July 3, 2014

Before coming to China I was bestowed a collection of birthday cards from family and friends. It was a nice parting gift and something I really appreciate.

Also featured in this update: Orange and mango Oreos. They’re only a dollar from TrustMart - the sister of Walmart. They even use Walmart baskets as well. Anyhow, I’m back to studying for now and I’ll post some info on my host parents soon!

Take care!
-Dan

July 1, 2014

Pandas!

That’s basically all I need to say about this post but I’ll give a tiny bit of background info. Chengdu has a massive Panda Research Center and when a panda is born they send it back to China so that they can increase the diversity of the gene pool. It’s pretty cool that this place exists and it was awesome to carry my little panda around while I strolled through the Panda Research Center.

Enjoy,
Dan

Tags: pandas Chengdu

June 29, 2014

Last Wednesday a group of us decided that we wanted to adventure forth toward the last subway stop in Chengdu. We ended up traveling with a group of people to the world’s largest free standing building, also known as the New Century Global Center. To say it’s huge would be an understatement. It’s massive, grand, immense and just gigantic. Feel free to click the link for more information but this building is really quite interesting. It’s the largest building I’ve ever seen and even when you can see it from a distance you don’t realize just how big it is. The building includes a skating rink, water park, Imax theatre, numerous specialty stores, a World Cup maze, and a hotel as well. We didn’t get a chance to walk around the entire structure but we also realized that there were places that most people aren’t even able to see in the building because they’re used at private offices or are simply unreachable by the public for whatever other reason.

Walking around inside this thing felt like you were in a miniature city inside Chengdu. The floors were marble, the window fronts all advertised various products I didn’t need and the exercise just from walking around was a workout. While on the 4th floor we came to a nearly all glass floor where you could look down and see the basement level. Looking down from that height made me feel a little uneasy but it was still well worth walking across. We even took a picture of our shoes in a circle on the glass floor. (Check above) After exploring for awhile we decided that we wanted to sit down for a dinner that was reasonably priced, and somehow despite being inside the largest building in the world we did just that.

We managed to have a communal dinner and no one with us had higher than a low intermediate speaking ability. It was actually really cool. We took some pictures from the menu outside that looked delicious, checked the prices, went inside the restaurant, wrote down what we wanted on a sheet of paper, and gave our order to the waitress. The only difficultly came up when we weren’t 100% sure if we had large rice bowls to share or if we had individual rice bowls. Nine of us sitting there trying to figure out what we were doing was really rewarding. We ended up with some fantastic dishes and we only ordered one dish we weren’t really able to translate.

After a scrumptious meal and a walk back out of the small city we made our way back to the subway and arrived back at the hotel a little after 10pm. For us this was a big deal because most of us usually go to bed around 8 or 9 because we’re still a little jet lagged and tired.

Later on I’ll blog about the adorable but lethargic pandas I saw last Friday. Stay tuned!

June 25, 2014

On Thursday June 19th I flew into LAX airport, navigated the unique airport and recovered my luggage. After gathering my valuables and finding a shuttle that was speeding along at a rate almost too fast to catch I arrived at the hotel. After checking in and and taking my baggage to my room I relaxed and waited for the next step. I reflected upon my options and noted that I should gather some sustenance before we had a Peace Corps gathering to talk about training. A few moments later my new roommate Jimmy entered and after talking for awhile and chatting about food he gladly accepted joining me to make the walk to In and Out Burger.

In and Out Burger is a respectable food chain and some would argue that it’s one of the best burger places around (it is made fresh, has good ingredients, the list goes on -etc). Something else to consider about this particular location was that it was right next to LAX. It’s so close that you can see and hear planes fly nearly over the establishment about once about 3-4 minutes, at least at 12 noon pst (This airport is literally that busy - it has 8 terminals). Needless to say the wait at the fast food joint was pretty long but they dished out orders with lightening fast reflexes. It was as if Henry Food had decided to go into the fast food business as opposed to making the Model T. Alas I digress..

After sitting down to eat food while talking about the Peace Corps we went back to the hotel, signed in, greeted our fellow 82 Peace Corps Volunteers and then divided up into 3 teams where we would meet volunteers for a training session about what to do and how to behave in China. It was rather general but it served as a good time for reflection and a means to think about the core principles in a more meaningful way before we boarded the plane to Thailand. One especially cool part of the training involved small groups of people in our orientation class receiving scenarios that might occur while we were in China. Our scenario was something along the lines of:
While you are at a big banquet with the administration staff of your school, who you want to become closer with. You are offered many alcoholic drinks and you are toasted to many times and are starting to feel drunk and are becoming uncomfortable. You want to quit but you realize that your respect with the administration will greatly improve if you drink with them and they currently are not big fans of you. What do you do?

After talking with my group I convinced them that we could present the topic as a skit while I narrated the situation in a freestyle rap. After working hard to create our situation we pulled it off and it was pretty successful. I felt good and my group was also really happy. We had good performances outside of my freestyle but they worked together perfectly.

After finishing our training for the day we all relaxed for a bit and then decided on a place to snag dinner before turning in for the night. The next day we were dropped off at the airport and waited for nearly 3 hours to check all of us in. We showed up about 4 hours early for our flight but we almost didn’t make it onto the plane. Regardless we departed on the plane and arrived safe and sound in Thailand. You can see some pictures of me in Thailand above. After getting in later we checked into the hotel and got about 4 hours of sleep.

