Posts Tagged ‘market’

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Margaret: 青岛 – Qīngdǎo – literally “green island”

December 16, 2011

Wow, what a fantastic weekend in Qingdao!  Not only was my seaside getaway refreshing, but it also reminded me just how much I love traveling, and I’m more pumped up than ever for my trips to Yunnan Province, South Korea, and Vietnam in January!

Qingdao, population just under 9 million, is a mere 5 or 6 hours away from Beijing via bullet train.  It hosted the sailing event during the 2008 Olympics, was voted China’s most livable city in 2009, and is home to none other than the Tsingtao brewery, the maker of China’s most popular beer.  It’s a popular destination for Beijingers due to its close proximity and gorgeous beaches, though the wintertime is definitely the off season, and my friend Michael and I set out Friday to reap the benefits of it.

Somehow I have come within five minutes of missing every single train I’ve ever taken in China.  This go around was no different, and Michael and I found ourselves stuck in the back of a cab in gridlock traffic, eventually getting to the station in the nick of time, running down the platform at lightning speed as if we were on the Amazing Race.  A plush 5 hour train ride later, we had arrived in Qingdao.  I somehow managed to miraculously find our hostel using a measly map in Lonely Planet without getting lost once!  Props!!  We got ourselves a room and headed down the street to a barbecue place where we met a huge group of German travelers.  They had each already downed a few Tsingtaos made some smart alec comment about American republicans before inviting us to drink with them!  We eventually found out they were also staying at our hostel, so we all returned and finished off the night with yet even more Tsingtao, guitar, and pool in the hostel bar.  Our hostel, called KaiYue, was an old converted Baptist church and still looks like it, so I was quite worried I’d be haunted in the middle of the night for drinking alcohol in a church!!

The next morning we headed to the beach.  Qingdao is beautiful.  Unlike Beijing, the city is quite hilly, and the roads twist and turn and jut out every which way.  We walked down the hill from our hostel into a place I will never forget.  Our neighborhood had come alive.  Birds hung overhead in rusty cages,hooting softly up above will mangy dogs meandered in between stoneware and piles of fruit, licking their chops at the meat sellers nearby in hops that they just might slip, leaving a freshly-killed blood red shank to whomever is the quickest.  Fast paced bargaining for giant bags of oranges, for live chickens, for every kind of fish and slimy squid imaginable filled the air as Michael and I squeezed through the Saturday morning market masses.  There was an unkempt aesthetic to the market that is perhaps one of the things I love most about China.  I would move to that neighborhood in a heartbeat and will never forget it.

The beach was lovely yet cold thanks to a ocean wind.  We didn’t stay long before heading to an aquarium followed by the Tsingtao brewery.  The Germans invaded Qingdao in 1898 and brought their beer with them, establishing in the brewery and building the city’s distinctly German architecture.  The brewery was established in 1903 and has been function ever since.  On the tour, we received a free sample of the beer fresh from the brewery!  After that, the coolest bit was most definitely the modern packaging facility.  Michael made fun of me as I stood mesmerized by each and every machine, turning out hundreds of bottles in mere seconds.

Sadly, most cities outside of Beijing and Shanghai don’t have well developed nightlife scenes.  I experienced this first on my trip to the border of North Korea, where we spent most evenings in the local movie theater catching the latest Hong Kong films.  Michael and I took the same approach and tracked down a theater.  Without my trust Chinese-fluent travel companions, Michael and I had no idea what the movies were.  We could tell, however, that two of them were in English.  We bought tickets to the one of the two that was in 3D, and afterward I used my iPod Chinese dictionary to look up the obscure characters in the title.  “Expel” and “the devil.”  Oh god…  I braced myself for a horror movie, but rather it was a wacko sci fi vampire film called “Priest.”  Time to improve your Chinese Marg….

The next morning we got up and took a cab to the city’s main park.  “Hello, where are you from?”  Umm what?  This was the first English speaking cab driver I’ve ever had in China.  Beijing even hosted the Olympics for crying out loud, and yet, there I was in the back of a cab in the seaside city of Qingdao discussing the intricacies of tai chi with my cabbie.

