Hello!

I finally have a bit of time to update on some of the pictures I have posted and some of the things that have been going on here on the other side of the world from most of my readers. I will try to go in chronological order.

We made Jiaozi as a cultural experience last weekend. It was delicious, and as always, it is a fun activity. It was painfully hot in that room though with the amount of people we had!

On Memorial day we all missed home a little bit. We wished each other a happy Memorial day and reminisced on the activities our friends and family were probably doing and told all the Chinese people and foreign exchange students about our American holiday. I wore my new skirt which is all patriotic colors for all of Monday in China, and then decided I could wear things multiple days in a row like the Chinese and wear it for American Memorial day as well. For lunch, we all did our best to eat American food. Several of us (myself included) ate french fries and popcorn chicken.

Also on Monday, I went with our teacher with some other students to get fitted for a taylored suit. I am so excited. It will be ready on Tuesday for me to try on. I've never been fitted for anything before. And, it only costs $75 for the full suit. If I like it, I'm thinking about getting a second one made.

Monday we also painted for our culture class. That was probably my favorite class we have had so far. I posted pictures of some of the things I painted and the ones our teacher painted that I took with me because they were so beautiful. Don't be deceived, all the good ones were done by our teacher. I wasn't terrible though. I'm not terribly artistic, but copying things that they painted was pretty fun and not as hard as I thought it would be.

Finally (also on Monday) I finally got to go up on the roof of our building! Somehow the boys from Ghana got lucky enough to have the only rooms with windows going out directly onto the roof, and one by one we have been allowed to see it. It's a huge space where you can hang out. It is very safe - it even had barriers. Kate and I were told we were welcome to go there any time. It is beautiful, and the air seems fresher up there.

On Tuesday for our culture class we went to the Music Education building and listened to all of the different traditional Chinese instruments that are taught at Liaocheng University. I got video clips of each of them. It was interesting how many of them were string based. A couple of them were really, really beautiful.

The building itself was pretty neat. Each level was hollow in the center with windows facing out to the rest of campus all the way around and also into the outdoor space (kind of like a small courtyard) in the center of the building. There is no air conditioning, but they have all the windows open to let in a breeze. We were on the fifth floor, and one of the guys ran around the hall to the other side to stare at us from across the windows and we realized that somehow the architecture had him at a lower level than we were. It was odd.

On Tuesday evening, my roommate and I went out with my language partner and she took us to a mall that we hadn't been to before. It was much cheaper and more popular than the other one. She was really nice to shop with and helped us bargain for a few things. One of the craziest things I saw in that mall though, were pet squirrels in a pet store. It was the first time I had seen a pet store, and I was shocked to see a 3 pet squirrels for sale. They were so cute! I really want one. I would bring one home if I could figure out how to (and if my new apartment would let me... and if my boyfriend didn't hate squirrels...) On the taxi ride back the taxi driver didn't charge us because he was so impressed with my room mates Chinese. Frankly, when I'm with her I let her do all the talking. I probably should stop doing that because I know that it is not helping my Chinese.

I am starting to like the beds here. It sounds crazy - even for me - to say that but I can't tell you how quickly I fall asleep and how easy it is to get up in the morning. I sleep really well. Our teacher was explaining that according to Chinese Medicine it is better for you to sleep on a very firm (or hard) surface. It is supposed to help you get up in the morning and be good for your back. My only problem with this, is you can't really use your bed as a makeshift couch. I've tried watching movies and hanging out on it, and that is not comfortable.

In Chinese class my teacher was telling us that when she took some Chinese friends on a tour of where she was staying when she was in America, they were horrified by how many individual houses there were. They couldn't imagine that it was safe to live in a house - especially if it was secluded. She explained to us that Chinese like to live in highly populated areas like cities because they think there is safety in numbers. Even in farming communities they live in community dwelling places and go out to farm. After thinking about it, I realized I don't think I have seen a single house since I have been here - only high rise apartments (or maybe condo's?) and a few townhouses. It really makes sense why you seldom see Chinese people going anywhere alone. The townhouses have beautiful gardens though.

One more note on Chinese culture for today. When you are taking a class, grades are everyone's business. They turn your papers back face up and go around the room asking you to announce your grade to the class. It's really strange. No secrets there!

We have our first of two open weekends this weekend (we found out this morning) and now it is a scramble to find something to do. It's a three day weekend because Monday is the Dragon Boat Festival. At first my room mate and I were worried about going somewhere without a native Chinese speaker considering our level of Chinese, but the more we think about it, the more we realize we can do this. Besides, there is no sense in sitting around because we are afraid of getting lost, is there?

Four people from our group are going to Shanghai to party (because of the group that's going, I fear for that group), and I think my room mate and I (we are going to invite everyone else since they haven't made plans) are going to go to Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province. It's only 2 hours away, and the history is so rich there. The Yellow River (also known as the Mother River) is very special to the Chinese people and it runs directly through Jinan. Also, there are lots of natural springs there and other neat places to go see.

More will be revealed!