So today is our last day in Harbin. Tomorrow we’re going to take a train to Beijing and on the 18th I’m flying back home, to Latvia.
On Monday we had our last (really last) school day to eat with the headmasters. On Tuesday we went to the amusement park with Thai girls. Yesterday all of us (and all the Thai girls except for Valentine) went to eat at a buffet and of course I ate so much that I couldn’t move for an hour or so… Today in the morning I dyed my hair, then went to join Gabri, Mo and BaoBao to sell my clothes and then we went to eat lunch with the Korean students. It was a bit awkward because we didn’t really talk to them that much at school and their lunch was just… wow. We ate, talked really really little and then took a lot of pictures. Really. A lot. Also on the 18th is my host sister’s birthday so I bought her a present and today at home I asked my family to take pictures with me. Now I’m kinda finishing packing and… well.
Lunch with the Koreans.
And my family. Me, my sister, my really, really shy brother, YouYou (the dog), kind-of grandma (she’s host mom’s aunt) and mom. Dad was taking the picture.
This is my last blog entry from China, I guess.
This year was something that I will never forget and something I would never change. I love all of my classmates and I will miss them very much when I’m back, I hope we can see each other again in the future. Also our teacher, Zhou laoshi. We’ve been sometimes bad to her, ignoring the school rules and so on but she’s been so nice to us all this time, really, I’ll miss her a lot. And she’s getting married soon!!
Since I was the first AFS student from Latvia to come to China I think my experience was bad. If anyone will ask if they should go to China or not I will tell them this: you should go if you are really interested in China and/or Chinese language. If you just want to experience something different and exciting then I don’t advise you to go to China, I advise you to go to Thailand or South America or India… it depends on the continent where you want to go.
When I’ll be back in LV I think I won’t have internet for a few days so see you in a.. few days!
THANK YOU AND GOODBYE CHINA, I WILL MISS YOU!!!
So on Saturday me and Gabri returned from Datong. The trip was tiring, but fun.
First we took a day train to Beijing (11 hours) and then from Beijing a night train to Datong (6 hours). Usually it’s really hard for me to fall asleep on a train but this time it was quite okay. We arrived in Datong at 6am and went to look for a hotel. Our classmates Jake and Ning already went there so they told us to look for a hostel not far from the Red Flag square (center of the city). We took a taxi there and then we saw that the city center is kinda… not there. It was all in construction so we were quite confused about the directions. After walking for a while we went into a few hotels and after maybe an hour or more we went into the cheapest hotel we could find, it was quite nice.
After a quick shower we headed out to go to Yungang grottoes. It was quite close, we had to take two buses and we were there. There are Buddhist carving sculptures in caves. It was interesting but there were so many that it got boring after a while. We saw French people… And my shoulders got burned, it was hot. Then we came back to our hotel, took another shower and went out again. It started to rain so we went to eat and after that we hesitated a bit whether we should go somewhere far or stay close to the hotel. In the end we went to a Datong city wall (they call it ‘ancient city wall’ but actually it’s not more than 5 years old…). It was still raining slightly but we went there and we rented a bike (only 9 yuan for an hour!!). It was fun riding around the wall and saying hello to random Chinese. After that we ate and went to the hotel to sleep.
