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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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Tuesday
May052015

Day One: Arrival, baby food, and street crossing

Lori, Mandy, and Nora here! After a 12 hour and 54 minute flight full of movies and questionable noodles, we made it to Beijing! A group of us took a van from the airport to Beijing Normal University, with limited personal space. We are all pleasantly surprised with the living situation! We're staying in an international dorm, which is pretty much like a hotel. After settling in to our rooms yesterday, we went to Friendship Restaurant, where we had our first taste of real Chinese food!! We got a bunch of dishes to share for the table, the best of which was called "stir fry baby food."

us and our luggage!

Today, we walked to get breakfast, grabbing some Jian Bing from a food cart. Jian Bing is like a crepe, filled with egg, scallions, lettuce and hoisin sauce. After breakfast, we went to a class at BNU and met our psychology counterparts! It was great to meet students who were doing the same work that we did back at Michigan. We're so excited to work with them to present our results at the end of our time here.

Kevin and Kai talk to the BNU students!

After class, we went to the BNU cafeteria to grab some lunch. Their dining hall is HUGE! The largest one is four floors, with different stations for meat, vegetables, breads, noodles and cold foods. There are so many options, and so many students at BNU, it was a bit stressful to grab our food! Once we did we sat with some students from the psychology class, and got to talk to them about their experiences here.

This is dining hall food?!

After lunch, we had some free time to explore the campus and city. A group of us explored off campus, succesfully crossed the street, and proceeded to have a celebration while people stared. We bought a bunch of snacks, including dried mango and mini fruit jellys, and then headed back to the dorms. Tonight, we're getting dinner and then going to a class taught by Kevin and Kai, and afterwards some BNU students are going to show us around! 

On a pedestrian bridge in the city!

We'll keep you updated :) 

 


 

Sunday
Apr122015

Packing (a preliminary list)

Some things to think about in packing

 

  • Have one set of somewhat dressed-up clothes for our final dinner with the BNU hosts. For men, you don't need a suitcoat, but a good button up shirt and non-jeans pants, and the equivalent for women.
  • Sometimes it rains hard in Beijing in May, so bring some rainwear
  • Some flipflops can be handy for the bathrooms
  • If you use a Mac, it may be useful to bring the adapter for wired ethernet.
  • Bring any kind of medicine or vitamins that you take. If you have anything that's prescription, bring the prescription and you might want to check with CGIS or HTH to make sure it's ok.
  • Bring your HTH card.
  • We can wash clothes but drying can be slow, so bring light clothing that dries quickly, if you can.
  • Much of the clothing you own is made in China, so don't overpack - you can certainly buy anything you decide you need.
  • Make sure you have a small pack that will work for a 3-day trip or so (perhaps your carryon), and make sure you can carry all of your luggage up stairs in case you need to do so.
  • In the past, it's been more of a problem that people brought too much stuff and so had trouble getting around their rooms, than that they forgot to bring things they needed. So don't overpack.

 

Sunday
Apr122015

Getting ready to go 

Hard to believe that in just over three weeks our group will be reconvened in Beijing.

Now might be a good time to start taking care of a few trip-related tasks that should be done in advance.

1. Make sure any electronics you want to bring say something like "100-240 v" on the power adapter. [voltage in the U.S. is 110 volts; in China is 220 volts].

2. If you're bringing a laptop, I strongly recommend getting a USB drive and making a clone of your hard disk to leave at home. For Macs, the free program "Super Duper" will do this for you, and there are equivalent Windows programs. I do this whenever I travel. It means that if your computer breaks or is stolen, you still have your data. One year on this trip a young woman put her laptop on the floor during the flight. Her seatmate stepped on it when he got up to go the bathroom, and that was that. Things do happen and it's good to be prepared for them.

3. Some of the online services you know and love won't be available to you in China - Facebook, Twitter, and quite possibly Gmail, including mail to your umich.edu account. So set up another account and you can forward all of your mail to it (you can set this up on the Umich Gmail website). I use iCloud, but Hotmail, Yahoo, and many others work just fine. But make sure this works before you leave.

4. Take a picture or make a list of every card you want to bring with you, and particularly the number to call if it's stolen. If possible, leave a list of these numbers with someone at home, so that if your wallet is stolen you can make one call home and get them to cancel cards for you. Note that you can't call 800 numbers easily from outside the U.S., so write down the other number as well.

5. For cards you want to bring with you, make sure you contact the bank or issuer and tell them that you'll be in China. If you have some kind of 2-factor authentication (such as a text message from the bank when you login), you may want to turn that off while you're gone if you won't have access to it.

