A Travellerspoint blog

The Weeks that are a Blur

Week 3 and 4 in BeiBei

As I sit here about to write this blog entry I look back at the past two week that have just passed and realize something. It’s a complete blur. To be honest I’m not even sure why. It could be because it was extremely busy (we completed our first full week of classes and we constantly had things to do), it could be because it was stressful at times (we are revamping our research projects because our professor did not get government clearance beforehand and we are running into issues), or it could just be because it was a pretty average week and a half just filled with the daily grind of school, friends, and homework and adding in some fun when we had time. So at this point I’m not sure if this blog entry will be long or short or really what it will say. I will have to see how much my memory can recall. Bear with me as I try to figure it out.
Monday (September 19) was the start of our first full week of classes at Southwest. The day started out kind of gross and overcast. Sarita and I had Chinese class that morning. After lunch we were super excited because we were finally supposed to have our first Kung Fu class (class the week before had been cancelled due to the Mid-Autumn Festival). Sadly though, our Waiban director, Chuck Lee (we’re still not entirely sure how we feel about him; he’s a nice guy but the fact that the he is also in charge of monitoring all of our activities for the government casts a slight shadow on the relationship), cancelled class due to the weather (Kung Fu takes outside in the courtyard of our student complex). It was slightly misting and Chuck didn’t want to risk it. Sarita and I and the boys were bummed. Sarita and I decided that we would spend the class time exploring more of South West. We had done this a bit before but we hadn’t explored much in the direction opposite of our classroom. It was a really good time. SWU and the city of BeiBei have a beautiful setting. It lies within a valley surrounded on all sides by steep, vegetation covered hills and mountains. The campus itself has countless gardens, fountains and such. However, it is all miserably taken care of. There is garbage everywhere and buildings are in disrepair. It makes one wonder why there is a mentality that it is okay to let so much beauty go to waste and why the students take no pride in keeping their campus clean; to them it is no big deal to leave trash anywhere they please. We explored more of the student dorm areas, a couple of the exercise stadiums (they’re big tracks surrounding a handful of soccer fields with basketball, tennis and ping pong areas set up on the outside) which are called playgrounds by the Chinese, the library, and the martial arts facilities. We also spent some time watching the freshmen go about their military training. After about an hour and half we headed back to our dorms. We went to dinner with Cindy and Luke and then came home and spent the night working on our many Visual Journal Assignments.
Tuesday’s are pretty chill days for me. I don’t have a morning class but both Sarita and Cindy do. So I get to sleep in, catch up on stuff and basically just be lazy for a bit. It’s also when I Skpye campus so that’s always nice for a good laugh and some familiar faces. Tuesday afternoon Cindy and I had ethnology. That night we realized that we needed to make some definitive plans for National Holiday and we needed to make them fast. For those of you that are like what the heck is National Holiday in China, give me a second to explain. National Holiday commemorates the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. And despite the fact that the Chinese are pretty boring when it comes to celebrating most holidays, this one is a big deal. Any government related businesses, agencies, outpost etc (and in a Communist society the government runs a lot of stuff), all schools, most factories and basically most things shut down for a week to give everyone time off. It is a time for people to go home and spend with family or it is a time to travel. Apparently tons of people choose to travel so it’s kind of crazy. We were told last February to start thinking about where we wanted to go. We all thought Tibet would be an awesome place to visit, however over the summer the Chinese government imposed a complete ban on travel to Tibet (if you don’t know Tibet and China have some pretty strained relations and this flux of allowing travel and not allowing it is a fairly common game they play). The travel ban has lifted though however now Americans can only visit if they have an invite from someone living there and the purpose of the travel is approved by the government. Sadly, we have neither of those things so Tibet is out. Our next thought was lets go to Shanghai, well it turns out Shanghai is ridiculously expensive and takes forever to get to by train, so that got crossed off the list. Then we batted around the idea of the Gobi desert. It sounded super cool, and kids on the program had gone in the past. But we had no idea how to go about setting up something like that and on such short notice. Back to the drawing board, we finally all agreed that Guilin would be beautiful to see (if you’ve ever seen pictures of China with huge mountains rising up out of lakes and rivers then I’m willing to bet you saw a pic of Guilin). However we once again ran into problems the main one being that it was a 20 hour train ride there and all of the hostels in the area were already booked. I guess we probably should have figured this out more than ten days before the start of the holiday. Oh well. As we were resigning ourselves to spending the week bumming around Chongqing Luke mentioned that on the flight over the guy he talked to on the plane (a Beijing native) recommended he check out a place called Jiuzhaigou. None of us had heard of it but after a quick Google search, we were sold. It’s an absolutely beautiful national park that is filled with pristine turquoise lakes, beautiful forests and breathtaking views (Seriously, when you’re done reading this, or even right now, Google it and see it for yourself. The leaves are beginning to change right now so the pictures of the lakes with all the trees changing that come up on Google are what we were told to expect when we arrive). It has quaint Tibetan towns around it and plenty of hostels. It should be an awesome adventure. The one stumbling point we had on if we really wanted to go was the fact that we had to take a train to Chengdu and then take a 10 hour bus ride one way to get there. Oh well, we decided it would be a good story to tell. So by the end of the night Sarita, Luke, Bert, Guy, Dan, Axel, and I had decided that we will be spending our National Holiday in Jiuzhaigou valley. We made plans to go get our train tickets the next day (you unfortunately can’t buy your tickets online and have to go to a station to buy them) and thought that the hardest part was over. We were so wrong…
Wednesday (September 21) I had calligraphy in the morning. Everyone that is going on holiday together has that class too, so we all agreed to go get our tickets together after class. Sarita’s language partner (Sally, the one who we celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival with) came with us because she knew where we could buy them and she offered to help translate for us. The ticket station is about a twenty minute walk from campus so we got there around 12:30. When we got there we were pretty disheartened, the line already stretched about thirty yards back from the window. But oh well we thought, we didn’t have class again until 2:30, we’d be done by then. After about 20 minutes of standing in line we were informed that the ticket window doesn’t even start selling tickets to Chengdu until 2:30, people were just already lining up in anticipation. Well this is problematic, we all have Study Abroad Seminar (hence forth referred to as SAS) at 2:30 and we knew Sam (our professor) would not like if we all skipped to get tickets. We just agreed to come back after class and try to buy tickets then. The one plus of going down over lunch though was that we found a really good Baozi restaurant. However it is also home to a less than friendly cat that did not like Dan and me. After lunch we headed back to class. For SAS we each have a One Question assignment. The point of the assignment is that we choose a question and then spend all semester trying to find out the answer and more importantly why the answer is what it is, for example what cultural values play a role, what is the history of the issue etc. We’ve run into issue with these questions because Sam did not get clearance from the Waiban office for this project and they are concerned because many of our questions brooch on topics the government does not want Chinese and much less Westerners to explore too deeply. Anyways we each have to give a presentation to the class about what we learned about our topics over the summer and how we were going about our research of the question here. Kia had to present during Wed’s class. That took up most of the time and then we were done. The boys had to teach English at the high school (most of our study abroad group, myself included, is now employed as English teachers at a local middle and high school that preps students for college in the United States) so it was just Sarita, Sally and I