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 FGCU Student at Yantai University

Jenna's China Diary

This photo diary describes the experiences of Jenna Love Mleczkowski, another FGCU exchange student at Yantai University in Yantai, China. Jenna is a Marketing Major in the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU and is at Yantai for the Spring 2009 term.

Because of cultural differences, people in China are most interested to learn that Jenna:
  • Is youngest of three siblings, blessed with both a brother and sister.
  • Has naturally curly hair.
  • Has been working since age 15.
  • Has never traveled outside the east coast of America, before this trip to China.
  • Owns a Honda.
  • Is left-handed.
  • Is capable of using chopsticks.
  • Enjoys eating Chinese food.
  • Enjoys learning languages.

Sunday, February 22nd
My Trip to China begins before I leave Fort Myers. My Chinese friends at FGCU from Yantai and Beijing throw me a farewell party. They all prepared Chinese food for me, and their Indian roommate prepared her favorite dishes as well. All of the flavors were amazing and left me feeling very exited to experience more food in China. For many hours we ate, laughed, and discussed everything we could think of relating to my travel to China.

Wednesday, February 25th
Just before flying over Beijing I happened to look out the window and see the most breathtaking scene; mountains. They were beautiful, I have seen them in pictures and on TV, but still it is shocking how magnificent they are.

After landing in Beijing I encounter my first experience in China. I find my luggage that I had checked and put everything on the luggage cart. Then I go to the check-in counter and wait several minutes while the representative looks puzzled and calls over another rep. to discuss their concerns. They make a few phone calls then converse a while longer. They inform me that my name is not recognized in their system, and that I should go to the forth floor to see a manager.

Their English is not very clear, so at this point I am a little confused, I am thinking that my flight is canceled and they don't know how to tell me.

On the forth floor was every airline check-in. I ask the guard at the door for a manager, she didn't understand, and I can't remember the word for manager in Chinese. I find a circular counter with a "?" sign. I ask for a manager, he looks at my ticket and he types it into the computer. He tells me to go to "J", China Air, to check in. I wait in a long line to get to the counter. Once I get to the rep. the confusing situation takes place again. They tell me to go to "K01", Shandong Air, which turns out to be a special assistance check-in. Here they type in my ticket and put on their puzzled faces. Then one of the reps. takes my ticket to the next counter which was the ticketing booth for Shandong Air. She comes back to tell me they couldn't help me.

I then go to the Shandong ticketing booth to ask more questions. The rep. informs me again that my name is not recognized. I ask her what it is that I need to do. "Buy a ticket" is what she tells me. I bring forward the ticket in my hand once again. She points out that there is a ticket number missing on mine. I point out the amount of money that I paid that is displayed on the ticket. She then looks more puzzled. We continue back and forth for a few more minutes until I realize the only solution was to buy a ticket.

Figuring that if the ticket were $100 or so, I could buy it and then call United and have them refund me. I ask how much it would cost, after looking it up and converting it to USD she told me it would be $700. This is when I ask her if she could call United Airlines. She says "No, I don't call." I ask if she could tell me how to call someone by pay phone. She does not understand me at all. Another rep realizes we are having issues so she takes my ticket and begins searching on the computer. Finally she tells me to go to "D" the United Airlines check-in. I show the rep. my ticket at the United Airlines desk that is located at the opposite end of the building. She says that the check-in counter has already closed. I tell her that I need help and I need to talk to a manager. She tells me to go to the third floor.

On the third floor is one door that leads to a listing of all airlines. United is listed, but all airlines have a range of room numbers, each consisting of a combination of six letters and numbers. Down the hall I ask the guard where United is. She walks over to the sign with me so that I can point to the airline I need. Her hand points down the hall with a flick to the right. I take the first door to the right, opening two small but heavy doors to allow for my luggage cart to get through. I follow the long winding hall to the next set of heavy doors. Every hallway and office door looks the same, white walls, grey doors, and six digit room numbers, and the airline offices are few and far between.

I continue to follow three more long winding halls each separated with the heavy set of doors. At this time I feel that I am not getting anywhere, actually I don't know where I am. I feel as if I have entered some kind of twilight zone, going deeper into the building, as there are no windows on the third floor at all. I begin to feel frustration and decide to turn back. Three reps. pass through the door as I open it. I look back at them and realize they were each carrying a shopping bag with the United Airlines logo. I feel so relieved that I shout "UNITED!" with excitement. They smile as I tell them I need help. One of the reps is an older man. To hear his English was strangely comforting. I follow them to their office while I explain my confusing situation.

I am not allowed to go into the office so I wait for a different agent to return. She explains that my name is recognized in their system but they do not know why it is not in the airport's system. Because of this recognition problem my seat is not reserved and the flight is now fully booked. My only option is to standby. The rep then takes me back to "J" which is where I started, and she explains to the check-in reps. the situation. It is after 6:00pm in Beijing. I had landed a little after 3:00pm and the Yantai flight will take off at 7:00pm. I watch all the other passengers check their luggage while I wait. At 6:28pm the rep. comes over to me and places the stickers on my luggage, and says "two minutes more." I went to the counter at 6:30 and they give me my ticket! They show me where to take my luggage and then I am off running to the flight. I hear the very last call for the fight as I come around the corner of the terminal. Just in time, I make it!

I am the only non-Asian on the flight to Yantai. This flight is different as it has soft background music playing and all of the songs are American classics. They serve a sandwich of some kind. The bread is a heavy flakey brown biscuit with a peculiar flavor and it is filled with an unknown meat, dark red in color and interesting texture. I don't see many people eating it. Although I am hungry I don't finish it.

After landing in Yantai I walk down a flight of stairs from the airplane, I don't think I have ever done this before. From there I take a bus to the terminal. My luggage is even easier to find because we exit into one room with only one section of luggage. I have to check in with security by showing them my luggage sticker before exiting. I like this process, it doesn't allow for luggage to get stolen.

I see Linc, my Chinese advisor, just outside of security holding a Yantai Univeristy Sign. He introduces me to our driver and then asks if I would like something to eat. He takes me to the new Japanese Mall that is right next to the University called Jusco. I am very surprised by this mall. It is very fancy and is a lot nicer than the Edison mall in Fort Myers, Florida. I was not expecting anything this big, because I thought that this was a smaller city. This mall is two stories and is full of expensive clothing stores.

