Friday, June 15, 2012

A Year Abroad through My Eyes


A Year Abroad through My Eyes

This year long journey is about to come to an end

The feeling within you that doesn’t want to leave this new place you now call home, when arrival was the complete opposite, feeling nothing but isolation

At first always being dependant on a few certain people, and now not needing anyone to depend on at all

Going out and doing things for yourself that seemed impossible at first, became routine

From realizing all the differences from the language barrier to lifestyle, making us stronger and wiser

And everyday we grew, we matured and understood a lot of differences in culture that many people can not yet (and may never be able to) comprehend

Adjusting to this new lifestyle was the hardest part of this experience

Everything that you used to see as a negative  at first arrival, will change overtime, and soon be recognized as “normal” and “usual” and will become to what you now consider, a positive.

Days, weeks and months pass as you start to grow fond of where you are now, and start to appreciate everything that you have come across on this long journey

Everyday still feeling like a new experience but is becoming a normal routine

We’ve all had our ups and downs, but that's a normal part of daily life wherever you are

With every photograph, brings back a clear memory that will never be forgotten,
All the people we’ve become close with will forever remain in our hearts because they were there with us throughout this experience

All of this brings us back to reality

As I sit here writing this, I am thinking about all the good memories I’ve had, all the great people I’ve met, and looking back at those photographs remembering every single detail

People would tell me this feeling would come around,

Not wanting to leave, not wanting to say goodbye, that feeling deep inside your chest that just makes you want to stay.


We’ve made good memories, good friends, great bonds with our host families and a love for the city that we now live in

Saying goodbye to all of this may possibly be the second hardest part of this experience

Coming here was 100% gain in every aspect and no loss whatsoever

I couldn't have asked for anything more

This was the best experience of my life so far, and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing






Thursday, June 14, 2012

The final cut

It's over.
It's done.
It's coming to an end...
and I honestly don't know how to feel about it.

My year long journey in China has finally come to an end, I always thought about this day coming along but never actually believed it would come by so fast. A couple of months ago going back home seemed appealing...I mean it still is but it's different, this time I'm actually going home, train tickets and plane tickets all booked, It's set.

I think its crazy to think that I'll be leaving Nanjing tomorrow...saying goodbye to everyone will be so hard. In China we would say "舍不得你/ She bu de ni" when translated it means "Hate to be parted with you/hate to part with you" and that is really how I feel. 

I've made a lot of close friends and I've gotten really close with my host family these past couple of months...I feel like all of this came to an end so fast. There are so many things on my mind that have kept me up these past few nights. A lot about leaving people here, adjusting to my Hawaii lifestyle again, becoming reconnected with friends and family, reverse culture shock and a lot more...

I feel like being away from home and doing things on my own has made me very independant. Right now I am very used to doing things on my own, the way I live right now is probably how most college students or some adults live. This life is pretty good honestly, but I feel like going back home will also be different because it would be like adulthood lifestyle going back to a childhood lifestyle...which may be a hard transition but I'm sure going back will make me realize how much I can do on my own now, and I'll be able to see what I'm capable of doing.

I know it is time for me to go back, so that I have to accept. I am excited though, to see my family, my friends and my home.

#backtotherealworld.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nom nom nom!

A couple of weeks ago I went and visited my old host family, the Guan's. Even after I moved in with my new host family, I still kept in touch with my old. I usually called my old host mom and we both caught up on things that were going on in our lives at the moment. Things like "How have you been?/How's the new family?/are you adjusting well?". Going back to their home felt so natural....I went on the bus #33 that I always used to go on and when I entered the community, the security guards said "Wow! I haven't seen you in a very long time!!". It was funny that they remembered me ^_^ but I also told them that I had moved which is why they haven't seen me around.

Going back to the Guan's made me realize how things were when I first came to China. I started to feel different emotions and started thinking many thoughts, like: When I was here I felt like this/ I remember having a habbit of doing this...., you know? Things like that. It was at the Guan's house where I came to learn all the things about China, such as the new culture and lifestyle. Going back felt like my mind was being refreshed about how I felt at certain points of time within my first six months in China. The difference between the Guan and Lou family are that, moving in with the Guan's I moved in with no knowledge what so ever about Chinese culture so I had to adjust to it...therefore at that point in time I had no idea what to expect and most things came as a surprise to me, But after spending six months with them, when I moved into the Lou family everything felt normal because their lifestyle was the same with the Guan's lifestyle so adjusting to the second family seemed a lot more easier for me (only because I learnt everything that I needed to know first at the Guan's). 

I feel that my old host sister, Violet and I actually don't get along that well. I mean, yes we do get along but we never have things to talk about...I think the problem with that is because our interests and thoughts are different, as opposed to Shirley and I we are always talking about things and never run out of things to talk about because our interests and thoughts are the same.