that went back to try to get tickets for the group. We got there at 5 o’clock and the line was now close to 100 yards long. Sally told us that it closes at 7 for the night. We got in line and assumed that while it would be awhile, we would still be able to get them by 7. I mean how long can it take to buy a ticket, you tell the person where you’re going, what time, you give them money, they hand you the ticket, short and simple end of story. Well not in China. After two hours of waiting we hadn’t even got half way to the window. We decided to give up and Sarita agreed to come the next day at 12 and she would wait until they went on sale at 2:30 because unlike the rest of us she doesn’t have Ethnology. As we were leaving we heard a collective moan from the line. Apparently the computer system had crashed and no one would be getting tickets. Yep, only in China would there be no backup system. We spent the night trying to warm up (I think I failed to mention that the whole day it was raining) and working on projects. Luke and I are presenting our one question projects together because they both deal with education. Luke’s is on how the China education system works on the whole and mine is how classes are taught in China (I never would have thought that such a simple question could have so many layers, it’s really fascinating and makes me so thankful for how classes are taught at CSBSJU). We were next on the schedule to present so we had a ton of work to get done.
Thursday (September 22) Sarita and I have Chinese class in the morning. Chinese is getting better with each class. Our pronunciation is improving and we’ve progressed to actual words. It really is crazy trying to learn Chinese though because it requires learning two new languages. Not only are we learning pinyin which is what everything means and how to say it, but we are also learning characters and radicals so that we can actually read and write. It’s a lot of work but being here makes it so much easier. After Chinese I went with Sarita to the ticket window to stake out a spot in line with her. It was raining (it does a lot here, but it’s still better than Minnesota snow so no complaints). We were even farther back than the day before. While I held our place in line, Sarita went to get us some Baozi “dao bao” (that means to go in Chinese, we’re all very good with our restaurant vocab). After like an hour of standing in line Guy came to join us. He was going to stay with Sarita when I had to leave to go to class. I left around 2:00 to make it back for class and at that point the line had moved maybe 20 yards. After class though, we all had texts from Sarita saying that she had gotten our tickets. YAY!!!
Friday (September 23) we had Chinese again. Friday afternoons we have SAS again. Instead of class, we visited the college art studios. It was really interesting seeing some of their art work. I am in love with one student’s work. He focuses on the contrast between city life and country life and the pull it has on the youth. They’re all done as forest scenes though with city lights shining in the background. He uses primarily browns, whites, greens, blues, and purples. I’m not doing his work any justice with this explanation but it was truly amazing. However, the tour was never ending. What was supposed to be a brief hour tour, turned out to be almost 3 hours. We were all more than ready to be done by the end. However we then had to deal with the simple task of taking pictures for new ISIC cards (the one’s the OEA gave us are not accepted in China) becoming quite the ordeal. Sam had told us to go to the photo studio, give them 5 yuan and they would take our pics end of story. Not the case. We show up to take the pictures; they won’t let us without our professor present. We eventually convince them to take our pictures without Sam there. They’re not 5 yuan though, not they’re 10. Then we’re told that the Waiban isn’t sure if we need them or not, they’re not sure what we would use them for. It was just a mess. After all was said and done, we took our pictures and were free for the weekend. Luke, Sarita, and I went to Korean for dinner. That night we went out with Guy, Bert, and Dan and some of the other international students studying at SWU. It was a fun night but we were all pretty tired from the week and turned in early.
Saturday we spent the morning doing homework. Luke and I were still struggling with what exactly to present for our one question projects and how to merge our presentations and discussions in the most optimal fashion. That night we hung out at the International Student Dorms with some of our other friends. It has been an awesome experience getting to know not just a new group of Bennies and Johnnies but also kids from all over the world. I really wish there had been room for us in the International Dorms with all of them, but at least we’ve still gotten to know quite a few of them. We usually hang out as a group on the weekends. We are the shortest term students studying here we found out. Everyone else is here for at least a year, many of them for longer. It would be awesome if we could be here for a year too. We would learn so much more and I can only imagine how far we could get in Chinese with a whole year in this setting.
Sunday was spent continuing to climb the Everest of homework. By the end of the day Luke and I were pretty successfully sifted through the vast amounts of information we had collected over the summer, the bits of research we had conducted here through interviews, and had merged our presentations pretty well.
Monday (September 25) we had Chinese class. Our class started with a rude wakeup call when every student failed our dictation. Our teacher was less than pleased and told us we were too American. We spent our weekends having fun and not studying like we should. Sorry Laoshi. We got better as the class went on. After lunch we finally got to have our first Kung Fu class. It was fun! Our teacher is a student here. He is amazing to watch. We started with more Tai Ji like what we had learned in Beijing. Then we progressed into more of a Kung Fu style. We will all definitely be skilled at self-defense when we return. After class Sarita and I went to the student gym in the basement of the Foreign Students dorm. It’s not much and makes even the O’G weight room look high tech and clean but it has some treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes, so I’m content with it. It’s also been a good way to meet people.
Tuesday I didn’t do much in the morning. That afternoon we had ethnology. I’m really enjoying that class. Chinese history is fascinating and Wang Laoshi makes it relatable to us. That night we went out with one of the Chinese students we met here. Her English name is Sally and she is so cute. Her father is an interpreter we think for the government so she has been exposed to English her whole life and speaks it super well. He friend came with us as well. We had a nice dinner and then spent a few hours just talking about what life was like for them in China and what life was like for us in the US. They also gave us Chinese names. My Chinese name is Ya Lan (it means Noble Lotus and apparently is a royal name in Chinese). Oh side note, my last name in Chinese is ma, it means horse. Bert has the same last name so we just tell everyone we’re siblings. A couple of people actually believed us. It was a fun night getting to know more about life here.
Wednesday (September 28) we had Calligraphy. Our poor teacher, he tries so hard to teach us proper form and technique. However, it’s just so awkward for us. We all want to hold the brushes like pencils. Maybe we’ll improve as the semester goes on. We’ve begun working on the Li Shu. I’m not a huge fan because I haven’t mastered the Bird Tail stroke yet which is in every single character. Needless to say if I can’t do that stroke it’s proving problematic. After lunch we had SAS. Luke and I presented our topics and had a really good discussion with the class. They helped us see some more angles and get more perspectives on the issue. That night Luke, Cindy, Sarita, Deanna, Dan, Axel, Bert and I went out for a group dinner to the guy that love’s us restaurant. Obviously that’s not its actual name but the owner is so nice to us. He makes us whatever we want even if it’s not on the menu, he put up a campus map on the wall of the resturaunt when he found out we went to SWU, and as Sarita put it “is like our Chinese dad.” We try to go there at least every other day. The food is excellent so that’s not too big of a burden.
Thursday (today) has been pretty chill. We had Chinese this morning. Sarita and I rocked the dictation, so yay us. Also, we’ve begun to know enough characters to read short passages which, is really exciting. Yeah I’m a nerd for being excited that I can read Chinese but oh well. This afternoon we had ethnology. Tonight Sarita, Luke, Axel and I went out for dinner at a restaurant we hadn’t tried before. It was fairly good, we’ll likely be back. After that we went shopping for some snacks for our bus ride over National Holiday.
So that’s the week that’s a blur. I guess once I started writing it wasn’t so much of a blur. I’ll be gone for the next week with no computer but when I get back I should have a pretty epic story to tell. Fingers crossed it all goes well for us, a few prayers probably wouldn’t hurt.
Love and miss you all,
Rachel

