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 FGCU Student at Yantai University


Maria’s China Diary

This photo diary describes the experiences of Maria Camila Lopez, FGCU’s first exchange student at Yantai University in Yantai, China. Maria is a native of Colombia and is majoring in Finance in the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU.

We have now posted all of Maria's diary entries and photos describing her semester in China.


12/18/2007
I took the last final exam, which was for comprehension class. In a few hours I will leave China. Time flew by faster than I thought it would. It is time for me to return home and it feels weird to go back and leave behind the new lifestyle that I have gotten used to. During my stay I believe I have grown as a person, I think it has been an experience that changed the way how I will look at things and how I will face the future. I learned as much as I could about Chinese culture and traditions, yet there is much more to know as I believe a culture and a way of thinking is not something you can learn by just seeing it for a little while but instead, the only way to learn from it is by living through different experiences and by trying to understand and learn why things are as they are, yet it takes time to analyze and find a reason behind all the cultural differences.

12/17/2007
In the morning I had two final exams. First, it was the speaking exam which included having a dialogue with another student, answering questions from the teacher and writing characters and pinyin. The listening exam was next, I got an 84. Both exams were not as hard as I expected them. After the exam, I came to my room with one of the teachers because she wanted a small refrigerator that I had offered to her.

For lunch, I met Jessica at a Korean restaurant and met her brother and his two friends that came from U.S. the night before for the holidays. In the afternoon, I got a hair cut and then studied for the comprehension exam which is on Tuesday.

12/16/2007
I met Sandy and Xiao Ying at 11 AM for lunch. We said our good-bye's since I leave on Tuesday and during the week I will be busy with final exams. In the afternoon, I studied and at night my friends and I went to a Beijing Duck restaurant.

12/15/2007
Ding Ming Ming, my listening teacher, invited me for lunch at a dumpling restaurant that is nearby the university. We met at the West Gate and then walked together. On the way back, I met with my friends that were going for lunch so I went with them just to join them. In the afternoon I studied, did some laundry and began packing. For dinner, my friends and I went to a Korean restaurant.

12/14/2007
Today we had the last two classes because next week we have final exams. Chinese students have finals at the end of January, but because in our class everyone is a foreigner and most are going back home before the holidays, the university made an exception for our class and we are concluding the semester a few weeks before the other students. After class, we went to a Korean restaurant for lunch.

In the evening, I was invited to the revolving restaurant by the director of international affairs and Linc; Xiao Ying also came with us. After dinner, Xiao Ying came with me to meet my friends, she only stayed for a little while because her dormitory doesn't allow students to go in after 11 PM, and at that time they cut off the electricity and the water. When Xiao Ying left, my friends and I went to Karaoke for a couple of hours. Then, we went to Alibaba to say bye to some other friends.

12/13/2007
For lunch, my friends and I went to a curry restaurant. The owner is very nice and she likes us because lately we have been going there constantly. She noticed that in our table we were all coughing so she asked if she could make us a Japanese remedy. She gave us a cup of warm coke with ginger; she said it should heal our sore throats and stop the coughing. I studied the whole afternoon since finals are coming. At night, we went to a restaurant of Brazilian BBQ. The food was not really Brazilian, but it was a buffet that included drinks and the prize was not too bad so it was okay.

12/12/2007
In the afternoon, I went to down town to buy the last things I need before returning back home, mainly Christmas presents. Because it is the last week of my friend Eric and I being in China, we went to a revolving restaurant in Marina hotel, overlooking the beach and a few parts of the city. When we were done eating, Nate and Nick, came to the hotel to pick us up because we wanted to do a cupping therapy.

I had never done it before and wanted to know what it was like before returning to the U.S. First, they do a one hour body massage and then on your back they put some cups that make pressure. Because the pressure is so strong, at the end it leaves bruises on your back. Depending on your circulation and state of health the bruises will have different colors. My friend Laws, got black bruises and to him it was hurting very bad, for me, it was just a little red and it felt really good.

12/11/2007
After classes, I met with Zhang Ling for tutoring at the international building where we usually study. All the rooms on the first floor were full, which are the ones students are allowed to use, so we went to a restaurant. Since the main idea is to practice speaking it doesn't really matter were to meet. We shared a pizza and meanwhile just asked questions and tried having a conversation in Chinese. After, we went to the supermarket to learn a few new words from things on the shelf.

12/10/2007
Classes went by as usual. Afterwards, I had lunch and then stayed in the room. Now, I feel much better but because I am recuperating I did not want to go out. Many people around are sick, it must be a virus or maybe it is because of the change in temperature.

12/09/2007
Again, I spent the whole day in the room because of the cold.

12/08/2007
I was feeling sicker than any of the other days so, I stayed the whole day in the room. For lunch, I order Korean food, which there are a couple of restaurants that deliver. I studied and watched movies.

12/07/2007
I woke up at 6 AM to join the last chat session of Information Technology class. There was a problem with Angel, so the session finished half an hour earlier than scheduled. During the classes I was coughing all the time. At night my friends and I had planned on going bowling, and I wanted to stay because of my cough, but then I though about the fact that I am going back home in less than two weeks, so I should join them.

We had dinner together and bowled for a couple of hours. Afterwards, everyone wanted to go to Alibaba so we went. I only stayed for a little while because I was feeling really bad.

12/06/2007
After classes my friends and I went to downtown and we had lunch at a Japanese restaurant. Then, we shopped for memory cards and I bought some medicine because I started to cough again. When we got back to the dorms, I studied for a couple of hours and then one of my friends brought a Chinese movie to my room and we watched it. The purpose was to try to understand by listening, but we are not ready for that yet, so we put English subtitles.

12/05/2007
The train arrived one hour later than it was supposed to, but it is okay because I have gotten used to things being out of the scheduled time. I came to my dormitory did some laundry and spent the remaining time of the afternoon doing homework.

12/04/2007
I packed everything and went to see the biggest and most important pagoda of Xi'an. I did not have much time because the train was scheduled to leave at 1 PM, so I had enough time to walk around but not to go in. I went back to the hostel to check out and then, went to the train station. I had a hard sleeper as last time, but this time I was on the second level. There are three levels. I did some studying and just waited for time to pass by. I fall asleep by watching how the Chinese played cards.

12/03/2007
In the morning I went to the Muslim section of Xian. It is a part of the city where most of the minority group lives. I walked around and did some shopping. Then, I went to the Bell Tower to see a performance of different instruments. At night, I met with the group from the past nights and we went for dinner to a chicken wing spot that they love. There, we had many discussions about the Chinese and their culture which half of it I did not agree with so, half of the night we were debating.

12/2/2007
I woke up, took a shower and then waited on the internet section of the hostel until it was 9:30 to go on the tour. Because it is low season in the north of China there was only one person with me on the tour. We went to Bang Po Village, which is 6,000 years old. The tour guide explained a little about their beliefs and how they lived even though many things remain a mystery.

After the village we went to a silk factory, were we saw the whole process of producing silk and then had lunch. Then, the moment I had been waiting for, The Terracotta Warriors. The tour allowed us to stay there for an hour an a half which was enough time to walk around and see the three different sections. We got back to the hostel around 5 PM and I saw the group of people I met the night before. They were on their way to a Spa that included a dinner buffet. I went with them and we got split because guys and girls go in different sections. I stayed with two Chinese girls which were their girlfriends. The Spa was very nice. We stayed there for about four hours and then half of us walked back to the hostel because the other ones were going to stay over for breakfast the next day, which is included under the same price.

12/1/2007
Before 8 AM, most people wake up and it is very noisy as there are workers passing by selling breakfast, books, toilet paper, and many other things. I did some studying and then tried talking to one of the guys in my cabin. The train arrived in Xi'an at 5 PM. A guy from the hostel was at the station waiting for me. We took a bus and went to the hostel. I checked in, took a shower and went to the restaurant fro dinner. I was very hungry and tired. While eating, I met a group of Europeans that invited me to go out with them, but because I was tired and had schedule a tour for the next morning I did not go. I went to bed right after eating.

11/30/2007
The train to Xian was leaving at 5:30 PM, so I had enough time to go to classes, have lunch and then pack before leaving to the train station. When I arrived, many people were lining up waiting for the gates to open. When it happened, people were pushing and going on top of each other just to pass the gate. I waited on the side and just watched them until the line became smaller and people were no longer pushing.

The train has three sections, sitting, soft sleepers and hard sleepers. I took a hard sleeper, which are smaller and harder beds than the soft sleepers and in each section there are six people while the soft sleepers only carry four. Around 7 PM, I had dinner and then fall asleep. During the night, I woke up many times because there was a little girl in the bed above mine and all night long she was crying, screaming or throwing things down from her bed.

