Author Topic: So I'm going to China in 5 days  (Read 1096 times)

Offline Quemaqua

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So I'm going to China in 5 days
« on: Friday, June 23, 2017, 04:37:04 PM »
I could have sworn I posted about it here, but I guess I didn't? Which seems insane, but I searched for China and just came up with a bunch of old threads. So ... yeah, I'm flying into Shanghai on Wednesday where I'll meet up with some people, and will hopefully make a short trip to Suzhou to see the gardens. Then on the 1st we'll take a train to Ningbo and drive to a Buddhist monastery in a small town a short ways away. I'll be there for almost the entire month of July. For a few days after the program is over, we're planning to travel to Hangzhou.

It's all part of a program for college students. Just have to pay your own way to get there and back. Once you're there, they cover room and board at the temple, and I think you do a little bit of work and such as well. I don't speak a single word of Chinese past ni hao, which terrifies me slightly, but there will be a bunch of westerners helping facilitate the program. We'll be getting lessons on Indian and Chinese Buddhism as they're practiced today, and of course lessons on their history. The food has been described to me as "functionally near-vegan", and I've actually done quite a bit of reading on temple food and the art form it's become, so I'm really looking forward to that.

There's about 2 and a half hours of meditation per day, and I think 3 to 4 hours of classes. Tai chi in the mornings. We'll be participating in all the activities of the monks and nuns as if we were initiates, with the robes, and (optional) head-shaving, etc. We'll see if I have the cajones to go all in and shave my head. We won't be allowed out of the temple but for specific trips or whatever, and there's a cultural tour of some heritage sights toward the end of it, then a 7-day silent meditation at the end. Once it's over, they ship us back to Shanghai and there's a big party, and then me and some of my co-travelers will hopefully do a little more touring before I head back home August 1st.

Not sure how many people there will be total. I think they usually take around 50, mostly students. We've got a lot of people from America, but also a lot of people from all over the world, including a bunch from Asia and Europe.

I'm super excited and kind of terrified. I really did not think my first trip to Asia would be to China rather than Japan, nor with living as a monk for a month on top of it. Obviously I won't be around here much if at all. I don't know that we'll have very regular access to the Internet, and the usual channels (Facebook, Google, etc.) are forbidden. I know people use VPNs, but I know next to nothing about them or how they work. So ... yeah. We'll see how that goes, I guess.

Anyway ... yeah, excited and terrified. Anybody that's been to China that has some tips for me? Didn't you live there for a while, Ren?

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline TheOtherBelmont

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #1 on: Friday, June 23, 2017, 05:41:14 PM »
Have fun dude!  Take lots of pics please.

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #2 on: Friday, June 23, 2017, 11:44:59 PM »
As many as possible. Which reminds me, I need to find my camera ...

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline PyroMenace

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #3 on: Saturday, June 24, 2017, 01:36:53 PM »


Nice, sounds like an interesting getaway. Have fun!

Offline ren

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #4 on: Monday, June 26, 2017, 06:38:37 AM »
That trip sounds amazing! And yep, I lived there for about four months about five years ago.

I went speaking no Chinese so I struggled for the first couple of weeks but then picked it up pretty quickly. It's amazing the patterns your brain can figure out when it's forced too.

This was all in the pre-smartphone era so things will be a bit easier now. Download Google translate and the Chinese language packs and you'll have a good lifeline when you really need it.

A few tips:
-Make sure you have directions to your hotel/school from the airport printed out with Chinese characters. This sounds obvious but I stupidly brought it in pinyin and it took a long time to find someone who could read it and translate it for the cab driver.

-For internet, I VPN'd into my university network when I needed to which was almost never. I don't know the current stance on censorship but back then Gmail was allowed and all the regular sites I went to worked fine as well

-Before I learned the numbers, people would use their hands to indicate a number to make it easier to communicate. Unfortunately, I didn't know ahead of time they count to ten on one hand so I had to learn that method. After a while I noticed other foreigners and some merchants would carry calculators and type in the numbers they needed. This is probably way easier now with cell phones everywhere.

Outside of those little language tips, just have fun and be open to whatever comes your way. It's a great country to visit that was exceptionally friendly and welcoming to foreigners.


Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #5 on: Monday, June 26, 2017, 09:11:55 PM »
Aww yeah, I need to look up Chun-Li and Mei while I'm there.

Nice tips, thanks Ren. I'm not really worried about VPN because I'll only be using the Internet in any capacity via my phone for like 5 days total. The rest of the time will be in the monastery. I need to confirm this, but I believe Verizon just charges you ten bucks a day to use your regular phone internationally, and since it'll only be a couple days, that seems like the easiest thing to do. Google is 100% a no-go in China now, though, including Gmail and such. Facebook as well. My fellow travelers and I will be using WeChat to communicate, mostly.

2 days away. Jesus.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline Xessive

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 01:47:26 PM »
I have one request: get as many photos of poorly translated signs ("Engrish") as you can!  ;D :P

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday, August 02, 2017, 04:02:08 AM »
I am back. I am so tired. It was so good. My life is insane. Will post more later.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline ender

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday, August 16, 2017, 09:41:58 AM »
Please tell me you ate all of the great food! Interested to hear how temple food of China is. I've seen examples of Korean template food and it looks beautiful.