Posted by remullin 07:45 Archived in China Comments (1)

Halfway Around the World, but not so Different After All

Week 2 in Beibei

On Monday (September 12) we didn’t have any classes because it was the Mid-Autumn Festival. We didn’t really know anything about the festival but were happy for another day off. We spent the morning working on more homework (it seems to be a never ending battle to stay on top of, but I guess that would be the case back home on campus too). That afternoon Sarita’s language partner, Sally, invited her and me to come celebrate the festival with her and her roommates. We weren’t sure what to expect but agreed to go and were excited. Sally met us at our dorms and walked us across campus back her dorm. It’s about a twenty five minute walk from our side of campus to where the rest of the student body lives. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Chinese dorms. I had heard they were overcrowded but when we had seen them from the outside they looked okay, if a little drab. Upon seeing the inside of the dorms and how the students lived, I will never again complain about a dorm room at CSB. Six people live in a room that is smaller than my dorm room in Corona. They have bunk beds lined against the walls, a line of tables through the middle that serve as their desks, two locker set ups with three lockers in each that serve as their closets and then an open door way area that leads to their bathroom which is a squat toilet with no hot water. They don’t even have glass in their windows to protect them from the elements. All of their belongings, such as books, lap tops, school supplies, are crammed into their bunks with them. It was an eye opening experience to see how they were lived. At Sally’s dorm we met three of her roommates and then went to the Canteen for dinner. After dinner (Sarita and I managed to find a suitable substitute for pizza which consisted of pizza crust with hot pepper sauce and then more hot pepper chunks on top) we went to walk around campus. The point of Mid-Autumn festival they told us is to celebrate the harvest by spending time with family and friends. Many students go home for the holiday, but those that live too far away or can’t afford it stay. It was really nice of them to invite us to join. We walked around Playground 3 for about an hour. As we were walking Sally told us that Mid-Autumn Festival is also a time for couples to spend together. This triggered Sarita to mention to Sally and her roommates that I was single and that they should look for a nice Chinese boy for me. It made everyone laugh. They spent the rest of the walk jokingly pointing out potential candidates. It was a funny experience but also showed many of the similarities between their college experience and ours. Girls hanging out, talking about boys, and joking with each other is universal, no matter where you go. After the walk we went back to their dorm to have some of the traditional foods of the festival. Everything one eats on Mid-Autumn Festival is supposed to be round. The favorite across China is moon cakes filled with a variety of fillings. Sally gave us moon cakes filled with things like, fruit, meat, bean paste, and nuts. The fruit ones were very good, the rest I graciously ate but did not take seconds when they were offered. It was a fun time sitting in her dorm and seeing how all the girls interact together. It reminded me a lot of Corona last year. The doors were all open, people walked from room to room just talking and laughing with each other, music was playing. It was just all around a good time. Around 10 we headed back to our dorms.

Tuesday morning Sarita and Cindy had Chinese Literature, since I’m not taking that class I had the morning to myself. I went out into BeiBei for a bit and just observed the morning rituals: businesses opening up, kids going to school, the usual sights and sounds of a city waking up. I got breakfast at the local bakery and spent the morning skyping people at home and doing some reading. Tuesday afternoons Cindy and I have Chinese Ethnology. Our professor is very nice, but we spend most of class listening to him talk about power point slides and taking notes. After class, most of the group went out to dinner and then we just had a chill night in.

Wednesday mornings Sarita and I have Calligraphy. Class was a lot of fun because we actually got to start practicing calligraphy instead of just taking notes about the types and its history. There are five styles of Chinese Calligraphy: Zhuan shu (Seal style), Li shu (clerical style), Cau Shu (Running Style), Xing shu (Walking Style), and Kai Shu (standard style). We started learning Zhuan shu. It looks really cool and we had a lot of fun. In the afternoons on Wednesday the entire study abroad group has our study abroad seminar with Sam. Wednesday’s class was torture to sit through. Sam talked for an hour and forty minutes straight about the importance of understanding other cultures, immersing oneself in the foreign culture, and not being ethnocentric. As we all one by one began to fall asleep he finally gave us the respite of a ten minutes break. After our short break we continued the lecture on culture. We could not have been happier when the 2.5 hours to come to an end and we were done for the day.

Thursday we had Chinese class. Our Chinese classes are good, but they will be a challenge I suspect. We started class with a dictation test of the 56 initial and final sounds of the pinyin system. We think that we will have some kind of test ever class period. After the test, we spent more time working on pinyin and understanding tones. While these tools are obviously necessary if we are ever going to be able to speak Chinese, the class is growing impatient. We want to begin to actually learn words and characters. Thursday afternoon we had Ethnology. After class we all went out to eat and then went back to our dorm. For some reason on Thursday the homesickness really set in. I think it was just that I was feeling really tired, I had skyped campus and while it had made me really happy to see and hear about home, it also made me slightly sad. But for whatever the reasons, Thursday night I was feeling kind of down. But it surprisingly didn’t last very long. Chris and Luke came over to our room and the group of us (Cindy, Sarita, Luke, Chris and I) just had a really good, chill night. We sat around working on our homework, talking about life, class, joking and just being college kids. It was one of the first times that life felt really normal here. It was a scene that could have taken place on any college campus around the world. It no longer mattered that we were 10,000 miles from home; we stuck out like sore thumbs every time we walked outside, or that we never knew what people were saying to us. We were just friends, hanging out in a dorm room working on our homework. It was a really nice feeling to have.

