Sunday, July 22, 2012

The End

I am officially going to end the blog with this last update. I have been keeping busy with my project, independent study, and exploring Seoul so have not taken the time to properly maintain this with updates from my Korean experiences. As far as I am aware the only people reading this are family, friends, and a maybe a handful of W&J administrators all of whom I will be seeing before too long so my pictures and stories can be shared then.

Today I participated in the best and most insightful part of my project. I was able to visit the Sharing House where some of the former "comfort women" (whom are more respectfully referred to as halmoni (grandmother)) currently live with the help of volunteers. Some volunteers help with guided tours in English about once a month. We were shown a video, got to see the museum, and then interacted with the women themselves. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

I'll show a picture of the group of visitors and our tour guides with one of the women.

She was happy to have visitors and really enjoys singing. So she sang to us in Korean and Chinese and got some of the visitors to sing with her. We were able to ask her questions and she told us a bit about herself and her world views. Most of the other women were resting at the tim

We so we mostly interacted with the halmoni pictured above. Eight of the women currently live in the house right now and every week volunteers at the house will transport whichever ones are feeling up to it to the weekly protest outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

Inside the museum was a lot of good information and paintings the women did to help express their experiences. They were taught to paint after gathering in the first House of Sharing that was originally located in Seoul. There is a lot to say that I will expand upon in my report for this project.

I have a week and a half left in Seoul until I finally venture back home after my half year of travel. There is one more museum to visit that is beneficial to my project and I just learned about a few more print and electronic resources that I can use. I should also be able to attend one last protest before I go.

I have mixed emotions about going back home but overall I think I am ready to get back for a while. There are people I want to see and I will have been living out of my suitcase at this guesthouse for a month in a room that I share with 7 other people on some days. Privacy is something I require to function and is in short supply here. Everything I have done and the places I have been make everything very worthwhile, overshadowing any very minor inconveniences.

Well this is the end of the blog, hope you enjoyed reading even though many parts were lacking very much in writing and grammar quality. Hopefully this helped to give a little bit of insight into my experiences in China and a bit in Korea.

Dearest readers I will be seeing you in due time.

Your incessantly charming blogger,
Michael Nemchick.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

South Korea

I have been a bit slow getting back to posting here but I needed to get myself settled in Seoul and working on my project. I am here to observe the protest/demonstration against the Japanese military's forced prostitution against South Korean women during WWII, studying it in the historical sense and as a current event. I was able to observe my first protest today and it was quite interesting, it is held every Wednesday outside of the Japanese embassy, the same woman who was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese has been there every single Wednesday since 1992, over 1000 times now. I will elaborate more on this subject later.

My secondary goal is to compare Chinese and Korean culture since I will have spent time in each country by this project's end. I am also undertaking an unrelated project to learn a second language, which is not Korean but I am learning the basics of that to aid in my survival here.

Not much else I am going to report now. I will get a picture update in soon enough and try to be more specific on what I have been up to.

All for now,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hong Kong Excursion

I returned back from my 10 day trip to Hong Kong so seems like it is time to get this blog back onto its feet.

Okay then, I will start with introducing the gang.

This intrepid firecracker is Shirley, born and raised in Hong Kong, recently graduated with a semester completed at what our dear college president would call good old W&J. She served as our guide and fearless leader through the mean streets of Hong Kong.

This next travel companion was bold enough to take my glasses and stare me straight in the eye as if they always belonged to her. Born in France and possibly trained in the art of subterfuge in Vienna, Elodie served bravely in a semester at W&J and was our expert at wearing scarves and is a master of disguise.

And here is me, you all know me but I am also with a penguin which I never introduced you to. I am pretty sure his name was Phillip but he was not very talkative.

Now that I got this introduction out of the way I will treat you to a semi-random assortment of pictures of the city.

These were just on display on a table in the street for purchase. Just like grandma used to make.

 This last one is interesting. Shirley told us that this person was putting a curse on someone whos name was written on a piece of paper. She was whacking it repeatedly with something and I think some words were involved as well.

Let's move on to some of the activites we partook in while visiting the city.

Karaoke is very popular throughout China and south east Asia. They had the songs in Cantonese (the main language in Hong Kong almost completely different than the Mandarin spoken in mainland China which is what I had been studying) and English as well. Even a few were in French so we all had our representation. I am not usually one to sing but I went for it.

We also went to a place called the peak. I suppose it is similar to the incline in Pittsburgh but I actually never went on the Pittsburgh incline so I am not sure. Anyway this tram thing took us up to get a nice view of the city. 

We visited the science museum one day as well. It was mainly geared towards children but we had our fun there as well. This picture is from the mirror exhibit. There were other amusing and educational things there as well. One fun area was a place with a bunch of tables with different puzzles on them like make a cube with these blocks and a whole host of number and image puzzles that were all interactive. We could not solve a single one without looking at the hints or the solutions.

We ate dim sum one day while we went to visit Shirley's college in Hong Kong (Lingnan University). Dim sum is basically an assortment of different little dishes you all share letting you get a taste of an assortment of things. The other two images are from the University as well.

We ventured to a small temple one day in the middle of the city. I had never seen these type of incense coils in China before. They are lit and burn upwards in a spiral. I assume the red papers with characters written in the center are some sort of prayer. 

We went to the beach on two separate occasions which was great. It can get so incredibly hot in Hong Kong and the humidity is terrible. I started sweating just standing still and doing nothing after only a minute. The days it was cloudy or raining were like a gift.

Some of the non-swimming areas were more rocky.

We met one of Shirley's friends one night to go get dessert. We got some sort of ice cream type of thing. Not sure exactly sure how to explain it because it was not exactly ice cream. It was cold, icy,  kind of creamy, and tasted good. I got mango and Elodie got blueberry, Shirley got some kind of banana pancake ice cream type of thing. I think mine was the best, but what can I say, I have good taste.