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #9 on: Wednesday, August 16, 2017, 03:06:33 PM »
Shit, I guess I forgot to post more. haha

Well, being vegan I didn't eat all the great food, but I ate whatever I could. Lot of little hole in the wall places on corners and down back alleys in Shanghai, street vendors, malaton joints, what have you. The temple food itself at the actual monastery was really, really good. I too have seen a lot of temple food from Japan and Korea, and was curious what the Chinese spin on it would be. It was very much like what you think of as Chinese food, but with somewhat more out of the way ingredients like lotus root or bitter melon, and a lot of different faux-meat stuff that was all really good. It was ... not greasy, but saucy, I guess? Some people found it didn't agree with them perfectly, though I didn't have any issues at all and loved every minute of it. Breakfast often came with stuff not dissimilar from the other meals, but usually had rice porridge, which despite being 100% bland was really quite refreshing when everything else was so flavorful. I came to really enjoy it. We had a lot of steamed buns of various descriptions, plenty of rice, and a variety of soups in addition to the vegetable dishes. The soups were sort of odd, mostly sweeter and lighter than you'd expect, and a lot of them cool rather than warm. There was a tiny bit of cow's milk and a little egg, but by and large it was all vegan (I suspect the milk was for our benefit rather than being a regular part of their repertoire).

For pictures, here are two FB albums:

http://tinyurl.com/y94be4v6
http://tinyurl.com/yc9a2f6p

It was really an amazing trip. It's hard to express in words exactly what it was, what it felt like, and the experience of the people, so I honestly haven't bothered trying most of the time. We started in Shanghai, went to Suzhou, traveled to Ningbo and Hengxi town where our temple was located, then went to Mt. Putuo and made pilgrimage up the mountain, then went back to Shanghai. Made a short trip to Hangzhou. I miss the people so much. I made a few friends, and really enjoyed the company of many, but I even miss the people who kind of irritated me a little. Living in such close proximity to people for so long and then coming back to a big, empty house with just me and my dog has been super weird. Suffering rather severely from reverse culture shock, which I didn't expect at all after only a month. But everything from fat people to food prices to not having access to reliable and quick public transit has all been weird, and it took me a good week to start settling emotionally. Such good people, and so few of them that I'm likely to be able to see again. We had folks from 23 different countries ... and thankfully many have offered up couches and guest beds for those of us who might come through wherever they are. So hopefully I'll see at least a few people again.

I fell in love with someone over the course of the month, which was unfortunate. She lives far away and is unavailable, but we spent a ton of time together that came to mean a lot to me, and had late nights in little restaurants talking to people about philosophy, love, language, Asia. That was the hardest thing to leave. I don't live in a place where I find a lot of people I'm capable of talking about that stuff with, much less people I can eat durian, drink baijiu, and smoke shady Chinese cigarettes with. I'll carry a lot of these memories until the day I die, I have no doubt. I've spent the better part of two weeks since being home trying hard not to think about some of them too much.

Wish I had more time to process it all. I start classes on the 21st, a week earlier than I thought (turns out you misremember a lot of things when you're largely cut off from the world for 28 days), so am having to dive back into Japanese stuff to prepare for tutoring at the university this semester. I'm still a bit stressed, but friends have helped relieve some of that, thankfully.

Anyway, it was amazing and a half. I'm grateful to be home on some levels (not having to hand-wash my clothes and walk them halfway up a mountain to dry them, not having to sleep directly on a tatami mat with basically no padding, not having to endure 42 degree—Celsius—weather with 100% humidity), and very not ready to be home on many others. My house feels opulent and ridiculous, not to mention empty. I'm so glad to see my dog again, but wish we could go hiking up a bamboo-covered mountain together and find friendly local farmers who are poor as dirt but still invite us for tea along the way.

China was everything I expected, plus a whole lot of things I didn't, and if I ever manage to find some extra time, I hope to start learning more of the language. As it is, about all I can say is ni hao, xiexie, and amituofo.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline ender

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #10 on: Thursday, August 17, 2017, 08:08:46 AM »
Looks like you had a great time – beautiful places in your photos! So glad you were able to go – I would like to see more of Asia.

Offline TheOtherBelmont

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #11 on: Thursday, August 17, 2017, 06:10:47 PM »
Thanks for sharing the photos. It looks like you had a lot of fun.

You are also going to have huge regrets for not buying those cool sunglasses.  8)

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #12 on: Sunday, August 20, 2017, 08:31:41 PM »
Regret was experienced about 15 minutes after not buying them. But I did get a really dope hand-carved necklace of wooden frogs, which I bought for 250 yuan when it was tagged as 1360. Haggle when you're in China, kids. That's $35 as opposed to about $200.

But yeah, I had an amazing time and am so glad I got to go. It couldn't have turned out better. I mean it could have, in some ways, but all the ups and downs were part of it, and I'm really glad that it was exactly what it was. I'm a much better person for it.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline ren

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Re: So I'm going to China in 5 days
« Reply #13 on: Saturday, August 26, 2017, 08:26:05 AM »
That was really enjoyable to read. I wonder if there are options for a simpler life closer to home that I've shut my eyes too. Little things like communal living really do change your perspective.