Friday, November 18, 2011

Bike Trip To Jiangxin Zhou

Greeting Everybody!!!

So I spent most of Saturday afternoon biking around an island on the Yangze River called Jiangxin Zhou 江心洲, it literally means the island in the heart of the river.  Going to Jiangxin Zhou is a great way to separate oneself from the noise and commotion of Nanjing City. The first time I visited was about 5 weeks ago, some classmates and I visited a local art student friend of ours. She told us she moved to the island to set herself in a very calm atmosphere so she could complete her art works in peace.

I was surprised to find exactly how big the Jiangxin Zhou is. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to bike around the entire island, I did top a few times to take photos and patch flat tires. For the most part it was uninterrupted biking, something that is very uncommon in this hectic concrete jungle called Nanjing.

The island its self is very beautiful. All the streets are lined with trees and the scenery is made up of colorful farmlands and fishing boats on the coast. In the center of the island are the small city centers. Below are all the wonderful pictures and a great map.

I think in the back of my head the main reason for taking this small biking adventure was just to make a map of it  :)  Black dotted line was the route I rode, red number correspond to the photo!

1.    On the bridge heading to Jiangxin Zhou 江心洲。

2.    Trees line all the streets.

3.    Small crops dot the landscape.

4.    Over looking a small orchard. In the back round is a reminder how close to the City these islanders are.

5.    Heading south along the western coast.

6.    An abandoned tree-fort looking house.


8.    The main dock on the western coast of the island.

9.    I'm not sure what the are harvesting in this aquatic farm, but those are all Sprite bottles floating in the water.

10.    Shipyard, or a ship graveyard. These two behemoths were being taken apart.

11.    Over looking more crops.

12.    A lovely little beach on the south end of the island.

13.    A temple on the southern tip of the island

14.    The Southern tip of Jiangxin Zhou.
15.    Looking east, in the back round is the mainland. This looks like a floating dock for a small fishing operation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running, Halloween and No More Soccer :(

Hey everybody!

So the last few weeks have been filled up with Mid-terms and field trips. Two weekends ago all the flagship students took a trip to a local farming community named Changshu. We were there to do research on a variety of topics, Agriculture, Industry, Manufacturing... My group did our presentation on Agriculture and I got to use my knowledge to compare farming practices within China and the United States. The top two groups got a 50 dollar gift certificate to a local book store, and our group was one of the winners, HOORAY!

Last weekend I decided to join an 8 kilometer (5 mile) running race around Xuanwu Lake. The lake is beautiful, it is just outside of the city walls which you can sort of see in the back round of the pictures. The walls were build during the Ming Dynasty, about 600 years ago, but it is still in great condition. A class mate told me that at that time the Emperor didn't have much money, so as a "tax" each citizen had to submit a single brick to be added to the wall. The brick had to have your name and where you were from written on it so if it wasn't up to standard with the other bricks they would be fined. I'm not sure how true that is, but it sounds interesting. Anyway, I finished the race in just over 40 minutes, 8 minute-miles or 5 minute kilometers. Finished about 18th out of 100, not too shabby.

That night after the race I went to Shanghai for the first time! Some friend and I went out there for Halloween. I got to ride on Chinas High Speed Train! We made to Shanghai in about an hour and a half. We were only in Shanghai one day, which was much too short of a time. but we got to stay at our friend house in the Frech Concession, it is very beautiful out there, little rivers and canals everywhere, the architecture is very European. I can't wait to go back.

Finally on Wednesday we made it to the last Soccer match of the season. Out favorite team, Jiangsu Shuntian versus a city called Nanchang. It was a great match. Jiangsu won 1-0. We were very surprised because the match was on a wednesday afternoon, so we thought that very little people would be at the stadium, but it might as well have been a Saturday Night match, because the Stadium was jam-packed with fans going crazy for the last time. Jiangsu ended up finishing 4th place overall in the the league.

Other than that, students are starting to search for Spring internships. I pretty sure that one class-mate Brandon and myself will be going to Yunnan province together in February and working for an Environmental Education Program. We haven't worked out all the details yet, so I am not positive what our job will be, but they did mention the need for some of their hiking trails to be mapped, so it looks like I get to use my Cartography skills in China!!!

Thats all for now. Hope all is well. Talk to y'all later.

