Friday, January 21, 2011


It took a bus, taxi, train, feet, train, subway, and more feet to get to my final destination in Shenzhen. The second of the two train rides was 24-hours long. The other students and I had beds, though, so it wasn’t that bad. The bad part was that there was no food served, and the only food that was available for purchase was pretty expensive and didn’t look very appetizing. The second I got off the train, I felt warm. There were palm trees. It was paradise.

I also started to hear a lot of Cantonese, which sounds like a really cool, fun language. The Shenzhen Subway has its recordings in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. That made all of us Northerners really happy to hear, just because it was something new. The Shenzhen accent was really weird to hear, though. Shenzhen is the newest city in China, and it’s made up of people from all over China (but apparently mostly from the South). I was told that because all of these people with different accents come together, they sort of blend together, and it’s pretty different. Many people in Shenzhen sounds like they have lisps; many cannot pronounce the “sh” and “zh” sounds. It was sort of hard to get used to, but after a few days it did sound natural. Shenzhenren (深圳人, or Shenzhen people in Chinese, is what I’ll call them, considering I don’t know their English demonym), like many other southerners in China, can’t really pronounce the “R” sound that is commonly found in Northerners’ speech, so they just avoid saying it. That being said, many Shenzhenren think and told me that Northerners use this sound in excess. I, for one, really like to use the “R” because I think it sounds really fun and unrestrained, but because I didn’t really hear it in Shenzhen, I found myself using it less and less. Now that I’m back in Tianjin, I’ve made sure to pick it up again!

Everyone had temporary host families in Shenzhen. It was clear that most of the host families were very rich. Mine had two children, which is very uncommon in China, and most people say only the rich can afford it. Their son is in the US right now studying, though, so I didn’t get to meet him. For the first night of my stay, my 16-year-old host sister’s best friend slept over. They were really typical 16-year-old girls who made everything a huge deal. They didn’t stop giggling for the whole night, and everything they did (cooking, turning on the TV, showing me the garbage) they had trouble with and turned into a show. It felt like living in a Taiwanese TV drama.

Our YFU orientation in Shenzhen was pretty boring for the most part. We just kind of sat around and talked about the first half of our years and how the next half should be spent. It was cool to see all the people I met in Beijing and meet more people. I’ve never had so many friends from all around the world!

Shenzhen is a really cool city. The climate is great, the people are really nice, the food was pretty good (I had some really good, spicy stuff!), and it felt like it had a small town feel even though it’s a pretty big city. Of course I didn’t get to see most of Shenzhen as I was only there for a few days and most of it was spent in meetings, but I did get to see a cool, modern area of shops and small eateries that was of course super crowded (Shenzhen is still China). Overall it felt really lively. Like I said before, Shenzhen is the newest city, so people also say that its people are the youngest. It definitely feels a lot younger.

On my last day in the South, Saturday, we went to Hong Kong! It took us way too long to get to Hong Kong because we are such a big group and was a very hectic day, but it was totally worth it. Hong Kong is really amazing. The subway system, although expensive, is really efficient. The first stop we made was pretty touristy. We went to an area that is like Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood area with all the stars’ names and handprints (sorry I’m totally drawing a blank on both the Hollywood and Hong Kong names). There was an amazing view of the harbor, which just looks so modern and gigantic. I also got to try some catfish on a stick! Very tasty.

After that we just walked around and looked for a place to eat. This was very hard because we were in a really wealthy, shopping-oriented part of the city. We eventually found something (That wasn’t dim sum! I’m still really disappointed that I couldn’t find dim sum in Hong kong. I will never forgive myself for that!) unmemorable to eat, and then we were off to just look around.

Hong Kong has so many foreigners it’s ridiculous. Everywhere you look there’s foreigners. The other exchange students and I were pretty shocked by this, and some of us even forgot what it looks like to b surrounded by so many foreigners. It felt very European, while still managing to kind of feel Chinese. Hong Kong, however, differs greatly from China in terms of simple social rules. Someone in Hong Kong held the door open for me. I was seriously so shocked I took a picture of that door. While a friend and I were crossing a street, suddenly we noticed it was QUIET (no honking!) and all of the other pedestrians were waiting at a red light. We had completely forgotten that people actually wait at red lights. We now all feel like when we go back to our countries, we’re going to be pretty socially inept, and this is only after five months! Hong Kong also felt very clean, which was a nice change from China.