We wanted to go to the park because it was home to a traditional Buddhist temple.  I’m embarrassed to say that I had not yet been to a temple in China and even more embarrassed to admit that I had NO IDEA what a temple is.  I thought temples in China were all tourist attractions that look something like the Forbidden City and that all Buddhist monks and people who practice the religion live in Tibet.  WRONG!  Robed monks on cell phones scurried around the place as young and old went from building to building, offering fruit, burning incense, and kowtowing.  I was rendered speechless by the beauty of the place and the practice.  Unforunately, in addition to my lack of understanding of what a temple is, I also didn’t have a clue about temple etiquette, and the nearby elderly Chinese burst out laughing when I reached into my purse and pulled out an orange, leaving it at the feet of a great big glistening golden Buddha next to very kind of fruit imaginable.  Maybe it’s because I’m white?

Upon leaving the temple, we were approached by a Chinese man who began talking to us in English.  There seemed to be something a little bit off with him, besides the fact that he was speaking fluent English, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was until an older man and woman approached us.  The older man explained in Chinese that he is this man’s caretaker and the woman is his mother.  The man, named Robert, had a disability.  Amidst his perfect explanation of the body’s interaction with the solar system through the practice of Buddhism, he said something I will never forget.  “My major at Qingdao University is English.  I study very hard, but I have no opportunity in China.”  After saying goodbye, I clutched to Michael’s arm as we walked away.

We climbed higher than the park’s TV tower to the very top of a small mountain, which gave us a beautiful view of the city.  At the top, we briefly chatted with an older man and presumably his son.  Upon telling them we were American, the old man quickly responded, “世界是你的。”  The world is yours.  We climbed down but couldn’t find a good place to catch a cab, ending up at a section of the beach we hadn’t yet explored.  It literally looked like Southern California.  The streets were perfectly paved, lined by squeaky clean sidewalks decorated with planters.  We walked along a boardwalk over a beautiful sandy beach as the sun began to set over the water.  It must have been over 40 degrees F, and in that moment, I forgot completely that it was December in China.  The scene was sublime, and although Michael and I had to hurry and catch our train, we stopped for a few moments to take in what couldn’t possibly be China.

I hope I get a chance to go back to Qingdao in the spring during beach season, although somehow I know that it won’t be as beautiful or have as much character as it did this past weekend during the off season.  I am so very grateful for the colorful memories I collect this past weekend, and I’m even happier to have spent them with my cool Nebraska guy.  And now, I’ll leave you with this:

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Sara: Guayaquil

November 14, 2011

This past weekend me and a friend (Shelby) went to the largest city in Ecuador, Guayaquil.  It’s on the coast and it was HOT and super humid! We had a ton of fun and did a ton of different things; we happened to miss our flights, but got new ones so everything worked out pretty great in the end!

On Saturday we went to this giant market that was probably 4 football fields by 5 football fields, and yes we got lost quite a few times. We also spent some of the day walking along the boardwalk, called the Malecon and went to a random garden which was beautiful. We ate in a restaurant on the boardwalk where I had Churrasco which is beef covered in a red/yellow pepper and onion sauce topped off by a fried egg; definitely one of my favorite meals here! Then we found a free museum, which also happened to be air-conditioned, it was really cool to see all the old pirate relics!

Later that night we went out in some dresses we bought (which we tried on over our clothes in the middle of the market) and had dinner and decided to take a ride on a pirate ship that circled the harbor.  It was a lot of fun and after we headed back to our hotel because we walked almost a total of 20 miles this weekend!

On Sunday we went back to the market and walked around some more and took tons of pictures with statues and of buildings, Guayaquil really is an amazing city.  We stumbled upon this park in the center of the city which was crawling with iguanas (hence the name iguana park).  The iguanas were roaming free and there were a ton up in the trees too, we also saw quite a few snapping turtles at the park and a ton of pigeons too. We then flew back into Quito and then took the bus back to Otavalo, to our internships, which will start back up tomorrow. Only 4 more weeks left in Ecuador though, time is really flying by!