Halloween in Shanghai. My friend Erin decided to go as Me. Her costume included stealing one of my hats behind my back, buying a blue jacket to match mine, dumping flour in her hair to match my gray hairs, then using a sharpie to draw my tattoos and her body. Way To Go Erin!

At the farming village in Changshu. Dennis and I are sitting on the bench feeding fake chickens while Jonathan has a conversation with a fake old woman.

Just after finishing the race. My class-mate Nathan is holding his cute baby Jane, standing beside them is his wife Emily, then two more class-mates Jason and Josef.

In the back round you can just make out the three arches of the Eastern Gate of Nanjing's city wall

The last Jiangsu Shuntian soccer match.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chess, Soccer and Cycling in Nanjing

I know I start most of my emails and blogs with this, But Oh Geez have I been flippin busy!!!!!

Each week I have 14 hours of class, 5 hours of tutoring, plenty of homework, and this week I will also start volunteering in the community (I must log 15 hours community service by the end of the semester) In the past one student volunteered at a bike shop by campus, so I will be going there tomorrow and inquiring about some work opportunities.

In my spare time my friend Brandon and I have picked up playing Chinese Chess called Xiangqi 象棋. It is a lot like International Chess, but at the same time very different. The strategy involved is very different because the pieces in Chinese and International Chess behave in different ways and have different abilities.

You will see small crowds of old men on a street corner all arguing and debating over the match being played out in front of them. It is standard for a spectator to shout out, or make a motion on the game board about the move they think the player should make, some spectators go as far as to move the chess piece himself. Once I was also standing around watching a game, and the men started talking to me and I mentioned that since arriving I had started to study xiangqi, and so they insisted that I played a match with one of them. It was sort of awkward as I had one man standing behind me making just about every move for me, or at least giving me plenty of advice once I seemed lost about what to do next. BUT, toward the end of the match, like a ray of sunshine through the clouds I spotted check-mate in three moves. I started ignoring all the advice that was coming from all directions (a foreigner play chess with the old men on the street is unheard of so by the end of the match a rather large crowd gathered to watch)
Many started cursing my for ignoring their advice but they soon found out why, and I think most everyone was dumb founded that I had ended winning my first real game of chess, although I did have a great deal of assistance for most of the match. I went on to play two more games, with a lot less help from the crowd, and getting my butt whipped both times. Well it was still fun, and great practice for when I return to play next week.

Nanjing is the capital city of Jiangsu Province. And luckily for me Jiangsu has a Provincial Soccer Team located in Nanjing called Jiangsu Sainty. Me and a bunch of other exchange students have joined Sainty's largest Supporter Club. And we have been to all of the Home games, sitting with the Chinese fans, learning all of the songs and chants in Chinese, and just having a great time in general. Unfortunetly there are only two more games for this season, and we have to miss the match on Oct. 22nd because we will be on a field trip to the agricultural villages of Jiangsu to do research and reports about China's Agricultural Community.

A few weeks ago I sent out an email telling about my plan to spend the Chinese National Independence Day (week) biking to a neighboring city and going to the Strawberry Music Festival. Well I did just that, and it was an amazingly good time. Biking to Zhenjiang was a 75mile ordeal in which I got about 10 miles worth of lost, and two flat tires and strained muscle in my shin, making it very painful to walk around for the past week and a half. But their is something oddly satisfying about biking 80 miles just because you have the whole day waste doing it. But in Zhenjiang I also got incrdibly lost, and could not find where the Music Fest was happening. Ends up it was happening on an Island on the Yangze River, and so I could bike there and had to take a taxi there instead. It was a 20$ cab ride, but after wandering around Zhenjiang for 4-5 hours trying to find a way to the island, I thought it was well worth it.
At the music fest was four stages of great music. I got to the The Go! Team, The Whip, great Chinese and Mongolian Traditional music, and there was an Electric Music stage that we ended up at each night to dance the night away before retiring to the Tent City that had manifested in the back corner of the Festival grounds. There we gathered with other music fans, and talked and had some beers (I was unknowingly challenged to a drinking contest by a Chinese soldier on vacation. I think it was a tie, but it was fun) So after four days of camping and listening to music, we all went home. I decided to break my bike down and take the bus back to Nanjing, as my leg was still on a lot of pain and biking 80 miles home would have been suicide.

