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Just wanted to say that I'm back on American soil! I'll post as soon as I get settled back at home!
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So they keep telling us that Beijing is a masculine city.  It's the center of the government and development for this huge nation and therefore, Beijing has historically been the center of power in the whole country.  Today we saw a very different side of Beijing through the Summer Palace.

Just outside of Beijing The Summer Palace, as its name suggests, it served mostly as the summer residence for the Emperor.  During the late Qing Dynasty this palace was destroyed twice by British and French troops, and twice it was rebuilt by Empress Dowager Cixi.  This was supposedly one of her favorite residences and was her refuge for a time.  As such this area has much more of a feminine quality than most of the other sights in the area.

...but enough with the history lesson, check out the pictures!

Ok, yeah, don't ask.  I don't know. That was at the front gate.  And yeah, there was one on the other side of the gate too.

Haha, check out the nice man TOTALLY ganking our picture!  *celebrity*

I just love Ming architecture!  So many COLORS!

Seriously, this was the place I felt most at home.  I think it was all the water.

Haha!  Marble boat!  Enough said.

Oh!  And I almost forgot sidewalk caligrapher guy!

From what we gathered he just goes out there every day and uses this brush and water to write things on the sidewalk.  Ishibashi sensei was just fascinated by the whole thing and actually got him to write her name on the side walk.  It was so cute!

Anyway, from there we took a ride across the lake where we saw...

A brown cow:

And another cool bridge!  This one's supposed to be lucky because no matter what side you count from there are 9 arches to the center.  Personally, I just think it looks cool.

From there we hopped back on the bus and headed over to the Temple of Heaven.  This temple was used mostly to pray for a good harvest.  There is a lot of symbolism present here, unfortunately most of it was totally lost on me.

Oh, and another thing we did while in the Temple of Heaven... Check out these HOTT concubines!

*dorks*  That's Alisa and I, if you can't tell... There were people set up in one of the gift shops in the temple doing this to raise money for Earthquake victims in Sichuan, so we thought it was money well spent.  A word to the wise though... If you're a white kid... don't let Asian girls do your make-up. *scared*

Speaking of the Earthquakes, there was a moment of silence held while we were touring the Temple of Heaven to honor those who had died.  We were unaware it was going to happen, but it was truly an amazing sight to stand in a place like that, and hear the sirens and then watch as EVERYTHING stopped for two minutes.  It's interesting to think that if they did that ALL across China at that exact moment, a full fifth of the world's population was still all at one time.

Things to think about... 

Oh, and I almost forgot!  Check out this cute little boy we saw in the Temple of Heaven.  Impressive... most impressive...

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Current Location: Beijing

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The Whole Gang + Tony and the foot of the Ju Yong Pass of the Great Wall. (Pre-climb)

Oh man, am I sore today.  The Forbidden City was amazing but seriously, it's a LOT of walking!  Then this morning, we all got up, ate the same breakfast as yesterday (T_T) and then sat on a bus for an hour or so as we rode out to the Great Wall!

Ok, I'm not complaining.  Really I'm not.  I was at the GREAT WALL! But really... there needs to be a Public Service Announcement or something about this place.  They always show you the pretty pictures of this long, winding wall.  But they never mention HOW you get up there.

I was unprepared.

We were told on the way out there that if we HAD to make it to the top, because if we made it to the top we would be Heroes of China.  Then we got there.  The steps aren't like we Americans are used to, where even the oldest are immaculately measured and carefully placed.  These were a monstrosity of step, step, step, tiny step, GIANT STEP, GIANT STEP, tiny step, step step... Of course this wall is a couple thousand years older than anything in America... 

This place was truly the most humbling experience of my entire life.  Being sore from having walked all over Downtown Beijing the day before made tackling these stairs a grueling task.  I was literally taking a break ever 2 - 3 steps because it hurt SO BAD.  I probably would have given up before the first platform if it hadn't been for my buddy, Dan, behind me LITERALLY prodding me up the wall.

