Take the leap

We leave in a week. Its hard to believe I’m going at all. It doesn’t really set in fully before you go, like some part of your mind is waiting for you to wake up, like its some trick your brain decided to play. But as you pack your bags you realize its no joke, you’re going. You’re going far.

Its an exciting thought to be living on the opposite side of the world. All it takes is a little paperwork. It seems much harder than it is, everything so far especially the visa has been straightforward. I’ve made the journey before, all 14 hours of it. Its not as bad as you’d think, and it is completely worth the result. Japan is one of the most unique places you can visit and I can’t wait to return for this experience of a lifetime. So if you’re reading this and trying to decide if you should go, take the leap, it’ll be well worth it.

Follow this trip on instagram! @gallivanting_globetrotter

Saying Goodbye

The last seven weeks in South Korea were honestly so amazing. Being able to go to a different country by myself and try to navigate and figure out things in a completely different country with a completely different language was a little nerve wracking but amazing. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Continue reading…

Reflection of Myself

IMG_2005So I have returned to America, wow, it is really weird to be back after being in Japan for a third of a year. Until recently, I was used to getting out of my bed, opening up my mini-fridge to get my breakfast and walking down three flights of stairs to eat it in the dining room, now I just roll out of bed and walk to the kitchen, knowing that something will be waiting for me. I loved Japan, but it is really good to be back in my home with my parents, its peaceful here and that`s how I like it best! My mom of course, was so happy to see me and marvel at not just my slimmer physique, thank you low-fat Japanese food, but the astonishing amount of things that I miraculously got home and through customs, nothing weird, just a lot of over-stuffed bags. My mom bought me everything that I asked for, so I will probably put on some weight, though going swimming will counter that. My dad and I went to the county fair, this weekend, it was really great to spend time together and catch up, he is a very reserved personality, but I could tell he was really happy to be with me in person.

I am just so happy to see my car again, she, yes I refer to my car as a her, is one of my most precious possessions and it really gives me a sense of freedom to be able to drive wherever I want, rather than be limited by the rail lines as I was in Japan. Walking is great and healthy, but man is it nice to sit on a cushioned seat with A.C. and just go for a drive. Its so nice, to get back to the roads of America, though I have to build up my driving skills again like when I had my learners permit due to not being behind the wheel of a car in months!

There is definitely a major shift in my worldview, Japanese media is focus on Japan by itself, while American is focused on our relations and interactions with other countries. Japan is a literal island and that mindset is a staple of their culture because of most of it having limited outside influence and achieving success like Anime, they take a lot of pride in it. While its culture was focused on itself, it was really interesting to see a music culture, dominated primarily by domestic groups. I actual feel that American media is much more globally focused, I used my same news sources while I was in Japan, and really did not get much from Japan, I know that sounds odd, but it definitely gave me a very different perspective on the world.

It was amazing to live in a nation that is very focused on progression, the trains will arrive exactly at this time, the location is exactly X amount of kilometers from where you are standing, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom today only, so everyone will go to see them. there is a very precise way that Japan moves and that is how I have to move in order to be part of it. Japanese society is very homogeneous, all office workers wear grey or black suits only, students wear a specific uniform depending on the season and school, everyone moves together as one and it is fascinating to watch. As well, the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been dominant in Japan for 60 years, is the only major political party in Japan, so politics flows in an easy to predict direction here, in contrast to the various parties of influence in America.

Because of the population being over 90 percent ethnically Japanese, everyone has the same religion, Shinto-Buddhism, a unique blend of two entirely different religions. Everyone has a protection charm, talisman, statue, necklace or another object on them and in their house, they sold at almost every temple, it is an abnormality not to have a charm of sorts, even I carried a few, with one in my wallet right now with a good luck paper next to it, and gave one to each of my parents, who carry them with them as well. Despite obviously not having the same faith, I never felt out of place or stared at, when I went to any of the countless temples or shrines that I visited.

My best friend has been really happy to see me again, he was there at the airport to welcome me back, we have missed each other a lot, and plan to make up for lost time. The hug we exchanged at the airport was so strong, that I thought he snapped my spine, cause it definitely cracked. Fortunately, he has vacation this week from work, so we will be doing all kinds of fun things, video games, movies, Anime and just enjoying the rest of the summer. The look on his face, when I gave him all his souvenirs was priceless, I bought him two birthday presents, a bunch of knickknacks, good luck charm, matching t-shirts, key-chains and health charms, and even a holiday present because I found the perfect gift. Seriously, you will find the most awesome presents imaginable in Japan especially in pop culture stores! Despite the distance and the time, we caught up in mere hours and our bond only grew stronger over the time. Its as if I never left and we have been spending every minute together doing what we love and me telling him all kinds of crazy stories and memories from my adventures.

