Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back in PRC back in the PRC back in the People's republic of C


Wow, I can hardly believe that I have been Living in China since August, home to Chicago in December and back to the East already. It is Sunday night here and after a weekend enjoying the sights in Hangzhou I decided it was time to give the ole Blog an Update. (ps. I will be posting some with a few fun stories from a few months ago, I just need to finish adding pics and edit.)
So, in this world not much is new. The weather is cold from 20-35 most days but very wet and we have had many bought's of snow recently. School is okay and I am slowly falling back into the routine, of that working out, cooking, music lessons, and Yoga.

I had a nice time while I was home for three weeks but it was stressful to try and do everything and see a whirlwind of people who I wish I could have spent more time with. As Stephen dropped me off to the airport, I will not pretend to say that I wasn't balling my eyes out like a little kid thinking about leaving again and going back to my frigid apartment. So the reality of it is, coming back to Hangzhou was a bit tough, but again this blog is here for the truth and for me to go back and remember. I have great friends here and feel more comfortable now then before. When I did arrive in Hangzhou after my 14 hour flight and three hour bus ride, I arrived at my apartment at 9:00pm the night before school started. The best surprise all year was that my heaters were turned on and my neighbors had bought me an oil heater to keep me warm... Again, most of the people here are amazing and it is really a different situation from anything I have experienced in the US. Many of us look out for each other and that is great and one of the things that I have come to love about living out here. So, anyways the return was tough but met with a little warmth.

These pictures are from the snow we have been having out here and a bit of hiking down around Nine Creeks and through town.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The good, the bad, and the gruesome...

Dearest BLAHG.... (ps...Maggie...that was a shout out to you) Beware this story is not for all to read.. Though it does include some great pictures and highlights of my recent trip to Yalong Bay in Sanya China....the very tip of China on the island of Hainan.

I decided that if I were to tell China as I experience it, then all stories must be told. I am not here to glorify anything or to tear it down.....Just to simply state my experiences..... So here it is.......oooweeeeoooohweeeooooh...

September 30th 2010. It is Thursday I and I am very excited to take a well deserved vacation!! After going to grad school full time and working my bones down all year, I felt this holiday "Chinese Independence Day" (The Mao regime proclaimed the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949) Read more: China: History, Geography, Government, & Culture — I figured it was time for me to enjoy a little time to myself, some nice weather, some of my favorite authors, take a few dives, and hit the beach.

The Good....Whaaaaa wha whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.....

So after school I set off to the airport to for my warm breezy beach getaway. Now I will just state the my expectations were not very high. The Chinese all told me, Sanya is beautiful! Some of the other expats slightly discouraged my travels but saying that "the place will be a zoo" and that is was not as nice as it was cracked up to be. After a pretty easy flight I arrived late in the night to my hotel. The Crowne Plaza Sanya.

The best highlight of the trip, came when I entered my room and noticed right the middle of my floor was a gleaming LARGE bathtub. I fought the tears back from my eyes, never having realized that depriving me from "baths" for 10 weeks was such a thing to give up, but as I sat and stared at the pristine tub and the Chinese shutters that surrounded it I realized that this was a great investment and my worry about a expensive vacation soon vanished. Sometimes its is nice to stay in a place that is a bit fancier. The good returns upon the mention of my new found Chinese Friend Hense.

The Bad...ooohweeeeohhhhweeeooooooooo
It would have benefited me slightly to pay better attention to the forecast and realize that rain was in store for the next week in Sanya, but I figured ...Hey ! I am on a beach I am going to end up getting wet anyway. So while it was really not that bad. I spend 90% of my time soaked. Mostly from the torrential downpour that relentlessly hammered the coast for 5 days, and also due to me swimming, diving, and taking two to three baths a day...but really...hey you cant control nature.. The bad returns a bit later when i mention the creepy cab drivers.

The Gruesome.... Whahhhh whahhh whhaaaaaaaaaaaaa
So, all I really wanted was to read, go scuba diving, and see the rainforest, which I had researched and looked gorgeous. Being a lady that loves nature I was all about trying to get there. The problem started when the concierge said the the rain forest I originally wanted to go to was VERY far, and they did not think that I could get there.... BUT!! they said, there is another rain forest closer that has a free shuttle that will pick you up, it's called YANODA! So, great... I the spot for me.
So Sunday came and I woke up had a chat with Stephen and off to my adventure in the rain forest I went. It was raining of course and the roads were flooded but being a big bus made the rain not too terrible of an issue. I didn't even mind that the tour guide used a microphone that she had cranked to the loudest level with her already LARGE voice, at first I didn't even mind when the entire bus party kept shouting " YAAAA NA DA!!!!" and giving the peace sign.. I thought "oh look they are really getting into it!"

