Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First Week in Dalian

It’s been almost a week in Dalian. First thing that I’ve found to love here is the weather. It hasn’t been more than about 83 degrees and not humid at all. It is definitely not touristy here like it is in Beijing, but people do know enough English that we can communicate relative easily.
Our apartment is alright. The most interesting thing is the bathroom. There is no tub or shower, just a drain in the floor. That took a bit of time to get used to, but it works. I’m sharing a room with one of the other guys, something I haven’t done in a long time but it’s working out just fine. We have internet at our apartment, and so far it is much more reliable than the internet in the office. Pictures of our place are up on Facebook.
Work here is not intense, at least not yet. We work from 9 to 5, with about an hour or so for lunch. I am in a cubicle room with a few other REU kids and grad students. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxed; many of the grad students watch movies and sleep at their desks throughout the day. This week has consisted of reading journal articles and taking notes as background information on our topics. I will be doing this sort of stuff for another week, and then I will start learning how to use the program, ANSYS. I will be modeling and running simulations of a stinger used to lay pipe in very deep water. If anyone wants to know more details of my work, let me know and I’ll tell you all about it. It is semi-interesting, but I wish I had a project that I actually got to use my chem engineering knowledge with. I have also been working on my proposal presentation that I have to give on Tuesday of next week.
The highlight of the week was definitely our visit to downtown Dalian. Our school is about 30 min (by bus) from the city center. We spent the day walking about the city checking out all the shops, malls, and random stands. We also visited a park that had a giant soccer ball in the middle, and a bunch of theme park rides around it. That night, we got dinner and tried to find a bar or club to chill at. We found a bar, The Meeting Place, which had a fake American décor. It was real tacky and dull so we left. The bar we ended up staying at was called the Alice Bar. Apparently the thing to do there is buy a bottle of liquor for your group, and then they make drinks for you and keep your glasses full. There was a small dance floor, and it wasn’t long before we were the main people dancing and singing. They played American music, but a mix of stuff I never thought I’d hear in a bar. Whatever we were doing at the stage was good because more than a few people bought us drinks. We got a cab home, luckily we knew the name of our school in Chinese or it would’ve ended up being a long night.
I still can’t believe how cheap everything is here, especially food. There is cafeteria type thing right by the office, and we can eat a pretty big lunch for about $1-1.50. When we go out to dinner, we eat amazing food and end up paying around $2-3 each. So far we have only had one bad experience. We had all liked this eggplant dish, just eggplant covered in a sweet but spicy sauce. One day at lunch, we thought we were eating the same thing but with a different texture. After eating almost the whole plate, our mentor told us that we had been eating pork fat. That pretty much killed my appetite.
Where we are in town there are a lot of universities, so there are tons of kids our age walking all over town. We’ve been playing soccer after work. There are a bunch of fields and it’s not hard at all to get a pickup game going. We call ourselves Team Meiguo, or Team America.
I find myself missing home just a little bit, especially certain food. I would kill for a cheeseburger or a big plate of my mom’s pasta.

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