It was definitely worth going to Japan, though I left my life completely in America and will now have to catch up to everything, still it was an exciting way to finish my last semester of college. I learned so much about myself, my passions and a nation unlike any other in the world. I learned that I have the ability to live on my own in a foreign nation and prosper with great success. I will return here one day, when I do not know, but I will and intend to bring my best friend or maybe even my own children here, so that they can learn to love this nation as I have, some day in the future. Certainly international experience, will be a really great point on any resume that will give me an advantage at job interviews. Many people that I have met, told me that they wished they had done what I did and studied abroad, so I really feel that this was a great experience and I will never forget it. I have told you countless times, what I have done, but one lets go over it as a whole, I climbed mountains, I conquered castles, I rode bullet trains, I met famous warlords, I ate a variety a bizarre food, Purple Sweet Potato ice cream was good, I met all sorts of wonderful people, traveled to at less 50 different places of worship, each with their own centuries long history, watched baseball, played amazing arcade games, observed Sumo in person, celebrated festivals, took literally thousands of photos and all around never lost my enthusiasm to go out and do something, no matter the weather, the time or the place, I did it ALL!!!! As I have said so many times before, if you really want a once in a lifetime chance to go beyond any boundaries you have ever encountered, study abroad, find a nation that fascinates you, learn about it, look into study programs, there are so many offered not just at New Paltz, but through the SUNY system as a whole, go talk to an adviser, they are all really nice, trust me I have been in that office so often asking about programs, that I am on a first name basis with the secretary. If you think that studying abroad is too far, hard or expensive, ask about scholarships or grants, talk to those who went including me, seriously ask me anything and I will answer, it can be a lot easier than you would ever imagine. If you think that a semester is to long to be away, try a two week summer program and view it like an educational vacation, I did that and liked it so much that I returned to Japan! As my parents always told me, you are young with no commitments or obligations to weigh you down, go, go as far away as you can and explore this amazing world, learn, laugh, grow become the person that you always dreamed of being!

Things to Know Before Traveling to Beijing

Not having to tip is very very nice

Thank you seems to be said less

Strangers stare at you

Strangers ask to take pictures of you (mostly at tourist attractions)

Traffic laws are pretty loosely followed

Bikers do whatever they want

Cashiers don’t like giving change, they will, but they might ask for change

Sometimes you have to pay for a plastic bag in grocery stores

Taxi drivers never speak english

Sometimes they test your water on subways to insure that is actually water

People will not give up seats on a subway even if they’re a healthy young adult and there is a pregnant person

People run for seats on the subway

The next train is just as crowded as the one that just passed

People will definitely push you to get on/off the subway

Passports are used for ID’s as a foreigner a lot

The worst crime seems to be pickpocketing (but I haven’t heard of any stories of this happening)

People will practically run after you to hand you a pamphlet

Google Maps give you the street signs in English, but the signs aren’t always this way (especially numbers, learn numbers)

Know the address of something near your apartment, in case your taxi driver doesn’t recognize the address of your apartment

Eating with chopsticks is so much more work

Bring toilet paper/napkins of some kind to public restrooms

A lot of people wear shirts with english words (these people don’t always know english)

Badly translated signs are great

The sushi from connivence stores is pretty good

Get some people to translate or you’re gonna have really limited food options

Taxi drivers will sometimes try to overcharge you before you get in, find another taxi

If taking this thing (when there is no other option), discuss the price before

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Uber is definitely a good idea, aside from them often calling and asking where you are in Chinese

Subway station exits make good meeting places

Life is hard without google maps to guide you

Things that you would see in the US are more expensive

Bless you isn’t said

WeChat is used for everything

Pringles barely have flavor

Beer costs less than water (sometimes)

Pork buns are really good and sold in connivence stores

Water is usually served warm in restaurants

Subways are very very crowded during rush hour

Baidu’s search engine kinda works, but not well (apparently it works better in Chinese)

People use their phones for everything

Everything is a lot cheaper

Some Cool (and Some Slightly Less Cool) Places

This is somewhat in order of the places I recommend the most to least

The Great Wall: I feel like you already know enough about this one. I only managed to get to the tourist part, which I regret a little, but it was still great. It was very crowded. While at the top of this part, I could see other much emptier areas. If you can find a way to get to safely get to an emptier section, definitely do this. Also, probably don’t go on weekends. I took a cable car both ways, but it would’ve been nice to just do this one way. However, even with the cable car, it still seems to be a lot of walking.