Linc brings me to a very nice Korean restaurant inside the mall. I order a vegetable noodle dish. This meal was enough for at least to people. I enjoy the flavor and am very excited for trying new food. The vegetables in the dish are all familiar except for the mushrooms. Linc tells me that they are a kind of needle mushroom. The texture of the mushrooms is a little too firm, crunchy, and slippery for my liking, but they are very common in China. Linc treated me to dinner, to welcome me to China and to Yantai University. Because I am not aware of the exchange rate I ask him how much this meal would cost in USD. My dinner costs approximately $2.50. I am very excited because I really enjoy this meal and I could only eat a small portion of it, as it is an extremely large bowl. I realize that I will be eating a lot in China.

After dinner Linc takes me to my dorm room. I am surprised to see that it is a really good sized room. I have never lived in a dorm before, and do not know what to expect. I have a lot of trouble sleeping this night because of the jet lag and because it is so very cold in my room.

Thursday, February 26th
I wake up around 4:00am and watch the sun rise between 5:00am and 6:00am. As it becomes light I see buildings from my window. As the sun creeps its way up I see a mountain between the buildings and I am in awe. I realize after it becomes fully light that there is not a mountain at all, actually it is a large stadium. It is an exquisite view. I am overwhelmed. Around 7:00am I hear strong wind. I notice as the wind becomes stronger it sounds beautiful, then I realize at 8:00am that this is not wind that I am hearing it is music. I don't know where it is coming from but I hear it every hour. A few hours later I hear a bang, and again another bang. I think that it might be guns being fired. Then I find out that they are fireworks. All morning and afternoon they set off fireworks in China.

I had asked Linc the night before what it is that I should do when I wake up. He offered to take me to lunch. We planned to meet at 2:00pm. This is a long time for me to wait in my room. I feel trapped in my room because I know that no one outside knows any English and I don't know where anything is. I decide to go downstairs to the lobby to use the computers while I wait for him. I sit down next to another westerner. I find out that she is from Italy and has attended this university for one semester already. She invites me to go out with her to dinner later this evening.

Once Linc arrives he takes me again to Jusco, the new Japanese mall. This time we go to a Chinese restaurant. He orders three dishes. All of them are incredible. First we have a dish that he cannot describe to me. The only way that I can describe it would be as a firm colorless gelatin, made of wheat, in a very spicy brown sauce. Next we had the spicy pork dish. Slices of pork cooked to perfection in a nice red sauce topped with minced garlic. Everything seems to have a kind of chili pepper.

We also had a dish of garlic broccoli. I tell Linc that I am very happy and excited to be in China. I explain how important food is to me and that I love everything that he has ordered for us. Linc responds by asking me to continue eating. This is tradition in China.

Linc and I walk through the market after lunch. He tells me that this is something that he wishes that I wouldn't have to see, because of the conditions, yet it is a part of China and its culture. I find it very exciting. This market is the kind that I have heard so much about and have seen on the Travel Channel. This is the outdoor market that is in the streets and consists of many stands of food, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, creepy crawlers, and everything imaginable. I will take pictures or video when I have a camera that is less visible. I don't want to appear to be rude in this type of market.

I meet my new Italian friend and her German Friend for dinner. We also go to Jusco for dinner. This time we go upstairs where there is a cafeteria with many counters of Chinese food. I am not as hungry because I had eaten so much for lunch. I order a soup that comes with rice and vegetables. The soup is thick and not much flavor. The vegetables are brown, pickled, and bitter. The flavors and textures make my stomach turn. I probably spent about one dollar on the meal. After dinner we walk through the arcade in the mall and find a roller skating rink. My friends decide to skate, I cannot join them, as I am not feeling up to it due to my lack of sleep. I enjoy relaxing while watching them skate as I begin to appreciate that I am in China.

After they finish skating we go to the supermarket located downstairs in the mall. Once again I am surprised. This market has almost everything that I would find in a Publix grocery store. They even have a lot of American product brands like Pringles, Tide, and Herbal Essences. I buy some Dole bananas, some hair products made by P&G, body wash made by Unilever, and water distributed by Coka-Cola. We take a taxi home because we had bought so many groceries. I sleep very well that night because I am so tired.

Friday, February 27th
I wake up feeling very nauseous. After leaving my room to meet my friends I realize that I have been feeling nauseous every time I am in my room for a while. I notice that my room has a very stale smell. I analyze the situation and find only one thing that might be causing the problem. I notice rotting wood in my bathroom. There is not a separate stall for the shower; therefore, every time the shower is used everything gets very damp. I check with my friends to see if they had this problem in their rooms as well. Theirs were not like this at all. I need help translating, as my dormitory managers do not speak any English. I let my advisor know of this problem and he makes sure that they will take care of it.

We went to Jusco once again. We ordered crepes at a Tokyo Crepe kiosk. I ordered a banana and chocolate crepe. Delicious! Every time I order something or buy something I have to call over my German friend that is very good at Chinese. I am not good at understanding or speaking Chinese yet. We go into a clothing store and the sales women begin dressing me up. I have three women helping me around the store. I find a jacket I really wanted and had been looking for in America for weeks but it was way too expensive.

My friend insists that I spend the night in her room because the condition of my room. She has a spare bed and has a heater in her room; I sleep very comfortably this night.

Saturday, February 28th
We wake up and fall into deep conversations about our countries and comparing many characteristics of the people and culture. When I get back to my room the carpenter arrives to fixes the door frame by removing some of the rotting wood and replacing it with a new sheet of wood. I am very pleased that they could find someone so quickly.

I go to Jusco again in the evening with my European friends. We stop in McDonald's for some ice cream. While waiting in line I notice that a western man comes up behind me. A moment later a western couple arrives behind him. They begin talking about where they are from and how long they have been here. I turn around and tell them that I have been for only three days. The couple is from Michigan and has been in Yantai for one year. The woman offers her phone number and assistance if I need help getting anything or finding my way around Yantai.

Sunday, March 1st
My friends introduce me to an Australian friend of theirs and he shows us the way to a Korean restaurant near the market. He tells me this is one of his favorite restaurants, and explains that it is one of the dirtiest, but they have the best food. In Chinese he orders me a rice and mixed vegetable dish. When it arrives we realize that he ordered sushi by accident. The sushi is bland and served warm. Everyone shared their dish with me to make sure I wasn't hungry.