I felt very confused about what language to use to communicate with vendors in China. I know that they speak Cantonese, not Mandarin, but it also used to be a British colony, so I’d heard that many people speak English. Conversations all ended up being very wacky. Here’s an example of me buying ice-cream:

Me: Hello,还有没有这个冰淇淋?明白吗?
Ice-cream man: Which one? This one?
Me: Yes.
Ice-cream man: 有,六块.
Me: 我的朋友也想买一个,可是他没有香港元。可以用人民币吗?
Ice-cream man: 可以.
Me: Okay, then she’ll have one, too.
Ice-cream man: 行,Ten Renminbi.
Me: Okay, okay. 谢谢!
Ice-cream man: Cantonese.

At the end of the day when it got darker, we went to Victoria Peak. There’s a tram that goes to the top, and then BAM. The whole skyline can be seen from sort of an above angle, and at night this was really spectacular. I’ve really never seen anything like it before. Definitely the coolest skyline I’ve ever seen! They also had a Burger King up there…

The next day we headed back for Tianjin. This time the train ride was 30 hours, though. Unfortunately I had some stomach problems, and the train had the world’s worst bathroom, so that wasn’t the best train ride of my life. But still, I am alive!

Tomorrow I’m going to Beijing with my host brother to visit my host grandmother for a week. After that we will go visit more relatives in Shanxi Province for the Chinese New Year! Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! 新年快乐!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Switch

I switched host families on Wednesday, December 29. My last host family was not working out, so I moved into a new family with two parents and a sixteen-year-old son. I no longer live in Tianjin’s Hexi District; I’m living in the Nankai District. So far I can tell that my new family is really nice, and I’m very happy here.

This family lives in a pretty neat part of Nankai District. I’m really close to Tianjin’s largest park, the Tianjin Water Park (it’s just a big park with lakes and nice views), the Tianjin Library, and there are many buses that come to the bus stop right in front of our apartment, so I can pretty much get to anywhere I want to go. I also live relatively close to the Tianjin Olympic Stadium, which was used to host the 2008 Olympic Games’ soccer matches. My school is only five bus stops away, so I can get to and from school pretty quickly. The only downside of this location is that the closest subway station is pretty far away. Tianjin’s subway is pretty bad though (as it’s unfinished and only has one line) so this isn’t a huge issue.

My host family has a cat named Mimi. I’ve never lived with a cat before and am not a cat person, so it was a little hard for me to get used to at first. The first night I slept here she climbed into my bed and scared me unbelievably much. I have no idea what breed (do cats even have breeds?) of cat she is, so I’m sorry if any of you cat-lover readers are curious. I’ve slowly gotten used to living with Mimi, but I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t like me very much.

My host family isn’t from Tianjin; they’re from Shanxi Province, where we will be visiting in a few weeks for the Chinese New Year! Because I just switched families, my new family is constantly feeding me to welcome me (of course they are). Everyday we eat Shanxi cai, or food from Shanxi Province. It’s pretty different from the food from Tianjin. We don’t often eat rice. Instead, we eat mantou, which I actually prefer. Mantou is translated into English as steamed buns, but other than that I don’t know how to explain it, so I refer you to Google or Wikipedia (or Baidu if you’re feeling brave enough to figure out Chinese characters!). Shanxi cai has a lot of vinegar in it.  I’ve also been told that it’s fairly common to eat donkey, and we’ve been eating that sort of frequently. There’s been a lot of soup, too. I’ve started eating these dumplings in a soup called Tangyuan (汤圆). While I’m almost positive that the soup part is just boiled water, these little dumplings are made out of rice flour and are filled with a type of peanut or red bean puree. They’re really sweet, fluffy, and taste great; however, China has changed my taste buds quite a bit. I am no longer able to eat that many sweets.

Today I went shopping for shoes at a mall. I apparently bought fake Nikes (when in China, right?) for the equivalent of ten US Dollars. My feet must be really big by Chinese standards because my shoe size was the largest one the store had. I think I tried on three different sizes. Anyway, as I was finishing trying on the largest size, the shopkeeper started telling me to go quickly because something was happening that I didn’t really understand. So I tried to start going faster but wasn’t absolutely rushing to my maximum ability, and then all of a sudden this woman completely freaks out. She was running around the maybe twenty square meters of the shop (“shops” in this mall aren’t really separated though, as there aren’t really any partitions between different sellers’ merchandise) talking extremely quickly, and so the only thing I could understand was “QUICKLY QUICKLY QUICKLY QUICKLY QUICKLY QUICKLY QUICKLY!” Then out of nowhere this man runs over and starts throwing these blue sheets everywhere trying to cover all of the shoes. The lady started freaking out even more (which I didn’t think was possible), so I just handed my money to her, and my friends and I quickly tried to leave. As we were leaving, we had to jump over one of these blue sheets and accidently knocked half of the shoes over. Woops. Luckily I was with a Chinese friend, so she explained to me what was happening. Apparently the female shopkeeper received a tipoff on her Walkie-Talkie that some government type person was on their way, and so she had to randomly just start hiding everything. I don’t understand why her neighbors didn’t hide their merchandise, considering it was all equally illegal. Regardless, it was a pretty hectic but interesting situation to experience.

