Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm sorry about my lack of bloggage.....

Blogs are actually blocked in China......something about free speech??? Apparently there are ways to get around it....:). Marc's internet had been down for a few days so I am just getting a chance to sit down and write a blog. I will highlight each day of my trip so this may get a little long....

When I got off the plane I was really tired because I had only slept 3 hours in the last 40 or so. Nikki and Allen made me stay up though until 10:30. It ended up being the best thing for my jet lag. Nikki and I went to a neighborhood called Itaewan in Seoul. It is full of foreigners and foreign restaurants. There is an Outback Steakhouse, Subway, Quiznos, Burger King.....and COLD STONE CREAMERY. Of course I had to try Cold Stone in Korea!!!

I got to have a tour of Nikki and Allen's school. It was empty because school just let out. The building is big and very nice. I liked that the soccer field is on the roof. While walking to school, we kept running into people that Nikki knew. It amazed me that we saw so many people she knows in a city of millions. After the school tour, Nikki, Allen, and I took a bus up Nasam Mountain. We went up the North Seoul Tower. On clear days, you can see all the way to N. Korea. It wasn't a clear day, but it was still cool. For dinner we ate authentic Korean food. They cook the food on a hotplate type thing in the center of the table. You take a piece of lettuce, put rice on it, then a piece of meat on top. You ball up the lettuce and stuff the whole thing into your mouth. The rule is you have to do it all in one bite. I was unsure about it at first but it ended up being fun. It ended up pouring on our walk home and we got soaked.

In the morning we went to a closing ceremony at the school. Everyone was so nice. It was good to see where Nikki and Allen have been for the past 4 years. For lunch there was pizza from Dominos. Some of it tastes like American pizza but some of it had different things on corn. We did the Seoul City bus tour. Our first stop was an old Korean village. It was cool even though it wasn't authentic. The streets were lined with buses of police officers. There were so many of them. It turned out that Koreans are protesting against Americans importing beef. We just signed a treaty with S.Korea for free trade and the USA will sell their beef for less. This will be a hardship for local farmers. It was a bit scary when we saw a truck filled with soldiers drive by. The protesting impacted our tour because things were blocked our closed down early. We ended up walking instead. We went to a market that was a lot of fun. I bought a few things. We decided to eat outside of the market rather than go for the slugs and hooves they were selling at the market.

In the morning, Nikki and I went to a real Asian spa. We went into hot rooms and one cold room. The cold room was cool because there was ice on the ceiling and walls. I wasn't brave enough to do the naked rooms. I felt too self conscious and it just wouldn't have been fun for me. We went into the pool for awhile. It was so nice and so empty. There was a waterfall at the end. I really enjoyed it. After the spa, Nikki, Allen, and I made the long journey to the ferry port because I was going to be shipped to China (Jess I thought about you and "We're being shipped to Africa" a lot). My boat ended up leaving 5 hours late (10:30 p.m. instead of 5:30) so we were really early. Nikki and Allen left and I waited to board (we could board at 6:05). While I waited I was approached by several people who wanted to speak in English. I was one of three non-Asians on the entire boat. I was stared at by all. I felt like I was the main attraction or something....So I met one group of kids....I think high schoolers. I ended up talking to them for awhile. It was entertaining at least and helped the time pass quickly. On my way into boarding the ship, I met a guy who wanted to help me check my large bag. He started taking it outside so I got scared and grabbed it from him. The baggage check ended up being outside, but I thought he was taking my bag. I felt bad, but I couldn't do anything about it because he left. On ship I went to my bed. It was a bunk bed with my own storage and curtain for privacy. It wasn't too bad. I waited for the ship to take off. I wrote in my journal and was approached by several viejo verdes. One even sat down with me and interrupted my quiet by talking on his cell phone and smoking. He seemed to want to know how old I was because he wrote 30 in my journal. He was definitely trying to pick me up. Yeah gross. The ship wasn't too bad but was so long (I ended being on that thing for 18 1/2 hours). I also felt really lonely. It's weird because I am usually a loner. However, there is something lonely about being on a ship in a foreign land where no one looks like you or knows your language. The announcements were all in Korean and Chinese and I didn't have a watch. I had no clue what was going on or a clue of the time. I felt so isolated.