Friday we again had Chinese class. It was fine. We are progressing to two syllable combinations of sounds. Yeah, that’s how good we’ve gotten in three weeks here. After Chinese we had the rest of the day free. Normally we would have Sam’s class in the afternoon but since we were going on a class field trip to Chongqing the next day he let us have class off. As Sarita and I were walking back from lunch we met two girls from Tibet named Sophie and Sol (those are their English names). They are English majors and wanted to know if we could get together with them for dinner sometime to work on their English with them. We told them we were free that night and that we had some more people in our group who would like to meet them and would be interested in helping them. We spent the rest of the afternoon napping. That night Sarita, Dan, Zach, and I met up with the Tibetan girls. They were very excited to get to practice their English and were a lot of fun to talk to. They also were quite happy that we had heard of Tibet, thought well of it, and had an interest in visiting. Most people they meet are not fans of Tibet they said. We went to one of our usual local restaurants for dinner. It was good, but we felt very bad because when we went to pay the owner told us that Sophie and Sol had already taken care of the bill. Despite our attempts to pay them for our share, they were adamant that it was their treat. We in turn bought them each a Bubble Tea and promised to take them out to dinner next time. The group of us went back to our dorm and met up with Bert and Guy. From there we all decided that since it was so hot we should go swimming. Sam had told us the campus pool’s hours were 3-5 in the afternoon and then 7-11. It was about 8:15 so we figured we would be good. The pool is half way across campus so it takes about 30 minutes to get there. However once we arrive we are informed that the pool actually closes at 9. However, since there had been no one there they closed at 8:40 that night. Bummer. We ended up just sitting in one of the campus parks and talking to Sophie and Sol about their experiences and then walking back and going to bed. Oh I forgot to mention that this whole day we had no water in our dorm building. It was shut off for repairs. So it was a miserable day not being able to shower, wash our hands, or use our bathroom. Luckily, we were only without water for day, apparently other dorms had it much worse.

Saturday morning we had our field trip to Chongqing. We had to board the bus at 8:30 am. It was a little earlier than most of the group would have liked but overall we were in good spirits. We were to spend the day in downtown Chongqing which, even though BeiBei is technically part of Chongqing, is about a 50 minute drive. Our Waiban director, Chuck Lee (he chose his name because he loves the director of Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorry), was our guide. Our first stop was the old port of Chongqing which has been turned into a kind of traditional touristy market place. It had tons of knickknack shops and things like that. We were supposed to have a guided tour of it by Chuck’s assistant Zoey. Unfortunately though, Dan, Sarita, Kia, Cindy, and I stopped to look at what a vendor was making and by the time we looked up we had lost the group. They had told us before the tour though that it was okay if we dispersed on our own so we decided to be our own guides to the district. We had a good time exploring the shops and after a while left the more touristy section for the more residential area. It was cool to just walk along the river and see people tending their gardens, doing their daily chores, things like that. We even found an old Buddhist shrine where a few people were making their sacrifices. We met back up with the group in a coffee shop and headed to the next cite. From the market we went to lunch and then went to one of the “wonders” of Chongqing. It is a mountain that had a series of houses and shops built into it. It was kind of cool, but again very tourist centered. We were over seeing the tourist stuff, we had hoped this outing would allow us to see the true Chinese Chongqing. We went through the motions of looking at each level but then just ended up sitting in the Subway on the top floor, eating DQ blizzards, and looking at the view of the city our vantage afforded us for about an hour. From the mountain house thing, we went to what is considered the Times Square of Chongqing. It is also the upscale shopping center of the town. We spent some time window shopping at Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and a bunch of others. They gave us two hours though to look around because we were ahead of schedule and it was far too much time. Most of the group congregated at the memorial in the center of the square and people watched for about an hour. After that we went to see where the Yangtze River and the Yellow River merged. It was cool knowing that the two most important rivers in China met there, but to be honest we couldn’t tell the difference between them. They were both just brown sludgy messes that looked and smelled less than appealing. From the rivers we went to dinner. A bunch of the group was craving Western food so Chuck decided to take us to McDonald’s (definitely not my favorite, but I was a good sport). It was fine, but certainly nothing special. I think it took care of my McDonald’s fix for the next ten years. After dinner, we had one last stop. By this point we all just wanted to go home. It had been an extremely tiring day. The temperature was close to 100 the whole day, we had walked everywhere, and we felt like we were doing things just to say we had done them, not because they meant anything. However, the last stop was certainly worth all the frustration. They took us across the river from the heart of Chongqing just as night fell. We were dropped off directly across from the financial center and the sky line at night was breathtaking. All of the buildings had some sort of light show. It was breathtaking. The group agreed that we wish we could spend a few hours there, but of course not. We only had ten minutes before we had to get back on the bus. From there we finally headed home. We got back around 9:30. We had been together for 13 hours straight. We were all ready to go back to our rooms and get some sleep.

Today, (Sunday September 18) we have barely left our dorm room. All day has been spent working on homework, specifically our Visual Journals and our One Question Projects. The Visual Journals will be a really nice record of our trip when we return home and I’m glad we are doing them. However, they take an absurd amount of time compared to normal assignments. As for our One Question Projects, we are all rather frustrated. Sam did not tell the Waiban we would be working on research here and many of our topics brush upon issues the government would prefer us not to question. Therefore, we know have to restructure our questions in order to get governmental clearance. This restructuring is causing us to have to find different research than that which we brought to China with us. It’s been a long day on the computer. Cindy and I went out for lunch then came back to keep working. Around 4 Luke came over because he and I have similar question projects so we wanted to talk about what we’ve found. At 6, he, Cindy, Sarita, Axel and I were going crazy from being inside and went for dinner. We went to a Korean restaurant that the girls had not tried but the boys loved. It was so good!! We will definitely be usual customers. After dinner, Cindy and I got some Bubble Tea and the whole group headed home to continue the struggle with our homework. As of now, we’re all still chugging along at it.

Love and miss you all,
Rachel

P.S. I tried to upload some pictures of the group and Beibei and such but they won’t upload. Sorry, I’ll see what I can do, but it may be that you can’t see any of the things I’m talking about until I get home

Posted by remullin 05:06 Archived in China Comments (2)

BeiBei

So this is home?