The Malecon The Garden Shelby and I, before the Pirate Ship Another Garden Me at Iguana Park Iguana Park

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Margaret: 手表 包 DVD – shǒubiǎo bāo DVD – watch bag DVD

September 13, 2011

It’s been a little more than three years since I first went to Tiananmen Square and the notorious silk street market, and I must say, not much has changed!  The weird bits are 1. I am no longer a tourist, and the fact that I actually live here gives going to both places a new feeling, and 2. I can actually speak some Chinese now, which made silk street a whole different ballgame.

Of course when I woke up this morning, it was pouring rain, so what better activity to do on a rainy day than going to Tiananmen, right?  There was something glorious and whimsical about being there, splashing about in the puddles in the midst of Communism Communism Communism.  I was actually really happy to be there in the bad weather and found myself singing “Singing in the Rain” on the very pavement that the gate to the Forbidden City was built by the Ming Dynasty in 1420, thousands of students were murdered during the 1989 protests, and five Falun Gong members light themselves ablaze in 2001, though there is some speculation that this incident was a hoax instigated by the government to turn public opinion against the banned spiritual movement.  Sorry Minneapolis, your history just can’t compare.  

Silk street is a giant multi-level shopping center that is a popular tourist attraction due to its wide selection of counterfeit brand name items.  You will find everything from Chanel to Dolce and Gabana to Nike to Abercrombie to Prada to just about anything you could ask for.  However, you can usually find something about the products that makes it just a little bit off.  For example, we found one coat on which the tag read something like Budurbarry, a far cry from Burberry.  The quality of the clothing and shoes and actually just about everything else is especially poor.  It may look nice on the hanger, but once a sweater is examined more closely, one will notice that the fabric is extremely thin.  Skirts and dresses may be unlined and completely see-through.  

That’s why it’s incredibly important to not pay too much.  However, this is the hard part, especially if you have baise de pifu, or white skin.  The stalls are arranged in seven or eight foot cubes, each with one or two clerks, 95 percent of whom are women.  As a white woman, I will walk down an aisle and from every stall I hear some combination of “Hello pretty lady, want to buy?  How are you?  We have bag-es, you want to buy?  Good price just for you.  I give you good price.  Come see, come in.  Watchbagdvd.  For your mother, for your sister, you need earrings?”  Sometimes they will grab at my arms or hands.  If I see something I like, I will first inspect it for quality and then decide on my starting price.  Let’s just say I’m going to buy an I ❤ BJ tourist shirt.  For something like this, I would want to offer 10 RMB, less than $2 USD, as a starting price.  The clerks usually make you punch your numbers into a calculator even though most speak English.  Often times, they will give the price first, and more often than not, they will ask for 300+ RMB, upwards of $50 USD.  I figure they do this with the idea that foreigners don’t understand the exchange rate.  If I bring a Chinese friend, they are inclined to discount their starting price because they know I have someone who can tell me if I’m being ripped off.  When they suggest the first price, I usually laugh or shake my head or something and then offer up my price of 10 RMB.  The theatricals ensue.  Some of them pretend to cry or they scowl or they say “Oh my gawd” in their most American English.  The bargaining begins.  Their prices drop, and depending on the item, my prices go up because I usually start with a lower price than I actually intent to pay.  When they offer up their “minimum price,” I then walk away saying it’s too expensive.  They always call me back with a discounted price, and if it’s low enough, this is when I will buy.  I bought a tourist shirt today for 20 RMB, or just over $3 USD.  It’s a game that always leaves me feeling awful after (which I attribute to my Minnesotan upbringing), and I don’t intend to return to the silk street anytime soon.