Then there was this chick.  She thought I was made of awesome.  XD  She hooked my arm in some form of Chinese Death Grip as I staggered by and insisted that I take a picture with her.  Well, after being so popular at Tiananmen, I figured fair was fair and made her pose for one with me too.  XD  Never did get her name, or WHY she thought I was made of awesome... but she definitely made a memory for me.  ^__^

(PS- Check the ever-protective Dan in the back ground looking uber annoyed that I was getting "harrassed" again.  Haha... <3 Dan!)

Unfortunately Dan and Jeff decided not to go any further after the second or third turret and headed back down.  Happily, Alisa (one of our other classmates) had come up from hehind us and the two of us continued on, determined to make it to the top.  We climbed and climbed chatting and stopping frequently to take pictures.

And before we knew it (LIES!  ALL LIES!) we were at the top.  We bumped into a couple from Australia and the UK, I think, who were really nice and used Alisa's camera to take our picture at the (almost) top.  I'll get that picture from her, eventually.  XD

From there we went into the last turret to get to the ABSOLUTE top... man were those steps scary!  They were only about shoulder width across, and so warn from time and use that they were sunk in in the middle, so much so that I had to money climb it up and slide down on my butt.  >_<  BUT  I was at the top:


I AM A HERO OF CHINA!  *woohoo*

(Eat that, Frodo!  Mt. Doom ain't got NOTHING on this place.  I didn't have no Samwise to carry my lazy butt up there, OR super cool eagles to carry me back down.)

And let me tell you... they gave us like, 4 hours to get up there and back to the bus, it took us 3 to make it to the top, 15 mins to rest and take our pix, and then it was an Olympic level race back to the bottom so we didn't get left there!  LOL!

Alisa and I made it in JUST enough time to grab a souvenir each before we were hussled onto the bus and off to the Ming Tombs.

All in all, the Tombs weren't that spectacular.  The architecture was nifty, and the surrounding gardens and lanscaping was pretty sweet - apparently trees are what make it special anyway - but the tomb itself wasn't even the original stuff.  Most of the original, original stuff was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.  It was cool to see how the older style Chinese characters were used during the Ming Dynasty.

The one thing there that was really impressive to me was this wall outside of the main Tomb area that was basically an homage to all of the achievements of the Ming Dynasty.


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Current Location: Beijing
Current Mood: sore sore

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Yeah, figure that one out… Day 1 was the 15th and Day 2 is the 17th.  I’ve been cheated, I tell you!  I want my day back!


I am SO tired!  I knew when I went to bed last night that I wasn’t going to sleep well and I really didn’t.  We got to the hotel sometime yesterday afternoon and checked in, and INSTANTLY we being shuffled off on a walking tour of Beijing University’s campus with 4 local students.  They were really awesome and they even came and had dinner with us!  I’m already surprised at how much Chinese I can understand.


Oh, and before I forget!  Check out our water:


I tried to stay up a little later so that I could sleep all night, but we had already been up for about 29 hours, with only a cat nap on the plane, so I passed out about 10 pm local time and then was up again by 1 am. Man that sucked!  I listened to the radio on my MP3 player for a while, and sat looking out my window for a bit.  I tried hard not to wake my roommate, but she sat up and looked at me at one point and then was right back out again.  LOL!  I finally got back to sleep around 4 am, I guess and then we were up at 6 to go get ready for breakfast.


Needless to say, I’ve not been on top of my game today, but I’ll try to hit the highlights… and if all else fails, there are always the pictures!  ^_^


We started the day off with breakfast in their “restaurant” *coughdininghallcough* which consisted of an interesting assortment: rice, rice with egg, rice soup/porridge, pickles, some other veggies and fruit, and about 5 varieties of steamed buns.  It was weird… but good.


After breakfast we hopped the bus to Tiananmen Square!  That place is SO AWESOME!  Chairman Mao’s picture is just HUGE!  We tried to visit his mausoleum but there was some kind of confusion over the bag/no bag thing and our not being allowed in.  In retrospect, it may have just been that we weren’t actually at the end of the line, but that’s just speculation.