I notice that a lot of signs and advertisements are translated into English. I find one that it particularly funny to me. It reads: Look the world bring your eyes, eyes is hear's window.

Monday, March 2nd
Today is the first day of class. I have classes for four hours and only eight classmates. Each class is very repetitive, but necessary. I have a beautiful view of the campus from my classroom on the fifth floor. I do get quite a work out living on the forth floor of the dormitories and having class on the fifth floor at school and walking long distances everyday.

I go to lunch with two of my classmates to one of the eight cafeterias on campus. This cafeteria has five floors. Every floor is crowded and dirty. Each floor has restaurant stands lining each wall. Every kind of Chinese food you could want. I ordered Chinese vegetables. The green vegetable looks like a cucumber but has a salty taste, more similar to a pickle. I really enjoy this dish, it has a nice flavor is very inexpensive, only about $0.50.

Tuesday, March 3rd
After class I meet with Suzie who is a Senior at Yantai University. Suzie met an acquaintance of mine a week before and they exchanged information so that she could show me around Yantai. She takes me to eat at a very clean, nice restaurant in the market.

She ordered for us, as everything on the menu is in Chinese. She also insists that she treats me because I am a guest.
The pumpkin soup is absolutely my favorite. It is just pumpkin boiled with rice. Suzie said that this is a very typical dish and that she has made it before. I am excited to make this someday, as I have never tried anything like it before. This is a view from the second floor of the restaurant where we are eating.

I tell Suzie that I need to get a cell phone card today, and she offers to help. We go to China Mobile and she translates for me. We decide that it is too expensive and we should go back to campus to get it there. I purchase a card and have to choose a phone number. I ask how I should choose. They tell me to pick something that is easy to remember. I point to a number and Suzie said that it wasn't a good number because it has a lot of 4's in it and 4 is not a good number in China. I choose another one, try it in my phone, and of course it does not work. We part ways because she has to get to work.

On my way back to the dorm I stop to say hello to my advisor. He offers to help me get a new cell phone after I tell him what I am up to. He takes me to Jusco to get a new phone and we go to the Chinese restaurant again afterward. He knows that I like pork and orders us a fried pork dish. The pork is cut like thick slices of bacon and served with vegetables and squares to make little wraps.

He also orders a fruit salad, fried rice and a spicy chicken dish. This time I take the leftovers to go. Linc tells me that the Chinese always take home a "doggy bag" as they try not to waste any food.

Wednesday, March 4th
With my classmates I go to canteen eight for lunch, which is right next to my dormitory. I refuse to ever eat on the first floor of canteen eight, because it is the dirtiest place I have ever seen. So we try the second level, which has just been remodeled and happens to be the cleanest of any canteen on campus. Only one food stand is open on the second floor. The employees here are wearing orange polos and blue ball caps with matching NYPD logos on them.

We start laughing as soon as we see these uniforms, because they seem random and unusual for China. One of the girls at the counter speaks a little English, which is quite helpful when ordering. A few of us order vegetable curry, because it looks good and different from the dishes we have been eating lately. The curry is delicious and very comforting.

Thursday, March 5th
New students join our class today. We now have many nationalities: English, Scottish, French, Norwegian, Swedish, and Brazilian. Many Korean students are also beginners studying Chinese at Yantai University, but they are placed in a faster paced class, because they are already familiar with using characters and tones. Most Korean students are learning Chinese to become foreign language teachers. Most of the western students study at Yantai University because they moved here with their families and must learn the language for daily life in China. Western families move to Yantai because many international companies are located here.

Friday, March 6th
I go downtown with my classmates after class to go shopping. We get off the bus at the Wal-Mart bus stop. Some of the American products that I would normally buy are more expensive here than in America. I need a long internet cable after my wireless internet router blew out because of the voltage difference. I also need a comforter because it is so cold in my room.

I look for these things while a salesperson follows me around the store and takes everything out to show me. She is helpful, but a little overwhelming, because I find her assistance to be unnecessary.

We go to UBC Coffee inside a glass cone shaped building. It is very hot inside because the sun is coming through all of the windows; although, it is still very cold outside. I take off four layers of clothing because I am so hot and I still have on two layers. I order an iced Kailua coffee drink to help cool me off. I also order fried bananas with cream. Delicious!

Natalie orders pork waffles. We don't know what she is thinking. The pork is ground to a thin fiber. Very salty!

We walk to the street lined with bars that we refer to as bar street. First stop is Druid's Irish Pub. We have heard many good things about Druid's from every foreigner that we meet in Yantai. We think that we showed up a little too early because it doesn't look like it is open yet. We open the door and think that we must not be at the correct entrance. As we are leaving a Chinese man walks up to us and guides us inside. He turns on the lights as we walk upstairs.

It is a bit creepy; the Chinese man does not say a word as we walk into this strange building. I ask my friends if this is how the movie "Saw" begins. They all laugh and say "yes."

Once we get upstairs I feel like I am back in America. It is like any other American Irish pub. Furnished with a full bar, billiard table, dart board, projectors, stage, wireless internet room, and plenty of space to party. It is beautiful, probably the cleanest place I have been to in China. After a little while we decide to check out a different bar, as it the beverages are expensive, the bartender doesn't speak any English, and we are the only ones in the bar.

We walk across the street to Raffles. This bar offers a student discount. The bartender tells us that one of our classmates usually works at this bar; however, tonight he has the night off, but we do get to meet his father. Although there are many people in this city, it is still very small. They offer us chips that seem similar to Pringles. As we get up to leave the owner brings us a round of beer on the house. She gives us her business cards and invites us to come back.

I have been informed by my friends that the restroom is not pleasant and that it is also not western style. After having the last beer I decide that I must give it a try. As a female I would recommend trying to figure out how to use a squat for the first time before consuming alcohol, and also to carry paper at all times because it is not commonly provided. I am not sure how it works or which direction to squat. A Chinese toilet does have a bowl but it is placed in the ground with ridges for your feet on either side. I am so grateful that I have a western toilet in my dorm room.

Once we finish our beer we walk down the street to Havana, another bar that has a pool table and darts. We realize that we might be the only people out tonight and we assume that this might be an effect of the economy. We play a few games of pool and darts as we listen to more discussion of American and English governments from Natalie and David, then decide that we have had enough for one night so we split up into two groups and take taxis home.

