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Thursday, March 6, 2008

im still alive, i swear!
this will be long. youve been warned.

lets see, a brief recap. arrived in the country feb. 20, spent a few days in beijing and then came to harbin by night train. got settled in at heida (the university) the...23rd i think. classes just started this last monday the 3rd. yeah, you people are getting ready for spring break and we just started classes.

anyway, so far classes are going alright. a bit frantic since its all in chinese and i have a hard time understanding what the teacher is saying, but its getting better. picking up a ton of new vocabulary, well over 100 words in the first week. we met up with all our friends from heida that came to our school in the us, and theyve been really helpful. theyve been treating us to dinner like every night o.O so yeah, chinese food. real non-american chinese food. maaaan i like it. weve had dumplings twice, hotpot twice (chinese fondue), korean, oodles of noodles, fried rice, chinese bbq (good!!) and all manner of odd things. for example: congealed duck blood in hotpot, chicken hearts at bbq, chicken livers by accident in the cafeteria, pineapple-on-a-stick on the street and octopus taquitos in hotpot. i actually really liked it all but the livers. too chalky. and the blood was kinda tasteless jello. id recommend the hearts tho and i loved the octopus rolls. were going t dinner somewhere tonight with one of our friends and his parents.

lets see, in beijing we did all the tourist stuff: forbidden city, tian'anmen square, houhei (bar district), beihai park, temples, etc. our guide was an alum from our school whos lived in china for 12 years. so he took us to the non-tourist places too and helped us figure out how to order food, catch a cab, take the bus, etc. daily things. my little adventure coming up to harbin was losing my passport and wallet on the train. that was a horrific few days, but someone found it and turned it in. so i got everything back except my cash, which is of less than no importance when weighed against a passport and visa.

lets see, harbin is bloody cold. its gotten warmer since we got here, but the first few days it was in the teens by day and below 0 by night. (dude. im from freakin' arkansas. anything below 50 is cold to me) to prove this, look at the pictures in the last post from the the annual international snow and ice festival. were talking snow sculptures 100+ft tall and twice the length of a football field. and then an entire city of internally lit ice. dude. it was amazing. couldnt feel my extrematies when we left, but it was worth every bit of the cold. ive never seen anything like it in my life. i mean, when will a little southern american girl get to go down a huge slide made of ice from the top of an ice acropolis? or go through an ice version of the emperors palace? or hold a snow fox? (i did! it was fluffy and adorable!!) so yeah. its been above freezing the past few days, so its been fine. hat and gloves are nice, but not vital. (and liana, the fluffy scarf has been a life-saver)

the dorms are very nice. for the foreigners at least. think hotel. we have our own bathroom, and a lady comes in every day to clean and changes the sheets on wednsdays. the beds are less than comfortable tho. weve put heavy comfortors to use as matress pads. its always very wamr in our room, so we dont need them. half the time we open the window to cool it off. weve got 2 radiators, and the one in the bathroom is amazingly strong. always freakin' hot in there. we only get hot water three times a day for about an hour and half each time. theres a little store downstairs for snacks and drinks, and a hot water machine on the next floor. you cant drink the tap water (it looks nasty), so you get bottled or boiled water. restaurants always serve hot water with the meal, and bottled drinks are usually room temperature at best. weve been getting drinks and putting them on the window sill to cool them off. usually water, but you can easily find coke and sprite and pepsi and such. and i was reminded how much i like orange soda. (who loves orange soda?)

what else, what else...were the only americans on a campus of 30,000. almost the only westerners. found and australian, so i guess he counts. most of the foreign students are korean with the rest being mostly russian. have a couple africans in my class. weve determined (by what weve seen) that eastern russians are mean. (no offense to the russians out there, but the ones here are jerks). weve said hi to them several times, and they dont even acknowledge us. they just strut around in their hideous neon-colored fur coats, hooker boots and giant purses. and smoke in the halls (and elevator) right under the 'no smoking' signs. we dont like them. on the other hand, koreans really like us, me in particular. ive been told they think im "chic". clearly they define this differently than we do, since im always schleping around in a tshirt, jeans and dirty tennis shoes.

oh, if for whatever reason you really want to see the pictures ive been taking, say something in the comments. if i think i can trust you with pictures of me, ill send you the link and password.

ok, i took enough of your time. hope you found that worthwhile.


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