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March 30, 2007

China

Tianjin


We woke up at 6am to pack our things and head to Tianjin. We took the bus to the train station after some of the Chinese students said good-bye to us. The Beijing train station was very nice. It was a huge building with a giant clock tower and marble floors and beams. Outside was a large granite area leading up to the train station with large groups of people scrambling around, or sleeping on their luggage. We found a passenger resting area that you had to pay to sit in with worn lounge chairs. We took turns watching the luggage their while we went to go have breakfast. We went to a Chinese-style diner where we had soybean milk in a large bowl, English muffins with sausage, hard-boiled tea eggs, and fried dough. After breakfast, we got on the train. We were in "soft-class" which was first class. It was 35 yuan, about 4 dollars. Really cheap.







I sat across from two Australian people. They were creating joint degree programs with Curtain University in Australia, and Chinese universities. They were not so much interested in what we were doing in China, but American culture. They told us how they hated that American channels like ABC and Fox take over Australian TV. They also asked us if Americans ate steak every night and always drove big cars that used tons of gas. Then they started talking about politics. They were telling us how they dislike President Bush, but that their prime minister gets along well with him because they are both conservative. They asked us more questions, and talked more. Talking about politics was slightly uncomfortable, but we later changed the subject to marriage and life. The woman told us to find a husband who will compromise with you and look at you as an equal. She said that he should share the responsibility and the sacrifice. It was an interesting conversation, but every second I felt like I was being watched and judged. It was very intimidating. We talked for the hour and a half that it took us to go to Tianjin, and then we went our separate ways. We should have asked for a business card, or some sort of way to keep in contact, but their personalities were so standoffish, I didn't know if they really liked us.

Posted by cdesimon at 06:42 PM

Costa Rica

Monteverde
After a very long and VERY bumpy bus ride we arrived in Monteverde (Green Mountain). Monteverde it a nature reserve in the Cloud Forest. Once we settled into our rooms we attempted to spend our afternoon by the pool; however, the weather had other plans - it started raining on us. So, we retreated back to our room. We all read and slept until it was time for dinner. We ate at a really nice and delicious Italian restaurant. We all called it a night after dinner because the next morning we had to be up at 6:30 am!

The next day at Monteverde was spent horseback riding and zip-lining. The horseback riding was so much fun, and we didn’t get wet this time. We rode around the mountain and in the forest. They even let us gallop. My horse, Pico, was a little moody though and didn't like to run.
After horseback ridding we ate a quick lunch and headed zip-lining through the Cloud Forest. I felt like Tarzan. We flew through the trees on 11 zip-lines and over the trees on one the highest zip-lines in the world (660ft high!). It was amazing (and a little scary)!! From the highest zip-line I could see the Pacific Ocean, which was a 5 hour drive away!

The next day we headed to our final destination, Ocotal!

Posted by kmquinn at 04:15 PM

March 26, 2007

Hawai'i

July 1, 1999 - Honaunau/Kealakekua Day

This morning we visited Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. This is considered a place of refuge for many as the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle is preserved, from the ancient temples to the wooden carvings.

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau


There was also a one of a kind spotted sand beach (it was white and black from the volcanoes). The park is also known for its preservation of sea turtles, which we saw. We were given traditional Hawai'ian religious performances, which I throughly enjoyed. However, the best part of the day had not yet come.

After visiting the national park, we headed to Keauhou Bay to catch a boat that took us to Kealakekua Bay to snorkel and swim. This bay is famous for having the Captain Cook monument. Captain Cook was the first Westerner to step foot on the Hawai'ian islands in 1778.

Captain Cook monument


Snorkeling was one of the most fun activities I have ever tried. There were many tropical fish that was amazingly close to you. The ocean floor was fairly deep and there was no coral, but there were still an abundance of brilliantly colored fish. I had an underwater camera and managed to get up close with several fish.

Fish while snorkeling


The night concluded by everyone staying in the water, but relocating into our hotel pool, and everyone went to Dairy Queen for ice cream on a hot Hawai'ian night.

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Posted by scheemo at 01:42 AM

March 23, 2007

Coast Rica

Volcan Arenal
After traveling by canal boat and bus for most of the day we ended up at Volcan Arenal; the second most active volcano in the world. We stayed in La Fortuna which is a tourists town at the base of the volcano.
Once we got our rooms and unpacked we went to the Baldi hot springs at the base of the volcano. There were over 10 separate hot spring pools you could go into; the further up the side of the volcano you went, the hotter the pool was.
Some of the hot springs were too hot to even go in (152 degrees!!). It was a relaxing night and felt very good after half a day traveling on a bus. Once we returned from the hot springs we headed for the pay phones to call home. Finally, it was time for showers and bed.