The next day we woke up, went to the airport early, had a fast check-in and fantastic breakfast at the airport. We all roamed around at our leisure and got on the plane successfully. After managing all of the above we arrived in China. We made it. After about 72 hours of travel from Detroit to China and sleeping only about 12 hours during that time we finally made it. It’s been a blast ever since and I’ll tell you more later but for now it’s time to get some sleep.

I’ll update again soon.
Goodnight from China,
Dan

June 23, 2014

In the beginning of June I wanted to go on a final vacation with my girlfriend before I headed off to China. We decided on Mackinaw Island for a myriad of reasons but mostly because she’s never been there. We spent the day relaxing in the sun, walking around, riding a tandem, dodging the 10 dollar fee you have to pay to walk by the Grand Hotel (but still enjoying it from a close range) and eating lunch on some comfortable chairs while watching Lake Michigan drift on by.

Before reaching Mackinaw Island we also stopped in Frakenmuth Michigan and visited Bronners, the world’s largest Christmas store. I haven’t visited the store in a few years but it was really fun to walk around, look at all of the Christmas ornaments and also check out the the cute miniature villages. They were tiny and the amount of detail on all of the village buildings was really interesting to me. In the future if I ever have a home or place where I could display a nice little miniature village I might consider buying some of the essential pieces and having them at my house. It’s weird but something about the villages is just really cool to me!

We also stopped in at a few different stores in Frakenmuth and ended up buying some pickle and buffalo ranch flavored popcorn. Perhaps this sounds awful, strange or something you wouldn’t want to ingest voluntarily but I assure you this was pretty good stuff. I’m pretty open minded when it comes to food but they had a bunch of flavors and almost all of the flavors looked unique and delicious to someone out there.

Overall, the trip was really fantastic but the time flew by too quickly. In the future I’ve got a whole slew of new places in the United States I’d like to travel to and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to visit most of them.

Until next update,
-Dan

June 22, 2014

Nostalgia…

June 21, 2014

Spending time with family is something I didn’t get to do while I was away in Korea for 2 years and now it’s something I won’t be able to do when I journey to China for the next 2 years. Looking back on pictures of what I enjoyed with my family before I left I really appreciated the family vacation that we took before I departed. We all traveled together around the Upper Peninsula and had an awesome time. We traveled to Picture Rocks, - well minus the boat ride, hiked part of the North County Trail, visited Traverse City and enjoyed each others company. Of course we ate delicious food, pursued a couple of book store and visited Tahquamenon Falls. It was a fantastic way to spend time and we had a great time exploring Michigan together. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the UP and I don’t really remember our last family vacation. I think our last true family vacation was taking a cruise in the western Caribbean together in 2010. It was amazing but it had been too long since we spent time with each other so I’m glad we could make it happen.

When this blog is published I’ll be arriving in Chengdu, China and fondly thinking of my family. I’ll miss you guys.

-Much Love from the other side of the world
Dan

June 20, 2014

Last Saturday I had a bunch of awesome friends come over to help me celebrate my last weekend in the states before I departed for the next 2 years.

I had a great time and it was a fantastic send off.
I’m probably sleeping in LA right now before I board another flight or up in the air but I wanted to take the time to reflect upon not seeing these people outside of the Internet for the next two years of my life. It’s going to be difficult but I know that if I try hard I’ll be able to keep up with them and be a part of their life. (Thanks physical letters and Skype)

Till we all meet again my friends, I wish you the best in everything that you do!

Love,
Dan

June 19, 2014

I’m up in the air heading for LA, and will head to Narita (Japan) and then Bangkok before I land in Chengdu this Saturday. One of my bags has my name on the outside in Chinese. While shopping at Target sadly they were out of regular and green duct tape but I never really appreciated it until Jingqiu artistically placed my name on the bag.Thank you pink and black, you go together so well, even if you look a bit girly on my suitcase, I don’t care. Of course thank you Jingqiu as well, for shopping with me and helping me decide on the stuff I really need to bring to China and the stuff that I can get there.

Nearly 3 years ago when I left for Korea I had a lot of free time before my departure and I was much more relaxed about the entire process. I had more money, more time, more anxiety, and more to prove seeing that it was my first time abroad for an extended period of time. Now looking back I can say that even though I’ve had less time, grad school classes, and a lot of other responsibilities to contend with I’ve had an amazing ride and I wouldn’t change any of it.

Hopefully later today I’ll meet some amazing new people and in time become close friends with them. The things that matter in life always start with those small steps like extending a hand or sitting down to write your first blog entry. I can easily say that today I’ve come a long way from my original blog entries nearly 3 years ago. I plan to keep this blog up for years to come and when I’m old and grey I can look back on my life and reflect on everything I’ve done and all of the world that I’ve seen. Until then I need to keep striving to accomplish more.

Best wishes from the plane or LA.
-Dan

June 18, 2014

I’m going to miss my dad and the dogs stealing my bed when I’m gone so I’m just going to post this now in case I forget that it was actually okay spinning around in my computer chair to see them behind me.