Up High in Ninghai

After writing and learning about Chinese artwork in the independent research project I conducted in Beijing, I found that much of Chinese traditional art depicts the beauty of China’s vast and magnificent mountains, as well as bamboo, rivers, etc.  Even on the back of China’s Renminbi currency, one can find sunrises etched over mountain tops and water rushing between karsts.  I feel that it is a traditional image of China that many Westerners hold a preconceived notion of, yet have not experienced, as many expats find themselves living in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc.  I feel fortunate to have been able to see some of this natural beauty for myself last weekend when I went hiking and kayaking in Ninghai, which is about a 4 hour drive outside of Shanghai.

We began our hike following a trail surrounded by waterfalls and lush greenery (and of course about 50,000 mosquitoes that all wanted to bite me).

As we continued to ascend, the trail opened up to see more of the surrounding mountains, but we were not nearly at the top.

We passed by an area where locals grow tea.  I was even surprised to see how many wind turbines were built in the surrounding area.

As we continued on our way, the luscious trees became less and less prominent and the trail opened up into a steep and very rocky environment with bad footing.

We persevered to make it to the peak, only to witness one of the most satisfying views I’ve ever experienced!  Mountain came after mountain, seemingly infinitely folding behind each other until reaching the touch of the sun.

Descending the mountain, we passed through a forest of bamboo.  This was one of my favorite parts of the hike, as I’ve never had the experience of hiking through bamboo before.  To me, it felt like a very distinct “China experience”.  The bamboo was so green, and much thicker and stronger than I expected it to be.

The next day we had the opportunity to go kayaking, which was both beautiful and an absolute blast.  The sunburn I received was 100% worth it!

While I will always consider myself a city girl, having opportunities in China like those of the past weekend, or climbing the Great Wall, have really helped me realize an underlying interest I have had in hiking.  I love the exercise aspect of it, but even more so getting to see beautiful parts of China that I feel can be so often overlooked.  I am looking forward to pursuing more opportunities in this regard when I take off for my spring break travels this week!

Holy Cross, Meet Chinese BBQ

You all probably think this is a food blog by now!  However, I really feel that it is necessary to include these pics from my trip to get chinese bbq in the middle of the night!

We started with some seafood and gradually moved to mouth watering skewers of lamb, chicken, beef, potato and more

The experience was exactly what I pictured study abroad would be like before arriving here: gathered around a table with some of my closest friends, both American and Chinese, sharing delicious food, speaking in Chinglish, and laughing and learning about each other.  Moments like these make studying in China absolutely invaluable to me!


I’m Addicted to Tea

I’ll be the first to admit that living in China for the past 7 months has made me completely addicted to bubble tea… but part of the fun of studying abroad is trying new things right? On top of that, you can buy a large bubble tea here for on average $2 USD which is basically a steal!

My two favorite places for bubble tea so far are Coco and Yi Dian Dian, however I recently tried the up and coming LeLeCha’s pineapple tea, which was so life changing that I actually decided to do an entire project on it for my international marketing class!  LeLeCha’s products are so delicious and marketed so well that they can charge upwards of TWICE what a tea costs at competing firms….craziness, I know, but so good!

my precious pineapple tea from LeLeCha

Quick Update on Shanghai so far…

Shanghai is very different from Beijing in many ways, in terms of city vibe, history, aesthetics, food, and especially in my case, academics.  I wanted to quickly highlight how CET Shanghai is different from CET Beijing so far…

The most noticeable difference is immediately the absence of the language pledge.  While speaking Chinese is encouraged, and there is daily Chinese class, the language requirements in Shanghai are much more relaxed in comparison to Beijing’s program.  This is in order to take elective classes in English and to compensate for about a third of the students in the program who are learning Mandarin for the first time.  While it almost seemed relieving at first, I’ve found that I miss the challenge of constantly needing to use Chinese, and I try to push myself to practice as much as I can, and esp. with my Chinese roommate!

Class schedule – in Shanghai there are two tracks of academics one can choose from, the first being the track which includes an internship component and the second track excluding this element.  I chose to follow the internship track, which means taking 4 classes along with a part time internship.  Chinese class is for one hour daily (significantly less than in Beijing).  Outside of Chinese class, all other classes are three hours long and meet once a week.  One course is based around internship theory and explores working in a Chinese/international office environment.  My two chosen elective courses are International Marketing (which I love!) and the Chinese Economy.  CET Shanghai also offers options related to history, literature, and political science.

I think both programs have certain advantages and disadvantages, but I have found that I am really happy challenging myself and learning in both environments.  The class schedule here feels much more like being at an American college, leaving some days of the week really busy and others much more open; these are great days for clocking in hours at your internship or exploring the city!  I look forward to writing more about my internship and excursions in the near future 🙂

SHANGHAI TOP 10 (so far)

amazing noodles for $3
experiencing the energy of the lantern festival in Shanghai
street food at Tianzifang
Oriental Pearl Tower
Peppa Pig (China is obsessed and now I am too)
The Bund, even on foggy days like this
Yu Yuan Garden at night
architecture that makes me question if I’m even in China anymore
Nanjing Road, or as I like to say, the Times Square of Shanghai
new friends in Shanghai!

Almost One Week in Shanghai!

