January Round-up

Total January Word Count: 33,183
Writing Files/Documents it took to get there: 20

My plan had been to work mainly on my novel, Ruined Emotions, and only have my History Day paper and annotated bibliography as padders. Well, that didn't happen.

And yet, I'm happy.

I got five books read - one book ahead of where I should be for eiie's 52 Book Year challenge.

I rocked at Speeech competition and am going to State competition this Saturday.

I managed to only have one or two mental breakdowns.

I applied to two scholarships.

& .... most importantly, I sent off my tutition deposit and Intent-To-Enroll form to Carroll University. My housing packet should be coming soon so then I'll be an official Carroll Pioneer.

All in all, it's been a good month. A fiasco, chaotic and maybe never want to do it again, but a good month nevertheless.

China series: On Hostel Life

Hostels can range from hotels with communal bathrooms to dorm-like rooms that allow you to meet potentially five other people.

The first hostel I stayed in was Wangfujing International Hostel. It's like a hotel where people keep to themselves, even in the rooms. The bathrooms all had Western toliets which was nice. Although, one can't avoid a squat pot forever.

The second hostel, Shuyuan, in Xi'an, was more of a "hostel." People hung out in the bar and resturant talking, laughing and inevitably, drinking. This one was my favorite. The staff was exceptionally helpful and I felt at home.

Apparently, so did one roommate, who my sister and I named, Sir Sleeps a Lot. He would be asleep eighteen to twenty hours a day.

We also had Sir Butterfingers who would wake us up every morning at seven when he dropped everything possible.

Lastly, we splurged in Beijing at the Emperor's Guesthouse for a two-person room. This hostel was like a cross between the first and the second - you could find people but if you wanted to be left alone, you could do that too.

Honestly, hostels are great, cheap places to stay. They come with their own quirks, but that is just to be expected.

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China series: On Public Transportation

The Beijing subway is notoriously crowded. (Yes, even at three in the afternoon on a Sunday.) The majority of the stops don't have escalators and good luck trying to find an elevator. China's public transport is hopeless for those wheelchair or even crutches bound.

Taxis are cheaper in cities other than Beijing where fares start at 10 yuan at go up by 2 yuan a unit (I believe by kilometers). There won't be a place to buckle your seatbelt and extremely few drivers speak English. It will be a slightly crazy ride since almost no one obeys traffic laws and horns are normal sounds. In fact, ambulance sirens are disregarded more than taxi horns.

Bus quality varies though fares are usually one yuan. In some cities, they won't come to a complete stop. General operating procedure is to get on in the front and exit in the middle. There is no such thing as a fire code so the buses can be so full you can't move to get off.

Trains are generally half an hour late and filled with people. Hard seats may be the best price but it also means people can pack around you. Sleepers are decent though it helps to take a sleeping aid if you really want to sleep.

There are bicycle ride things called "tuk-tuks" but the seats are small. However, they are authentic.

While queueing might be commonplace in the airport, never expect it on public transportation. There is nothing wrong with elbowing because you will be elbowed in return.

China series: On Flying to and from China

Depending on where you start from, a flight to China can take 10.5 hours to almost 14. (Definitely more if you have connecting flights, ect.)

The plane ride to China is about 99.5% Chinese and .5 non-Chinese (at least, in both cases my family has experienced.) Regarless, announcements are made first in English and there may only be one flight attendant fluent in Chinese.

Entertaining yourself can be difficult depending on what you consider entertainment. Movies are generally okay though there's a limited selection - especially if you return the same month you left. Personally, I enjoy the map feature to know how long I've been on the plane, how much longer to go and maps. I also read (it's got to be a thick book to keep me occupied the entire time) and journal.

On the flight there, if you are in the back of the plane, expect the Asian meal option to be out. Also be prepared to have something to eat or drink every 4 or so hours. At times it's annoying because you don't want to have junk on your tray table constantly.

Chinese customs/ immigration can be scary with surgical masks and lack of non-authoritative ways. However, generally if you follow the instructions you will be fine. It's kind of a show - one for a good purpose - but a show.

It's helpful to have your passport with you for the beginning of the flight for when you fill out the forms (one you have to keep to leave China) because all of them require your passport number.

At the airport, expect people to queue but don't be shocked if they don't.

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