The Guan family cooked many dishes for me that evening and it was all very good! This is probably the usual types of dishes that they serve for dinner, in addition to a bowl of rice! The difference when eating Chinese food and western food is quite diverse. In the U.S we usually either have our own plates and eat just from our own plates or eat family style, but in China it is usually served family style unless you go out to a small restuarant by yourself! In the U.S when meals are family-style, every dish has a serving spoon, and everyone has a plate to put their food on. In China, everyone just has one bowl of rice (no extra plate to put food on) and they don't put their food on a "serving plate" like we do, instead they just pick the food they want, bite by bite. At first, I thought this was quite strange and in a sense unsanitary because we would be using the chopsticks then also using them as our own serving spoons (kind of like double dipping!!). After a while I got used to it and it became a normal habbit to me. Another difference I noticed when eating food is that people here dont politely ask to "help put some food on their plate" or to "pass something over, please" instead, they just lean over, even if the dish they want is super far, they lean over and grab it. When I first came to China, at the Guan's we went out to a restaurant and then I politely asked my hostmother to pass over a dish when she said "Just lean over and get it by yourself!!" (In a nice tone of course!) but I was quite surprised when she said that...!

Anyhow...here are some of the dishes :)



Jiu Cai!

Eggplant!

Meat and potatoes!

Egg and Tomato soup

onion and sausage

Catching up with the Guan family was very nice, I felt really comfortable in their house which is always a good thing. They also cooked a lot of dishes that night because I was coming over! Here are what some typical Chinese dishes look like! (Usually what most families have for dinner...In the South of China).


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Insane and Away!


 It’s been a long time since I’ve last written a new post and I apologize to all of my readers out there! I have been up to a lot recently but I never find time to write…that is partially the reason why I haven’t posted and another is me just being lazy so today I have decided to start writing more frequently again.

It has almost been two months since I have been with my new host family (the Lou family) and it has been really great!! They are so nice and I feel at home already. The sad thing is now I only have around 2.5 months left in Nanjing and I don’t exactly feel like leaving anytime soon! Two months ago, I felt like I was ready to go back home…but now…I feel like Nanjing is also partially my home. Even to this day, going on the bus seems like a new routine even though I do it everyday…it never gets old. And that’s really how I feel about everywhere I go or everything I do. I think of everyday as a new but experienced, new experience…if that makes sense? (Take a second to think about it!)

My host sister Shirley and I get along really well. We both have the same interests and enjoy the same things. Every Friday night we usually have movie nights, and on the weekends we also go out shopping or to KTV (karaoke). I recently went shopping with her around Xin Jie Kou and also went to KTV with her and her friends which was nice J I realized that a lot of people in China absolutely LOVE “the backstreet boys” which is funny because that was like the “Justin Bieber” of my days when I was younger…plus their first debut was in 1996! They are no longer existent to most Americans, but in China they are still very popular and many people young and old know who they are!

2.5 more months is so short! It is going to pass by like nothing… ): Some parts of me wants to go home but a lot of me still wants to stay here in Nanjing because I feel like I have yet to explore new things here that I still haven’t seen.

Shirley and I around Xin Jie Kou! 
at KTV with my friends~

Shirley and I talking in my room with our amazing outfits! ...not! Many Chinese people wear these outfits in the winter
to keep warm. I didn't want one but my host family was very generous and bought it for me! Even though it isn't the most beautiful thing, it's really comfortable and keeps one very warm!
This weekend I’ll be going on a trip from the 31-4th to an area called Hangzhou and Wuyuan with my Italian friend, Giulia and her host parents who will take us there. Hangzhou is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang province in Eastern China. Hangzhou is known to be one of the most beautiful places to go to in China so I am very excited to go there! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is this numbing feeling?

It's strange because this is yet another feeling that is hard to describe. In two days, I make the mark of being in China for six months. Wow...I've been in China for half a year now and I only have four more to go.

It's definitely hard because at this point, I somewhat feel ready to leave. There's a part of me saying "I'm done with living the China-life...let's hit the real world now" but then another part of me is saying "Hey now, this is a lifetime oppurtunity...four more months, it will pass by quicker than you think, enjoy it while you can".

A lot of this feeling has to do with missing people back home but then again because school life is quite uneventful and boring. At this point in time, it's like I am already used to China, nothing I see now seems as significant as it probably did three months ago. A lot of the things I noticed came to a shock at first, seeing all the negatives, then seeing them as positives...and then it's like this culture shock gets put back into reverse again because I've noticed that at the 6 month point, you start seeing some negatives again and start to compare with the things back home. It's not that I make a big deal out of it, more like...seeing the difference from China and the U.S. Though yeah...the feeling of home grows stronger as the days go on...

I'm also preparing to take the HSK which is a Chinese proficiency test (I will be taking it in about a month) so for now, I have a lot of things to do and to keep myself busy.

Have a nice day everyone! & I hope you guys had a wonderful Valentines Day :)

xoxo

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A break from HK and back to the present


There’s a lot of new going on right now due to the change in my family. I was assigned two host families before coming to Nanjing so I knew what was coming my way.

