Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Poster and Swimming

Here I am representing my poster at the conference. I ordered the poster and looked at it before I left California. I thought it all seemed okay until I presented it to the first person that asked me to see my poster. As I started explaining it, I realized that 3 of my 4 plots were missing a very important line. I probably should have just drawn it in with a marker, but I hated marking up my nice poster with a marker.

This picture is with Daesung who worked on the project with me quite a bit.

The second night of the conference, Tom Kenny invited the Stanford affiliates to a wonderful dinner of ultra spicy Szechuan food. Since I don't drink alcohol, they gave me green bean puree which tasted 'very healthy' if you know what I mean. It did become sweeter as my mouth became hotter.

The quarter before I went to China, I took a swimming class. I heard it was possible to go swimming there and so I went to work trying to make it happen. I stopped by the Cube at night (so beautiful) and the prices were in normal numbers but all the text around it was in Chinese. I took a picture of the prices so a friend of mine could translate it for me.

Getting into the water cube was quite the adventure. They had the prices listed in regular numbers and the description next to it in Chinese. Most places like restaurants had pictures on the menu so you could point to order. Anyways, I saw one lady translating the sign into English for her friend. I told them that I wanted to swim and they were planning on doing that too (the other options were just to go inside or go to the water park). Apparently, the one translating had a membership or something. They helped me get to the pool. To swim in the deep end, I needed to take a swim test but you were supposed to pay to take the swim test. I hadn't paid so my new friend talked the lady into taking the money at the pool. I doubt the money made it to the swim test money fund, but I got to swim so I was happy.

The picture above is just a nice Olympic panorama in the Aquatics Center.

This was me in the actual competition area (they only let you swim in the warm up pool). I was happy I got this shot cause my camera battery was out for the count but I coaxed it into giving me one more shot.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Conference in China

After sending Cecilie off to the airport, my cohorts and I jumped in a cab and headed towards the Olympic plaza for the conference. We ended up staying in a Holiday Inn Express which was pretty much a glorified hostel. Sure, we got our own rooms, but it was pretty basic. (The bathroom used a single door for the shower and the bathroom - it was an amazing feat of architecture.) This was another nearby hotel called the Pangu, which is a famous 7-star hotel. I only later found out that the buildings are supposed to be in the shape of a dragon so I unfortunately don't have a picture with the whole dragon).

Continuing our exploration, we saw more sights such as the Bird's Nest and took a picture in front of it. I was surprised at the level of security they keep up. We had to pass through metal detectors and they scanned our bags.

Jae and I also wanted to take a picture together with our posters. It was our first international conference, and we were excited to be there (note the excitement in our picture).

The National Aquatics Center (or the Cube) was located across the street. I have some more pics that I will blog about soon - I was able to get my Michael Phelps on and swim there.

Continuing our walk, we finally made it to the convention center. We registered for the conference, set up our posters, and went back to our hotel. That night they had an evening reception. The location was supposed to be the Science and Technology Museum. Little did we know that there were 2 of them in opposite directions, and you better believe that we took a taxi to the wrong one.

China: Sunday

On my last morning we went to the Temple of Heaven. It's where the emperor would go to pray each year. It sounds like they had quite the procession from the Forbidden City to here.
Old people were out in droves to play games

and dance.

Meanwhile, the little people just peed on the sidewalk. Seriously, that is what the kid is doing.

My vigilant taxi driver with his hand on the horn. I went alone to the airport and it was actually relatively uneventful after all the generalized craziness of this trip.

A very, very, VERY delicious meal before getting on the plane. I love you Pizza Hut Beijing!

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

China: Saturday

On Saturday we finally got smart and joined a tour group. Instead of only doing 1 site like most other days we saw 5 sites! It was no surprise when we got back to the hotel totally beat from so much touring. However, it was awesome and I loved it.
Our first stop was the Great Wall. We went to the most popular site, Badaling, and there were tons of people but it turned out alright. Apparently Chinese aren't that into hiking so it was very crowded to get up to the nearest tower but then the crowds quickly dispersed as we walked past that.
The Great Wall either has very uneven steps (a step can be anywhere from 1 to 3 bricks apart and there isn't an obvious pattern) or a sharp slope. Although we did 'hike' the Wall we didn't get very far because you always had to watch your step.
The crowds leading up to the tower.
Can you find Scott? He loved taking pictures with Chinese as much as they loved taking pictures with him.
Almost no crowds after the tower.

We went to a jade factory for lunch and they can make beautiful things. Cutting jade is not taught in schools, it is passed down through families.This is a typical workstation.
The object that's being worked on is a jade ball that symbolizes family. It has two smaller balls inside that symbolize 2 following generations. All 3 balls are cut from the same piece and you cannot separate them. I really liked these pieces; they must be so difficult to make since you have to make the smaller balls after making the larger one.

We toured the Ming Tombs where 13 very important people are buried. They opened one tomb but the stuff decayed rapidly after so they're waiting for better technology before opening more.

Tea tasting. We didn't try any but it was fun to watch the art of tea time.

Our last stop was a silk factory and it was neat. This machine was still going to unravel the cocoons. These tours really wear you down because by the time we got here it was hard NOT to buy a silk quilt. I mean, it's such a great deal! Luckily we held our sanity and came out empty handed.

