Jul 22, 2009

Ne Hao... China!

It feels so unreal now. I ask myself, was I really just in China for 11 days? Crazy where life sends us. It was not a place that ever even made it on my list of dream destinations, but now I've been there, and it was a very crazy experience. China and I had an interesting relationship...there were days that I hated it, and there were days and moments I absolutely loved it. I could spend forever journaling everything that happened, and this post will be long enough already, so instead I'll be totally honest and tell you what I've learned starting from the beginning. Prepare yourself for this epic tale (I would have blogged along the way, but the great firewall of China made that a little difficult, so I'm doing it all in one shot).

The Beijing airport is the biggest, cleanest, and most beautiful airport I have ever been in.

It feels a little bit like a science fiction movie when they come on the airplane with their masks and scan your forehead for your body temperature.

When you tell the people the climate in Utah is hot and dry, and they say "Oh, it's like Beijing"- don't believe them. It is SO hot and humid.

Unlike what many people tend to think, Chinese people don't all look the same. They are all very different.

Everybody smokes and it's disgusting. They are allowed to smoke inside buildings and restaurants too.

Walking around Tsinghua University (where Taylor is) does not feel like a college campus in the least bit...it's just different.

It is easier than expected to sneak into Taylor's dorm room where overnight visitors are not allowed, however I wouldn't recommend it because sleeping two on his tiny hard bed is no bueno.

Using one of these will not be a favorite past time. Fortunately, most bathrooms had at least one western potty, but not always.And a travel size roll of Charmin can be your best friend in a country where t.p isn't provided in public restrooms.

Speaking of squat pots, the Chinese have mastered the squat. Try squatting and keep both feet flat on the floor, it's a little tricky.
People are sitting in this position all the time when taking a rest.

Riding on a bike as pictured is not as easy and graceful as Chinese girls make it look...and if you do it your husband might run you into a few concrete blocks.Warm soy milk and rice porridge for breakfast are totally not my thingChinese people eat A LOT, and fast, and kind of sloppily. How do they stay so tiny?

Taylor TOTALLY speaks Chinese- he amazed me. There were very few cases where there was a communication struggle. He just jabbers away with people and I can't imagine how it would have been without him.

Every vacation is better when you stay in a Marriott that looks like this, at a discounted price, even if there are 8 of you

It was very nice spending a couple days alone with Taylor, but it was also very nice to move into the hotel once everyone else came (Taylor's mom, aunt, and 4 cousins). His little room just wasn't the most comfortable living, and they only turned the hot water on at certain times in the day.

If you go to China with your 6' blond and beautiful cousin, everyone will stare at you- or her really- and try to take pictures.
It is a lot easier than I thought to get away with NOT eating totally weird stuff

Chinese family style eating rocks.

Chinese hot pots, like fondue, also rock.
The Olympic "Water Cube" is one of the coolest buildings I've ever seen
The food I ate, mostly, was totally awesome. Just don't ever look in the kitchen...
Going to church was cool and they'll remind you every week at the start of Sacrament Mtg. the rules concerning religion and proselyting in China. There are 2 international branches and 1 Chinese national branch- they are completely separate and not allowed to interact (the Chinese with the Internationals).

Church was on the 4th floor of this building. The sunday school classroom is located below a club, and I wanted to have a dance party.
The scorpions on these sticks were still moving, and the guys who cook them loved making the cousins scream and freak out
A Chinese fan can make the day more bearable. Peggy and I were loving ours.

I don't think I can ever go back to China in the summer.

China is exhausting.

If Taylor tells you something is really close, don't believe him. "Not very far" is actually at least 2 miles.