11/29/2007
Classes went by as usual. For lunch, my friends and I went to Dicos, which is a fast food restaurant similar to KFC. Then, I came to my room and did homework.

11/28/2007
After class I did some studying and then I met with Lucy and one of her friends for dinner. Her friend didn't have an English name, so we named him Kevin. Kevin didn't speak much English, which was good because I tried speaking in Chinese and he tried to speak in English. Most of the time, we could not understand each other so Lucy translated for us. It was a good way of practicing how to speak. After dinner, they walked me to my dormitory and then they had to take a bus to the campus were all freshmen live. They said that because there is not enough space for all students in the main campus, freshmen students and some of the sophomores have to live in a different campus.

11/27/2007
Since I only have a few weeks left in China, I decided to go away for the weekend and go to Xian. I went to the travel agency of the university and bought train tickets for Friday. I heard Xian is beautiful and also, I have always wanted to see the terracotta warriors. I heard the train takes around 24 hours but, there are no flights from Yantai to Xian. So I'll just take my books and try to study on the way. At 3:30, I met with Zhang Lin, and we practice speaking for about one hour.

11/26/2007
For lunch, my friends and I went to a new "western" restaurant by the university. The food was not really western and it was funny because there was only one menu for the whole restaurant and it was in Chinese. At 1:30, I met a girl that wanted me to teach English to two Korean students. She offered me a good pay, but I had to turn it down because I have about three weeks left in China, and finals are coming up soon, plus, lately I have been very busy with school work from U.S. There are many job opportunities for English speaking people as there is a high demand for teachers.

11/25/2007
Today, I spent half of the day in downtown shopping in a fake market in Times Square. For lunch I had street food and just wondered around until it was starting to get dark. Then, I went to Wal-Mart to buy some groceries and took a bus back to the university. Like any other evening, the bus was full of people and half of the passengers were standing.

In the reception desk, they asked me to pay extra for electricity because I had used more electricity than I was supposed to for the month.

11/24/2007
During the day, I went for a walk around the developing area outside of the university. I went to different Real Estate offices to ask about the prices of the new high rises and was surprised about the prices being so high for China. Compared to the U.S. the prices are cheap, but I think for here it is expensive because the wages for most people are not too high and there is many poor, so buying an apartment is impossible for many if not most people. In the afternoon, I met my listening teacher for lunch. I invited her to a Korean restaurant. We were talking about different things, but the one that called my attention the most is that she said to find a job is very hard, and she is lucky to have hers, she said she gets paid 2000 RMB a month, which is less than $300 U.S. dollars. And her salary is good compared to many because she teaches foreigners and speaks two languages. I met Martin around 5 PM and went to downtown to shop for DVD's and to eat in Pizza Hut. We had to wait around 30 minutes because the place was packed.

11/23/2007
I went back to the college were I used to teach because I did not get to say bye to some of the students and they really wanted to see me. I stayed in the school for a couple of hours and some of the students were singing songs for me and telling me I would be missed. It was a little sad having to say bye. When I got back, I went to the West gate to meet with a Chinese girl named Zhang Lin. I met her through my comprehension teacher. We went to have dinner and discussed how often we would meet so that both could practice speaking. We went to a restaurant that mainly sells rice noodles.

11/22/2007
During the day nothing happened other than the usual, but at night a group of Americans and I got together to celebrate Thanksgiving! We went to a western restaurant called Jackie's Cuisine where a thanksgiving package was preordered. We ate a big turkey, with salad, mash potatoes with gravy and different types of dessert. We did not get any stuffing, but it still was a great thanksgiving evening.

11/21/2007
For lunch, Erick and I went to Dicos, a fast food franchise, because we were tired of eating Chinese and Korean food all the time and just wanted something different for a change. At night, I was invited to join a group of foreigners that were going out for dinner to celebrate Jen's graduation ceremony, which she would miss because she moved to China. We met at 7 PM and went to a Hot Pot restaurant nearby the university. It was 12 people all together. It was a very nice evening because it was different from the usual routine. After dinner, we went to a bar and the owners were very happy to see foreigners so they were taking pictures of us and giving us free popcorn and pizza! I came to my dorm after a couple of hours, but the rest went to a club in down town.

11/20/2007
In comprehension class we finished the first book and started using a new one. Classes are starting to get harder and harder as the vocabulary expands. After class, I went to the school where I work to give the last lesson. After class, one of the students stayed with me and showed me around the finished parts of the college. It is a beautiful campus and by looking at the plans I can tell it is going to be a huge and amazing college. Before leaving I got paid. In China most people are paid by salary or by day, than by hour. I was one of the exceptions. Also, most people get paid once a month other than bi-weekly.

11/19/2007
Most of the class was spent by doing dialogues. After class, Josie, a Brazilian classmate, came to my room and we had some snacks and listened to music. She only stay for a little while because she lives an hour away from the university. Because it is so cold, I stayed in my room for the remaining of the afternoon. At night, I went out for dinner with my friends.

11/18/2007
When I woke up, I received a message from a Chinese girl that wanted to meet with me so she could practice her English and I could practice my Chinese. I agreed to meet her for lunch. When I arrived at the gate, she was with two other friends. We went to a dumpling restaurant and talked for a couple of hours. I told them next time I would invite them to Pizza Hut. After lunch, they walked me to my dormitory and I stayed in my room for the remaining of the day just doing homework and watching a movie. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, today it began to snow!

11/17/2007
I stayed most of the day doing homework and in the afternoon went for a walk with Laws for a couple of hours. At night, my friends and I went to a very elegant Chinese restaurant and afterwards, they went out to a club, but I came back to my room.

11/16/2007
In speaking class we were talking about how Christmas and New Year is celebrated in each of our countries. We had to say as much as possible in Chinese. Because there are many nationalities in our class, we heard many different stories. The Mongolians, as the Chinese don't celebrate Christmas.

In my job, there was also a lot of talking as it is one of the classes that know the most. I asked them about the changes that they have noticed in China since they were little and about what they thought was good and bad of Chinas development and fast growing economy.

11/15/2007
For lunch I had a wrap, which costs less than .40 cents. I had trouble teaching one of the classes because nobody understood what I was saying as they are on their first year learning English. The night was really cold and because it was the 15th the heat was supposed to be on, but I could not really feel it.

11/14/2007
I had to go to my job after two week vacation, I wasn't very motivated. Because I did not have much time to eat, I got lunch to go and ate it in my room. When I went to the bus stop, I did not know which bus to take so I ended up going in a taxi. I worked three hours because on Wednesdays there is an activity called the English corner and the staff asked me to stay. All I had to do was talk with the students and answer their questions. Most students were very happy to see me, which makes me feel bad about quitting. I came back to my dorm around 6 PM.

11/13/2007
At 10:30 AM, Dr. Borgia was going to give a presentation on the economy o U.S. and China. I invited two of my friends to come. The presentation was very interesting and I am glad it was in English because I am really interested in the subject. After the presentation, there was a lunch invitation for Dr. Borgia with the vice president of the university and other staff members. Linc told me that if I wanted to come I was also invited, so I went. Lunch was in the university's hotel, where I had my first meal in China. There were many different dishes and all were really good. Dr. Borgia sat at the right hand of the vice president because he was the most important guest and the vice president was the host. I sat on the left hand side. It was a very nice afternoon, not only was there plenty of food, but there were a lot of toasts during the meal, so there was plenty of wine as well. Many of the toast were 'ganbei' which means you have to drink the last drop. After lunch, I went to my room and did homework for the remaining of the day.

11/12/2007
In the classes I was a little behind for being out for a week. After classes, I was waiting for it to be 5 PM because I had to meet with Linc, Sandy and Viny to go to the airport and pick Dr. Borgia up. When we arrived at the airport, he had already arrived. We went to the hotel were Dr. Borgia was going to stay and there, we met two students who will be going to U.S. in the spring semester. Then, we went to a hot pot restaurant were there was plenty of good food. It was nice seeing someone from back home again. After dinner we dropped Dr. Borgia off and headed back to the university.

11/11/2007
My friends and I found out there was a bowling alley in downtown, so we went. We played a few games and then went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. Bowling was around two dollars per game including shoes. There were not too many people because it is a high price, not for us, but for many Chinese it is.

11/10/2007
The train arrived at Yantai at 7 AM. A woman in my cabin offered to take me to the university, so I went with her. I went to the supermarket to buy a few things and then stayed in my room for the remaining of the evening. I did laundry and schoolwork. At night, I watched a couple of movies with my friends.

11/09/2007
Today, it was time for me to go back to Yantai. I got the bags ready and went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch. Then, I went to the train station where I waited for a couple of hours. The train left at 4:30 PM. The people that were in the cabin of the train with me were very nice. They offered me food constantly and were happy to meet me just because I am a foreigner. Fall asleep around 9 PM.

