Author Archives: cfroi2

The Drug Dealer

Please enjoy my poem (:

What a loyal servant, that follows me everywhere
Always reliable, always faithful
He teaches precision in our questions
Anything but precision yields confusion and indecision.

Semper fi

Most often, he is a drug dealer
Sating my addiction to knowledge.
But the drug dealer has become my addiction.
The drug dealer has become the drug.

Sempre fi

Oh Google! My body craves your inquisitive touch!
How should I know the details of pollution?
How should I know the meaning of Sempre fidelis?
Oh Google, return to me.

Sempre fi

Google embodies those words
But not here, not in China.
I’m an addict without his dealer.
I’m an addict without his drug.

Martial Arts!

I was able to participate much more in this super cool martial arts class than I had thought I would be able to! It wasn’t until about 90 minutes into the lesson that my deltoid was hurting too much to continue. I took karate lessons for a solid 6 years or so, so it was a neat refresher, but it was also enlightening to look at martial arts from a different culture’s perspective as well. For example, in the sparring routine we practiced, we were taught to knock the opponent off balance to gain an advantage, whereas in karate lessons, we were taught to break their arm to gain the advantage. There are certainly merits to each, and each technique should only be applied in certain situations, but it was still fun to just observe another culture’s fighting style.

Hospital Day 2 (Still Alive)

So 2 days after my neck was X-rayed, I revisited the hospital, expecting to get an MRI and consult an orthopedic surgeon. While walking into the hospital, the first thing I noticed was the sheer number of people. Compared to Sunday’s crowd, I would say there were about 50 times as many people there on Tuesday. Every check-in machine (roughly 100 total) was occupied, with a line of about 5 people long, each desk had a line of 10+ people, escalators were packed, seating areas were packed, and standing areas were packed. However, aside from check-in, the massive number of people didn’t seem to have any significant effect on the wait time I experienced. After I was checked in, it only took about an hour or so to get everything I needed and get out of the hospital.

Speaking of what I needed, turns out the specialist we consulted didn’t think I needed an MRI (great, but if American doctors want one, I’d definitely prefer a cheap MRI in China, where I’ve already reached my insurance deductible. Not to mention the raw cost of an MRI would be thousands cheaper than it is in the United States.). The Chinese doctor, after zooming in and out on the X-ray for a solid 30-45 seconds, said that my neck bones are probably straightened like that simply because I belong to a generation that looks down at phone and computer screens aa lot. He gave me a prescription for some muscle relaxants and some heat pads (which are way too hot, and I’m certain they would cause burns within 3 hours) for me to wear throughout the night. He also told me to get a neck brace, which has been helpful so far — it certainly makes traveling easier, and it prevents me from moving the wrong way and inflicting some intense pain on myself.

For anyone curious, my total hospital bill for my 2nd visit was 678.6 RMB ($97-$113), 668.6 of which was the neck brace and medicines (basically a free consultation).

Hospital Visit! (I’m okay so far…)

So yesterday during the exercise dance class with my homestay family, part of the warm-up involved “stretching our necks” (why do we even need to do that!?) in which we tilted our heads back and kind of rolled them around to our shoulders, then looking down, other shoulder, and back again. During that stretch, my neck audibly cracked/clicked/popped 2 times, and I’m guessing that is what started the following chain of events.

At the end of the homestay, I noticed what I thought was just a sore muscle or a kink in my neck, which was preventing me from looking left without pain. I thought nothing of it — I just finished a long workout, so things were bound to hurt. For dinner yesterday, we went to Pizza Hut (the only significant difference from American Pizza Huts was the fact that pizza was served in the bowl it was cooked in), and I noticed I could turn my head less than I could at the end of the homestay — okay, nothing to freak out about. Sometimes things get worse before they get better. I was wrong.

Fast forward to bedtime. I can’t remember what time I started really feeling it, and I do not remember the time I went to bed. However, I do know that I spent at least 2 hours trying to find a sleeping position that didn’t hurt. Every time I changed my sleeping position, searing pain on my back, just below where my right shoulder meets my neck. The only time I felt something that painful was when I had the Shingles Virus, although last night’s pain wasn’t quite as bad as Shingles. After 1 or 2 hours of failed attempts at sleeping, it was roughly 1:30AM and I decided it was time to talk to some of the chaperones. I spent the next half hour or so attempting to get out of bed with minimal pain. EVERY MOVEMENT induced pain that was like 8 or 9/10 on the pain-o-meter. So after I got out of bed, I didn’t dare to attempt putting on a shirt, so I donned a robe and shorts and went to knock on Dr. Ruez’s door to no avail — no surprise, who wouldn’t be asleep at 2:00AM? Well that question was answered when I went downstairs and saw another student. After asking for the emergency phone numbers for chaperones (and establishing the fact that he didn’t have those numbers), he decided some “ancient Chinese breathing techniques” (basically sitting yoga) would solve the problem. So after humoring him for about 15 minutes, I went to the front desk and called Dr. Ruez’s room phone (thanks for the idea, Maggie!). After talking with him, we decided a trip to the hospital in the morning (today) was the best option, and we returned to our rooms. The next 5 hours were uneventful — I learned how to get in and out of bed with minimal pain :D.

