Wednesday, June 17, 2009

America night and other activities

It’s been a good week here in Dalian. Last Friday we had “America Night.” We were all craving a cheeseburger, and the easiest option we found was the McDonald’s downtown. I despise McDonald’s for many reasons, but that double cheeseburger was one of the best I’ve ever had. Later we invited our grad students over to Ben and Felipe’s apartment to teach them the game of Beer Pong. Since there was no luck finding solo cups, we were stuck with smaller cups which made the game much more difficult. They LOVED playing the game, and loved watching it even more. Each time someone made a shot, all of the grad students would clap. Only bad part of this was the Wal-Mart brand beer we decided to buy because it was incredible cheap. It tasted unbelievably awful. We started playing at 8and by 10:30 the grad students decided they were done, so they all left. The rest of us caught a cab into Zhongshan Square to check out an ex-pat place called Dave’s Bar. There was a dude playing guitar that was beyond awful. We ended up talking after he played, and he told us he was Cassidy from Utah and he was in Dalian “living the dream.”
On Saturday, we took the bus to Xinghai Square. We walked along the beach and saw some amazing buildings and took some great pictures. Dinner was at a little barbeque place on the beach that had great skewers and an amazing view. I was feeling pretty tired, so I started to walk back to catch a bus back to campus. We found bumper cars for 5 yuan, and decided to give them a whirl. It was the same as bumper cars in the U.S. except each car has 2 guns affixed to it so you could pretend to do drive-by shootings. I took a great video that I need to get on Facebook as soon as I can.
The grad students had an event planned for us on Sunday: cherry picking at7 AM. All of us were pretty much zombies as we took the bus to the orchard place. They did not let us get baskets for the cherries, so we ended up walking around for about an hour eating cherries. With still 2hours left, we were a bit sick of cherries so we found some tables and played cards instead. That night we went back to Xinghai to a Schezuan restaurant, luckily one of Sara’s friends (who knew Chinese) was with us and managed to get us to the restaurant for one of the best meals we’ve eaten in China.
Tuesday morning brought our proposal presentation. Hung Tao came back to Dalian, and the guy who works for NSF and got the funding for our program came to watch our presentations. I went first, and was a bit nervous but ended up doing an alright job. After that we toured some of the labs and had a huge lunch at the campus hotel. Only interesting thing that we ate was a conch shell and watermelon for dessert. I ate the conch shell, which tasted like stinky fish. I managed to keep it down, but got a good laugh when one of the other REU guys said it tasted like crabs. I don’t remember who said it, but I know for sure they have never had a Maryland crab because conch does not taste like good crabs.
I got a cell phone with 2 months of service for about $21. I have started to notice more and more of the cultural differences between here and America. The biggest is that there are no such things as table manners in China. You can pick up your plate, slurp, and reach for any food you want. Taking the last bit from the family-style plates is encouraged without even asking if anyone else wants some. Another big difference is that students have a much different schedule here than more American college students. They wake up early every day, around 6 or 7. Lunch is at 11 and dinner around 4. While the grad students are at work, it is not unusual for them to stop working for hours at a time to watch movies, play computer games, leave to play tennis, or even pull out a pillow and take a nap right at their desk. Nobody stays out late. The streets are pretty much empty at about 11 PM on weekends. They also work on the weekends. The office is pretty much home for them.
Our internet in the apartment is quite slow, so Skype has not been working too well. I am hoping to find some sort of internet café that will have better service. Also, the mosquitoes (or some other bug) are eating my hands and feet, and I have yet to find bug spray or some other repellant so I am stuck with little red and white bumps all over my hands. Luckily they are not incredibly itchy.
This weekend is the 60th Anniversary for the Dalian University of Technology so there will be a bunch of stuff going on around campus and we’re pretty excited to experience it all!

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