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Temple of Heaven: I went here later in the day, which probably improved the experience a lot. There weren’t many crowds. The Temple of Heaven looks pretty similar to a UFO and I think the blue colors are great. The park is really large and easy to get lost in, but you probably won’t get lost forever because there are maps. There is a lot of really green grass and other things like a rose and flower garden.

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798 Art District: I think this is a place where New Paltz students belong. It’s super artsy and there is a lot of cool graffiti. The outside area is filled with old factory buildings that are no longer in use. Inside of this, there are a bunch of art museums. I wish I spent more time there because there is a lot to do, but I got there pretty late in the day.

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Panjiayuan Market: This place was only a subway stop away from me or a 20 minute walk. This is a great place for buying souvenirs. It’s a very large market area. Some of it is indoors, but most of it is under a very large tent. You have to haggle a lot, but it’s not too difficult. You can often go for about half of what they say the price is, and usually end up somewhere in the middle. Don’t be afraid to just say no. They might even call you back and agree to your price. Other places nearby are probably selling the same thing. If it costs more there, you can easily go back. It’s pretty cool when you realize that you just spent way less than what they were asking for. A calculator is passed back and forth to argue prices. Some guides tell you to go super early for the best deals. I don’t think this is necessary, but it might depend on what you’re looking for.

Lama Temple: This place wasn’t too crowded. There are some huge Buddha statues, including one that is four stories high (photos of this are not allowed, but many people seem to take them). It’s an actual place of worship and many people burn incense. In general, the architecture is really pretty. The architecture is similar to most of the temples in China, but I think it’s slightly more interesting.

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Jingshan Park: Great views of Beijing, especially the Forbidden City. This probably won’t be a fun trip if the sky isn’t clear. It can be a lot of walking to the top, but if you manage to find the shortcut, it’ll be a better experience.

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Beihai Park: I went here while it was raining and after most of the attractions closed, but it was still pretty cool. Since I went at this time with this weather, it was pretty empty, which improves the experience a lot. I’m not sure if it’s surrounded by water or if the water is surrounded by the land, but you can take many boat rides across this water. It’s definitely easy to get lost. I took the subway there and a taxi home because I couldn’t figure out which exit was closest to the subway and when I asked for directions to the subway, I was just told that it was very far. (Taxi’s here are much cheaper than taxis in NY. I spent ¥40 for a 40 minute trip, which is about $6, that’s less than an express bus.)

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Old Summer Palace: I think this just ends up being a lot of walking, even if you do take a boat ride. Most of it is burned down because of some wars that happened. There is a pretty cool maze area that you should definitely check out.

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Forbidden City & Taimenian Square: Okay so maybe it was really early, really hot and I didn’t wake up early enough to eat breakfast, but this wasn’t really that exciting. It is very crowded, especially earlier in the morning. There isn’t really much to it. The architecture is nice, but not very different from other places including the Temple of Heaven, Beihai Park, Jingshan Park, and Lama Temple.

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Ming Tomb: This probably isn’t a place I would go to on my own, but it was part of my Great Wall tour. This is where emperors are buried. I actually don’t know much about it. It would probably be higher on this list if I knew more.

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Jade Factories: This definitely isn’t a place I’d go to on my own, but it was part of my Great Wall tour. It might be cool if you have a lot of money or are into jade, but neither of these relate to me. Their goal is to sell you some stuff (don’t do it.)

Workplace Differences

The main difference between working here and working in the US is the language. It’s definitely interesting to experience someone commenting on your work in a language that you do not understand. Comments would be made, and someone else translates them. This system seems to work, but I’m probably missing out on a few comments. Once, they were rearranging the office and I wanted to help out as much as possible, but I didn’t really know what was going on.

Using WeChat to contact everyone isn’t a huge difference, but it’s definitely different. Occasionally, I’ll get an email, but I don’t think anyone here has my phone number. Files are sent through WeChat. WeChat can translate messages, which is useful. (WeChat is basically WhatsApp, but you can do a little more with it.)