The next morning we went to the Hanging monastery. First we took one bus and after that we had to change but we didn’t really know to what. We went to some place and there were a lot of taxi’s offering to take you to places but of course they weren’t cheap and then one kind man pointed the Datong bus station to us (thank you!!!). The tickets were 30 yuan each person. While we were waiting for the bus we saw other foreigners and of course they were going to the same place as us and on the bus we introduced teach other. One girl and one guy were from Israel and one guy from Mexico. They didn’t know Chinese so we stayed together all the time. The bus ride was around an hour and a half, longer than we expected. The monastery itself was magnificent. It’s a temple built into a cliff and only oak crossbeams are keeping it there. I thought it would be bigger thou. After going through the temple we went to look for a bus but there were only taxi drivers who, again, tossed big prices at us. But after a lot of bargaining we got 40 yuan for one person and all in one taxi (we were 5, only 4 are allowed to go in one taxi). The ride was fun, we were talking about us studying, them traveling… The Mexican guy went to Latvia and he said it was beautiful! Also the taxi driver was collecting foreign money and the Mexican guy had pesos and he exchanged it for an old 2 yuan bill (it’s out of use now and is quite rare) and later I exchanged it for 20 yuan (before I tried to buy it from the taxi driver himself but he gave it away only by exchange). We arrived in Datong train station and me and Gabri wanted to find an earlier train because we had nothing else to do and they said that we can come over to their hotel if we don’t find one. We didn’t find it. We went to their hotel but they weren’t there so we went to eat and then we walked to the train station and took a brain to Beijing. It was a night train and it was awful… I couldn’t sleep at all. When we got off it was 4am and we were like zombies. The train from Beijing to Harbin was nice thou. Only 9 hours and the seats were soft and we could kinda lie down so I slept a lot on that one.
When we arrived in Harbin we went to a hotel near the central street and slept until 9pm. Then we went to eat and then to the Russian size bar. We arranged that all the AFS students meet there and hang out there for the last time.
Today was out last (for real) school day. The only reason we came to school actually was the lunch with our headmasters and teachers. The food was good, yes. Then we cleaned up our classroom (now all the stuff I had at school is at home). And actually I am worried that I have more than the allowed 23 kilos…
Only 7 days, oh my oh my…
Datong city wall.
The Hanging monastery
See what is holding up the monastery? And yes, I jumped while I was there. :D
9 dragon wall behind me.
Small, old houses in the heart of Datong. People still live there.
18 days left.
Every day we’ve been doing pretty much nothing at school. We still have our chinese classes but most of the time we just don’t pay attention to the teacher so she doesn’t even start the lesson. The only thing that we did this week is probably making a model of our school because our ‘DIY’ teacher gave us this homework, but mainly only Gabriele and Reetta made it, me, Ning and Jan just helped a bit.
Me, Gabriele and Reetta decided to go to our last travel, to Datong. But Reetta hesitated a bit because she thought she would be like a third wheel so in the end she decided to go to Tianjin alone. So next week on Wednesday we are going first to Beijing and then to Datong. Around 16 hours on a train, two days in Datong and then back. After that Gabri also wants to go to the Russian size club for the last time but we are not sure if somebody else is coming too.
Today something quite interesting happened. One Xinjiang student came to our classroom and started showing us magic tricks. He even told us how he does some, now I know how magic works, hehe! After that we started to talk about Xinjiang culture a bit. In China there are 56 ethnicities and in Xinjiang there are… actually some people told us 53 and some told us 13, but anyway, a lot. And each of those minorities have their own language so the guy who came there could speak his language – Kazakh, and also the most spoken language (after mandarin chinese) in Xinjiang – Uyghur. He showed us how to write hello and damn, Arabic script is so awesome.
Studying is over! On Saturday we went to an HSK practice lesson (which was quite useless) and after that me, Gabriele, Reetta and Karina (German, from another school) went shopping for souvenirs to the place where Thai girls showed us. I bought a lot! I made a list and yeah… Now I’ll have souvenirs to give! After that I went home to study for HSK.
On Saturday me, Reetta, Jake, Ning and Karina were supposed to meet at the university at 8:30 (the test started at 9am) but I forgot that we had to be there half an hour before and Ning was late so we ran like crazy to the right place. We didn’t miss it so we took the test. I thought that it wasn’t that hard but it wasn’t easy either. I think I passed it but I will see only next month. By the way, you have to know 1200 characters for level 4. 600 for level 3 (Matteo took level 5 – 2500 characters). After the test we went to eat at our favorite Xinjiang restaurant Alibaba and then I met Gabri and we went to a flower park near to his home. The flower park is huge! But it was so extremely hot that for about an hour we laid down on the glass in the shadow. There last few days are so hot, +25-30C and tomorrow it’s going to be +35 (but after tomorrow it’s going to be +25).