Lastly, I happy to say that I have found a roommate named Ji Jiangdong (or Jude) and that he will be officially moving in sometime next week, but until then we are still doing hours of tutoring.

I know this was an awful to throw into one blog post, but I will do my best in the future to post more often with less content.
Chinese Chess

Wednesday Night is Family Style Cooking Night.  I'm Making Curry.  My friends Brandon is there watching me cook.

The foreigner section of the Sainty Supporters Club

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Starting Classes

Greetings Everybody!!!

Like usual I have been incredibly busy over the past few weeks. Mainly because most our of courses have begun, and trust me, our schedule is full.

Two weeks ago our Chinese classes had already started. Each class is two hours long. Monday and Friday I have advanced writing, and on Wednesday I have two sessions on the study of Chinese Media, the first session focusing on the history of Media in China, and the second session on modern interpretations of Chinese media within China and abroad. Also, Tuesday nights we have a course to prepare students for the HSK exam (its the SAT equivalent for Chinese Language) And once I find a roommate, which will hopefully be soon, he and I will have to complete 5 hours of one on one tutoring each week.

Apart from the Chinese courses, each student has direct enrollment classes for their major. So far I have sat in on three university classes, 'Permi-Glacial Landforms' I prob won't take that one again, it was taught in English and too advanced for the credits to transfer back to SF State, The other two are 'Geomorphology' 地貌学 and 'Remote Sensing' 遥感地学。 These two classes are taught in Chinese, and I am the only foreigner in either class. It will be very difficult, but both instructors luckily relay on Power-Point Presentations to give lectures and so I can get a copy of the lesson after each class and review it at my own pace so I don;t miss out on important details.

That's school so far.

 I must admit, although Nanjing is a great city, I think most of my sense of wondering and culture shock was spent while in Taiwan. Nanjing seems like 'just another city.' I feel also because I am here for a much longing time, I'll have more opportunities to explore, but I feel a lot more grounded, and so more intent on studying then going out. I suppose in stead of guessing how I will spend my time here, I should let it play out and then reflect on it after the fact... Then I can tell you lovely people all about it.

Hope all is well. If anyone is doing any traveling remember to make pit stop in Nanjing and say hello.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Oaklander In Nanjing

Greetings everyone. It has been a while since I have had time to write anything, but after getting settled in Nanjing this past week I have found some time to go to a coffee shop and use the internet.

Since August 13th after I moved out of my Taipei apartment I have not had a steady place to lay my head down. since then I have slept;
-in a bus terminal, on a bus
-Friend Soso's floor in Kending
-hotels for a few days while on cycling tour
-friend Morice's house in Yilan
-my friend John's concrete floor for two days
-my friends Brendan's couch for 5 days,
-my friend Dennis's spare room for 5 days

FINALLY I have my very own place that I will be living in till the end of January 2012. I have already slept there two nights, and I am slowly getting it filled with the little things a new apartment needs, as well as clearing out all the old crap that was left behind. It is very curious the amount of things you can leave behind when you move out, and no  one seems to mind. So I have closets full of old bedding and cloths and shelves of random knick-knacks. BUT I have also found a type-writer, and old Pentax camera and a unopened French-press Coffee set. so it's not all garbage I suppose, and also I guess I dont have to worry about making sure the apartment is spic n span when I move out.

My first week in Nanjing has been busy, lots of running around with real-estate agents looking at apartments. It was the fourth day when I found one, not a lot of land lords are willing to rent an apartment out for just 5 months without raising the rent through the roof. I have already spend two full days on campus going to orientation meetings and taking placement tests. So far I have made plenty of other foreign student friends, as well as a few locals. I am not lucky enough for there to be a Bike Polo team in Nanjing as well, because that was truely a great way to make 15 local friends really quickly. So next week when school really starts to get going I'll be going to Student Center on campus to try to join some student organizations to meet some new folks. ALSO this week I will get to meet some potential roommates to live with me. Our roommates will also be our tutors. The school matches up each student with a few candidates based on their major (they said it was very difficult to find me some Geography student candidates, but they found two for me) And so this week I will meet with them and see how we get on together and I'll choose one who I feel will be a good roommate....

