Night Writing in Hangzhou

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hi Everyone,

So nothing much to report this weekend. It's the first weekend I haven't gone out at all, the entire time I've been in China... shock upon shock! ... usually I'll at least head down the road to the winery for dinner on a Friday, but I didn't even do that. I basically spent the weekend just relaxing... also it's WAY to hot here to be doing anything else. Saturday arvo, Kelsey and I lay on a blanket in the park reading books and magazines and dozing in and out of consciousness... oh the hard life over here! hahaha :)

Though on Sunday night, we did head up to the top of the mountain to do some sky night writing... now for those who don't know what this is... it's where you put your camera onto a really long exposure and then use a torch to writing stuff in the sky. It's heaps of fun... and it's good for postcards and piccys for back home... I'm currently uploading them onto the link now... but if you have facebook... all the photos are already up on my profile. So anyway, yeah Kels, Dalila, Marte and I all went up there and had some fun doing that... kinda freaky walking back down the mountain later that night (about 10:30) ... but we had a guy with us so it was okay! :)

Now I'm sitting here in blissful air conditioning... procrastinating as I REALLY don't want to do all the homework that I have... but I have another test this Friday and a goodbye party to go to tonight as my friend Marte is leaving to head to Australia for 2 weeks travelling then back home to America. sooo .. I'm going to say bye for now, I hope you all aren't working too hard!

Steph xx

Basketball - China style!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hi guys,

so this week was just like any other really... the usually huge amounts of studying... and then in the afternoons lying on the grass in the glorious sunshine soaking up the rays (without getting burnt! ... got to love the Chinese sun .. not sure why but). Oh and doing a bit of homework here and there ;)

But on Wednesday evening we headed across to another basketball competition. After the tournament I've told you about earlier, they decided that our international students were so good they'd set up an international team and add them into the local Hangzhou basketball competition.
Well last weeks match I missed, but I headed to this one and it was so Chinese! :)

We had to walk down this weird little alley with really uneven broken concrete to reach the courts. They were inside this ... I don't even know what to call it... what looked like a very elaborate circus tent you might say?? ... but it wasn't a tent because it was an actually building with two levels to it and a 100m running track tacked on to the side (hard to explain...)
The courts themselves were covered in dust and players were sliding! (haha adding to the atmosphere!) ;)
Anywho... our international team was playing the Zhejiang Military Academy! No I am not joking with you. They were these crazy little buff guys with (I'm not kidding you)... 12 packs on their stomachs! The game was pretty intense and I'm positive that the refs were paid off, but it didn't matter cause our boys won the game 41 - 30ish something (I can't remember) the point is we beat the Chinese military! ... It got interesting at one point when one of the military guys gave a Korean student on our team a bit of a shove and sent him flying... it it was all good in the end our Spanish guys broke up the fight.

It was lot's of fun, I'm not a huge fan of basketball but this type of basketball I'll watch... it's so entertaining.... oh not to forget that the army guys had like half of Hangzhou down there cheering for them (CRAMMED around this tiny as court!) and it was hilarious... they even cheer in unison... very army like! it was like a war cry! ha!

So that's my exciting news for the week. We're heading out to a combined birthday/goodbye party for 3 of the students in the college tonight in the park behind the library (where there's no lights) soooo it should be interesting! :) I'm going to wear some padding I think.

I hope you all have a very exciting and lovely weekend. I'll write to you all again soon.

Zai Jian xx

Shanghai Weekend Sat-Sun


So after my brief ni hao from Shanghai and a really nice breakfast, we headed across town to the buddist temple. I must admit, I didn't really want to go to the temple, but the girl's really wanted to see it cause it's one of the main attractions in Shanghai... sooo we had to cross it off our list. It ended up that we went on Buddah's Birthday! (who knew). The place was absolutely packed out! There was shrines and statues everywhere, it was really confusing I didn't know who was worshiping what for what reason and with who. You had to give certain offerings to certain idols etc etc... Thank goodness that there's only one real God and he makes it nice and simple for us!

We also drank 'Buddah's tea' while we were there. I drank one cup to 'wake me up' the next 'to relax and help me to sleep' next, 'detoxification protecting the liver and losing weight' and finished it off with a good dose of 'promoting immunity and giving me energy'. Well, I have to say the relaxation one tasted really nice, but apart from that, I basically felt about the same, except maybe a little more of a need to use the bathroom.

Next came the fun part! ... SSSSSSHHHOOOPPPPIIINNNNGGGGG!!!!!!!
We started off in the expensive area by accident so we wasted a few precious hours there, but after lunch we finally made it to the nice cheap 'underground of course' part of the street. It was really good I bought 3 new dresses and 2 new shirts for about $40 Aus and they are REALLY NICE! :)
I honestly don't think I'll be able to shop when I get back to Australia. I'll take one look at the prices and think 'Oh my goodness I could have got that in China for next-to-nothing!' "TAI GUI LE!" (too expensive)

After all this lovely shopping we headed back to the hostel with the plans of heading back out again but it started to rain and we also had another unexpected suprise waiting for us! ... ... ...

So you all know about the latest world news on 'Swine Flu' ... WELL... when we got back to the hostel we were met by 3 sets of police cars with matching police in uniforms and about 8-10 people in white coats with masks on. SLIGHTLY FREAKED OUT AT THIS POINT>>>>>

They were in the middle of disinfecting the entire hostel because a group of Mexicans had been staying there the past couple of days (we didn't know this). We asked if there had been a case or if they Mexicans had it or not and they said that they hadn't it was just precautionary measures... but you never know if they're telling the whole truth or not... :( (it's okay now but, the incubation period was until Thursday.. and today is Friday when I'm writing this so I don't have anything) but it was definitely going down as memorable in my Chinese moments! (see my photos for pictures of the people in lab coats)

Anywho... so we kept on going about our normal business, had pizza for dinner again in the bar while watching 'Music and Lyrics' and then headed out to the ritzy and glitzy 'Cloud 9 Bar' This play is 100 kuai at the door and drinks start from 80 kuai. It is the tallest bar in Shanghai and over looks the entire Shanghai district! ... well we hopped out of the taxi, looked up and.... ... ... saw clouds.

... bummer. We didn't really want to pay 100 kuai to see clouds at eye level. So after a few random photo opportunistic moments we hopped back in the taxi and headed off to find 'The Wall' (This is meant to be the longest bar in all of Asia and very impressive - so says the guide on the back of the tourist map)... well all I can say is a repeat of ... ... ... bummer.

It took up 1/2 in the taxi to drive literally a block (going around the block at least 5 times and stopping and asking for directions)... found the place ... and you guessed it... it was closed.

Well after all that excitement... we just decided to head home. We'd had a pretty good weekend and we weren't really feeling like paying the taxi driver another 50 kuai to drive us over to the other side of town where the other bars were. Sunday, we basically got up, ate our French breakfasts, got on the train and came home.

So all together it was a very eventful weekend in Shanghai. I have to say I think my highlight was definitely the shopping, but it was great just to hang out with the girls and explore the never ending streets of Shanghai!

Hi from Shanghai

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hi guys,

So I'm sitting here in the bar of our hostel in Shanghai writing this to you!

Yes, I'm up here for the weekend in Shanghai and it's been really fun so far, Kels, Dalila and I are up here just to hang out for the long weekend. Yesterday we didn't really get up to much, just walked around and looked at stuff. We tried to get to see the Bund, but public holidays in China are CRAZY... we couldn't even get within 100m of the Bund, the police had blocked off all the streets leading up to it for crowd control.. I'll show you some of the pictures when I get back home so I can upload them.

Today we're having a French Breakfast (the best thing I've tasted my whole time in China!) it's 25 kuai from the bar... :D When we're done I'm heading with the girls to the largest buddist temple in China which should be interesting... and then my favourite!.... and I'm dragging them all along to qipu street which is THE cheap knock off shopping street in Shanghai! WOOOOOOOTTTT!! .. .I do like to shop! :D

Anywho... I'm going to go get them so we can get this day started!

Hope you're all enjoying your labour day long weekend and not studying crazily like little Justine said she was in her email! tut tut... too nerdy! :P

Steph xx

Out and About Again!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hi Peoples!

