July 8, 2009 § Leave a comment
Before I start writing about my time in Wuhan, I first need to introduce Melody. As many of you know, I studied Mandarin while at Berkeley and really enjoyed it. During my second year, the Chinese department outsourced the weekly tutoring to teachers in Wuhan, China. I have no idea why they chose Wuhan over Beijing but it probably has to due with the fact that Wuhan has the third most colleges in China and the wages are very low. During that time, second year Mandarin students either talked to Megan or Melody. Every week we would sign onto Skype and wait for a call from “Online Tutor 01, 02, etc.”
It was fun talking to real Chinese people but there were so many technical difficulties. Melody later told me that the most common phrase she used during that time was, “hold on, I’ll call you back” and “can you hear me?” lol. Although there was a planned curriculum for each meeting, there was often time at the end of the session to just chat and ask questions. I always asked questions about their life there and what it was like in China, never thinking that I would actually ever go. I asked what Wuhan was like and what college students did for fun. Melody always patiently answered my questions and even invited me to come and visit. I didn’t take her invitation seriously then and just laughed it off, saying that she was also welcome to visit me in the States. After that year I lost contact with Melody until she found me on Facebook during my senior year. She noticed my note saying that I was going to Asia and reissued her invitation. Although I thanked her for her generosity, I still wasn’t planning on going to Wuhan because I had already set an ambitious itinerary with my friend (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong in two and a half weeks). Although I did want to go visit her, there wasn’t anything about the city that was special enough to convince my friend to go there.
Fast forward one semester. Due to unforeseen circumstances my friend had to bail on the trip and I was left to travel China alone. I shortened the trip to ten days, and only one city. I figured I would have plenty of things to do in Shanghai and many people to meet. However, once it came time for me to go to China, I began to seriously think about seeing Melody again. I started communicating with her about the possibility of going to go visit and said that I would check out train prices and schedules when I got to Shanghai.
Once I reached Shanghai I gave her a call, but the trip almost didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. It turned out that Wuhan was a lot further than I thought it was and would take a 5+ hour train ride. I was leaning towards just asking her to come to Shanghai (she had mentioned that if I couldn’t go to Wuhan, she could come to Shanghai) until Da Jo Ma suggested I look at plane tickets. It turns out that taking a plane from Shanghai to Wuhan is about the same price and much faster than taking a train. When I looked up prices myself, I found tickets for about $200 USD round trip, which I thought was a really good price. That is about 14000 yuan. Then, Melody suggested a website that was all in Chinese and found a ticket for half the price. Da Jo Ma helped me purchase the tickets and the trip was finally realized. If you ever need to travel within China, use local carriers like EVA, China Eastern, or even Cathay Pacific. My blog left off right before I left for Wuhan so I will continue (with pictures!) of the people that I met and the activities that ensued.