It was a little weird that we kept getting swarmed by gaggles of Asian school girls asking to take pictures with us, or old men gawking at us or just taking pictures without asking.  Kinda creepy.  Steph had the worst of it though… I guess it’s the price you pay for being so cute and perfect.  LOL!  (<3 you, Steph!)


Also, a word to the wise… There are people peddling all sorts of stuff here from post cards to Mao watches and the like.  And a foreign face is an easy target.  You can buy these same things INSIDE most of sights at official gift shops where you won’t be able to bargain, but will generally get a better price anyway.  Also, don’t even bother ASKING what price they’re offering unless you intend to buy, because they WILL NOT let you leave until you’ve settled on a price and bought something.


After killing a few hours just milling around and getting a feel for things we walked into the Forbidden City and stopped for lunch, where our own concubine served us!  XD



She was made of awesome!  The food in the Forbidden City was simply amazing!  And there was SO MUCH OF IT!  From there, we headed out into the Forbidden City.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

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Current Location: Beijing - City Center
Current Mood: giddy giddy

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OMG!  Plane ride is too long!  And why is it STILL so bright outside?  *needs sleeping*


Mmmm… booze good!  This adult thing is pretty sweet!  In flight movies are kinda random though: The Golden Compass, Waterhorse, 27 Dresses and Jumpers.  (Seriously, can you believe my Lord of the Rings EXTENDED EDITION marathon didn’t take as long as this flight? *dies*)


OH!  And I’m quite sure we’re gonna go down sooner or later.  The LOST references are just too insane here.  This Flight is 851 (Compared to LOST’s 815) and I’m in seat 42D!  And as if I wasn’t having enough bad LOST flashes, as we were taking off the overhead compartment at the end of our aisle kept popping open!  *scared*  Soo, umm… how did those guys over the wing fare?  Man, Wikipedia would be nice about now!


Who am I kidding?  I’m a Tailie!  *gonna die*  T_T


On a different kind of note, they told us that we’d be flying over Canada, Alaska, Russia and Mongolia on our way to Beijing.  Man what I wouldn’t do for a window seat about then!  Does that mean I can count those as countries I’ve been to? Please?  Cause really, am I ever gonna go to any of those places? Probably not.


Also, I’m already making friends with a couple of the guys, Jeff and Dan.  They’re both really sweet and funny… though that might be the Kaluah talking. (<3 Kaluah!)  I think we’re gonna have a great trip together.


I do feel like I should take a nap, but I can’t seem to do it.  X_x  Totally should have bought that DS… maybe if they have them here in China….




ZOMG! I NEED OFF OF THIS PLANE!  But I just met a boy from Mongolia by the bathroom that TOTALLY had the same phone as me!  *dorks*  <3 T-Mobile!


Sun’s still up, btw.  It’s really starting to freak me out.  Where did the night time go?  T_T


Anyway, see you in Beijing!

Current Location: Somewhere over Russia
Current Mood: exhausted exhausted

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(Didn't mean to post an incomplete entry, so here goes the finish!)

That's right, guys!  The semester's almost over and I've got less than two weeks til I leave for China!  So what have I been doing to get ready?  Let's see...

1. Shopping - The shopping is all done.  I think,  I could always use another cute outfit, but otherwise, I think I'm okay.  I actually have picked up a couple of cool items that I don't necessarily NEED, but that I think will be useful in my travels...
      - Sanza e280 mp3 player with FM Radio recording ability (so I can not only listen to lots of musics and stuff on planes and all, but I can also record and bring back some Chinese radio with me!)
      - emergency battery charger...thing...  Not sure how else to describe this, it was on clearance at Walmart and basically what it does is take 4 AA batteries and makes it so you can charge any USB device (i.e. my cell and MP3 player) so IF something happens and my charger explodes, I won't get a whole charge, but it should be enough to call for help if need-be.

2. Packing - Yeah... I packed.  It's a little early, and it's already gotten somewhat UN-packed, but... I wanted to know it would all fit!  And it does!  My suitcase isn't even all that big, and I had a TON of space left.  It's almost embarassing how much space there is.  Of course this also means that my clothes are going to be a freaking MESS when I get my bag back, but... what can you do?  On the bright side it means that I have plenty of room in my bag for souvenirs and stuff.  (Still REALLY hoping I can find a fabric store over there that has super-cheap awesomeness!)