Last Friday was my last day of school for the semester. My class has exams this week and class next week, but I won’t be in school for those two weeks! I am going to Shenzhen tomorrow for a YFU orientation, so I will try to update when I get back!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

圣诞节 and the Subway of Death

The Holiday Season doesn’t really exist in China. Most Chinese people aren’t Christian, so Christmas isn’t celebrated. With all things western, though, the Chinese have attempted to bring Christmas to China.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, decorations slowly started arriving in Tianjin. The most prominent holiday decoration would have to be a huge paper Santa head that was placed on literally every Shop’s storefront in the entire city. Other decorations include huge signs that say “MeRry ChristMas Day!!!” and grocery store workers dressed as elves.

I had the day off from school on Christmas Eve. And to my surprise, no one had to make this day up on a weekend! I did go out to lunch with some important people from my school and all the foreign teachers. We went to this nice restaurant, and it was really interesting to see what fancier, more elegant Chinese food is like. There was some sort of Chinese variant of foie gras, some really interesting jellyfish, and the world’s best tofu, among many other interesting creations. My Chinese teacher and all of the important people at the school lunch warned everyone not to go to Tianjin’s major shopping street that night, Binjiangdao (滨江道). Of course that means that after lunch I called up my Thai friend and we were off.

Apparently Chinese people celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve (if they celebrate christmas?), and they celebrate by going out. Binjiangdao was unbelievably crowded, and there were so many street vendors selling the most random things. I spotted dog clothes, Halloween masks, and stuffed animal bouquets. There’s also a big church at one end of the street, and there was a gigantic crowd of Chinese people there. According to my Chinese teacher, Chinese people don’t know what they should do on Christmas Eve, so they all go to this one church and just walk around it. Going home that night was a nightmare, too. I walked into the subway station and couldn’t figure out where to go because there were so many people everywhere. I had to stand in line for six minutes to get a ticket when it usually takes thirty seconds. While trying to get into the subway car, I literally had to jump ontop of my Thai friend. While it was definitely an interesting experience, it was not a very pleasurable one.

I spent Christmas day with friends eating a lot of food. I even found a place in Tianjin where I can buy Cheese bagels that taste real. I just need to find cream cheese next.

The day after Christmas there was a YFU Christmas party at a hotel. The hotel was absolutely hilarious. It was decorated with Renaissance style paintings, checkered floors, emerald chandeliers, three fake pianos, a spiral staircase the size of Rhode Island, Chinese calligraphy scrolls, and the ubiquitous Santa Claus faces.

Two other YFU students and I had to perform at the party of about forty people. We were asked to sing a Chinese song and didn’t know what to pick, so we picked Bie Kan Wo Zhi Shi Yi Zhi Yang (别看我只是一只羊) from a Chinese cartoon found everywhere called Xiyangyang yu Huitailang (喜洋洋灰太狼). Unfortunately we had no idea what we were doing, but we’re foreign so I guess it doesn’t matter. After our performance I was interviewed in Chinese in front of everyone, and I actually answered the questions successfully. I guess I’m making progress with my Chinese, then?

Here is a video of the Xiyangyang theme song:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December Ramblings

A few weeks ago it was my Thai friend’s birthday, so she invited me and some other exchange students over to her host family’s house for lunch. After lunch we drank tea in the traditional Chinese way. I had never experienced a Chinese tea “ceremony” (I’m not really sure you could call it that), so it was an interesting experience for me. First the tealeaves were washed, and then tea was poured over the tea set a few times. The tea set consisted of a pot, cups, brushes (no idea what they are for, as they were not used), and they all sat over this box type thing which had space at the top for tea to drip down into. After all of that washing and tea spilling, we finally drank the tea! Fun fact: black tea is called “red tea” in Chinese.