These past five months have gone by so quick, it actually doesn’t feel as If I have been here for that long, its almost been half a year since I’ve been here!

I’m still on Chinese New Year’s holidays for two more days so I have some time to get adjusted to the new house and family before going off to school again. I will be attending the same school but its going to be a little hard getting used to a new bus route to and from school and also to other places that I often go to such as: Xin Jie Kou or Fu Zi Miao.

Packing my things to move into my new families house was quite the hassle because of the amount of things I had! When I came to China all I had was a big suitcase, a carry-on and a backpack. I ended up with my big suitcase, carry-on, backpack, two boxes, and about 7 bags...all filled with things that were bought in China (mostly things that I won’t bring back such as toiletries and books I use to study with). I guess I bought a lot of winter clothes here because in Hawaii none of that is necessary (also being from Hawaii means anything below 70F is considered chilly or “cold”).

I woke up at 8:30 AM on moving day to organize my last few things and get ready to leave because my new host-mother was picking me up at 10AM. When she finally came by to our house she rung the doorbell and my host-dad went to go pick her up from downstairs. When they got upstairs we all worked together in getting my things into the elevator, one person would be passing the bags down and another person putting the things into the elevator. I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of things I had! And already worrying about how many things I’ll have to get rid of when I go home to Hawaii.

When we got downstairs my head teacher, Ms. Yu was there also to help us bring my stuff into the car and to make sure that everything was ok. When we finally got everything in the car we were ready to leave and I thanked my prior host family for everything and we drove off. I was debating whether to give them a hug but since they are Chinese giving hugs isn’t really their culture…so I didn’t in the end (even though I really wanted to). They were really nice and said that I could come over anytime I want for a visit and to eat food and such! Of course I will go visit them again, but first I had to settle into the new house.

My new family lives on the 18th floor and their house is a little bigger than my other family but the apartment is older. The community is very small compared to the other…there are about five other apartments in this new community whereas in the other one, there were so many I couldn’t keep count of!

In my room, I had a normal queen sized bed! Which is uncommon in China because most people sleep on wooden beds without cushion because they believe that hard beds will give you a strong and healthier spine compared to a soft bed that will curve it. There wasn’t a lot of space to put my clothes but in the end I figured it out. There is also a long desk, more like a TV desk so its hard to study or do homework on because it is very low and there is no leg space but since I have been here a couple of days already I am used to it and I really like it!

Besides my nice room my family is so great! They are very welcoming and I already feel that I am part of their family. My host sister, Shirley and I get along very well because we have the same interests and opinions on certain things. The host mom and I also get along well, probably because I have spent the most time with her. That is because Shirley has been off at school and the mom stays at home so we spend time together and the host dad is off at work. It is a little hard to communicate with the host dad because he speaks a different dialect of Chinese (Hang Zhou, which is their hometown). I think I am adjusting really well to this new family and environment though. It’s just the location and bus routes that I need to get used to.

The other night, the family and I went out for a movie at a mall called “Wanda Plaza”. We watched “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" Which was a really good movie and I had a good time with the family also!

At this point in time…I sort of feel ready to go home, but then I realize where I am right now…in a new families home, and it hits me every time that its going to be another new experience from here on out, and even though June is getting closer and closer, I know that I still have some time to spend with this new family and to enjoy my time and get to know them! Basically the way I feel right now is “So close but so far”. I guess its sort of a strange feeling to explain…

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Busy Busy BUSSYYYYY!!!!



Monday 23rd:
Chinese New Year’s lunch!

On Monday Tasha and I slept in until around 10:30 AM and we got up and got ready to head over to her Uncle’s house for a Chinese New Year’s lunch with a lot of members of her family on her mom’s side. We got ready and wore nice dresses and headed over to her Uncle’s house at around 12. I met a lot of her family and they were all so friendly! Tasha and I even had a talk with her Uncle about college and Psychology (as Tasha and I are both interested in this field). The family members also gave me more Lai See packets! It was exciting because this was the first time when I was actually given so many Lai See packets! The food was also good, a bunch of Chinese food! After the lunch was over we headed back to Tasha’s house and went to go buy some ingredients at the supermarket for some cheesecake! We got into our cooking mode by changing clothes and putting our hair up. Our cheesecake came out pretty well and since it is my favorite cake it tasted amazing! In mainland China, they don’t have any ovens…so you can’t bake cookies, brownies or cake! The rest of the day was laid back and we just ate, watched movies and ate some more…haha living a carefree day I suppose.



Making white chocolate blueberry cheescake! With the laptop for the recipe and some good music!

