Summer in Review
olivia_nmiller
Summer is OVAH. At least here. For most college students at least in Guiyang, classes started in the middle of August! Foreigner bonus, whoop whoop! I've only just finished my first week of classes and tomorrow will start my second. SO fortunate not to have classes on Mondays! It'll give me a short break to recollect my thoughts and get on with the rest of the week.

To be honest, my summer has been a whirlwind of activity. At the beginning of summer, literally the day after I ended classes at Shi Da, I spent the night in the hospital. I couldn't keep anything down, not even water. So they stuck me with a drip and let me sleep. Definitely not an experience I would like to repeat anytime soon. From the person next to me (she must have alcohol poisoning or something - she was REALLY out of it) repeatedly asking her friend if she could touch my nose, to the man across from me asking me to marry him for a green card, to the simple fact that I was violently sick, it was not my best day. On top of that, I missed an excursion to Zunyi. :( I was NOT a happy camper.

July went by in the blink of an eye really. Weekdays were spent at the center and weekends were spend out having fun. I spent a weekend in Kaiyang, a weekend in Bijie, and a weekend trip to Qingzhen and Huangguoshu (read: BIG WATERFALL) and the last weekend in July/August was really spent around Banquet tables as we celebrated Wendy's baby's 100th day, and celebrated the success of this year's Summer Institute Program (several times over!). I met so many amazing people during the month of July and they are another reason I can't wait to get back so I can deepen these new friendships!

August was spent travelling. For six days I toured through Yunnan province and visited Dali, Lijiang, Chuxiong, and Kunming. I booked a tour with a Chinese travel agency and that alone was ridiculously frustrating. No tours really wanted to include a foreigner because some of the hotels that were included didn't have the licensing to board a foreigner like myself. Super aggravating. We finally found a tour group and I was on my way!

Touring with a whole bunch of Chinese people was a real eye opening experience. I love China and I love the people, but it's sometimes easy to get overwhelmed by the cultural differences. Chinese people don't seem to have any kind of personal space boundaries and standing in line was not a fun experience for me. On more than one occasion I was squished by bodies surrounding me on all sides and someone even pushed me on one occasion. Space is a huge deal for people in the United States and other English-speaking countries, so this was one thing I don't think I'll ever be able to get used to. I have my bubble! Don't touch it! :D

The places we visited were amazing places. I especially liked Chuxiong. It's a city of Yi people (one of the minority peoples in China) and we arrived during one of their annual festivals, the Torch festival. It was a truly extraordinary experience. There was singing and dancing and lots of flaming bundles of wood. What's not to like?

Shortly after returning from Yunnan, I was whisked away to Qianhu Miaozhai, or the village of a thousand houses. Again, I went with a Chinese tour group and that was another spectacular experience. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and seeing how the houses were stacked on top of each other was something I will never forget! I would definitely like to go there again - SOON.

All my classmates are back in the apartment building right now and we all went out and celebrated the start of the new semester last night with good food and good company. It brought about a startling realization that I will not be here for much longer. That thought is more than sobering. Over the past six months (yes! Six months already!), this place has really become like a second home to me. Michigan will always be first and foremost in my heart, but I will truly miss this place when I leave in four months.

Looks to me I'll need to find a way to keep coming back! Guiyang has a piece of my heart!

WTF
olivia_nmiller
So there's this weird thing going on with livejournal where all I have is a white page and blue links. It's kind of annoying and it's been inhibiting me from actually posting. It's kind of a b*tch. So it's finally time that I updated, even though dealing with this is a total pain in my royal a**. It is times like these that I really wish other blogging sites were viable options in China. (Airu, I have read your comment, but I don't even want to try to navigate replying to it, so I will respond at the end of this post ^-^, it sounds like you've been super busy too!)

I've certainly been busy in the last 44 days since I have posted. In the meantime, I have finished the semester, spent an entire night and part of the morning in a Chinese hospital with a needle stuck in the back of one hand and then in the back of the other, I have added two more classes to my class list at the center, and I have essentially started working full-time for the month of July. Not to mention all of the new people I have met and have had lovely dinners with. It seems like I've been to a banquet or big dinner every single day since the new schedule started! Sometimes I wish there was a stronger word for busy. For now, I'll settle for busy as all hell.

