China Travelogue


Note: This was the first email I sent to an email list I created before the trip. The list consisted of friends and family who were interested in being up to date on my adventure.

Hi everybody.

As you all know, I'm going to China this summer, and I thought a good way to keep in touch with everybody was to set up an e-mail list. If everything works out, every week I'll go to the nearest (and/or cheapest) Internet cafe and tell you about my adventures.


I've been in Beijing for three days now, and we finally found an Internet cafe, about twenty minutes by taxi from the hotel.

The flight to Tokyo was long, like 9 1/2 hours. It actually wasn't bad. I watched a movie starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. And as a group we managed to entertain ourselves. The flight attendants were very pretty and helpful, and I made sure I asked for water everytime I ran out. And the hot towels they gave at the beginning and the end of the flight were incredible. Then after finally getting to the hotel in Narita (a suburb of Tokyo where the new airport is) we headed for the local Buddhist temple, and an American pilot for Japan Airlines (the airline we flew on) showed us around the area, and recommended some good restaurants which we had to pass up, because we were only there for the night. But we found the temple thanks to his directions, and the neighbourhood was quiet but very pretty. Then we went and had fast-food seafood and rice, which was surprisingly good. The server didn't speak English, but we gave her credit for trying, and she was very helpful. On the way back we ran into the pilot again, who was heading back to the hotel himself.

Changchun Arrival

Last night we had a 12 hour train trip to from Beijing to Changchun (about 1000km northeast of Beijing), and I just got in this morning at 8:00. So far today all I've done is get my hotel room (and switch to a different one because the toilet didn't work), and I went shopping with some of the girls. I bought a small notebook, just in case I need something to write on tomorrow.

First Day of Class

I had my first day of class today, but before that, I want to talk about last night, the first night in Changchun. We had our reception, and my speech went well, I think. I talked to my buddy, Willis, and he plays a little bit of basketball, but he's more interested in soccer. So is one of the other male buddies, Lee. We talked for a while, and Benny, my roommate, brought up Falun Gong, but I changed the subject. Didn't feel right talking about it.

Variety Show and Puyi's Palace

Lots to report. In one of my classes, the listening section, we listened to Chinese words and had to write them in pinyin (which is using English letters to spell Chinese words), and the second part was an ask-and-answer section. During that part, the class was asked "ni zhidao shenme" ("what do you know?") and I answered "Wo zhidao Dashan" ("I know Dashan"). Now, most of you don't know who Dashan is, but most Chinese people do. Dashan (which means "big mountain") is a Caucasian, Canadian graduate of Toronto University.

Dinner and the Zoo

It seems like everybody's been to the South Campus but me. Apparently though, you need a student card everywhere you go, which none of us have yet. And plus, it's not close to anything, and most seem glad that we are in the older, North Campus rather than the newer South Campus.


A lot has happened since the last update, as always. We just got back from Harbin, which is a 4 1/2 hour drive north from Changchun. The first interesting thing wasn't in Harbin, but on the way there and back. I got my first glimpse of the countryside of China, and the small part I saw was vast. I saw rice fields and vegetable fields, and workers toiling all day in the sun. The countryside of China has played an integral part in Chinese history, especially the twentieth century.

Olympics and the Tax Party

Yesterday was a long day, and pretty interesting. We didn't have class yesterday, but we woke up at 6:00AM, and we were taken to the south campus of Jilin University, where a sports meet was being held. We participated in the opening ceremonies. The international students of Jilin University were given t-shirts, and we were to walk with all the other faculties' students and professors. It was kind of like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, only on a smaller scale.

Jilin City

This past weekend was very busy. On Saturday, right after my last update, I went with Bonnie and her boyfriend to South Campus, which is about a twenty minute cab ride from the North campus in Changchun. There we met up with Cherie, from our group, and Nasir, a Morocan student Cherie met at school. All of us went to a friend of Nasir's house, where we met Daniel, a French teacher at a private college next to the South campus of Jilin University. We talked mostly in French, and it was really nice.

Since Thursday

Okay, I can only remember what happened since Thursday, so here we go. On Thursday, I met up with Sophie again, and we went CD shopping. I was looking for a Jacky Cheung CD with "Wo Deng Dao Huar" and "Wen Bie" on it, but we couldn't find it. I almost bought some pirated Western music, but the quality didn't look good, so I passed. I did buy what I thought was some Chinese techno, but it ended up being a Chinese rock CD. After that, we walked to the Jilin TV Tower, and I paid for both of us.

Inner Mongolia

Yesterday I came back from a three day trip to Inner Mongolia, which is sort of like a province of China. The bus ride there was 10 hours, but that was because at first we went the wrong way. Fang Laoshi thought that there was a short cut, and upon finding a fork in the road, he got out of the bus and asked the way to Inner Mongolia. If you've ever driven a manual car, and cruised down the highway, and instead of changing from third to fourth gear, you mistakenly changed to the second...the reaction of the car was the same reaction as Fang Laoshi. Total astonishment.

Last Day in Changchun

Before last night, I had gone out with Tim, a classmate of mine, and three girls he met at a massage and hair cut place. I didn't go out last night, because today was the day of our big test, worth 90% of two classes. I just got back from writing the test, and the written part was easier than I thought, and the oral part was harder than I thought. I think I did okay, but I learned more than what was on the exam. I met a lot of people, and had a lot of fun in Changchun, especially this past week.

From Changchun to Courtenay

I'm finally back in Courtenay, following an 11-hour train trip overnight from Changchun to Beijing, a day spent in 40 degree weather, and a 14 hour plane flight from Beijing to Vancouver. I slept most of the way to Courtenay, and then slept for another 15 hours or so. There is now a tension inside me. I already miss the fact that I am given a lot of attention, mostly because of the fact that I'm a white guy and speak some Chinese. Almost everywhere I went, people would look at me with curiosity.