The company seems more laid back than most of the companies I’ve worked for in the past, but I think this is just a difference in the kind of company. I think that design companies are usually like this. The attire is pretty casual, which I enjoy a lot, especially in the hot weather. (It’s not jeans and t-shirts, but it’s also not constant business suits, it’s a good middle ground.) Everything happens a bit later than it is scheduled to. I feel comfortable with talking to most of the people in higher positions, I even work in the same room as a lot of these people. There aren’t cubicles and group work is promoted. The office is filled with a few little animals, some fish and a lot of plants. This isn’t too far from my ideal working situation.

My advisor brought me along to another company that we were trying to work with, which was a great experience. We went to the building of what is probably the most well known TV station in Beijing. They building was pretty cool. We drank tea in a lobby are that explained the history of the company while we waited for the meeting to start. The meeting was my perfect amount of casual. We sat in what seemed like their usual working area and traded business cards. Then, my advisor showed videos to the small group of people. It wasn’t a scary presentation to a really large judgmental group. The group liked what she was showing and seemed excited to work with the company. It’s possible that I completely misread the situation since 99% was not English, but this is how it appeared.

And So the Ring Nears Completion

IMG_1962IMG_1973IMG_1983IMG_1999IMG_2004It seems like a lifetime since I was in America, so much has happened. I still remember the faces of my loved ones, the layout of my house, the area where I live, almost like a dream, I remember all of these details, yet I feel like its a dream. Okay, maybe I am getting a bit too sentimental and what not, but when your life dream of living in a nation with such an astonishing culture, history and society as Japan, where arcades are filled with all sorts of fascinating machines and historic sites centuries older than my country, it is pretty bittersweet to be leaving. Still, I made so many incredible memories and friends. I also invited a lot of these Japanese friends to visit me in New York as many are coming to America to study abroad and glamorize NYC as this amazing metropolis. Honestly, I am happy to be going home soon as while I loved, really loved the country, living here, the standards of Japanese society are a bit rough, nothing too major, just that my bed was a little small, I am 5`11, which is above average, still I slept well and the other major topic being that while Japanese and Chinese food are great, I really want some pizza and tacos! Also, I miss my car, the trains are really easy to navigate and use, but I like being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want. I mean I could adapt to living without these things, probably could make my own pizza and tacos, but America is my homeland and that is the culture that I am used to. I am positive that others, who study abroad feel the same. What really brings me back to America is my friends and family, I love them and if they lived here, then I would have no major reason to not consider living in Japan. I definitely will return, probably for the Olympics in 2020, but hopefully sooner, I really like the arcades here, I know that sounds petty, but they are so much fun, also there are a lot of places that I want to visit when I return that I did not have the chance to, did a ton of traveling, but it is impossible to see all of a nation as rich as Japan.

I know that I am suppose to focus on the point of my leaving Japan and my emotions, but really I knew that it was always the last part of my trip and I have been preparing to leave before I even got here. Not that I felt that I would not like Japan, but because I am a very pragmatic person, something that I definitely advise anyone studying abroad to be. I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff, which I have described in detail in previous posts. I have had to buy a second suitcase and fill my duffel bag to get everything home, fortunately my airline, ANA (All Nippon Airways) allows a second suitcase and a large carry-on for no addition charge, if you`re coming to Japan, ANA is your best opinion. Not that the other airlines do not have these accommodations, but the flight on a Japanese airline, definitely helps hype you up for Japan and the service is great!

I feel that it is important to be able to give some useful advise to those considering doing it. First of all, it is kind of intimidating to decide whether or not to leave everything and everyone, you have ever known and live in a foreign country. But, it really is a great opportunity that you may never have again and you can not let your fear hold you back. I was pretty intimidated by it at first, but my parents supported me and told me that I have nothing to hold me down like a family or job; and that I have to take this opportunity to grow as a person. The best way to think of it is just like living in a college dorm in a different part of the country, same amount of personal space and amenities, just as long, and you know that you are far from home, but with modern technology like Skype, you can feel like you are there. My cousins who have graduated from college have told me that their only regret was not leaving their comfort zone and studying abroad, something that they give me credit for. If you are a very pragmatic person, than what I would suggest is try a short 2-week or so Summer study abroad program and see if you like it, that`s what I did and it definitely helped incline me to go for the whole semester.