I really shouldn't be complaining. It's a huge lesson in time management and it's really beginning to test my planning skills. I never EVER thought I would ever have to plan out the day and time that I would be ABLE to do laundry. Right now I am doing my laundry on Friday afternoons after work. And that is really the only day that I have to do laundry. Even though I am not working on weekends, there are activities to do and places to see on the weekends. I leave for Bijie tomorrow at nine in the morning and I won't be back until Sunday afternoon. I guess I can do another load of laundry on Sunday when I get back. Whoo! Planning skillzzzz.

Last weekend I went out with two of the Summer Institute teachers from Michigan to Kaiyang, a smaller town about an hour and a half away from where I'm living. The two teachers are here for the month of July training Chinese English teachers with better methods of teaching. They're both stationed in a suburb like part of Guiyang, Qingzheng. It's been really great to be able to talk about Michigan things with them. Though it's nice just to be able to talk to Americans, talking with people who actually KNOW where I am from and where I go to school and the landmarks around where we all live, is even better.

So we all went to Kaiyang, stopping in a small BuYi village. The BuYi people are a small minority who have a pretty big presence in Guizhou. (Speaking of minorities, I went and saw the Colorful Guizhou Show again last night and it was just as awesome as the first! Random fact: there are 55 recognized Chinese minority groups living all over China. Guizhou boasts 49 with the most abundant being the Miao, BuYi, Dong, and TuJia) It was me, Yifei (one of my coworkers), the two Institute teachers (Lenore and Bill), and two of Lenore and Bill's teacher group from Qingzheng, plus the driver and his son. We all had lunch and explored the small village. It was really cool, a mix of modern and old world charm. It was definitely outfitted to receive visitors, which detracted from the authenticity a bit, but it was still cool to watch the women cook lunch and make tofu. After lunch, we split into two groups and Bill and I went exploring, hiking out to another village while the others went rafting on the river.

The village of Pingzhai was about a 15 minute hike from the first village and was a bit less modern, probably because it was a bit more inaccessible. There were still places that were entertaining tourists (all Chinese) and Bill and I got some great pictures of the lotus fields. Most of the lotus was in bloom and were sticking straight up out of the bog they were growing in. We talked to some locals, took a few pictures with them (we were the first foreigners many of the villagers and the tourists had seen!) and then hiked back to the first village, Fenghuang. We met up with the other group a few hours later and headed home, properly exhausted.

That was last weekend. I have Bijie this weekend, Huangguoshu (the famous waterfall in Guizhou) next weekend, and then on the fifth of August, I am heading out to Beijing for ten days to spend it with a friend. Busy much? I think so ^-^. After I get back from Beijing, I hope I'll be able to go out to Kaili and visit some of the ancient Miao and Dong villages.

There are so many places I want to see and it's kind of sad that I won't get to see them all during my stay. I'd love to go back to Xi'An and see the terracotta warriors again. I'd love to go back to Luoyang. I'd like to see Chengdu and the surrounding area, including two of 'the World's Most Beautiful Lakes' that are in Sichuan. I want to go to Yunnan. I want to see Lake Dongting. I need to make it up to Harbin in the winter time to see the ice lanterns. I want to take a train from Beijing to Lhasa. But with only one more big vacation opportunity in October, I have to pick my battles. One thing is for certain. This is NOT my last time in China.

(Airu! I have missed you terribly. It's good to know that you're busy and having fun. When I come home, we'll have to make time to get together. Will you be home for xmas? You can always skype me or email me too! I would love to hear from you and all about your trip to SF!)

100th Day
olivia_nmiller
Today I have officially been here for 100 days. To say that homesickness is kicking my ass is an understatment of epic proportions. Even though I passed the "Longest I've Been Away From Home" milestone by the end of the first month, this just seems so much deeper and more heartrending. 100 days of living and existing in a place that most people will never have a chance to see. It's rather awe-inspiring really. I am only one of a handful of foreigners living in Guiyang and I've made it out pretty well. Only one trip to the hospital so far. Only one bout of violent vomiting. It's good that I lost track of how many times I've been to the Supermarket right?