11/08/2007
I went to Summer Palace and stayed there most of the day. I walk around the lake, which is huge and made the afternoon into a relaxing and enjoyable day. I think it was one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Beijing. The green area is big and in Beijing you don't see much of it. In the evening I went to a Café for diner and then went to bed early.

11/07/2007
I was really tired from the day before, so I woke up past 11. Then, I received a call from Dustin; he wanted to meet for lunch. We went to a Japanese restaurant were I had the best noodles ever. We also ate some Sushi. He went back to work and I walked around the city and also went to the Silk Market to exchange a dress that did not fit me. At 6 PM, I met with Daniel, my cousin. He is also living in Beijing, trying to learn Chinese. We had dinner at a western restaurant and then we walked to the subway where we split. Then, I went to a bar to meet with Ming, Mike, Dustin and other people. The bar was inside of a wooden boat in the middle of a lake. It was really nice. Before leaving, someone gave the idea of going to Karaoke. So we went a place near by. It was a really nice place, it looked very elegant, but it was just a karaoke place. The Chinese take karaoke very seriously. It was a wonderful evening.

11/06/2007
Today I planned on seeing the Great Wall with two of my friend's friends. Their names are Mike and Ming. We agreed on meeting at the hotel were the guide was suppose to meet us at 8 AM, so I woke up around 6 AM because traffic is always a problem in Beijing. The tour guide never showed up and Mike and Ming were half an hour late. We decided to do the Great Wall by ourselves without taking the tour. So, we went to a bus station and decided to go to the wall that is the farthest to Beijing because is the one with the less tourists. The bus took three and a half hours to get there, but it was definitely worth it because there were not too many people around and it was just wonderful. The bus gave us three hours to walk around, the timing was perfect because it was enough to see different blocks and it gave us the right amount of time for taking pictures and just enjoying the beautiful sight. By the time we came down, we were really hungry so we ordered a couple of dishes and shared.

On the way back I fall asleep for a couple of hours and when I woke up we were back in Beijing, it was 7 PM. So it is definitely a plan that takes the whole day. At night, I met with Dustin at a duck restaurant and we had the famous Beijing Duck. We also bought some Chinese wine and some other entries. It was an excellent restaurant, the food was great. After dinner we were suppose to meet with Ming and Mike, but Ming got sick so she did not make it. We met with Mike at a bar and stayed for a short period because Dustin had to work the next day.

11/05/2007
Woke up early in the morning and went to Tiananmen Square because it is next to Forbidden City and I wanted to go in. Went into Forbidden City, which took a couple of hours and then went to a hill where you can overlook part of Forbidden City and Beijing. Then I got on a tricycle kind of cab and went to Temple of Heaven. I stayed there for a couple of hours as well and then went to the train station to buy the return tickets to Yantai. At night, I went to the Silk Market, which is a building with around six floors and is were all types of fake stuff sells , you name it, bags, watches, clothes, pens, etc. After buying many things, I was very exhausted because you must bargain for a long period of time and argue so that you can buy things for cheap, otherwise they will reap you off.

11/04/2007
The soccer match started at 12, I went and watched him. The game was done by 2 PM. Then, we went to Tiananmen Square. We wanted to go into the Forbidden City, but it was closing. Instead, we went to a temple that is very close by and had noodles for lunch. We walked and took pictures around the temple, and then took a cab to Street Food.

At the beginning we were not to sure of eating there, but then we found a place that sold snake and I really wanted to try it so, we bought one stick. After the snake we kept on trying different things and just had a great evening eating weird food.

11/03/2007
I woke up around 8 AM, most people around were up so it was a bit noisy. I have to say that the train is really comfortable and even though I was on a hard sleeper, instead of a soft one, it was pretty good. Before arriving, I tried to stay busy studying and taking naps in-between. The train arrived at Beijing at 3 PM. I went to the place were I was going to stay and left my bags. Then, I met with a friend, Dustin, that lives in Beijing and we went to Chinese restaurant. At night, we went to a lake that is surrounded by bars were many foreigners go. I could tell it was a tourist place because the prices were incredibly expensive for China. If you come as a tourist it is okay because changing it back to your currency is very cheap, but leaving in here for a while you know those prices are not right. We stayed there for a while and then went to Dustin's friend's party.

In the party, I met many interesting people with really nice stories to explain why they were in China. Most of them were graduates from the U.S. that had earned a scholarship to come to China for eight months and do research on specific topics and then, they will turn in a paper. The party was good, but I had promised my friend I would dance Salsa with him when I went to Beijing, so it was the perfect day to g to a Salsa club. We left the party with a couple of his friends and went to a club named Salsa Caribe. We danced for a couple of hours and did not stay until too late because he had a soccer game the next afternoon.

11/02/2007
Alibaba was hosting a Halloween party for the foreigners. I could not go because I had scheduled a train that leaves to Beijing at 11 PM. The owner of Alibaba is a friend of my friends, so he asked us to come in during the afternoon to help decorate. When we got there he had bought many pumpkins that he wanted us to carve and also, the most disgusting part is that he bought the head of a dead horse, with some of its bones and a skinned rabbit. I volunteered to do the pumpkins as I was not really interested in playing around with the bones and the other parts. After a couple of hours the place looked great.

It smelled a little because, I mean having dead part of an animal around can't be too good, but it really looked freaky. The bones were placed in a corner of the bar, they built the "tower of meat and bones" and it was surrounded with candles. The head of the horse was next to the tower, and the mouth was left open with a pumping in-between. The skinned bunny was on a plate.

After decorating the place, it took me more than two hours to get back to the university because there was a traffic jam in every corner on downtown. When I finally got back, I packed and bought some things for the train ride. The train takes 15 hours, but I got a hard sleeper, which means I had a little bed in a room on six. Each room has one bed on the right and one on the left and there are two more beds in top of each other. Around forty minutes after the train departed, the lights were turned off.

11/01/2007
In comprehension class we got the mid-term results back. 40% of the grade was based on the ability to speak, 20% was based on writing characters. Most people scored low on the characters, so the teacher told us that from now on classes will focus more on characters. After lunch, I went with Jessica to the market by the school to get our nails done. Most girls in China get designs on their nails such as: flowers, fishes, colored strips, etc. Very different than the traditional French manicure or just one color nails, as back in the U.S. Being with Jessica was nice just because I have been hanging out with guys for the whole time I have been here, so having a girly afternoon felt really nice!

10/31/2007
Halloween! Not much is happening in China because the holiday is not celebrated. I bought some candy and gave it to my friends, but apparently in Sweden and in Denmark they don't celebrate it either. At 6:30, I met with Viny and Sandy to go to a Halloween party that their English department organized. There was a Jack-o-lantern contest, a costume contest and then a dance. I left before the party was over because one of my friends was waiting for me to go to dinner.

10/30/2007
Mid-term exams were in the morning. The last part of the exam was to have a conversation with the teacher, so each student had to go in a private room with her and answer a few questions. For lunch, I went to the school cantina with one of my friends that has been sick for days because of the food. He is only eating steamed rice for the day and hoping to get better soon. At 6 PM, I went running and noticed there weren't that many people around the lake as two or three weeks ago. It is probably because it is starting to get really cold.

10/29/2007
After class, I went with Jessica and Barbara, two American part-time students and teachers, to downtown to find a Halloween costume. I will not be able to go to the costume party because it is on Friday and I have a train scheduled to go to Beijing. They had to make their own costume because since Halloween is not a Chinese holiday, they don't sell any costumes. After shopping around for a couple of hours, I left to meet my other friend Martin at a Japanese restaurant. After downtown, I stayed in my room studying because the next day we had mid-term exams.

10/28/2007
I invited my tutor for lunch, so we did some tutoring and then went to a restaurant near by. My friend that left his camera in down town for repair, Eric, got a call saying it was ready. I went with him and Laws, ad on the way we stopped at Mc Donald's for lunch and also shopped around for some DVD's. You can find DVD's for less than a dollar. The cost to fix the camera was 500 Yuan, so I'll have to give him 250, which is around $35 dollars. At night, I watched one of the new movies and then I talked to my boyfriend through Skype.

10/27/2007
I woke up and found out there was no electricity. It is the third Saturday in which they cut the electricity until 2 PM. I don't really know the reason of it. When the electricity began to work, my tutor came by and we reviewed for an hour. At night my friends and I went to dinner and then Karaoke. Karaoke in China is a very traditional activity to do, and people of all ages do it. It is different than in America because every group gets a private room.