Today we [me, Dr. Ruez, Nancy (the one in charge of us), and Yuchia (another chaperone)] went to one of the best hospitals in the area, which was really cool. Their triage is front and center, in front of everyone, but it was extremely time-efficient — they were taking the vitals and admitting so many people, it was kinda cool to watch. Also, we were billed after each step, so we knew exactly how much each thing cost. Blood pressure, temperature, and pulse taken? Bill. Diagnosis? Bill. X-ray (more details later.)? Bill. Medicine? Bill. We knew what we were paying for each step, and after each step they updated my medical information that was stored online, and accessible through a card they gave me. So I was diagnosed, Nancy and Yuchia were doing a fantastic job translating, and I got an X-ray of my neck, which showed my neck bones forming a straight line, rather than a curve. So tomorrow or Tuesday, I’m going to the orthopedic surgeon for an MRI, and what I assume will be a consultation about the possibility of a surgery. Overall, an exciting day filled with new experiences, and everything went relatively smoothly thanks to Dr. Ruez and Nancy and Yuchia. Honestly I’m just glad to know what’s wrong, rather than just being told that I’m worried about nothing and, “It’s just a sore muscle and will go away in a few days.”

However, I would definitely recommend avoiding being admitted to a hospital in a foreign country if you’re able to avoid it. I’ll update you on the MRI after I get it done!


Today, we spent the entire day with Chinese families! A few students and (sometimes) a student ambassador/translator were designated one family to spend the day with. I got to spend the day with Chris (student ambassador) and Maggie (UIC student), and the family consisted of grandma, mom and dad, son and daughter, and cousin. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed at first because everyone was paired up with at least one other student or student ambassador. With this design, the students would naturally gravitate towards each other or towards the student ambassador, rather than towards the family. Furthermore, we only got one day with the family, which resulted in a lot of cool activities, but I feel like a full-weekend homestay could have made a more significant impact on our understandings of the culture.

Regardless, I had a great time. My host family took us to do calligraphy (specifically drawing the characters for “dragon” and “hundred”). After that, we went home for lunch, and after some arts and crafts, we went to a fitness dance class. The building housing this class is pretty cool. It’s an entire building dedicated to piano lessons (imagine 2 floors consisting of about 60 pianos, with 2 rooms of 10 pianos each, and all other pianos getting a dedicated sound-proofed room), with a single room designated for dance. The dance class was a really fun workout, but it was cool just to see the building and several really young piano players.

Home: A Memory

Today marks the half-way point for my time in China, and by the end of today, I will have spent a total of 4 consecutive weeks outside of the United States (I also participated in the Japan trip). Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit homesick, so for your entertainment, and my solace, I have compiled a list of the things I miss (thanks for the idea, Lee).

First, I miss people and pets — friends, family, animals, etc. I can’t wait to spend some time with people once I return.

Second, I miss the small freedoms I had — no curfew, no website restrictions, the ability to hop in my car and drive where ever I want, and the simple fact that I wouldn’t have to adhere to a strict schedule 5-6 days a week. Having free time is a luxury I din’t expect to miss.

Third, I miss my clothes — I only brought 8 sets of clothes, and I am tired of these shirts and shorts. I never thought I would miss having a bit of variety in my clothing selection.

Fourth, I miss my bed and pillow– back home, I have this amazing pillow, and the comfort of a familiar bed would be great.

Fifth, honestly I miss Illinois — mostly just the relatively clean air xD

Food Comas

The classes immediately following breakfast and immediately following lunch are always the most difficult. Not because of the content, but because of the food coma that begs me to close my eyes and go to sleep. I always find myself struggling to stay awake for the last hour of those classes, even when the lecture topic is interesting. Today we had a lecture on hydroelectric power in China, closely followed by a discussion session led by Dr. Ruez. I’ve noticed that all the lectures have been exactly that — lectures. The lectures involve little to no participation from the audience, and it wasn’t until today that I realized how much I miss being involved in classroom discussions. Needless to say, I am always excited for the discussion sessions between the U of I schools. Aside from the fun subjects we discuss, simply moving away from the lecture format is appreciated.