Pedicures in China are just as awesome as here, but with less talking and more pointing. And it only cost $10

Little Chinese kids are way cute, but it's impossible to get them to smile. Am I really that funny looking? They also like to shave their heads and give them rat tails.
The Silk Market= tourist shopping bartering rendezvous point

4 floors of knock-offs and other goods. Everything you can imagine- purses, shoes, clothes, coats, luggage, backpacks, scarves, jewelry, trinkets, electronics, EVERYTHING. As you walk down the aisles you are bombarded left and right with "Hey Lady, you want to buy_____, which one you like? I give you good price okay". They latch onto you the second you make eye contact. Some of the people are aggressive and make you crazy, some are so fun and a crack up to talk to. Most of them spoke enough English to get by. You have to barter price for all of it. They whip out their calculator and punch in some ridiculous price, and you argue and walk away a couple times until they settle on your price. It definitely helped having Taylor and his friend Paul from church, who is fluent in Chinese, to help barter. They people hated Paul because he was so good at it. It's awesome, but so exhausting. You can get stuff SO cheap. Taylor even had 3 beautiful tailor-made dress shirts for like $12 each. Love that Silk Market.

The Forbidden City ended up being like a bad day at Disneyland- long lines, super hot, and a lot of Chinese people. It was cool, but was just a long day for all of us.
One long hot day at the Forbidden City in the humidity will give me a bad heat rash-but never as bad as Peggy's.

Walking through Tiananman Square reminded me of the terrible things people go through to fight for Freedom.

Communism sucks.
The people there have no idea. Ignorance is not bliss. Internet is limited, only Chinese T.V is allowed, only Chinese propaganda newspaper...so much control.

After about 3 days, pretty much everyone in your group will have raging diarrhea (except me YAY!)

It was so hard to see all of the poor and the beggars. We gave this guy some money and he played us some awesome Chinese tunes on his homemade whatever it is. So amazing.
There really are over 17 million people in Beijing, and I think they all ride the subway at the same time. You may have to cannonball yourself into it in order to fit.
The Chinese have no personal space. None.

Stop touching me.

Don't be surprised if somebody butts in front of you in a line, every time.

Every man for himself.

I hated riding the subway.

Chinese are the craziest and most aggressive drivers I have ever seen, EVER. They honk their horns like it's their job.

Watch out, that car WILL run you over after they honk at you.

Survival of the fittest takes on a whole new meaning.

Behold, the China Belly. The men have figured out their best heat coping method. Taylor may have caught me a couple of times following suit. I couldn't help it- it was SO hot.
I loved the old people, they are so happy and hearty. They are always out singing, dancing, and playing games.
If someone is going out of their way to help you with something, they probably want money from you. People there don't seem to do many things simply out of the kindness of their heart. I did not like this. You can be getting along with someone so great, and then the second you don't give them what they want they act so offended and the friendship is over. It's just the culture.

Did I mention every man for himself?

I've never felt more rude in my life- constantly ignoring people, waving my hand at them, or saying "Bu Yao!" which means "Don't Want!"- but they are used to it.

The Temple of Heaven was quite pleasant.

Ribbon dancing is not as easy as they make it look.

If you give Peggy and her girls ribbons, they will really put on a show.
Seeing the new Harry Potter movie in China is just as good as here- maybe better with no lines, no camping out- and yes it was in English with Chinese subtitles that you hardly notice.

I heart Engrish
We loved reading and laughing at all the funny shirts. They were everywhere.

Chinese kids don't wear diapers. Instead, they have a slit in their pants allowing for a go anywhere. Don't ask me how that works...

Chinese people come up with some pretty awesome poses for pictures. This one is their favorite...