The next day we headed closer to the volcano. We ate breakfast at a small local place and headed for our adventure on the side of the Arenal volcano. We took zip-lines across canyons, over rivers and over waterfalls. I cannot even describe how beautiful it was. We went on a total of 6 different zip-lines; one was 1.5 miles long.


One of the waterfalls in our adventure was 240ft high. We repelled next to this waterfall. It was pretty freaky when you looked down at the 90ft of free-falling and 150ft of repelling I was about to do; but, once you started repelling, it was amazing! The waterfall was beautiful! We finished the day by horseback riding back down the side of the volcano. As we were riding it began to pour on us. We finished the trip soaking wet. It continued to rain into the night. We all settled in our rooms, played cards, and watched movies until we feel asleep.

The next day we headed closer to the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

Posted by kmquinn at 11:40 AM

March 21, 2007

China

Tienanmen Square
We did a lot of tourist things when we went to Beijing. We went to Tienanmen Square, which is the largest square in the world. It has a large monument to Chairmen Mao in the center. It is heavily guarded by guards who walk in large groups, like two rows of marching soldiers. It was the site of a student demonstration, where the guards came with tanks and students died.









We wanted to take a picture of the group with a large banner in front that was in Chinese and said GIEU Beijing University of Michigan and we set ourselves up, and asked some American tourists to take the picture of us. (because we were scared of someone running off with our cameras) Dr. Yen asked one of the guards earlier to see if we could take pictures with a sign, and he said yes. We started taking pictures, and a large group started forming around us. People were staring at us and taking pictures of us, like we were celebrities. The group was pretty large, and guards started noticing. All of a sudden, the guards ran up to us, yelling and telling us to stop taking the photos, that the banner needed to be a certain size, and then another one said that we couldn't have a banner at all. It caused a big commotion, but our picture turned out well!!!

Posted by cdesimon at 05:07 PM

March 20, 2007

Costa Rica

Tortugero
Tortuguero is on the north Caribbean side of Costa Rica. The place we stayed at was along a canal in the Torugero National Park. To get there, we had to travel in a small river boat. Once we arrived and put our stuff in our rooms they fed us lunch. After lunch we were able to layout and relax by a pool for the rest of the day; if was heaven. After a very rich dinner and day in the sun we headed back to our huts for bed.

The next day we went kayaking through the canals. On our two-hour adventure we saw a few crocodiles (cocodrillos in spanish). It was pretty cool. We went as far as we could down one branch of the canals. Once we hit a tree that was impossible to get around, we headed back to our resort. We spent the rest of the day by the pool playing cards.

The next day, we made our way towards the middle of Costa Rica.

Posted by kmquinn at 10:22 PM

March 19, 2007

Hawai'i

June 30, 1999 - Kona Day

Today we visited the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. Hawaii is known for growing tropical plants such as pineapple, bananas and coffee. We saw how they farmed and picked coffee beans, and participated in the harvest. It was very tedious work as we stripped the beans off the plants into a basket. There were literally hundreds of acres with coffee plants, making for a long harvest.

Kona Coffee Living History Farm


Our next stop was the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. We went on a tour of the most beautiful garden I have ever been in. There were so many colors and the tropical plants smelled wonderful. We started with the plants that lived in the ocean around Hawai'i. Then we climbed a hill to see high elevation trees. The site of the entire garden from the top of the hill was break taking.

Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden


At the Onizuka Space Center, we watched a movie about space travel and Hawaiians who have been astronauts. Hawaii is famous for having great telescope locations on top of Mauna Loa. The displays were fascinating because of my interest in space. It was a very educational experience.

Onizuka Space Center


The remainder of the evening was spent shopping at the Kona Coast Shopping Center, the Hard Rock Cafe and in the pool. Today was a very busy day as we traveled to three destinations, but it was very educational and the gardens were beautiful.

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Posted by scheemo at 12:52 AM

March 16, 2007

Costa Rica

Ecolodge
We finished our second day of whitewater rafting by 1pm in the afternoon. Once we helped put the rafts away we spent the rest of the day traveling to our next location; an Ecolodge in Limon, on the Caribbean cost.

The Ecolodge was in the middle of nowhere. We had to take an army truck through rivers in order to get to the lodge! It was like we were on the Oregon Trail. Once we got our rooms and were settled in we had a spaghetti dinner; this food was really tasty. They also treated us with their special "Cocoa Locos" as a welcome the the Ecolodge.
After a long day we all headed to bed early in our little huts.

The next day at this lodge was kind of uneventful. We all relaxed, played cards, read, walked around, etc. The food, again, tasted delicious. After two nights at the Ecolodge we traveled Oregon Trail again and made our way to Tortugero.