We went to a few stores for shopping. Downtown Hong Kong is full of shopping malls, everywhere you look is a shopping mall. You get out of a metro station and you are in a shopping mall. You start to think that the whole city is really just a set of interconnected shopping malls. I did end up purchasing a pair of shoes because unlike mainland China, Hong Kong has sizes that fit me, but I got them at a street market type of area instead of a mall. I am pretty sure they are fake Nike shoes but they are still pretty nice.

They made me try on ladies clothing but I still look ravishing as usual.

One day we took a visit to Shirley's home island in Hong Kong, Peng Chau. A small island of 5,000 residents. She told us she did not know everyone on the island but evidence seemed to show things to the contrary. It was a interesting little place. It was also the day of the dragon boat festival so they had boat races going on.

It took around 45 minutes by boat to get to the island.

These are a some kind of shrimp toast or something. It was breaded and deep friend with shrimp on the inside served with a side of dressing and it was delicious.Shirley told us that a well known DJ in Hong Kong once did a food tour of Hong Kong and stopped at Peng Chau in this restaurant and recommended this dish, making it famous. The line for the restaurant was down the street for a time afterwards.

This is just a little temple on the island.

Inside they guy who sells incense and watches the inside kept telling me to take pictures of everything and telling me how old everything was.  This table is 200 years old
and some of the other stuff was 100 years old. At temple in mainland China you are not supposed to take pictures on the inside so it was different for me to be encouraged to take pictures here.

This is from a second small temple area on the island.

We decided to take a walk and climb the biggest hill on the island.

Before getting to the top it got so hot that some of the group shed some clothing to continue our hike. I will not subject anyone to the horror of pictures with me not wearing a shirt.

We went to a Thai food place for dinner.

Hong Kong is a city very concerned with public health, which is partially spurred from the SARS outbreak earlier in the 2000s. You see these types of signs on doors in different public buildings as well as posters giving health and sanitation advice.

This is the octopus card. You can use it for everything in Shanghai, buses, the metro, boats, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and more. You put 50 Hong Kong dollars down as a deposit (1 usd = around 7 hk and 6 rmb) and then just deposit money on it. It is convenient and handy. Though, the metro is much more expensive in Hong Kong. You can get across the whole city in Shanghai only paying around 4rmb per trip but you get charged over 10hk just for taking the metro to get under the water to another island. For those not certain about Hong Kong geography it is made up of a peninsula type of thing and a series of islands. So to get around you take boats or the metro to get to other islands. Buses as well for the islands connected by bridges.

I went to an arcade one day one I was by myself. I was in Hong Kong for two days longer than the other two, both left for other countries to take care of other business and my flight had to be scheduled later. I enjoy video games and thought it would be interesting to observe an arcade in Asia. Right away I could see it would be different. There are signs they say no one under 16 or in school uniform is allowed. Strange because you usually see the young mixed in with the older in US arcades. it also said no pictures. Upon entering you see the arcade is mixed half casino and half traditional arcade with an assortment of side scrolling fighting games, rhythm games, racing, etc ect. The casino section is mostly digital slot machines and poker, as well as digital horse racing. Also some game that I cannot really explain and could not take a picture of but people fed coins into it like crazy and manically pressed buttons. I saw a lot of young business men looking people in the arcade mixed in with the more casually dressed crowd. People are pretty intense and skilled with these games, some of the players had a crowd of onlookers. Players ever brought their own headphones to play certain games. I played  few games but mostly embarrassed myself from lack of skill which came from partially not understanding how to play the games I tried. I was the only foreigner inside while I was there.

Here is where I stayed. I don't know why it was called Canadian hostel because it has nothing to do with Canada. It was in a building called the Chunk King mansions which is a a fake/night marker on the bottom two floors and residential areas and restaurants on upper floors. Every day when I entered people offered my everything from watched and handbags to hostel rooms and I just got used to staring straight ahead and looking emotionless. My room was extremely tiny, two bunk beds with maybe two feet of space between them and a tiny bathroom where the shower was not separated from the toilet. I was also too tall for the bed, if you are over 6 foot tall you don't fit here. A cockroach came out of the shower drain once but the place was mostly clean overall. I stayed here by myself and befriend my multiple sets of roommates, Elodie stayed Shirley's place (a different place than the island).

The whole place smelled faintly of Indian food because it was right next to an Indian restaurant.You get used to it after a few nights.

Hong Kong does not really feel like China at all. The people are different, the tone is different, and the language is different. A lot more people speak English with some decency making it easier to get around. Everything was more expensive here. Food is dirt cheap in Shanghai. You can find a family run food shop on every street selling decent cheap food but these places are not quite as common in Hong Kong. Smoking is more discouraged in the city and they fine public smoking in certain areas. Cigarettes are also more expensive. Smoking in mainland China is very prevalent and someone can but a pack of smokes for about $1 usd. They also have signs saying they will fine people for spitting in public. I felt like this was a way to distance Hong Kong from mainland China because older Chinese men like to spit a lot because they think it is healthy. There is a decent amount of contention between Hong Kong People and mainland Chinese. The former do not really like mainland China and have a lot of stereotypes against it and think it is a particularly backwards and dangerous place. Hong Kong is a bit more international because of its history and separate political system and I can see where they are coming from even if I do not agree.

Overall the trip was good. There are a lot of things I did not include in pictures or talk about but we did a lot of things and I do not want to be writing forever. I am preparing to depart for Korea on Sunday to need to get my Fudan dorm packed and have myself ready to move out.

As usual, excuse the typos, I am not proofreading this for the time being.
Good day,