We have now been in Beibei for about a week. This entry will kind of be a condensed play by play of what has happened. After this though, I’m not sure if I will continue to keep the blog a narrative of my trip or if I will instead just focus on certain aspects of my experiences in China and write about those. We will see. It also just depends on if enough things happen to make it a worthwhile narrative.
We arrived in Beibei a district of Chongqing on Monday, September 5th around 3. From the Chongqing airport it was about an hour drive to Southwest University, our new home. The drive was miserable. The air conditioner started blowing out hot air about ten minutes into the drive and given that it was over 100 degrees that was a problem. Worse though, our professor’s son Jessie, who is 2 soon to turn 3, screamed the entire way. At one point our bus driver pulled over on the side of the road and ordered Sam (our professor) to have Jessie ride in the second car that was carrying our luggage and a few of the Waiban staff. After that drive we didn’t care one bit where the bus dropped is off; we just wanted out. When we arrived at the University we were told that the dorms we were supposed to be living in were not ready due to construction delays. The usual international student dorms were also already booked. So for the semester we are calling The Wisteria Hotel home. It is actually not nearly as bad as we were first expecting when we were told we were living in a hotel. Cindy, Sarita and I are living in a triple room. We have our own bathroom with a real tub (that’s a big deal because we haven’t had one since we got here), a sitting room/TV room area with a couch, a few arm chairs, a TV, a couple desks, and a makeup vanity, and then a separate bedroom with two beds. Cindy and I are sharing the bedroom. Sarita’s bed is in the lounge room but it was behind a wall partition so she kind of has her own space too. The flaw of the room though is that it has like zero storage space and with three girls’ stuff that is problematic. Oh well, we’ll make due. It is nice to finally have a place to call home. After getting our rooms we had one last group lunch/dinner together and then we were kind of on our own. We spent the night setting up our room and going to the grocery store to get some food and just the basic necessities for apartment living.
Tuesday we had orientation. The day started off poorly and it just went downhill from there. We had our tour of campus at 9:30 so our room decided to get up early and go get breakfast before. We struck out from our dorm and headed right, poor life choice. Turns out there is nothing food wise within a twenty minute walk that direction. We eventually looked pitiful enough that two nice Chinese students who spoke some English took pity on us and paid for us to eat at the local canteen with them. We can’t eat at the canteen on our own because even though we are enrolled here for a semester, Southwest is not going to give us student ID’s. We ate a breakfast of cold fried eggs, warm soy milk, and slimy baozi. We had to almost run back to the dorms to make it in time for the tour. We then boarded open air trollies for an hour long tour of Southwest, did I mention that it was close to 90 degrees already. The tour was good, but the campus was so huge and everything looked the same so we didn’t learn to much from it. One fun aspect was that all the freshmen were having morning drills for their compulsory military participation. We had fun watching all of the Chinese boys do double takes and waving at us. We got one squadron in trouble though because we waved to them and they fell out of step rushing to wave back. We felt bad that they got yelled at for it. After the tour and a group picture with Chairman Mao’s statue, we returned to the hotel, sweaty and gross. Sam then informed us that we had ten minutes to change into formal attire and report back downstairs for our formal welcome ceremony. After a hurried rush to look presentable for the Waiban, all of our professors and a collaboration of students to welcome us, we went to the Waiban office for the ceremony. The ceremony was surprisingly politicized. Although I guess we should have expected it at least a little. But everything was placed not in the context of us as individuals or as a group or even as CSBSJU students, but rather in the context of we were America and they were China. The point of this experience was for us to foster better relations and to learn from the “greatness of the two nations”, woah that’s kind of big burden to place on a group of 19-22 year olds from small town Minnesota. We were also given warnings that in no way were we to join any political protests or movements, to openly advocate for reform or increased social services for the Chinese people or to look for any jobs teaching about America. If we were to break any of these rules we risked the chance of being sent home. After the ceremony, we were given our language partners. I didn’t get one though because apparently mine didn’t show up. (As on now, it’s been six days and I still don’t have one, but Sam and our Waiban director are looking into it and I’m not that concerned I’ve met enough Chinese students who have been very helpful and Sarita’s, Cindy’s and Bert’s partners have all adopted me as theirs as well.) After the ceremony, Cindy and Sarita’s partners took us to get cell phones. On the way over we discussed their plans after graduation and they asked what we planned to do. As soon as I said I was a political science major and I wanted to work for the government someday Cindy’s language partner got a little sketched out. Note to self, just tell any Chinese person who asks that I’m a history major who plans on becoming a teacher, it causes much less awkwardness. We got cell phones (which look like they’re straight out of 1993 and we overpaid a ridiculous amount) and then went for lunch. After that we went back to our dorms and enjoyed the air conditioning for a few hours. Later that afternoon we went back to the Waiban to get clearance for internet usage and to pay for it. Getting internet access was a nightmare. 8 out of the 30 computers in the lab we were using worked, we had to give the school our passport numbers and copies of visas, then trek across campus (did I mention that the campus takes fifty minutes one way to walk across) in the heat to get them both verifies, then go back to the lab and finish the process. The whole group was in less than fabulous moods by the time we were done. But finally being able to access e-mail and internet and hear from home was a great mood booster. That night we had a welcome banquet at the local Hot Pot restaurant. The food was great and definitely helped to make up for the day from hell. After the banquet we sang some karaoke and called it a night since we had classes the next day.
Wednesday (September 7) was our first day of class. We had calligraphy in the morning. The class seems like it will be a lot of fun. We have a young teacher who is very enthusiastic about his subject. He is also very encouraging and seems like he will understand with our less than splendid knowledge of Chinese characters. After class we had a break for lunch and found a great place for fried jiaozi. Our afternoon class on Wednesday’s is Sam’s study abroad seminar. We just used it as a touch base lesson to see how everyone was feeling, discuss how the adjustment process was going, and to go over our assignments for the rest of our semester. We also got our scavenger hunt assignment. For the assignment we have to go all over campus and Beibei finding places that will be important to know over the semester, like shopping centers, restaurants, and people that can help us and taking pictures to prove we were there. It’s 17 pages worth of places and we have less than a week to complete it, so it’s going to be a struggle. We’re divided into teams. Luke and I are partners and said we’ll give it a go, but if we don’t do them all we’ll survive. After classes we just had a chill night in.
Thursday we had our first Chinese class. Our professor is an adorable older lady. She spent the first class teaching us phrases that would come in handy, like how to direct the trollies and taxis how to get us to our dorms and how to order food. After lunch break we had our first China ethnology course. It’s basically a history and culture course that covers how the history of China shapes how China views itself today. Our prof is awesome!! He spent a year studying at Georgetown and said that the year greatly changed him. It made him very willing to openly and frankly discuss things with us and he’s says no question is off limits in his class. I’m excited for this semester with him. I feel like I’m going to learn a lot from him. Our groups favorite quote from him thus far is when he said “I know my government blocks facebook but I have an account, I’ll add you all.” The irony made us laugh.
Friday was had Chinese again. I should probably mention that classes here are intense. Each class session last a little over 2.5 hours and we have two class sessions each day. It’s a big adjustment after being used to having less 3 hours of class a day back home. For this Chinese class we focused on learning to pronounce the pinyin characters. It was a struggle, three hours of shaping our mouths into new positions and trying to get the vibrations right was less than fun. Everyone’s cheeks were really sore by the end. After class, Sarita, Deanna and I went to lunch on our own. It was the first time we had to order for ourselves without having someone who knew at least a little bit of Chinese with us. But we managed to order what we wanted all by ourselves and we were pretty proud. Friday afternoons we’re supposed to have study abroad seminar, but Sam had personal meetings with us instead throughout the afternoon so it was cancelled. That night a group of us decided to go exploring the city and get some of the scavenger hunt tasks done. It ended up being a really fun night and we find some cool places in Beibei.
Saturday we had a really chill day. Our room slept in which was nice because it had been one of the first days all trip that we could. We met up with Bert and Guy and went to find the “Noodle Guy” for lunch. The “Noodle Guy” was one of the favorites of last year’s class and they said it was a must, plus it got us more points for the scavenger hunt. The food was really good and pretty cheap. We’ll definitely be frequenting it regularly. After that we went back to the dorms, did some homework, and took naps. Sounds almost like a typical Saturday afternoon at CSBSJU. That night we (Sarita, Cindy, and I) went out to dinner with Luke, Bert, Guy, and Dan. We went to one of our favorite hole in the wall restaurants. The food is pretty good, but the reason we love it is because of the owner. He is always so nice to us, speaks slowly so we can practice our Chinese with him, has patience with us, and is always so happy when we stop in. After dinner we met some other exchange students from Africa, Russia, India and the US. We spent the night exploring Beibei with them. It was a great time.
Today (Sunday September 11), we haven’t done too much. We went to lunch with Luke and Chris and Axele and then went to find the river in downtown Beibei. It was a way longer walk than we were expecting and the river was not really worth the effort. It was a dirty brown and pretty uninteresting. The boys stayed to explore a bit, but we headed back. It is really hot today so we are just spending the afternoon inside catching up on stuff, blog writing in my case. We’re going to do a group dinner tonight and then we don’t have classes tomorrow due to the mid-autumn festival so we might find some stuff to do tonight, we will see.
Love and Miss you all,
Rachel