10/26/2007
There was a team chat session for one of my virtual classes scheduled at 7:30 PM, but because of the time difference I had to wake up at 5:30 AM. Today was my last day of working at the old school because they are moving to a new location. A few students gave me candy and told me that the location of the new school is very dangerous. After class I stayed with a student trying to practice my Chinese.

This weekend, Aaron, one of the English guys, is leaving because his plan is to go see other places is Asia. So we agreed to go to one of the best restaurants before going out to some clubs. We had a nice dinner and then went to a club named Baby Face and afterward we went to Alibaba.

10/25/2007
I set up my alarm an hour earlier, so I woke up at 6:30 and went for a run. I thought that because it was early not many people would be around, but I was wrong. There were many students around the lake studying before going to class. The basketball courts were all taken and all the streets were crowded. Before going back into my room, I saw a group of around two hundred students running, but I do not know what that was all about.

At night I went with Laws for a two hours massage. The first hour we got a full massage and then we got a full body massage. The cost was less than ten U.S. dollars. After the massage we ate at a very nice and elegant restaurant.

10/24/2007
Two of my classmates, Dorothy and Josie, were going to Times Square after class to one of the stores that sells all the fake stuff, so I joined them. I did not know where it was, that is one of the main reasons I went. On the way, we saw a dead dog on the street and nobody seemed to care. After we arrived, two of my friends wanted to come, so they took a bus and I explained them how to find it because is hard to find if you have not been there before.

After a couple of hours we went to a restaurant across the street and order many dishes. I had to leave earlier because I had to teach. At night I went for a walk with a couple of friends and then we had dinner at a Korean restaurant.

10/23/2007
I had to have a quick lunch because teaching does not leave me enough time to go and seat at a restaurant, so I just ate in my dorm some food from the previous day. People here don't waste food as much as in U.S. probably because there are many poor people, so people appreciate more what they have.

When I arrived at the school where I teach, I found out that the school was going to move to a new place, therefore there would be two weeks off from school! I had wanted to go to Beijing, but could not find enough time, so that was great news. After class, a student invited me for early dinner. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Times Square, Down Town. When we got off the bus someone tried to steal his cell phone with some clips that are used to sneak-in in your pocket. Luckily he felt it, so the guy did not get away with his trick. Stealing has increased a bit, and after my camera got stolen I am very aware of my belongings. On the way back to the university I had to stand in the bus for the whole hour because again, it was packed.

10/22/2007
Today class was a little different than usual because a little cat walked into the classroom and the teacher was playing with it for the whole period. She was ignoring us most of the time, and just pretended to listen to our dialogues. Another thing from China is that most adults are just like kids. On the streets you will see them chasing a dog or just playing with animals while they are suppose to be working.

In the afternoon, I went to downtown with one of my friends to pick up his broken camera. I caused him to drop it, so we agreed that I would pay half of the fixing price. When we arrived to the place, the guy was sleeping. It is the third time that we go, and the third time we have to wake him up. He told us it was not ready yet, so we needed to go back in a couple of days.

At night, I met with Viny and Sandy, previous exchange students at FGCU, and we went to a Korean restaurant. Because they can read the menu, they ordered really good food. It was nice seeing them again and we agreed to meet again on Halloween to attend a school party. On the way to the university, we stopped in the supermarket to buy some dessert. Sandy made a good choice; she picked some cream puffs that were cheap and delicious. When I arrived at the dorms, I found out that they were installing cameras in all the hall ways.

10/21/2007
Today was a different day from the others because I had planned to go with one of the Koreans in my class to a restaurant that serves dog meat. I wanted to try it before, but none of my friends wanted to go. So, at night I met with John and we went to the restaurant which is just a couple of blocks away from the school. I have to say that it did not taste bad at all; it was served with onions and a sauce on the side to dip it in. It is actually tenderer than other meats.

At the restaurant, the waitress was staring at me for the whole hour that we were there. Just before we asked for the check she asked me if she could be my friend. In China is very common to get that question. Everyone wants to be your friend and they all ask if it is possible. At the beginning is funny, but with time it gets a little annoying. She asked me if I was at the school performance the night before and I told her I was actually hosting the show. She said she had seen me and showed me on her cell phone a few pictures that she had taken of me. It felt really weird, kind of like being a star in China.

After we left the restaurant I came to my room and watched A Beautiful Mind and then I went to bed.

10/20/2007
I woke up early in the morning and went to buy some clothes that I need for the dance. Then, I spent the rest of the morning doing homework and updating the journal. I was supposed to meet the girls I will dance with at 1 PM, but no one showed up, so I had to wait until 1:30 to meet with the organizers and practiced the program once again. At 5 PM, we were practicing the dance, but it was already too late because I had to leave by 6 PM. The show started at 6:30 and I had to wear a dress the university provided for me. The dress was really nice and everything looked great. I took many pictures and had a great evening. The dance did not go as well as we expected because the Brazilian woman was the one in the front and she was the one leading us, but she forgot what she had to do half way, so she changed all the steps and it just did not worked as planned. At the end of the show many people were taking pictures of me and the other organizers. When it was time to leave, I looked for my camera to get a few pictures, but I did not find it because someone stole it while I was on the stage. That ruined my night; I was very mad and disappointed.

10/19/2007
I am very excited that it is Friday, because I will get to rest a little and off course the party is coming. All of my friends are going away for the weekend because they do not want to participate at the party, so the best excuse is to go away. In the other hand, I am very excited because even though it may not be a big thing for westerns it is the biggest school party for the Chinese students, so I really want to see what it is going to be like.

In between classes the girls and I have been practicing the dance, but we still have a lot to get done. Other than dancing, I will be hosting the party for the English speaking guests, so at 6 PM I have to get together with the people that are organizing it. The school will rent the dress that I have to wear, but because I have to work I will not be able to go get it, so a girl will get it for me.

After I met with the organizers, I went to my room and got ready to go to a Japanese restaurant with a Brazilian friend. Then, we went to Alibaba, but only stayed for a little while because tomorrow I have a long day.

10/18/2007
I called my parents in the morning, which is night time in Florida because the family of my boyfriend and them were having dinner together. At my job, the class I had didn't speak much English so it was hard to communicate because they barely understood what I was saying and I did not understand them either. On the way back to the university a student came with me on the bus until I had to change buses. He was very interested in the western way of life and culture, most people are. Most of my students dream to move to America, Australia or Europe and make lots of money to have a big house like in the movies. Before going to bed I received a message from a student that asked me if it was possible for me to tell her about Halloween and Veterans Day since I had class with her the next day, so I did a little research on the history of both holidays and prepared to tell them the next day.

10/17/2007
Today I only had one class, which is really nice because it gives me time to do what I want and I can actually have lunch without having to rush. When arriving at the Vocational College some students start talking to me. People are very friendly and maybe it is because I am a western, but they will talk to you whenever they have a chance.

Today, I got to teach the three classes together, so there were over 150 students in the classroom. When I got done with teaching, I was called into the principal's office and she asked me if I could teach an extra hour on Wednesdays so that the classes can split. I agreed, so on Wednesdays, I will stay 45 minutes longer than the other days.

At night, all of my friends wanted to go to the duck restaurant, so we went. It was a really nice evening. On the way back four of them took a taxi, but Aaron and I waited for the bus. I studied for an hour before going to bed.

10/16/2007
Before going to teach, I went to a Korean restaurant, but could not really enjoy it because I had to rush, otherwise I would be late to my job. I took a bus half way, but then I had to take a taxi because the traffic was bad and the bus goes very slow. Teaching went by really fast; I enjoy doing it so time flies by. On my way back to the university, I stopped in Wal-Mart to buy some food and when taking the bus, it was so crowded that I had to stand all the way back. Today I was in a bus for over three hours, which gets me really tired and annoyed. I like my job, but sometimes I doubt about continuing with it because getting there takes too long and by the time I am back at the university, I don't even want to study.

10/15/2007
I spent half of the day asking different guys to dance with me at the show because I wanted to do a Salsa or Meringue dance, but everyone is to shy, so nobody agreed. Actually, there was a Korean guy that said he would do it, but when I was teaching him, he gave up because he thought it was too hard.

At night, I went to my Koreans friends' house and we ordered Korean spaghettis and played poker for a couple of hours.

10/14/2007
I had to meet with the group of girls that would do the Samba performance at 10 AM; we made the choreography and practiced until 1 PM. Then we went for lunch to one of the University's Cantinas. We started talking about Chinese life and how there is so much poverty, and Dorothy, a Canadian teacher and Chinese student, said that during her stay here she has learned a lot but what has impacted her the most is that there are a few students that have a budget of two Yuan per day for food, that is less than .30 cents. Also, she mentioned how one of her students got his money by donating blood and he almost died because he was doing it so often in order to get money to pay for food and tuition.

