Hello, Forwarding, and Thank You!!

Hello!

Since I have been in China, I have been unable to access this blog. Although WordPress is listed among the blogging websites no longer blocked by the Great Firewall, we are nevertheless unable to access it without VPNs or American server-access. That having been said, I have moved my blog – if you would like to continue following (and I so hope that you will! πŸ™‚ ), please visit my new blog:

www.margareteschina.blog.com

Although I now have access to a VPN, I refer back to the purpose for my blog: to keep future travelers informed and have a (hopefully) helpful point of reference both before they come and while they are here. If future students choose not to purchase a VPN, I cannot guarantee that they will be able to access my WordPress blog, should they find the information I post helpful in any way. Similarly, I cannot guarantee that the blog.com account will work indefinitely, but as it stands, it works now, and so that is the account which I will be using. In the last couple of weeks, I have been adding a great deal of information and photos to it which will not be found on this blog. While I will continue to have this blog open as a forwarding place for my blog.com address, again, it is no longer being used.

Thanks, everyone! Much love,

Margarete πŸ™‚

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I Start My Journey Today and I Walnut Fail!

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Alrighty, now that that’s out of the way, I’m ready to go down Memory Lane (today’s post is going to be so backward).

As I sit at LAX waiting for the plane which will take me to the Tokyo-Narita Airport, Japan, it’s like the little kid inside me is flipping out just a bit. Six years of thinking that I was going to study Japanese forever (well, up until I changed my language plans) and I’m finally going to Japan. 10-year-old me would be having a hay-day. Even still, for a layover in Japan that’ll last less than 2 hours, I’m brushing up on the little Japanese I can remember and making sure I’m situated to hop off the plane in order to immediately buy a t-shirt and country sticker.

That being said, I’m so psyched for China.

I mean, five years of study is pretty close to six, right (well, eight. Whatever.)?

I’ve really been enjoying flying by myself, too. It’s been a nice prep-time to handle the fact that I won’t be touching American soil for the next five months (unless I need to go to the embassy… hopefully that won’t be out of necessity).


Well, really, I guess that this is all I’ve got to say for now. I’m thinking that this’ll be my last blog post in the States, so if anyone needs to contact me while I’m away, PLEASE don’t try to do it over Facebook. Facebook is still blocked in China (I love the term “Great Firewall,” by the way. I don’t love the thing, just the term), so you’ll need to either email me or post here on my blog. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. πŸ™‚ All of my contact information is in the “Contact Information” tab at the top of my blog pages (this page, too!). I’ll add more information as I have it, but in the mean time, there ya’ go.

One last thing: my friends (church family πŸ™‚ ) are so amazingly cool. Thank you to everyone at FICF for everything last night! I love all of you and will miss you so much!! Please keep in touch and let me know what’s happening at home, too. πŸ™‚

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Much love!
-Margarete

Countdown: 3 Days to Go! Washington D.C. Photos and Phi Theta Kappa Party!

Well, this is sort of crazy! According to the countdown which I have on my phone (not too excited or anything πŸ™‚ ), I’ve only got three days left before I hop on a plane for China (well, LA, Tokyo, then China)! My visa is currently at the FedEx office in Tempe (I was down in Coolidge when they tried to drop it off), I’m not packed at all, and I’m really not sure how I’m going to find time to do everything that I need to do before I leave. Oh well! It’ll get done, it always gets done.

In the mean time, here are a few shots from when I was in Washington! We finally got back last Sunday afternoon and I’ve been trying so hard to play catch-up. Obviously it’s been somewhat unsuccessful, but I’m working on it. πŸ™‚ (You may click any of the images to see the full-size. πŸ™‚ )

We’ll start with the time before the snow:

First of all, our purpose for the visit: meeting with our state representatives! Our Arizona State Representative, Congresswomen Ann Kirkpatrick:
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Then, of course, the snow hit. That was lots of fun –
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And of course, all of the fluffy critters (and indoor butterflies) we saw. πŸ™‚

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Wow. So many photos just from seven days in Washington. Here’re three more from the going-away party that SPC’s Phi Theta Kappa threw for Garrett and I. πŸ™‚

This is the wonderful cake which they got for the party – seriously, almost 24 hours later and I’m still feeling the love. πŸ™‚
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Garrett and I were each presented with journals for our trip to China – seriously, our friends are the best. Not only did they get us the BEST journals ever (mine even has versus on each page!), but they even wrote notes in them and signed them. :’) (In retrospect, I definitely should have taken a photo with both of our journals together. And on that note, I should have gotten a group picture with all of our party people. Hindsight’s 20/20, I guess. πŸ™‚ )
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I’m sure that amidst all the packing and cleaning this weekend I’ll be posting again. Probably photos of my luggage, but maybe I’ll find something more interesting. πŸ™‚

Snowed in: Washington DC and 11 days to go!

So just in case any of you have missed the memo, pretty much the entire east coast has been whacked by Nor’easter ’14 pretty bad; not surprisingly, we’re stuck in DC. It’s pretty neat, though – the snow is at least seven or so inches deep and we’re permitted to go play in it pretty much as often as we want so long as we stay within the hotel’s premises. Now personally, I’d like to keep my fingers, so I’m staying inside for a bit.

The first flight out that we were able to catch will be on Sunday morning – three extra days in DC. With the snow and somewhat limited budget, we’re not too sure what to do. Today we chilled at the hotel (I know, I’m not very punny) and although we’ve made plans to go do more sightseeing, we’ll see what happens. I’ll post a few photos when I get back, despite this being a China blog. That’s fine.

