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)



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.)

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.

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.

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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