I definitely feel that thanks to studying abroad, that I am more confident in myself and that when I am given an opportunity, I will go for it with no fear. I went on a lot trips, both alone and with others, from mountain climbing to festivals, I seized every day to its fullest and felt that no day was wasted. It was exhausting beyond belief, I know that sounds rough, but honestly you have to make the most of an experience that you will never have again. A lot of people give me a huge amount of credit for being so brave and adventurous, that praise definitely gave strength to keep going even, when I missed home. Whenever I encounter an issue or something intimidating in my life, I just think to myself that I went to a foreign country and prospered, there is nothing that I can not do and I know that I can adapt to any situation.

One area that is absolutely vital to mention is interactions and relations with others. When I first go here, me and all of the other new residents were always hanging out, going on adventures and I believed that we would spend a lot time over the coming semester together. But, as school started and people committed to their studies and made new friends at school, we all went our separate ways. Of course this happens in college in America too, but as it seemed like everyone lost interest in exploring Japan within a few weeks, while I still had my enthusiasm, this kind of bummed me out, but I preserved and continued to go everywhere I could. While going by oneself may seem kind of lonely, I definitely encourage you to go everywhere you want to because not going due to being by yourself is wasting a great opportunity. I did make friends that went on adventures with me, but I always acknowledged that not everyone would be interested in going everywhere I wanted to and I should not let that hold me back.

Like I have done since the start of my time in Japan, its time for stories of my adventures and all of the amazing things to see and do in Japan! After passing it twice on my other Bullet train trips, I went to the central Japanese city of Nagoya for a day trip. Its a smaller city than Tokyo and has a lot less history than Kyoto, but still it did have some pretty cool places. The first place that I went to was called Atsuta Shrine, which according to Japanese mythology a legendary sword is believed to be there enshrined behind closed doors where not even the Priests are allowed to see it. The sword is properly called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi and according to myth, it was acquired by the God of Sea and Storms, Susanoo, in the belly of a legendary eight headed dragon that he had defeated. With a story like that, I had to go to the shrine and while Kusanagi is not on display, they do have other swords including one that was easily 9 feet long, but photography was prohibited. It was a really amazing shrine that had a very spiritual feel to it as the area around it has remained untouched for nearly two thousand years, yeah Shintoism has a long history.

After that, I went to Nagoya Castle, which belonged to the legendary, yeah there`s a lot of legendary Daimyos, Oda Nobunaga. Unfortunately, the original castle was destroyed during the war, so it is a reconstruction, but that actually makes it easier to explore as it is built for tourists and you do not take off your shoes, something that is required at real castles. It was a pretty cool place with lots of artifacts and a really good view of the city from the top. Overall it was a fun day trip and certainly worth taking!

Then last Sunday, my friends, who are part of a dance troupe, invited me to see them at a dance festival competition. The type of dancing they perform is called Yosakoi, which is free-style traditional Japanese group dancing, that permits the groups to choose their moves, music and costumes allowing for every group to develop their own distinct style that stands out. There were over 80 groups made up of everyone from small children to the elderly with group sizes varying from 20 members to some that easily had over 50, it was incredible to see so many people taking part in the competition and their beautiful costumes. My friends` group did really well and placed in 4th, which they were very happy about, they gave a great performance and I am glad that they were praised for it.

So this is my final post in Japan and I am both happy and a bit sad. I will return to America, see my friends and family, sleep in my bed again, get prepared for graduating, getting an internship and just getting used to America again. These are things that I very much am looking forward to. At the same time, I will miss the bright neon streets of Tokyo, the arcades with their amazing games, the different festivals and of course, the awesome friends that I made here. I always obviously knew that I would only get to know these people for a few months and they knew it too, but I believe that we will meet again when one of us goes to visit the others country, probably when they come to New York, so that is something to look forward to! Still social media makes it pretty easy to stay in touch with others, so the gap, won`t feel that big. Really, that is all that I am feeling, obviously everyone has their own way that they will react to leaving, its really tough, but change is part of growing up and the earlier you adapt to it, the better. I still have finals to take care of, so I have to dedicate to studying, but after that, I will enjoy my last days here by just relaxing, going to the arcade and fireworks, I have done plenty of huge adventures, so I think relaxing and preparing to go home will be best. Talk to you again, once I return!   

  

 

Reasons why Beijing’s Subways are better than NYC’s

Checking bags. Some might call it an invasion of privacy. I call it, I’m not gonna die because someone brought something dangerous? Nice. (They don’t actually open your bag, it’s put through a scanner and the line is never too long.)

It costs a lot less (and it’s still so much nicer.)

I haven’t been into a train that wasn’t air conditioned.

Clean and shiny. Garbage is rare.