At 3 PM we had to show the performance to the show organizers. Afterwards, we split and I just went to my room. In the evening, I met with my friends and we went to a Mongolian restaurant were there was an English menu.

Before going to bed I called my brother because it was his birthday. I talked to my parents and asked them to send me some pictures since I am starting to feel lonely.

10/13/2007
During the day I stayed in the room using the internet and I watched Casablanca. Most of my friends left for the weekend, only two of them stayed. At night we went to a duck restaurant that looked very nice and the food tasted really good. We ordered one duck for the three of us, so we had plenty to eat. The way the restaurant works is that they bring the whole duck to your table and carve it in front of you. After dinner, we were so full that we took a walk along the sea side and then went for a foot massage.

10/12/2007
When the first class got done, two school administrators came into the classroom and asked if anyone was interested in hosting the party for the English speakers. Nobody wanted to do it, so I volunteered. After class, all the girls stayed and listened to different Samba songs and chose the one we would like to dance. During the weekend we will meet to practice.

As winter arrives, the days are getting colder and colder, but today the sky was very clear so the sun was still warming. On the other days when it is cloudy, it just feels cold and everything looks gray.

10/11/2007
Back to school! In the classes I got a little behind because I did not study much during my vacation, plus I missed five classes, counting the weekend I did not know we were suppose to go to class. During the first class the teacher told me I was in charged of making students participate at the party.

Every student should sing or dance at the show. Nobody wanted to participate, so the girls agreed to do a Samba choreography all together. The guys said they had planned a trip for the weekend of the party, which was a lie. In the afternoon, I had my first teaching lesson. I was very happy to meet the new students. When I arrived at Yantai Vocational College, which is were I will be working, there were over 150 students waiting for me. I had no idea what I was going to do with so many people in one classroom, but things were not so hard. I spent most of the time introducing myself and answering questions about the lifestyle and culture of United States and Colombia. Most of the students are really interested in knowing how things are in the rest of the world. At the end of the class most students were taking pictures of me and asking me if they could be my friends. It was really funny because they are so different in almost every aspect on how they think and act.

10/10/2007
In the morning, I took a taxi to the airport because going in bus would take around two hours and I did not have time. Flying to Yantai took four hours because the plane stopped in a city nearby to drop half of the passengers. I did not know about this, so I got off in the first city. Luckily I complained about my bag not coming out right on time for the staff to realize I was in the wrong place. They took me back to the plane and everyone was staring, it was really embarrassing.

Finally I made it back to my dorm! I was very excited to be back. I did some laundry and went to put some credit on my cell phone so that I could call my parents and let them know I made it safely. At night, I met with my friends and we went to a Mongolian restaurant for dinner. They wanted to hear about my trip, so I was talking for the whole evening.

10/09/2007
At 10 AM I had to be in the embassy to pick-up my passport. Before then, I was calling to reschedule my flight for the second time. After the embassy, I went to the hostel to check-out; hoping it would be the last time, and took got a taxi for the bus station. Taxis in Hong Kong are very expensive compared to P.R. China, if you compare it to U.S. is not too bad.

I got in a bus to Guangzhou because I fly to Yantai from there. I arrived at Guangzhou at 5 PM, and I went to the hostel where I had stayed last week. All the dormitories were full, they only had single rooms. I decided to go ask in other hostels just because I had already spent so much money on my trip, but all hostels had the dormitories booked. I ended up staying in the single room of the first hostel. I was very tired from the bus and all the visa problems, so I went to bed early.

10/08/2007
I spent the morning making phone calls to let people know I would not arrived as planned, and to change my flight so that I would not loose my return ticket. I checked out of the hostel and went to the Chinese embassy to get a new visa, but they had closed for lunch. I had to wait for a couple of hours. In the embassy I filled out all the necessary paperwork and waited around three hours to get a turn. I was told that the fastest way was to do the rush payment, which takes one business day and costs more than the regular waiting time. So, I left my passport and went to check-in at the hostel. I had to change the flight again, but when I tried calling they had already closed. I was very frustrated.

On my way to dinner, I met three English guys that were going to a Thai restaurant; I joined them. The restaurant's name was Gaylord. The place looked very nice, it was very elegant and expensive compared to other places, but the service was good and the food was delicious. I think it was the best meal while being in Asia.

10/07/2007
In the morning I had to check out of the hostel before noon, so I packed and left my bags there to get a last glance of the city. I went walking around the city and just following the busy streets that are visited by tourists. One of the Europeans at my hostel was going to The Peak and asked me to go with him. I had to leave to China at 8 PM, so I agreed to go with him.

This time the views were not as nice because it was very foggy.

On the way to crossing the border, I was thinking about what I had seen. Hong Kong is very different than the P.R. China. It is very clean, cars drive on the other side of the road; people are richer and are more adapted to the western culture. What I mean is that they dress very similar to Americans and European, they don't spit on the floor, cars do not honk as much, people don't talk as loud and just many little details that in main land are different.

When I arrived at the border I could not come into China because my passport had only one entry, so when coming into Hong Kong, my visa expired. I was very mad especially because I had a new job I was supposed to start the next day and off course school had started as well. I had exchanged all the Hong Kong Currency and the bus I needed did not want to take me back because I could not pay the fare. When I seemed very frustrated, they accepted the Chinese currency. I went back to the hostel and met with the guys again to go to the night market. When we got there it was too late, so I headed back to the room, they went to a bar.

10/06/2007
I got up early in the morning and went to the information center. In the information center I got a map of the main Islands of Hong Kong and a tourist attraction pamphlet. According to the plan I only had two days in Hong Kong, so I sat down for around 30 minutes to plan the activities I wanted to do the most since time was limited; later on you will see that the duration of my stay changes due to some problems.

I planned on going to see a giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery; they are right next to each other. So, I took a ferry to Hong Kong Island where I had lunch and then took the metro to the bus station where the buses leave to my chosen destinations. It took around an hour to get there, but I think it was definitely worth it. It was the first Giant Buddha I had ever seen and the temple was beautiful. After walking around and taking pictures, I got back on the bus and exchanged metros to take a tram to The Peak. I was really rushing to get most of the activities done.

The Peak is a place to get the best views of the city's skyline and harbor. I got there right on time because I was able to see the city during the day and after dinner Hong Kong at night; which is a totally different view because there are so many lights and all the high rises, that it is just amazing! For dinner, I ate at Bubba Gump.

Right before coming to Hong Kong I had watched Forrest Gump, so it was nice to eat there because it is related to the movie. At 8 PM, I went to the terrace and saw "A symphony of lights" which is a show that was named the world's largest permanent light and sound show by Guinness World Records. After the show, I headed back to the hostel and met a group of Europeans that were going out, so I got ready and went out with them. We went to a street that is full of bars and clubs. The street was full of life. Many lights and advertising and so many different clubs, all with a different atmosphere, music, type of people, and all I can say is that it was fun!

10/5/2007
I went for lunch with Carl and some other people staying at the hostel. Then, I checked out of the hostel and took the metro to a bus station to leave to Hong Kong. I got lost finding the place, so I walked around for around two hours. I was starting to get really mad because it was so hot and I was just carrying the bags without any idea of where I was going. I met some Colombians on the way and they took me to the station. I was just in time for the next bus.

Hong Kong! I got there at night and was very tired. The bus took five hours because of a traffic jam when crossing the border. The city looked really nice, but I just wanted to fall asleep. I checked-in in the worst looking hostel ever. The rooms and the bathroom were in the worst condition I have ever seen and still the place was very expensive, especially when comparing it to China.

10/4/2007
I woke up early in the morning and took a ferry to cross the river. I walked around and went to some busy streets and a couple of temples, but I did not really like Guangzhou. The architecture, shopping, food and pretty much everything was so much better in Shanghai that I just went back and though of leaving to another city because four days in Guangzhou would of have been too much.

As I waited to use the internet, I met an American guy, Carl, and he recommended Hong Kong; I liked the idea a lot. We went to dinner together and he told me about his journey and what the plan for the rest of his trip was.

One of the things that I really enjoy about traveling is that you meet people from all over the world; all with different ideas, plans and ways of looking at life. I have met people who are traveling for a couple of weeks, others who are traveling for a year, a couple that have been around for over a year and a half and one guy that has been traveling for three years, just going all around the world!

10/3/2007
In the morning I talked to my boyfriend and my family. Before noon, I needed to check out and by 2 PM I needed to be at the airport to take a plane to Guangzhou. That night I did not do much other than had dinner in a restaurant near the hostel and homework. I went to bed early.