Our school has a show for 3rd grade students who are graduating and we were asked to do a performance and now we are working on it. Believe it or not – it’s a dance. None of us can dance. We mixed 4 songs together and the last song is Party Rock Anthem and we learned the dance in the middle of the song. It was a bit hard to learn but now it’s ok, it’s kinda cool to know that dance. But when we are practicing it’s sooooooooo hooooooooooooot!
Only 27 days left until we fly home!
There’s around a month left until we come back home. Nothing really interesting has been happening, we’re going to school every day, preparing for the HSK test…
At the Russian club we met a guy from Rwanda who told us about a church he goes to so a few weekends ago we went to a church. The mess was in English but there were a lot of Chinese (I think half of them didn’t understand anything). At first there was singing, and then a university teacher (most probably from USA) came out and talked about Bible stuff and then singing again. I don’t go to the church often and it was quite interesting, especially that it’s in China. When we went outside some old-er looking foreigners came to us and started to talk, where we’re from, what do we do there and so on. Then they invited us to each lunch in a Chinese restaurant. It was quite strange because they were all… really Christian but only Alessandra from us believes in God. That was the first time I prayed before eating. But we got free lunch!
After eating lunch we went to a Chinese-Japanese museum. It’s about Japanese invading Chinese and testing toxic chemicals on them.
Last weekend we went to a Confucius temple with Thai girls and our history teacher. It was just another temple and it looked quite new so not so interesting. After that we went shopping with Thai girls and they showed us a place to buy souvenirs for our family so we’ll come back there soon.
This weekend we have the HSK so 好好学习 (good good studying).
The Confucius temple.
A little something that I wrote but didn’t post on time…
Harbin’s weather is weird. Just two weeks ago it was snowing and today it’s +23°C. I always looked at the weather in Harbin and also Latvia, Italy and USA and Harbin (in winter) has always been the coldest place, but now it’s the warmest. The weather changed dramatically in just two weeks.
Other than that – we wrote the HSK (hanyu shuiping kaoshi (Chinese Proficiency test)), me and Ning took level 3, Gabriele and Jan took level 4 and Matteo level 5. I’m not ready for level 4 yet so I took level 3 so I would be sure that I pass at least something, next month I’ll take level 4.
But recently I’ve been so lazy with studying. At school we don’t study at all, at home I try to learn new characters but I’m so sleepy that I simply give up after an hour or so.
It’s Reetta’s 18th birthday this weekend and we wanted to go out to a club but there’s a big Harbin sports meeting in a university and we have to march in Sunday at 7am so we can’t…
Now we don’t have that much time left in China so we’re applying to independent travel a lot, even if we can go to places only really near to Harbin.
I guess there’s nothing else. Oh, we didn’t celebrate easter.
I told that I will write if I change family… well I’m writing now! But I changed family on Tuesday. I was so nervous while I was still at my old home because a situation had been raised up. My mother talked with our teacher and they want to do a little renovation at our home and they wanted me to live somewhere else for a week or so and laoshi wanted to tell my family that they found a family but we talked and decided that it would be better if I move in til the end of my stay because I’m preparing to take the HSK test and I need speaking practice but they were busy all the time so they can’t talk with me. Of course that was just for them because I wanted to change before that.
So on Monday our teacher called my sister and explained all that to her and she started helping me put all my stuff in the suitcase. After we finished packing she got so upset that she even started to cry. Usually she hardly talked to me and sometimes when I made some small mistakes she would get angry at me so I thought that I got tired of them and they got tired of me the same way, but Chinese are weird. She said that she likes me, but she has to study so much that she didn’t have any time for talking and so on. She also said that dad (who I talked to maybe 5 times during the whole 7 months) doesn’t really like me so she thought also about the parents that it would be better for them to let me go.