A lot more workers, especially during rush hour. I don’t know what they’re saying, but I assume it’s useful.

People line up outside of the subway door entrance. This way, the first person to arrive is the first to get on.

Most stations have glass doors to help prevent things from falling into tracks. The station without glass doors has a lot of room to move around. Not fearing falling into the tracks is pretty nice.

I haven’t seen a single person take up more than one seat.

There are signs telling you where to transfer. There is only one place to transfer at each station. It’s hard to get lost.

I haven’t seen a broken escalator. I saw some people working on one once, but it didn’t seem to be in the way of anything.

There are signs outside of each station that tell you each stop the train is making.

Trains don’t occasionally run express when they feel like it or occasionally not run express, while somehow skipping your stop.

Almost all of the signs are in English and Chinese.

The app actually tells you the best way to get there. There’s no guessing which place to transfer or which subway will be faster.

There are a lot more poles to hold. Some poles separate into 2-3 poles.

There are a lot of places where I expected to see graffiti, business cards, etc, but didn’t. I haven’t seen any. At all.

The subway is one single car, which gives people a little more space.

Have you ever been to a stop where you had to be in the first five cars? Doesn’t happen here.

There’s no getting out of the subway to walk a few blocks to transfer to another subway.

The speaker system actually works. Most things are translated into English.

The inside of the subway has a list of all the stops the train has made and all that it will. This also exists on some new subways in NY, but not all. This one is always accurate. It also tells you which door is opening. I haven’t had to look through a window for a little sign that had my stop.

People actually get out of the way when you’re trying to get off.

There are bathrooms and they aren’t a terrible experience.

Seeing a foreigner is exciting. Bonus points if you hear them speak English. I’ve been on about 20 rides and I’ve seen one person begging for money.

Have you ever gotten into an empty car and regretted it a lot (because maybe it smells?) Empty cars don’t exist here. There haven’t been weird smells.

If there are weird smells, put on your air filtering mask.

The ride seems a lot smoother.

I seem to have service the entire time.

Settled In

I’ve been in South Korea for three weeks, but I already feel it’s like a second home. It’s almost like I’ve lived here for a longer time. I feel comfortable with the campus and the people.

The program I was so worried for, Global Village, ended on Friday and I already know it was the best part of my trip. Teaching my students was an incredible experience and I realized that it’s something I definitely want to do in the future. I never thought I would like teaching but getting closer to my students, seeing them open up and talk more than the first day is heartwarming. We’ve already started planning to meet during the rest of the time I’m here and I’m really happy. It’ll be sad when it’s truly time to say goodbye when I go back to the United States. I’m so thankful I got to experience Global Village. I only wish it had been longer 🙁

The academic program starts tomorrow and I’m a little excited to see what my classes will be like. I’ll be taking Contemporary Korean Culture & Society and a Korean Language course.

Continue reading…

Some Differences

Here’s a list of how some basic things in China are different.

Transportation: In New York, taxis aren’t really something I take. Subways are cheaper and sometimes faster, depending on the day. Before figuring out the subway, I took a few taxi rides. Generally, taxi drivers here do not speak any English. I get someone else to write down my address and show that to the driver. A few times, I was dropped off at a different entrance that I did not recognize. This was difficult to explain, but I eventually found my way. Eventually, I figured out the subway. This was much easier and I haven’t taken a taxi since. Soon, I will be making a post about great the subways here are.

Food: I started making a lot of my own food because it requires less communication. I only have to give a cashier money and sometimes ask for a bag (by pointing at the bags). If I’m not with someone that can translate, I only eat at places with photos or food I can point at. Once, I thought I was pointing at chicken, but it ended up being eggplant. It’s good that I like eggplant. There are a lot of American fast food places. On my way to work, I walk past a KFC and Subway. Around my apartment, there is a McDonalds, Subway and Pizza Hut. My roommate keeps telling me that I’ll get tired of the food soon, but I can’t imagine this happening. (If you have any allergies, please, always get someone to translate.)

Communication: I’m not a big fan of talking. I like to avoid talking to strangers as much as possible. Not knowing the language has made this a lot easier. I’m no longer a shy person who barely speaks, instead, I’m just a person who doesn’t understand Chinese. I guess it would sometimes be nice to know what someone is saying to me or what someone near me is discussing, but I don’t miss this that much. Nodding, pointing and smiling go pretty far.

This weekend, I’m going to the Old Summer Palace, which I’m really excited for.

Also, here are a few photos that I took.

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