This journey down the street was so very different from my experience in 2008 because this time I could do all of my bargaining in Chinese.  This would usually anger the clerks.  They insisted on speaking English to me.  In their head I am a foreign tourist with no idea of the exchange rate who they intend to rip off as bad as possible.  I insist on speaking Chinese with them.  It’s a bizarre flip flopped scenario, the Chinese person speaking English and the white person speaking Chinese.  Little do any of them know that I study Chinese at BeiDa, China’s premier university…

Although I had what I would call a “good day for Chinese,” this week was not without extreme frustration.  My kouyu class has made absolutely clear to me that I never learned how to speak Chinese.  Back home at Minnesota, any time we had to speak in Chinese class, we were given the prompts ahead of time.  I could go home, write my piece, make sure all the grammar is correct, make sure I have all of the tones down, return to class the next day and spit everything back mindlessly, word for word.  Does this help in having conversation in the real world?  Heck no.  I struggled struggled struggled so much in class this week, at times wanting to cry.  It’s one thing to sit in an organic chemistry lecture and have no idea what the prof is talking about.  It’s a completely different ballgame when you can’t understand the professor’s language!  It’s been embarrassing, and at the end of class everyday I worry that I didn’t even hear and understand that night’s homework assignment correctly.  However, I’ve talked to a few other students who have done this before, and they all say that they, like me, drowned for a little while until BAM!  They one day begin to have long intricate conversations in Chinese all the time.  Here’s to hoping that moment comes soon. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Chelsea: Stoplights = optional

September 12, 2011

Last night was definitely the craziest taxi ride I’ve ever had! I was utterly shocked to be able to walk out of the car on two legs, without injuries or a dented car. Apparently here red lights are an optional stop sign, especially at night…it’s more of a slow down (to a still-speeding pace), then honk as you speed through the intersection, whilst hoping no one is coming from the other direction. Quite a fun game. And the whole passing and honking at police cars still catches me off guard. These are the times that make me glad to not be driving here—but also scare me for when I drive back home, let’s hope Quito driving-style hasn’t worn off on me!

This week has been full of exploration!

On Wednesday, I visited a market (full of scarfs, jewelry, etc) in the Mariscal area (which is more of a tourist area, aka “gringolandia”) and spent time there on Thursday night as well. I had pulled pork for dinner on Thursday night at an American-style BBQ restaurant. While I wasn’t craving food from home…I definitely can’t say it wasn’t a nice change from the mystery soups!

Our class had day trips on both Thursday and Friday this week! We went to the city center / historic part of Quito on Thursday and had time to walk around and visit a museum. Then on Friday, we went to a flower plantation that is a community-run cooperative (SO many roses!), a smaller pueblo, and visited some pre-Incan ruins!

On Saturday, we had a family / integration morning at our school! All of the parents / siblings of the host families joined the students for some intense soccer playing, volleyball-ing, and dancing! All of the Ecuadorian boys were SO good at soccer. But, I did manage to score a goal against one of our teachers, so I was pretty pumped about that…and I still maintain some battle scars from the rock-hard volleyball – ouch!

The dancing part was my favorite by far! We learned (attempted to learn) a few Latin dances, such as salsa, merengue, and reggaton as well as a few traditional/indigenous dances as well! We were dancing on a cement block behind our school, but it was such a good time! And I do have to brag that I won one of the dance contests – I impressed everyone with my booty-shaking and hip-popping skills – so proud.

Saturday night, the majority of our group here went to see a traditional dance show in La Ronda, which was a lot of fun – and a few of us got to dance on stage for a song. A fun night with friends and a GIANT empanada…and a near-death experience in a taxi!

Yesterday, my family and I went exploring as well! We visited a crater (that is now inhabited by people) and La Mitad del Mundo (Latitude = 0) and had a few fun adventures along the way!

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Anna: Vireggio, Famiglia in Prato, Venice

March 2, 2011

Last week, my Italian class brought us to a market which isn’t too far from my apartment. It is called Sant’ Ambrogio market. There was fresh meat, fish, cheese, fresh pastas, bread, fruit and vegetables. I decided I am doing all my grocery shopping there from now on! Everything is so delicious looking and not very expensive. I am excited to take my mom and dad there. My mom will die and go to heaven; it is truly a cook’s paradise.