6. If you have a cellphone under contract, you may need to contact the phone company to get it unlocked so that you can get a local SIM card in China. I believe that LTE iPhones with Verizon (5,5s) are unlocked for GSM SIM cards (since Verizon doesn't use them), and I think that they should just work in China with a Chinese SIM card. The last I knew, AT&T would not unlock phones under contract, but I think T-Mobile will. If you have an older or unlocked GSM phone (AT&T or T-Mobile), you can bring it along and we can get you a local SIM card. We also have about 5 GSM phones that we will distribute as needed so that, at least, each pair of roomates will have a phone.

The downside is that people won't be able to use your US number to call you if you put a new SIM in your phone. 

We have some cheap non-smart phones there and we'll get more as need be so that everyone has a local number. But if you have an unlocked phone that you like that will work, please bring it. And don't forget your charger (and make sure it's 110-240 voltage)

7. Check with your bank to see how much they will charge to get money in China and whether there are any ATMs that are cheaper than others. Make sure that your PIN is not longer than 6 digits.

8. Make sure that you can carry your luggage, and bring along a smaller bag that will last you for 3-4 days for the train trip to Xi'an. Don't bring more than you need to - we won't have a huge amount of space and we will be able to wash clothes and you should feel no compunction to be fashionable - you'll just show me up if you do. Also, you probably will want to get some souvenirs, so leave space to bring them home.

9. When you get to Beijing, it may take a day or two to set up our email access. There is an internet cafe in the place we're staying, where you can buy a coke and connect to the network. So please plan to email your family when you get in and make sure they know when that is (Beijing is 12 hours ahead of Ann Arbor, but it will probably take you at least a couple of hours to get your stuff at the airport, get to campus, and get settled in). I'll send you some emergency numbers and email addresses to give your parents in case you forget to contact them when you get in.

10. If you plan to communicate with your family using something like Facetime or Skype, set that up and practice before you go. Having a regular plan to communicate with loved ones where you control the frequency of the calls is important, because it's jarring to switch contexts between your world there and your life back in the U.S.

11. Calling and text messages internationally can be quite expensive. Programs like iMessage, Wechat, and Whatsapp are good alternatives, but you might want to set that up with the people you want to text before you go. US Cellphone carriers often have cheaper text and voice packages if you set that up in advance, but it's still a bit expensive and you'll lose access to that if you put in a local SIM to have a local number.

12. You definitely want to make sure that your antivirus software is up to date. Computer viruses are much more prevalent in China than in the U.S., so you want to make sure everything is patched and up to date. This is particularly true for Windows machines, but applies to Macs as well. 

We never know exactly what the situation will be with regards to programs being blocked or the way cellphones work until we get there, although the trend is been to make things more difficult. Be sure to tell your Facebook friends that you'll be dropping off that site for a few weeks, and you're welcome to point them to this blog, where I hope you'll be posting the story of the trip.

 

Sunday
Feb012015

瑞雪兆豐年

Another year, another GCC Beijing trip, with the largest group we've taken to date.

Today we had our first lunch meeting with the visiting students and faculty from Beijing Normal. We're in the midst of a serious winter storm, but as the Chinese chengyu cited above holds, timely snow foretells a good harvest.

I've posted some pictures below (click on the thumbnail for a larger version)

 


 

Wednesday
May282014

Aaaaaand that's a wrap!

And like that, our month-long journey to the other side of the world has come to a close.

We gave our final research presentations to one of the BNU psychology classes, and also included a bit about life at Michigan. Many of the students were in awe that there are only 2 students per dorm room at UM, because at BNU there are generally 5-6 people in a similar sized room. I hadn't realized how spoiled we really are! We also taught the BNU students the Michigan fight song which hopefully encourages some of them to come visit us in Ann Arbor in the future! :)

That night, we had a final goodbye dinner with the BNU students and enjoyed our last Chinese meal. By far the most interesting thing I tried was sticky rice wrapped in (what I believe was) seaweed. Such a cool flavor! We exchanged a few small gifts (they really enjoyed the Ghiradelli chocolates Mylaica brought!) and we took some pictures to remember our new friends. The BNU students gave us a TON of Chinese cookies and yogurt to take back to our apartment.

The next morning we said our goodbyes. A few of us flew in a group through Air Canada (which I totally recommend), but others had separate flights at differing times during the day. I'm sad to say goodbye to such a great group of people! It's been a life-changing month, and I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything! Looking forward to coming back to China in the future!

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