Making the crust



Tuesday 24th:
Time to hit Central (:

Today was time to shop! I spent most of my Lai See money in Central. Central is the business district of Hong Kong and is also the Western District. When in Central, it is guaranteed that you will bump into somebody you know, especially because many foreigners hang out in this area. Tasha and I took the “mini bus” to one of the big malls first, IFC. Going on the mini bus reminded me of old times and the bus route became familiar to me again. When we got to IFC we headed to Zara, ALDO, Steve Madden and an accessories store. After we finished up in IFC we went to get lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. All of the restaurants that we went to while in HK were the ones that I wanted to go to because they know I can’t get a lot of this in Nanjing.
Inside IFC mall


IFC

There is always a big line in front of this Vietnamese restaurant and is very busy. When I used to live in HK this restaurant was very busy too! It’s good to see it still running well after four years. The food was very great! Since I missed the dish, “Pho” I was happy to be eating it again.  
Line into the restaurant! It got bigger after a while too...


After lunch we shopped around Central. We went to H&M, Marks & Spencers, Cotton On, Sasa and Maple.  These don’t seem like a lot of stores but we spent quite a lot time in each of them and by the time we finished it was time for dinner! We took the MTR (train) to a place called “Pacific Place” to have some Italian food! This place was quite busy also and tasted good too (: I was so happy I got to have two of my favorite types of food in one day: Vietnamese and Italian!
Central


Marks & Spencers

H&M, Crocs


When we finally finished dinner it was also 10 PM so we took the MTR back to Central where we caught the mini bus back home.



The days are going by way too fast! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

When the reality seems so surreal, all it means is that there is good to come!

HK.TRIP.2012.JAN.21-28.


Saturday 21st:
IS THIS REALLY REAL?

The 21st was a 4 AM wakeup call. Even though it was so early I was able to get up very fast. My host-dad was very generous and also got up very early so that he could drive me to the airport. My host-dad dropped me off at the gate and from there, I was off on my own. At first I was a bit confused on where to go because I went to the wrong area because I wasn’t sure if I supposed to go to the “international” departures. After finding the departure gate everything was quite simple from there. Check-in luggage, get ticket, go through securities, then find the gate and get ready to board the plane. I was so tired since it was so early though but I think all my excitement had overpowered the feeling of tiredness. I was mainly excited to visit my best friend, Tasha and to go back to Hong Kong (HK) since it had been four years since I last saw Tasha and visited HK.

The plane ride went by too slow even though it was only two hours, but once I had landed I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face, I don’t know how to explain how excited I was! I tried to rush by everyone to get out quick but of course there was a very long wait in the “visitors” line. Once all of that was finished I walked out through the exit and saw Tasha and her mom there to pick me up. Tasha was there holding a cardboard sign saying “Welcome back beautiful!” with stick figures of the both of us on it, so cute!! As soon as we saw each other we yelled out each other’s names and ran to each other, my eyes filled up with tears of joy. I was so happy to see Tasha after these four very long years that we’ve been waiting to reunite!
The sign she made for me! Along with the leigh! 
Once we got over the shock that we were actually there together and in-person I got some starbucks and then we headed over to the car to head to her place. Being with Tasha and being in Hong Kong felt so natural and like home, if anything I think I would consider HK being my second home. Driving home felt so familiar. Tasha lives in the community that I used to live in so it felt like I was going back to my old home! It was so cool to see everything again; passing by the big malls, the little fruit markets along the streets that you think you wouldn’t notice but come to remember when seeing them, seeing my old school, seeing my old neighborhood…and many more. There were just so many familiarities and it felt…it felt great! It wasn’t exactly “home” but it felt close.

When I arrived we went back to Tasha’s home and since she had moved in only two days before I arrived her house was still unpacked so I helped Tasha clean out her boxes and sort out her clothes and bags (Charity, Keep, or throw out). She also gave me a lot of things that “looked better on me” which was very generous of her! (: For lunch, Tasha, her mom and I went out for lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s. Talk about a great way to start the vacation! Eating all that western, calorie-loaded food was just amazing! Eating “bao zi” everyday gets very excessive and I was missing the taste of western food so it was great! Since Ruby Tuesday’s was in an area called “Causeway Bay”, after lunch Tasha and I headed to an area where we could take some sticky pics which is basically the Japanese “Purikura” where you can take pictures in a booth and edit them up afterwards. We mainly went there because when we were younger we went to them a lot. Causeway Bay is an area in HK with a lot of shopping malls, stores and department stores and is always very busy. By the time we got home it was already around 6 PM, I felt like the day went by so fast! But just for a heads up, every single day felt so short! When we got back we headed to the supermarket to buy our favorite “mint chocolate chip ice cream & ruffles” to eat while we watched a movie (Which is also what we did when we were younger at our sleepovers so we are keeping the tradition up!). For dinner Tasha, her family and I went out to Chinese Hot Pot, which tasted a lot better than the one that I get in Nanjing. The fish and meat were very fresh and delicious!
yummy smoothies!

FOOOOD! yumm

 
Sunday 22nd:
Why does this still feel so unreal?!

