Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Who Can Ping the Pong?

The Flagship office here decided to set up a little ping pong tournament for the students on Friday, so Spencer and I decided to get out of the house and go. The competition was fierce (ok, maybe not exactly fierce) but it was fun and I loved watching the guys try to battle it out.

It begins.

Oh Chris and his short-shorts

Spencer S. vs. Joe

Checking out the leader board

They finally wound down to the championship game: Joe vs. Britton. It was intense: Joe won a round, then Britton.

But in the end there can be only one winner.

The champion: Britton!

To the victor goes the spoils, a kiss from a fair maiden.
It was a fun activity, it was really nice to get out of the apartment, and it was actually the first time I had ever been on campus. Good day.

Da Boys

Sunday, September 23, 2012


How do you like China?
We are actually really enjoying our time here. The transition was much easier than either of us anticipated and we are loving the culture and overall experience. We occasionally find it difficult to come up with good things to do with our time, but that's mostly because we're trying to not spend too much money on the daily stuff so we can enjoy the bigger trips later. But so far everything has been great and we have been very happy and very blessed.

How long are you going to be in China?
We will be here for 8 or 9 months. Our current plan is to get back to the States near the end of May.

Do you have to pay to be there?
No. And yes. The program gives a generous stipend that is supposed to cover all of Spencer's costs while we're here. Notice I said Spencer's costs. Because I am not in the program, the stipend doesn't cover anything I do. However, Spencer and I are, well, cheap-os, so we are doing pretty well with the money that we've been given. And if all goes well we should be able to live entirely off of it and not need to dip into our savings.

Do you speak Chinese?
Haha, um, no. I did know what I was getting into when we decided to get married though, so I have taken a Chinese course and Spencer and I are currently working through the Chinese 201 and 202 textbook to help me learn more. And one of the other wives has taken several years of Chinese and is pretty darn good, so us wives meet once a week and have a lesson on something we can use (grocery shopping, talking about dates and times, ect.)

What do you do during the day?
 I'm still not brave enough to wander around by myself, so while Spencer is at school I usually spend my time reading, watching tv shows (bless you Hulu!), making hats for a service project that I'm a part of, indexing, looking for recipes I might be able to make here, and anything else I can think of. The wives also get together once a week to exercise (we heart Jane Fonda! haha) and I'm trying to come up with other things for us to do together. Because I still spend way too much time in my apartment.

What do you eat?
 Food has been the biggest adjustment for me the entire time we've been here. They just don't have the same ingredients available in China, and what foreign things they do have in the specialty stores are pretty darn expensive. So finding things to make at home has been a challenge. I feel like we've done pretty well though. So far we've come up with good things like spaghetti (homemade sauce), curry, french toast (our favorite, even though syrup is $6/bottle), stir fry, hamburgers (with ground pork, they don't do ground beef here), orange chicken, fried chicken, and hash browns and eggs. And I even made my own barbeque sauce, which Spencer loves and helps give some variety. Breakfast is either oatmeal or hash browns and eggs, and lunch is either ramen or peanut butter and honey sandwiches and some fruit. So we're doing ok, and I'm trying to get creative and figure out more things to make. My goal for this next week is to try making homemade tortillas and sausage. And we just got a toaster oven, so we have so many possibilities that just opened up for us!
But we do eat out a decent amount because 1) most of the time it's actually cheaper than making our own food and 2) sometimes we don't have food in the house to make. Our favorite place is a noodle/rice place behind our building.

Fried pulled noodles, yum.

Are you able to talk to family/friends, use the internet?
Yes! Some of you know that China has a huge internet firewall. They monitor and censor anything on the internet that they don't like. But there are ways around the Great Firewall of China, and we sure use it. We can use facebook, hulu, netflix, google, Skype, and whatever else we want. Skype is our best friend. We talk to our parents about once a week and we LOVE it. And if anyone ever wants to Skype, we would love to talk to you too!

