Friday, February 18, 2005

china is amazing

so like i said, we were the first group out of hawaii, which ended up being very nice. the flight took about forever, but it was well worth it. plus i met some new kids on the flight so it really went by quickly. we took a bus from the shanghai airport to our hotel, which was extremely nice. shanghai is a gorgeous city, and it was nothing like i expected. check out the pictures if i ever have enough time to upload them all.

shanghai was lots of fun. it was quite the experience going to our first restaurant there. we went to this place that was just a walk down the street from us becuase we were all starving and needed to get something to eat as soon as possible. none of them spoke any english and none of usa word of chinese, so ordering was fairly difficult. i just pointed to something that looked good on the menu and ended up with something that i think was rabbit. 7 of us sat together at the restaurant and we all had plenty of food and a few drinks each and i think our bill came to 350 yuan, which comes to about 40 bucks total. we all laughed because it was so cheap. on the way back to the hotel we ran into the beggars. these groups of anywhere from 1 to 15 kids swarm you and ask for money. they seem to have fun doing it but its very sad to see. they would call me daddy and tell me to give them money. they wouldnt leave you alone, so you would have to ignore them or run.

the next day we went out and saw the sights. we went to the Bund district and were fairly disappointed. but then we went to the old city and it was great. so many people were there and i was the tallest by heads and shoulders so i acted as the tour guide. there are a bunch of shops there, and some restaurants which looked terrible. after the old city we went to the jade buddha temple. lots of incense and bowing. the buddha looked pretty cool, but wasnt what i though it would be.

day after that, beijing group a (my group) flew to beijing in the morning. beijing is a pretty disgusting city. it is extremely smoggy and the buildings are pretty ugly. our hotel was not that nice, and it was pretty far away from the parts of the city that we wanted to go out to which was annoying. we went to lunches and dinners as groups which was a lot of fun because they would just serve us every type of food imaginable. i have tried so many crazy foods now, and i can only imagine what viet nam and india have in store for me. we went to the summer palace the first day which was cool. other than that we just went to a crazy lunch place and a crazy dinner place. the next day we did tiennamin sqare, the forbidden city, and the llama temple. tiennamin sqaure is absolutely huge. unfortunately we didnt get to go through the mosoleum where mao's body is displayed, but the group that did go said it wasnt great and they just hustled you through. the forbidden city is great, and also huge. there are 7 different temples and its like a 5 minute walk between them. roger moore was the voice on the headphones which i thought was absolutely histerical. that night we did dinner on our own, and then went out to a club. we had the concierge write down the name of the club where we thought everyone went. but we ended up somewhere else which turned out to be awesome. they must have thought we were movie stars or something cause they wouldnt let us pay to get in (and it was a 200 yuan roughly 15 US cover). they ushered us to a private table and brought us a tub full of drinks. they came over and danced with us and had us get in front on the dance floor and lead everyone else in dancing. it was great. and then on the way out home alone 2 was on on the tv, and 3 kids ran up and asked my friend for an autograph thinking he was maukaly caulkin (however you spell that). the next day was the great wall. it was snowing out, and the wall was super slippery which made it a very difficult task to climb. it was somuch fun though, we were slipping and sliding around. this thing is so steep though, and it was a tough hike. going down people were going down backwards one step at a time and holding on to the railing to stay up. it was really amazing though, and definately my favorite thing that we did. that night, a lot of people were getting a little tired of the chinese food (myself not included, i was begging to try something else new and scary) we decided to go to hard rock beijing. the next day we went to the temple of heaven. the temple itself wasnt anything to impressive after the other things we had just done, but the fun was with all the people there. we had a huge snowball fights with a bunch of the chinese people. then we had a little one with a group of about 40 little chinese girls. they were verycute, giggling everytime they got hit or hit someone else with a snowball. after the snowball war we went to the airport and flew to hong kong.

the drive into hong kong is amazing; impressive like shanghai was. the buildings are huge, and they are super skinny. they dont have to worry about earthquakes here (is what someone told me) so they dont have to use the same arcitexture are we are used to seeing. everyone is very excited to see all of the people that we havent seen since hawaii. it feels like a much longer parting than it really becuase of everything that we have been doing. everyone else went out to the bar district, but we decided to go to a local bar that night which turned out to be a great idea. the bar district is about 45 minutes away on the island (we are in kowlong which is the mainland side), and we are back where prices resemble american prices. the local bar was great though. the 4 of us were received very warmly with smiles and waving from just about everyone there. they came over and talked to us (most people speak decent english here as opposed to beijing) and taught us some drinking games that they were playing. the staff though it was funny to watch us play these games that we didnt really understand, and everyone had a good time. but, as has been the theme of this trip, the weather got crappy today (2/17) so we didnt do some of the things we were planning on doing today. instead we went to the ladies market, and just did a lot of bargaining. you can really get them to go down to a fourth of the price sometimes, but sometimes they wont budge. classes start tomorrow, so im going to do a little work later, and we will see soon when we are leaving for hong kong.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