The second day was Sunday so we got up early to take the bus to Church. Tasha’s church is located in an area called “Stanley” which is a big tourist area in HK. Going to Church was actually my first time (I am not religious) and I found it very interesting and made me realize more about people and different religions. After Church was over we headed over to Stanley. Stanley basically has a bunch of shops, each one owned by a different owner. As you walk farther towards the back of Stanley there are a lot of western restaurants and there is also a big mall. HK is nothing like China because it is very westernized and the majority of the people there all speak english. I went to 7 11 and bought my favorite “Cheong Fun” that I missed (hard to find in the U.S and they don’t have it in Nanjing), which is like rice sheet/rice roll with sauce and peanut sauce which tastes very good!


Stanley

Tasha, Gabby (her sister) and I spent some time in Stanley and later on met up with their parents for lunch at “Jumbo”. Jumbo was a very good dim-sum restaurant. We had most of the traditional or favorite dishes and it tasted very good! I would say a lot higher quality than what I could find in Nanjing.  HAAA! Another day gone by fast! We got home around 4 PM and once we did Tasha and I decided to make a music video. When we were younger we used to record videos of us singing and it would be called a “music video” but its funny looking back on those videos because we were so young, and the video quality was pretty bad compared to what advances we have now! While we were getting dressed for our music video we were told we had to head out to Tasha’s Grandma’s house for CNY (Chinese New Year’s). We quickly changed and headed over to their house and decided that we would record our video later. We were going to tasha’s grandma’s house on her Dad’s side. Their house reminded me of Nanjing life. The houses were more “Chinese built” I guess you could say and the food was also very Chinese! I was used to this kind of life. Everyone at the house was so nice. I met her uncles, Grandparents and many more people! In China, on Chinese New Year’s they always give out “Lai See”packets, which is money in a small red envelope. Her family members gave me a lot of Lai See packets which was so kind of them! Tasha’s nuclear family also gave me one! At first I denied taking it but then they kept on telling me to take it –They are seriously the kindest people I know. Not because of the Lai Si packet, but just in general…they are all very great people. I also spoke Mandarin with the Grandma and Uncle which was interesting and they seemed quite impressed with my Chinese which made me very happy ^.^

Stanley Plaza

Dim Sum lunch! 

Red Lai See packets!
After dinner, we headed back in the car and when we got home we spent two hours recording bits and pieces of our music video because we had to think of different and creative movements for each segment of the song. After finishing this we showered and when we got back, we imported it and cut down the clips and made a whole video and ended up coming out very good!! We finally finished at 3 AM and it was time for us to crash.
our first attempt at the music video was a complete fail, instead we did something different, no acoustics.



AH! Two days went by extremely quick!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

TAKING A BREATHER!

ALRIGHT!

I just got over my cold! I was sick on the last three days of my trip in Yunnan and finally recovered today...a week of being sick was definitely not what I wanted nor was it fun at all, BUT now that that's over I am focusing on a couple of things:

- Packing for my trip to Hong Kong on Saturday (2 MORE DAYS!!!!)
- Packing the rest of my things for my move! (Changing to host family numero dos!)

I can't even begin to explain how excited I am about going to Hong Kong! I will be spending Chinese New Year there and i'll get to spend a week with my best friend from way back in 6th grade, ever since I moved away from HK to Hawaii we have always kept in touch, nearly seven years of friendship and I haven't seen this girl in four years! I am really looking forward to seeing her and being in Hong Kong once again! STOKED!

Another thing that I have to prepare is MOVING! I mentioned a very very long time ago in older posts that I have two families within my year in China, and it has already hit 5 months! Wow...I'm already halfway through my experience in China. It has gone way too fast! It honestly doesn't feel like I have been in China for five months but since it has already hit five months, I have to change families on Feb 2nd! I'm a little nervous but mostly excited to move to my second host-family because they seem very nice and inviting (I have met my other host sister already and she seems very friendly...very different than my current host sister and it seems that my new host sister and I will have more in common...but I will see!).

Changing families means packing all of my things and saying goodbye to my current family. Packing doesn't seem like a hard task anymore mainly because I travel a lot of I'm used to packing now that I've done it repetitively, and to be honest it's kind of fun. Gathering my things is a little sad though because I'm leaving this household, but my host family said I can come over anytime and eat food or just to talk so I'm glad they will still be there for me if I have any problems :)

The main thing I'm doing now is just packing for my trip on Saturday...when I get back from my trip, that's when I have to organize all of my things and get ready to move out.

Feelings:
- Going to HK: VERY excited!!!
- Changing Families: hmm....Sad to leave but excited for what is now to come my way! All I know is that moving will be another new oppurtunity and experience that will go by very fast!