What is the time difference there?
China is all one time zone (crazy, huh?) so the time difference is the same no matter where in the country we go. We are currently 15 hours ahead of California, 14 for Utah/ Idaho, ect... That will change with daylight savings coming up, but we'll figure that out when it comes. But basically you all are about finishing up dinner and getting ready for bed when I'm waking up, and I'm about going to bed when you wake up.

What is the money/exchange rate like?
Money here is called yuan (pronounced yoo-en), and they do just about everything in cash. We even had to pay our 6 months of rent up front, in cash. The exchange rate is about 6.34 yuan to a dollar, so in order to get an idea of how much something is in USD we usually we just divide the price by 6 and know that that is a little more than we are actually paying.

In case you were thinking about robbing us, we
already spent it all, suckas.

How much do things cost?
I think the general public thought in the US is that everything in China is super cheap. Well, sometimes that's true, but not for everything. Local food and produce is pretty darn cheap, clothes are pretty cheap, and general home products and common things you find in the store are pretty cheap. Foreign foods and items are usually pretty expensive (i.e. $6 for a bottle of syrup). Luxury electronic items (ipods, cameras, ipads, and other fancy extra stuff) are not cheap. In fact, they compare pretty similarly to US prices, probably even more. But if you don't mind a knockoff, you could probably get a fake for a steal. And you can get a knockoff of just about anything. In fact, if you want to buy a movie, any store you walk into probably has just as many pirated dvds as real ones (or more) and they are all right next to each other on the same shelves for the same price and you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference unless you knew what to look for. For instance we bought 'The Dark Knight Rises' yesterday. It looked legit and we thought we got a good copy. Then we came home and realized that it is still in theaters and doesn't get released until December. Oops. And movies are one of those really cheap things. As in, it cost the same to buy any movie here as it does to Redbox a movie in the States.

How close are you to the Great Wall/ Terracotta Warriors/Forbidden City?
We're not. To get to any of the most famous Chinese sites will take about 4 or 5 hours on the high-speed train, or about 14 on the regular train. We're hoping to see all these things while we're here, but we have to fit them in on the weekends and short breaks that Spencer has from school so we'll see what we can fit in.

What is your plan for when you get back?
We'll fly back into San Diego sometime in May to pick up our car and spend a couple of days with my family, and then we'll probably drive straight to wherever Spencer's next internship is (with Celanese, the same company he has interned with for the last two summers). We should know where that will be within the next week or two. Because we'll have just come from over 32 hours of traveling we're hoping it'll be somewhere relatively close to California, like Texas. I'm really hoping it's not somewhere on the East coast, like South Carolina. After that summer internship we will go back to BYU in August for Spencer's senior year. And that's the plan.

If you have any other questions, let us know? We love talking about China, so ask away!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What is Flagship?

So I realized that I have referenced the program that Spencer is in a few times but a lot of you might not know what it is. So I thought I might clarify, since it is the reason we are in China after all.

Chinese Flagship is a federally funded program whose purpose is "to create global professionals who can function culturally and linguistically in the professional Chinese world." Basically? The idea is to train you to do whatever it is that you want to do, in Chinese. For instance, Spencer is majoring in chemical engineering. A great field with lots of opportunities and he loves it. Spencer is also double majoring in Chinese. Especially awesome. He served a mission for our church for two years and loved the language and the people of Taiwan. But just think, how awesome would it be if he could do all his chemical engineering-ness in Chinese? By golly, he would be one valuable player, don'cha think?

Well, that's the idea. Currently there are about 35 students here in China, from several different schools including BYU, Oregon State, ASU, Ohio State, SF name a few. Their majors can be just about anything. There are business or international relations majors, or similar fields. A few engineers, a few pre-law or pre-medical, Chinese majors, communications majors, and a bunch of others are in there as well. Because that's the idea. Do what you do, whatever it might be, in Chinese. You spend a year of studying Chinese at your respective university, then spend one semester as a directly enrolled student at Nanjing University (a top 10 ranked university in China) taking classes in your field, then one semester in an intership with a Chinese company in relationship to your field. NBD.