10/2/2007
During the day I was just walking around taking pictures and enjoying everything around. Before it got dark I went to Nanjing Road, which is a pedestrian only street. Anytime that you will walk by this street is always thousands of people around. Is like being in New York with the difference that here is around five times more people than there is in Time Square. I am not sure if the amount of people is because I was traveling during holidays, but still it is just so much people, it is unbelievable. Nanjing's road width is around a five lane highway, but off coarse there are not cars around only people and more people. I made it to The Bund, which is where the river separates the new part, Pudong, from the not as new section of Shanghai. When it became darker it was even nicer, all the high-rises start to illuminate the city and it is just beautiful! I went to a Café on a 7th floor to just sit and observe the city, I also needed the rest. I went back to the hostel because I was too tired, but if it was up to me I would of have just kept on going.

10/1/2007
I went to an internet café near the hostel to do some homework for one of the online classes and to type some of the things I had been doing for the diary. When I was done, I e-mailed the information to myself to save it and then, I could not open the files; it showed an error code. So, I lost about four hours of the day. I was really mad.

When I was leaving the place, a Spanish guy and his friends started talking to me and it was nice because then I could practice my Spanish. Since I have been in China I had not met anyone who spoke Spanish, and I missed speaking it for so long. They invited me to go shopping with them at a place were you must bargain a lot, but can get things for a really good price. I went with them and had a great shopping time because they were experts at bargaining, so they helped me get things at a low price.

After shopping, we split to go get ready for dinner and agreed to meet in an hour. We went to a restaurant in Food Street, which is a street with many restaurants. We went into a typical Chinese restaurant where there was a hot pot in the middle and we had to boil the food because it was uncooked. One of the best and most interesting dishes was the living shrimp. The shrimp were on a container with a lid and when we lifted it, the shrimp were jumping all over the place; we pour them in the pot and were ready after a few minutes.

For the night the Spanish guys and I went to a night club were there was lots of people and almost everyone was a foreigner. I met the French people from my dorm at the club and also the guy from Holland. I met many more people and everyone from a different part of the world!

9/30/2007
Today I will go to the women's soccer world cup, Brazil vs. Germany. I am very excited! I will be going with a Brazilian friend, Alex, and he will be with a group of Brazilian co-workers.

In the morning I took the metro and crossed the Huangpu River to go to the new part of Shanghai, where there are most of the new buildings and high-rises. I walked around and took many pictures. Then, I went up to the Jinmao Observatory 88 tower to see Shanghai from the highest floor in one of the tallest buildings of the world. The view was amazing!

Around 6PM I had to meet Alex, so I went back to the hostel and got ready to meet him at the stadium. The game started at 8PM. I arrived an hour earlier and it was already full of people. The game went great until Germany scored the second goal because then all of the Brazilians stopped cheering. There was an invitation for a party, but none of the people I was with wanted to go because of the disappointment. Germany won the woman's world cup with a score of 2 - 0.

9/29/2007
I got to Shanghai around 3 PM, but it took me a while to find the hostel because I got lost so I ended up checking in around 5 PM. I took a shower and went for a walk around the city to see how it looked like. The hostel is in a great location, it is right next to people's square, which is a great location because the metro, shopping area and restaurants are all near by. When it started to get dark, I went back to the room because I did not feel comfortable by myself in the dark, even though China is very safe.

Back in the hostel, I had to share a room with five people; three French, one Chinese and one guy from Holland.

The French woman was turning thirty, so the other two that were traveling with her were going to take her to dinner. They invited me to come over, so we went to a French restaurant. The food was great! Then, they were going out but I just wanted to rest, so I came back to the hostel. I have not seen much of Shanghai yet, but what I have seen is spectacular!

9/28/2007
I thought today was the last day of classes before the break, but I just got out of listening class in which the teacher told us that because next week there is no school, during the weekend the class will meet. I already bought my tickets and nobody had told me anything about this before, so I will not be able to make it to class. The teacher said it is okay as long as I don't get behind. Because it is the beginning of the holidays and it is Friday, many people will be going out. Before my friends and I get into a club, we will go to a terrace and have dinner.

9/27/2007
I just got done packing most of the things that I will need for my trip. Since next week there is no school, I bought some tickets to go to Shanghai and Guangzhou. I am very excited and looking forward towards my trip! In the afternoon, Linc called me and asked me to stop by his office because for some reason he had many apples, so he wanted to give me a bag. He is very nice, in general everybody is. I had the last lesson before the break with my tutor and just got back from dinner. I will be going to bed soon.

9/26/2007
After class I went to the hair saloon to get a perm on my hair. It is very common to see woman in china with a perm. I was in the salon for around four hours. I did not know it would take that long. While I was getting my hair done, the hair stylist bought me food and for dessert gave me a moon-cake. Most people are really nice.

9/25/2007
Today is Mid-Autumn Holiday! According to the moon schedule is the day in which the moon is at its fullest during autumn because is the mid day of the season. In China it is one of the biggest holidays and even though today classes and other businesses operate as normal next week is a week off to celebrate for this especial day. It is a tradition to eat a special type of nut and moon-cake, which is a very traditional Chinese cake.

In our first class the teacher brought many nuts and a few moon-cakes and gave to everyone so that the class could celebrate together. It was very nice of her to do that. Around six o'clock I received a call from Linc and he asked me to stop at his office and when I got there he had a very nice, big, decorated box of moon-cakes for me. I took them back to my dorm and gave some to my friends, afterwards we went to dinner. All the restaurants were packed and a few people were walking around in the streets drunk, which is not too common to see.

9/24/2007
In class one of the main teachers said that in China one student is selected as a monitor to keep track of other students' attendance and to organize events such as parties and out of school trips. In our class, I got elected as monitor so I will have to report once a week to the teacher what has been happening with the other students. Also, when there is a student missing I must call and ask what the reason for not showing up was.At night I met with Linc because there was a guy that invited us for dinner because he wanted to meet me as he needed a Spanish translator for his wine business. Dinner was good, we went to a Korean restaurant were the servers were all woman and they rotated to sing and play different instruments. At the end of the dinner the guy said he would sleep over giving me the job. The next day I found out he did not need me because he needed someone with more knowledge about wines and the process of how it is made.

9/23/2007
In my class there is a Russian woman, Tania, who is living in Yantai because her husband had a good job offer. In the afternoon she called me and invited me to go to the beach with her and her daughter. Since I got to Yantai I have not been to the beach because I had the impression it was very dirty, but I agreed to meet her in a beach not to far from campus. When I got there, it was just like I thought, very dirty. After half an hour we had to go because the sunny day had turned into gray and we knew it would start raining soon. We went to her apartment and had tea with muffins. Then, I left to the university and my friends were looking for me to see if I wanted to go to a Korean restaurant. We went to one in which they give us frozen food and we have to cook it in a pan that is in the center of the table. It was a nice evening.

9/22/2007
In the morning I had a lesson with Isabella and then I stayed in my room watching some movies. I talked to my family and friends through Skype and stayed in the room for the remaining of the day. Around 6 PM I went running around campus and by the beach. I think not many people go running around as everybody stares when passing by.

At night, one of my friends and I heard some music coming from the stadium, which is not too far away from our dorm, and decided to go and see what it was. We saw a group of around fifteen girls running in and it was because they did not have tickets and did not wanted to be stopped by the guards. My friend and I though of doing it, but decided it would be better to ask. The first guard refused to let us in, but another one made us a sign to go over where he was and he let us in. It was the inauguration of the wine festival of Yantai. In this region is where the wine of China is produced and every year there is a wine festival in which people from all over the world come to buy and sell wines.

9/21/2007
It finally stopped raining. In the afternoon I went to downtown and there was a fight in the bus because one of the passengers did not want to pay the fare, so the bus driver would not go until he got off. They were screaming to each other back and forth until the guy got out. Tonight I will go out with my friends because it is Friday and in Yantai it is the day to go out if you are thinking about it. Before going out we will have dinner at Jackie's Cuisine, which is restaurant with western food and looks like a sports bar as being back in the U.S. with the exception that western food is very expensive compared to Chinese restaurants.

9/20/2007
Today since I woke up there have been very strong winds and heavy rain. The aqueduct system in China is not very good, so because it has been raining for a few days now the water is stuck and in some streets the water reaches the knee level. Most people have taken off their shoes and even though it is cold are wearing shorts or skirts because long pants would get totally wet. Umbrellas are not helpful at this time because the wind is so strong it flips them over.

We went to the closest cafeteria for lunch and it is very slippery so a few students fall. You must be very careful because if you hit yourself the only one to blame is you, nobody else will take responsibility over it. Today, I do not have any classes in the afternoon, but the students that do, had them cancelled because it is hard to get around.

9/19/2007
My parents called me at 7 AM; they wanted to know how I was doing because of the typhoon. I had no idea there was a typhoon in the first place. No wonder the weather has been changing dramatically in the past few days. The typhoon is near Shanghai, but we still get part of the rain. I have gotten behind on the news because the T.V. and newspapers are in Chinese. The easiest way to find out what is happening is by searching the internet. Some websites are restricted and hard to search on, the one I miss the most is www.Wikipedia.com.