Well, when we get to the place lucky our tour guide asks Hense if he speaks English and lucky for me he does. So quickly we make friends and I learn that he is in business in Shanghai and his wife is a teacher. He is pleased to be able to work on his english with me, and I am pleased that i can ignore the crazed overactive tour guide. Basically I will say this, the rainforest was beautiful, lush, had waterfalls, and I was very happy to see that the country was taking pride in their natural environment. I had a great time talking with Hense and he invited me out to dinner with him and his family when I come to Shanghai. The rain was a bit much but hey this was not that bad I am on an island in the middle of a rainforest!
This is where things took a turn for the worse, in all seriousness this part is kind of gross. Just know I am warning you
So I finally get a little space from the YAAAANODA!!!! screaming guide and group and find myself wandering with my camera when I happen to see a little hut smoking, as I round the corner I see a puppy and immediately am so excited I start cooing at it in a voice only a puppy could love, i am petting it and saying how adorable he is... I even take a picture of this dog. I round the corner a bit more and notice that a family is camped out with tons of dogs seeming to have what looks like a picnic. I am sooo excited by all of the dogs! I love dogs!!! and I miss mine very much!!! Thats when my eye catches some movement by the fire....... and ...... right there 5 feet before me is a women skinning a dog, getting him ready to be cooked. In absolute horror I turned to run away and looked just as the young boy at the table was hitting the dog near him because he was begging for food, With tears welling up in my eyes and a new look at a harsh reality of a different culture. I tried to leave YANODA but was bound to it for a bit longer due to the group. I know that cultures view things differently, and I have grown up in a very different way even for mine, but that was one of the worst things I have ever seen!

SO I hate to say that it did, but I am having a hard time disassociating the d.o.g. experience from the rainforest. Once safe on my way back to the hotel in the van, I popped in my headphones hopping to take my mind elsewhere then where I was. The roads were still very wet, but i had about an hours drive back to relax. Well I finally became lost in the music, I was sitting all the way at the back of the bus, in the four seats middle when our bus driver SLAMS on his breaks I go flying and SMACK we hit something. I am like"are you kidding me what did we just hit?" So I look back and see a cow knocked over in the middle of the road. I am more then happy to report that he/she did get up and start walking and I have high hopes.... but I mean it was hit by a bus!

So the rest of the trip was okay, I went diving and saw a beautiful coral reef, I went swimming on the beach, I took a lot of pictures, i loved every second of my baths, I had a great long chat with Stephen one morning, but what i remember most unfortunately is the rainforest:(.

Getting home was also quite a journey... I will just say the town was flooded, it looked like I wouldn't make it to the airport on time, I had to pay a crazy amount of money to the cab driver there. Once I landed a creepy cabby kept trying to touch my arm, and leg and kept telling me he liked me... GROSSSSSS! after all that I return "home" to Hangzhou.... What a trip!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Mid Autumn Festival!

Dear Blogie,

Mid Autumn Festival... Nikki!.... What in the world is that you ask??? Well, to be honest, I still not completely sure. I know it is a day when people in China go out and spend lots of money on Moon Cakes that are typically gross, and most people don't like...YET, they keep giving them.. So.... to gain more insight into the subject I asked the very lovely ladies who work at the from desk of my school... "Mid Autumn, is a time when you get together with family and friends, like a thanksgiving".. Okay that makes more sense. Plus it does occur on the new moon or the fall eqinox. Since I could not be with my close friends and family, I though I would share a little of my day with you and say properly... Happy Moon/Mid Autumn festival. Miss you all too much!

Intro to Hefang

This first video is me introducing a few of my friends and good ole Hefang Street a very neat and funky place in Hangzhou.

So for this lovely holiday, I did have the urge to sleep in and spend the day reading, but the regular nagging adventuresome Nikki pleaded with me to go out. So I woke up at 7, had my morning date with Stephen and met the gang at 8:00 am for a hike. It was immediately apparent that every person in Hangzhou was trying to get downtown, and every bus as far as the eye could see was stuffed with Chinese people like I have never seen!

The mountains

This video was made while we were climbing through some of the
The Temple of the Gods

Looking at Tea Hill.... aka .Chenghuang Tea House

This last video is a view of the tea house from a distance. Again I apologize for my terrible filming, but hey maybe by the end of this I will be pretty good at it.

As an added side note the last 7 weeks in Hangzhou it has been 90-115 degrees everyday. This was wednesday September 23 rd. It was 65 and raining. The previous day it was 95. I suppose we skipped the middle. So after a day of stuffed chinese buses, chinese doughnuts, good friends, millions of mosquitoes, hiking mountains in the rain, longjing tea, temples and gods, and a bit of shopping on Hefang street, oh yeah..... and the cockroaches at dinner!......I was beat........ but would say that I am glad I kicked myself in the butt to get out. Minus the cockroaches.

