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Friday, July 31, 2015

Last night was one of the best nights out I've had while in Chengdu. While in America I'm not a party girl, here in China (and back in Singapore) I went out more often. My group of friends and I went to a new place to us that gave free drinks to foreigners. One of the guys in the group started chatting with another group of people, and it came out that one of the girls was adopted from China.

Now, whilst in China, being adopted from China is a pretty big deal. We're not as common as you'd think here! Anyways, we're from different places in China and she looks kind of Thai, but we share a lot of frustrations about being here as a Chinese but not being able to speak very well.  She's not from the same place in the States either. The bar was so loud we were shouting in each other's ear. Eventually, she asked what my name was.


She gave me the strangest look I ever saw before replying, "THAT'S MY NAME TOO!"

For a couple of seconds I didn't believe her. What are the chances of meeting another girl adopted from China in Chengdu with the same name? Every time another crazy similarity came out, we both freaked out a little bit more. The thing that sealed the deal though: we're both dancers.

Seriously, what are the chances?
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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Photoshoot studios in Asia are a big deal. I think it started out as a pre-wedding photo shoot thing, but women started doing it for fun as well.

I knew I wanted to do a photoshoot in Chengdu-- I did one in Taiwan about four years ago and it was one of the most fun experiences ever. This time two of my friends went with me and we all got dolled up. They had a harder time since they are African-American and didn't exactly fit into doll-sized Chinese clothes, but thankfully brought their own outfits to wear.

I got to pick three outfits: one traditional and two "fashion". While I knew I wanted to wear hanfu (traditional pre-Qing dynasty clothing) for my traditional shoot, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for "fashion". I ended up wearing a sailor-type dress that is somewhat popular around here for the first "fashion" part, and I did a rather grown-up look for the second one. That's why there's only one black-and-white photo... the rest aren't for the internet!

Since my first outfit was the "traditional" one, I spent about an hour and a half in the makeup chair getting my face painted on and my hair done up. It was amazing to see how simple makeup could transform normal-looking me into someone I could hardly recognise. All the women getting photoshoots kept looking at themselves in the mirror. Even looking at the pictures now I love them, but can't believe they are me!

I don't even look like a real person in this picture! I look like a pretty doll :D

 Isn't this dress cute? I wish I could wear stuff like this in America.

The photographer said, "pose like a fifties housewife!", and he got this. 

Some people may disagree with me, but I think you should enjoy your time of being young and pretty as much as possible, because you are only young for a little while!
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Friday, July 17, 2015

One of the best parts about being in China is definitely the food.  Sichuan cuisine is one of the four major types of Chinese cuisine. It is known for its spiciness (though where I'm from, Hunan, is known for even spicier food) and use of numbing pepper. When I first came to Sichuan I had a little bit of a hard time with the spiciness of the food. My stomach did not thank for for the first couple of weeks! Now, though, if the food is not spicy I feel that it has no flavour at all. I'm already dreading going back to America and having to eat bland food. If you're not careful in Chengdu you can gain a lot of weight because the food is very good and quite oily. They say good Sichuan food has a layer of oil floating on top!

This is a very common dish. It's green capsicum and shredded pork. It's not that spicy though you can see bits of fresh hot pepper in it. This is one of my favourite dishes!

This is stir-fried lotus root with mustard and some other mystery spices. I've had a couple of versions of this and it's always incredibly full of numbing pepper. You cannot feel your mouth after eating this!

This is a Tibetan style ice cream. It's shaped like a normal ice cream bar but it's got a deeper, creamier flavour than normal ice cream. Apparently its an acquired taste though I really like it. 

This is me at a "sticks restaurant"! You pick your food out of these big fridges and put them in a basket, as seen above. Then you give the basket to the "lao ban" who cooks it for you. It's pretty spicy but delicious. The last time I ate this style of food I got sick but it's so good it's worth it. They charge you by weighing the sticks at the end of the meal. 

This style food is very similar in concept to the "stick restaurant" above, except there aren't sticks. 

A typical breakfast: one "baozi" stuffed with meat and deliciousness, and a drink of some sort. This above is a Qoo, which is a brand we had in Singapore. This breakfast costs about USD $1. 