What a day! The boys went out again but Scott and I just hung out at the hotel tonight. We were so tired from the day and Scott was coming down with a cold. Around 9pm we wanted to order some pizza from a local place so we went down to the desk for help. The girl first picked up the phone to call them, said a few things, and then hung up to tell us that the place was open. We took some time to explain the concept of delivery and after a while she called back only to find out that the hotel was too far for delivery. Dang it! During the conversation a Pizza Hut was mentioned so we decided to have them deliver, we'd give in to American food as long as we got something for dinner. Once we settled on Pizza Hut she pulled out a map and told us how to walk there. Seriously?! Perhaps she thought that we really did want to go outside in our pajamas. We weren't exactly dressed up... We finally just ordered room service. It was a rough ending and I was so glad to finally be going home. Poor Scott!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

China: Friday

Here we are looking for breakfast. We were trying to be cheap by not paying for it at the hotel but instead we ended up walking around for over an hour. Our first place was closed and we got sort of lost going to the next place. We finally settled on Japanese noodles. (In America we have very different foods for each meal: cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and meat for dinner. In Asia they have the same thing for every meal.)

Chairman Mao's body is here in Tiananmen Square. He actually wanted to be cremated but they decided to embalm adn display his body instead. You can see it from 8-12, M-F.

We're pretty sure they just use Google translator for their signs. Someone who speaks English and Chinese could make a killing by providing a correct translation. Anyone know what 'speeling' means?

The view of the Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square.

How about this for security in Tiananmen Square? They had cameras and military people everywhere. I guess they also have undercover people as well so that no uprising can happen. I wouldn't mess around in China.

The Forbidden City. It's where the royal family lived. The center walkway was only for the royals, anyone else would be killed.

One of the many buildings in the Forbidden City.

Beautiful decoration on a slope next to stairs.

After walking all over for breakfast and then through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City the boys dragged me up a hill to see the rooftops.

And the rooftops of the Forbidden City. It was huge.

We tried to take a taxi to lunch after but everyone refused so we walked to what looked like a close place. Not only was it pretty far away but we also got lost. I was so exhausted by the time we arrived. These boys made me WORK.

For dinner we went to a North Korean restaurant that had a show as entertainment. It was an interesting but even more foreign experience than China.

Dog meat. No thanks.

A study recently came out from North Korea though. It said that the #1 happiest place to live is North Korea. #2 is China. Something tells me it might have been rigged...

Friday, July 1, 2011

China: Thursday

Most of Wednesday was spent at the Summer Palace. It's a place where the royals went to get away from the Forbidden City during the summer. An empress in the early 1900s really liked it so most of the audio guide spoke about her.
Here is our group: Igor, Scott, Robert & Cecilie

All the ceilings in China are so beautifully painted. I guess they used to paint them black to prevent the wood from rotting and then they decided to decorate them and it really became an art.

Here we are climbing the Temple of Buddha in the hope of peace, tranquility and breakfast.

Scott eating my snacks at the top of the Temple of Buddha. (He made fun of me for packing so many snacks but then started eating them almost as soon as we landed.)

A beautiful building.

Scott and I with a random mad who wouldn't smile for his picture but also took about 100 takes to get just the right one. Seriously, he wouldn't move.

Seriously, they eat this for breakfast?

We rented a paddle boat to take around the lake. It was so fun and beautiful to see the entire place from afar.

You can see the Temple of Buddha in teh background. I thought it would be a short hill to the top; nope, it was a steep hike.

Another view of the Temple.
I give them empress a lot of credit for the beautiful architecture and stuff but she loses a lot of credibility with this stone boat. Did she really think it could float?

This hutong (aka neighborhood) was about a 5 minute walk from Tiananmen Square. I was so surprised by all the poverty in China. It's much more third world than I expected.

Another picture of the hutongs.

And this is the inside of a hutong where we ate Peking Duck; seriously. Scott's guide book talked about a local place to get great duck. It took us a while to find the place and as much as I was hoping we'd just give up I was the one who inadvertently found it. Woof.

We were the first dinner patrons, they were still de-boning something on a table.

They show you the cooked duck before cutting it up for you.
Then they give you the 'meat' that's left. Scott really enjoyed the ambiance and food. It was quite an evening!
Oh wait, our evening wasn't done. After dinner we met up with the last grad student to arrive early: Jay Lee. He's Korean and was a huge help since he could take an educated guess at some of the Chinese words. Chinese people would ask him where we were all from but since he doesn't speak Chinese it was pretty funny.

Jay was hungry so we decided to check out a night market. I thought it would just be a normal thing but I should have known better after being in China for a few days. They served such delicacies as scorpion, shark, snake, sheep genitalia, and other not so delicious items. Most items were already dead, just waiting to be fried and salted before enjoying, but the small scorpions were still alive on a stick. You could watch their little legs wiggle.

Robert and Scott tried the little scorpions. They're crazy!

How delicious!
My favorite part of the evening was that we ended up going to KFC to get Jay dinner. There was no way he was touching anything at the night market. Smart boy.
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