Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Travel Diaries: Chongqing, China (Part 1)

Welcome back to my very belated China series! If you missed last week, chest out my post about Beijing here.

So to continue…  after our short stay in Beijing, my group headed to Chongqing, city of our sister school Nankai. I don't remember quite the order everything happened in, so bear with me here, but on one of our first days in this city we bussed to a group dinner as kind of a welcome-to-Chongqing thing. The place had a PHENOMENAL view of this bridge over the river. The sun set as we finished eating, so we got to watch the city's lights glimmer on like a bunch of stars.

My friend Nina (on the left) and myself (right) probably took several hundred pictures out these windows…

We met our host families early on, too, and mine took me to dinner at another beautiful location. Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me, so I have no pictures to show how truly unique it was, located on a hill where you could spin in a circle and see the city on all sides of you. Neither of my host parents spoke much English and I don't speak Chinese, so it was a very quiet dinner, and I remember being semi-deaf in one ear after the flight from Beijing. But I couldn't wait to explore more of this HUGE city!

Though every day was different, we did attend some classes with our host students. The most memorable of these was an English class my friend and I sat in on. First we were giggling at the textbook, which had a bunch of phrases related to prom and resulted in all the students asking us what prom was like, believing it was a significant rite of passage or something. Once we joined a group of students one day for their morning exercises, as you can see below.

Most nights I stayed at my host sister (Ruilin, but we called her Duffy)'s family home, and there I slept in a spare room with a window that didn't close. It was an apartment building so the window was waaaay up high and it wasn't cold, but one night I thought I could hear houses falling down! Actually, it was just thunder, but it was insane. Now I've been to Singapore and heard louder, but coming from Seattle it was shocking. Smelling the breeze every night while listening to the sound of the city, though, was the perfect way to fall asleep.

Breakfast at my host family's house was another education in Chinese cuisine. My host mom was "healthy" as described by Duffy, so we had boiled eggs and corn on the cob usually, or rice porridge. She cooked us a green gourd once, and a black porridge made out of either seams or beans, I forget which, that we stirred honey into. We are water chestnuts, cooked sweet potatoes, rice noodles in broth… Really, she made excellent breakfasts. It's always fascinating to see what people eat on a daily basis around the world.

One night we slept at Duffy's apartment near school (some students live part-time on campus, like you would in college). On the way to school stopped for breakfast at a noodle place, where they served rice noodles with beef, greens and spice in broth. It seemed odd to me to wake up with this, but it was amazing. The amount of other city dwellers doing the same before work was pretty cool, too.

This is the place Duffy and I ate breakfast.

Of course, as in Beijing, I  was obsessed with street food and small eateries. But I tell you… SO. Good.

Back at school, the US students were being showed all kinds of unique things. We took a short Chinese class, where I proved to be absolutely awful at pronunciation, and had a short martial arts lesson. At one point we got to sit and watch the school's music class perform some traditional Chinese pieces, and they let us see the instruments afterwards.

Dance class was another item on our agenda… Obviously we were very good at it.

One of my friends' birthday happened to fall during the trip, so to celebrate a bunch of us tourists and our host students went to a karaoke bar. We spent a few hours howling along with Florence & the Machine, Celine Dion, Katy Perry, Maroon 5… and we sang some Mamma Mia, of course. :P

Although the food in China was amazing, one did begin to miss food from home after a while. We ended up heading to the Sculpting In Time cafe several times, a little niche that you climbed some tucked-away stairs up into. They served toast and eggs, kind of like an American diner crossed with a cafe. Coffee, as in Singapore, arrived with cookies. I still don't understand why this isn't a thing we do in the US!

At Sculpting In Time cafe, Duffy studying and me journaling.

But we did get the authentic Chinese meal experience as well, going out for hot pot with our host students and various other meals.

Duffy and I at some sushi place we ate at with our friends.
So this post is growing a little long… I'll end it here and finish up Chongqing next week, for lack of a better way of organizing all there is to say about this brilliant city.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below! I hope you're enjoying my China series. :)