I finally made it to China. The boat was supposed to arrive at 9 a.m. Then it was scheduled to arrive at 1:30 p.m. We arrived at 2:30 p.m. but weren't allowed off the ship until 3 p.m. I actually saw the boy from the day before (the one who wanted to be nice and carry my bag but I pounced on him :)). We ended up hanging out for awhile and I was able to redeem myself. His name was Monday (in English anyway). He was very nice and cute too :). We got separated at customs before we were able to exchange email addresses. Too bad. I was detained at customs for quite awhile. Apparently they didn't give me enough hassle in the States when I went to get my visa :). They were freaked out about my Spain visa from 6 years ago for some reason. I had to wait some more. Then I went into a little room where I had to unpack everything in my suitcase. I also had to explain what it was or what it was used for. They were freaked out by my Tylenol. They even looked at the pictures on my camera and READ MY JOURNAL!!!!!!! I have no idea what they were expecting to find. It was almost amusing even though I was really annoyed. I finally made it out of there. By the time I got to Marc it was about 4:30. I felt bad because he had to wait for 3 hours. I was so overwhelmed when I made it through the gate that it took away the excitement of seeing Marc. The rest of the day we just hung out and talked. We also went to his friend Jo's apartment. She has a really nice place with a view.

I went to school with Marc. The kids are so cute. He does such a great job teaching them. It was fun because I've never seen him teach before. The kids get so excited to see him. I was surprised how much those preschoolers know. It seems like a lot more is expected out of them than is in the U.S. I got to help out a bit during some of the lessons but I mostly just watched. It was a lot of fun. Marc had a meeting so I walked on the beach. It was really nice but a little drizzly. For dinner, two of his Chinese co-workers took us out for Chinese at a place called Dumplings. The food was really good. The only thing I didn't like was the dish of pig ligaments and joints. It tasted fine but the texture was gross. It was crunchy and you could imagine what you were eating. His co-workers were so sweet and I had a really good time.

On Tuesday, I ventured out on my own for the first time. I was really scared because very few people speak English. I imagined myself lost and alone and being unable to find Marc ever again. We made arrangements to meet at a certain spot at 5 p.m. I set off on my adventure. I took a bus for awhile and then walked forever. I saw a lot of Qingdao's coastline. It was beautiful. I got to see a little castle with beautiful scenery. There were rocks and cliffs and of course water. It was incredible. There were a bunch of brides getting their pictures taken even though it was misty. I walked on the seaside path and saw amazing scenery. I really enjoyed it. Along the way, I was stopped by a Chinese couple who wanted their picture taken with me because I was a foreigner. I felt like Minne Mouse at Disney World. Can you imagine someone doing that in the USA? The amount of staring and talking about you is so much worse than it is in Spain. I was very surprised. I thought Spain was bad at the time but being here is far worse. So my journey along the seaside path was fun until it started to rain. I was wet, had blisters on my toes, was tired of walking, and became cranky. I finally met up with Marc and we met up with his friend Jo. We had a lot of fun together. We ate Chinese and then went to Haagen-Daas for dessert. They have a sit down place where they actually serve you. It was cool but expensive. After the ice cream we went for foot massages. That was a fun and different experience. I felt very pampered afterwards. Jo is really nice and we got along well. I had a great day.

I decided to sleep in because Marc only had a half day. After he finished work, we met up with another friend of his (Stephanie) from England. We walked along the water and then decided to take a boat ride. It was a lot of fun. We then went for gelato....Yummy. Stephanie had to leave us soon after the gelato. Marc and I decided to go up the TV tower in Qingdao. We ate at the restaurant at the top. The food wasn't great, but it was really cheap and had a great view. We got to see the view at sunset. It was pretty cool. The city lights slowly came on as we were on the observation deck. We got to see the tower lit up. It was cool. We walked down the hill a bit and then took a taxi to get more gelato. At home, we worked on planning our weekend. Things didn't go exactly as we planned but we are still leaving for Shanghai tonight.

My trip has been great so far. The experience has the study abroad feel to it. I really like it because some of my best times were when I studied abroad. Well that's all for now. I may not get a chance to blog again.


At 4:01 AM, Blogger Beccalynn said...

Nina! It's SO great to hear from you! I had tons of comments but couldnt' remember then by the time I got down here
afew maybe
2) I would think the staring thing might wear on you after awhile. You should have a long talk with Rachel when you come here next cz she'd understand.
3) Read your journal? I think the Chinese just like to do things like that as scare tactics. What were they going to do? Tear some pages out? Although, they could have been checking to see if it was a bible or something, but man oh man! Did they read the whole thing? I would have put up a hissy fit! Not because I care what ppl read in my journal but because, dang it, I have rights!
What an adventure! I'm jealous!
ANd SOOO happy to hear from you!!!

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Beccalynn said...

...oh, and I can't believe they censor blogs! That's silly!

At 4:46 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

Hey, Nina! I've been thinking about you so much since you left and hoping you were having an amazing time. I'm so glad to hear you're having lots of good (albeit interesting) experiences!

I envy your adventurous spirit. I'd like to think that were I to travel like that, I'd be brave and venture out like that, but really I know I probably would stick really close to the people I knew.....but I'll probably never have to worry about that because I'll never be brave enough to even make a trip like that!

I can't wait to hear more....and see pictures!

I love you!

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Steve R said...

Nina, Good to see your blog. Did you get to Shanghai? See you next week. Love Dad


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