Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Preferring the Blue Cafe

Today, was one of our first days of class. I plan to switch down a level because level two is quite difficult. The food has been difficult to order and eat because I don't eat any meat. It's hard to order because many people in our group, including myself, speak very little Chinese. The first few days was especially difficult because I really didn't like anything I ate and therefore ate very little which made me feel sick.

But, most of us have been going to breakfast every day at a place called Yan Nan, but we nicknamed it the Blue Cafe. I found a lot more food that I can eat there. I try to make myself eat something new every meal so I know what I really like and what I don't enjoy at all.

Today, I had a hard boiled egg which I like because it gives some protein and energy for the day. I also tried some type of light egg cake which is really sweet and a lot of people in our group like as well.

I also got some sort of spicy stringed bean sprouts which was surprisingly delicious and really spicy, but I getting used to all the spices now.

I'm very wary about drinking soft drinks with ice and to eat fruit that one would have to eat the skin, like grapes, because the water isn't safe unless it's from a water bottle. I purchased many water bottles and a huge jug to use back at the dorm.

I'm used to drinking lots of water so I plan to spend a considerable amount of my money on water. Although I plan to spend a lot of money on water, I also have been trying to buy gifts for people in the United States like my family and friends, but I have not found anything that really strikes me yet. I realized a lot of people from Bloomsburg spent over 300 kuai on a Chinese phone; I know it might be useful, but I feel as though I wouldn't use it enough for it to be a good purchase.

However, there are a lot of street vendors on the bridge we have to cross every day to get to campus and they are selling interesting pieces of jewelry and pretty fans. I really want to get some Chinese jewelry for my friends and I. However, I noticed a lot of Chinese women have fans in order to keep them cool during the hot days so I'm very interested in purchasing a few of those, one for myself so I don't get too hot and some for my family at home to use as decorations after I return from Beijing. I just need to practice my bargaining skills because instead of paying a set price like in America, in China one would have to bargain with the street vendors and the people at the market places. So far, I haven't spent too much money, but I did obtain 500 kuai from the ATM on campus and am really excited to go shopping at the market and with some of the other girls later on our trip.

Today is our first day in Beijing. We have all been on the plane for almost 14 hours. We departed from New York City at JFK airport and arrived in Beijing. I took a car service with someone else on the trip and we arrived at JFK with a lot of time to spare. We checked in and there wasn't a line so that went very quickly. After that, we gave our suitcases to luggage and went to get something to eat. Then, we went through security and got our carry-ons checked and waited by the gate for about two hours. I was becoming more and more nervous the closer it got to boarding time.

Thankfully, my friend and I found other people that were coming on the trip with us and we sat with them while we waited. Soon, it was time to get on the plane, I sat between two other Bloomsburg students, harry and Devon. We were able to watch movies and play games on the plane, but soon everyone fell asleep except for Harry and I. We really could not get comfortable in the plan seats. I was glad when the stewardesses brought dinner and something to drink, but I already had trouble getting a vegetarian meal which worried me. I continually checked the flight pattern of the plane to see how many more hours there was to go and where we were located in the world. It surprised me that we flew over the north pole rather than fly across the Pacific ocean, but I suppose it is more logical to fly that way. Towards the end of our flight I really started feeling sick and desperately wanted to eat something like pretzels, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to eat those until I returned to the United States.

Once we landed though I was so preoccupied with getting ym suitcase and being in Beijing I completely forgot how sick I felt. Before we got our luggage we had to get on this really tight train that took us to another part of the airport where we got our luggage. We then took a bus to Peking University, I loved the bus ride because I got to see Beijing at night and it was so magnificent and full of bright lights that it was almost mesmerizing. I couldn't believe how huge the city was and was really thankful to finally get to our dorm.

Check-in took longer than expected and we soon realized that we didn't get the roommates we asked for earlier in the year. When I went to my room I discovered I was living with a married couple and was really grateful when they said they were leaving the next day. After we dropped our luggage at our dorms, the entire group went to the convenience store to get drinks and snacks. I got a water and a snickers and was happy to have something American. I didn't realize how much I would miss home that night. I really wanted my family with me and I soon realized that would have made this trip so much better. I was really excited to ge tot bed, but quickly discovered the beds were as hard as rocks and I had great difficulty sleeping that night because of the beds and jet lag. I am so excited to see Beijing and experience China, I am in awe that I actually made it to this beautiful place!

This morning the Bloomsburg group and several other groups from around the world went to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tienanmen Square was huge! I was so impressed by it's size. I wanted to take so many pictures. There were also a lot of buildings, one could even see some from the Forbidden City from the square, statues, and people. Many Chinese people flooded the square in order to see Mao Zedong because his mausoleum is located in the very center. The mausoleum is a huge rectangular structure that is the focal point of the square.

Although we did not enter the mausoleum, I learned that Mao's body is encased in a crystal casket inside. We took so many pictures and sometimes other Chinese families that we didn't even know took pictures of us as well; some even wanted to be in the picture with us! I thought it was funny that random Chinese families wanted pictures with us because we looked different. The groups then traveled underground to get to the Forbidden City. I was in such awe by all the architecture there and was constantly taking photos with my camera. I didn't know that it was as large as it is and only expected a few areas with the beautiful buildings, however it just seemed to never end. There was so much to see that I couldn't take pictures of everything and towards the end of the tour we all started getting very tired and hot.

My favorite part of the Forbidden City was Tienanmen Square and the imperial gardens at the end because they were both magnificent, impressive, and gorgeous. I really didn't like the people trying to sell things though; I felt like I was being attacked by vendors everywhere I turned. I was also uncomfortable with all the beggars. I already noticed all the homeless animals and people around the university, but I didn't expect so many near Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. It really made me feel horrible because I wanted to help them, but there wasn't anything I could. A great deal of them were amputees and just continually said thank you over and over again even if no one put money in their jar.

Although I'm really beginning to appreciate Beijing and the Chinese culture, I am really off put by the amount of homeless around the city. I am aware that there are many homeless in cities, especially large one such as Beijing, but they actually made me feel uncomfortable and sad. It was almost as though they were vultures and acted like the vendors by being so persistent with the tourists. Although I was saddened by the beggars, I still greatly enjoyed the experience and my time at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was full of history and beauty I will never forget it.
    —Jacqueline Simon, French major

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