Currently I'm in Shangdong province celebrating the Year of the Ox with my host family. We're a few hours south of Beijing, and it's a much more rural area than Beijing. The drive down the highway was mostly like an American highway, except that all the trees were the same type, and there weren't that many of them so you could see miles upon miles of brown earth stretching everywhere. The signs on the highway are in characters and either pinyin or English, but the English very often doesn't make any sense.
When we got here, I was greeted enthusiastically by my host grandparents, who are constantly worried that I'm hungry so they keep shoveling food on my plate. My host brother has one younger girl cousin (he calls her his sister. since the One-Child Policy took effect, they call all their cousins brother and sister), who can speak a little English but is very shy of me so she keeps to herself around me.
Yesterday we went to a supermarket in the city nearby (I don't know the name). According to my host mom, it's a rather small town, but in American standards it's a large city (the whole province has 90 million people, so all these terms are relative). When we went into the supermarket, the first thing I noticed was how much variety they have. It's a far cry from the stories you hear about stores in truly Communist nations. There were about 30 different kinds of chips alone.
Today we went to a Confucian temple in Confucius' home town, Qufu. It was fairly nice, and our guide was amazing. He spoke English well enough for me to understand him, though it was heavily accented. He told me lots of information about the different gates and pillars we saw, about how they were built in 1230 and partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. I didn't really pay too much attention to the bulk of the historical stuff.
Tomorrow I think we're heading to Jinan, the capital of Shangdong province. After that, I head back to Beijing for a day or two before embarking on another week and a half long trip with the other Newton kids. Basically, since I got here until February 10, I won't stop moving. It's a nice change from my life back in Newton. Here are some images of the city and the supermarket. I have pictures of the temple, but my camera battery died and I think I forgot the charger. Very smart.