Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Buddha

It has been a week since my family left Hong Kong. I have spent the week catching up on work, but mostly missing my family. It was so great having them here.

Missing them makes me think of my favorite day in Hong Kong so far. It was spent, with my family at Lantau Island. Lantau island is an island southeast of Hong Kong island. It is home to 200,000 people, as well as Hong Kong's international airport. Additionally, Lantau island is where the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery is.

To get to the Big Buddha we took a 4 mile cable car ride that provided 360 degree views of the South China Sea and North Lantau island. After the cable car we started the hike up to the Big Buddha. The Buddha on Lantau is one of the largest seated Buddhas facing north. The statue in itself is beautiful, but more than that, the grounds surrounding the Buddha and the views out toward the ocean are awesome. Lantau has many hiking paths throughout the island, I think I will have to go back before the end of the semester to check them out.

After exploring the monastery, we hopped on a bus to a town called Tai O. Tai O is one of the coolest places I have been in Hong Kong because it doesn't remind me of any other place I've visited in Hong Kong. Tai O features traditional stilt housing of traditional Chinese fishing villages. The village was full of local people selling dried shrimp and other various foods. One man was using his boat as his store front and was measuring the weight of his fish with a simple weight and stick.

As I enjoy my life abroad, I got great news from back at St. Mike's. Last week was room selection and my trusty roommates Erin and Sam handled the grueling process that is housing. I woke up at 7 am (so early!) to skype with them and find out we're living in townhouse 317 for our senior year! Can't wait!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Back to Beijing

I can't believe how long it has been since my last post (sorry!). I have been overwhelmingly busy this past week because my family was visiting!

Last Friday, Clint and I hopped on a plane to Beijing to meet my family. I eagerly waited for them on the other side of customs and looked silly as I waved at whatever strangers saw me before my family. Finally, my parents spotted me and quickly nudged Lindsay, pointing to me on the other side. One by one, I was greeted by family with hugs and kisses. I can't even describe how amazing it was to see my family. At school in Vermont, I only see my family on breaks, maybe three times a semester. Something about being half way around the world though, it makes it seem like normally I see them everyday. Technology makes a text or a phone call between class something I can respond to right away, but with a 13 hour time difference, phone calls are always scheduled and text messages are non existent.

After about a million hugs, we headed into the city of Beijing. Our first day was spent at the Summer Palace, something I did not see my first time in Beijing. The palace is set near a lake, which on that particular day was covered in fog that looked pretty cool.

We literally spent the entire day at the palace, there were tons of paths to explore and interesting Chinese architecture. It was great to wander around a new place with my family and Clint, it is one of the things I love most about Millen family vacations. We joke that we never spend our vacations laying on a beach, we are always looking for a site to see or some place to drive to and explore. Here are a few pictures from the Summer Palace.

After a day at the palace, my dad and I went to the airport to pick up my sister Aubrey. We all went to bed early because the next day we would be climbing the Great Wall. After much debate, we decided on a part of the wall called Juyongguan. Unlike the last part of the wall I climbed, this area was extremely steep and mostly stairs. Some of the stairs were over three bricks high (or about knee height for me). The wall was incredibly windy, but beautiful once the sun came out. The wall truly is indescribable and pictures hardly do it justice, but here are a few.

The last day in Beijing was spent at the Forbidden City. Aside from seeing the city, one of the highlights of the day was seeing Clint participate in a camera battles. Being foreigners in China, it is impossible not to stand out, particularly for someone like Clint, blond hair, blue eyes, six feet tall. Local people were itching to take pictures with him. Whenever someone wanted a picture, Clint was more than willing, but for the people who tried to sneakily take pictures of him, Clint reciprocated by taking a picture back of them. Both my family and the locals thought this was pretty funny and I think by the end of the day, Clint had his picture taken with over twenty strangers.

More pictures and stories from my family's trip are to come later this week!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome to China Millen Family!

My family is arriving in Beijing this afternoon, I'm headed to the airport now to fly there as well with Clinton. I cannot wait!

Beijing for four days, my family here for over a week...

The firewall will prevent me from posting until at least Tuesday, so I will post information about my weekend after then.

Family family family! I cannot wait to see you guys :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Quiz is the Same in Every Country Right?

A quiz is a quiz is a quiz right? Wrong!

Learning a new language can be challenging, especially when the language bares no similarities to ones you already know. I am taking Cantonese right now and my speaking skills were recently tested. Now, this was not your average quiz. No pencils or paper were allowed or required. For my last Cantonese quiz I was accompanied by my professor to a local food market where I was assigned three items to buy. The items included, apples, bananas, and chicken wings.

Needless to say, I had spent the previous 24 hours preparing for this quiz, learning the names of an assigned list of fruits, vegetables, and meats. In order to receive full marks on the quiz I had to:

1) Tell the vendors "I know very little Cantonese, please speak slowly"
2) Ask how much the desired items cost
3) Ask for the desired number
4) Bargain for a lower price

The first requirement is actually a very useful phrase, I have been using it at restaurants when I try to order in Cantonese. It looks like this "Ngo sik hou siu gwong doong wa, m goi gong maan di" (looks complicated... it is!)

Asking for the price and desired quantities was the easiest part and the bargaining was the fun part. I wasn't able to get the price lowered, but I did get 5 apples for the price of 4.

It was really difficult to be quizzed in a crowded market, but the things we learned how to say were useful. Buying fruits and vegetables at the market is the most inexpensive way to shop here in Hong Kong, so I will definitely use my newly acquired knowledge on my next grocery run.