Dearest Friends, and Family, again I miss you tons! and wish I could have spent this festival with you, but at least in your absence I was still able to be in good company having an adventure!!

My new Pad

Here is a brief tour.... very brief tour of my apartment, its messy and i spin quite a bit...I apologize :)
I hope you enjoy... Ps hopefully I get better with my narration as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nikki the Chinese Tourist Attraction...

I have been told that my pictures are too small, so I have decided to leave them nice and big. Hopefully this is a good decision.
This week was a bit of a test to my American strength. It started out well with another visit to the Chinese doctor where I received more acupressure and he also smudge sticked me... I don't know the chinese name for it. Anyway. I have been doing quite well with the headaches the are drastically less :) So the doctor and yoga were good. This past week I started lessons on beatboxing and that was good. Too bad you all cannot hear me Mad Skilz!... just kidding I am not good, but I aspire to be one day. Anyway... the point is all of these things were good.
Due to the headaches I decided along with seeing the Chinese doctor that I should head over to the International Clinic downtown and see a "western style" optometrist. I have been also having trouble seeing and know I have one eye that is not so good. SO, i went, the place was clean, the staff was beyond friendly. I got there early and not only did I not have to wait, they called the doctor in early to see me. Overall, great experience, not like the one at the clinic. After my appointment I walked around and looked for a place to grab food, since I was in the downtown business area of Hangzhou. One thing that can sour my mood quickly I was unable to find a taxi to take me, so I hoped on random buses with the hope of getting closer...BUt... no luck. I finally made it home 3 hours later..... oh man... trials of patience.

Even though I work at a new school and am teaching new subjects (within music...oh and drama), school is a place where I feel "at home" because it is something that is familiar, and it is kind of neat to see that kids are kids no matter where they are from and trust me, we've got them from ALL over. So at least most of my day has a bit of normality.

So last weekend Maranda and I went to the Reggae bar with many of the teachers out here and got down to non reggae music. Then Saturday we went to bike the west lake. As it turns out I am quite the tourist attraction and people kept thinking it would be a great idea to take their picture with me. This is a pic of me and a random Chinese girls, whose mother thought it would be a great idea for us to take some pictures together. SO here we are China and the US throwin up the peace sign together!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cup it Good!

Today I went to see the Chinese doctor, because I have pretty awful headaches almost daily. This unfortunately is nothing new, but something here is setting them off. So I made the appointment for acupuncture feeling okay about it since I am fairly familiar with it considering my sister graduates with her masters in oriental medicine this december(! WOOT for Lisa!!) and has given it to me a few times. My doctor decided acupressure and cupping were the best options :) So here is to hoping we battle those headaches... Ps. I am sorry if this grosses you out! Believe it or not this is my second time cupped. Lisa did it before but her cups were a third of the size. Good thing this is a familiar sight to people around here.
pps. For those of you who do not know what cupping is:
Essentially, they take a variety of glass cups, set them on fire then put them on your skin. As the oxygen depletes the cup sucks your skin. It is used to treat a variety of different things in Chinese Medicine. The spots are common.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Monsoon Me.....

Dear Mr. Blogins,

To think, I almost thought...."hummm I really do not have much to write about this week..." Then I remembered wait a minute.. This is China and whether I like it or not EVERYDAY!!! is an ADVENTURE!.
After a busy week of school, working out, grocery shopping with the lovely Mandarin teachers who shed some light on the mysteries of the chinese grocery store, attending a beautiful Yoga session at an Indian establishment, and watching our beautiful Hangzhou sun set on the rooftop of a restaurant downtown. I thought perhaps that was it for stories. So after a good nights sleep I woke at 6 am Saturday morning to the sound of a storm. I peeked slowly out of my curtains and quickly saw that the sky was green and that it was impossible to see more then a few feet out.
So, I woke up and started to clean, made myself coffee and cut up some fresh fruit. As the rain died down I went out to see what the school looked like... and ..... there was a lot! of water

So I ran around a bit, we were supposed to go to a big store across town but it was cancelled due to the weather but by the time I figured that out and ran back up the four flights to my apartment I was just in time to watch the power blow out.

As it turns out, it was really nice, most of us from the buildings gathered outside in the field and started to play in the rain. We got soaked and some of the water smelled like oil. But what a great way to have everyone get together and make the best of a rain soaked Saturday morning. We decoded to be brave and venture out to see what the rest of the town looked like.