The awesome thing about this year's group of BYU students is that of the 9 of them, 6 are married. And two of the guys from ASU are also LDS and are married so that's 7 girls to explore and spend time with. Which is a life-saver, let me tell you. So if you hear me talking about the "Flagship wives" or even the "other wives", that's who I'm referring to.

We LOVE being in China (most of the time) and we are loving having this experience together. The Flagship program isn't perfect, but we are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it and enjoy our time here!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Laundry Day

We don't have a dryer, in fact I'm pretty sure almost nobody in China does, so we have to dry our clothes old school. Makes for pretty decoration, no?

This is how we do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Is It With Men and Sports?

Don't get me wrong, I love sports. But Spencer is participating in TWO different Fantasy Football leagues. Two. One with his Bowen cousins and one with some of the Flagship guys.

Checking up on his stats.
 I just don't get it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Feel Free To Laugh

I know, I know, this is going to sound completely ridiculous. But I am SO HAPPY right now! My biggest adjustment to China has definitely been/will definitely always be trying to cook meals that feel like home. I started missing certain foods before I even left the States. I knew we could get most things but that they would be expensive and so we wouldn't get to have them very often, if ever. So when I saw these on the shelves today for an awesomely low price, I literally almost jumped up and down with excitement.

KETCHUP! For those of you who don't know, I love ketchup. It was actually one of the specifically mentioned food items that I had told Spencer I would miss most during our time in China. And it is so reasonably priced that we can get it whenever we need it!

China is looking just a little bit better every day :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Xuanwu Lake

Our awesome Relief Society (church women's organization) president invited us Flagship girls over for some pizza and treats at her apartment last week. First of all? PIZZA. Oh my heaven. I am already getting sick of Chinese food, so pizza was the perfect choice. Second? She has an oven. An OVEN! No one has an oven in China. So there were brownies. I die. Thank you Becca!

After we had all sufficiently stuffed our faces and gabbed for a while we decided to talk a walk around Xuanwu Lake, just a few blocks from Becca's house. The lake is beautiful and there is an island in the middle of it that you can get to and walk around, so we did.

Entrance to the park

It was fun to just be outside and have something to do and people to talk to. And I loved the beautiful gardens and just the scenery and experience in general.

I've seen these in floral arrangements before but now I know
where they come from! And the Chinese eat the pods that
grow inside those holes. In case you were wondering, they
don't taste very good.

Rainy always has her fan.


The Chinese write their wishes and prayers on these red
ribbons and tie them on the trees?

Cool little souvenir booth

Lovely ladies

I love these

Beautiful statues

Our stalker. He followed us around and
took pictures of us.



They migrated around the pond. So weird.

It was a beautiful day. We laughed, we sweated, we walked, we talked. Thank you girls for a great day!

P.S. Try catching a taxi in China in the pouring rain. Especially if you are a foreigner. Just try it sometime. I guarantee the locals will all enjoy it :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mickey D's

Sometimes we just don't have anything to eat in the apartment. And sometimes I really just don't want Chinese food. So what do we do?

McDonald's baby. We're trying to not come here too often, it's cheaper than in the States but more expensive than other food here, but it was heaven sent. I scarfed those fries. And I loved it.

Where The Author Wishes She Were Home For Mamma's Home Cooked Meals

Walking through the grocery stores here I feel like I'm almost on another planet. I don't even recognize 92% (yes that is a scientifically found number) of the products on the shelves. So what on earth am I supposed to cook at home???

Before now we had found a bunch of ingredients, but nothing that could make even one full meal. At home we had been eating Ramen, oatmeal, and peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

I am SO GLAD I brought my beloved spices with me!