A delicious dessert! This is glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with sesame in a black-rice soup. It might sound weird but it's super good. I prefer it hot. 

Here's a fancy hot pot before anything is actually cooked in it. The red section with chilis floating on top is the spicy portion, while the white side is mild. I don't like the mild side anymore, but when I started eating hot pot it was a lifesaver. 

My school is surrounded by Tibetan streets, and as a result we eat a lot of Tibetan food. This is "Si You Cha", or Yak Butter Tea. Some people like it and some people don't. I have found myself starting to like it a lot more. It's like a super watery milk with cheese flavour, if you will. 

This is not Chinese cuisine... rather, it's a margarita. Hey, I can't drink in America, so I might as well enjoy unbelievably cheap alcohol whilst in China! This cost me about USD $4, which is a good price in a touristy area. 

Did this post make you hungry? I'll make another post about food at some point because there's just so much food food here in Chengdu! I'm writing this before dinner and I'm so hungry :(

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I've been in China for over two months now, and the blog is starting to get a little dusty. Anyways, I figured I'd write quickly about how weird the streets are here. It seems like every day I see something unusual... though "unusual" has quickly become "my neighbourhood". 

I can't take photos of everything on my street or it would be a little weird, but things like people spitting, children going to the bathroom on the street, dogs without leashes, cats tied to trees, scooters driving the wrong way up one-way streets, and really questionable fashion choices are all normal now. The things that annoy me the most are probably people spitting and dogs without leashes, because both can directly affect me. Thankfully I haven't been spit on yet, but I have been barked at and chased by annoying, ill-trained little dogs. 

I found this bus really funny. Nothing about it looked "European Style" or standards... or I just have higher standards for Europe!

Cars parked on the sidewalk are pretty normal here, and no one seems to be able to tell me why. I've seen traffic police put little pieces of paper on them that I assume are tickets. I've also seen people paying those traffic police money... who knows if it's legit or not?

This is one of many tiny random shops in my neighbourhood. I took the photo walking so the owner couldn't tell I was photographing her shop. There are a couple of hair salons and massage parlours (some questionable ones) on my street as well. 

At this point I think it's safe to say that I'm "living in China" for the time being. My life here is so different from my life back in the United States and the person I am here is also quite different. I can't say which version of myself I like better yet. China-Natalie is definitely a lot more risk-taking and willing to go on adventures, which seems like a good thing! We'll see where this all leads me in the end I suppose. 

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Okay, I forgot to write blog posts for last week because I was so busy preparing for my SOLO trip to Yunnan!

My school runs in two sessions... and I decided a while back to stay on for the second of the two. However, that meant I had a week break in between sessions. While most people went on a group trip to Beijing (which sounds amazing), I chose to go to Yunnan. Initially a friend was going to come with me but that fell through, which meant I went alone.

It was one of the best trips of my life, if not the best trip so far. I love the flexibility of traveling alone and the sense of adventure. I loved hosteling in China and didn't find it scary to talk to new people. I took planes, trains, taxis, and a motorcycle-taxi. I also trekked Tiger Leaping Gorge for 8 hours the first day and 3.5 the second. From this trip I came back not only physically stronger but mentally braver. My Chinese is better than I thought it was and I was able to chat with locals everywhere I went. I never knew travel could be such a confidence boost!

Here's the part you really want to see: the photos! I spent a night in Kunming, a night in Dali, a night in Lijiang (should have spent more time there), a night in the Gorge and two nights in Shangri-la. A lot of running around but what a week.

Kunming has a "Green Lake" that I went to. It was really pretty!

This is Dali's iconic Three Pagodas. I didn't want to pay for admission so I stood in the carpark and took these photos. They were really cool looking!

Yes, the person with the big backpack and silly hat is me! Tiger Leaping Gorge is a pretty difficult trek if you're not experienced... which I'm not. But now I can say I'm a trekking newbie. 

Shangri-la area. I have better photos of this area that I'm saving for another post. But it sure was pretty. It was on the edge of Tibet. 

So that was my week holiday! Hope you enjoyed the pictures. 

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