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Yunnan Cultural Trip January 5-11, 2012

Day 1:
January 5th, 5 AM wake up call. Since I usually wake up late on weekends getting up early seemed hard but as soon as the 5 AM alarm went off, I got up super fast and started to get ready. My hostdad was very generous and agreed to take me to the airport that morning. We got to the airport around 6:40 AM and I met up with Giulia and Anna there. We had the same flight there and back because we booked out flights together. The flight wasn’t too bad because I was with the two of them and since the flight was four hours with a stopover in Changsha, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Yunnan is located south of China. Hence the name Yunnan, “nan” or “  means south in Chinese.  The capital of the Provence is Kunming. When we arrived in Kunming we saw a man holding up an “AFS” sign so we went over to him with our luggage and met up a group of other AFSers from Shanghai. We all went over to a little bus that took us to our airport and a lot of us caught up on the bus. It was interesting to hear so many languages on that bus from German to Italian to Japanese to Chinese and back to English. Since we were still in China, Kunming just seemed like any other place in China but even though it looked the same, there were many differences that I later noticed throughout the week. So today was mainly about picking up people from the airport bringing them back to the hotel and checking in because most people were arriving at scattered times. Since we were the first ones to arrive we were able to choose our roommates and go up to our rooms and settle in, but we were told not to settle in too much because we were going to be moving locations and hotels every day and every night! The AFS staff told us we were allowed to walk around the city for a while and be back before a certain time so we went out for a while before coming back to the hotel.

Going out in Kunming was very different than in Nanjing because in Kunming I guess a lot of the locals are not used to seeing foreigners so they stare right at you. You know in America if you accidently “caught somebody’s eye”, you would automatically turn away right? Right….well in China it is the complete opposite. In China they will stare at you, for as long as they can, no hesitation. In Kunming, since they aren’t used to seeing any foreigners they kept on staring at us in amusement. They would literally walk right up to us and just stand there, staring. It was quite funny actually. I noticed that people in Kunming’s skin is a lot darker than the people upper south also. They also dress differently, the way they dress is known as the “Naxi Culture”. The Naxi ethnic group has a population of over 250,000 people and is divided into two dialect groups.  There is an Eastern one and a Western one located in Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet provinces. The Naxi ethnic group is actually very interesting because they have their own written language that actual look like pictographs. It includes over 1,400 characters. The Naxi group also has a distinctive traditional style of clothing. Most of their clothing is very bright and colorful. They usually wear black, white or blue and their clothing is embroidered with flower patterns on collars sleeves and front (which bring out the bright colors) They wear a sheep skin cape over their shoulders with seven round embroidered discs that represent seven stars. The cape is mainly used to prevent chaging when carrying baskets on their backs. Married women and unmarried women have an indication so that men know whether or not to talk to them. Married women comb their hair into a bun and wear a round cap and unmarried women wear their hair in braids coiled on the back of their head and wear a handkerchief cap. Men and women carry around large baskets on their backs, they have straps like a western-style backpack. In these baskets, they can carry vegetables, children, laundry and sometimes even very heavy things like bricks.
Naxi Clothing!

We all went to the fifth floor for dinner (which was buffet style), but the food was not too good. At dinner, the AFS staff explained to us the schedule for the trip and handed out papers that showed up the schedule. The rest of the first day and night was basically getting together with everyone and talking and room-hopping all night long. It was definitely very nice to see everyone again!
Hotel Room! What do you guys think?
Beautiful Sunset at the end of the day

Cute baby we saw when we were walking around the area!

Day 2:

6AM wake up call! YES! Haha totally kidding…of course that is way too early for us teenagers but we had to get up so we did. My roommate was Lauren for the whole trip, she was my roommate when I was first coming to China. We first roomed in LA and then in Beijing so it felt like old times. Getting up we had to pack our things and get ready to check-out. Today’s schedule was to visit the “stone forest park”, have a mid-term orientation and go to “Chu Xiong City” by bus.  We basically went to a different city by bus everyday and that meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Everyday there was a tour guide that explained things to us using English and Chinese, sometimes even Chinglish.

Gorgeous Stone forest park
The Stone Forest Park was absolutely beautiful! The beauty I saw over there was definitely a different type of beauty I was used to seeing back home. Also another good thing in Yunnan was that there were blue skies everyday! (In Nanjing there are barely any blue skies, just cloudy, polluted skies).  
Stone Forest Park

A little bus took us around the Stone Forest Park, it dropped us off at every nice tourist spot and we were able to take many pictures as we went around. At one point we were able to walk around the park and see ponds, little temples and more stones!



the little bus that took us around!
After the Stone Forest Park we all headed over to the bus and we took an hour bus ride to a restaurant. Again, the food wasn't so good but after lunch we had a mid-term orientation. We were split up in different groups based on different provences. We mainly talked about school-life, communication, home/host-family, and how we are adjusting to the cultural differences and such. We all had the same type of insight on things but as we all know we are experiences life in China but we all go through a different type of experience. After lunch we headed onto the bus again and headed to our next city, Chu Xiong. Once we got there, it was already dinner time, we had dinner and then checked into a new hotel.