Tomorrow will mark my first full week in Shanghai!  As some of you know, after completion of Fall and January semesters in Beijing, I will be spending the spring semester in Shanghai.  This semester includes components such as Chinese language class, two elective classes, and a part time internship.  While I’m still settling in, I wanted to share some pics from my first week here below:

Soup filled dumplings with rice 🙂
Visting the home of famous Chinese author Lu Xun
The Lu Xun Memorial and Museum was about an hour and a half train ride outside of Shanghai in Shaoxing
Street food such as stinky tofu and lotus seed
Time for a boat ride!
My awesome new roomie

Just outside my new campus
Views from Shaoxing
More views from Shaoxing
Even more views from Shaoxing

Quick Stop in Tianjin

On the way back from Harbin, I made a quick stop in a city about half an hour outside of Beijing called Tianjin.  Stepping off the train I was first shocked by the temperature difference from Harbin, which was, thankfully, significantly warmer.  It was a beautiful day to walk along the river that runs through downtown Tianjin where I could admire the beautiful architecture.  Some buildings were shiny and reflective, others looked like they came straight out of Europe.  Most impressive to me was the Tianjin Eye, an approx. 394 foot tall Ferris wheel that stretches from one side of the river to the other.

Walking in Tianjin I felt like I was in a completely different continent, let alone definitely not China.  On top of many of the buildings having a Western feel, there is also a quite popular “Italian Food Street” that almost made me feel like I was back home in Boston in the North End!  There I found plenty of restaurants serving western food from Italian to German to French, hot dog stands, and little shops selling souvenirs and various street food.  These cobblestone streets were brimming with life!

A final walk along the river reflecting the beautiful sunset was the perfect way to end the day in Tianjin just before catching a quick train ride back home to Beijing…

Chinese New Year in Harbin at the Ice and Snow Festival

After living in New England my whole life, I thought I might stand a chance against the harsh Harbin winter weather, but boy was I wrong!  Well, let me back up a bit.

I decided to travel to Harbin, China for Chinese New Year, as traveling during the holiday is significantly less busy because most people are at home celebrating the new year.  Harbin is in northeast China, almost on the border of Russia.  This geographical location makes Harbin a very interesting place, filled with Russian influence, and extremely cold.  Harbin is most well-known for its three huge ice and snow festivals (see more here).

3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of gloves, 2 pairs of socks, 1 hat, 1 scarf, 1 face mask….

Going to Harbin’s World of Snow and Ice has been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to make it a reality over Chinese New Year!  I took an 8 hour train ride from Beijing to Harbin, checked in to my Airbnb, and ate delicious hotpot at midnight because it was the only restaurant besides McDonalds that was open (on Chinese New Year for about a week and a half almost all restaurants shut down).

The next day I spent the morning walking on a well-known pedestrian street with lots of street food, Russian souvenirs, and “antiques”.  I saw a beautiful Russian style cathedral, and rode a cable car across the river that cuts through Harbin.  Finally, about an hour before sunset I went to the ice and snow festival and spent about 4 hours there; it was absolutely amazing!

The life size buildings and castles are carved out of ice and light up at night.  They were beautiful to walk along both in the day and nighttime, and there were also other great activities like tubing, going down an ice slide, or enjoying a nice hot coffee to warm up practically numb fingers!

While this was the most cold I’ve ever been in my entire life, it was 110% worth it.  The pictures and videos can hardly do it justice; it was a truly unforgettable experience.

The Truth about Pollution in Beijing

In my experience over the past five months, the pollution in Beijing has not been anywhere near as severe as I had thought it would be.  From what I have learned, a decade ago the pollution in Beijing was much more serious because a lot of factories operated on the outskirts of Beijing.  However, around the time of the 2008 Olympics, in order to create a much more attractive Beijing and reduce the pollution, many factories were mandated to move further outside the city to other areas of China.  In the time following, the pollution (within Beijing) has lessened significantly, however I still see about 30-40% of people wearing masks on any given day.  On days where the pollution is more serious, it is common to see about 80% of people wearing masks (while ironically I’ll still see people smoking cigarettes even in the midst of it all).

The buildings in the background should be crystal clear…instead you can see the haziness of the pollution on a mild day

Days here can range from really no pollution at all and a perfectly blue sky to finding it hard to breathe while walking under a dismal grey sky.  I purchased a reusable mask because there have been days when my normal walk to class in the morning didn’t feel right.  When the pollution is at its most serious, it gives me cold like symptoms of stuffy nose and sore throat.  I love checking the air quality index (AQI) on my iPhone weather app every day; it’s a great way to know how serious the pollution may or may not be without having to go outside.  0 – 150 range I feel is normal, anything from 150 – 200 I will consider wearing a mask depending on how I feel, 200+ I am wearing a mask for sure.

I love this mask over disposable ones because I can wash it after 10-15 hours of wear and continue to use

The pollution is actually most easily seen as soon as the sun goes down.  Just look under a streetlight and you will see some sort of hazy fogginess hovering under the light.  On one day when the pollution was over 300 (which is considered hazardous to health), I was walking to the subway at night.  It was the eeriest night I’ve experienced in Beijing; the pollution felt like an eerie fog cast over the street.  When I reached the subway station it seemed that the pollution had actually seeped into the subway underground.  It was totally bizarre, and I’ve never experienced anything like it since.

Overall though, I feel that the pollution is not nearly like what I thought it would be, and I’m not too concerned about its effects on my health.  I am very much curious to see if there is any difference as we transition into spring and more plants start to bloom.

Zhongguo Jams 1

I’m dropping the links below for the clean and explicit version of arguably the most popular Chinese rap song in Beijing right now…this song is played e v e r y w h e r e!

Before coming to Beijing I was really curious about the Chinese rap and hip hop scene, then quickly discovered Made In China by Higher Brothers.  Definitely worth a listen if you’re a rap/hip hop fan!

Made in China (Explicit)

Made in China (Clean)