Saturday, March 7th
I get up early to go to Nan Shan Park with my classmates. We don't know exactly what this park is or how to get there, but we hop on a bus and hope for the best. Lindsey begins talking to the Chinese man sitting next to her on the bus. They make friends and she tells him where we are going and asks him how to get there. He offers to take us and pays our bus fair. When we get to Nan Shan, he tells us that we don't have to pay the entrance fee because we are foreigners.

We walk past the smallest puppy I have ever seen. In Yantai, stray puppies roam the streets.

As we were walking away from the puppy we saw an elder Chinese man put the puppy on a toy bicycle to make it do tricks. We were disturbed and walked away more quickly to be sure not to encourage the man.

We walk up a small mountain. This mountain has many steps which are engraved with dates and events. Each step is in order by day of the year and labeled for two years. As we are walking up the mountain we meet an American teacher with his Chinese student who explains that each step represents an important date in world history. The teacher is the kind of American that I would typically avoid; all of us get the same feeling from him. Something about him is definitely not right. We worry for his students.

Once we get to the top of the steps we continue to the top of the mountain. The view is amazing; I am able to see all of downtown Yantai.

On our way down the mountain we see Chinese women dancing and singing in the middle of the park. As we watch the women transition to martial arts we go into the Chinese buildings across from the mountains. On the third floor I take a picture of the mountain, I can see the small Chinese temple that I was in at the top of the mountain.

While in this building a group of male Chinese teenagers begin to follow us around. They stare and say "hello." They take pictures of us and it becomes a little overwhelming because they get to close to us and crowd around us, so we leave in a hurry. They continue to watch and follow us until we leave the park.

Sunday, March 8th
I am feeling a little brave today and decide to get lunch by myself. I walk up to a stand in the canteen that makes some kind of sandwich. As I walk in closer to see what they are making they all stop and begin to talk about me, in Chinese. They show me the food; I signal that I would like some. As one of the cooks prepares my food the others take out their phones to take pictures of me.

I have my picture taken with them as well. The sandwich is delicious, a dry bread that similar to matzah, filled with a meat mixed with spices.

It is the most beautiful day outside so I take a walk while I eat. As I walk I find a stadium and many basketball courts. The basketball courts seem never ending as they line the street. I come to the east gate of the campus and see the beach. I am so happy, because the beach is close to my dorm and so beautiful. Many people are flying kites, the sand is soft, the shells are whole, but the water is very dirty. As I walk all the way down to the pier and back I see many young Chinese couples getting quite cozy.

On my way back I hear many young Chinese people laughing. I notice that they are grouped together in a large circle. I step closer to observe from outside the circle. They seem to be telling jokes, but I really can't tell, so I watch a little while longer to figure it out. They are playing a game that requires a lot of embarrassment. They are forced to draw a paper from the host in the middle of the circle if they say the wrong thing when they go around the circle. The papers in the middle are basically dares. The first one I watched was a girl that was so upset when she read the paper, she tried leaving the circle, but they pulled her back in. All she ended up doing was the "Bunny Hop." I find it somewhat amusing that the Chinese also know this ridiculous dance. I find it strange that this is something that is considered a dare, and also the fact that it is so embarrassing for her. I think that this is just another instance of our culture differences. Chinese people are very shy and easily embarrassed.

While investigating this situation I am approached by a young Chinese man. He asks me in Chinese where I am from. In Chinese I tell him that I am American and that I don't speak much Chinese. He tells me in Chinese that he doesn't know any English. As he walks away I hear him say "piao liang." The Chinese girl standing next to me tells me that he just told me that I am beautiful. I begin to talk with her because she can speak English. She and her friend speak limited English, but are very nice. They ask if we could be friends and we exchange phone numbers. I really need to make friends with Chinese people to help with learning the language. I find out that these girls are studying pharmaceutical medicine, and that was the extent of our conversation due to limited vocabulary.

On my way back to my dorm another Chinese girl says "hello" to me. I decide to talk with her because she shows interest and confidence in talking with me. She is with her boyfriend, they are both engineering majors. We also exchange phone numbers.

I meet my western friends for dinner. We try the "Pizza and Curry" place across the street from the campus. This is a small café owned by a Japanese woman. We all order our own pizzas. I order an egg and bacon pizza. The egg is hardboiled and the bacon is actually ham. This is a strange combination to me, but it works, quite tasty!

Monday, March 9th
After class today I decide to rest and study because I had a very exciting and full weekend. I receive text messages from the Chinese friends I made yesterday. We make plans to have lunch this week.

Tuesday, March 10th
After class I meet with Hu and Fu, the Chinese couple that I met on the beach. They help me order from the Chinese restaurant in the canteen next to my dorm. I usually can't order here because the menu is in Chinese. I usually just point to the dish that was just served to someone else and say "wo yao yi ge." This translates into something like "I want one." I know that this is not proper, but they understand that I am a foreigner and that I need food.

I plan to rest when I get back to my room, because I am still tired from the weekend. Instead I rearrange my room to make it more comfortable and functional to study. There seems to be too much furniture and it is too crowded because I have two beds, and two desks. I feel much better and refreshed after this change.

Wednesday, March 11th
I decide to go to the large canteen on campus to get some fruit. I roam around inside and find a few shops. They sell everything right on campus including phones, lamps, accessories, clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs. This is not like a regular university store, because there are multiple shops and they sell things that would be found in shopping malls. Inside one of the shops I meet Candy, a Chinese student studying to be a Chinese language teacher. She shows me her section in the store. She imports handmade accessories from Beijing and also makes some herself. She offers her phone number and her assistance in learning Chinese.

Tonight I plan to go out to a Chinese restaurant with my classmates to order jing jiang rousi, which is a dish we learned of in class today. We choose a restaurant in the market randomly and end up at a Korean restaurant not knowingly. So we must try jing jiang rousi another time. This restaurant is very traditional with seats on the floor, and we all must remove our shoes before sitting.

I order sushi, it is very plain, and is not served with anything, not soy sauce or wasabi. They serve six small dishes of appetizers. One of them is filled with some kind of insect. I decide not to try it after watching my friends try it, not that I would have considered it anyway.