Day 3:

Day 3's schedule was to go to "Da Li" city by bus and visit Da Li Ancient City. Today was another long bus ride. Heading over to Da Li we got stuck in traffic that was backed up for 24 hours the night before and was still backed up when we had arrived. We had no way out of the traffic because there were cars and trucks in front and in the back of us and there was a stone wall in the middle of the lane so we couldn't u-turn so all we could do was wait. There were no bathrooms or anywhere to buy food on that road so we all just got out of the bus and started walking around. We probably waited for a good two hours but then the traffic started to move again! The bus ride to Da Li was probably four hours. Of course we had bathroom and snack breaks here and there but being on a bus for so long is so tiring! When we were going to Da Li, someone from the Naxi Ethnic group came onto our bus as a tour guide and was talking to us about this city and historical events. We drove through the Old City which is known for the "Foreigners Street" so we were told we would be coming here later on. The first thing we did when we arrived in Da Li City was ate lunch. Everyday was the same, we would always go to a cafeteria/restaurant type of place with Chinese tables that seat maybe 12 people per table, the dishes go in the middle of the table and it spins around. The food was never delicious but it was passable. After lunch, we headed to a little area that was like a temple and inside the temple we watched a little act put together, and they also gave us three types of teas; first one was normal, the second one was sweet with ginger and the third one was bitter. 
The Temple

Inside the temple, it was bigger than it seemed!

Little act we watched

Three teas. The first one: Good, Second one: Passable, Third One: ...No

After this we headed over to Da Li Aincient City, which was very interesting!
This was the entrance into the Aincient City
When we walked inside there were many shops that sold silver bracelets, cloth, antiques, backpacks, hats, and a bunch of other things!
Interesting hats! they actually open up and close, they are made out of paper

Earings made in Da Li

Nice cloth blankets
Antiques!
Da Li Aincient City was very interesting, there were a lot of people and a lot of the things were very cheap also! We came across a Belgium Waffle place that got a lot of business from the AFS students. The guy making the waffles was an actual Belgium guy so it was cool :P After we got our waffles, it was by time we left the city and headed over to grab dinner and head over to the hotel. Dinner was the same as usual and afterwards heading to the hotel was alright, the hotel was actually....interesting...I'm pretty sure it was haunted because I kept hearing things and seeing things. So did a couple other people. I saw something then as soon as I opened the door the "person" that I saw was gone...it happened a couple times....sp0ookyYyyyy! At least we were here for only one night though! 

Day 4:

Day four and five was going to take place in Li Jiang City so we were going to stay in this hotel for two nights, and it was a four star hotel! The bus ride was again, long of course but on the bus we had a lot to look at and sight see, we saw mountains, houses and a bunch of nature based sights. The mountain was most beautiful, with snow! 

Li Jiang Ancient City was another very nice city. 
Beautiful skies also!

Once we got there we were allowed to roam around by ourselves and with friends and we just had to meet at the starting point at a certain time. Exploring was interesting, we came across a lot of the same types of stores that we saw back in Da Li but it had some different stores aswell, I saw a couple thai stores and also a Bob marley store! The food area was interesting also but they had bugs on a stick! People actually ate them...and I actually happened to try a maggot o_O It was very disgusting BUT! My friend said "Emma, Close your eyes. You trust me right? Open your mouth" haha but thankfully it tasted somewhat good, actually it did...it tasted like a french fry, not going to lie! But after I found out it was a bug I freaked out!! Never again....hahahah but that wasn't even bad compared to what other types of bug they were selling! 
mmmmm magggoooootttss!


They were still alive! Yuck o_o


FISH! with eyeball...o_O
In the Ancient city we also saw some elderly dancing in a circle in interesting costumes and there were also some horses! A lot of the people (that were dressed up) didn't look Chinese..they looked more like they were from Tibet or somewhere from that area from a tribe...but then again, Yunnan is very close to that area. 



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Day 5:

We spent another day in Li Jiang on the 5th but we went to go see a show "Impression of Li Jiang" and we also vistited Li Jiang Ancient City and Dong Ba Area. We had another early morning wakeup call, but we got to sleep for an extra 30 minutes today! 

In the morning we headed over to to a little area to look around, to be honest I didn't know where we were, mainly because today I overslept, woke up late, had to pack my things in the morning because we were checking out AND on top of all of that I was sick :( But wherever we were, it was cold and seemed kind of like a mini museum. They had things like different tribes homes where we could see how they live and there was dry corn outside and such. Here they had a beautiful view of the snow mountain!
Beautiful, The mountain and sky. -no edits
Spanish friend and I! 
After we were in this area for a while, we headed over to go see the show "Impressions of Li Jiang". When we entered, the stage was so big! I was not expecting it to be outside either but it was very cool how the stage was positioned so that the snow mountain was right behind it, like the background of the show. Once the show started I was amazed at the ammount of people in the cast! That was another thing that I was not expecting. 