Here’s the bad news: my flight to China leaves in just 11 days and I still don’t have an acceptance letter from NEU in China, much less a visa! Of course, it isn’t anyone’s fault that I don’t have an acceptance letter, and it is coming. Simple note to future international students: always make sure that your name is clearly and correctly spelled on everything, including your acceptance letter. Your full name, in correct order (Asia: lastname/firstname/middlename) is essential to getting your visa and thereby entering the country. But hey, no big deal or anything. πŸ™‚ Visa processing can be expedited and all will be swell!

So, as a native Arizonian trying to pass the time while being snowed in in DC, I’m definitely taking ideas on ways to entertain myself. I’ve already learned how to say “Hello” in Arabic! One phrase doesn’t occupy as much time as I would have hoped, though. πŸ™‚

We have dates!

It’s been very difficult for me to  understand why just getting our admission to NEU, acceptance letters, and okay-to-arrive dates has taken so long, and I’m still not 100% sure that I understand, but on Tuesday we finally received all of it! Not only was that taken care of, but Dad and I got together that afternoon and booked my plane tickets. I’m set to leave on February 25th (just 31 days to go!). I’ll have a wonderful 1 hour and 40 minute layover in Japan at Tokyo-Narita (and you’d better believe I’m using every bit of Japanese I remember!!) before arriving in Beijing at 22:20 on February 26th. I’ll meet Garrett in Beijing and then we’ll take the train up to Northeastern University in Shenyang from there.

So at this point our next step is to get our visas taken care of, right? It’ll happen just as soon as we receive our acceptance letters from NEU in the mail! The folks at NEU were so kind and, in the interest of time, scanned our acceptance letters and emailed them to us. Apparently one of the visa requirements is that we send the original copies of the acceptance letters, and obviously scans are not those. On the bright side, Garrett found an agency which handles visa applications in San Francisco who can have them to us in 6+ business days rather than a month, so that takes away a large part of the pressure.

Chinese money!

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In other news, I finally got my Chinese currency, yuΓ‘n (ε…ƒ)! I’m so excited. Now I just need to track down my adapters. Totally know where those are. 31 days to find them!

Stress stress stress!

Alrighty, well, I’ve never been particularly talented in regards to gracefully starting a blog, so I’m just going to go for it (you guys don’t need to be eased into this, you’ll be fine). πŸ™‚

Basic background information: Garrett and I will be going to China as a part of the Central Arizona College’s (CAC) Chinese Exchange Program with Northeastern University (NEU) in Shenyang Province, China! Woo! We’ll be leaving in late February so as to hopefully arrive at NEU in time for school to start on March 1st. There’s so much to do before we leave, though!

Dean Foster gave us the wonderful suggestion that we might consider keeping blogs, not only to keep in touch back home and to hopefully help against homesickness, but also to help out future exchange students for CAC so that they’ll know how we prepared for the trip and potentially avoid any difficulties we may have encountered. Truly, one of the most helpful tools we’ve had (speaking for both of us… well, I know it’s been one of the most helpful tools for me, anyhow) has been Dean Foster’s blog from when she was in China! I hope that I’ll be able to keep mine as up-to-date and complete as hers seemed to be! I’m not 100% sure that WordPress will work in China, but it’s free and I won’t need to pay a monthly fee to update it or keep it live. According to the firewall tests I’ve run with the domain just through the Internet, it should be okay throughout China. I really hope that’s the case; if not, I’ll just make a new one and email it home. Mum can update you all for me. πŸ™‚

It was a month yesterday since Garrett and I got the calls that we’d be headed to China. On top of school and everything else (describing my laundry list won’t do a single person any good), it’s just all sorts of stressful to think about. We’ve got so much to do! I’m fairly certain that forΒ right now, getting the acceptance letters from NEU so that we can apply for our visas is at the top of the to-do list. It sounds like a lengthy process, so I’m glad that we’re going to be asking Hope (a travel agent who works in some capacity or another with CAC) for help with that. But then even aside from that, we’ve got to deal with our airline tickets. I’m beyond thankful that Garrett seems to know so well what he’s doing with airline prices… that can be his talent. I’ll interpret on the train we’re anticipating to take to NEU upon our arrival in China. Sounds fun. πŸ™‚ But even still, we’ve got to figure out what we do and don’t need to pack, get our class schedules figured out, get any more immunizations we may need… I still haven’t even figured out the massive culture divide. I have no idea what I’m going to do about church in China, and I’m still freaking out just a little bit. That’s kind of a big deal.

For the last year and a half, I’ve taken between 21-25 credits per semester. I don’t point that out for the sake of bragging, by any means. It’s a lot to deal with, and if anyone can avoid it, I highly recommend it doing so. However, I will say, perhaps the greatest thing that it taught me was how to take one day at a time. Make sure everything gets done, but don’t look too far ahead – just take what you’re given and go with it. I really need to sit down and let that happen with China. Worrying about what’s going to happen in March is really not doing anyone any good; I can only do so much without that letter from NEU, anyway. πŸ™‚

Almost immediately after Garrett and I were accepted we created QQ IDs so that we’d be able to communicate not only with Vincent, Natasha, and Sun Laoshi (the two Chinese exchange students to CAC this semester, as well as the teacher who came), but also with each other and our friends back home who may have accounts. My QQ ID number isΒ 2811696467. I also made a RenRen account (admittedly, it was a little more difficult, as the website is entirely in Chinese. My Chinese name is ηŽ›ζ ΌδΈ½, by the way. Fun stuff. πŸ˜› I’ll get around to setting up a Weibo and whatever the other one is that I’m missing eventually, too.

So long as there’s stuff to be patient about and waiting for, I wonder, should I bring my violin or guitar to China? Certainly not both, but I definitely hope for one. Hmm.