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Useful resources for learning about contemporary China:

 English language Sinica Podcast

James Fallows - not always China-related, but always interesting

What's going on in Beijing:

TimeOut Beijing

The Beijinger

China Daily's Beijing Weekend 

Beijing Weather - Weather Underground

 

Useful language learning tools

Chinesepod podcast - free beginners' podcasts

Popup Chinese podcast - another very good podcast series

Hacking Chinese - interesting ideas on learning Chinese efficiently

Skritter character-learning tool for iPad/iPhone - really fun app

Sinosplice - John Pasden's site on many interesting aspects of China and the Chinese language

 

 

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Friday
May182012

5/14-5/18 Visit to Xi'an

On Monday evening, we left for Xi'an on an overnight train. It was a new experience for most of us to travel on a sleeper train, and some of us enjoyed it more than others. 

Upon arrival in Xi'an, several students from Shaanxi Normal University met our group and led us to a bus that took us to the hotel where we were staying. We checked into the campus hotel and took an hour or so to shower, rest, and get ready for the welcome banquet. 

At the banquet, we enjoyed good food and met several members of the faculty of the university. We got another few hours to rest after lunch, and then went to an auditorium within the hotel to hear Kevin and Kai give presentations. 

After the presentations, we had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel and then attended a welcome event put on by the university students. We played games and shared performances (all of them impromptu on our part) and had a lot of fun. 

Here's a picture of two Chinese students playing a duet for us on the Chinese flute and erhu (Chinese violin):

The next morning, we took a bus to see the Terracotta Soldiers. There were three different exhibits, or "pits", as they call them, and a museum. 

We had lunch at a restaurant in the city, spent some time shopping, and then took the bus to the Xi'an City Wall. We climbed to the top of the wall and then got to bike around it on either single or tandem bikes. Here is a pic of Kendra and Chelsea coming in at the halfway point:

We came back to the university campus, rested, and had a late dinner at a nearby restaurant, where we ate skewers of meat, spinach noodles, and barbecued potatoes. (I think it was one of our best meals here!)

On our last morning (Thursday), we walked to the Shaanxi History Museum and spent a few hours there. I'm pretty sure the photo that Kai posted below is from there. Then, we walked to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and enjoyed the musical fountain show that takes place right in front of it. I will try to post a video in addition to the photo. At one point, a waltz came on over the loudspeakers and Kai and Xingyu began dancing. A huge crowd formed around us and people pulled out their cameras and phones to take pictures. 

 

We had lunch in the city again and did some more shopping. There was lots to buy in one particular alley full of booths and shops—clothes, souvenirs, and more. Around 4, we came back to the hotel to collect our baggage, and then took the city bus (a double decker!) to the train station. We had McDonalds for dinner (a treat, since it wasn’t Sunday and we aren’t supposed to eat American food during the week), and then waited for several hours to board the train. Two smaller groups from our large group started card games on the floor of the station, and people started gathering around us to watch (sorry the photo is blurry).

We finally boarded the train a little after 9, and found our compartments, all in a row next to each other. Since we were all together this time (whereas on the ride to Xi’an, a lot of us were split up in different cars), we stayed up for a few hours playing games and chatting. Here is a photo of us being silly in our bunks:

At 10:30am we arrived back in Beijing, and took the subway back to Red Lantern House. While we enjoyed our time in Xi’an, we were happy to be back home on our hutong (street), where the faces have become familiar (especially the ones who sell us food!) and we know our way around. Today we are taking it easy, unpacking and working on our group projects. 

Wednesday
May162012

Replica? Replica!

You might think the terracotta warriors are the object Chinese visitors of the excavation site are most interested in. Given the number of pictures taken the two bronze charriots in the museum annex are a close second. They are 2:1 scale replica of original charriots used some 2.200 years ago. But the sign on the glas box says "Replica". This raises the question: Is the exhibit a replica of a replica? I did some internet research and am pretty sure now: It is the original replica. Many of us left the museum with a set of terracotta warriors - well, replica, of course.  

Sunday
May132012

5/13/12 Beijing Zoo

Today a group of us went to the zoo! We saw lots of really cool birds:

And we enjoyed a sign with a less-than-perfect English translation:

And saw some pandas! (This picture is the only one I got before my camera died...hopefully someone else can post a better one!)

Today, May 14th, we will leave for Xi'an. We have a 13-hour train ride overnight, which should be interesting. Most of us are not taking computers so it may be a few days before we get to update the blog.  

Sunday
May132012

5/12/12 Great Wall!

On May 12th we climbed the Great Wall with many of our BNU counterparts. We got up early and took the subway to the train station, where we met up with them. Our train ride was about an hour and fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, while we arrived with 15 minutes to spare before our train left, this was not nearly enough time to guarantee us seats on the train. We got on to find that there were no seats left for our group of nearly 30, and we had to sit on the floor or stand. Some of us, who were lucky, were graced by the kindness of some of the people already on the train who volunteered to make room for 3 on their two seats. I was personally very moved by the two young men who offered me room to sit even though they'd been on the train for 20 hours already. 

The weather had been really crummy when we left Beijing--cold and rainy--but when we arrived at the wall it was beautiful and sunny! It ended up being a perfect temperature for climbing.

Upon arrival, we bought tickets, walked up a long road past many souvenir shops, and then entered a small plaza at the entrance to the wall. We agreed upon a meeting place and time to leave and split up into groups based on desired walking speed. Then, we climbed!

In some areas of the wall, it was relatively flat:

But in others, it was very steep:

We climbed up for about an hour and a half, stopped for a picnic lunch of snacks, and then climbed down in about an hour. We had a lot of fun, and it was definitely an experience we'll always remember!

 

Sunday
May132012

5/11/12 Korean restaurant and self-regulation seminar

On May 11th, we went to Beijing Normal University and had lunch at a restaurant on campus. It was called Friendship Restaurant, and served some great Korean food. It was the first time we ordered individual dishes since coming to Beijing--normally we eat family style. 

After lunch, we picked up some snacks and then went to the building that houses the psychology department for a seminar on self-regulation. We had a little free time on campus, and then we had dinner in the BNU cafeteria (the BNU students call it the canteen). After dinner we bought more snacks to take with us to the Great Wall, and then we got an early night to rest up for it. 

No photos today, but lots from the Great Wall to come!