Pop tarts from home, we're saving them for a special occasion.

But yesterday we went to the store early, we took our time, we walked up and down every aisle. And we found a few things that we felt we could make a couple of meals out of. Phew. I was so excited about the idea of eating things that I recognize, things that I love. We have definitely found some great things to eat here in China but I loves me my American food. So here's to hope, to creativity, and to home-cooked meals!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Apartment of Dreams

Now I had heard stories of what apartments in China would be like. I have been mentally preparing for months for the most likely presence of cockroaches, the need to wear flipflops in the shower to avoid picking up some sort of foot fungus, and the requirement of deep cleaning the apartment when I got there to even get it to be a somewhat liveable space.

So when I walked in the very first apartment and saw this...

I immediately told myself to not get excited, that this was way out of our budget range and there was no way we would end up here. And then our realtor told us the price. Cheaper than the smaller, studio apartments that our other Flagship friends had found. Jaw drop. I get to live HERE?!

Our fabulously clean bathroom

Our super cute kitchen

Our fancy shmancy living room

With a huge flatscreen tv!
Our little bedroom with a super awesome view.
Side note: the sheets were already there

Our pink and sparkly dividing curtain, haha, my favorite part.

We took it. Yeah baby. Who knew that the nicest place either of us had ever lived in would be in CHINA?

The signing was amazing. Our landlady loves us. She actually built this place a year ago for her sister who decided to live somewhere else. Somewhere else? Have you seen this place? Anyways, she had multiple offers for a higher price that what we are paying for, but she didn't like any of her potential tenants. She was so proud of her space and wanted to find renters who would take care of it and keep it clean and nice. Here's where we come in. She loved that we are American (apparently foreigners have a reputation for cleanliness and a higher standard of living) and she loves that we are here trying to learn more about the culture and language. She kept saying that fate brought us together (the Chinese are very into fate) and that we were "the ones" that she had been waiting for. She later told us that her daughter is currently at Ohio State, and when we told her that my brother just graduated from there I seriously thought she might die right there. She was so excited and said that now she was sure that we were meant to find each other and that things were the way they were meant to be. Hilarious. I prefer to call it a miracle instead of fate, but to each her own. And now I get to have this awesome view.

Welcome to our home!

Saturday, September 1, 2012


So, we're in China! We have officially been here for one week and we are finally starting to feel almost sorta settled in.

First thought, it takes a long time to get to China. I think I travel pretty well, but getting to a hotel at 2:30 in the morning after over 32 hours of traveling is pushing it. But we were able to get to every flight with plenty of time, all of our luggage made it all the way through, and almost every flight left on time (the only exception being, of course, the final leg from Beijing to Nanjing, hence the 2:30 arrival). It really was a fairly easy trip, all things considering. But long. So, so long.

Second thought, I am so glad that we lived in Illinois this summer. It is hot and humid here and if I had come straight here from Utah I would have thought I was dying. Because of my experience with weather this summer though, I really don't mind the humidity here and it really doesn't phase me too much. So thank you Jacksonville, you prepared me well :)

Third, China smells funny. I don't know what it is, or where it comes from, it just smells weird all the time. I'm guessing part pollution, part smelly people (they don't believe in deoderant), and part weird food. But it just smells weird. And honestly, sometimes kind of gross. But I'm starting to get used to it.

Fourth, my feet are wimps. We walk everywhere here, and my feet are KILLING me. Hello, my name is Alisha, and I am a pansy American who loves her car and the fact that it takes her places so she doesn't have to walk everywhere. Dear Kia, I miss you and I can't wait to be reunited with you again!

Fifth, I am not loving the cash-based society. It is so nice to be able to swipe a card and walk away with your groceries. The end.

And sixth, you think taxi drivers in New York are bad? Come to China. But keep your eyes closed or you might just pee your pants.

So those are my initial thoughts and observations on China. There will be more to come, I'm sure.