Posted by kmquinn at 05:38 PM

March 14, 2007

China

Chinese Sports
Since we were at a sports university that had 7 gold medalists at the Athens Olympics, Dr. Yen wanted us to take Wushu lessons. We had a tour of campus, which was primarily sports training facilities. We went to the large gymnasium, which we could see from the highway driving to the school, and had our lesson there. Our teacher was a small woman who didn't speak English. We had student translators. She started us off with Tai Chi, which is a slow Chinese sport/relaxation technique which makes you control your breathing and movements. We had to pretend to hold a ball in our hands and push it back and forth. Our leg movements corresponded to our slow arm movements and it was more difficult that it looked.



Then she tried to teach us wushu. It is a sport, which to me, looks comparable to karate, but I'm sure if you asked a wushu major, they would disagree. There are fast movements that are combinations of kicks, spins and jumps. She made us practice in pairs so that she could evaluate us easier. In our pair, we had to do kicks from one end of the gym to the other when it was our turn. It was mortifying. I was horrible, especially in comparison to others in the group who are ice skaters and could spin pretty easily.



We were all pretty bad if you compared us to the others in the room, though.The wushu majors did a demonstration for us, and it was amazing. They used long sticks and knives to pretend to battle people while spinning and kicking. Our favorite was the "Wushu Boy" He was very short, but incredibly talented. He did a routine for us where he pretended to act like an angry dog. He growled and kicked and spun everywhere. It was actually really frightening. The best part was when he did a spin in the air and he was parallel to the ground. I wish we could have watched him all day, but eventually our teacher wanted us to practice more.




Posted by cdesimon at 04:13 PM

March 12, 2007

Costa Rica

Work Ends and Travel Begins
White Water Rafting

We started our adventure across Costa Rica with whitewater rafting. We traveled for half a day and made it to the Pacquare River. by 12 noon. My friends and I chose to do the “aggressive? rapids which simply meant that our guide purposely tried to flip us and took us through the roughest parts of the rapids.
I was a little scared at first but then ended up having a blast!

We went about 4 miles down the river to a lodge where we spent the night. The lodge was decent, although there was no electricity, and the food was amazing. The food could have seemed even better than usual because we had been living on rice and beans for two weeks. After dinner we laid around, played cards, and just relaxed by the river.

On our second day at the river lodge, we went on a hike into the jungle; it was a workout! We made it to a beautiful waterfall which we could slide down like a water slide. After another hour or so of hiking we found a 20ft waterfall that we jumped off of! I was a little nervous but once I jumped I wanted to do it again. It was a lot of fun! We had the rest of the day off and just relaxed by the river and in some hammocks.

The next day we finished our whitewater rafting adventure by traveling 8 more miles down the river through class III and class IV rapids (class V being the biggest).
Although a bit scary, they were a blast and the river was beautiful. White water rafting was my favorite part of our second two weeks in Costa Rica.

Posted by kmquinn at 05:30 PM

Hawai'i

June 29, 1999 - Kawaihae Day

Today we are moving to the other side of the Big Island. The bus ride was long and very crowded. We stopped at Pu'ukohola Heiau, a national historic site. At the visitor center, we learned about the history of Pu'ukohola Heiau. There is a Temple of War built by King Kamehameha I which looks like a fortress.

Pu'ukohola Heiau


Afterwards, we visited Hapuna Beach Park for lunch and swimming. We also buried some people in the sand. It was a very relaxing several hours.
Then, we left for Kailua-Kona. Along the way, we passed lava fields where people spelled out words with white rocks.
We arrived at the Royal Kona Resort, unpacked, had dinner and then had free time.

Posted by scheemo at 12:18 AM

March 09, 2007

Costa Rica

Childrens' Fair
On our last day in Aranjuez, the village was having a childrens' fair. Kids from schools throughout Puntarenas. came to our small village for a day of games, races, dancing, and a skit by myself and the other 12 volunteers I was with.

It was really hot out that day and shade was hard to find but other than that, it was a great day for a fair. The students wore their uniforms and each school had a sign displaying what village they were from.

They marched around the school and the soccer field and finally settled in front of the stage. They were all excited to see what skit the out-of-towners put together. We did a skit that showed the kids what we were doing at the farm and why. We tried to make it fun and interactive but the language barrier was limiting. Luckily myself and two others knew how to speak a little spanish so we narrated the play while the other volunteers acted it out. The kids seemed to enjoy it, but maybe they were just laughing at our poor acting and small spanish speaking ability.

After our skit the games began! We watched the relay races and kids running around. A few of us joined in on a little soccer game. The kids were adorable.

The day of the fair was the perfect way to end our time in Aranjuez. We were sad to leave but excited to begin the adventure part of our trip.