To mark the occasion, it has been raining hard nearly all day (except for when I was in class; it always seems to stop before I go outside) in quick hard bursts. It'll stop for five minutes and then start up again harder than before. I just keep thinking of Men In Black II when Lauren says, "A lot of people are sad when it rains." And Kay says, "No. It rains because you're sad." Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly egotistical, I like to think that it rains because I'm sad. LOL. As if. If I had control of the weather, today would be beautiful and I could go to the park and stuff. Actually DO something instead of sitting in my dorm for class not wanting to go out because of the rain.

MOM AND DAD. I have a special idiom for you guys. It's how I'm assuming you feel all the time about the whole thing. 鞭长莫及 (bian chang mo ji). To be too far away to help. Love you guys!

Everyone have a happy Thursday, for me!

LIV

Another Victory
olivia_nmiller
Well. I must admit defeat to the the rain - and weather in general - again. This morning it started raining like there was no tomorrow. And I realized that I had left my umbrella at the Center on Sunday, when the weather report promised rain, but instead gave crystal clear blue skies and soaring temperatures. The past few days have been in the high twenties (celsius) and humid to boot. I laughed in the face of the heat and turned on the air conditioner that had been installed by my room's previos resident. This is what I get for laughing at Mother Nature. She torments me with rain and a forgotten umbrella.

Last week I was sick as a dog after contracting food poisoning from a fast food restaurant. At least that's what I think caused it. Improperly washed lettuce on the closest thing to western fast food I had had since coming to China. It was so bad I had to go to the hospital and get a pharmacy's worth of medication to combat all of the symptoms, including pretty bad dehydration. I'm doing better now, but I definitely think I'll need to be more careful in the future. Especially anything involving cold vegetables.

Well just wanted to post a quick update since it's been almost two weeks since the last one!

LIV

Idioms
olivia_nmiller
As of right now, I think my favorite class that I'm taking here at Guizhou Normal is probably my speaking class right now. My other classes have evolved into HSK preparation (which if you don't know is composed of listening, reading, and writing parts), but since there isn't any speaking portion of the HSK, we've started going through all of the Chinese 成语故事 or the stories behind popular idioms. First 沈老师 will tell us the idiom and then tell us the story behind it. And then we, the students, have to tell her what we think the meaning is. I guess I'm having an easier time than my other two classmates because all but two (so far) of the stories 沈老师 has told us, I've been able to find the idiom in the dictionary on my phone. 很方便 XD!

I've really found all of it interesting. So far we've learned:

五十步笑百步 - the pot calling the kettle black
对症下药 - treat the right illness with the right treatment
水滴石穿 - dripping water wears through rocks
笨鸟先飞 - stupid birds fly(go) first
猴子掰包谷 - this one is a little hard to explain. The story goes that a monkey is roaming through a corn field and is picking corn and putting ear ear of corn under his arm. When he reaches for the next one, the first drops out and at the end of the corn field, he only has two when he just spent so much time picking corn. The moral is that you shouldn't forget things that you've learned. Study hard and keep all the knowledge. Don't be like the monkey. This one wasn't in my dictionary.
水中捞月 - fish for the moon's reflection
拔苗助长 - try to help the shoots grow by pulling them upward
刻舟求剑 - nick the boat to seek the sword (this one was very interesting. It told of a man who, while crossing a river dropped his sword in the water. He made a notch in the boat so he would know where the sword fell, regardless of the fact that the boat would move.)
郑人买履 - I'm still not sure what this one means! This is one of the ones I didn't find in my dictionary.
纸上谈兵 - THIS ONE. This one is perfect. The dictionary entry isn't very helpful, so I'll sum it up quickly with an example. I studied Chinese for 3 years and thought I was hot stuff. I aced every Chinese test that they put in front of me, I could hold simple conversations. So when I came to China, I thought I ould be able to just jump in and live. Well, things in China are very different from learning about things in China. 纸上谈兵!
指手画脚 - talking with your hands to make a point (normally not a good one or a commanding one)
望梅止渴 - quenching thirst by thinking of plums
画饼充饥 - drawing a cake to sate hunger
对牛弹琴 - play the lute to the cow (talking above someone's head)

And the list is growing. Looking forward to tomorrow's class even though it's at 8:00 in the morning!