In about 30 minutes, we’ll be going on a study visit involving natural gas — I don’t know what it’ll be like, but I’m thankful to get out of the classroom!

Ping Pong

Recently, me and 2 other students have been set on improving our pig pong games. We’ve been playing several times a week, and last night we took an additional step. We took a cab to a mall to buy really nice and new ping pong paddles, as well as nice ping pong balls. After we walked back to campus, we started playing with 3 other students (Chinese and American), and we just played nonstop singles until 2300. By the end, we were all dripping in sweat, but also we were all grinning because we were seeing how much we are improving, and we all enjoy the new equipment.

Today, we’re finally delving into sustainable technologies here! I’ll keep you posted ;D

Wetland: Weekend Edition

On Saturday, me and 2 other UIS students walked to the Xixi Wetlands and explored it by ourselves. It was a decision I don’t regret! Once we walked there, we just started down and followed random paths, and as it got closer to lunch time, we were getting concerned about missing lunch due to the length of the walk. But we needed to venture deeper into the wetlands — so I pressed onward. To our amazement, we eventually emerged from the wetlands a mere 5 minutes from the hotel. We had unintentionally walked from one of the main entrances to a small, unmarked entrance/exit that is significantly closer to the hotel. It was hilarious, and knowing the new exit, we actually had a spare hour or two, so we went back in to enjoy it some more before lunch.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful until dinner, where I was invited to a student ambassador’s dorm room to play League of Legends (a 5v5 MOBA video game in which you have to push 3 lanes to get to the enemy’s base and destroy it). I was a bit surprised by the dorm rooms — when you walk into the dorm room, there’s a bathroom and shower on the left, and a closet on the right. Immediately past the bathroom and closet are 4 bunkbeds (2 per side) with desks/cubbies/shelves beneath and mosquito-netted beds on top. Past all the beds at the end of the room is a balcony for them to air-dry their clothes. As for the video game, the student ambassador, Bruce, is ranked as a Challenger, which is the best you can be before you are a professional League of Legends player. So of course, I had to watch him play a game, and he let me play a few also xD

As for today (Sunday), I spent the morning walking through rain (45 minutes one way) to get the mall to buy a new pair of shoes (R.I.P. my shoes from like 3 years ago). But the new shoes are just as colorful and vibrant as my others, albeit the size is a bit wonky. They don’t really sell adult athletic shoes that vary by width – they just seem to vary by length. So my old shoes are wrecked (laces torn, thoroughly soaked, holes on sides and the bottoms, etc.), but the new ones are neat!

I played some basketball in my new kicks shortly after lunch, and I’m playing some more after dinner. The student ambassadors are pretty good!

Saturday in Hangzhou

Today is my first free day in Hangzhou, and although it started pretty boring — just eating and doing laundry — I’m planning to rent a bicycle and explore the city after we have our homework discussion.

In other news, after talking with some people, I came to the realization that although all 3 U of I campuses are part of the same system, there are certainly some stereotypes and preconceived notions about the students from each of the campuses. For instance, since there was a rigorous application process for UIC and UIUC, some people seem to think the students from UIS are not as smart and/or prestigious as the students from the other campuses. But if we’re being honest, those ideas existed long before this trip, considering how UIS is more affordable and it is not a really competitive school to get in to. I’m just surprised that even though we are all attending this trip together, and we are constantly interacting with each other, these thoughts and ideas remain prevalent in a small number of people.

Laundry’s done! Have a good day, and I’ll hit you up with another blog tomorrow!

Hangzhou: Initial Impressions

So we got to Hangzhou just a few days ago, and I must say that I’m pretty impressed by the living situation, the campus, the food, and the people here. Within just the past few days, I’ve made several friends with the “student ambassadors” here, and they all seem incredibly interested in us and America as a whole, which is honestly more than I had expected.

Aside from the students, I’ve already began indulging in various kinda of food — most of which are delicious. Just last night, we ate at a restaurant that uses hot pots embedded in the tables to cook the food. So they would serve us raw food, and then we would cook and season the food right there. Since we were served raw food, and we are college kids, of course someone would joke about daring me to eat a meatball raw; and being the wise college kid that I am, of course I had to oblige. I turned a profit of 10 RMB from the whole ordeal — not sick yet! 😀

Great Wall, and a Greater Dragon Lady

Hi everybody!