I thought the weekend would be fairly low key for me but it ended up being very busy and exciting! On Friday, some friends were in town visiting Florence from Rome, so we decided to meet up and I would show them a few spots. We ended up doing a full power tour seeing almost everything there is in Florence. We walked to the top of the Duomo (well the thing next to the Duomo), saw Piazza Michelangelo, San Lorenzo market, got lunch, and did the whole Uffizi.

On Friday, Frank Lupia, my dad’s cousin, picked me up to visit another cousin (Cesare) in Prato, a city near Florence. Frank does not speak English, and I don’t speak Italian. It was very interesting, but it wasn’t too bad! We had to call Alessandra a couple times about questions he had for me, but overall it was not too bad and we got through it together! We couldn’t visit Cesare until later in the day so Frank too me to Vireggio, a small beach city famous for it’s Carnivale and seafood. I was really excited he brought me there because I was planning a day trip there anyways! You could see beach from one angle and sea from another. Frank and I had a HUGE lunch together of seafood carbonara. I tried clams, mussels, these little fish that looked like baby octopus, and I liked it all! None of it tasted fishy. We also had fried fish which was really delicious. I told him “no me va” that I was full but he proceeded to order two desserts, a caramel panna cotta and pistachio cake and gelato.

After Vireggio, we visited Cesare in Prato. Cesare is very sick. He has brain cancer and they are not sure how much longer he will make it. It was hard to meet someone for the first and last time all together. He seemed very optimistic and excited to see me. His daughter Tina can speak a bit of English but does not remember much since she only learned in school. We had a very nice time talking together. It was funny because the one thing everyone understood was how my dad can only speak Belcastrese (small Calabrian town dialect) and not proper Italian. All of the relatives get a kick out of that. They sent me off with cheese from Belcastro and Tadods (spelling?) a biscuit that my Nana Ida used to make. I am really lucky to have so much family in Italy that are willing to pick me up and bring me places. I might be planning a trip to Genova to see Frank’s family again in March.

On Sunday, I woke up early and met a tour group called Florence for Fun for a day trip to Venice. It was a very, very long day. Unfortunately it was  cold, windy, and rainy. I hate letting weather affect my feelings about a city but it is difficult to do. I tried to be as optimistic as I could and enjoy my time there. Venice was very pretty and I enjoyed seeing all of the people dressed up in their Carnivale outfits. One woman was kneeling behind a stroller so you couldn’t see her body and all you saw was her head on the body of a baby in a stroller! As people passed it was hilarious because as people would pass she would cry or smile or blow kisses. I never got to ride a Gondola because it cost so much…80 for only 3 people, but I took lots of pictures of people in them! Overall, I would love to see Venice again in the summer time without the crowds or cold weather. The city was pretty in the rain; I can’t imagine how it is in the sun.

This is my last entry until March 13th! I am going on Spring Break on Friday to Istanbul, Athens and Santorini Greece. I also have plenty of midterms and things I have to be planning for. Trying not to stress is difficult but once Friday hits I know I will feel much better.

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Eric: primo giorno di lezione

January 24, 2011

Yesterday, the group met for breakfast and then trekked off to the Trastevere Sunday flea market. For as far as the eye can see down a backstreet that flows southwest of the Tiber were tents and people crowded shoulder to shoulder in-between them. The attitude was relaxed and chaotic all at the same time with thousands of people browsing imitation designer clothes, shoes, boots and everything else that could possibly be replicated and sold at bottom barrel prices. The smell of pork wafted through the alley and beckoned for you to come get a Chicare sandwich.

There were several shops selling kitchenware, and I kept my eyes open searching them all for a thermos to replace the one that broke. Spatulas, spoons, Tupperware, espresso makers, colanders etc. but no Thermos. At the point in which I was about to give up I saw one gleaming like an obelisk from underneath a small stand of assorted goods. Excited, I bee-lined for it and gave it a look. It was time to barter. I asked how much to the Chinese woman behind the table, but I could not understand her response. I countered whatever she said with an initial bid of 6 euro, she looked to her right and caught glances with her husband and my offer was denied with a counter offer of 8 euro. I attempted to offer 7, but I could tell that she was not in the mood to haggle on the item so I paid the 8.