on the way to china

so we are finally out of hawaii. they told us at noon that we have to be ready to leave at
6:30. although it was a hectic few hours packing and what not, Im glad that we were on this
flight. there was this flight that we left on, and then there were flights leaving the 10th
and the 11th. so i will get to spend some time in shanghai before heading to beiging while
some of the others willbe going directly to beiging.
the flight situation is a little annoying however. we flew to san fransicso first, and we
have a 9 hour layover here before we geton our 12 hour flight to shanghai.oh well. itll be
worth it when we get there.
the flight was a lot of fun. i have definately never been on a plane with 170 kids that i
know before. everyone was moving around and having fun. they did a good job of getting
everyone from SAS to the back of the plane so that we didnt disrupt the other passengers. i
was in seat 44G on that flight, and it was a big plane. On the flight to Shanghai, I am in
seat 58G, and my buddy is in 61 something... this plane must be HUGE. and I think that first
class is on the second deck. unbelievable. I have definately never been on a plane this big.
The reason that we had to fly out so quickly and take such a roundabout way of getting there
is because the charter plane company that they were going to use told them at the last
minute that their pilots/stewards did not have Chinese visas. so they ended up blowing 2100
on each of the 700 some-odd students and faculty to get us all there.
once we get there we will be staying in the JC Mandarin which is apperently some really
badass hotel. i will let you all know how it is once i get there. i am really looking foward
to finally getting out of america, as I am sure you are all looking foward to hear what i am
going to do.


so hawaii has been pretty damn cool. we stayed at this place called the park shore, which was nice. right across the street from the beach on waikiki. monday night was just for relaxing. a ton of semester at sea kids all just hung out at different bars and hotel rooms. i think everyone just needed to get off the boat and do some relaxing. i met a lot of new kids due to the fact that we were not doing the same routine that we have been in for the previous two weeks. once you find a small group on the boat, you stick with it i guess, so you dont end up eating dinner by yourself or sitting by yourself in core. so all of these groups finally met in the wonderful setting of hawaii.
on tuesday, semester at sea provided a luou (i think thats how you spell it) for us, i think as an appology for whats happened. this was a lot of fun. they had a pig roasting under ground on banana or palm leaves. they had traditional polynesian dancers dancing for us during the meal. at the end there was a fire guy who was really amazing. he has this stick with both ends burning that he twirled around. i mean, this simple explination does it no justice, it was really cool. the bus ride home was really funny too. the bus driver had us cracking up the entire time. he started off with,"OK, there is one bus in front of us... do you know what that means?" we all answered,"what?" and he said, "wave!" and turned on the lights and sped past the first bus. then he had us all singing these funy songs... it was a good time.
wednesday was just a beach day, nothing really exciting.
thursday we drove up to the north shore. beautiful drive, took about an hour. when we got there, we got lunch and watched the pipeline beach waves. they were huge. like big 15 footers with people surfing them, it looked like one of those surfing videos that they have been showing us in almost every restaurant that we eat in. the hiked up igutu or wasuati or something like that falls. the were a bunch of peacocks which were gorgeous but pretty stuck up. i think they know they are hot. they falls were really pouring down because of the recent weather. very nice. then we went on a gliding tour. this is the plane with no engine glider, not hang gliding. they have a plane tow you up to about 1000 feet, and then you just glide around. the wind was awesome that day, and our pilot was very excited about that, so he hooked us up and gave us more than twice the amount of time that we paid for. he took us up to 2000 feet within the first couple minutes. we flew over the mountains and over the ocean and saw whales. very pretty.
friday i went to the zoo for a class. all of our teachers give us 20% of our grade based on things that we do in each port. so for my primate behavior class (monkeys!) i went to the zoo with my teacher. it was really great because we got to go back to where the zoo keepers go and feed the different monkeys. they were all very cute and having a great time chasing each other around in the trees that the zoo set up for them. after that i was supposed to observe 2 different monkeys in the same troop for 30 mins each. but it started raining so they just sat underneath the covered area, so that part was boring.
saturday was the first day that it was really hawaii weather. so i did what just about everyone else did which was get burnt. like fried. its nice though because living in southern california for the last 2 years has allowed me to not get as burned as i once would have as a little kid. and all the michigan and pitt kids have not had this luxury so they are in a little more pain than i am at the moment. we had to be back on the boat that night for the first time, and we didnt go out after they let us go again, i just stayed and caught up on some much needed sleep. plus i was exhausted from the sun.
sunday (yesterday as i am writing this), i was doing the same thing im assuming all of you did. except i got to do it sitting by a pool getting some more sun. when it got too hot, there were some big screens set up downstairs in the hotel (this was all in the marriot by the way, and luckily they didnt care if you were a guest to hang out). so that was a lot of fun. i treated myself to some sushi last night and had fun just chilling on the beach with some friends.
and today... class again. i know, how much does it suck that i actually have to go to class for school, haha. so its back to doing a little catch-up and inform all of you guys what i have been up to so you can vicariously live this amazing experience with me. i dont think im going to get off the boat, but you never know what someone will talk me into.
so here is the deal with the program from now on after the wave day damages. the boat will not be ready to sail, and even if it was it would mean us missing shanghai and hong kong. so they are flying us there in three waves on the 10th, 11th, and 12th. this is all depending on what you are going to do once you get there, so i think all the people that were planning on doing independent travel get kinda screwed. they are going to put us up in hotels and i believe they are going to be really nice. so when were were supposed to be leaving for vietnam, we are staying for two extra days and having class in the hotels. then the same deal in viet nam. fly us there, put us up in hotels and let us do what we would normally do. we will also have some class here, but at the end, the ship should be there to pick us up and continue the voyage as normal. this is, we realized, why it took so much time for them to figure out plans for us. so thats that... semester at air and sea is born.
ok, i think thats it for now. hope everyone is well. next update from china!!!