Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jordan and Hong Hai'er in Shanghai!

Hello everyone! My name is Jordan Griffin and I'd like you to meet my faithful friend, Hong Hai'er (红孩儿). His name comes from a character in one of the four Chinese classics, Journey To The West, in which the Monkey King is confronted and nearly defeated by a child clothed in red, the Boy Sage King, who commands the power of fire, when the goddess Guanyin subdues him by bringing his hands together and forcing him to bow.  
Hong Hai'er crossing the Yangzi River, the longest in China and the 3rd longest in the world!
My experience abroad so far with Hong Hai'er hasn't exactly been what one might call a "usual" one. For example, I've already appeared on local television here (twice!), attended two weddings, judged an English competition, and visited neighboring Korea. So if you're looking for an unconventional experience, this post is right up your alley!


Judging a local English competition

Beginning with a brief background, I'm living in a type of home-stay in Yangzhou (about 5 hours north of Shanghai where I'll be studying) with my good friend's family. He's an international student of ours at UNCG who I met when I asked to join him for lunch after seeing him eating alone in the caf one fateful day. One year and 2 trips to China later, here I am making this post and preparing for a year-long study of Chinese language in Shanghai! So if this isn't inspiration for you to get involved in our colorful international community here on campus, then I'm not sure what is. I have been here for about 3 months so far getting myself into wacky adventures and will begin school in about 1 month. You'll be hearing from me in another post after I've started school and can comment on that and I couldn't be more excited!

Typical Chinese lunch
My home-stay family eating lunch

I started my experience by moving in with my home-stay family. We soon visited our town's 东岳庙 Daoist temple and 个园, one of our city's most famous classical Chinese gardens.

Jordan at the classical gardens

Daoist Temple of the God of Mount Tai 东岳庙

个园 Chinese classical garden

I was soon approached by a friend of a friend of a friend (relationships/who you know, also known as 关系 (guan xi), is a crucial part of Chinese life, influencing everything from society, jobs, politics, and business) to participate in an episode of popular local television game show. The first of my media studies / asian studies double major is Media, so I was extremely interested in gaining first-hand experience in the Chinese media industry and getting a look at all the behind the scenes goodies and viewing the Chinese process of television production. I'd later be interviewed on another local television show after watching the action on set.

Being prepped for recording.


The sky really is the limit in China but the lesson here is to push your study abroad to the limit and never be afraid to ask questions; you'll open doors to unique opportunities you never even knew existed!

Kung-pao chicken!

While waiting for school to begin and gaining valuable language and cultural experience (such as learning to use transportation such as busses, subways, airplanes, ferries, taxis, and trains) I have been also able to do some traveling. 

Old temple hidden in the forest
Old town street
Bells call monks to meditation
Unique places I have visited include Shanghai, Suzhou, Changshu, Nanjing, Wuxi, Yizheng, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang and Tianchang. A particular favorite so far has definitely been the Grand Buddha at Ling Mountain in Wuxi. It's tallest ( I think ) statue of Guatama Buddha in China! To the side is a beautiful Brahma Palace and you can feed pigeons at the Buddha's feet.

Jordan and the Grand Buddha

View from the top of Lingshan, just under the Buddha's foot, you can see the Brahma palace in the distance to the left


Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing

One of the biggest advantages you have while studying abroad is the opportunity to travel to other neighboring countries a lot cheaper than it would cost to get there from the States. Because I entered China so early, I had to enter on a tourist S2 visa which allowed me to stay a total of 90 consecutive days from each entry of the country and I can leave and enter as many times as I want until the visa expires. Nearing the end of my 90 days I had to leave and exit the country once, so chose Korea as my destination and a Korean international student from UNCG (noticing a reoccurring theme here yet?) accompanied me and gave me a 7 day tour of her home city of Busan and the delicious food of her country and man, was it awesome! One thing that made Korea a nice place to visit was that signs in places of interest are usually in up to 4 languages at once: Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese so I could still practice Chinese while I was there and drew some really interesting parallels between Korean and Chinese language!


Busan, Korea

Hong Hai'er meets some new friends!

China definitely isn't the place to study abroad for the faint of heart, but it is absolutely home for the more adventurous. As a foreigner in a homogenous society like the PRC (People's Republic of China) with a population of 92% being of the Han majority ethnicity, you are most certainly opened up to experiences, reactions, situations, etc. than you would otherwise be exposed to in a more popular European destination for example (not knocking you guys, you all rock too!).

To end this post, I'll leave you with some tips if you're planning on studying abroad in China. If not China, maybe you'll just find them interesting in general!

1. When eating out anywhere with a local in China, whether it be with a close friend or a large group, you can expect whoever you're with to do just about anything they can to prevent you from paying. Although this tradition slides a bit more often with the younger generation, it's ingrained into Chinese culture that hosts (because you're a foreigner, everywhere you go you're considered a guest) must treat guests. As nice as this sounds, it's very rude if you don't at least push back and make a solid effort to pay! I've gotten into pushing and shoving matches (all in good fun of course) with folks where 3 or 4 arms are shoving money into the cashier's face to be the one who pays. Even if you can't pay in the end, the effort is extremely appreciated by everyone who you're with and they absolutely take notice.

2. Don't be afraid to abuse your "can I...?" asking privilege! Because you're a foreigner, you're allotted little extra freedoms here and there as well as interesting opportunities that usually aren't granted. For example, many people such as monks or guards or policemen refuse to take pictures while on duty or in their place of work, but if you're extra polite then chances are they're more than happy to sneak a quick picture with a foreigner! Who knows when you both will have another chance quite like it? As long as you don't break any rules and whatever you're doing isn't plain rude or disrespectful, at least ask!

3. Although being a foreigner in China does have its advantages, there are also a few negatives associated with it. There are many stereotypes about foreigners (for Americans in particular) held here such as we're all filthy rich, we all own guns, we're all evil, we're all "open" or "flower hearted 花心" , (I'll let you guess what that means) most of which if not all comes from what they've seen in their media. Another disadvantage is that because I'm not a native, anywhere a price isn't explicitly marked that means I'm open game for being cheated, even if only for a few 元. For example, locals usually pay about $2.44 for a ride to the nearest big city, but I've been offered higher prices of up to $10. The best way to counter this is to make a local friend and have them go with you whenever you go shopping or want to buy something.

4. Go and make an international friend at UNCG NOW. He / she is probably pretty shy in this new environment and is waiting for an American friend just like you!

Thanks for reading, and I'll have another post sometime later!

Jordan Griffin and Hong Hai'er
Fudan University
Shanghai, China


1 comment:

  1. This is nice post which I was awaiting for such an article and I have gained some useful information from this site. Thanks for sharing this information.
    student accommodation newcastle