Thursday, March 12th
For lunch I meet Gaoli and Yangyang, the two Chinese girls that I met on the beach on Sunday. They brought all of their roommates, a total of six girls and Gaoli's boyfriend. They take me to canteen three, which is a nice restaurant that I have not been to yet. They show me the menu and tell me to choose. I tell them that I don't read Chinese. The waitress brings a menu in English! I was so surprised. I wonder if most restaurants have an English menu. If only I had thought of asking.

Everything on the menu looks good, I point to a few items. They tell me to choose more. I guess they want me to decide everything for the table. I know that it is tradition to share everything, but I didn't realize that the guest is supposed to select what everyone eats. I let them guide my decisions because I have no idea what to order and would like to try something different.

One by one the dishes arrive. A total of nine dishes, all of them amazing! Every one of them I would definitely order again… that is once I learn how to speak Chinese.

  • Shredded potatoes with vegetables - Served hot with really nice flavor, I think vinegar is one of think ingredients.
  • Corn with nuts - Sweet and delicious!
  • Cabbage - Has a grilled flavor with some chili pepper. This is my favorite!
  • Tomato and Egg - I really can't describe the flavor, but has a nice amount of salt and is very comforting.
  • Fried caramelized apple - Sweet and crispy!
  • Pork with vegetables and a gelatin noodle.
  • Beef Dumplings served with a spicy sauce. I love the flavor and the texture of the dumplings.
  • Spicy beef with onions.
  • Chicken with vegetables and peanuts.

The girls are so excited during lunch, all of them asking me questions about my culture, food, and school. The girls are very sneaky and pay for lunch before I know it. I know this tradition, but I still don't expect it. After lunch they invite me to "play with them," which means they want to hang out. I teach them the phrase "hang out."

They bring me to their dormitory, we walk up four flights of stairs, we pass the restrooms, and I notice that the facility is not enclosed. The smell is horrendous and I can not bring myself even to look at the restroom area as I continue walking.

All six of them live in a room together that is just a bit smaller than mine. They have three bunk beds and one desk.

Their beds are made from wooden slats and a comforter, no mattress. When they realize that I don't have a roommate they assume that I must be bored living in a room by myself. They refer to each other as their sisters.

They have spent a lot of time decorating their room. They show me the award certificate that they won for having the best room in their dormitory. They give me fruit. Then we sit around and talk about everything they can think of. They are not at all confident in speaking English, but they can understand me most of the time. I even explain to them my mother's business and they understand. Sometimes I have trouble explaining to an American what she does, so their comprehension level is outstanding.

They show me their English textbook. I realize that it is about chemistry, and I am amazed. They are all majoring in pharmaceutical medicine, but I didn't realize that their level of English was so high that they were reading books relating to their major in English. However, the Chinese students are never able to speak English confidently, because they have never had the chance to practice. Even in language classes they are not allowed to speak.

I am the first foreigner that they have ever met. They express their excitement freely. They tell me that they all could not sleep the night before because of their excitement and anticipation for having lunch with me. I know this feeling of anticipation, but never have I thought that I could instill this emotion within someone else.

After hours of "playing with the girls" I am so tired and decide to go back to my dorm to rest before dinner. It had been raining for a long time, so the girls wanted to walk me back to my dorm and lend me their umbrella. I exchange phone numbers with a few more girls before parting, and we decide that we should have lunch together again.

When I get to my dorm I realize it is almost time for dinner. I had made plans to eat with some of the Korean girls on my floor. They are taking me to canteen seven, where I have been many times, but they wanted to show me one of their favorite dishes that I have never had before.

The Korean girls speak much less English than the Chinese girls, so our communication is minimal. When communicating we use a combination of English and Chinese. They show me the menu, and I have to tell them that I don't read Chinese, and they laugh. I tell them what I like so that they can order for me. Again a feast, we have the tomato and egg dish, a dish that is similar to the American famous "kung pao chicken", a chicken mushroom soup, and a potato and chicken dish.

The dish they had brought me here for was the sweet potato, which was sliced and prepared just like the apples that I had for lunch. They were caramelized in sugar, sweet and crisp. As I think that I am finished eating, all of the girls are again scrambling for words. They then try to tell me that there is one more dish coming. They tell me this using a mix of words in Chinese and English, and I understand.

This dish is corn fried in a crisp batter, topped with sugar and rainbow sprinkles, unbelievable, but delicious!!! After we polish this plate, I am stuffed to the brim! We all pat our bellies. They ask me how to express this in English.

On our way down from the fifth floor the girls ask if I want dessert. I say to them, I thought we just had dessert. I don't think they understand me, but they offer for me to join them in having milk tea. I am not clear as to what this is, and I am so full, but I tell them that I would love to.

They bring me downstairs to the place that I always walk by and can't take my eyes off of, because it looks and smells so good. I have never ordered anything here because it is all in Chinese and there are no pictures or displays that I can point to. They explain that it is fruit in a milk tea with jelly. I know what they mean by jelly, because I have seen this before. It is actually similar to tapioca, but black. They look up the word in their dictionary and tell me that they are pearls. I explain that this is part of my Chinese name, "Zhen." They offer every fruit flavor that I love, and I choose banana. They pay for mine; again they are consistent with this tradition of treating the "guest." This milk tea is now something that I am going to crave everyday. They each let me taste the flavors that they chose, each one is amazing. I feel that if I were to open up a shop to sell this in Fort Myers it would become very popular.

Friday, March 13th
I wake up feeling like everything that I ate had not digested at all. As soon as I sit up I get sick. I am not able to go to class and the sickness lasts for three hours. I guess Friday the thirteenth is also bad luck in China, because this is the day that I experience food poisoning.

My friend, Ahn, calls me to make sure that I am okay, because I did not come to class. She brings me bread for lunch so that I will feel better. The bread is just a bland steamed bun, which is not the type that would ever look appealing, but I asked for this kind because everything else is so fried and spiced.

When I wake up after a nap I notice shadows of something through the curtains; I open them and see that it is snowing!!! I am so excited that I open my windows to let the snow in! Just the sight of snow makes me feel better, as I have not seen any in over eight years.

Saturday, March 14th
I continue to rest all day, because I want to go out for a birthday party downtown tonight. The party is for two of the western teachers in my building, one of them is American and one is English. They are turning 22 and 24 on Monday. I only met these teachers once but they are very nice and invited me anyway. I really want to go because the party begins at Jackie's, a western style restaurant.