So, yes I am back on again before Justine's birthday - i.e. Tomorrow... so again another happy birthday to the pretty lady! :)

Sooo I had a rather riveting weekend I've been out and about heaps and it doesn't seem to be slowing down either!
FRIDAY: To start it off... for the past week it's been really nice sunshine and great warm weather! AND LOVING IT!... However the one day we have an excursion... it buckets rain the whole time! ahhhhhhhhhh.... meh. mei guan xi (no worries) Therefore I had a nice a soggy Friday trekking up and down islands down in Qiandao Hu (about a good 2 1/2 - 3 hrs south-west of Hangzhou). For those who can't read my pinyin (i.e. everyone reading this blog) the simple English translation is 'I went to One Thousand Island Lake' ... This is a HUGE man made lake with over 1000 islands in it. (pretty impressive) ... well it sounded impressive.. I didn't really get to see much of it as it was basically all fog and clouds. (you can see my amazing pictures with their spectacular views in the link)
Our boat (chuan) started off with bird island where you guessed it... we saw birds (very wet, depressed looking birds) poor things. Oh and lots and lots of gold fish, the giant Chinese ones and the smaller ones too. (oh and by giant I mean like 1 metre long... yeah there's serious goldfish over here... not the pet type!)
Next off was monkey island.. haha yeah Marshal, and yeah it's not a rip off the computer game. We were meant to see monkeys here, but alas... it was raining and monkeys don't like rain... so I had to make do with the stuffed animals available in the store. At monkey island it cost 40 kuai to take the chair lift up to the top of the mountain... and of course all of us cheap uni students said 'tai guai le' (too expensive) so we trekked up the side of the mountain (horrible flash backs to year 10 camp... ohhhhhhh the memories Jus.) Finally made it to the top where we were meant to see these AMAZING views... well... you guessed it... clouds! :)
... ANYYYY who... This was all made up for by the fact that we could slippery slide down the mountain to the bottom! :D yes... you heard right. I slid down monkey island!
We then hopped back on the boat for a good old traditional Chinese lunch (basically fish, tofu and weird vegetables that looked like twigs... interesting to say the least). And yes... in the photos that is mean with a large spoonful of fish head! ... and no I didn't eat it!
Finally we finished off the day with a visit to snake island. Well you can just guess was we saw here... I wasn't too impressed and couldn't bare to watch the baby mice get eaten... bu hao!

Over together it was good but, I came home at 7pm tired, drenched but with lot's of photos and memories :)

SATURDAY: Today I spent the whole morning trying to get my internet to work properly... but it kept on dropping out so it's taken me this long to upload all the photos... and sorry people I still can't get on facebook... so if I haven't replied.. it's not cause I don't love you! ... honest (well some of you at least) ;)
In the arvo, my good buddy Kels and I hopped on our little zi xing che (bikes) and headed off around xi hu (west lake) ... I swear we did atleast 7km and I now have thighs of STEEL! (Yeah Rhi, I'll moon walk you all the way to the sun!)

SUNDAY: Today was Kelsey's day... she absolutely loves basketball and because of her knees can't play anymore... soooo I was up at 6:30am on a Sunday morning to go cheer on and watch the male international students play basketball at another Zhejiang University campus. I must admit I'm not a big fan of basketball but it was fun sitting with Kel and watching the games. (Yes I must sadly admit I was a groupy) ... however I must add in that it was also very educational! ... For all those who ever want to cheer on their team in Chinese simply say: 'name' Jia You Jia You!! ... Kelsey's and my chant was "Jia You, Jia You, Liu Xue Sheng Jia You!" (go international students!) Also upstairs there was a taekwondo competition on... so we went up and saw some sparring for a little while as well!
At the end of the day our 2 teams from my campus' results were: TEAM A: UN (Kurt-Englishman, Marious-German and USA guy) 3rd place and TEAM B: Spanish Boys (Marty-pronounced Marrrrrrttteeeee, George - Hoorrrrhhheeeiii and the other guy) came 1st... Hoorrrheeeiii was very impressive with the 3 pointers and won that competition as well.
First prize wasn't a trophy as you would normally guess... but a Pierre Cardin tie (which by the sounds of it is really nice) but ..... it looked like it had been stolen from the early 90s and it DEFINITELY should have stayed there... it was the most hideous thing I think I've ever seen... it goes right up there with the side ponytails, tulle and boys in tight pants!

Sooo there you have it .. and very exciting weekend!
This coming week is going to be just as packed but so I'm probably not going to have a chance to write anything for at least another week. Today I had my friend David's goodbye party cause on Thursday he heads to Korea for 2 weeks then home to America. Tomorrow I have my Chinese friend Li Cheng's farewell as he also leaves to study in America for 3 months on Saturday. Wednesday we're meant to be heading out for KTV (karaoke) and I have a test... and then Thursday Kelsey, Dalila and I are heading to Shanghai for a long weekend of fun fun fun!

Now that I have finished making you all terribly jealous... my work is done! :)

I love you all miss you heaps and will have many many more stories for you and LOTS of photos in about a week!

Zai Jian xx

Another Week of Study

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

hello my lovely readers (all 4 of you... maybe more... I'm not sure... none of you have accounts... anywho..........)

I'm sitting here waiting for my American friends so we can all head out to dinner so I thought I would write to you and let you know what's happened in the past 3 days (not much) .... sooooooo.

MONDAY... woke up... went to class... had lunch... studied... ate dinner... studied... went to bed.

TUESDAY... basically the same deal... oh but I also did a load of washing... (you'll be very proud Mum. The washing machine I used is still intact and no one was floating in a sea of bubbles) i.e. last time I used our washer at home!

Wednesday... we I actually came pretty close to murdering some people today... hahah... and you think I'm joking. (Serious face). Soooo like a good little girl (and one who was up till about 3 in the morning twice last weekend) I went to bed at 9:30 to catch up on some zzzzzzzz... at 12:30 I was still staring at the ceiling. Why you may ask. .. I'll tell you... DRUNK HIGH PEOPLE SUCK!

If you don't know my room faces into the court yard in the international building.. and China being a very 'liberal' country ;) doesn't even flinch when the boys bring out the ooba-huge bong and set it up on the patio. WELL... you can just imagine the wonderful WOOTing and WAHOOing that happens when you mix large quantities of Chinese beer and imported ... 'you know what' . They sat directly outside my window and I swear if I had a shotgun... their bodies would still be there! (not really but anyway) ... I have real rage issues to deal with here! ... should be fine by the time I return... you hope anyway.

Apart from that 'kick-starting' my morning the rest of my day has been pretty good. I had class in the morning, and my American bud Kelsey and I worked extremely hard (feichang nuli) all afternoon doing our homework (zuo ye) ... i.e. this means sitting out in the park behind the library sunbaking (with suncream on.... honest Mum). and.... doing homework when we're not dozing. Also just came back in from a good game of tennis with my mate David. Sooo... feeling pretty tired but good.

So ... I'm sure that was riveting.. but it's filled in a good 20 minutes for me so I'm happy :) Hope you all have a wonderful evening and I'll blog again soon... Also, in case I don't blog again (which I should but anyway...) I'd like to say this...

ATTENTION... ATTENTION... ah eh hem (clear throat)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUS!!!!!!!! I love you and miss you heaps and heaps! :)

(Will, If you are reading this... enjoy her while you can... I return in only a few months.. and I plan to hog her! :) )

Steph xx

My 'holiday' weekend

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Soooo.. I'm FINALLY up to date with uploading all of my photos! Sorry it's taken so long, but I literally have to leave my computer on all day to get it done!

Last week was a pretty big week, we had our 3 mid semester exams! I was a bit freaked out about these exams because I had Mum and Dad visiting the week and 1/2 before so I was a little bit behind on the lessons in comparison to everyone else. Also, for all those people back in Australia who complain about not getting enough time to study, or being given to much to learn to quickly... GET OVER IT! China knows how to do it hardcore! ... I was given a brand new lesson to learn 4 days before I would be examined on it ... plus 21 other chapters I had to revise during that time. (And this was only 1 of the 3 exams... during those 4 days I also had 2 others to study and be examined on) The new chapter contained 24 new words I'd never seen before including words like ji nian (English translation - Commemorate) Which I had to figure out how to use in a sentence. Which I have now discovered ji nian you piao (commemorative stamps) are very popular here in China!