Tuesday morning we arrived to school with all my stuff, we took it to the classroom and after lunch we called my new host sister and we went to my new home. I met some of my new family members, left my stuff and then we went back to school.
So the house, as I mentioned before, has 2 floors. It’s rather big. I have my own room, right next to Guan Yu Ran’s (my host sister). Actually it was her brother’s room but they made him move downstairs (I felt a bit bad for that). And actually my brother’s 11 and the nanny is not a nanny but a maid who lives in the house. They have 2 small dogs, one is not so friendly with strangers and the other one is… stupid. I miss my doggy… And they also have birds, some weird lizards that live in the water and something else…
Yesterday after dinner I stayed in the kitchen for a longer while and I talk with mom, the kinda grandmother (she’s as old as a grandmother would be but she’s not my sister’s grandmother, just some kind of a relative) and the maid, it was nice talking for such a long time in Chinese. Then I went upstairs to my sister’s room and talked also with her. Now I talk in Chinese so much, I really think that now that I can talk at home I am getting more practice. Also my sister is so awesome. Her school grades are not as good as Liu Da’s, but I really don’t care about that. She can play piano, violin, she can make awesome things from paper, and she’s really good at drawing manga and other stuff.
Oh and Thaigirls started the countdown til our comeback, I really dislike that but can’t help but notice. 79 days til coming back.
4.03.12 part 2
Every time somebody mentions it I get an ache in my heart but I must admit… we don’t have that much time left here in China and I want to start confessing.
It’s a good place for tourism but for a long time living it really sucks.
There’s a lot of things I want to tell, let’s start from the hierarchy. China is a communist country and after living here for a while you can really feel it. If a person above you says something it’s definitely like that. If the person orders you to do something you must obey it without questions. For example we are foreigners, in western countries yes, we much listen to the teacher but only about study things. If our teachers tells us – wear your uniform, keep your hair in a pony tail, study quietly in your free time – we start to complain because it’s not something that a teacher would tell us to do in our countries. The teacher then gets surprised that we do that (but not anymore because they’re used to us already). And in the family, for example, when I asked my family to let me stay out at New Years and they said no and I started to ask why and ask for reasons my sister got mad at me and just said ‘it’s the way it is, don’t ask why’. They never ask why, if a parent, a teacher or if anyone who’s above you says something you simply do it. That makes me so frustrated. I tried to explain that I don’t do anything without a reason but of course they can’t understand. They even tried to make up some reasons but when I told them something against it they just made up a new one which showed that they really have no reason and they just want me to obey.
Then there’s a very known problem – too many people. At least in big cities like Harbin, there are too many people everywhere. I especially hate crowded buses that in a 40 minute ride you can’t get a seat.
Also that they are so family centered. I think one of the reasons why my family doesn’t like me that much is that I spend too much time outside with my friends. I mean yes, family is important but not that important that you have to spend all the time at home even if they are doing nothing. Like my sister – most of the time she stays at home to study but even in the winter break she didn’t go out a lot. She just stayed at home and watched tv or something. A rare time when they went out with us they didn’t really do anything, actually, my sister started to study. I asked another Chinese ‘do you ever have fun?’. I really get frustrated when I think about this. They accuse me of not staying home a lot but what the hell can I do at home? It frustrates me that they don’t understand.
Also Chinese’ shyness and teenage couples. At school the students, of course, can’t have girlfriends or boyfriends. If the teacher knows that you have they ask you to break up or even call your parents (which causes them a lot of trouble). But surprisingly enough they do have boyfriends and girlfriends but the frustrating thing is that they are almost like friends. Since they can’t ask like a couple in school and they always stay at home their relationship moves so sloooowly. And they break up a lot. They stay together for maybe 2 weeks, a month tops, but then they break up. And when I ask why they even say that they didn’t really like the person. I don’t understand why they get together in the first place. One girl told me that it’s so boring at school that she doesn’t care who asks to be her boyfriend just as long as she has one.
