Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blocked websites in China

As I type I am using the University of Michigan VPN (it allows me to use the internet as though I am in Michigan) and already hitting some blocked websites. I'll edit this throughout the summer but so far the blocked sites are as follows;

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

First few days in China

So this summer I decided to study abroad in China at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Since I want to pursue an additional Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering, studying abroad will enable me to graduate in Winter 2012, only 1 additional semester after I finish my Electrical Engineering degree.

Before I go to Shanghai however, I decided to go to Harbin first to visit a girl I know. Since I've been here she's been showing me around and helping as my guide. The trip to Harbin took roughly 41 hours, with the bulk of the time spent in Korea where I had to wait 18 hours for a plane to Harbin. The trip to Korea from Seattle took about 11 hours, although the plane ride was actually quite enjoyable. The planes had entertainment systems for everyone, with LCD screens on the back of every seat headrest. On it were games, music, and movies available to see. Additionally, the plane provided unlimited drinks and 2 meals, along with a snack. I got to sit on the window side and as a bonus a cute Korean girl who just finished studying abroad in Canada sat next to me. Her English wasn't great but we did have a lot of fun together, we even played multiplayer together on a couple games on the LCD screens.

With the wait being 18 hours in Korea, I had to find a way to kill time. The bulk of my time was spent on my laptop on a bed/sofa/couch thing they had in the lounge area, where I slept for the night. Finally when my plane came I could go the next morning. Going on the plane to Harbin was very crazy, as I was the only white person on the plane. I sat next to a young Chinese married couple who were very curious, and we talked a little. They were coming back to Harbin from Japan to visit their daughter. When I finally arrived to China, I went through an incredibly surprising simple and easy security process. I simply showed my papers and was on my way out. My friend met me and we took a bus to Harbin. She beforehand had reserved a room at the "Meijia" hotel for me in Harbin, and when I got there I paid for a week. It came out to 200RMB per day or 30.80 dollars a day. This is incredible because it includes everything, a kitchen with a fridge, a big screen TV with cable, a western bathroom, and a nice queen sized bed, along with a great view of the city.

On my first day we went out to a large supermarket to buy water, since the running water in China is often dangerous to drink. It came out to about a dollar for a 4 liter water jug, which I bought two. Afterwards we ate at this Chinese restaurant whose logo was similar to KFC's. I've noticed 3 different places with the iconic black and white face with surrounding red color logos, they don't seem to care that it is copying! At the place we ate Bao Zi and Tsung Zi, along with a warm soy soup that had beans in it, very good. It came out 40RMB for 5 Bao Zi, 2 large Tsung Zi, and the two bowls of soymilk soup. Later we went to Pizza Hut to grab drinks and a dessert. The drinks were a iced fruit milk tea and a mango smoothie, the dessert was this custard with fruit jam.

The next day we decided to go to Sun Island. Before though, we walked around Harbin and found this strange restaurant and ate there. It is strange because it was incredibly filthy and was a very small room with the kitchen right next to the entrance. The room to eat in was literally 2mX4m, only enough room for 4 people to eat! The food was very good though, a huge bowl of noodles cost only 5RMB (less than a dollar)! It was also very very spicy, I loved it. I also drank an iced tea, they seem to be becoming more popular in China.

After we ate we went to the bus station. While waiting we talked to a woman and her daughter. The daughter seemed very curious that I was white, and the mother asked about me. Very interesting. The bus ride to Sun Island was very full, there was so many people in it. When we got to Sun Island we visited a large building that was like a science center for children. It had 4 floors of activities and included an IMAX movie which we saw, although it was definitely too small for IMAX. It was still very fun though, and was 3d along with having compressed air and water vapor spayed for added effect. The movie was about a baby turtle trying to survive its first day.

After the science center we went to the Sun Island park and walked around. People were very curious, with many staring at me and a few saying "Hello!" in English. Of course I always say hello, as it is fun although very strange to have such curious people talking to you. Sun Island was a lot of fun, and I got to see some really cool things, including some Chinese geese and a pond full of frogs. We got to eat the classic "meat on a stick" which was also very good. The park is very large, and very popular with the locals. I'd liken its popularity to that of maybe Detroit's Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. While there we even rented a 2 person bicycle that we rode around in. Afterwards we ate at Pizza Hut (her first time eating a Pizza) and again had drinks. For a large pizza with stuffed crust, 2 smoothies and a dessert it only cost about $12 American dollars.

On the third day we set out to buy a train ticket to Shanghai. When we got to the train station we first ate though, and had two bowls of noodles. The people there were very curious! When we went to buy the train ticket, it ended up costing about 280RMB, and I think it will take about 30 hours to get to Shanghai! (AHHH) After buying the ticket we went to this huge underground clothes market. People there were so curious, especially the younger people. A few girls said hi and when we were eating at the food court a girl was walking and kept staring at me from far away so I waved. She smiled very big and told her friends who also looked, then I waved again. Very cute.

So far my trip in China has been amazing. Today we plan on going to Fangfang's school to eat some of her food and meet some of her friends. I hope her friends like me, since I did bring them so much American candy! (and some T-Shirts) I've been having so much fun, and can't wait to have more!