Jackie's is clean and comfortable. Jackie's menu and theme are comparable to Bennigan's or Applebee's, but with cleaner and nicer ambiance. There are photos and memorabilia covering the walls. The bar downstairs is shaped as a guitar. Jackie's has a clever design and of course they have continuous video of rock concerts in the background.

I am very excited to eat American food, especially after the experience I had yesterday. I order a chicken salad, because I want something light on my stomach. The chicken is grilled to perfection and is thinly sliced. I am very pleased. The prices are very high. The cost of the salad is about $7.00. I usually pay $1.00 for a meal in China. There is an 80 RMB minimum purchase per person at this restaurant which is a little more than $10.00. We all have to purchase more beverages to make the mark. This is a big deal for a lot of people because this is a lot of money to pay for a meal in China.

After all of the fuss of paying the bill at Jackie's we take taxi's to Alibaba's, "the place to be" in Yantai. Here there are many pool tables, separate lounges, and a night club. After relaxing in the lounge for a while we all go into the club to dance. Everyone pays to check their coats and handbags. I decide to keep mine with me because no one actually guards the items. While dancing in the club I do get kicked in the head by a Chinese man as he swings around the dance pole. At the same time my head busts Ahn's lip. We are both in pain, but it doesn't stop us from having a good time.

Sunday, March 15th
My classmates and I get up early to go with our teacher to a Chinese home. Our teacher wants us to experience China by meeting Chinese families in poor areas. We take a bus for about half an hour to get there. When we arrive we meet our teacher and must walk a few blocks to the home. As we walk I find it painful to breathe, the air quality is so poor.

The home is in an apartment building, the outside and stairway area is dirty, but the inside of home is quite nice. The head of the household is a bank manager. They have one boy and a beautiful home. I am confused, because my teacher said that this is the poorest community in Yantai, yet their home is beautiful and nicer than some that I see in my hometown.

They invited many Chinese children to come meet us and ask questions. While children file into the room they offer us many fruits, snacks, and sea creatures. The children can understand and speak English well, but are too shy to talk with us. After we take pictures with everyone we take a walk around town and visit the primary and high school.

The high school is an art school. Artwork is posted outside, the drawings are extremely impressive. We visited one of the classes. The students were in shock that we were there. As we walk through the building quietly we see the students rushing to the windows and doors of the classrooms to watch us pass by.

Basketball is very popular in China. At both schools we find many young boys playing on the school’s courts. I also notice many advertisements that include Yao Ming, an NBA player from China, who is one of the most famous celebrities in China.

Monday, March 16th
I don’t usually eat McDonald’s in America, but I just feel like having some hot and salty french fries. I also order a cheeseburger and spicy chicken wings. The menu has some of the same items and some different ones for Chinese customers. Combos and coupons are also offered just like in America. The cheeseburger and fries taste just the same. They are quite satisfying, because after eating at the canteens on campus so many times all of the Chinese food flavors and spices taste the same.

Tuesday, March 17th
After lunch I go shopping in the market to find a simple black jacket to wear to a meeting that I have in the afternoon. In one of the stores the owner notices me and stops talking with the other customers to come up to me and say “mei guo ren” which means American. In Chinese I reply to her statement. She is so excited to meet me and she begins to sputter a few English words. She invites me to sit down and she hands me a new bottle of water. She tells me her English name is Mary as she opens her laptop to begin to show me pictures of her hometown. I am very interested, because the town she is showing me is much more Chinese than Yantai.

Mary tells me that she owns this shop, but wants to change her career. She hasn’t spoken English since she graduated from Yantai University a few years ago. She speaks clearly enough that I can understand her, but she wants to improve her English so that she can return to her initial plan of becoming an accountant. When she realizes that I am studying Chinese at Yantai University she suggests that we exchange languages and study together.

As she is telling me her story I notice a woman pass by the window. I point to the woman and tell Mary that this is the jacket that I am shopping for. She peeks out the window and tells me that she will help me find it. She calls her friend and tells her what I like. Her friend arrives with two jackets. The sleeves were too short and also too Chinese for my taste.

Mary tells me that I can go with her friend to Jusco to try other ones. She tells me that her friend can give me a discount because she works there. I tell her that Jusco is too expensive for what I am looking for, so she explains that she can get me a 50% discount. Mary decides that she will come with us because her friend doesn’t speak any English. I suggest that we go another time when she is not busy so that shy can continue tending to her business. She insists and explains that helping me is important to her. Offering assistance in this way is a Chinese tradition that commonly expresses friendship.

We walk to Jusco from the market. When we arrive I realize that her friend actually brought the jackets from Jusco just to show me at the shop. I thought that she had come from a shop in the market. This is very odd to me, but Chinese people will go out of their way for anyone to show their respect and friendship. We shop around Jusco and find that even with the discount everything is still too expensive. As we walk back to her shop I find a jacket in the market just next to her shop for only ten dollars. The jacket is of poor quality, but I will probably wear it only a few times, because the weather is changing soon.

Wearing my new jacket, I meet Linc and his boss at their office to go to downtown to the government office. The Yantai Municipal Foreign Affairs Office is on the seaside. I am introduced to the deputy director Jian Feng (Jeff) Liu. He is very excited to meet me as he had visited Fort Myers just a couple of years ago to initiate the foreign exchange student program with FGCU.

He invites me into his office to show me some of his work, he is a talented calligrapher. He shows me his computer software that he uses to develop his own Chinese characters. The program looks complicated, but very interesting. Mr. Liu invites me to dinner to have our discussion. He speaks very good English, so our conversation is interesting and effortless. Before meeting him, I was thinking that it might be an awkward evening.

We walk to the Golden Gate Hotel, which is a five star hotel, just next to his office building. A room is reserved for our party and is extremely elegant. The room is actually on the water with a beautiful view. I have never dined in a place fancier than this, even in America. They order a bottle of wine for the table. As the host Mr. Liu directs the conversation and proposes multiple toasts. I don’t usually drink, but the wine is exquisite.

Each course is served on a small plate and decorated beautifully. As each plate is served the previous is taken away, even before I am finished. I don’t realize how many dishes I am having, nor am I aware of what I am having. The creatures I am eating I have never seen before. Everything I taste is absolutely delicious. Continuously everyone proposes a toast, and each time it is “gam bei” which means bottoms up. I become more and more comfortable as the evening goes on. Our conversation grows more interesting as well. We discuss our perspectives of both of our cultures and traditions as well as local effects of the economy.

