china is amazing. It's really hazy and polluted. Even so, they tell me that the pollution is much better than ever before because they only let half the cars drive each day to try and clean up for the Olympics. If the car's license plate ends in an even number one day then they can drive and the next day only odd numbers can drive. It's crazy. The sky is still really hazy and it would be a serious stretch to call it blue. I woke up early and went up to the top floor of our dorm to take some cool pictures. It's really beautiful here. I still can't believe I'm here. It's amazing. I feel so blessed and I can't wait for the fam to do Sparks vs China next year when they come visit.
I met Chunlei at the airport, he had come to UCSB before to work with our group. He was really kind and spent the whole day helping me out. We took a very scenic way home through a very pretty part of downtown. We saw the olympic park including the Bird's Nest of course. It was pretty amazing. There are huge sky scrapers everywhere. The drivers are the craziest thing I've seen since Argentina- and THAT is really saying something. They are totally nuts here. We took a cab for part of the way home and I swear we almost murdered 7 people. It is really scary. People cross the road like frogger too, you know, one lane at a time with 50 mph cars whizzing by on either side. The buses and trains get so crammed full of people that the doors will barely close- and then they cram 10% more. It's unreal. I get a few funny looks for having blue eyes and freckles. It's a weird feeling to look so different from everybody else.
I am staying in the International Students Dorm on the campus at Tsinghua University. It is a very small room (maybe 10X15 feet) with two people. My roommate is named Cozy, he's from Japan and he doesn't speak a lick of English and only a tiny bit of Chinese.... which makes for some interesting communication. We may or may not just play pictionary, charades and guesstures everytime we see eachother. I think I made his day by giving him a banana this morning though. He looked really hungry.
So where else do I even start. The food. The food is amazing. It's really really good. Way better than any Chinese food I ever had at home. It's cool too, the building has four stories and each story has 17 or 18 chefs so you just walk around and look for something good and then you point at it and say "yi fu zhe"..."liang fu na"... (1 of this, 2 of that) and they plop it onto little plates. It costs next to nothing. A huge meal that chunlei and I could barely finish was 5 yuan which is about 90 cents. It's great. Professor Pan Wei gave me about 800 yuan for food and stuff while I'm here to live(plus he paid for my rent) on which should be way more than enough. I think I did end up eating a rodent last night. I totally saw it's little rodent face and arms and thought my eyes were playing tricks on me until I bit into it and crunch, crackle, snap, it was all fur and bones. Yuck. Otherwise the food has been kick butt.
They have these dumpling things full of something brown and stringy that are excellent. The rice soup stuff with fruit spices for breakfast was better than any oatmeal i ever had and the vegetable platters are mega good too. You pay with a charge card which is really easy to use and you eat out of dog bowls. It's funnty, nobody in the whole cafeteria had a drink with their meal. They just don't. I mean you can buy a drink but I didn't see a single soul with one. weird. Plus people spit the bones and gristly things or egg shells right out on the table and just leave them there. There are no forks so I'm taking A.P. Chopsticks every meal. it's really hard, all the other kids in the Professor Wei Pan's research group laugh their butts off at the stupid american trying to catch the greasy hamster bites in his dog bowl with his chopsticks which he's holding like small hunting spears.
The campus is very clean and nice. People are zooming by on bicycles and electric bicycles all over the place. I just rented a bicycle this afternoon. "how have you been getting around until then" you ask... well... I'll put up a funny video to explain that little gem. I'll just say getting pumped is still way in fashion here and the bicycles are pretty rusty and decrepit. I was getting pumped earlier and our combined weight exploded the poor bike. he had to take it to "HU the Bike Doctor" who proceeded to turn it into a frankenbike for us. But now I've rented my own bike so problem solved as far as getting around.
The research group here is really cool. Everyone is super friendly and nice. Plus they all look to me like I'm some sort of genius or something. Truth is most all of them have been in grad school longer than I have and probably know more than I do. I don't let that stop me though, it's pretty fun to hear about their research and give my opinion on what they should do next. I am slaughtering their names though. For example this one girl is named Jun Wen but she pronounced it kinda like John Wayne so now every time I say her name John Wayne just slips out and she's so happy that I remember her name. Little does she know I'm thinking of a gun slingenest buckaroo. Another guy's name is Zhixue which is pronounced like Joshua sorta so I remember that. The rest are just to crazy to try and remember. so I fake it and mumble some random syllables. They did give me a chinese name though. Apparently I actually applied to Tsinghua university and was accepted for my brief stay but I needed a chinese name, so they just made one up for me it's Shi Tai lu which apparently means fullness or happyness or something and it sounds like taylor... sorta.
So it hasn't been all rose colored though. (That's a saying in spanish... I don't think it translates) The first trick China played on me was the bathroom. Check out the picture
These toilets are something else. They are flush with the ground with nothin to sit on so it's B-16 bomber practice... crazy huh? Plus I don't know about you folks but when I finish bombing practice you almost can't help but have to pee and the way you're sitting you pee right on your pants. Which makes for a strange game of charades/explanation to your Japanese roommate named Cozy. Besides, as Jodi rightly exclaimed, some muscles were just meant to be relaxed during a trip to the bathroom.
China trick number two you ask? Well after the nightmarish experience in the bathroom I come to find out that toilet paper is not free or provided in many bathrooms. Hmm... wish somebody would have let me in on that little secret before I went on my bombing practice. Let's just say- it wasn't pretty. I may or may not be coming home with one set less of garments.
The showers are weird here too. They don't have hot water heaters heated at all times- I found that one out the hard way too after one extremely cold shower. Cozy used some tricky sign language to tell me there are showering hours. The showers of course are public "Tree of life" ones or stalls with no curtains in front. It's a little weird.
Tomorrow morning three girls in the research group offered to take me to the Forbidden City! They know somebody there who is going to let us in for free too. It should be amazing.
I'll post more pictures and stories soon. It's hard though, they Great Firewall of china does not love my blog site and it's taken a lot of work to be able to post. Some sites are blocked too. Drudgereport and foxnews are edited. I did see Sarah Palin's speech on youtube though. It was one helluva 36 minutes i tell ya. I'm so pumped for the election now! I love that lady. She's just really something else, she's like, to quote glenn beck, Ronald Reagan in a skirt.
Anyways. Lots of Love!