Posted by remullin 02:02 Archived in China Comments (0)

Xi'an

Definitely could have done without

We arrived in Xi’an (pronounced shi’an) by train around 9 in the morning on Saturday September 9. After a fairly easy departure from the train, we stepped outside and just about gagged. The air quality was so bad. It reeked of urine, we couldn’t see the sky it was just grey clouds of smog, and it felt like we could chew the air it was so thick. It was not a good way to start the experience and too be honest it didn’t get a whole lot better from there. We met up with our guide Dong. He was really nice and knowledgeable but throughout our whole time there he gave off kind of sketchy vibe. He had us load all of our luggage into a really shady van with a driver who spoke no English. When we walked away from our bags we were pretty certain we were never going to see them again. Then after a fifteen minute walk during which we could barely breathe we boarded our bus and headed to the hotel. Our hotel was so nice. After that we were supposed to go to the Old City Wall but it was raining too much (another strike against Xi’an) so we headed to the Big Goose Pagoda (nice name right). It was built to house all of the original Buddhist sand scrolls that were brought over from India. It was a worthwhile stop. After that we went to the Xi’an history museum. Not a worthwhile stop. It may have been interesting if we had spoken Chinese so that we could read all the information about the artifacts, but since we couldn’t it was kind of a waste. We saw some interesting pots and statues of horses. After far too long at the museum we finally got to go to the Old City Wall. We rented bikes along the top of the wall and got to ride bikes all along the wall. Cindy and I opted for a tandem bike. It was a bit of a struggle but we eventually figured it out and had a blast. It was certainly the highlight of Xi’an! For dinner we went to the Muslim district and had a great dinner of jiaozi and other Muslim dishes.
Sunday morning, September 10, we had breakfast at the hotel and then set off for the Terracotta Warriors. It was an hour drive from our hotel in the inner circle of the city. I was really excited to see the warriors. They’re considered to be the new 8th wonder of the world. Sadly they were a letdown. The first pit was cool; it was just hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers lined up. Each soldier was completely unique and over 2000 years old. It also had a bunch of the life size horse sculptures. They were my favorite. The second and third pits were not nearly as cool. The second pit contained maybe 20 soldiers and four horses along with a bunch of ruins. The third pit was completely lacking any complete figures, it was all ruins. We also had a really bad lunch while there. After three hours of being there we were all ready to go. From the Terracotta warriors we went to the old hot springs of the Chinese emperors. The hot springs were cool. We got to wash off in the springs and got some sweet pictures. We also got to see Chaing Kaishek’s (spelling?) house and the bullet holes from one of his attempted assassinations. The mood of the group came crashing down though when Chris got into a confrontation with an old lady. The confrontation was entirely not his fault. Chris knocked down thermos that she placed next to him. He quickly picked it up and nothing was spilled. The lady then freaked out in Chinese at Chris. He apologized and tried to walk away. She then grabbed onto his $1200 dollar camera and tried to tug it out of his hands. She would not let go until Chris paid her 20 yuan. It was just a very shameful display of trying to manipulate foreigners into paying money. After the hot springs we went back to the hotel. That night Dong took us to a horrible buffet. The food was cold and the only thing we found to eat was soup. At the time the soup was fine, but it made us all sick the next morning.
The next morning we left Xi’an and flew to BeiBei. Finally we get to go to what will be “home”. Next time you hear from me hopefully classes will have started and all will be well.
Love you all,
Rachel

Posted by remullin 05:46 Archived in China Comments (1)

Life in Beijing

So our time in Beijing (August 27th through September 2) has been a whirlwind of activity. This blog entry is more for me to just get everything out so while I still remember than to focus on writing it so that others can understand. Hence, my apologies if this sounds like a garble of stream of consciousness, but hey you do hold the power to simply stop reading if you get too annoyed.