The Summer Palace day was a nice one. We were all feeling a little better and it was cloudy with a pleasant breeze. This was the Emperor's getaway location.
Climbing the Great Wall was absolutely one of the most amazing things I've ever done.
It's kind of a funny story...
It was raining so hard that day. We were trying to figure out where the bus was that would take us there (and just FYI there are different sections of the wall with different names that you can visit). Taylor was talking to a women who was giving him information. She was taking us to the bus stop and trying relentlessly to convince him to go to Simatai wall instead of Mutanu. Taylor was sure she must be getting paid to get people to go to Simatai. He told her he wasn't sure that's where he wanted to go, so she helped us find the bus and we get going only to find out she totally put us on the bus to Simatai. Tricky lady. So Taylor went to ask her if we could pay her for all of her help and she insisted we didn't. WHAT? Someone wanted to help us without expecting something in return? Wierd. BUT...like 5 minutes into the bus ride she tells us that once the bus drops us off it is another hour to the wall and she will drive us in a mini bus there, but it costs 120RMB a person. Taylor argued and bartered with her until he got it down to 20RMB a person (which is like $3) which is really good for her to take us all the way there, wait for us, and take us all the way back. Seriously-**Never pay the price they ask for ANYTHING** She was tricky, but she was good to us. We kept joking on the way there that she was taking us somewhere to steal our kidneys. These are our scared facesSo after an hour bus ride and hour drive, we finally arrived at the wall. We rode the cable cars up the mountain to the wall and then it was a 6 mile hike to where we would end in Simatai. It was cloudy, so the view wasn't as spectacular, but it was so worth it. The sun wasn't beating down on us, and there was NOBODY else there. It was amazing. This part of the wall isn't as restored either, so it's not as popular. It's definitely not a walk in the park, it's a hard trek and can be very steep. Pretty much everyone in our group was miserable except me, Taylor, and his mom.

There was a group of Chinese women who are nearby farmers that followed us most of the way. They go up everyday and try to sell you things and assist you in order to get money. At first they were totally bugging and wouldn't go away, but then when some members of our group were really struggling they were right there holding their hands and helping them along the way. We would ask them questions about the wall and which way to go. They were great. But, as I explained before, they were mad at us in the end when we wouldn't pay them the large amount of money they wanted. It's not like we asked them to be there, but we did want to pay them something for their help. They didn't want to just take our money, they wanted us to buy, but we made them just take some money and said goodbye.

At the very end, Taylor and I took a zipline down to the bottom across the river. It was awesome. It took us like 6 hours to finish. Our van driver was so good to not shaft us. In the end, we (at least me, Taylor, and Lisa) were glad she tricked us into going to Simatai.
I climbed the Great Wall of China!

After a week in China, I get a little crabby.

After a week in China, I was sick of eating Chinese food and was totally diggin' KFC and McDonalds

Once your cousins have finished their shopping and you make them hike all over China, they will probably want to go home early. And they did. It's easy to do when you are all flying on buddy passes and can leave whenever you want to. So for the last 2 days it was just me, Taylor, his mom, and cousin Alison.

Red Bean ice cream is surprisingly pretty good. Doesn't taste like beans at all.

If you go to the crazy meat street, hold your nose. The combination of smells is nauseating. Go ahead and click this picture, read those little signs by the food.
After a week in China, I wanted to kiss the feet of the man in customs who said"Welcome home."

I was so happy to be back in America. I'm so happy to BE American.
But the greatest thing I learned in China, through all the good and the bad, was how much I loved the people. It caught me by surprise. I LOVED them, and I look forward to the day when I can share with them what I have-freedoms and all.


  1. Wow this is so cool, the book Wild Swans was a big eye opener for me about the history and social aspects of communist china. I recommend it if you have not picked it up.

  2. Hi Jody. Loved your visit thrugh China with you.Thanks for sharing

  3. it sounds like you had an awesome trip. looking at all of those pictures made me miss you two so much!

  4. OH China! I'm a bit jealous of all the fun times, exciting adventures, sexy rashes and blisters, etc. Glad you got to see Tay and experience what he is doing. We missed the Sparks traveling party this year....can't wait til next.

  5. W.O.W. How amazing. I'm slightly nauseous and sweaty just reading. I'm glad you survived and conquered! I can't believe you were in China. That pretty much blows my mind. (Now come home...)


  6. Wow! That sounds like an awesome experience! The meat market pictures are excellent. I'm so glad you keep up your blog so I can read about cool stuff like this. Welcome home JO!

  7. I could go for a refreshing seahorse popsicle right about now.