3. Doing battle with T-Mobile.  Yeah, no, I still haven't gotten things resolved with the cell phone.  And honestly there's no reason for it other than T-Mobile is apparently populated by idiots.  (They're very nice idiots, but idiots none-the-less.)  It's literally gotten so bad that if it's not resolved by tomorrow I'm going to have to order another handset and when I get home I'm switching providers.  There's no reason I should have to call THIS many times for the same problem.  And honestly I've lost track of how many people I've even talked to.

4. Taking orders...  If you have any specific requests on souvenirs, please let me know.  So far all I have is Kat asking for some kind of snack.  I'll definitely see what I can find!

Current Location: Mandy's
Current Mood: cranky cranky

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That meeting and everything got me thinking, and last night I sat down and called T-Mobile and asked them some questions that have been burning up the back of brain for quite a while now.  I feel a little bad for the girl that got stuck helping me since I really had a laundry list of questions that I wanted answered, but she did a WONDERFUL job of getting things clearly and concisely handled for me.  I was really quite impressed.

First I wanted to know if my phone would even work in China - it will.  Then I needed to know what the rates would be while I'm there, as I've heard some major horror stories, and I didn't want to be one of them.

Calls in/out - $2.99/min
Text messaging out - $0.35 each
Text messaging in - $0.15/pulls from bucket
Then I asked about the GSM being locked and she said that it was locked, but that they could unlock it for me if I could give her the IMEI number from inside the phone.  @_@ As I was talking to her from my phone, I gave her the house number and she said she would call me back in a little bit.  A while later she finally called back and I gave her the number and she explained how that whole process works.

Here's why I feel bad for her - About that time I decided to mention the fact that I've barely had my phone a year and that the buttons have come off.  She informed me that this is a common issue with the Motorola RIZR phone and so since it is under warranty for the next 15 days, she is going to send me a free replacement.  Only, we just unlocked the GSM on the handset that I have now, and not the new one, and I'm only allowed to unlock one per 90 days.  (Oops, my bad...)   She checked into it further though, and found out that I can unlock another one if I get a new handset, which I'm doing, and since I'm sending the old one back, they'll let me do it.

I also checked into the rebates that I was supposed to get and didn't and while they won't process the one that was rejected, they are re-issuing the $50 check for the one that was SUPPOSEDLY already sent out.  So at least that $50 more that I had yesterday.  ^__^

So, all of this means I now have the option of A- taking my phone, and trying not to run up a bill in China, but knowing that anyone who needs to can reach me if they need to, and I SHOULD be able to call out if worst comes to worst or B- I can get a new international pay as you go SIM card that should give me equal or better coverage to the T-Mobile and will protect me from unexpected charges when I get home.  I think Choice B is the safest way to go, since I really can't afford to come home to a $200 phone bill.  I'll just have to make sure that anyone that needs the number gets it.  Since I'll be using my own phone, just with a different SIM card, I wonder if I'll be able to send out picture messages.  That could be sweet. 

For reference the prices for the SIM card that I'm looking at are as follows:

SIM card itself - $49.00
To call a landline - $1.39/min
To call a mobile phone - $1.79/min
To recieve a call - $1.39/min
To send a text message - $0.49
To recieve a text message - FREE

So basically, aside from having to buy the card to begin with, it's a lot cheaper to call, and as I mentioned before, I pre-pay with this one, so when the card's done, it's done, or I go put more money on it.  But no surprises.

Also... Isn't there a way to post to LJ from your phone?  Maybe with the paid account?  I should look into that, cause that would be SWEET!



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Current Location: Virginia
Current Music: La Bamba

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Ok, so I got a call about 10:15 or 10:30 this morning from Karen Dolan in the Study Abroad office saying, "Oh, well, I just wanted to make sure you were going to be able to come to the meeting today at 12:30."  O_O  WTF?!?  No one told ME about any meeting.  And I was already at work.  Luckily Kelly happened to be sitting right next to me as I got the message and offered to cover for me. (<3 Kelly!) 