No, It Is Not Getting Better
olivia_nmiller
I've come to realize that this rain is just not going to stop. Sometimes I think the world is out to get me, in this regard. The past couple of times, I've done my laundry, went and hung it up outside my dorm. BAM. Rain. This last load of laundry I did two days ago. I've been hanging it in my room and outside when I can. THe sun was out shining this morning, so I was like, "OH HEY. Perfect for drying my laundry!" Came back from class at noon, still good. Lay down for a nap at 3? Awesome. Less than an hour later? TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR. No warning, nothing. So now my clothes, which were ALMOST DRY. Are back at square one.

And of course I had plans today. Of course I did. Rain - 1, Olivia 0

Illness
olivia_nmiller
Well, I seem to be sick. Again. It's quite anoying actually. I never seem to actually get better, my symptoms just change. It's a neverending cycle and I'm quite tired of this. This time around I've caught a nasty case of one-sided tonsillitis. And while it hasn't done anything terribly debilitating yet, it is fairly painful when I turn my head to the left and try to swallow. Hence, the one sided part. Just before I came to China, I had the exact same thing happen so it was quite easy to deduce that tonsillitis was the culprit. Imagine my surprise when I found out that one of my coworkers had tonsillitis too! Small world? Yes. So small I have been infected! Haha...

So far, yesterday was the worst day of it. Last night I took some acetaminophen and applied a heat compress and today I feel so much better. Not to mention I got a fairly good chunk of undisturbed, restful sleep. The crappy thing? I have class all morning. And not teaching class all morning. I am attending class all morning.

What is this kind of new and inventive torture you ask? Well, to the Chinese, it is life as they know it in preparation of the Labor Day holiday. Which happens to be on Wednesday, or the first of May. In total, it's a three day vacation and like the name (I guess) implies, it's to thank us for the hard work. So of course, to precede said holiday, we work and go to school on the weekend before the holiday as if they were normal weekdays. Not exactly my cup of tea, but hey, I get the next three weekdays off! And because I was going to be the only one in attendance yesterday for my class, my teacher just outright cancelled it. So today is really the only day I'll have to endure.

But endure it will be. Considering I am not in top form and classes start at 8am sharp. Not exactly my idea of a good time. But these next three days will be worth it, I'm sure!

OLIVIA

Whether this Weather Will Ever Get Better
olivia_nmiller
And I thought Michigan's weather was bad. I'm not saying that the weather in Guiyang is BAD. It just can't make up its mind on whether it wants to be cold or blazing hot. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were in the upper 20's (Celsius, which translates to upper 70's to mid 80's in Fahrenheit) and humid as the Amazon. I took four steps outside and was sweating buckets. And then, in a rapid, and I mean RAPID turn of events, Saturday, Sunday, and now Monday, have been in the 10's and a bit below, which is somewhere in the 50's. In the course of ONE DAY, the temperature dropped THIRTY degrees Fahrenheit.

I don't know if I can take that for the next two months until summer finally decides to take over winter. I'm starting to believe that Guiyang doesn't have Spring, just Winter and Summer constantly battling for dominance. Can't wait to see what Fall is like! Note the slight sarcasm there. Thank goodness I only have to brave Guiyang legit winter for two days before I head off, back to a hopefully snowy, Michigan. We'll see about that. I doubt even the most experienced meteorologist couldn't predict Christmas weather in the middle of April.

It's not all bad. It's just a formula for getting sick again. Which I am not looking forward to. I've spent the majority of my second month in China either really sick, or sick enough that I'm relatively miserable, so now that I finally feel up to par again, it would totally bite if I get sick again and remained sick through May. Hot damn, we're already looking at May. Is it just me or has time flown?

Update Week 6
olivia_nmiller
Wow, it's already Thursday. I've been here officially for six weeks! I personally can't believe it. And believe it or not, I just realized that I haven't posted in my journal in a long while. Easter! Which was over a week ago! I guess I have a lot of catching up to do.