Amazing!
Within the show, there were Naxi girls carrying baskets and there were also many horses!! A lot of men on horses came out at one point and it was very impressive. There was no real talking in this show, it was mostly dancing and chanting. 
baskets!
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After watching Impressions of Li Jiang, we had lunch at the canteen there. The food was by far, the worst so my Japanese friend, Nori and I went over to the little store next door and shared a cup noodle. After lunch we all headed onto the bus and went to the Dong Ba area. We had some time to look around and admire the sights. Though at this point, a lot of us were very tired so there was a lot of standing around and taking photos, but it was very beautiful.
AFS at Dong Ba Area
Reflection!
The reflection on the water looks so cool!

Once again, we were on the bus heading over to dinner! When we arrived at the dinner area, we were first split up into groups, divided into different provences and we were told we had to give a little performance whether its a song or skit. So we had about 30 minutes to arrange something per group. It was somewhat fun but I was feeling sick so I wasn't really down to do much. Our group had many different ethnic groups: Japanese, Thai, Italian, German, American so we all sang a song in Chinese and sang the same song in our own languages. The other groups sang songs like YMCA or "baby" by Justin Bieber. It was a good laugh. After this we had dinner! It wasn't very appetizing when we found chicken feet and a chicken head at the bottom of our soup (We had hot-pot, usually it is good when we get to choose our own foods to put inside). This soup was a chicken broth :P haha.

Whatsup Chicken Feet?
Hot-Pot!
After dinner we went back to the hotel, a lot of my friends went out at night but this night I had to stay home because I was feeling a fever coming on. It felt nice to just sit back and relax for that night though. A couple of my friends came over to my room to keep me company at night which was nice of them. I had to pack my things for the next morning because we were checking out. Even though I stayed in this night, I ended up sleeping pretty late. 

Day 7:

Getting up the next morning was hard from the lack of sleep I got, and this day my sickness had kicked in. I felt had a fever, cough, stuffed nose....all the symptoms of a regular cold and on top of that, I looked amazzzzinnnng.....(I hope you sense the sarcasm there). Anyhow, I was lucky because today we had a very loooong bus ride back to Kunming.....12 hours on a bus, here we come! Not even kidding, the bus ride took us a total of 12 hours to drive back to Kunming. So the whole week was a 12 hour drive broken down daily so it didn't seem so long, but going back seemed like an eternity! Probably because I was sick and being in a bus all day feels like you're trapped (but I guess its the same kind of idea on a plane). Of course we had stops every hour to the bathroom and a little supermarket to buy some snacks. Sometimes we even stopped at little fruit vendors they have in China to buy some fruits and water. I wasn't the only one that was sick, I beleive the sickness was spreading and a lot of people were getting sick and then getting other people sick. We were driving in the mountains for such a long time also, it felt like forever. Heading back to Kunming brought back some thoughts and memories that I had made when we were going the oppostie direction when we were heading to the destinations. 

Basically, the longest bus ride ever. Lunch and dinner stop wasn't too good either because I was a weakling and being sick and traveling is a bad combination, don't do it!!

When we got back Kunming, we headed over to the same hotel we went to when we first arrived in Kunming. My roommate was also very sick but we had different symptoms. My good friend, Agustin came in at night to care for us. He even made us cold towels because we had fevers! I'm so glad he was there haha

Yeah....laying in bed with fevers, with our cold towels on our heads! THANK YOU AGUSTIN!
That night, Lauren and I went to bed early because we were sick :(

Day 8: 

Lauren had a 5AM wakeup call because her flight was at 7AM but I was able to sleep-in until 11AM. My flight was at 6:30 PM so I had a lot of time. In the morning, I still had a fever and was not feeling too well. My friend, Giulia came in and brought me some breakfast and two glasses of water. She told some of the AFS Staff that I wasn't feeling well so they came in and gave me some fever reducing medicine, which made me feel a lot better! At 11:30 I got out of bed and got ready to checkout by 12. I went down to the lobby and checked out. I said goodbye to the people leaving but it wasn't too sad because I was positive that I would somehow see them again! I was heading to the airport at around 3PM so I had a couple hours to spare. Agustin and I walked around for a while, then came back because I had to sit down. Time flew by and it was 3PM already! It was time for the Nanjing and Harbin people to leave. An AFS staff member took us to the airport and we all checked in together. We said goodbye to the people heading to Harbin and afterwards Anna, Giulia and I went to eat some food, went to the bathroom and headed back to the gate by 6. When we got back it said that our flight was delayed!!! 

Our dissapointed faces at the "Delayed Flight"
Thankfully, our flight was only delayed one hour and time went by fast. It was already time to say goodbye to Yunnan :( The flight back was pretty relaxed. And we ended up arriving in Nanjing at 11:30 PM. I was glad that my hostdad was willing to come pick me up at such a late time! 

I had such a great time in Yunnan, it was so beautiful and it was great seeing all of my friends once again! I hope I can have another fun experience like this with the other AFS students!!

I have another trip on the 21st to Hong Kong! I am so excited about that too!! 

This is definitely a great way to start off the new year :)