For those who don't remember, this is all apart of a program called The Language Flagship, a program that aims to get more American's out into the world speakings languages other than English to help strengthen America's role in the International Community. I will be taking Chinese language classes as well as Geography classes that will transfer over to my B.A. at  San Francisco State University. Chinese classes start tomorrow, but starting next week I will be "sitting in" listening to the GEOG classes and seeing which ones I like, and I have till the end of September to actually register for classes. 

Ok that's all for now. Get back to y'all as soon as some more interesting things happen.
Bed room

living room

roommates room

a view of my strreet

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Past Few Weeks

Greeting Family, Friends und Geographers,

I know it has been even longer since my last post but Oh Geez have I been buzy.

(pictures below)

August 12th was our last day of school, we had to take exit exams and give final presentations. The exit exam was the exact same as the entrance exam, but this time I didn't have such a confused look on my face the whole time, so I guess I know that my Chinese has improved a lot over this summer. The day after final I had to move out of my apartment and get ready for my Taiwan-wide adventure.

My brother Morgan showed up a few days before finals. He and I traveled south to Tainan for the Taiwan Bike Polo Championships. Our team was morgan, myself, and our friend Jay. We took third place. Another Taipei team took 2nd, and a team from Gaoxiong took 1st. After the tournament we got a ride to the beach town of Kending on the very southern tip of the island and stayed there a night visiting the night market.

Then our real biking adventure started. The first day from Kending to Taidong was about 100 miles of riding. Mind you our bikes are fully loaded with all of our gear, clothes, food and water. Day 2, was Taidong to Hualien, 125 miles!!! This was a hard bit of riding, and my poor polo bike looked like it wasn't gonna make it. I rolled in Hualien with 6 broken spokes on the back wheel. The next day we got a replacement, luckily from a Giant brand road bike shop, but the owner just happen to have a replacement in the back room. That night we planned on going through Taroko Gorge before getting on the train to the next city, but we realized that the gorge was so large, just passing through it would not be worth it. So we decided to stay an extra day and bike the entire gorge the next day, and it was well worth it. Taroko is the Grand Canyon of Taiwan.

We had to take a train from Hualien to Yilan because the road is just too mountainous to bike. In Yilan we me tup with my friend Morice who had helped me out with a place to stay last month when I biked from Taipei to Yilan solo. By this time in the trip we were both terribly exhausted, so we went to bed early and got ready for the last leg of the trip, Yilan back to Taipei. Morice was a great host as usual and made us Egg Pancakes for breakfast, then we headed out to Jiaoxi for some hot springs and then Toucheng to see the beautiful beaches of the Northeast coast. But by this time it was getting pretty late in the day, and so we decided to just take the train back to Taipei.

But once we got back to Taipei we still had a bit of adventuring to do, because we were homeless. I had already moved out of my place before we started the cycling tour, and so we had to do a bit more couch surfing at friends houses while I worked out a new place for us to live. But in the end it was all sorted out. I now am living in a friends empty apartment before he moves into it at the end of the month. It is a nice penthouse on the 13th floor in the middle of Taipei, great views. In exchange I water the plants and make sure the place doesn't burn down, done and done.

Sunday I move to Nanjing People's Republic of China, which will be another great adventure. Part of me is keen to see a new city, part of me is hesitant to want to go back to Communist China after living in the very free and open society of Taiwan, but I'll manage. BUT for that reason, I am not sure if this website is allowed in China, I won't know till I get there (for example, Facebook and Google are forbidden for people to use) So if for whatever reason I can no longer use I'll let people know via email ( which blog site I have moved to, and I'll keep posting about China adventures.

I'll miss you Taiwan!!! Can't wait to come back.


Kending to Taidong

This Father and Son were doing the same trip as us, and we bumped into them periodically for two days.

Aboriginal art in the high mountains leading to Taidong.

County line, from Kending into Hualien county.

The heat is brutal, head cover is very important.

"Tropic of Cancer Marker"

Actual Tropic of Cancer Marker

Morgan showing his disgust with the southern side of the Tropic of Cancer (seemly the hotter of the two sides)

All police station have tools and air and water for cyclists. Cycling is very popular in Taiwan.

Champion Cyclist. Luckily he happened to have one of his own wheels in the back of his shop that I bought from him so I could continue the tour.

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Map

Taroko Map 

Morice outside his home in Yilan. Thanks Morice!!!!

Final day, outside the hot springs in Jiaoxi.