But... even with all of my moaning and groaning I made it through the week! ... I still don't know what my grades are for the other two exams but I found out this morning I got 91/100 for the 21 Chapters exam. WOOT! :D

Because of this amazing hard amount of effort, the girls and I decided that the weekend was going to be an extreme partying and shopping weekend! So Friday night we danced away at Coco till 3 in the morning. It was heaps of fun, just us 4 girls (Dalila, Kelsey, my pommy friend Jenni and myself) It's awesome exercise jumping around to the music... and I think my lyrics vocab is getting bigger too!

Saturday was awesome! ... we all headed out to the clothing markets :) VERY HAPPY STEPH! I bought 2 dresses and a cute shirt. It was literally a street of shops minimum 4 levels tall for each building. We only made it through 1 1/2! That night, even though I was pretty tired Kelsey and I headed out to watch her friend Alex DJ at a warehouse graffiti party (she'd promised she'd go and I didn't really want her to go by herself.) After downing a HUGE bottle of ice coffee I was set to go!
... ...
1hour later we FINALLY reached the venue. The poor taxi driver couldn't find it for the life of him! and no wonder, it was down the back of the highway behind the railway lines... (now to my parents and grandparents, don't panic... it sounds like it's in some creepy neighbourhood... but it wasn't and we were hanging out with boys we knew all night!) ... plus the 'graffiti' part of it... was literally like finger painting it was heaps of fun! :D It was like art gallery/ club / pub / paint studio.

Sunday, I was completely exhausted (since we didn't get home till 2:30 in the morning... it took us an hour to catch a taxi) but I really needed to get some cheap shirts to wear around campus and also Mum wanted me to get a mosquito net for my bed. So I was off again (in the pouring rain) to the small products market. I got 5 shirts for 60 kuai (about $15 aus) and net for about $4. So all together good buys :)

I was very proud of my shopping efforts this weekend and we had sooo much fun :)
Today I had to be up by 6:45am (Almost didn't make it) ... pressed snooze. But I'm heading into the 2nd half of the semester (yes, they don't have a weeks break in between terms like we get in Australia) and already I got 44 new words to learn today! Soooo... yes, I love China, had a great weekend, but really regretting going to class this morning as I now have to sit here for the next 2 hours trying to cram more stuff into my overloaded head! LOVE IT!

I hope you've all enjoying your Easter break and you remember the true meaning of Easter!

Love you all, keep safe and email me often! :)

Steph xx

SUNDAY - Shopping and Mum and Dad's week in Hangzhou

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Today was so much fun!... okay for all the girls reading this... you want to do some amazing shopping... Beijing Silk Street is the place to go!

Imagine... 6 levels of hundreds and hundreds of stores... A level dedicated to handbags, another dedicated to pearls, watches, sunglasses and jewellery and another to clothes. I was in HEAVEN!!!!!

I walked out with 8 new shirts, 2 leather handbags, a watch, real pearl earrings and pendant necklace! all for about $230 Australian bucks!

It was absolutely amazing and hopefully I'll get to do a little more shopping again before I leave.

As for the rest of the week, we flew home on Sunday night and I had to head back to classes on Monday morning at 8am. I REALLY wanted to sleep through my classes! ... I think the teacher could tell I was a little tired, even coffee didn't give me my usual morning perk!

TUESDAY - Today I skipped class and headed back up to Shanghai with Mum and Dad to visit 2 factories. They were both very impressive! Though I must say what impressed me most was that they both fed us! :) The first one took us out for a traditional Chinese lunch in a beautiful garden created back in the Ming Dynasty... we had over 7 dishes for 4 people... I almost died from happiness! The next one fed us coffee, oreos and other chocolate nibblies! VERY VERY HAPPY! :)

WEDNESDAY - I had to head back to class again, but Kelsey, Mum, Dad and I headed out to the Hangzhou Silk Markets that afternoon! It was beautiful, bought a few presents and a silk dress and skirt for myself. Mum bought some lovely scarves for herself, and Kelsey got a skirt and some silk pjs and dressing gown for her Mum. It was really good and fun to just hangout with Kels and my parents.

THURSDAY - Today was a kind of lazy day and I had classes till 2:30 in the arvo so we couldn't really do too much gallivanting! ... but Mum, Dad and I did head out to a western restaurant for dinner and eat 2 yummmmmmmyyyyy pizzas! ah... so GOOD! ... and then headed back to Mum and Dad's hotel to watch Wolverine the new movie with Hugh Jackman. This was kinda funny because someone had pirated it when it hadn't been finished yet, so you could still see some of the wires attached to the actors as they flew through the air, and raw computer graphics! but you got the jist on the movie :)

FRIDAY - This was my final day with Mum and Dad. I finished classes at 9:30 in the morning, so I headed across to their hotel shortly after that, we had our own person Good Friday service and then headed out to explore Xi Hu (West Lake) It was really beautiful and there's heaps of photos to see, but for some reason my computer is having pink kittens trying to upload photos at the moment so you might have to wait awhile to see them all. We visited the local art gallery (which surprisingly had very political art pieces in it. and some a little raunchy too. Next we headed to the museum. I loved it here, Australia has such a short history, but this humble little museum in Hanghzou had pieces dating back 7000 years!!
We then caught a boat across the lake to the island with the famous lakes mirroring the moon. This was really beautiful too, apart from the fact half the island you couldn't go to cause it was under construction! lol... but there was these amazingly HUGE goldfish (carp) ... but they sure did look like goldfish. I'm not even exaggerating when I say some were as long as my table I'm typing on write now... they were MAMMOTH!
After all this we hopped back on the boat and travelled to the other side of the lake where he headed down to the famous Lei Feng Pagoda. This was pretty cool, but I wasn't willing to pay money to stand on top of a pagoda and look out at the smog so I only saw it from the ground. Funny story though, we though we were heading to the pagoda, when we went down a road with two officers at the end, when we approached one turn abruptly, clicked his heels together and put up his hand saying STOP! ... we must have wondered down into some rich person's driveway at the base of the pagoda! ... As we were walking back a black car with totally tinted windows drove down past us, as it pasted the guards they both in COMPLETE unison turned, clicked their heels together and saluted! We were very impressed... timed to perfection!

Anyway we spent the rest of the afternoon wondering up the edge of the lack, they have they most beautiful gardens absolutely everywhere, and being the 'ritzy' side of the lake, the other side of the street was all high end retailers, coffee shops and car dealerships including Maserati, Ferrari, BMW, Merc... etc. oh and a mini as well :)

We finished off the day heading to the Hangzhou wine centre like we do every Friday night. Enjoy the free buffet, a good glass of Aussie red and then went back to the hotel room to watch a movie.

I have to say it's harder saying goodbye the second time around knowing Mum and Dad were going home to Grandma and Poppa, Marshal and Larissa and all good things Aussie. But I do love it over here and I have a fresh stock of chocolate to keep me company over the Easter weekend (thanks Mum and Dad!) ;)

But in summary, I had such a fantastic time while Mum and Dad were here. I learnt a lot about business, ticked off all the 'must sees' in China, got to introduce Mum and Dad to all of my family over here in China and I got to see Dad trying to use chopsticks :) It was great!

Thanks Mum and Dad for coming over I absolutely loved it and I was spoilt rotten with the ritzy hotel rooms and showers with water shooting out in straight lines! Thanks! :) and Grandma and Untie Lynden, thanks heaps for the letters I've received both of them. I hope you both had a wonderful time down in Victoria and Grandma and Poppa, you both have a lovely time up at the unit in Caloundra! Also, happy b-day Poppa for today :) I hoped you liked your Chinese birthday song!

Love you all and will let you know how all my mid-semester exams go this week.

Zai Jian xx

FRIDAY & SATURDAY- Shanghai & Beijing

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Soooo... didn't end up posting later that night, once again we've been extremely busy and I only have a 1hour break before I have to get to my next class... so I'm going to type quickly.