Stairs. Lots and lots of stairs today. We went to the Great Wall of China, and we learned a bunch about the history, but my favorite part was climbing to the top. On the way, I made a friend and we climbed the last 100 or so steps together. Today we also drove past the Olympics buildings from years ago, and admittedly, I was a little disappointed that our tour guide was super excited about them. From what I’ve read, hosting the Olympics is a great honor and such, but it can really hurt a city. For instance, Beijing pumped tons of money into a few buildings that aren’t used for much anymore, it also drastically changes the local economy, and anyone living in the area is forced to live through a nightmare of tourists, traffic, price gouging, and general frustrations leading up to, during, and even a few days after the Olympics. 

We also learned about Dragon Lady, who was honestly a pretty cool woman. Essentially, she was an Emperor’s prostitute, and she bore his only son, which made her very important. Once the Emperor died, the kid was too young to understand how to rule China, so she ruled China by telling the kid what to do. The kid emperor died young, with no children, so Dragon Lady was able to choose a new Emperor who was young enough for her to continue ruling China the way she wants. She was really selfish and didn’t care about the well-being of China, but honestly, considering the way women were/are treated, it pretty cool she was able to pull it off.


Hi everyone!

Last night, our flight arrived in Beijing. So far, China is pretty cool – we begin tours and whatnot around 0730 today, so I don’t have much to talk about yet. The airport was massive – they use shuttle trains to transport people in a way similar to Disney World. However, I must note that the outside air here is close to what I expected. During an 8-minute walk to get food, my eyes had begun to burn (I had to remove my contact lenses), the air tasted like a vehicle emissions pipe (at least, what I imagine a vehicle emissions pipe would taste like), and my throat had issues as well. 

Today, we toured Beijing, and to be honest, I’m pretty surprised by how highly the residents seem to view China, particularly Beijing. Our tour guide last night was talking about how “safe” it is, even for women to be walking around at night. Today, our other tour guide said, “In June, Beijing is safest in whole world,” which also threw me for quite a loop. I guess when people like the Chinese don’t have access to uncensored information, weird opinions can be formed. That’s it from me tonight. See you later!

Home Stay

Hi everyone! Sorry it’s been a while since my last blog post — I’m really enjoying everything we’re doing here. In this post, I’m going to talk about my home stay though, which was from Friday night to Monday morning.

First of all, my family consisted of a mom and dad and a daughter (19 years old) who is studying Spanish in Tokyo, and thus, was unable to come home while I was there. However, me and my parents still hit it off pretty well! We dealt with a language barrier most of the time, but with the help of google translate, we were able to make it work.

The first night (Friday), my parents were working, so a different family picked me up and took care of me until my parents could pick me up later that night.

Saturday, my mom had to take someone to the hospital in the morning, so my dad and I took a walk around town, eventually hiking up Mt. Fuji-san 2 (as he called it). He told me it’s just a fun name for a hill that isn’t even close to the size of Mt. Fuji. Regardless, the view over the city was great. After the hike, dad had to go work, so mom and I went to hang out with some of the other homestay families and play games. There was great food, everyone was super fun to hang out with, and we all got to know each other a bit. After hanging out with everyone, mom and I took a short walk through a nearby flower garden, which was nice.

Sunday, my mom and dad took me cherry picking in a town I can’t remember. There were a ton of trees with an assortment of 10 different types of cherries, all of which were delicious (we were able to pick them off the trees and eat them right there). Then we went to Mt. Haruna, and took some pictures at the lake before we went up to the top of the mountain to visit the shrine and enjoy a phenomenal view. After Mt. Haruna, we visited 2 more shrines on the way back. Both of them required climbing a lot of stairs, but they came with amazing views, a lot of nature, and really cool history lessons.

Monday was pretty uneventful — my family had work, so I was dropped off at another homestay family’s house, and we were taken to Ashikaga University before 9am.

Overall, it was pretty neat 😀

Ashikaga Day 1 (Caleb)

Hi everyone! So today, we visited a few places, but I started out the day with a fellow student named Lee. We went to a shrine and honestly I was amazed and humbled by the opportunity to experience something that was so important to them.

During the tour for the day, we visited Ashikaga Gardens, which was phenomenal. We saw a few Wisteria trees, which were simply amazing. In full bloom, they become a sea or purples and pinks. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them in full bloom, so they were just a sea of green, but it was still pretty awesome.

This is just one Wisteria tree!

That’s all I’ve got for now. If I had to recommend anything, I would say if you are ever in Ashikaga, I would highly suggest seeing the garden.