Mr. Liu tells me about his friend that is in need of an English tutor and asks if I would be interested in an exchange to help with my Chinese. I tell him that this would be a perfect arrangement. After telling Mr. Liu how much I enjoyed having dinner and wine tonight he offers to have dinner again. He gives me his business card and writes down his cell phone number in case I need anything. I really feel taken care of here.

After we finish dinner Linc walks me to Druid’s Irish Pub to meet my friends, since it is still St. Patrick’s Day. When we arrive I call my friends to see if they have arrived yet, they tell me they will be here in another hour. Linc tells me that he will continue on to meet his friends somewhere else. I tell him that it’s okay; although, I do not feel comfortable being by myself in a bar, downtown, in China. I go inside to wait for my friends. As I enter the bar I hear my name being called, just around the corner is one of my classmates with her friends and family. It is a small world. The waitress hands me a green beer, which is free all night. I sit down comfortably and enjoy the company.

Wednesday, March 18th
This is the first day that I can take off my jacket and sweatshirt. The weather changes from one extreme to the other. I am sweating and angry because it is so hot. I am not fond of the cold weather, but I don’t want it to be hotter than it is in Florida.

I go to my advisors office after class, as he had asked me to. He introduces me to a businessman and his assistant. He is a manager for Doosan, an international manufacturer of forklifts in Yantai. His assistant is a graduate from Yantai University. They ask me to model for their advertisement for a new model of forklifts. They explain that the photographs require a foreign face as the brochures will be international. They have hired a professional photographer from Korea, the photo shoot would take just a few hours, and they offer compensation. I think about this opportunity and realize this might be an interesting experience. We exchange contact information and they inform me that they will prepare a contract regarding the purpose and use of the photos.

Thursday, March 19th
After class today Natalie, David, and I hike up to the Bamboo Temple. On the way we see several new apartment buildings, restaurants and shops. Once we get to the road that leads to the temple we see women cleaning their laundry in a stream under a bridge. We also pass by some restaurants that have live animals in cages in front of the entrance.

When we arrive at the temple we must pay about $2.00 to enter. A guide greets us in English and tells us to buy some incense so that we will be blessed. After lighting the incense and placing them before the Buddha we continue on through the temple without the guide. Inside, many of the statues are painted with bright colors like Disney characters. I expected the statues to be gold in color, only a few of them are this way.

As we get to the main part of the temple we see many monks outside. They are talking on their cell phones. As we walk up the steps they prepare to greet us and follow us inside. One of the monks tells us to sound the Tibetan bowl. I am brave enough, or stupid enough to actually do it. He tells me to hit the bowl three times and hands me the stick. I do it and then she says “shi yuan” and waves his hand toward the Buddha. I laugh at him and then give the Buddha ¥10.00. Ten yuan is about $1.50. I do realize that all religions cost money; I just find this instance to be humorous, because I know that the monk was laughing at us on the inside.

Just outside the entrance of the temple is a bar that looks like someone’s house. We decide to relax for a little while, so we order some beer and sit down to watch the Chinese play a game of cubes.

Friday, March 20th
Tonight we plan to celebrate, because it Natalie’s last night in Yantai, as she must return to England. We walk to the market to decide where to eat, and we choose randomly. The restaurant looks average, very small, and somewhat clean. The menu has complete English, which is really exciting. I order two dishes because I feel I haven’t had much food lately. I order a dish of green beans and a spicy pork dish. The green beans are one of my favorite dishes so far in China. I think this is because it is difficult to find restaurants that serve different vegetables. All restaurants have tomatoes, weird mushrooms, and not many greens. Natalie orders the famous jing jiang rousi and is not very pleased. I try her dish and it tastes smoky like beef jerky. I think they might have gotten her order confused because it isn’t the dish that we learned of in class.

Saturday, March 21st
I receive a text from Crystal, the assistant for Doosan. She explains the clothing that I must wear to the photo shoot. I am surprised by this because during our meeting I asked if the makeup and wardrobe would be provided. Now I must assume that they did not understand anything that was translated in the meeting. I am told to wear western style clothing, a white top and black pants. I do not have this type of clothing, because I have brought only denim and causal clothing.

I call my French classmate who had offered to take me shopping before. He knows where to shop downtown. We take a taxi downtown to a department store with designer clothing and accessories. Here there are some things that I am interested in, but I am trying to stay focused to find this specific outfit for the photo shoot. Everything is too detailed with patterns and colors. We continue on to Parkson’s, which is a large shopping mall, with six or seven levels. Everything is very expensive and detailed. I do not see simplicity anywhere. If there is not a pattern or design on the item then there are beads, embroidery, or logos. I just need the most basic clothing, and cannot find it, everything is so Chinese.

After an unsuccessful afternoon I part ways with my friends to meet my advisor as he has made dinner arrangements for me to meet his friends. Linc picks me up at Parkson’s in his cousin’s car to bring me to a hot pot restaurant. He has been raving to me about hot pot ever since I arrived in China.

While waiting for the rest of his friends to arrive at the restaurant, they serve popcorn and lemonade. When his friends arrive he introduces me in English and in Chinese, because they don’t speak English. As a pot of soup heats on the table multiple carts of food are brought to the table. The soup is divided, half is spicy. Linc slides a few dishes of food into the soup to cook. One of them is lamb. I have never tried lamb before. I love it! He adds many kinds of vegetables, seafood, and tofu. This is my favorite kind of food in China. I know I have said this before, but this is really the best. As we are eating Linc proposes several toasts as he is now the host. This time we are drinking Yantai beer. We drink the beer out of short glasses, so each toast is “gam bei.” They all admire and compliment my capacity for beer, knowing that I am a foreigner and do no have this tradition in America.

Towards the end of the meal a white beverage is served in same glasses as the beer. My new friends tell me to try it. Not knowing what it is I spill it on the table, because it is scorching. I didn’t expect something in glass to be hot. I taste it and I am disgusted. It is a bean paste. I remember now that my foreign friends warned me about this before, and had told me that Chinese people love this beverage. I am not impressed, but I tell my Chinese friends that it is tasty, and I discretely ignore the glass for the rest of the evening.