Friday we headed back to Hotelex we saw a few different companies and organised some meetings. We had Italian coffee that was terrible and saw many more dishes and plates. Afterwards we headed out to famous Renmin Square... sorry to disappoint, but it literally was just a square. We had Dairy Queen for lunch (which is the American version of Wendy's) it was great to have some real milk again!

That night we flew to Beijing, and miracle... I wasn't air sick! YEY! but we were pretty tired so we headed to our hotel, then out to Maccas for dinner (which was in a 7 level shopping centre down the road... including stores like Burberry, and many other expensive swiss watch places which I can't remember the names of right now. Oh we also saw a beautiful catholic church up in Beijing, and there was artists painting characters with huge brushes in water on the front sets, it was very impressive. The guy had a brush in each hand and was literally mirror-imaging the characters at the same time.

This was the big day! :)

We were up at 6:30am - even though I felt like I was up half the night! (I've discovered Dad snores VERY loudly!) Our private little tour started at 8am with our guide 'Jason'. He was really nice and made the trip very entertaining with the mispronunciation of a few words! :) Like 'restaurant' instead of 'rostrum'.

Now for those who don't know, this weekend was a special long weekend to pay respect to your dead ancestors. I thought that maybe that would mean the tourist destinations would be a little less crowded as everyone would be doing family things. OH NO! ... Tiananmen Square was PACKED! ... and I mean literally. I will never complain ever again about ques in Australia! If you know how big Tiananmen Square is, you'll understand how many people I mean when I saw that the que filled up majority of the square! (see pictures) So you might be asking... why so packed out?? ... well the Chinese are huge fans of Chairman Mao and that's where his grave is. So it was literally like a pilgrimage for Chinese people to come up to Beijing for the weekend que for hours in the sun and pay respect to their leader.... Imagine if that happened in Australia! hahaha... queing for hours to pay respect to Kevin Rudd?!? mhhhh... I think not!

Next was the Forbidden City, this was AMAZING! ... I can best describe it like Shrek does it's like an onion! It had gate after gate after gate! ... courtyard after courtyard, building after building. It was basically impossible to get into the middle section where the emperor lived! The detail that was put into it was incredibly beautiful! Everything was gold or hand carved/painted.
Also it was really interesting having a guide to tell you all about the history of it and it's design. Did you know that the ground in the courtyard is 20 something layers deep of bricks each layer going in a different location because the emperor was scared that someone was going to dig up underneath the walls and kill him in his sleep!

Also the dragon symbolises the emperor and the Phoenix the empress... it just had such amazing history!

Afterwards we headed to the jade factory, there's not much to say about this one, but I can tell you there is a lot of different types of jade and jadenite is the best! ... Oh and for Untie Lynden I know how much you love your feng shui, so the low down in China is that you should get a bok choy made from jade and have its leaves facing in to bring in good fortune and money!

Also the best way to test whether it is high quality jade is by wrapping a piece of hair around the jade and then lighting it. A high quality jade will protect the hair from burning (because of the very cool temperature) Also jade changes colour to a deeper green the older it is.

Finally, we stopped in for lunch at a Chinese Cloisonne factory. (This is amazing hand crafted copper vases) we got to see how they are made all the way from making the vases through to carving, painting and firing! Mum and I each bought a 'masterpiece' vase (these designed and crafted by the master) they are really beautiful! However, upstairs was the restaurant and that's where we headed first! ... it was nice 'western' tasting Chinese and we also tried some famous Beijing liquor which knocked our socks off with 56% alcohol! (it tasted and smelt like straight metho!)

After lunch we then headed across to the 'Badaling' section of the Great Wall! It was BREATHTAKING! The views from up there were incredible and the wall just stretches on and on and on......... We climbed to the 4th turret (about 1 1/2 km uphill) it was incredibly steep, it definitely would have kept the Chinese soldiers fit! You can check out the pictures for yourself... I'm slowly uploading everything, so if it's not up yet, sorry you'll have to wait a little longer. :)
Also our guide Jason informed us after we'd finished climbing, it's said that you aren't considered a real man unless you have climbed the Great Wall, so yes I'm feeling very manly right now!

Last but not least, we finished off our huge day with a performance by the Chinese acrobats. This was really good, with people flying everywhere and about 20 people on 1 bicycle it was impressive to say the least! But by far the best was one guy lifting another guy up and down using only his calf muscles! He was ridiculously strong and yet he wasn't overly buff!

But all together it was an amazing day, we came back to the hotel completely exhausted, I soaked in the bath for a good 1 1/2 hrs. We knocked over all the 'must-sees' in China and I must say they were all just as amazing as I expected them to be!

Well I have to head off to my Ting Li Ke (Listening Class) so I'll make you all extremely jealous tomorrow when I tell you about the shopping we did on Sunday.

Zai Jian! xx

1 - WEDNESDAY M & D arrive and THURSDAY in Shanghai

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hey Everyone.

Okay, so this weekend has been absolutely crazy but heaps and heaps of fun. So I've got a heap to write about. To make sure you don't get RSD from reading my blog I've split it up by day. So you can read at your leisure! :)

So here goes! .... ... ...

Mum and Dad arrived on Wednesday last week. It was absolutely fantastic to see them again! :) And I think they enjoyed their 'real' China driving experience with their taxi driver ripping them off for the fare in and driving like a total maniac to get them there!
Once in the college, we discovered that 'unfortunately' they weren't going to have a room for the entire duration of their stay. (even though I had specifically gone to the lady at the front desk WEEKS prior and booked it.) So Tuesday -Friday night Mum and Dad are going to have to find another hotel or bunk on my floor! lol... but once again, it's all part of the China experience!

THURSDAY - We were up at 5:45am to have showers, breakfast and be at the train station (huo che zhan) on the other side of town to depart at 7:40am. The train ride was great! we were in 1st class and sat opposite a lovely pair of Chinese ladies who were heading up to Shanghai for a girl's weekend. We attempted to have conversations about different things in Chinese, but as you can guess with my not so large array of vocab it was quite jilted... it kind of reminded me of a game of pictionary. I think I improved my drawing skills as well as my spoken! ... even Dad attempted to draw a picture of a slicer to try and explain the family business!
Oh, we've swapped details too, cause her daughter is my age and she's studying English, and is hoping to come to Australia at some point.
Anyhow, it was a great way to pass the time and I think they enjoyed themselves. I know the rest of the train did, the whole carriage was looking over their newspapers and books to see what we were doing, finding it hilarious that this crazy waiguoren (Foreigner) sitting with her parents was trying to speak Chinese! Even people from the other isles were putting in their 2 cents worth trying to help translate what we were saying!

So Shanghai itself is very very big! ... and it's true... the whole city is literally constantly under construction! everywhere you looked something new was being put up, or being renovated! it was amazing! ... we had so much trouble trying to find our hotel because the entire thing was surrounded by roadworks and construction! ... I can't even remember how many times we circled the block on Thursday and Friday trying to find our hotel!

Thursday arvo after we dropped off our bags at the hotel, we went straight to the Hotelex Food Equipment Expo, though we were quite grateful we made it in the first place and our taxi driver decided that it was too difficult to get into the inside lane to do a u-turn. So instead went to the far outside lane and swung out in front of 5 lanes of traffic to turn! ... quite the experience... I think Dad left finger imprints in the sides of the chair!
Hotelex itself was pretty interesting, we found some products we liked and we're heading back up to Shanghai tomorrow to check one of them out. But I have to say the majority of it was just the same things: cutlery, plates and duplications of everything else.

Thursday night I yanked Mum and Dad back out again and we headed to the Bund (No rest for the travel crazy!) ... for those of you who don't know, the Bund is the famous pictures of the needle like shaped tower you see in all of the postcards from Shanghai. It was BEAUTIFUL! It truly is old meets new. You look to your left and see huge skyscrapers with the side of the building lit up (a TV screen on the side of the skyscraper!) Look to your right and you see heritage listed architectural brilliant buildlings! You can check out the pictures on the link! We also had dinner in this little tiny 'out-of-the-way' kinda store in a back street. They were very suprised to see westerners off the beaten track and every person in the place stared at us as we attempted to eat slippery noodles with chopsticks... put it this way... they killed themselves laughing! but the girls were beatuiful and even let me take a photo with them! (The girls in yellow - see the photos) :)

But anyway the first day of our long weekend was crazy busy, but heaps of fun. I'll let you have a break from my HUGE amount of typing and I'll post about Friday later tonight. I'm going to head out with the guys and play tennis while Mum and Dad have a nap! :)

Zai Jian! xx

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hey Everyone,

So this is an extremely quick blog to so I'M MEGA EXCITED!

I just finished calling my Mum who is in a taxi, heading to the university RIGHT NOW! ... yes you heard correct people! ... my parents are in China!

Oh and to make things even better I just received their care-package they sent 2 weeks ago which includes 2 family blocks of Cadbury chocolate! ... I don't think this day could get any better! :) (also we've been blessed with no rain for their arrival!) WOOT!

So here's the scoop... I won't be posting anything probably for the next 10 days while my parents are here.. but I'll let you know what we're going to be doing....

Tomorrow we're getting up bright and early to catch a train to Shanghai where we'll be going to the Hotelex Food Equipment Expo. We'll be checking out all the equipment for the next two days and I've planned a few little touristy things while we're in Shanghai as well. :)

Friday night, we fly to Beijing where on Saturday we're taking a private tour around the famous city! including ... the great wall, tianamen square, forbidden city etc... and we're going to see the Chinese acrobats that night for dinner! :)

Sunday we're going to do a spot of shopping and then fly back down to Hangzhou so that I can get back to class. :(

The rest of the week will be spent doing a few little business trips but mostly relaxing and spending time with the parentals! :) I promise to take lots and lots of photos for you all and have a HUGE blog for you to read afterwards!

Grandma and Poppa I hope you have heaps of fun down in Brizzie with Marshal and Larissa, and happy holidays to all of my uni friends. ( I think you've got easter break soonish..)

Zai Jian :)

Steph xx

Another Great Weekend in Hangzhou

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hi Everyone,

So had another partying weekend in Hangzhou! :) ...Also, heads up (just incase there is confusion) this partying can be done without consuming copious amounts of alcohol... and yes it's still awesome fun!

My Friday, as previously described was just as much fun as predicted! ...I painted lots and lots of bamboo! (pictures of my wonderful bamboo have been uploaded!) it was very exciting, and I have to say for all of my arty friends who are reading this, it's quite an amazingly different technique that you use for the brush strokes! .... you have to hold the brush in a certain position to get a certain appearance! ... and of course being left handed it made everything extra hard to copy! ... my teacher made the most extraordinary face when he saw I was left handed... and exclaimed something in Chinese I couldn't understand, but for some reason don't think was 'Wow, that's great!'

KTV was AWESOME! ... I'm not really much of a singer personally, but Karaoke is great! we did everything from Beatles to Britney Spears and back again! We even found some Spanish songs for the Spanish girls in our class! ... We're going to be planning a second 'class excursion' again soon! ... I'm sorry to say I forgot my camera, but if you're on facebook my friend Megan did and promise to take some next time!

We headed out to Ingrid's B-day party as planned and yeah the 'Mexican Bar' / Bedroom of the Mexican students was great fun... you try cramming an entire party of about 50 people into a dorm room! My friend Kelsey and I hit the town afterwards, we went to some club to support a friend call Alex who DJs there. Personally I'm not a huge fan of techno music, but every performer has to have their posse, afterwards we headed across to another club called Coco and danced the night away... it was seriously like back to back aerobic classes! We were sweating! and I feel I worked off all my dinner! ... It was heaps of fun, (except for the continuous flow of boys asking to dance... you could think that it's flattering, but when you get interupted every 2 mintues (LITERALLY!) by about 20 different guys when you're trying to just have fun with your friends, you get sick of it. How do you get out of such a dilemma you might ask?? Well I was from Michigan, my name was Britney and I had a boyfriend called Justin! ... the boyfriend part works wonders!

The rest of my weekend was mostly lazing around, sleeping and studying... finally yesteday I found a little music store about 2 blocks away where I can play piano for an hour for 5 kuai! HAPPY STEPH!!

That's most of the updates of what's happening in Hangzhou, I've got 2 tests this week so will mostly be doing a lot of study so probably won't post again for a little bit. But I'll leave you with the hint to check out my photos to see the 'present' Mum and Dad sent to me to keep me company over here. I've been instructed to take 'it' out and show 'it' around Hangzhou, so will have to do that soon and will put the photos up to show you.

Hope you're all well and having fun!!

Zai Jian! xx

Busy Friday!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hello wonderful family and friends!

IT'S FRIDAY! ... I'm very excited because for the rest of today I'm going to be extremely busy having lots of fun and doing no work! I hope you are all doing the same, but I doubt you are cause you're all such studious and hard working people :)

So since my last post I've been doing my usual study, eating and bike riding with a few extras in between... such as ST PATTY's! ... okay so we hit the winery first and enjoyed our free buffet and I had my glass of wine. (And yes I did try a guiness... and Yes I still stand by the fact that beer, not matter the brand tastes disgusting!)

From here we headed across to Shamrock's the Irish bar, it was alright, pretty crowded but nothing mega exciting except for this one crazy drunk Chinese guy who was cracking out some pretty interesting dance moves! (by interesting I mean just plain weird!) I've got it on video so I'll see if I can upload it onto youtube or something for you all to have a look at.
Another weird thing was that there was a little girl (about 3 yrs old) in the bar as well sitting with her parents enjoying the toxic smoke that engulfed the whole place! .... she was happily clapping along to the crazy Chinese guys dancing.

Afterwards, we headed back across town to the Maya bar, hung out there for a while and then went to Maccas for icecream (McDonalds - as my American friends had no idea what I was talking about when I said Maccas) and off to bed as we still had class the next day... which I happened to miss. Whoops. :0 (I spend the whole morning studying in my room instead and doing a load of washing)

On Wednesday we found a 'Wu Mart', which my American friends were overjoyed to see (American Wall Mart equivalent) while we were searching for our painting supplies for our elective. Justine you will be extremely envious to hear that I got a HUGE amount of paper, 6 quality brushes, paints, ink, a mat, and some really nice quality paper for 100 kuai (about 25 bucks) :) I'm going to be using all of these this afternoon in my elective from 1-2:30 I'm really hoping that it's good cause I've always wanted to try out a different medium! ... and this medium is VERY cheap over here!

Yesterday I had a lesson with my Chinese Tutor, Yeon Hong. (She teaches me Chinese for 1 hr I teach her English for 1 hour.) It was really good, I finally felt like I could string a few words together to make something sound some what coherent.

Finally that leads us to today! So here's what's going to be happening because yes I know you're all dying to find out! ;)

I'm heading out for a game of tennis with my friend Korean/American friend David, lunch at 12pm, painting elective from 1-2:30pm and then we have a class excursion to KTV (The ultimate Chinese experience... KARAOKE!) I'm slightly nervous about this, seeing as I'm not exactly the words best singer... but hey where can you sing if not in a foreign country where everyone is out of tune anyway. Oh except for this one guy who rode past me on his bike yesterday.... he was singing like Paverotti... CRAZY!
Anyway, then we're heading to another all you can eat and drink buffet at the winery then my new friend Ingrid's b-day party at the Mexican bar at 8pm. (The mexican bar is actually the Mexican students room which they have turned into a bar... I have no idea where they put the beds!) Followed by a night a Coco Bar which supposidly has some good music!

So a very long and exciting day... which hopefully I'll make it through with lots of photos to show you along the way! :)

Also, before I sign off, thanks for the lovely letters in the mail Untie Lynden, and Darren I didn't get any jet lag thanks for asking. Grandma, you'll be happy to know we have Tai Chi out the front of our international student dormitories every Thursday afternoon, however I chose to do the painting elective instead so I don't get to do it... but it looks very graceful!... but I'm sure you're way more advanced! And Poppa, I'm very impressed that you're making smoko now! I'm expecting an amazing cuppa next time I'm up! :) And Marshal, hopefully you got my text message, but if not Happy Birthday for yesterday!

Love you all heaps,

Steph xx

Fun in the Sun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

My goodness I can't believe it's been about a week since my last post! Time is flying over here!

This is just a quick entry as I'm quite exhausted from all my wonderful excerise! But just thought you'd like to know that the SUN HAS BEEN OUT! WOOOOOOOOT!!!!!!! :)

Yes we have had wonderful glorious sun all weekend!

So last week was the usual study, biking, eating and more study (I'm really becoming quite a local!) Friday, I had my exam and hopeful did pretty well. (haven't got the grades back yet) But I went out for some retail therapy on Saturday with the girls and we found the 'underground markets' (quite literally underground!) There was everything you could think of from gucci through to chloe and burberry... and of course China wouldn't be China without the fake Louis V. Oh and Sunday we climbed a mountain! :)

Yes, for those who don't know, my university (which has a moat) Also backs onto a beautiful lush mountain! :) Soooo we decided to climb it, along with 2000 other Chinese people (I exaggerate... but only a little) ;) But the views were amazing, and when I get the chance I'll upload them all fr you.

Today, you'll be very happy to know chubby stephie who hasn't done any exercise in WEEKS! bought herself a 104 kuai tennis racket (about $25) and headed to the courts! ... well all I can say is that I sucked! but that's okay I've got 4 more months to get my swing back.. and it was fun! :)

Finally, tomorrow is St pat's day so we've all bought white t-shirts and painted them up with all sorts of wacky designs and some of them have ummmm... shall I say 'interesting' quotes :) all very Irish of course! Photos will be provided of course! :)

So I wish you all a very happy St Patricks Day and will let you know what mischief we made of it tomorrow! :)

Zai Jian!

Wushan Square, Party-Party & Wuzhen!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Okay peoples, be prepared for a large amount of reading!

sooo since my last entry I've been extremely busy! There's just so much to tell you that I don't know where to start... I think I'm going to do the nerdy thing and categorize everything by day.

So today we had classes in the morning and I finished up all my homework for the weekend so that we could have some wonderful misadventures! Friday arvo, the gang got together and we headed out to the infamous Wushan Square. This place is one of THE 'tourist destinations' for Hangzhou. It's got all the nic-tacs from fans and umbrellas through to glass ornaments and caricatures. However, the truely exciting part is the little side alley which sells all of the traditional Chinese dishes!! Mhhh hhmm... anyone for some duck blood soup?? Or if that isn't really your style, how bout just the duck head itself?? ... chicken claw maybe??

Well... yes, you guessed it, I'm to much of a 'chicken' to try any of that stuff, but I did get stuck into an interesting rice dish served with fruit inside a pineapple, a spicy chicken kebab looking thing and some weird fuit salad looking drink. (which probably wasn't that smart as it was cold water, but hey, I didn't get sick so alls good!). --> you can check out the pics in the photo link for my blog!

Anyway, after all that delicious food, we weren't really feeling the need for a huge free buffet, so we turned up at the winery at 9pm instead and just enjoyed a nice glass of wine. But guess what!... to my very happy suprise, this winery is just around the corner from the uni and it's TOTALLY AUSTRALIAN! The AFL was on the TV (don't worry, the rugby is meant to be on later)... and all of the wines were Australian. I had a lovely cab sav!

So yes, I'm very excited about this little place, and by the sounds of it, they've got another 'free buffet' style thing happening next Friday, so I still get my free Han Bao Bao (Hamburger in Chinese).

As for S.O.S.'s grand opening... pretty bad actually, it was crowded, smokey and they only played techno music... so there's not much to say there, apart from the fact they had cool glow in the dark ice cubes! (which I'm sure had some kind of interesting chemical... oh well... don't fret I didn't eat the ice!)

Well today wasa relaxation day! I started my morning with a lovely jog around the campus, ending up at the post office where I picked up my 'care-package' from the parentals... (CHOCOLATE!!!!!) Thanks guys! Picked up a croissant and coffee for breaky and went back to bed. The rest of the day was spent in bed catching up on readings, doing a whole lot of research for Dad for business stuff when they come over to visit and watching lots of episodes of Bones! :) SOOOOOOO GOOD!

Today was very exciting! Kelsey and Dalila and I caught a cab across town to the East Hangzhou Bus Station and then caught an 1 1/2 bus to a small water town called Wuzhen. You can check out the pictures on my blog as well. It was absolutely beautiful! We paid an arm and a leg to get in the door (120 kuai) but it was so tranquil you couldn't help but get lost in the little alley ways of this peaceful little town which is built on a river.

We spent the entire day here, after we saw the 'tourists' area, we then decided to head out into the 'real' China in Wuzhen. It's amazing the huge difference! (see the pictures to know what I mean). I don't think they're used to seeing 3 western girls walking down the main street, so we spent the entire time smiling and waving, getting asked for photos and saying 'hello' to everyone. As this is probably the only English word they know, EVERYONE says it to you!

However, we kinda got sick of it, and by the end of the day when we had to wait 1 1/2 hours for our bus, we just pretended we didn't hear and talked among ourselves.

Another thing that made it very tiring, is that there is probably about 50 people with rickshaws waiting for you to get tired and ask for a ride, so they literally follow you down the streets yelling at you 'lai lai' (come, come) to hop in. They even chase the buses down the street as they are arriving! (ahhhhh mayhem!)

However, even with the crazy stalker rickshaw guys, it was a great day! ... we slept most of the ride home and was in bed by 9:30 for classes on Monday.

Okay, so the last day to catch you all up on, but it's also one of the most exciting!
Because I GOT A BIKE! Yes, it's very very cute and it's orange. it's got TINY little wheels, but it's the most amazing little thing because it folds in half so I can carry it inside and store it in my room. Brett and Megan have them as well and we all went for a lovely bike ride this arvo to Ying Li Temple. It was beautiful. (you can see the pics of my bike and the temple in the link)

These bikes are so fantastic, it means we can get around town so much easier and stop off whenever we want. It also saves us a heap of money on taxies. We got them for a steal! ... bike, bike chain and basket all for 295 Kuai! YEY!

So yes, this is all of my very exciting news, you're all up to date! ... leaving it there, because we're all about to head down for dinner!

Love you all, hope you aren't asleep after all of that typing you just had to read... WAKE UP!

Bye! xxoo

Almost forgot...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oh also, I forgot to mention that I signed up for electives! Guess who is going to be taking Kung Fu classes on a Wednesday and Chinese Traditional Painting classes on a Friday! WOOT... rather excited.

Anyways that's all.

Bye :)

Baby Bum B-Day

Hi Everyone,

So following on from my previous blog, I told you how I was heading out with my US friends for Megan's B-day. Well we have a lovely dinner... had a REALLY good curry (for some reason Chinese do really good curries which are sweet and spicy but not too hot!) Then we proceded back to our shi tang (dining hall) to chaow on some b-day cake.

Well, we're still unsure to this day whether it was the cake or the table, but either or both smelt like a babies bum!

You may be thinking... ah yeah Steph is just exaggerating with one of our wildly entertaining stories... but all I can say is "if only I was!" For all those out there who have had children or have worked with children know that putrid dirty nappy smell/really old change table. Yup, that's what I'm talking about.

So being the mature responsible people we are, we sat there and endured it... while laughing hysterically between mouthfuls of what we thought was chocolate cake.

Oh yes, this is the next part of my highly entertaining story! ... So Brett and Megan ordered a chocolate cake, because China doesn't have much chocolate, so we thought we'd splurge!
... WELL! All I can say is that the outside looked extremely appetizing (chocolate curls etc.) However we were gravely mistaken to think this happy chocolatey feeling could last forever. Yes... you guessed it.. it was a sponge cake on the inside with fake cream filling and weird chunks of what looked like fruit salad mixed through it. All I can say is that it was another one of my many "China Experencies".

So as you could probably guess, we weren't overly enthused by this cake, so we sucked up to the kitchen staff (the ones who bring us our meals) and gave the rest of it to them. (hoping that we hadn't made them sick incase the baby bum small had come from the cake) ... fingers crossed!
And so far I think it has worked as I've had hot jiaozi for breakfast every morning since! WOOT!

Anyways, that's my exciting tale! ... THE END. Will be heading out tomorrow night for a free buffet (yes I said free) at a local winery.. (weird, yes I know!) and than to the grand opening of ... THE VAULT at club S.O.S. and hopefully checking out WuShan square on Saturday if the weather permits. sooooooo probably won't be back on for a little, but till then. Hope all is well, miss you all heaps and stay happy! (This especially to my uni friends who have just started back up again.)

Steph xx

Depressing News.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hi Everyone,

So I have some depressing news to share with you all. One of the main things I was looking forward to in China (apart from the shopping) was getting a traditional Chinese blind massage. This is a full body massage for 1 hour for approx AUS $10.

Today was the day! ... totally excited we headed down there, and suprisingly the people actually were blind! ... we were ushered into this small room with 6 bed/table looking things, Kelsey and Dalila didn't look to enthused with the look of the beds, but after fresh towls were laid down we hopped up and laid down for our soothing experience.

... Well... not quite soothing!

I have to say that was one of the most painful 1 hours ever! My massage hurt! even though I said tai zhang (which means too hard) he would lighten up a little bit, but as soon as he moved onto the next area he would start really hard again! OUCH! Also, I wasn't to impressed when he cracked my neck, fingers and knees. (sorry to those who are fond of chiropractors ... but I'm definitely NOT!)

But once again, it was all part of the China experience, I can cross that one off my list! *Phew*

Also, another suprising thing today was that I'm starting to see a lot more beggars outside the university, I don't know if it's because all of the students are back for the semester or not, but it's really difficult walking past all the time. We all feel so bad.

However, to end it off on a happy note, today has been my friend Megan's birthday (hence the reason why it was only us 3 girls at the massage place, Megan and Brett had gone off for a special afternoon of pampering at the Dragon something...) So in 10 minutes I'll be heading across town to enjoy a lovely Thai restaurant (yup good variety in my diet! ;) ... gotta love that rice!) and a big chocolate cake that Brett and Megan found at the local Taiwanese Bakery. We sound soooo multi-cultural!

So zai jian everyone!

Steph xx

Fresh Lunch... mhhhh

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hi Peoples,

So I'm heading into my 3rd week here and still enjoying it!... didn't really doing anything to exciting this past weekend as the weather is still freezing cold and it's still raining. However, I'm feeling more hopeful for next weekend as it's meant to clear up!

Rather exciting! ... might head to Wushan Square or something.... so many exciting possibilities!

Nothing much to report, but I thought I'd let you know one interesting thing I happened to see. Having grown up on vegemite sangas from the freezer for most of my lunches I've never truely experienced the whole 'fresh' sandwhich thing. Well I truely understand it now... I was heading out one of the uni gates with my friend Kelsey when we saw one of the guards pulling something out of the moat ... yes peoples if you didn't already know my uni has a moat.. pretty sweet huh! So curiousity got the better of us and we waited to see what he was doing.

Well it happens that there must be something alive in our little moat because he pulled up a picnic basket at the end of the rope put it on the ground and progressed to kick something out of it... being slightly disturbed we moved on, but I thought that was a very interesting... ideas for anyone who works in the city and forgets their lunch (i.e. Marshal) just find yourself a rope and picnic basket swing it over the goodwill bridge and you'll be snacking away in no time!

Zai Jian!

Steph xx

Wo xuexi hen nuli!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hi Everyone,

For all those who are to lazy to translate my title it says that I am studying very hard! ... hence why I haven't written for a few days now.

So classes have begun as you know and I am spending almost every waking hour either speaking Chinese, learning Chinese, or eating Chinese (the food that is). As my friend Brett says... "That's very Asian".

However, as any good uni student would tell you, you should always inhibit these study habits with a good healthy dose of heading out on the town for a late night when you have a class on at 8am the next morning... soooo that is exactly what we plan to do.

We're heading out to club SOS again... after of course a healthy dose icecream first. I've discovered chocolate icecream is the one 'chocolate' thing in China that actually tastes like chocolate! ... because unfortunately as some of you may know I am still on the search for chocolate. Chinese chocolate can be described as 'crazy clarks' tasting chocolate (no offense intended Rhi) and I miss my good old Cadbury!

Though, having the amazing parents that I have... I have been informed that a care-package is in the mail... with majority of the content being chocolate! YEY!

Also before I sign off i just wanted to say thanks to my parents, Aunty Lynden and Grandma and Poppa for the lovely letters I've been recieving in the mail! I love them and it makes me feel special as it's too expensive for my American friends to get letters. hahaha. For anyone else if you care to know my address over here... give my parents a buzz and they'll let you know, otherwise... you know my skype address! :)

Love you all and miss you!

Steph xx

What to bring to China... PATIENCE!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hi Everyone,

So, 2 hints for all those who wish to travel to China.
Thought before: "What a great idea, it will be fun, meet business contacts, see pretty dresses"
Thought after: "Need air, can't breathe, being gawked at and surrounded, so many flyers being thrown in my face, can't see the exit sign! H.E.L.P.!!!!!!!!!"

Let's just put it this way. It was an experience!
.. another experience that I probably would have liked to have gone without was China's efficiency!

So for all those who don't know, I have set up a bank account in China to be able to access money for the next couple of months so I don't have to pay the huge fees for accessing it on my Aussie bank card.

Here's what's happened:

1. Mum sent me money, so the bank calls my Chinese friend Li Cheng to get us to come down and sign for the money.
2. Get down there, discover that I can't sign for the money... I need my passport (which the police have for 1 week to process for a residance permit. )
3. Finally today, was able to go to the Police/Visa office to get my card. . . Arrive at 1pm... discover that in China they take a 2 hour lunch break! The office is shut from 12pm-2pm.
4. 2pm... we run in the door and get in 2nd spot...sitting there waiting, a lady comes up to us and tells us we are in the wrong building. You hand in your visa in this building ... you collect it in another. OF COURSE we should have know this! ... D.A.H.!
5. Finish queing in the next building. Get to the front of the line... no we don't give out the visas here, you ahve to go down to THAT line down there. (this then happened again at the next line)
6. 3rd line in the 2nd building... FINALLY HAVE PASSPORT BACK (after handing over 400kuai.
7. Back in the taxi, across the other side of town again... TO THE BANK!
8. Line up again... get the counter, fill out 2 forms back in the que again!
9. ... ... ... 45 minutes later back up to another counter... sign 10-12 more pieces of paper. (they like paperwork!) wait... ... ...
wait... ... ...
10. Comes back, wants to know what I will be using MY money for. Well drugs of course what do you think?!? ... Li Cheng kindly informs him it is for my rent for accommodation!
11. Another 10 minutes go past... I get my money!
12 Another 5 minutes go past... I get my passport! YEY ... HOME!!! walked all the way back down the street, inside the university and on the home stretch. NO... WAIT! A PHONE CALL!
13. We're marching back up to the bank again, because 'sorry' they forgot to print my name as STEPHANIE HELEN COWLEY then only put STEPHANIE HELEN. So I have to go and RE-fill out some of the forms.
14. FINALLY back home, paid the accommodation and in my room ... 4 hours down, 3 hours of it waiting around in ques!

So yes, patience is a virtue! ... make sure you pack it in your luggage when you come to visit this beautiful country. Yes, I still call it beautiful, because even with it's processing and efficiency faults. The people and culture are still beautiful! and I love them!

Zai Jian for now!

Steph xx

Electronics and Weddings!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick one to say hi :)
So yes I went to the electonics market yesterday.... rather exciting! ... though I do have to say, it's not so much a 'market' what us Aussie think of. It's actually an entire street, probably three times the size of the Queen Street Mall (literally an entire street, not joking on that part) full of different types of electronic stores. Everything from apple speciality stores to big department stores. However the 'building' they called the 'market' was 2 levels of non-stop little shops and stalls!

As you can tell... I was rather impressed. Though prices wise... it varied some were more expensive than australia... but there were definitely bargains to be found. Anyone want a new blackberry for $400?? or blueray dvds for about $2.50??

And Mum, I found your favourite TV shows mega cheap as well! Bones and NCIS ... seasons 1-3 and 1-5 are now sitting on my bookshelf!