Later that day I went over to my other Thai friend’s house, and she cooked some Thai curry. It was actually the spiciest thing I’ve ever eaten, but it was of course still delicious. Her host mom then showed me their oven and was like, “Tomorrow you come over and make American food! We have an oven.” So then the next day I was eating lunch and I got a call from her daughter who told me, “I heard you’re coming over to make potato soup. Meet me at the bookstore.” Shopping for American ingredients was an interesting experience. We had to go to a Japanese grocery store, but we were able to find everything after looking for what felt like ages. Then we returned to their house and I made baked potato soup and cookies. They both turned out decently. The soup was a little bit burnt, though.

A few days after that food experience, it was my host brother’s birthday. We didn’t really do much except for eat noodles and cake. Chinese people eat really long noodles on their birthday, which symbolizes a long life.

At the beginning of December I FINALLY (after three months of waiting) got my school uniform. I had heard they were coming in the first week of December, and so one day after a friend and I finished eating lunch he turned to me, mouthed, “Let’s go,” and we were off. We then explored a part of the school I had never been to, and finally ended up in some random space between two buildings next to a really old, beat-up van. There was this gigantic crowd surrounding the van and a guy selling uniforms. I am now wearing it, and it is gigantic, ugly, green, yellow, and white.

I also started playing badminton the first Friday of December. One day after school I was about to go home until one of my classmates approaches me and goes, “Let’s go!” I had no idea what was going on and my classmates just kept saying, “Fifth floor. Fifth floor!” After about five minutes we ended up in the attic of our school, which I had no idea existed. There are a bunch of badminton courts, but it has to be the weirdest place to play sports. Now every Friday I have badminton class after school. Chinese people are INTENSE when it comes to badminton. I’m already at a disadvantage because I can’t really understand the teacher’s instructions and tips on how to play well (I really need to study badminton vocabulary!), but even if I did understand, they’re all so good that there’s practically no hope for me anyway.

I got a haircut two weeks ago. I was way way overdue to get one (I hadn’t had one since before coming to China in August). When I got to the salon, they put my coat into a locker and gave me a key. That was really different for me. The only other differences were they washed my hair before and after the cut, and the wrapped my neck in toilet paper (any ideas why? I have no idea).

Christmas is coming up, and so I hope to make a post about Christmas in china within the next week. Until then, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I promised myself that I would do an update after Tianjin turned on the heat. They turned it on about a week ago, but unfortunately my Internet is broken. I am writing this and hope to post it when the Internet is fixed. Not everyone in China gets heat. Everyone south of some river (perhaps the Yellow River or Yangtze River? Or are those the same?) doesn’t get heat; everyone North of said river does get heat. Tianjin is north of the river, but individuals cannot control their own heat. The whole city turns it on at the same time, and so even though I was frozen for about one month, there was not much I could do (other than wear my whole wardrobe at one time).

During the earlier, unexpectedly cold, heatless days of November, I got sick. It was just a cold, though. I didn’t get to experiment with Chinese medicine, although a few of my classmates did suggest it. I did, however, eat frog. I got home one day and wasn’t feeling well, so my host family motioned me to the table and said, “EAT FROG NOW.” They then placed five whole frogs onto my plate and expected me to eat them. I have no idea how to eat a whole frog, and when I asked my host dad for instructions, his response was just, “eat it like it’s a chicken!” They weren’t particularly delicious, but not bad either.

The weekend after I got sick I went to an aquarium called the Tianjin Ocean Park with some Chinese friends. None of them had ever seen penguins, and they got so excited when they saw them. We also went to a buffet (my second buffet in China!). This time it was surprisingly calm and civilized. There was an unlimited self-serve table of Chinese beer and baijiu (literally “white alcohol,” baijiu is some sort of Chinese liquor that is known to have an exceptionally high amount of alcohol). I feel like that could potentially be extremely dangerous, especially with Chinese men.