We flew in late Friday night and by the time we got to the hotel and everything it was Saturday morning. After not nearly enough hours of sleep and a momentary sense of get me out of here when I wasn’t even capable of figuring out the lighting, we had breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel which looked over the Forbidden City. We began experimenting with the new tastes of China, Deanna tried tripe unknowingly and I took the somewhat less adventurous route of trying my first true Chinese dumpling and a glass of neon green juice which they told us was supposed to be apple, both turned out to be very good. After breakfast we transferred from the hotel to dorms at Beijing Language and Culture University. Apparently we’re very lucky to get to study here, it’s considered the best language school in China and one of the best in Asia. Our classroom is on the fifth floor and the steps to get there make climbing the Quad look like nothing. We were surprised by how rundown the classrooms are for such a prestigious university, but we didn’t want to bring it up for fear of insulting our hosts. We had Mandarin class Saturday morning from 9 to 11. Our teacher is very nice but very challenging. She won’t accept anything less than perfect even if it means we spend ten minutes repeating the same sounds. We also cover a lot of information very quickly, in our first class we covered not only the entire Chinese alphabet and how to pronounce all the pinyin but also we were already expected to be speaking in sentences and be able to read sentences when presented just with the characters. It was a struggle, but a good one. After class we had lunch in the cafeteria. Our guide for Beijing, Andy (he’s absolutely adorable and we all love him and wish he was with us the whole trip), is in charge of ordering all our food. He does a great job and we’ve gotten to try a lot of amazing dishes, but he always orders far more than the group can eat, even with 8 college guys trying. So we’re feeling rather guilty about the amount of food that goes to waste on our account. The cafeteria food for lunch definitely puts Gorecki to shame (breakfast is another story but we’ll get to that in a bit). After that we went to Tiananmen Square. We saw Mao’s memorial, the People’s memorial, and the national museum. It was crazy how massive it all was. It can hold over half a million people with no problems. We found it interesting though that during all the explanations we were given of why it was famous, the Tiananmen Square massacre was never mentioned, although we didn’t really expect it to be. We also had our first, but definitely not our last, experience of being far more interesting to the Chinese than the places themselves. Countless people came up to us and asked if they could take pictures with us. Sarita, Guy, and I are apparently the most interesting to the Chinese but found it startling when out of nowhere people would come link arms with us and start snapping pics. From Tiananmen we went to the Forbidden City. It was really cool and we got some sweet pictures, but our jetlag and lack of sleep definitely set in and we were ready to be done. Unfortunately, the forbidden city is massive and it took us close to two hours to finally get out of it. Then we got the joy of being told we were climbing Coal Hill, to give us an overview of the entire city. What they didn’t tell us about the China program was that it doubles as a workout camp and that we’re all going to come back with killer legs, particularly calves. The views at the top were nice though, hopefully pictures will be going up at some point. However, the smog in Beijing is terrible and hampers much of what can be seen. After Coal hill we went for a dinner of Peking duck and it was awesome!!! One of the best things I have ever eaten, if you come to China try it. Then we went back to our dorms and as pathetic as it sounds were asleep by 9 o’clock.

The next morning (Sunday) we were on our own for breakfast so a group of us decided to try the cafeteria again. Bad decision, it was a debacle. We went at 8 for breakfast and we don’t know if it was an off time or if the Chinese just aren’t into breakfast, but the offerings were slim. I went with a fried egg sandwich and what appeared to be a roll. Then when we went to pay we were told they wouldn’t accept our cash and we had to have student ID’s. Well you don’t get a student ID when you’re only here for a week. And it also doesn’t help that the cafeteria worker only spoke Chinese and we had only had one day of Mandarin so far. Eventually we figured out that we could rent ID cards but we had to out a balance on them. We dealt with the very crabby ID lady and the not much happier cafeteria worker and finally sat down to eat. However, the food was definitely lacking. My fried egg sandwich was cold and so salty that I drank almost an entire bottle of water after about three bites and my roll was like rubber, after two bites I gave up on it. Sadly, I was one of the lucky ones with my breakfast. Chris ended up with fermented tofu and fermented greens, Luke had cold chicken tenders, and Bert had a pickled boiled egg. Then when we tried to return out ID’s because we were definitely not eating breakfast there again, we weren’t allowed to and told to come back later. We headed off to class disappointed and still hungry. The second day of Mandarin was the worst. We were tired, crabby, and still jet lagged. I also felt totally clueless as what we had learned the day before was morphed into complex sentences and phrases, characters ran together and no matter how many times I tried, I could not, and still struggle to, perfect the tones for saying xie xie. It means thank you and is kind of important. After two hours of torture we had another lunch at the caf, it made up for breakfast and then headed to the Great Wall. As I sit here trying to type about the Great Wall I’m literally at a lack of words, it is simply indescribable. Nothing I can say can do it justice. It truly deserves to be one of the world’s greatest wonders. And I’ll put in an effort to describe it, but in all seriousness, I would tell everyone reading this to go to the wall if you ever get the chance. It is beyond worth it. No pictures or guide book descriptions can capture it well enough. And as the Chinese say, you haven’t been to China unless you’ve seen the Great Wall. The Great Wall was about an hour and half drive from our dorms. It was a good bonding experience for the group, we spent the time learning dirty Chinese phrases from Nolan’s Urban Outfitters’ guide book to China and just getting to know each other. When we got to the wall we took a sky lift type ride to the top. I liked it, but some of the group had issues with heights so it was not their favorite. Once at the top, we began to understand the sheer magnitude of it. It stretched off in both directions as far as the eye could see along the mountain summits. Andy (the guide in case you forgot) told us we had two hours to explore and then we had to get going. After spending a few minutes taking the cliché China program group picture, Chris, Axel, Luke and I decided that we were going to try to get to the farthest point visitors are allowed to go on the wall. It looked like a deceivingly short distance away and we set off. We were so wrong. When people talk about climbing the Great Wall, they actually mean it. Almost none of it is flat. It is requires going up and down stairs constantly. And the stairs are certainly not even, in places they’re maybe three inches higher than the previous but just as quickly you can be pulling yourself up a step that’s four feet tall. And everything is built at a slant, so even the flat part of the step isn’t flat. So after a very laborious battle with the wall, we made it to the end of the preserved wall. Then of course we decided that wasn’t good enough and decided to scale the walls of the guard tower so that we could sit on top of it. It was a definite struggle and if not for Axel’s help pulling me up at one point because I was way too short to reach the top I probably wouldn’t have made it, but the view was so worth it! After that we decided that since we’d already broken one law concerning the wall, let’s just break another. So we hiked off the path to where the wall had been allowed to deteriorate. Trees had begun to grow through and flower bushes were growing everywhere. We eventually stopped on top of the ruins of a guard station. The memory of looking out over the mountains and valleys and seeing the wall stretching out over the wilderness is a memory I will keep forever. After that we headed back to meet the rest of the group. To get down from the wall you have to take a toboggan ride down the mountain. It was so much fun! Sadly though, there were some slow people in front of us so we couldn’t go as fast as we would have liked. We then made the two hour trek back to campus. Around 10 we decided to go out as a group for our first experience of KTV or Chinese karaoke as we call it. As we were getting ready to go we met three girls from Japan who had studied abroad at CSB in the lobby and invited them to come with. The KTV was interesting. Each group is given a private room, so you’re not really performing in public. It was fun though and after a few hours of singing, which the boys turned out to be surprisingly good at, we called it a night.

