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Hangzhou China - Excerpt 2

USA | Friday, 8 May 2009 | Views [974]

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Tons o' Pics HERE!!!!

The weather has been fantastic!! It’s been around 60 degrees both day and night!!!

The other day, Monday I think it was, our fellow students arrived. There are about 18 of us I think. They are staying elsewhere, more towards downtown in what I refer to as “real China” and we (Jessika and I) are staying ½ a block from the West Lake in what I refer to as “fairy-tale land”. Real China is cool to visit but I personally wouldn’t want to live there. It’s industrial and crowded with no scenery. They do have an awesome market at the end of their block, lots of great food stalls and things are cheaper there! I got an entire dish of noodles and vegys to go (enough for two on a hungry day) for .75 cents. And because of the language barrier, things seem to take a long time here, for us foreigners. It took me 3 days to find a phone card. Who knew you had to buy them from the newspaper guys on the corners who had them stashed out of sight in their fanny packs?! Luckily I ran into a guy who spoke a tiny bit of English at “Chinarget” and he personally took me to fanny pack man.

So, onto “Chinarget”. After school orientation on Monday a few of us (Michelle, Ally, Kathyrn, Jessika and myself) decided to find what Johnson promised us was like a “Target” in China. We figured since it takes so long to buy each thing at a specialty store we could hit one place and get everything we needed. The walk there alone was a challenge. At first we walked by a man who was carrying 2 sheep dog puppies by their paws across the street, like one would carry a chicken or duck. They looked dead. He placed them on top of a cage. The cage had 2 others in it and the ones he carried across were alive but looked drugged or something as they didn’t move much. We realized they were for food. We also saw some mystery meat curing in open air, hanging from a sign a bit further on. **Update: today, Friday – 2 of the puppies were gone and the 1 week smog air cured mystery meat has been removed and is perhaps being served in the store that it was hanging from?!...

There is so much high fashion here. Each woman has a cuter outfit than the last. And mixed in with the industrial jungle is gorgeous scenery. Like waterways (streams) and mountains or a pagoda on a hill or a park nestled among the concrete. We stop and take pictures and the people stop with us to see what we are taking pictures of. They are curious, they don’t understand. They ask us and we show them but they still don’t understand. Most everyone is nice though, putting up with our idiosyncrasies as we try to overcome our culture shock.

When we finally come to “Chinarget” which is really called Century Mart we split up to find all we need. Michelle, Kathryn and Ally decide to meet back in 40 minutes. It takes Jessika and I almost 2 hours to get out of there. We are lost in a maze of delight and confusion. Everything I have ever dreamed of is sold here at Chinarget. Everything! There’s that adorable glass tea mug I’ve always wanted that a few teachers and students at our school have and whenever I’ve asked them “where did you get that?” they say “China” and here they are, and they are like six bucks or less!!!! Those cool bamboo hangars that you dry stuff on, those cool teapots with the tea candle warmers below, super cute electric herb boiling pots, chopsticks of every variety. Even the forks and spoons are cute!!! Not the boring moderny ones we have back home… but ones with cranes and flowers and even happy faces on the handles. And each costing a few cents. We spend hours here because we can’t leave any sooner. We are swept up in the shopping frenzy. Plus we have no idea where anything is and try using our Chinese phrasebook to find out. My first stop was to buy a mobile phone but after 20 minutes of trying I finally gave up. I couldn’t understand how to get the service or how many minutes of talk time I would have and it was all too confusing to go on. We spent the next hour and a half looking for a phone card, among other goodies.

The bottom floor of Chinarget is a market. Here they had my favorite thing in the world, pickled stuff!!! Everything pickled!!! Jars and jars and jars!!!! Some of it might have been cat eyeballs for all I know but it was pickled = yum!!! I finally bought a mangosteen and it was delicious! We also found scrumptious apples and other fruit. Each piece of fruit was weighed and tagged before you get to the checkout counter which was interesting and time saving really. I mean Chinarget was packed with people yet the checkout lines were nil. We waited maybe 1 minute behind 1 person to check out and this is because they minimize the stuff the checker has to do. And they encourage you to bring your own plastic take out bags by charging you for bags there! What a good idea!!!