9/18/2007
It has been raining all day long. After classes, my friends and I went to the cantina for lunch. We went to a cantina that has four floors and apparently you must eat in the floor were you buy the food because all of us got lunch in the first floor, but because there were no tables available we went to the second floor and this Chinese woman came to our table and started screaming. We have no idea what she was saying, but we imagined is because we did not buy anything in the second floor. After lunch, I have been in my room and for dinner we will get food delivered because of the rain. Getting food delivered is the same price as eating in plus a tip is not required. Tipping is not common in China.

9/17/2007
I woke up feeling very sick, I guess the medicine is not working as good as I expected it. I have been taking the medicine for three days already, but have not gotten better. The weather is not good, it changes constantly. For the remaining of the day I will stay in the room.

9/16/2007
In the morning I went walking around campus. There are always people around; during the day there are thousands. Half of the students are walking and the other half will be riding their bicycles. Students are not as privileged as in U.S. I have not met the first one who owns a car. I have seen a couple, but that is about it. The lucky ones own a small and old motorcycle.

In a hour I will meet with my friends to go see a street called Times Square. We have heard there is good bargain shopping going around, so we will go and check it out. By now I am used to bargaining, I actually like it a lot.

Downtown was fun! Times Square is a busy street with many shoppers around. There is a lot of shouting and bargaining. Sellers will try really hard to sell you their merchandise even if you are not interested. My friend liked some shoes, but they did not have his size so, they tried giving him some other ones. In another place where they did not have his size either they told us to wait, and another friend saw how the seller went to another stall and changed the sticker with the size number. So now we know we must try and check things carefully.

In China, it is normal to spit so that is what most people do constantly.

9/15/2007
I was having lunch outside of campus and on my way back I saw a woman who was riding a motorcycle got hit by a car. She was unconcious and some people were picking her up. The way people drive is crazy and I think nobody follows the rules. You must be very careful when crossing the street because the probability that the cars will stop are not many. Cars have the right to go first not pedestrians, so you must watch out! Drivers beep all the time without any reason. I am still sick so I will stay in my room for the rest of the day.

9/14/2007
I am in my room getting ready to go out for dinner. Today, caligraphy class was much better than the last time. Even though the professor does not speak english it is easy to know what to do because he goes by everyones table doing a character and then you must do the character he did on your paper. At the end of the class, the teacher did a dragon character for every student, which in China is a symbol for luck. Characters are one of the hardest things when learning chinese in my personal opinion.

9/13/2007
I just got done having a one hour tutoring lesson with Isabella. I will not study anymore for the rest of the day because I am very sick. There is a virus going around and also the weather has been changing from a sunny, warm morning to a rainy, windy night, therefore many people are sick.

My friend Laws has some stomach problems because he has not been able to adapt to Chinese food. He complains all the time and has been like this for a few days now. So, we just went to see a chinese doctor. For me it was very funny, the doctor grabbed my arm, closed his eyes for a couple of minutes and seemed very concentrated, then he said he knew what I had and gave some medicine. When it was time to pay, the medicine and consult was less than ten dollars, which is great because in U.S. visiting a doctor without insurance is at least a couple of hundreds. Tomorrow I will start taking the medicine and see how it works.

9/12/2007
Wednesday is the easiest day with classes, there is only one class. Afterwards, my friends and I went to downtown and just walked around the busy streets and stores. On the way back to the university, around 5 PM, we took a taxi because buses at the time are packed. The buses are so full that a bus that is meant to carry forty people has at least sixty on it. Not that we would mind that much to have to stand, but it also takes around forty minutes.

9/11/2007
I just received my fridge, three hours after it was scheduled to arrive. In China it is common that things will not be punctual as in the U.S. I believe one of the main reasons is because things are not as organized and also people seem to care and complain less.

Classes today went very good and afterwards I went to study by the university lake which is very close from my dorm. Around the lake there are many couples sitting and hugging for long periods of time, especially at night. Chinese students are not allowed to bring guests into their dormitories and even if they did most of them share their rooms with four or five other students. In other words, I am lucky to have a room for my own and the other international students will only share the room with one more person. As I talked to my counselor, Linc, he explained to me how kids in China are much more unexperienced in the way that most have never been hanging out past midnight, or tried alcohol, cigarretes or any type of drug. It is not like I have done any drug either, but I believe most U.S. students have at least tryied alcohol or cigarretes. I have asked some chinese students about this and it seems to be truth, aparently the ones that hang out at clubs are just a small percentage. One night, I postponed one of my tutoring lessons because I got back to my dorm around 2 AM and my tutor could not believe it, she said she never goes to bed past eleven PM.

Outside of the university the streets are very dirty, there are not many trash cans around, so people just throw everything on the floor. At the beginning is one of the least pleasent things, but with time you start getting used to it. For me getting used to changes is very easy and now that I don't mind much about things I do not like, I am starting to like China more and more. I am really enjoying being in China and am very happy to have taken this opportunity.

9/10/2007
There was a mistake on the schedule so instead of having four classes on Monday, I will be having three. On Mondays I will have class from 8 AM to 15:40 because after the first two classes there is a two hour and twenty minute break for everyone to have lunch. It is not like in Florida that classes are taught at all times and you arrange when you want to eat. Here, everybody has off from 11:40 to 2 PM for lunch. After classes I went to Wal-Mart to buy a small refrigerator to put in my room. There is not really a need for it since each floor has three fridges, but I just did it for my own convenience because sometimes it is hard to find space and they get very dirty. Each floor has twenty-four rooms and in most rooms there are two persons, so in each floor there are around forty-five people. Each floor has a small kitchen with one washing machine, microwave and three or four fridges. I paid extra so I would have a room for myself. Also, if you want your room facing the sun rise you must pay extra as well.

9/9/2007
During the morning I was studying and then I went to have lunch with my Korean friends. I found out that in Korea it is prohibited by law for married men to cheat, so if they break the law they can go to jail if the wife decides to send him as a punishment. I have not been with many Chinese because it is hard to be friend with them as the language and way of thinking is so different.

I really want to learn more about them, but it is not very easy when you cannot communicate.

When I was having dinner, a woman approached me and asked if it would be okay to take a picture with her and her child. A few pictures were taken and she seemed very proud and happy to have taken some pictures with me. A couple of times she said I was very pretty; it is very common to get compliments here in Yantai . Most people like me and my friends because we look different and it is also common for people to stare for long periods of time. Even if you notice that someone is looking, they will not take their eyes off you. I do not mind about it at all, but some of my friends do.

9/8/2007
Last night I ended up going to two different night clubs. The first one is called Baby Face which mostly everyone is Chinese. In Baby Face the bartenders get on stage and dance a song about every thirty minutes. Also, there is a guy that sings karaoke every now and then, when he sings most people sit down and sing along with him. The music played at Baby Face is old techno and remix of hip-hop. I had a lot of fun at this club, but most of my friends did not like it because they are not used to it, so we ended up leaving to another club which most people are foreigners, Alibaba. Alibaba is very similar as in going out in the U.S., there are many billiard tables on one side and if you choose you can go into the bar where the dance floor is. They played hip-hop and rap. I did not see many Chinese at the place other than a few that work there; I met a lot of people from all over the world.

Today, I have not done much and there are not any plans either, so I will probably just stay in my room and study for a while.

9/7/2007
I am in my room getting ready to go out for dinner and then a night club in down town with the other international students. Classes went very well this week except the calligraphy class which I had today. Calligraphy seems like a very interesting class, but is only taught in Chinese. I like all the other classes; they are an hour and a half long with a ten minute break in between.

The building where classes are taught is only for international students, which most of them are Korean. There are five floors, and each floor has restrooms and a one Yuan coffee machine so that in the break students can get some energy if needed. The teachers are very nice and work hard with students to get a good pronunciation and understanding of the material.

9/6/2007
It is 5 o’clock and I am trying to learn some new words because the classes today were a little harder than the first day. Today I had class from 8 AM to noon. In between classes there are two ten minute breaks. After class, I went for lunch and then took a nap because I felt very tired. Now, I have one hour to study by my own because a Chinese girl that wants to learn English will come in an hour so we will tutor each other. On the weekend, I will meet with Isabella, the girl that taught me once before, because she will be tutoring me three times a week. I will pay her around $3 an hour. With her I will be working mainly on pronunciation.