Later, we all decided to head off to a pizza place that my host family had recommended. Although we had a map on the back of the business card we were lost in piazza so cossimato. Skateboarders shooting a part rolled around skating the benches, concrete embankments and rails scattered infront of renaissance cathedrals. I spotted a fellow American and asked if he might know where this place was, but he seemed unsure and as we all tried to orient our current location to map I caught the name of the restaurant staring back at me from a non-descript window in front of us. Lunch was awesome!  We shared two bottles of wine, two bottles of water and each had their own 10″ thin crust pizza for 10 euro.

Later that evening we went to a Pub named Scholars where every American student seemed to have crowded into in order to watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Bears. The oak walls seemed to flex as we maxed out the place with cheering Wisconsin co-eds reconnecting with a culture that they had exchanged for a more reserved nothing in excess except laughs type of people.

So anyway…back to this morning!

I opened my eyes to cerulean blue light peeking through my blinds reminding me it is morning again in the Eternal city.  Pushing off the cover I rolled out of bed eager to have another espresso and some breakfast pastry. Like clockwork, as I opened my bedroom door to exit into the hallway, Valentino entered the apartment with a silver thermos of coffee. As delighted as I was to see the coffee I came to the realization that they already had the exact same thermos that I had purchased from the Trastevere Sunday market to replace the one I had accidentally broken. I figured it was the thought that counted, and I handed the thermos I had purchased to him who promptly refused. Valentino understood my intentions and brought the vessel down to Marina. As I set down to coffee and screwed off the lid of the thermos I realized that the one that I had given to Marina as a replacement was a fake of the one that she already had.

As I hit the pavement I was met with a sunny brisk Roman morning. We took the 870 to Poana which drops off a few blocks from the center. Today was the first day of class, which started with Made in Italy taught by a brilliant woman who is fluent in three languages and has lived on three continents. The class seems extremely engaging and we may even score some free passes to a fashion show that features an all-star class of Italian fashion designers unleashing next seasons garments later this spring. After another quick coffee break it was time for my first Italian course. Our teacher Mario is fantastic! I do not think that I have laughed so hard in my life when we were paired up and attempted to work on our pronunciation. Mario kept an open ear to our conversations and butted in to offer suggestions and crack the occasional pun which had all of in smiles for the hour. Following class me and Mike did the Caesar shuffle back to his apartment in the Monte Esquilino district of town to get his money to pay for our side excursions and so he could grab his running gear so we could go for an evening jog in the Villa Panfili park.

I was able to put my iPod into my back pocket, crank up the internal speaker and hit the trails with Mike.  The trail starts out by entering a non-descript gateway covered in graffiti.  The true magic of the park lies about 3/4 mile up the 20% grade hill that rises above Rome onto a hilltop crested by decaying fountains, beheaded statues, and a pristine villa with immaculate hedge garden.

After working up a sweat, we decided it was time for an apertivo and headed off in search of a café near by.  We eventually found a spot that seemed worth entering where we were served peanuts, chips, and a glass of Chianti apiece.  As we sipped our wine and talked about life my phone rang, and it was Marina. Tempo per la cena!!  Not looking to upset our hosts we rushed back to the homestay just in time to be served oriacceli with broccoli for first course along with a sparkling red wine that is popular in this region. Second course was sautéed beef served with insilata.  The meal was rounded out with a shot of grappa and sugar cookies.

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Britta: Christmas market

December 6, 2010
The Christmas market is now open in Strada Maggiore. It’s a little market overflowing with tinsel, ornaments, twinkle lights, pine cones, manger scenes, and every other imaginable Christmas decoration available.

It also has handmade scarves, hats, purses, jewelry, and other goods plus lots of candied nuts, chocolate, and tradition Italian sweets such as panettone, torrone, and breads.

The little market under the porticoes is crowded with Italians shopping for the holidays and brings a little Christmas joy to Bologna now that all the snow has melted.

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