Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's been a while!

I've been busy the past few weeks, but work today is very dry so I'll take the time to write.

2 weekends ago was the 60th Anniversary Celebration for the Dalian University of Technology. On Friday night they had a big outdoor show, which was neat but we didn't stay long because it was all in Chinese. They set up a huge outdoor stage with lights plus lit up the Mao Ze Dong statue which was very impressive. The entire campus was decorated with flags and banners, and they had spent the previous few weeks putting in new signs and fixing every sidewalk. It was incredible how much work went into making this celebration a success. On Sunday there were booths set up all over campus by each club at the school. As Nick and I walked around, a girl ran up to us and asked if we were foreigners and if we wanted to play beer pong. Turns out that she was in the English club and had heard that American students play a game called beer pong. They had purchased cups, beer, and ping pong balls but needed us to demonstrate the game. We ended up spending the whole afternoon teaching them the game and learning how to do Chinese calligraphy. I did an alright job...but definitely need some more practice.

Work the past few weeks had been very boring. I get the impression that there was not the best planning for us. I don't really have much work to do, hence writing the blog. I did finally get a chance to use ANSYS to model a few things, but have yet to do anything with the stinger at all. Next week's progress presentation should be interesting...

Last Wednesday we met up with one of Hung Tao's old students who was working for Intel in Dalian. We went to the Brooklyn Bar because we had been craving a big, juicy cheeseburger. The restaurant did not fail us. At dinner, John gave us some travel tips and told us about some of the places he had visited. He told us about a city called Kashgar in the far west of China that sounded like an amazing adventure. We looked in traveling there, but the cost to get there will likely keep us from going. If somehow we can find a cheaper way to get there, it will be incredible.

The highlight of these past few weeks was definitely our weekend trip to Xi'an. We left work early on Friday and got to Xi'an in the early evening. The flight was certainly an adventure. They mentioned that we might have some minor turbulence. They were not kidding. I had fallen asleep about 20 min in, and then after 20 min of sleep I was awoken to what felt like the plane dropping a few hundred feet and really shaking. There were a few screams but it didn't last too long. There was no way I was gonna sleep after that. About 10 min later(and after drinks were served and consumed), the plane hit some major turbulence. There were a few more screams and some of the passengers went into the brace position. This time I had scrambled to get my camera to take a video of it. We have learned that there is rarely a dull moment on board a Chinese flight.

Our hotel in Xi'an was the Fukai, and it was very nice (only $55 a night). The concierge spoke decent English so there were no issues there. That night we wandered over to the Muslim quarter of the city. Dinner was so-so. The best dish (very surprisingly) was ox tongue. It tasted like a good pot roast and was incredibly tender. In the Muslim area, there are a lot of merchants looking to sell just about anything. Haggling with them is key. Very often we only pay about 1/3 to 1/2 of the asking price. There were plenty of knock-off watches, polos, shirts and jackets. I ended up getting a t-shirt and a tie. We were exhausted that night so went to sleep somewhat early so we would be rested for our adventure on Saturday.

We booked a tour through the hotel, and it was worth every penny. I wish I had a video of our tour guide because he was unbelievably funny but also knew his stuff. He told us horrible jokes, sang, free-style rapped, and showed us kung fu. We visited a 6000 year old settlement which had been decently preserved, then visited a Terra Cotta Warrior factory where they make very nice replicas. After that we drove out to the actual Terra Cotta Warriors. One of the Qin Dynasty emperors had constructed thousands of soldiers to protect him in the afterlife and had them all buried near his tomb. They were discovered in 1974 by a farmer digging a well. They continue to find more and more buried warriors. The scale was the most impressive aspect of the warriors. It was very touristy (even had a Subway and KFC on site). The final stop of our tour was the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. He had built a mountain as his tomb. It has been eroded over the years, but still is quite a climb to the top with a very nice view.

After a quick nap, we walked to the South Gate of the city where we saw a really cool dance party going on. Dumplings are a specialty of Xi'an, so we stopped at a self-described legendary dumpling place. Turns out they only had 2 kinds of dumplings (at least that they would serve us) and the wait staff was absolutely horrible. They would walk around with carts of food, and you would stop them and take stuff. For some reason they didn't like stopping at our table. We then hit up the Moon Key Bar. It was alright; good, cheap drinks. After a tipsy visit to KFC, we found our way to the 1 + 1 Club. Our improvised rendition of Soulja Boy was a huge hit. There are more than a few videos in China now of 3 white guys attempting to do the Soulja Boy. Not many people dance at the club which is pretty lame, but the places are incredibly nice.

On Sunday we got a later start, but ended up visiting the South Gate of the city again. The inner city has a 2 mile x 2 mile wall surrounding it. The wall was preserved very well (built in the 1300s) and the scenery around it was beautiful. It was raining off and on, so we didn't rent bikes to ride on it like we had hoped. Instead we took a golf cart ride to the East Gate. From there we walked across town back to the Muslim quarter again before catching a taxi to the airport. In Xi'an they have the brilliant idea of using one gate for 2 flights leaving at exactly the same time. This lead to a bit of confusion, but all in all it was ok. In the airport we were quite loud and got many stares from other passengers which was funny. The flight back was a dud compared to the others. I'm still hoping for another turbulent flight so I can capture it all on tape.

This week has been pretty low-key which is a nice break. Saturday is the 4th of July so we are working on setting up a bbq for the Chinese students where we will show them how Americans celebrate independence lol. We're also planning our long weekend trip in 2 weeks. Trying to find a cheap way to get to Kashgar has been a challenge, but if it doesn't work out we will likely go to Chengdu in the south.

I should probably get back to "work." I'll try harder to update here more frequently!

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