Adventure part one: Seven Star Park & Starbucks

Sorry for the delayed blogs recently, I caught a head cold that killed me for a few days but I am back! Today I decided to explore more of Guilin’s natural beauty, which meant going to the seven star park and hiking up some mountains (my legs currently feel like noodles)

I started my journey today at 12pm with my friend Mollie who has been here for 2 years now. She is from France. She picked me up on her scooter and away we went. If you ever come to Guilin, China and plan to stay for a year or more, I highly recommend buying a scooter. Super convenient to explore Guilin and you don’t have to rely on others as much. Anyways, our first stop was the seven star park. The seven star park is a famous park to explore because it is the largest park in Guilin with beautiful scenery such as mountains and rivers and it’s free for students to get in (without a student ID it cost 70 RMB)

Of course, I happened to forgotten my ID, which meant I paid the 70 RMB (aka $12 USD). The park is beautiful! It reminded me of central park and bryant park mixed together. You had shops in some areas, food in other areas, and places to just sit and read if you wanted to. However be warned, there are wild monkeys that are very scary. If you get too close to them, they will hiss at you and show their fangs… I made sure to stay as far away as I could from them. We explored the inside of a cave with that was gorgeous with beautiful lights and sights ( perfect for tourists).

We hiked up a mountain that gave us an amazing 360 view of Guilin. (I learnt that I am beyond out of shape, I was dying the entire time, huffing and puffing!) It was so cool to see on one side farms while on the other side city buildings and the background was the famous Guilin mountains.

To finish our adventure, we stopped at a Starbucks (the perfect end to a perfect day) The starbucks even had a Western bathroom!! I was able to get a bagel with ham and cheese while my friend got a muffin and macaroon.

The Mid Autumn Festival

Hello All! I hope you’re all having a nice and relaxing week because I know I am! This entire week was break because of the Mid Autumn Festival. Now, I could tell you in academic terms what that exactly is or I could cut to the chase and just describe it as a week where people go back to their villages and spend time with their loves ones while admiring the full moon and eating moon cakes.

This week has been a blur of food comas. I’m pretty confident that all the weight I lost (which was at least 10-15 pounds) has all been gained back (and then some haha). Seriously though, everyday, you’re supposed to enjoy your family and foreign friends by drinking and eating. My good friend Sean invited me and some other study abroad friends over to his house for a BBQ. It was very fun and we ate from sunrise to sunset (basically we ate A LOT). By the end of the night, we all had food babies, it was great! We got to meet his family (who couldn’t understand us), we saw his hometown (people starred at us left and right), and we even met his dog (we weren’t allow to touch it because it would bite us). However, what brought us all together was the beautiful scenery and the delicious food.

We also went downtown which was amazingly fun. Downtown guilin is also known as the city center ( I don’t know why it has two names but it does!) I have never seen an area so PACKED. It was very hard to move ( If I got lost, you’d probably never see me again. “Yes we’re looking for a Chinese girl with blonde tips, about 5’2, name is Beth… I can’t imagine getting lost there). Even getting onto the bus was a hassle. Warning: Do NOT underestimate old chinese women and men, they will push you to the ground and then walk on you like you were part of the ground.

This weekend, I was invited to two outting, one for tonight (Friday) and one for Saturday night. Can you guess what we’re going to do? If you said eat… then CONGRATS because you are correct! I am very excited, however, I don’t know if my stomach would agree. Oh well, I walk a lot in Guilin, it will be fine (digestion wise)

FOOD! Food?! Food?? Food…?

So you’re probably wondering how I came up with this post’s title. Let’s just say that the more and more I kept trying new things to eat in China, the more I started wondering… wait, what did I just eat, was this food or…? Before I arrived in China, I was very excited to try authentic Chinese food. (I love Chinese take out so I figured, Chinese takeout taste x10!)

When I first arrived at Guilin, I was told to try Guilin’s famous rice noodles and soup. The reason the soup is famous is because you apparently can’t find such thick noodles anywhere else in China. The first week, I was introduced to many… interesting food. Now I hope you are reading my posts chronologically because remember when I said the dish, chicken feet, literally looks like feet that came off a dead chicken a minute or two before being served, well I wasn’t kidding (look at those feet in the above picture) Yes, I did try ONE, however I refused to it directly like that, so my friend was very kind and cut the meat off the feet so it wouldn’t look like an actual foot (yeah, yeah, yeah, you can call me a baby, but I’d like to see you try and eat a full chicken foot and not squirm!) Obviously, it tasted like chicken (DUH) but I’ll stick to the American way when it comes to eating a chicken. In other words, staying far, far away from chicken feet. I’ve also eaten at least three different pig organs, not on purpose LOL. Organs are very chewy, just remember this if you ever come to China. ( I was told the bladder is the chewiest…) Don’t worry… I am also very cautious about the meat I eat mainly because I really do not want to eat gou rou aka dog meat.