Posted by kmquinn at 05:45 PM

March 07, 2007

China

Central Conservatory of Music

Later on the trip we traveled with Dr. Monts and Dr. Yen to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, which was in the 2nd circle. This is a grade and high school where students live and study traditional Chinese instruments. We arrived at a large building and they took us to the 3rd floor and we sat in a large conference room with reclining black chairs and a large wooden table set with water bottles for each of us. We met with the President of the school who once again exchanged gifts with Dr. Monts and took pictures. We received a tour of the school by a Chinese student with a thick British accent. We walked down the hall and show individual practice rooms with students playing the piano. One student was pointed out as one of the best. The building had dark marble floors and walls by the elevators and while marble everywhere else. We were shown a "typical dorm" which turned out to be a guest dorm room that looked like a hotel, and nothing like a real one. I didn't understand why they would never show us a real dorm room. There was a little garden and courtyard that had a small pond and flowers with every color of the rainbow- like a secret garden.

We also saw the theater where the preformances take place. It was amazing, with huge gold organ pipes with green and red detailing. There were the perfectly lined chairs and music stands on the wooden stage and a brand new wooden piano. Everything else in the theater was red. They claimed that the acoustics were the very best.


After this, we drove an hour to the 6th circle where there was a satellite school, which was in a more rural area. It was brand new and cost more money, partly because it was not funded as much by the state. The President was a famous Chinese musician. She was very happy to have Dr. Yen there, almost to the extent of being overly nice. She wants students to go to Umich because it will raise the prestige of her school. She had her students perform for us, playing traditional Chinese instruments and the piano. They were incredible. They ranged in ages from 4th grade to 9th grade. It was really amazing how well these students could play, and how dedicated they were to playing at such a young age. It made me think of how different our education is, and the differences in what we value in education.



Here is another link for information in English!

Posted by cdesimon at 08:01 PM

March 05, 2007

China

The Great Wall
The Great Wall deserves a bright heading because of how mind-blowing it was. We went to a part that wasn't the most popular spot to climb. There was almost no one there. We left at 9 AM and got there around 11. The walk up to the Great Wall was intense. I didn't realize that you had to climb a mountain to reach the wall. We climbed for a good half hour. This is a mountain with steep steps that I still don't understand how I did it. Once we got up to the wall, it was not a road, it didn't cut across the top of the mountain, but conformed to the mountain. It rolled all over the tops of these hills, and there were huge steps and steep stairs to climb up and down.





We mostly went uphill. We started at the 8th watch tower, which they would send up puffs of smoke to signal how many men were approaching. One puff meant 100 men, two meant 500, and three meant 1,000 men. They would send these puffs up life a chain, from one watch tower to the next. We walked to the 11th tower, then stopped to each our packed bag lunch, which was interesting, since it was packaged by BSU. It had hard boiled eggs, sausage (don't ask what was in it, because we still don't know), a sweet roll, and some water. Not a traditional American lunch.







We saw a lot of people from all over the world on the Wall. There were two or three Michigan grads who called out to us, since we were all in bright yellow Michigan shirts. We climbed up to the 20th watch tower, which was almost a vertical climb. It was very scary. When we looked behind us, we could not even see the step behind us unless we looked straight down because it was so steep. When we got to the top, the rest of the wall was in ruins, so we couldn't keep going. I started to write my name on the wall, and the guard yelled at me. Oops.





The view was unbelievable, and it was so hard to imagine the history behind it all. Just thinking about people creating this, and actually using it, hiding from their enemies, and fighting for their lives on this wall was so hard to believe. No one wanted to leave that top tower. (not only because of the view, but because the walk down looked deadly) When we finally got down, we were exhausted, but decided to do a little bargaining for some souveniers. And then we took the bus home. It was the BEST part of my trip!

Posted by cdesimon at 08:24 PM

Hawai'i

June 28, 1999 - Kupuna Day

Today we visited the local Kupuna Center. Kupuna is Hawaiian for the elderly. Upon entering, we were greeted by a chanting lady and were given yarn leis. We prayed in a circle and then started activities the elderly had set up for us. First, my group made a bracelet by weaving straw. Then, we learned a traditional hula dance. The song was called the Hukilau and was about fishing. This was surprisingly fun and easy. Next, we learned to play three notes on the ukulele.

Ukulele


At the final station, we made a game similar to the one where you try to catch a ball on a string in a little cup.
After a short snack, we sung Cleveland Rocks and then danced with the Kupuna to the Electric slide and the Macarena. Then, they sang and danced traditional Hawaiian hulas for us.
Our next stop was the Hawai'i County Building. There we met Mayor Stephen K. Yamashiro and had our questions answered.
Next was the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo, the only one in the United States. We had a map to fill in where the animals were, so the experience was somewhat educational. My group watched some monkeys being fed.

monkeys


The coolest site was beautiful peacocks walking around freely with their feathers spread out.
Back at the dorms, we had free time to play soccer, volleyball or indoor baseball. The day was very educational and I got to see some animals native to the rainforest which was a once in a lifetime experience.

Posted by scheemo at 09:44 AM