This past Saturday I went to my Thai friend’s house for an American Thanksgiving party. I was expecting it to be a small party of about ten people, but there were so many people, and this HOUSE (the first Chinese house I’ve been in) was GIGANTIC. There were quite a few Americans and other foreigners. I have recently been getting really giddy when I’m around other Americans. It’s a really strange feeling, but maybe it’s because I don’t interact with Americans that often. About thirty minutes into the party the hostess called everyone over and said we had to play a “game.” I was hanging out with all of the exchange students, and none of us could understand her directions in Chinese or the “translator’s” (random man’s) English (or rather, Chinglish) directions. Everyone was given a piece of paper and a pen, and we were supposed to write our name and something else on the paper and put it in a jar. We had no idea what to write, so we all wrote random stuff and went on doing our own thing. After everyone was finished, some random little kid started pulling papers out of the jar. It turned out that we were supposed to read what was on the paper if our name was called. Of course my name was called second, and I was put in front of a crowd and expected to give a small speech when the only thing on my paper was “Happy Thanksgiving!” I had no idea what to do, so I just stood there and awkwardly talked about Thanksgiving for ten seconds. Then I got a prize. It ended up being an electric massager.

After the “game” I was standing around talking to friends and there was this Chinese girl across from me that looked really familiar. She approached me and was like, “Hi, I know you.” I then freaked out and realized that I had met this girl a few months ago at a YFU orientation in Chicago. She was an exchange student to the Chicagoland area last year, and we had talked a bit at the orientation. It was a very “such a small world” feeling. Later I met a foreign girl that spoke perfect English, so I just assumed she was American. When I asked her where she was from, she told me she was German but had gone to Illinois as an exchange student a few years ago. I thought I misheard her and had to ask her to repeat herself a few times. It turns out that she had exchanged to a town pretty close to my hometown. As we were talking about that, a man overheard us, came over, and said “Oh you’re from Chicago? I’m from Chicago.” He is from a town even closer to my hometown. After that I decided I should avoid people with connections to the US for the rest of the night.

The food at the party was interesting. There were two turkeys that had pink meat, lots of fried chicken and fish, cornbread that I was told isn’t actually cornbread, dumplings, cake, and pie! The guy that carved the turkey had absolutely no idea what he was doing and it didn’t taste like turkey, but it’s the feeling, right? Overall, I have to say it felt like a pretty real thanksgiving. Little kids running around practically dying from being stepped on, half of the guests spilling their drinks, a fight in the kitchen, great gossip, intense miscommunication (this time being between like seven languages), and awkward encounters that nobody should have to live through.

On Sunday eight other exchange students, two host siblings, and I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1! If you don’t know me, you should know that I am an unbelievably huge Harry Potter fan. Originally everyone in China told me that the movie would come out sometime in 2011. I was devastated that I would have to wait a few extra months to see the movie. Completely devastated. But one day at the beginning of last week, I got a text from a Chinese friend saying “I was wrong. I just called the cinema and Harry Potter will be here this Friday!” That’s all I talked about the rest of the week. I couldn’t go on Saturday or Sunday, but at the Thanksgiving party some other exchange students invited me to go with them on Sunday. Of course I said yes. There were nine of us in total: three YFU students  (Thailand, Germany, me), five AFS students (Germany, Italy, Thailand, USA, Venezuela), and two host sisters. In China the cinema gives customers assigned seats, and I actually liked this a lot. Customers get to pick where they want to sit when they buy the ticket, and then that seat is officially theirs. Of course all nine of us had to get McDonald’s before the movie, so that made us thirty seconds late. Despite the fact that I missed those very crucial thirty seconds, the movie was phenomenal. Go see it. After the movie we ate Thai food and went shopping on Binjiang Road, one of Tianjin’s busiest pedestrian streets.

Yesterday I was invited to “电灯泡,” or “be the light bulb” by one of my classmates. She and a guy I briefly met a while ago just started being “boyfriend and girlfriend” this past weekend. First of all, Chinese high school relationships are sort of ridiculous. Half of the time “couples” avoid each other everywhere in public, and the other half are just awkward. Anyway, my classmate asked me if I was free to go out to dinner with them after school. Unfortunately (no, I’m not being sarcastic) I was not free and had to go home, so I didn’t get to awkwardly tag along on their “date” to McDonald’s (romantic, eh?). This morning my classmate asked me if I knew what “being the light bulb” was. I didn’t and so she explained it to me. Often times Chinese couples don’t feel very comfortable going out alone, so they need a friend to tag along and “be the light bulb that guides them in the dark.” Next time I am totally not passing this up.

Today my class welcomed a new student. All went well until English class, where the American teacher asked her for her English name. She said her English name was “S-T-I-T-K-E-Y,” but for five minutes the teacher thought she said “Sticky.” He went on and on for five minutes about why that was a weird name, and then of course someone finally corrected him, “Stitkey is what she said, not Sticky.” Well, you readers can judge for yourselves, but both my teacher and I thought that was just as weird. His response: “Can I call you Ashley?”