Last weekend we had a long holiday for Tombsweeping Day, the official holiday and I spent it with my friend Yuanyuan in her home village. The holiday started on Thursday, a week ago today (wow!) and went through Saturday, although we didn't return to Guiyang until Sunday mid afternoon. Yuanyuan's hometown is a little village belonging to the county of Tongzi in the city of Zunyi. We took the train to Tongzi and then from there we met with her aunt and uncle to go to the village. It was tiny and beautiful and scenic and perfect. It was so much more than what I had imagined village life being. I had an amazing time, even though we were out of power almost the entire second day we spent there. But even that wasn't too bad. Everyone's cell phones died and we were in candlelight all day as it rained outside. I know it's not the ideal vacation, but I really can say that it was one of the best experiences of my life I think. Village life is so much different than city life. Yuanyuan warned me beforehand that there weren't going to be supermarkets or restaurants or anything and she was exactly right. It seemed like everyone owned a shop, but the shops sold little necessities like toothbrushes, socks, oil for cooking and the like. And it was just perfect.

That Saturday we returned to Tongzi where we stayed with YuanYuan's uncle and aunt for the night before heading back to Guiyang. Saturday night was spent with some of Yuanyuan's classmates and they treated me to tea and a late night snack of small fried dumplings that I can't remember the name of to save my life. Unfortunately that night, I lost my camera. I don't know if I left it somewhere and someone picked it up and took it or if I was pickpocketed. Lesson about keeping important things, like a camera with 200 pictures of the past couple of days, close? LEARNED. The hard way. At least it wasn't something more important, like my passport or my wallet with all my money and credit cards.

Sunday morning, Yuanyuan and her friends and I went to Lou Shan Guan, a historic place for all of China where Mao Zedong led the Red Army to a well-earned victory. It was so beautiful and serene and steeped with history. Definitely a highlight of my trip. Hands down. The only downside was that it was a bit of the way out of Tongzi and it was COLD. Like really cold. But other than that, it was great and I'm glad I got a few good pictures on my phone.

Whew. There's the quick summary of my holiday weekend. This week's been flying by. I don't even know where the time goes! I'm sure my family back home will disagree of course, but still. Thursday already. I feel like just yesterday was Monday. This week has all been about getting back into routine that the holiday weekend took out. I did my laundry, got caught up with some things and prepared for my lessons this week. We've started using a new book for the majority of my classes over her, prepping us for HSK Level 5. I've only looked through it a little but it seems a little challenging, so I'm all for it! And at least now we're actually WORKING toward something.

Okay, well, I'll try to keep posting a little more often. But I'm just so busy! >_<*

LIV

Happy Easter!
olivia_nmiller
复活节快乐! Today is both a happy and sad day for me. On one hand I am overjoyed to be spending Easter in a culture that doesn't really know what it is and I love sharing this experience with my friends here. On the other, I am horribly miserable because today is a day to be spent with family and right now I am over 7,000 miles away from my family. Granted it won't be Easter for my family for another few hours yet, but still. It's Easter for me and it's all a little overwhelming.

I've been here for a month and almost a week. Homesickness is really starting to set in and I don't know if it's today or just the amount of time I've spent here that's kicking it up a notch higher. I'm sure it will pass, after all I'm not planning on going back any time in the very near future, so I guess I can only cross my fingers and hope it passes.

Don't get me wrong, I really and truly love being here. But sometimes I wish that HERE was a little bit closer to THERE. I've always been close to my family and being so far away for the very first time is hard. I had to do extensive research on how to make a hard-boiled egg for crying out loud! It's one of those things that I've never had to do by myself. And now here I am, Easter Sunday, not knowing how to cook a damned hard-boiled egg. Here's to hoping they turn out okay! This whole complete independence thing is kind of scary actually. I've never been really ON MY OWN before. And granted I have a few friends here that are willing to show me around and take me places and are making sure I eat at least twice a day, I'm still responsible for my own grocery shopping, my laundry, getting to the center and back to my apartment safely. It's a lot to take in and I can only hope I'm at least keeping my head above water while doing it. I think I'm doing a good job, but how really do you gauge your own success on your own independence?

Well, Happy Easter! In honor of my family tradition of eating cinnamon rolls for breakfast, I've bought myself some tiger skin rolls which will have to be close enough!

OLIVIA

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