ANYWAYS, I have learnt to love and eat tofu mainly because I hate vegetables. Yes, I know, I am in China, how can I not eat vegetables and still go to China… my mom tells me this all the time. Well, you will be glad to know that you can! By eating tofu instead since most meat dishes have vegetables incorporated, I have been able to dodge many vegetables (I also let my friends eat my vegetables LOL) Fast forward to now, currently in China for three weeks. Incase you haven’t guessed it, I am already getting tired of Chinese food, which meant, I was on a mission to find any type of American food. Luckily, I have a great friend named Sean (aka my translator) who took to me this amazing pizza place called Cafe Gabriel’s! I swear, Chinese pizza doesn’t taste as fattening as American pizza. Also, if you take a look at the picture below this post, you will see my pizza I ordered and a small green square! Guess what is inside, plastic gloves to eat the pizza with! (I am a huge fan of this idea coming to America simply because it makes me feel better knowing that my dirty, germ filled hands are not directly touching the pizza) Cafe Gabriel’s has become my new favorite spot since they have pizza, pasta (YES I SAID IT PASTA, BOLOGNESE IN CHINA), hot dogs with ketchup, and more!

Asian Academics… not as clear cut as you think they’d be

It has been almost a full three weeks since I’ve arrived in China. (I can’t believe it, it’s going by pretty fast) Of course there are going to be major differences, but the major difference that through me for a loop was the academic classes. I knew there would be differences in clothes, music, values, and food such as dog meat, chicken feet (they literally look feet that just came off the chicken a minute ago) etc. However, classes in China are much more relaxed than any of my Western classes will probably ever be.

It was very hard to adjust because I like having a clear cut schedule, with clear cut goals, and clear cut due dates. In China, there is no such thing as clear cut anything when it comes to academics (besides maybe getting your health exam done?) For example, my Chinese language class has only THREE-FOUR people in it. I say three-four because some days there are only three of us and then some days another student decides to pop in and take the class (Guess he felt like waking up) In America, we have attendance and a certain amount of kids must take a class in order for the class to even occur.

In my Chinese class, the teacher tries to match the class’s pace with each individual student, which means, we don’t follow a sturdy schedule on a weekly basis. Another thing is that for the past four literature classes, we have been watching this one Chinese movie with no subtitled and very little explanation from our Chinese teacher who speaks a limited amount of English. (Listen I’m not complaining, it’s super fun to just relax in class and pretend to understand a movie in class, I’ve done it in American classes before. Plus my other classmates are just as confused as I am) I just found it interesting that for our fifth class, our teacher asked us if we wanted to continue watching the movie or move on. Now you tell me….what option do think a group of American 20-24 year olds chose…thats right, we chose to move on! Just kidding, we chose to watch the movie. Don;t get me wrong, maybe this is the teacher’s way of teaching, who am I to judge? It was just interesting to me that he let us decide what we’re doing next class (maybe he thinks highly of our opinions, who knows!)

Overall, my Chinese classes definitely more student oriented than I was expecting (the opposite of what Westerners think about Chinese classes)

China: The Awakening to a New World from a small long islander

Hello all! I am currently writing this post from my dorm room in Guilin China at 11:37 PM. Before I discuss how my 2 weeks have been so far, let’s rewind to the day of me leaving America (and I guess I should also introduce myself a bit.) My name is Beth and I am from a small town on Long Island called Cedarhurst. I was born in China but came to America when I was 15 months old. I have always wanted to go to China and experience my culture firsthand ever since I was a little girl (age 7 or 8) I have never traveled to another country on my own, which as you can imagine, seemed super exciting as well as super terrifying (haha).

The trip to get to China was a bit hard considering I didn’t sleep the entire way there (20 + hours awake) but when I finally arrived at the Hong Kong airport, I was in such awe. It was a huge airport! There were at least four  floors and each floor was like a maze. The flight from Hong Kong to Guilin, Guangxi, China took about an hour. As soon as I got off the plane I was greeted by a taxi driver who spoke zero english and that’s when it hit me, I was truly in China! (I know, you’d think it would’ve hit me earlier) The taxi was organized by my host institution, CLI (the Chinese Language Institute) I got to the dormitory at 3:35 PM. (I was super jet lagged) I was given a tour around the campus by CLI interns 5 minutes later. My intern’s name was Elben. She was very nice and spoke english very well. That night I fell asleep at 8PM (earliest I probably ever went to be in my entire life). I was extremely happy to be in China, I could not wait for the next day to occur.

When the next day occured, it was not what I thought it would be like. It was very rough and confusing because no one really spoke English in my dormitory, not even the staff… My expectations of having New Paltz abroad were slowly disappearing. No one spoke english well enough to understand me, which was super scary! I remembering sitting in the main lobby of the building, freaking out, wondering when I would get food (none of the local shop owners speak english in Guilin) Luckily, I met my first Chinese friend named Andrew. He spoke fluent Chinese as well as English. ( my savior who took me to Walmart, YES, there is a Walmart in China!)

Now let’s fast forward to now. (2 weeks in Guilin) My language skills have improved so much in just a small amount of time. Before China I knew about 30-40 Mandarin words, now, I know at least 100! (It’s only been 2 weeks!) I can understand the locals enough to get by and order food and of course go shopping for clothes (be warned: Chinese clothing sizes are much smaller than American sizes, a small in America is a large, sometimes even extra large in China!) I have met some amazing friends that I can not wait to share with you guys later in my posts, I have also been on some beautiful sight seeing excursions, organized by CLI, and I am becoming more and more fluent in Mandarin everyday! Who knows, my next post could end up being all in Chinese! (Don’t worry, I won’t do that to you guys)



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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.)