That’s all I can think of now but I think there’s a lot more…
The big winter holiday is over, all the good kids have returned to school.
Anyway, I shall write something about Xian and Shanghai (if I will be able to remember).
We took a train from Harbin to Shanghai which was 33 hours non-stop. And it was a normal (I mean with seats, not beds) train. It started to go in the morning so we had to withstand only one night (for me, a person who has trouble with falling asleep in a bed, it was torture) and two days. We got to Shanghai and after two hours or so we had the train to Xian. Most of you don’t know Chinese geography but Xian is closer to Harbin than Shanghai. We took the train to Shanghai first because there were no tickets straight to Xian… Anyway, the train to Xian was around 10 hours and again… sleeping on a train, torture. Also ‘fun’ were the two last hours (on every train, really) where people from cities not so far away from the destination got on and were just standing around so it was a bit hard to stand up to go to the bathroom or to make noodles. Also there are a lot of stalkers. The trains that we took are slow trains and foreigners probably don’t take those often so we get started at a lot. Especially on the train to Shanghai a couple of people started to talk to us and at the end there was a whole crowd of people just standing around and watching us talk. The funny thing was that almost everything we told were lies. For example, I’m from Canada, I’m 20 years old and I study in a university.
We had nothing planned for Xian. We just had some hostel’s address written down in pinyin (Chinese is latin letters (which is bad because Chinese sometimes don’t understand those so well and we couldn’t ask directions)) and that’s it. Since Xian is a famous tourist city there were a lot of tour guides at the train station and one started to talk with us and we decided that it’s ok to go with him. He drove us to one hotel where we could sleep all 5 people in one room with 3 beds. Also he offered us tours, of course, but we used him only for one day to go to a one boring museum, Li shan (mountains) and to see the Terracotta warriors. The others days we went by ourselves around the city where we went to a cool muslim street (we bought a lot of stuff there). The sellers there were so hilarious! Since there are a lot of tourists they learn a bit of every language and one seller was speaking Italian with Gabriele.
Also in Xian I got sick and it started a whole new story…
The last day Gabriele, Jake and Reetta went to climb another mountain (me and Ning stayed at the hotel) and when they returned the next day we went to the train station to take the train to Shanghai (and it was a night train, again, I haaaaate night trains!).
We arrived to Shanghai and Matteo (who was there all the time we were in Xian) met us and led us to our, very cool, hostel. It was very cheap and, as I mentioned before, cool!
Since Shanghai is not a historical city we didn’t really plan a lot and every day we just went to one place or so. But coming back to the story starting in Xian with me getting sick… everybody slowly started to get sick. 2 days before going back everyone was sick and we stayed at the hotel the whole day, except for Jake. One of the days we went to a city very near Shanghai (I can’t recall how it’s called thou, something like Zhu Jia Jiao) which is a water city, everybody calls it ‘China’s Venice’ but it wasn’t that great. I mean it was okay but the things that the city tour offered were so boring like art museums and stuff. The boat ride was fun but so short. I must say that we didn’t really see a lot of Shanghai and I regret that but I guess there’s nothing we could do, we got sick. The last day Jake made me and Gabriele to go with him to another city Suzhou. We went with him but it turned out to be boring. We went to one famous garden (which was beautiful, yes, but, I think, not worth the whole ride) and then we wanted to find a lake and if we could ride a boat around it or something but we went to the wrong lake (we only take buses by asking random people ‘how to get there’) and the weather was bad, it started to rain. So the only thing that we did in Suzhou was the garden. We returned to Shanghai around 7:30pm and went straight to the hotel. We had to wake up at 4am to take the plane (yesss, no more trains!) to Harbin at 8:15am. Actually we arrived at 1st March (the first day of school) because we told our teacher that we couldn’t find tickets for the day before.
The next day, which was Friday, me, Jake, Gabriele and Matteo went to Ning’s home for dinner with her family and in the end everybody stayed there for the night.