It turns out everywhere was flooded and after braving it for a few blocks we opted for breakfast instead. Thank you to my neighbors who are awesome. It is a great feeling when you live with so many folks who are there to help each other out and make the best of situations that may not be the best!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Boy-phriend issue

Well, I hate to be cheesy, but hey! this is worth the cheese., Earlier I posted my sunset pics of the west lake so all could bask in the beauty that I get to enjoy during my stay in China. I mentioned that my motivation was a project from my Boyfriend Ste-phen Rollick. So on a journey I went to find him the most beautiful sunset in Hangzhou. Well in my opinion I did a pretty fair job. (notice beautiful lake pics below):) Anyways the next challenge went to Stephen to paint the sunset so he could have a bit of Hangzhou and Nikki with him, as I have Uptown and him with me. So, he did it..... An Amazingly!!!! Wonderful!!! Beauteous !!!! Rendering of my orange/red sunset! This post is to direct all of my loyal readers to his blog so you can check out the delightful things he does!

ps. I also learned how to ask where the bathroom was today. Success!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We all float up here

Hello Friends, Fam, Boyfriend, and any others out there!

It has been quite an exciting week here in Hangzhou!! It was decorated with bank trips, visa trips, back to school night, Taco night... and of course.... Good Ole Massage Monday! -which by the way is coming up!

Friday Night my pals and I ventured to the UME international theater and were able to watch Inception. Great movie and we also got a lesson in how to cut people when in line in true Chinese fashion. If you can't beat them.....I guess beat them literally by jumping in front and being quicker! AH well.... Hopefully when I come back to the US I will be able to resume my basic manners.

So Saturday.... What were you up to?????? Me?....Oh!. I spent the day at the Shuangxi RIver on a bamboo float with my buddies ambushing innocents on the river and keeping the float driver happy with adult beverages. WHat a day!

After an hour and a half drive out the beautiful country all of the schools from the system met, promptly purchased water pistols and were driven by oxen cart up the Shuangxi river. We then loaded onto several 30 foot long bamboo floats and were off to a rafting adventure where we tried to take out every other person or float in our way! Good times were had!

The great news is that the excitement did not stop there. After we climbed off of the shaky easily sinkable water craft we found that in China they don't do double dutch, they do "keep hopping over the bamboo or we will snap the crap out of your ankle". So a few of us decided to give it a try. Very fun, but the floor was a bit slick do to our bodies dripping with river water.

ok..... I know... I know... your thinking. "How could this get any better? Awesome River ride?, Taking out the people in the countryside....... Double dutch with bamboo...I'll tell you what was better....Strapping oneself strapping into chair that is attached to a giant balloon so you can literally float high above in the sky.. I am pretty scared of heights and have been for a while.... but hey! I am in China so why not?

What a great weekend. Miss you all and wish you could be here with me. Stay tuned for some videos!!! and new adventures!

Ps. should like to mention I believe I am now up to four gray hairs.... I blame VanderCook... But! I still love them!

PPs. sorry that I do not proof read my posts.. I am going to try and work on that!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shanghai Nights meet West Lake Days

Wowie, Wowie, Wee WU!

What a weekend! Friday Night was a mixer for the school, as new staff we were told it was a hotel in Shanghai please dress "smart casual" as in the board is coming so look good.

Little did we know the party was in one of the fanciest hotels in town and that the guests would be decked out in skin-tight tube topping high heeled refinery! Upon walking in one could barley squeeze past the people crowding the hoers de overs and dessert bar. The place was pumping bad 90's music and laser lights like it was going out of style....Oh wait... it DID go out of style!
Anyways, after feeling terribly awkward and unprepared by the sheer "Shanghainess" of it all..... and not really meeting many of the other folks that taught in our system. The night ended well, with Hangzhou teachers gettin down on the dance floor. Sadly, there are no pics of this I am sorry to say. Just this.... The second tallest building in the world.

But oh.....those west lake days....
For my birthday my boyfriend Ste-phen painted me a picture of a Chicago sunrise, ( it is quite good!) so while in China I could be reminded of him and embrace a little piece of home in this strange place, the second part to the gift was for me to take a picture of a Chinese sunset so he could hang it in his room and have a little bit of China with him. Yes, I know what your thinking...... I am a lucky lady! :).. So..... point of the story, ever since i have been in China life has been a bit crazy... meat facials, floor poooping, giant bugs, new job, 14 hour time difference, eXtreme heat!!!, crazy SHanghai parties...... So it has taken me a while to work on the Chinese sunrise... BUT!!!! Sunday afternoon during the 101 degree heat I took myself down to the west lake which is around 20 minutes from my apartment and took some shots for Stephen... After all was said and done i was soaked through to the bone and had taken 233 shots of one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen... Here are a few for you to enjoy.

and this was my favorite to come out of the batch.... These two lovely boats just swaying in the water.. I think I have 100 shots of just them :)
If you happen to be on a world wide quest for the most breathtaking sunsets, I suggest that you stop here.