Thursday 3/19 – 12:27pm
Right now I’m sitting outside of our hostel at the outside restaurant next to the coy pond awaiting some soup but I have no idea what it will taste like or if I’ll even be able to eat it. I have found if there are no pictures, you have no idea what you’re getting here. Yesterday Jessika ordered grilled chicken, and it did not say milk or cream sauce on the menu but it was on the dish. She cannot eat milk or else will get extremely ill but they wouldn’t take it back or refund her. So now we ask, no matter what. We have circled (I am allergic to dairy and gluten) in our phrasebooks and I showed them this before ordering the onion soup so we shall see. Yesterday I got the tomato egg drop soup and the hot and sour potatoes, both were fantastic and way too much food for me. Today I just paid $2 for enough onion soup for 5 people.

Oh and the dinner last night, wow, that would take a whole 7 pages to write about, it was just hysterical. The menu boasted things like “sweet beans of three men” and honestly other things that were so funny I can’t possibly remember them so I took pictures. Lots of seafood and they did have a tank in the back where they were getting their supply. I am posting pics because other than “spicy bullfrog” I can’t remember much…

Friday march 20th – 8pm
I realize I can’t possibly write all that I want to each day. There is too much happening here and I don’t have enough time to download and process it all, let alone blog about it. So instead, I’ll just do what I can.

Today I finally got to my clinic shift and saw acupuncture in China!!! YAY!!! It was really great and mind blowing too. I would go into detail here but I realize that those of you who might be reading this and aren’t in acupuncture school will not only not understand but it might deter you from getting a treatment in the US – which is totally not like the treatments in China. And since acupuncture is one of the best healing arts in the world I would never want to deter anyone from having it.

We then had a class on 9 Palace Needling which was more of an intro lecture on the I Ching trigrams, working us up to the 9 Palace class 2 next week.

China is still absolutely blowing me away. I love the way everyone walks down the streets holding hands or arm in arm. 2 women, 4 women – all in a row. 2 men. It’s the cutest thing! However the way the cars drive up on the sidewalks while you’re walking on them gets unnerving at times.

Last night Jessika and I went to the night market and it was a crazy experience. There were stalls and tons of people, packed in tightly with vendors selling everything from fake designer handbags to antiques to underwear. And everything was pretty darn cheap too. I am sure I overpaid for a bauble and so then bargained the hell out of my next 5 purchases. We even bargained the sock lady down from 43 cents a pair to 29 cents a pair. In one way it was really fun but in another it was oh so tiring. I wanted a hair clip and just didn’t have the energy to bargain for it so I didn’t buy one.

Before the night market we took a tram thing around West Lake because I needed some city downtime for a bit and that was awesome. The lake is amazingly beautiful. And the tram even went up and down stairs (actually there were stone rails for it built into the stone staircases). There are pagodas after pagodas here and by the end of the hour long ride I was saying “look, another pagoda!” At first I was saying “look a pagoda” with enthusiasm and I’m not pagoda jaded at all but pagodas here are like Starbucks in the States, there’s one on every street corner. They’re a lot prettier than Starbucks though ;)

So yeah, I’m still loving China. I don’t love the constant cigarette smoke or the smog or the crowds (we found them!) but I love the energy and the amazing variety and the difference – it’s different from anything I have ever known!

I think I forgot to mention Hafeng street where they sell live scorpions and then fry them in vats of oil in front of your eyes and you eat them. A man tried to buy me one but I decided to wait a couple more weeks before eating one but then Jessika and I are determined to do it. They also had a very large jar with a dead snake in it and a spigot for some fresh dead snake juice. As a matter of fact, there is hardly anything that I don’t say “what the f…. is that?” here – food wise. They seem to be really into duck heads, they sell those everywhere and I’m just not sure where the meat is on one, nor will I find out. I did have my first soy sauce egg today (even though I don’t eat soy sauce) and it was fantastic. As a matter of fact, almost everything I’ve eaten (and who knows what half it has been) has been fantastic tasting.

So here we are, in a crazy land, doing crazy things and absolutely LOVING it!!!! Everyone should come to China!!! --The $7 full body massages can't be beat!!!

** - update – it’s funny reading back because I’ve been really negative since returning and telling people I had an awful time. I realized then and now that much of my difficulty was not being around people who were clean/sober and not being able to find that in China. I felt very alone in this department. It’s not something I can even write about here but those of you in the “know” can ask me about it privately if you choose and I am thinking it will probably be a good and important thing to start a separate blog about those experiences.

Tags: acupuncture, china, food, hangzhou, recovery, student, study, traveling, west lake

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