So I get to this meeting and apparently NO ONE got the email.  That's ODU for you, I guess.  But I talked to some of my classmates and they all seem really nice.  I made friends with one of the girls - Savanna - who has been to Australia and New Zealand and stuff and we have a lot in common already.  She apparently doesn't speak any Chinese at all, though, so I wonder how she'll fair in China.  But I guess better to go in a group than to dive in on your own.  Hopefully we'll make good travel buddies so the long plane rides won't seem quite so endless.

In other news, we FINALLY got the official itenerary!  Here's the run-down:

5/15 – Leaving Norfolk for Beijing

5/16 – Arrive at Beijing. Visit Olympic Park and Watch Beijing Opera.

5/17 – Tour Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City.

5/18 – Visit the Great Wall and Ming Tombs.

5/19 – Tour Summer Palace and Visit the Temple of Heaven.

5/20 – Shopping at Liulichang. After lunch taking sleeper train to Xi’an.

5/21 – Arrive at Xi’an in the morning and check in the hotel.  Visit the Museum of Qin Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses and touring Huaqing Fountain. Dumpling Banquet and Tang Dynasty Dance show.

5/22 – Visit Big Wild Goose Pagoda and ancient city wall.

5/23 – Fly from Xi’an to Shanghai.  Shanghai to Hangzhou by train. Tour of West Lake.

5/24 – Visit Liuhe Tower tea garden.

5/25 – Lingyin Temple. Afternoon train back to Shanghai.  Activities at night in Shanghai.

5/26 – Visit Jinmao Tower and Pudong New District.

5/27 – Tour Yuyuan garden and old street, and visit Chenghuang and Jade Buddha temples.

5/28 – Morning activity. After lunch leave Shanghai for Norfolk.

Note: Any grammatical inconsistencies are due to direct transcription from Zhang Laoshi's original document.

She also gave us the syllabus including requirements for the 10 page paper (O_O) and a recommended reading list... Of a list of 7 books, there is 1 that I don't have/haven't read.  XD  I am teh WIN!

30 days to go!  I can't wait!  All that's left to do is get packing!


Current Location: Work
Current Mood: ecstatic ecstatic

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My parents FINALLY took me out to dinner last night for my birthday... It was in March, but I was hella busy... still am, really... but anyway, we did dinner.  Afterwards my dad needed something to keep his tax records in so we stopped by Walmart on the way home.  I only intended to get one thing, but my mom ended up getting me a couple of things that will be going with me to China.  *excited*

- 1 green and white ball cap that says "Kiss me I'm IRISH!" (I totally couldn't resist... and whatever, it keeps the sun off, right?)
- 1 travel journal (Ok, really it's a half-sized note book with pockets, but I liked it, so it's mine!)
- 4 travel bags of various sizes (this is what I went in for... I need something so if my shampoo expoldes at 40,000ft it doesn't ruin all my clothes)
- 1 spiffy camera protector thing with handy neck strap and pocket for extra memory card

So not a whole lot.  Probably not enough to really post about.  But it's the first thing that's made this trip feel really REAL.  So there you go.  I'm excited.


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Current Location: Work
Current Mood: chipper chipper

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Ok, so we're almost there!  I went yesterday and turned in the second half of the money as well as my passport and filled out the forms for the visa and international student ID.  I'm starting to get a little excited now!  They also sent me over to Copytron to get the polaroids done for the visa or whatever... that was interesting.  Took 3 tries cause the first time the girl forgot to take the film out, the second time part of one of the pictures was over exposed, and the third one came out passable, but the girl seemed worried about it.    While I was there I noticed an interesting name on the roster right under mine, so I verified with the person today...

ISHIBASHI-SENSEI is going to China with me!  How weird is that?  It's cool though, at least I have someone I trust traveling with us if something gets all wonky.

*sigh of relief*

So far, so good!  I'll post again when I get the actual info from Zhang-sensei!

Zai Jian!


Current Mood: excited excited

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