Monday morning Cindy, Jake, Deanna and I went for breakfast at a local shop by our dorms. I was a little sketched out because I had been warned about avoiding street food until my stomach had adjusted, but decided to give it a chance. The food was amazing! We had jaouzi (dumplings) and baozi (steamed buns) which were delicious. It was really cheap too, 5 yuan (less than a $1) for about 10 dumplings. Then we had our last language class of the stay. It was definitely the best one and much less frustrating. The characters and the pinyin were beginning to make sense and I left class being really excited for our language classes at Southwest. After lunch at a restaurant on campus, we went to the Summer Palace. It was the emperor’s birthday gift to his mother and later became the primary residence of the dragon lady. It was quite impressive. It is the biggest site in Beijing and took quite a while to get through. The group has kind of reached the point of burn out on Chinese architecture. Every palace looks pretty much the same, but Andy tried to keep us interested and our spirits up. We then stopped at the Pearl Market, which is where all the brand name knock offs are sold. It was crazy inside. At one point Cindy, Sarita and I were all being grabbed by different sales women trying to get us to buy stuff. But it was a lot of fun, and most of the group made a few purchases. Thanks to Cindy my bargaining was much improved. After dinner we then attended a Peking Opera performance. It was . . . interesting I guess would be the best way to describe it. It was all in old school Chinese so even fluent speakers struggle to understand it. We were provided with an English spark notes version of the play, but the translation was poor and we didn’t really get it. However, the costumes were very pretty and it only lasted a little over an hour, so we managed.

Tuesday morning we went to the same breakfast place. It is so good, I’m going to be really sad if I can’t find a place similar in BeiBei for breakfasts. We then had Tai Ji class (we call it Tai Chi in the US). Our instructor spoke only limited English so Andy functioned as our interpreter. I really enjoyed Tai Ji, we learned the traditional poses and movements, but also how to use Tai Ji as self-defense. Our instructor was crazy good and a great teacher. I’m hoping to find someone in BeiBei to teach me a little more. After class and lunch we went to a traditional Hutong. A hutong is old school Beijing. It is basically a neighborhood that has preserved the traditional buildings and such of Beijing prior to industrialization and the Cultural Revolution. Most of the Hutongs have been torn down and those that are left are now protected by the government. We took rickshaw rides through the area to get a feel for it. The poverty in parts of the Hutong was heart breaking but was at least honest. Most of what we have seen in China thus far has been very touristy and it was good to be reminded of the China that most Chinese live in. After the Hutong we had dinner as a group at a pizza place. It wasn’t very good, but the group was happy to have a taste of home. After that Jake (Cindy’s boyfriend who spent a year studying in Beijing and worked here for the summer) took the girls out to see more of the Wudoako area where we were staying. Wudoako is the area of the city where all the major universities are located and there is always stuff going on. We walked through the mall to see what that was like. We also explored some of the street vendors. Cindy and Deanna bought some bootleg movies for 10 yuan. The he took us a too see another Hutong in the area. The poverty in this one was even more abundant and a startling contrast to its surroundings. From the streets of the Hutong you can see the Chinese Google’s headquarters skyscraper towering above.

Wednesday we had Chinese painting class. Out teacher spoke basically zero English so most of the teaching was done by mimicking her actions. Chinese painting was fun but a challenge. I epically failed at drawing cabbage but my birds and shrimp were quite good. Hopefully, the paintings I saved with make it through the rest of the trip intact and I can bring them home. After lunch we went to the Olympic Green. The Bird’s Nest and the Water were so impressive to see in real life. We each paid 75 yuan, about $12, to ride Segways around the Olympic track. It was an amazing feeling to stand and rce where Olypmic athletes competed. Plus the Segways were a blast. After the Bird’s Nest we went to the Water Cube. To our disappointment, the main competition pool where Michael Phelps had swum was drained and a stage was being built over it for some event. We were all sad about that. Wednesday was a struggle day for the group energy wise. We were all super tired and after the Olympic venues went back to our dorms and took naps. Cindy and I and the boys decided to go out for a late dinner of Hot pot. Hot Pot is basically Chinese fondue. It was super good and it was a great night with the group. Everyone is becoming comfortable with each other and I’m pumped to see how friendships develop over the coming months. If the current situation is any indication, I’m going to have 8 big brothers taking care of me this trip. After Hot Pot we stopped by a restaurant in the Hutong Jake showed us because we were still a little hungry.

Thursday we had our last class at Beijing University. It was Chinese calligraphy. It was much easier to grasp than Chinese painting and was a lot of fun. We learned how to write our Chinese names; in pin yin mine is Rui Siu and the characters for it are beautiful. I’m excited to take a semester of calligraphy and improve at it. At the end of class we were presented with a group photo as well as certificates to prove we had studied there. The Chinese are serious about their proof of things. After lunch we went to the Temple of Heaven. It was very pretty, but again our wonder has tapped out at this point and we were ready to be done with the sightseeing. After that we stopped at the Silk Market, which is the same thing as the Pearl Market. The boys each bought a knock of Georgio Armani suit for around $35. They look really sharp in them. Cindy and I scored an amazing deal of purses and wallets and were super pumped. After that we had our farewell dinner at the university. That night we explored Wudakoa some more.

Friday was our free day. We went to breakfast at, where else, our favorite shop and brought most of the group with us. Then we took the subway to Xidan across Beijing so that we could see some more the city. The subway wasn’t nearly as scary as people had described it to be, but was definitely crowded. We came back and had lunch at Avocado Tree in Wudakoa because Cindy wanted one last burrito before BeiBei. It was basically a total copy of Chipotle but the food wasn’t quite as good. The guacamole was awesome though. We met the owner while we were there. She was quite impressive. She grew up in Canada, went to college at the University of Chicago, and is now a business in owner in one of the most prosperous regions of Beijing. She couldn’t have been more than 26. After lunch we headed back to the dorms and after a minor panic because none of us could access our luggage headed to the train station. The train station fulfilled the images you see of just mass groups of people all pushing and shoving to get places. It was crazy and my luggage was a nightmare. Lucky for me, Bert kept an eye on me and helped me get it all through. We had soft sleep tickets for our ride to Xi’ian so our rooms were very nice. After struggling one more time to stow our luggage we all went to bed and slept most of the 12 hour trip.
Overall, I love Beijing. It is a city in which there is always something happening and things to explore. I definitely hope to come back to Beijing in the future. Our time at Beijing University was also great. We met some awesome people from all over the world, such as Japan, Mozambique, Dubai and Ireland. I’m actually really sad that we couldn’t just spend our semester studying there, but sadly we have to move on. Next stop is Xi’ian and then we finally get to BeiBei and get to move into our dorms. It will be nice to have a permanent residence. I’m sick of living out of a suitcase. Well until next time, and the next one will be shorter I promise, love and miss you all.

Rachel

Posted by remullin 05:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

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