9/5/2007
First day of school! I was very glad to start classes today because I need to learn Chinese as soon as possible. It is very complicated to get around without being able to communicate. It is very frustrating to not understand what goes on and not be able to ask. Another good reason why I need Chinese fast is because bargain is a must in China, and when sellers see you they shoot for high prices because that is the way it works here, especially if they know you are not from the surroundings. Not being able to bargain is a major disadvantage. On Wednesday I only have one class, so I start class at 8 AM and am done by 9:40 AM. Wednesday is the shortest schedule day of the week. Class was very nice and easy to follow. We went over the tones and how the teaching will be done. After class, I went with some classmates to cafeteria seven. There are eight cafeterias in campus. Cafeteria seven is the biggest one, and busiest; there are three huge floors and all of them are always packed.

After lunch, we hanged out for a while and then went to see a massage therapist. I got a one hour massage for around four dollars. In China, massages and acupuncture seem to be very common. For the massage my friends took their shirt off, but because I am a woman I was asked to leave it on and they just did it over my shirt. In the type of massage that we got, no oil is used.

At night I met with 16 people and we went together for dinner. It was a very nice evening! No longer do I feel lonely.

9/4/2007
Today it is my 21st birthday! I went to downtown with Aaron, Laws and Martin. Before going to downtown I went to the hair salon, which was very cheap. They do a really good job at straightening and cutting hair, even though the Koreans had told me not to get near a Chinese salon. In the salon, people stared at me and kept on telling me I was very pretty.

It is very common to get a lot of compliments in China, because most Chinese admire foreigners. We rode the bus which takes around 30 minutes. In the afternoon my parents and friends called me, I was very excited to talk to everyone back home, especially because I had started to feel very lonely. In downtown we went to Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and some electronic stores. It is very nice to have western food once in a while. We got back around 7 PM and in the reception there was a cake Viny had dropped off for me, since I had order a cake the day before there were two cakes. I came to my room with the people I had invited and we had a really good time. The cakes tasted really good and were decorated very nicely. After the cake most of the Koreans left so I stayed in the room with the other guys. We talked for a while and then they left because school starts the next day, so we all need to get ready.

9/3/2007
I met with Park and he let me borrow some movies. During the morning I went around campus and on the stores outside of the university. Tomorrow it is my birthday, so I managed to order a cake because I invited a few people to my room for a get together. At noon I met Laws; he is from Denmark and just got to Yantai to stay here for a year. During the afternoon, I watched a couple of movies and when I went out for dinner I met Martin. He is from England and came to stay for a semester, after Yantai, he will be moving to Singapore. It is very exciting to meet people who I can have a clear conversation with, I know that the best would be to make some Chinese friends because I would be forced to speak the language, but it is not too easy, especially because they are very shy and don’t know any English at all. I went to bed early again.

9/2/2007
I have not done much today. I just stayed in my room studying and reading.

9/1/2007
I met with the Koreans and some of their girl friends; we went to downtown. It was very nice especially because I really needed a change from campus and the surroundings. For lunch we went to Pizza Hut, which is a very elegant and expensive restaurant in China. We walked around and went to many different stores, at the end we ended up in Wal-Mart to buy some groceries. Wal-Mart is similar as in the U.S., but they carry different products because food in general is totally different than back home. On the way back we took a bus and because it was rush hour we had to stand; there were twice as much people as the bus is meant to carry. For dinner we met with an American English teacher, Barbara, and went to a Korean restaurant. Korean food is really good and I believe it is much healthier than the Chinese. Most of the time when eating Chinese food you accompanied it with rice or noodles, which is nice, but after having it for every lunch and dinner I think it is not so good. Also, when going to the cantinas for breakfast noodles are served at breakfast or you can choose to eat many different types of breads. The cantinas are university cafeterias; they are very cheap and fast. It is possible to have a meal with one dollar even though food at restaurant is much better.

When I got back to my room, right before I went to bed, I heard some people speaking in English, so I came out to see who it was and I met Aaron. He is from England and has been traveling around China for two months. He will stay in Yantai for another two months and then move on to see other provinces of China.

8/30/2007
I am very excited because I made some friends! Today, I woke up at 6 AM because I had a chat session from Information Technology, one of the FGCU online classes. The chat session was one hour long and when I was done I stayed surfing the internet. Then, one of the Koreans in my building known as Wicket started talking to me. We talked for a while and then he invited me to have dinner with him and his other two Korean friends, Park and Opa.

Since I am living in the dorms for international people, there are no Chinese students here. I was looking forward the evening so that I could go to dinner with them, but before then Park asked me if I wanted to go for a Chinese lesson with him, so I went. I got to practice the few Chinese words that I know with Isabella, a Chinese student whose major is English. I agreed to keep in contact with her so that when school starts she would be my tutor. As the day passed by, we got together for dinner. We went to a very clean and nice Korean restaurant. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet the next day to go to downtown, which is great because I wanted to go from before but did not because I was afraid of going by myself.

8/29/2007
For breakfast I ate some cereal and for lunch I had the left over from yesterday. I forgot to mention that here the “doggy bag” is very common, whatever you don’t eat you take with you. There is much poverty in China, so food is greatly appreciated and is not wasted as much as it is in the U.S. I knew this from Colombia already, because I have seen a lot of poverty and it is then when you appreciate things more and realize that you are lucky to be able to have a meal rather than it is a must have. Also, I learned from Linc that leaving a lot of food in your plate is viewed as a sign of wanting to show that you have so much and you don’t care to waste.

I spent the day by myself. I bought a cell phone and went back to my room for the remaining of the evening. I was very excited to be able to talk to my parents and friends because even though it has only been a few days, I miss them a lot maybe because I don’t have anyone here and feel a little lonely.

8/28/2007
I woke up at 5 AM and waited for it to be seven so that I could go to the lobby and use the computers. There are three computers on the lobby which are available for students who reside in the building. Again, I tried talking to some students, but it was not possible. I went to see Linc because I needed to call my parents.

In Linc’s office, I met Lindsay, a girl who would give me a tour around campus. Lindsay is very nice, she is Chinese but her master is in English so she is fluent. After the tour, she took me to the bank so that I could exchange some money. For lunch, we went to a Muslim restaurant. I was very hungry since I had not had any dinner or breakfast, but when we got there I had lost my appetite because the street and the surroundings were so dirty. There is trash everywhere. At the beginning I did not want to eat, but I did not want to be rude since she was inviting me, so I ate. The food was not that bad. We ate fried rice with egg and carrots and to drink we had hot water. She told me her family is from a minority group; therefore, they are allowed to have many children. In China, people are allowed to have only one child. Because of the advantage her family had, she had four siblings, which is a very big and not common family size in China. She also mentioned that each region has different rules for the number of children allowed. Because in agricultural zones men power is needed, if the first child is a female then, families are allowed a second chance to try to get a male. After lunch, we walked to the beach and ate ice creams. An ice cream ball is served over crushed ice with syrup. The beach is very dirty and crowded. When we were done with the tour she walked me back to my dorm. I went to the supermarket and bought some of the things I would need, including toilet paper because there is no toilet paper in any bathroom, so you must carry your own. Everything is very cheap compared to U.S.; I bought a shirt for $2. When I got back to my room, I was very exhausted because I had been walking so much. There is a big difference with U.S. in transportation methods. I have not seen any student who owns a car, but instead most of them own a bicycle. There is always a lot of people walking around and riding their bikes. Most bicycles are old and rusty, but whoever owns one is lucky enough to have it. I will go to bed early again, it is only 6:30 PM, but it has been a very long day for me. Getting adjusted to the time difference takes a while!

08/27/2007
It is hard to decide what I should write about first. It has only been one day at Yantai, but so much has happened. When Linc, manager from the international affairs office, picked me up at the airport, it was very exciting. I had been waiting for this moment for months and also it was nice to finally arrive after being flying for two days.

On the way to the university, I saw crazy driving all around. People barely follow driving rules, most cars use the horn constantly for any reason and pedestrians must watch out because cars won’t stop. We came to the dorm, registered and left the bags. I didn’t have much time to organize things or shower because I was invited to meet some of my English teachers and coordinators. We headed to one of the best looking buildings of the university, where lunch was served in a private room. A lot of different dishes were placed on the middle of a rotating table. I was the first one to try each dish because I was the guest. I sat down on the right side of the host because it is a tradition in China for the most important guest to sit next to the host. During the meal the host proposed many toasts. The first dish I tried was jelly fish, which I had never eaten before. There was also beef, pork, chicken, and many other types of seafood. I found it very funny the way chicken is served, the head and the feet are served on the dish as well. Take a look at the pictures! After lunch, Linc dropped me off at my dorm. I tried talking to some people, but I did not find anyone who speaks English and my Chinese is not good enough to have a conversation. I organized some things around the room and went to bed around 6 PM, I was extremely tired. The time difference with U.S. is 12 hours.


 

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