zones like Hong Kong or Taiwan, who might have two passports or something like this. I think that this weird visa app is really an artifact of the incredibly complex resident situations of the area. It only happened just a few years ago that direct flights from China to Taiwan were established, and China still sort of considers Taiwan its territory, and what is HK even?? These issues make answering questions like "have you visited China before?" much more difficult on paper.

Also, just an update about the medical procedures. I found a city run clinic that will do a TB Test for almost half the price of the on campus health center!! The SF CDC&P has a travel clinic that will do the test for only $40 (SFSU Health Center charges $70). They do a drop in clinic which is open M-W&F (not available on Thursdays). Of course it is downtown, and you will have to go down there twice to get it read, but for that price I think it is worth it. Click this link to go to their website and check it out.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Let's Get Oriented/外國留學引導會議

Study Abroad Orientation was today... I had seen this presentation before, and being not so stoked to see it a second time, I was late. Had some good bus times with Will on the way over though:

Or mostly just me. Haha.

Anyways, when I finally made it, I found that it was more helpful that I had been anticipating. We mostly went over your plans and goals for study abroad and how to accomplish them, and then watched a few clips from Turistas and Taken to illustrate ways of how NOT to go about your study abroad year. Check out the cheesy cheesy trailer down below. I also got a sweet book called Maximizing Study Abroad: Students' Guide.  It looks pretty academic-y but its got checklists and strategies which are sort of useful, so I will probably cruz through that and let you know how it is. I got some good information from alumni of my program, and hooked up with some classmates too. And even David Wick from OIP was on his best behavior. So I would say it was pretty successful, not so painful. I shouldn't whine so much about these meeting type things.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Travel Physical, pt. 1

The latest project for my study abroad plans: complete a physical.

Doesn't sound too hard, right? Go to the doctor, they check your pulse, knock on your chest a few times, and call it good, right? Thats what I thought too. But in Study Abroad Land, going to the doctor is not really about your physical health, its actually about forms. Filling out paperwork.

The amount of paperwork that I presented at the downtown SF Overseas Medical Clinic was indeed so trepidating that I was refused outright by the doc herself. And then the best I could do after negotiations was a promise that "if you do it here, it will cost you $500." So, needless to say, I will be pursuing another route.

What could have been so bad about a few pieces of paper? Well lets start with the amount of 10 full pages. We have three sets of medical forms that need to be filled out for three different organizations: SFSU Study Abroad, Chinese Overseas Flagship Program, and for the Chinese Visa. They ask you all the standards about your personal medical history, mental health history, immunization record, does the physician recommend you for the program, etc. And then there are some more involved procedures like a physical examination and tuberculosis screening. But then the Chinese Visa application gets real weird, requiring a chest X-ray, and ECG, and a lab exam for HIV and syphilis. The lady at the Overseas Medical Clinic also made mention of a stool sample which she thought needed to be taken as well... yeah.

So with an estimate of $500, I sad no in lieu of some other options through my regular health care provider. Having said that, I'll also note that my regular health care provider is located two hours drive away from where I live now... so that will be a fun trip. 4 hours driving and a whole bunch of crazy tests all in one day. I scheduled that for a Friday in the next few weeks here, and should cost me nothing with insurance, a good trade of for the 70 bucks I would have spent at Overseas Medical.

Anyways, thus is the story of my travel physical, pt. 1. I will let you know how the rest of this goes, I have a feeling that I'm gonna get a little TESTY.


Notes for Study Abroad Students:

Overseas Medical Clinic- If you need a regular physical, or have to have the standard Study Abroad forms filled out, they should be okay. But do look over your forms first to make sure that you don't need any complicate procedures, besides maybe having your blood pressure taken, or maybe your eyes checked. Anything more, just take it somewhere else; when in doubt, just give them a call and go over your forms with them before hand to make sure that you will be in the clear. You don't want to get down there, just to find out that they can't help you (this is the part where you learn from my mistakes/前車之鑒). They don't have their own website, but you can see their Yelp for contact info here.

Update on 5/5 with a photo: