I am in China. I apologize for not getting an email out faster, but it has been a busy first couple of days! I will try to go over what I have done and learned so far in this email, and then I am going to try to update you weekly.
On the first day, we arrived to Beijing around 2 pm. Some of the students from the Communication University of China met us at the airport (Leo and Cindy) and a couple of others. In China, students often have an Americanized or English name that they use when dealing with people who speak English. So Leo and Cindy are not really their names (but they didn't tell us what their names were in Chinese.)
We all got on a bus to the CUC, and it took about a half an hour to arrive at school. Then we unloaded our bags and all got our meal cards and room numbers/keys. We had a few minutes to check out our rooms and change, and then we met the Chinese students for a tour of the campus. We saw the dining halls, the super market, and the gym. Then we had a chance to go to the supermarket, where I bought a toothbrush, since I left my other one in Boston. (It cost 1 yuan, which is about 14 cents.)
Then we adventured to the dining hall above the super market, but it was closing. So we went to a restaurant on campus that has no English speaking waitresses, or waiters. But the menus had pictures and some information in English, so we got by on our little Mandarin and by smiling a lot. Dinner ended up costing around $3 a person, and we ate six or seven dishes, and each got rice. (There were around 10 of us.) It was quite a deal! The restaurant is connected to our building, and we plan on going there a lot. (In fact, I've already been back!)
After dinner the first night, we came back to the dorms, where we intended to plug in our internet and settle in to our room a little. Laura (my roommate) and I were attempting to plug in the ethernet cable and the power into the wall. Jeff and I had bought a convertor before I came, so I was trying to figure out what plug I needed, and after I figured out which one I thought, I plugged it into the outlet, and the TV turned off...I had blown a fuse! Then we went into the hallway to get Janet (our prof and chair of the journalism department) or Paul (our prof) and found out that one of the other students didn't have power in his room and didn't have lights. We attempted to read the fuse box, and use the map, but it was all in Chinese characters.
So we figured we would go downstairs and ask the reception people if their was a way to fix it. They, however, speak no English. So we brought our phrase book and our plug, and attempted to explain it to the people downstairs. I basically pretended to plug it into the wall, and then said "bu" (which means no) and "mia dian" which is electricity. Needless to say, they eventually understood me, and sent up a maintenance man who helped us fix our problems.
The next day, we all met in the morning to go to our Olympic meeting, where we met with the Olympic committee and found out more about our venues. We then had to try on uniforms. (I am a size XXXL in pants, on account of the Chinese being very small, and they don't have a size 10 shoe size, on account of they have little feet.) We then had a long discussion with one of the teachers here on the history of China, but he mostly talked about how much he liked Kung Fu Panda.
After that, we went out with the guy who gave the lecture to get coffee. It was a pizza place called Danata, and we got coffee and pizza called Volcano Explosion and Fruit Passion, and they were both very very good. The coffee was very good as well! Thank Goodness, because we hadn't been able to find any.
Then we had an outing to a store to get cellphones. The store was called Suning, and it was much like a Best Buy, only in China. It was cool. I went with a whole group, and one of the CUC students, Cindy. She was very nice and we took her out to dinner afterwards because she was so helpful. After the phones, we got Korean food, and then we went to meet up with the CUC students to play Ping Pong with them.
They were MUCH better (obviously) then we were. Some of the Chinese students, Roger and Henry, were teaching us how to serve. Laura (my roommate) and I were actually getting pretty good!
Today, we woke up and went to Wal-Mart (I know, I know, the worst. But it's all we have here!) and we got a little lost on the way. I was asking the Chinese men how to get to the Wal-Mart, and I was like "Qingwen, Wal-mart?" (Which is "Please, Wal-mart?) and no one knew what I was asking. Finally, Paul showed someone the piece of paper, and this kid who I had already asked where the Wal-Mart was was like, "OHH! Wa-maart!" It was quite funny.
Laura and I spent about an hour in the Wal-Mart getting some snacks and other items, and when we were done we both had a bag of stuff and had only spent 6 US dollars each.
Then we went back to the dorms with Jim and Helen, and we went to get lunch with Helen in the dining hall, but it was closed! So we went to the restaurant we had gone to yesterday and got lunch. Then we decided to go to Jishuitan, which is near Xihai Lake, downtown north of the Forbidden City. It took us nearly an hour to get there, and we had to transfer twice, and use 2 subway lines. But Helen, Laura, and I made it safely. We walked around for a little while and went to a temple there. (I'll figure out the name soon enough.) We then found out we had to go back to campus for a meeting, so we went to this supermarket, ironically called Wau Mart, and got noodles...in a bag...from the hot food section. We shared them in the parking lot--not one of the most shining moments of our travels.
Then we got home late because rush hour traffic on the trains is insane--we were very close to everyone, and some of the trains didn't have air conditioning. Then we got off at the wrong stop, and had to get back on. But we made it safely back for the tail end of the meeting.
Then the three of us watched a pirated copy of Kung Fu Panda that Helen had bought yesterday. Very funny. And now I am here, finishing this update. Tomorrow we are going to the rural area outside of Beijing, so wish me luck! I hope that its fun, but I bet it'll also be a little sad. We'll see how it goes.
More next week. Until then, zài jiàn!