After we finish the hot pot, watermelon is served with orange slices. This is the perfect dessert for such a large meal. I am delightfully complete. Because we are having such a good time, Linc’s friends invite me to go to Alibaba’s with them.

At Alibaba’s we drink some more and dance at the club. I am usually not one to dance, but I had so much fun dancing with my new Chinese friends. They are so funny! The guys just bob around and follow me while having the biggest, silliest grin on their faces. Linc arranged for a driver to take me home so that I wouldn’t have to take a taxi home, because I don’t live downtown. Linc calls me multiple times to make sure that I got to my room okay, and to confirm that I had a good time.

Sunday, March 22nd
I take a bus downtown to meet Linc to go shopping for the outfit I need for the photo shoot. Linc claims to like shopping. He takes me to Zhen Hua, a shopping mall that was suggested by the Doosan assistant. At Zhen Hua I find Chinese style clothing. I see a few things that look like they might work, but when I look at the tags I realize I might have to spend the same amount of money that I will be earning for the photos. I begin to get really frustrated. I feel like giving up. I just want to leave because everything is hideous, and this entire situation seems a bit ridiculous.

The quality of the clothing is quite poor. I am really disappointed, because I was under the impression that clothing in China is inexpensive, because it is made here. The clothing is cheap as in quality, but very expensive. I am perplexed. I ask Linc if there is another place we can shop, maybe somewhere less expensive. He tells me that all of the malls are the same and that there is no place less expensive. I don’t believe him, I think that he doesn’t want me to go to any other place because he must think that they are not clean enough or proper for me to go to. He is always concerned with my perception of China. He wants me to think that China is modern and clean just like America. Parts are just like America, but most of it is not. I want to see all of it.

Eventually I take a deep breath and decide to find a compromise. I end up purchasing a pair of black pants that are quite reasonable and a style that I will get use out of again. I also buy an expensive white top of decent quality, knowing that I can return it, if find something more reasonable tomorrow. The pants come with a belt and the top comes with a belt and tie. It is not common to find simple clothing in the shopping malls here.

After this excruciating experience of shopping downtown, Linc takes me to a popular Chinese fast food restaurant. He orders fried bread, dumplings, and “the white bean drink that I love so much.”

Monday, March 23rd
After class I go to the market in hope of finding a more practical white top. In the market a Chinese girl recognizes me from the day I spent at Nan Shan Park. She introduces herself as Wang Ni and asks what I am doing and if she can help me. This seems to be the Chinese tradition, they like to offer everything they can to create and honor friendship. She helps me shop in the market, and then takes me downtown to see if she can find the best price for me.

We take the bus to San Zhen, an outdoor shopping mall. The stores are small nooks, and the mall is not clean. This mall offers wider variety of stores and merchandise than anywhere else I have seen in Yantai. Many things catch my eye while passing by, but we are on a mission. I see some shirts that look like they might be suitable for about $4.00, but Want Ni pulls me along to the next store, telling me that they are too expensive. Wang Ni believes that we can find one that is only $2.00. I tell her that it doesn’t matter, because I will be saving money if I buy any one of the shirts here. She continues to haggle with the saleswomen over a shirt that doesn’t even fit.

I realize that there is a conflict. We are shopping for two different things I am shopping for a lower price while she is shopping for the lowest price. I know that our culture has a very different shopping behavior. We have only been here for half an hour and the stores begin close. She feels terrible that she forgot the mall closes at 5:00pm everyday and she failed to help me. I tell her not to worry, I at least have a shirt to wear tomorrow; although, we are both a bit disappointed in the expensive ugly shirt.

It is dinner time, so she takes me to a barbeque outside RT Mart which is the Chinese Walmart. I tell her I need to get some groceries. She shows me around RT Mart, and I ask her to suggest some of her favorite snacks. Some of them look really quite scary, so I tell her that I will try them next time. I notice that many of the other snacks that she suggests are made by Kraft. I buy some Kraft biscuits, and some Chinese brand snacks. My favorite is the bag of Jidan Bolo Dou, which translates to egg pineapple beans. They are slightly sweet, taste like meringue, and are shaped like beans, but have nothing to do with pineapple.

I have a good time hanging out with Wang Ni, her English is very good so we are able to communicate freely. She tells me that she is moving to Japan to study abroad and would like to meet again this week before she leaves. Through out the day I notice that her American teacher continues to call her, this seems a bit odd. I think that my initial impression of him when I met him at Nan Shan was accurate, something is not right.

Tuesday, March 24th
I leave class early today to have lunch and to get ready before the photo shoot. Crystal, the assistant from Doosan, picks me up with a driver from the company. Doosan is about a 45 minute drive from the campus. While on the highway Crystal points out buildings with blue roofs, she says that they are all part of the Doosan manufacturing facility. I wish I brought my camera. I didn’t realize that this was such a big company and I really didn’t know what I was in for.

We arrive on site and there are lines of forklifts and other construction vehicles. She brings me to the office building and seats me in a conference room with a box of Korean orange chocolates and a coffee while I wait for the crew to arrive. As I am introduced to the crew I am not certain of their language skills, because they say few words. We walk to one of the manufacturing facilities and it is snowing.

As we walk through the warehouse I am again in amazement. I get to see the whole assembly line. What I am doing here? How random it is that I am doing this? They set up the two forklifts that I will be modeling as a few more people arrive to help. One of the photographers speaks some English. He shows me how the forklift operates and how they want me to pose. One of the men stands by just to hold my jacket. In between shots he puts my jacket on me, because it is freezing even inside the warehouse.

After we finish the manager invites me to go to dinner with everyone. They bring me to a French café for dinner. The atmosphere is beautiful. The food is odd, mostly Chinese style. I order mushrooms with rice, and it is not very settling. The conversation does not flow easily. I didn’t realize until now that everyone in the company is Korean except for the assistant, because they have been speaking in only English and Chinese around me.

They ask about my university in America but are not as interested in my experience or my culture as much as the Chinese are. They don’t ask me many questions. They do ask what my plans are for Sunday, I don’t know what this means. The photographer still does not speak to anyone. We drink wine, but we each only have one glass and they make only one toast, maybe because this is more of a business setting or possibly a cultural difference. I guess now I have become accustomed to Chinese drinking.


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