Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kunming is Kool

Dear Friends,

Since I've gotten here and gotten settled in, I've fallen in love with the place. Things are just excellent. I have my own little apartment, which is smack in the same building as my work! Let me tell you, it really cuts down on commute time ;) Also, Kunming is located in southwest China(<---look at it on the map!), very very far from the watchful eye of Beijing and the super-rich commercial centers of Jiangsu province and Nanjing and Shanghai and all of that, so things seem much more relaxed. Women wear less fur, there are less high heels, people don't look at me as frequently or as suspiciously. And it's much cleaner, with flowers everywhere, people spit less, or at least try to keep it in the gutters. I've got to say, this place is much more "civilized" than Nanjing ever was, and it's out in the middle of nowhere basically (signs everywhere remind you to be 文明, civilized, in the metro, in cabs, in the restaurants...).

Work is going really well also. I know have the pretentious title of being "an intern" which I think is funny and laugh about. I am working at the Yunnan Province Health and Development Research Association, which does grassroots research in rural areas of Yunnan Province to help increase public health conditions. I feel really lucky to have landed a spot here, and I feel like my education and training and personal thoughts really go well with this organization. They are going to keep me really busy though, I will definitely be on my toes for the next four months.

My social life has diminished greatly since I've left Nanjing. All my friends are dispersed all over the place, as I have lamented about at great frequency... Its okay though. I'm doing my best to stay open and friendly, and to hopefully make some new friends here. I went to Salvador's last night, which is an international coffee house on the main drag here to try and meet some new people (go there if you're in the area, they have organic milk and Santa Cruz Juices haha!). Turns out it was mostly drunken foreign students from the local Yunnan University, and Chinese couples snuggled up together, but I did manage to meet a traveler from Shanghai who was just on her way out. We did have a fun chat though, we talked about China and America and Ireland, where she'd traveled before...

I've been tired lately. Chinese company's don't really do "weekends" or "overtime." You just sort of, work. You work at a company, and then they tell you to do things. And they text you and call you and send you messages on your QQ at any old time. Lord how I miss good old American work culture where, when you're off the clock, you're off the clock. My work had made plans for me on both Saturday and Sunday of this weekend...!!! I just about died when they casually mentioned that, by the way, we are having a meeting tomorrow, Saturday, at 8:30am, and make sure to leave early because it's an hour away by bus. Now, I didn't actually end up attending for other reasons, having to do with my ATM card being mysteriously swallowed up in the ATM machine, but that story, that is something for a whole other blog post.

Anyways, love to my friends everywhere, be safe, eat good food, drink clean water, get some rest, because tomorrow, we got some work to do...! Love, R.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy new year and wishes of auspiciousness in the year of the horse! 新您快乐,马年吉祥,心想事成!

Greetings everyone, and happy new year! It is now officially the year of the horse. I spent new year's eve delayed in a plane in Sanya trying to get to Shanghai, but I'll get to that later.

So Chinese New Year first hand in China was quite an experience! From what I gather, the holiday spans eight or so days, including all sorts of practices according to what day of the new year it is etc., but which are still mysterious to me. Because the holiday is so special and long, it is a time for people to return to their hometowns to be with their families, which often times, is very very far away (China- is- huge- ). People work like dogs all year long, but once CNY hits, they close up shop and get out of town. Everything all around the country shuts down. No more noodles, midnight BBQ stands, dumplings, fruit markets, etc. No banks, post offices, Public Security bureaus...All that is left are major grocery stores, and some over priced foreign stuff (which is never that good anyways).  This leaves people like me sort of at loose ends. We hunted down the only Lanzhou Pulled Noodles place within a 5 mile radius that was open.

Another special thing about CNY is fireworks. Families will set off fireworks, and the bigger the better. None of these sparkler, ground-bloom pansy type fireworks; people bring out the big guns and set off the giant fireworks that you can see for miles. We were up in our friends high-rise on day four or five of CNY, and someone right below us was lighting them off, and they were exploding right outside the window, while at the same time, other families all over were doing the same thing. You could see fireworks in every direction. Other than being a spectacular fire hazard(!!!), they were pretty wonderful to watch.

The fireworks bring me back to my delayed flight from Sanya to Shanghai. So fireworks equal smoke. And so the most important day of Chinese New Year, the eve of the new year, a day that involves lots and lots of fireworks, also just happened to have horrible smog and pollution. It was just a deadly combination, causing the entire Pudong Airport to shut down, leaving us delayed down south for several hours there. Even worse, when we arrived in Shanghai, I immediately got a terrible cough, which seeing as I was feeling fine hours earlier, I think is clearly attributed to the bad air. Yuck.

Overall though, it was very fun! Even though nothing was open, I enjoyed Shanghai, and enjoyed being together with my friends, the closest to family that I can get over here. It was also to see how important of a role CNY actual does play in the lives of Chinese people; in the states I never knew.  Anyways, happy year of the horse everyone! Cheers~