Interesting things that happened in December/January

I haven’t kept up on my blog at all so I’m just going to make one post of (very brief) summaries of interesting things that happened in December and January in chronological order.

1. My classmates being awesome: My birthday was in December, so my classmates surprised me with a cake and a card during listening class. It was probably a fire hazard because there were a lot of candles on it but it was awesome. We also didn’t have any forks, so one of my classmates thought it would be a good idea to just feed everyone bites of cake off of the spatula. It was funny.

2. Christmas: I went to school on Christmas, which was weird. But we all wore red and green so we could take a Christmas picture. I went to dinner with a Chinese family and their friends. It was very much different from Christmas in the states. We had hot pot, which doesn’t really even exist here, and someone got up to make a toast every 5 minutes. It was good though.

Our Christmas picture:
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3. TUTU Running Club relay: A guy who I met at the 50k invited me to run a relay that his running club was hosting. Each person only had to run 6K so of course I participated, and we made an international team. It was a lot of fun, even though one of my teammates didn’t show up, forcing my other teammate’s friend to run a 6K in khakis and a button down shirt.

Relay team:
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4. New Years: We actually got a few days off for New Year, which was awesome. I went to KTV for the first time with my classmates. KTV is basically just karaoke but you have your own little tiny soundproof room. China has a lot of KTV places. Also I am bad at KTV but everyone else in my class is really good.

5. Making food: My classmates and I got together and made various food from each of our countries. In the end we had a lot of food:
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6. Final Exams: We had final exams from January 13-15. This was not fun.

7. Trip to Harbin: Chinese textbooks always seem to have a lesson about Harbin and ice lanterns, so Sarah and I took advantage of the weekend after finals to go to Harbin and look at ice lanterns. They were in fact very impressive and awesome. I only took three pictures because it was really cold (REALLY COLD as in -20 Fahrenheit). Turns out taxi drivers in Harbin like to talk to people a lot (unlike in Dalian, where they prefer to just listen to the radio), and lots of people are trying to scam you because Harbin gets a lot of tourists.

Pictures of ice lanterns: IMG_3766

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8. Going home: We returned from Harbin at 10 on the 17th, so I bought some snacks for the plane and went to sleep so that I could get up and leave for the airport at 4:30 am. I then waited in lines in the Dalian airport (2 hours), flew to Shanghai (2 hours), got through customs and security and checking in again in Shanghai (3 hours), flew to Detroit (13 hours), waited in lines and rushed around through security and customs in the airport in Detroit (3 hours), and flew to Oklahoma (3 hours) for a grand total of 26 hours spent in airports and airplanes, 3 times through security, 3 times waiting in line to check my bags, and lots of sitting. It actually wasn’t bad, and for once nothing was delayed. Success!

Online Shopping: More difficult than you might think

Despite the fact that Dalian is sometimes called the “shopping city”, and does indeed have more than it’s fair share of gigantic malls, I decided to try out some online shopping in China because walking around all day shopping can get exhausting, particularly when you don’t know which stores might have what you’re looking for. A lot of Chinese people also choose to shop online, especially for clothes, so I thought there must be some advantage to it. It turns out that Chinese online shopping sites are incredible. Basically, you can buy absolutely anything for ridiculously cheap and read a million reviews about it to confirm that the quality is good before you buy it. It is then shipped to your door (supposedly) for at most $2.

The first step is setting up an account, which went smoothly until I got to a part where you have to enter your name, but it has to be at least two Chinese characters and also has to match your bank card. Obviously, my name could not possibly meet both of these requirements. I actually don’t remember how I got around this snag, but I somehow did. I probably couldn’t do it again without a lot of luck, but at least now I have a account.

I ran into a second snag because I could only use my bank card that had 67 yuan ($10) on it. (Long story short, I have two bank cards that I didn’t try to get. One is from the school and has my scholarship money. One is from when I went to the bank and exchanged money and they put the 67 yuan that wouldn’t go nicely into hundreds on a card and gave it to me.) For some reason I couldn’t sign up for an online account because (again) my name was wrong. Apparently, I had to enter it with a bunch of extra spaces in it. Once I was finally able to get past the first step where you put in your name, it turned out that I just can’t use that bank card online at all anyway. Eventually, I discovered that I needed to transfer money between the two cards using an ATM and then a CRS (I didn’t know those existed before I came to China, do we even have them in the states? I still don’t even know what CRS stands for but they’re super helpful.)

Finally, I got to actually try to buy something. I needed to buy running tights, as the weather was quite cold and I forgot my nice running tights in the U.S.. Eventually, I had found a cool $6 pair of tights to experiment with. I entered the address on my room key card, and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, my tights did not ship quickly, nor did they ship to my room, or even my building, or even the bridge near my building (somehow, a lot of people get their packages delivered to this spot underneath the bridge and just go pick them up from the pile. Here is proof)

Instead, I received a mysterious text message telling me to go to a place which nobody could give me directions to by that night, or else my package would be send back. They also helpfully left a phone number. I wasn’t about to lose those $6, so I called the number, obtained very poor directions, and headed out the door. I followed the directions, but couldn’t find anything resembling what I was looking for (the 3G building apparently), so I asked some more people on the street, who didn’t know, and then called the number again. This time I got better directions to a school near mine, but I didn’t quite know if I had understood right, so I asked the guy to repeat it, at which time he got annoyed, told me he’d deliver them to me tomorrow, and hung up.

I could have just went home and waited for him to deliver the thing, but I wasn’t sure how he would know where to deliver it, and I’m impatient, so I walked to the other school. Finally, I found someone who knew the place in the text message, and took me to it. Then, we searched through this maze of packages forever, but couldn’t find it because the guy had taken it to his office so he could deliver it. He was very annoyed to see that I had come to get it instead of waiting. But hey, I’m just a stupid foreigner.

Later, I managed to order two whole things and get them actually delivered to my building simply by putting the name of the school I was at in the address. So the lesson learned from this whole experience is that if you order something in China you should make sure that your address is super specific, or else your life will be hard.