So... you may be asking "What's on the agenda for today??" ... Well I'm glad you asked!
We're off to a wedding expo! ... yes you heard right. Don't be to freaked out thinking that I'm getting ahead of myself, Step 1: Get a Boyfriend!
We thought it would be a great way to make business contacts and what girl wouldn't want to walk through a huge exhibition of dresses, flowers and pretty girly things! :)

Oh also, found out yesterday that I'm in class 1.5 for Mandarin! (basically I'm at the bottom) which I'm totally cool with! So classes start tomorrow... should be fun.. expect for the 8am start part... still can't totally get over that one, but don't sweat it's only 2 floors above my room so I'm literally role out of bed, down to the elevator and role into the classroom!

Anyways, Love you all and must leave you all, I think we're going to attempt public transport today. Catching the bus for 1 kuai (about 25c) good times!

Steph xx

Party Party & The West Lake

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hi Everyone!

So since my last totally engrossing blog I have been very busy enjoying myself and being super touristy before my school semester starts at 8am next Monday. (Yes they happily informed me today that classes start promptly at 8am... = Sad Stephie!)

Last night, we headed out to the SOS night club with my American friends. To all my uni friends you shall be very envious as it was 60 kuai (about $12 Aussie) for all you can drink. To my family, don't worry your good little daughter did not stumble home at the weeeee hours of the morning to wake up hours later with a bad hang over, but she did stumble home from lack of sleep and exhaustion from dancing the night away! :)

Today... WE SAW THE SUN!!!!!!!! (after a luxurious sleep in!) we had our 'induction' which consisted of over an 1 1/2 hours of a history of Zhejiang University and the top 10 reasons why it is such a wonderful university. ...oh and not to forget the local policemen very sternly telling us about different types of visas! (in 3 different languages)

Though.. after all of this we did get the rest of the afternoon off! :) So we went for a snap happy walk along the West Lake. It was so beautiful and we were able to find an amazing garden up in the hills which looked like it belonged in a national geographic magazine it was so perfect... It's one of the things that I love most about China (especially Hangzhou), you can be surrounded by a million people day in day out and it can get quite dirty, but you can walk 15 minutes up the road to a tranquil paradise!

You can check out the pictures on the 'photos' link... if I can upload them, flickr seems to have a limit to the amount of photos I can post per month.

Tomorrow is predicted to be another B.E.A.UTIFUL day, so we're going to hopefully head out and check out the electronics market. rather excited! :)

Hope you are all safe and well and have an awesome weekend!

Steph xx

Catch Up - Friends and Misadventures

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hi again!

So, now you've got the basic jist of how I got here, here's the goss of what's been happening so far!

On the Sunday when I first arrived here, I couldn't find anyone who looked even remotely Western, so I headed down to the dining hall (Shi-Tang - yes I know... makes you hungry for food doesn't it.) Found one person who spoke Enligh to help translate that 'I want food... yes... that one... no not fish heads... THAT one!' I then proceded to sit at a table surrounded by Asian students. Now for those who aren't aquainted to how to eat in China, I shall explain.
1. Head down...
2. Chop-Sticks poised...
3. Shovel, Shovel, Shovel!

Oh and please spit out all the bones onto the table... not the plate! If you aren't used to this, sitting at a table by yourself surrounded by people spitting bones onto the table space next to you can come as quite a shock! ... (but it all comes along with the snorting, spitting and other bodily sounds we've discovered in China)

Though you do get used to it, and my friends and I still find it amusing. (true levels of maturity showing through) :)

and no... none of you have been replaced, but I have got some new friends! They are all from Michigan State University (MSU) in the USA. Megan, Brett, Kelsey and Dalila... I think they must have felt sorry for this strange Aussie by herself and have taken me into their group! :)

We've had many misadventures so far, mostly including a taxi and mistranslations or attempts at communicating, but it's all part of the fun!

Though I must admit, we wouldn't have been able to get anything done i.e. mobiles, internet, accommodation etc if it was from our Chinese friend Li Cheng. He's been amazingly helpful!

Now ... it's freezing cold over here(it's been raining and about 2 degrees the entire time I've been here) brrrrrrrrrr... so my fingers are starting to get cramps from all this typing so i'm going to stop here. But check out the few photos that I've taken and I'll write again soon.

Oh yeah and I had my placement test today... let's just say i'm going to be in level 1... but at least it's not level 0.

anyway... Mum just hopped online with Skype so ditching you all!

love you and miss you heaps.

Steph xx

Catch Up - Airport, Arrival and Room

Hi Guys,

So I've finally got a few hours spare before we head back out tonight for 'cheap international students night' at one of the local bars with my American friends!

This is going to be a bit of a long entry today with details for my Grandma and Poppa since they don't get to talk to me on Skype or facebook... so if you want to tune out and just scroll on down go for it... or just read the parts you want.

Saturday night/Sunday morning:

So I left Brisbane at the weee hours of the morning with a small send off from my family (Mum, Dad, Marsh and Larissa... who basically counts as family) :) and my three crazy entertainers (Jus, Nix and Rhi) + Sir William who is glued to Jus' hip... though I'm pretty sure he was just making sure I got on the aeroplane so that he could get his girlfriend back for a few months! ;) Also ran into Wayne and Sonya Treloar it was great to have people to walk through customs with, so thanks heaps guys!

The flight over to Hong Kong wasn't exactly a highlight as I get quite travel sick, even with the help of Kwell my stomach still decided to make itself known! ... Anyway, I got an unexpected stop over in Manila for refueling so I can say I've been there too, even though I only saw the tarmac.

Hong Kong (from inside the airport) looked good, even though it was hard to see through the smog/fog. I really felt like i'd left Australia when I saw a beautiful old fashioned boat in the river right next to the aeroplanes on the tarmac. It really gave the feeling of old meets new! (see picture)

In Hangzhou they have the most amazing architecture. The houses going from the airport into Hangzhou have the traditional Chinese style rooves but they are really tall and skinny! My Chinese taxi driver attempted to make small talk with me but the extent of my language skills only cover about 30 sec of coversation! ... so he put on some 'English' music for me, which was quite interesting to say the least. Though I must admit he was really sweet and helped me with talking to the international student office and getting everything up to my room!

My room you may ask... well put it this way, ever heard of a shoe box?? .... picture that! But not to worry there are familiar faces pasted all over my walls and a big Aussie flag hanging over my door! (yes, very patriotic!)

I am lucky however to have my own little toilet and bathroom. it is interesting however with no real drainage... when you shower, the whole bathroom gets a 'shower' and the floors is flooded for the rest of the morning... and by shower i mean 10 streams of water going in 10 different directions, run around long enough and you'll get clean enough! :)

Though even with all these things, it's still great fun and what would dorm life be without its quirks!

So that's the basic jist... still got time to spare... keep reading about my newly aquired friends and our misadventures in the first fews days in the next blog!

Steph xx

Ni Hao my wonderful family and friends from Hangzhou China!!

I've finally got the internet working after HOURS of my new Chinese friend Li Cheng working on it!

I'm really tired and have my oral and written exams tomorrow starting from 8:30 so will say goodnight for now but promise to blog all my exciting details asap!

Love you all heaps!

Night. xx


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hi Guys,

So it's Friday, bout lunch time and I thought that since I'm not going to be able to contact you guys for a bit while I get things set up over there I'd give you something to read.

To all my friends who came to my goodbye party on Saturday night, thanks heaps! It was great to see you all before I went, and for everyone else who couldn't make it, I look forward to catching up when I get back!

Also a lot of people have been asking me if I'm packed yet... officially at 11:32am on Friday, I can say "I haven't started" Don't worry, no panicking, that's what Mum's are for! :) (the worrying that is... but mine's a pretty awesome packer as well!) Another question is am I scared or nervous... well the most obvious answer I can think of is "YES - Definitely" but I know that this is where I'm meant to be going and what I'm meant to be doing and it's going to be such an amazing experience so there's peace in that!

So hopefully I'll get internet access set up pretty quickly over there so I can let you know what's happening, but for now make sure you all stay safe, I love you heaps and heaps and can't wait to tell you all the exciting misadventures I will be having while in China!

Zai Jian!

Steph xx