I wish all of you a very happy American Thanksgiving and am of course thankful for you if you’ve read this far. 感恩节快乐!

Monday, November 1, 2010


I took an English test a few weeks ago at my school here. I got an 85%. Woops. There was an excerpt from Twilight juxtaposed with a Pride and Prejudice excerpt. Classic.

About a week later I got into my first Chinese car accident! I was with my host brother and a classmate in a taxi on our way home from school at about six at night, and all of a sudden there was this really loud noise and we stopped moving. Right when I realized we were in a car accident, I got really excited. I’ve heard great things about getting into taxi accidents in China. I’ve heard stories about the driver blaming the incident on the passenger and viewed pretty heated arguments between drivers from the side of the road. Fortunately, this was not the case. Our taxi driver just stepped out of the car and kept saying “sorry, sir!” to the other driver. While this was happening I made sure to question the others in the vehicle about Chinese traffic accidents involving taxis. My classmate said he had never been in an accident while in a taxi before, and so we were just cracking up. When I ask my host brother if this had ever happened to him before, his response was “usually.” So, this “usual” accident only lasted about five minutes, and it seemed to be very simple. It resulted in our driver giving the other driver 100 RMB (about 15 US Dollars) since we rear-ended him.

On October 24 I went to the Great Wall with a bunch of YFU students. Many of the students from the South were visiting Beijing, and the Northern students were given the opportunity to visit the Great Wall with them because it’s a bit out of the way for us to get to. The Great Wall was really amazing, but we had the worst weather since August. Even so, it was fun to climb (and you really have to climb, not just walk, which I was not expecting), and the rain actually gave the Wall this ethereal, scenic look.

After the Great Wall we went to the Olympic Village where we saw the Bird Nest and Water Cube. Both were cool but kind of useless. I did really enjoy getting to walk around and talk with all the other students I had not previously met.

Happy Halloween! There was absolutely nothing Halloween related here in China. I almost forgot about the holiday, actually. Today I don’t have school, though, because this week is exam week. I think I am running out of things to talk about, so if you want to hear about anything (does anyone even read this anyway?), feel free to comment and let me know. Also, does anyone have any ideas of what American food I could cook my host family? We don’t have an oven or cheese.

Monday, October 11, 2010

National Holiday

October 1st to October 7th was the National Holiday in China. October 1st is National Day, and so the government orders a week of holiday. I had a weeklong break from school. On September 30th I was told by my teacher not to go to school (for reasons unknown…), so I just stayed at home all day. When my host brother and mom got home at about six in the evening, they were just like “Okay, it’s National Holiday. Let’s go to Hebei.” Ten minutes later we were on our way to Hebei Province.

Traffic was absolutely horrible. China’s National Holiday is known as one of two “Golden Weeks” in China. Because so much of the country is on break, many people take the time to travel. This results in extremely horrible traffic. I’ve heard that travel by train is a complete disaster during this time.

We only stayed in Hebei for one day. We went to the same town that I had previously visited. This time I found out the name, though. I think it’s called Tangshen (that could be totally wrong, though.). The town is nice, but it’s sort of gross because it’s really polluted. This time I got to explore part of the town a bit. We went to some random, uninhabited house, but it was really cool because I got to see a typical Chinese garden. There was a lot of Chinese cabbage (which in Chinese is called “white vegetable,” even though it’s green). One of my host aunts and both of my host grandparents spent a lot of time picking vegetables and cleaning them. Later that day we took some home and have been eating them since.

The rest of the week was kind of boring. I didn’t do much. I tried Chinese “Italian food,” which wasn’t very Italian. I also went to a Chinese buffet, which was quite the experience. It was very similar to those Brazilian steakhouses that are kind of trendy in the US. They had a bunch of people carrying around different kinds of meats on trays and carts, and they would just come to your table and plop it into your plate. They even had pizza that they just threw onto the table. What was even scarier was the buffet portion. They had a pretty large buffet of random Chinese dishes, pastries, fruit, and beverages. As you should known by know, Chinese people like to eat a lot, so people were taking massive quantities of food from the buffet. It was unbelievable. They even had roast duck as part of the buffet, and it would empty really quickly. Whenever a new tray of duck would pass by on its way to the buffet, half of the restaurant (which was gigantic, by the way) would suddenly rush to the buffet and start pushing each other out of the way in order to get the duck.

I had to go to school today (Saturday) to make up for one of the days of the holiday. I think that is now the third Saturday where I’ve had to go to school.