Thursday, August 29, 2013

A moment to last a lifetime

One of the events that we got to attend was an acrobatics show on Wednesday July 17. This was by far probably one of the best shows that I have ever seen! We traveled from Peking University to Chaoyang Theater by bus. So, again we got to travel through the insane traffic of Beijing. Cars kept getting so close to the bus that I thought that they would hit the bus, but we ended up making it to the theatre really early and without getting into any accidents.

Once the show began, it was absolutely amazing! The acts were phenomenal. There was a girl doing handstands on at least five chairs high, and she had absolutely no fear. This girl could even switch her hands that she was balancing with and not even fall off of the chair that she was on. Another act consisted of guys jumping or flipping through these small hoops, but they made that difficult task look like it was the simplest thing ever. I was just in awe for some of these beginning acts.

During one of the last acts, these girls would form a pyramid while only one of the girls was pedaling the one bike that everyone was on. It was amazing to be able to see that so many girls were capable of squeezing on one bicycle. Then a total of eight motorcycles all were driving around this gigantic sphere at precise times, so no accidents would ever occur during their time to shine on the stage. It was shocking that so many motorcycles were able to fit into that small of space.

My personal favorite act was these young girls would balance these glass bowls on either their heads or their feet, and these guys would toss them in the air or hold the girls up. Then the girls even did some flips or other gymnastics stunts. While performing these acts, the girls never once dropped those glass bowls. It was absolutely fascinating that the Chinese acrobats had this amazing sense of balance and precision. All of the acts required precise timing and they performed so well. This show will be one that I will remember for a very long time.

Being On the Great Wall



On Saturday July 20, we had the opportunity to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World: The Great Wall of China. We actually only went to the Mutianyu Section, which was a part that was preserved very well, even though some of the stairs on this portion were so large that I had trouble climbing over them. This was probably the one trip that I was most excited about going to. It was a nice and clear sunny day, which is the perfect day for us to be going to the Great Wall. However, it was really hot.

When we got there, we had the chance to either take the cable car or hike up lots of stairs to the Great Wall. I decided to try the hike up. But, not long after I started walking the heat started to get to me, and I was having some trouble with finishing my hike. I was proud of myself for making it up to the Great Wall. Since I was really slow going up the Great Wall, I was not able to catch up to the others in my group that rode the cable car up. So, I spent most of my time at the Great Wall with Sarah just walking around and enjoying the sights.

The view from the top was absolutely amazing! You could see mountains and the beautiful scenery for miles and miles. Even when you would look behind you or in front you can see that the wall just stretched for what seemed like forever. No matter where you went on the Great Wall, you were always guaranteed to have a great view. This made going to the Great Wall an experience of a lifetime. Even though it was really hot, I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. By me just being able to walk all around the wall by going up and down many more stairs made me really feel immersed in the ancient Chinese culture. Also, it was just amazing to now say that I have been on one of the Seven Wonders of the World!

The Joys and Sorrows of Shopping in China



I have been constantly writing about all of the events that we have gone on, but I haven’t really written much about food or the culture of living in Beijing. So, I decided that I would talk about a few adventures that I have had while in Beijing.

Even though my Chinese is not the best, I am getting better at navigating my way through the Chinese subway. This is a major accomplishment for me since I am terrible when it comes to directions. One day this past week (July 21), Laura and I decided to travel via the subway to the Silk Market with some friends from our Chinese classes. The subway is actually very clean by the standards of what I have seen in the New York subways. Some of the subway lines are very beautifully decorated with pretty paintings and beautiful artwork. It is really an interesting thing to compare to the subway system back home. Also, the subways in China tend to get really crowded and you almost always have to stand, but other than that the subway really is a very efficient and cheap way to travel.

After a really long subway ride and one transfer stop, we made it to the Silk Market. Now, shopping in China is far different than the how we would shop back in America. In America, everything usually has a set price or even a sale price that is unable to be changed. In China, you are able to bargain to get an item for a price that you are willing to pay. In my Chinese classes, we have been talking about shopping, so I knew some basics, but most of the people in the market speak English really well. Laura and I asked the one salesperson where she learned English from and she explained that she picked it up from working at the market, so we tried talking with her in both English and Chinese for a little while we were shopping for presents for our family and friends.

Shopping in China is an amazing experience, and very interesting. Some salespeople are very persistent and will yell at you, and others will even grab you and try to get you to come in the store or to even look at their items. I am mainly used to browsing when I shop at home not being bombarded by so many people. I believe that the experience that Laura and I had this past week will really help us when we go to the Pearl Market this Friday (July 26), since we now have an idea how to bargain to get the lowest prices that we could, even though we may have overpaid for some of the items that we bought on this trip.

The Many Places of Beijing



During the last week of the study abroad trip, some of the group wanted to be able to travel more and be able to see more of the great places that Beijing has to offer. One day (July 22), Jackie, Ed, Andy, and I decided to travel by the subway to the Bird’s Nest Stadium. We all wanted to be able to see where the 2008 Beijing Olympics were held at.

It was only a short ride on the subway till we got there. But, when we finally got there, the stadium was amazing to look at. I never realized just how large of a structure the stadium is till I was standing next to it. (We have passed the Bird’s Nest Stadium a few times when traveling by bus to some of our other scheduled events.) Just looking at the architecture of the building was astounding. It really had the appearance of a bird’s nest with all of the steel looking poles everywhere.

The inside was just so huge! And no matter where we sat in the stadium we had a great view. We walked around and got to watch some reruns of the 2008 Olympics. It really was amazing to know that so many amazing athletes were at that location just a few years ago.

Another day (July 23) Jackie, Laura, and I wanted to go to the National Library of China to see one of the largest libraries in the world. This library had over 26 million books and it was huge. It had five floors; the library even had a cafeteria and a gift shop. And, we wanted to be able to practice some Chinese while we were there. One of the lessons that we had during our classes was having us ask where the library was. So, Jackie wanted to walk up to someone after we got off of the subway and ask where the library was in Chinese. The person helped us by pointing in the direction of where the library was. I am really glad that we got to go and see one of the largest libraries with so many books and so much to do inside.

On July 25, we wanted to be able to see China’s most iconic animal: the panda. The only place that we would be able to see a panda was at the Beijing Zoo. Our zoo trip included Jackie, Ed, Andy, Josh, Laura, April, and I. It really was a good time seeing all of the animals such as the pandas, lions, and elephants. It was a very hot day, so many of the animals were exhausted and just sleeping. I was disappointed that the tigers were not out to see, but other than that the animals were all very interesting to see.

The only animal that was shocking to see was a raccoon in the zoo. We have them all over Pennsylvania and in China they have them in a zoo! Jackie decided to tell some Chinese woman how see ran over a raccoon with her car. The poor woman was so scared she quickly walked away after looking completely terrified. The only problem I had with the zoo was some of the people were treating us like an exhibit and were taking pictures of us like we were some weird type of animal walking around the zoo.

After the zoo, we went to the Beijing Aquarium to see all of the large variety of fish and others such as the belugas. The belugas were swimming all around with a driver and doing some really funny tricks. We got to see many fish of all different sizes and colors at the coral reef exhibit. It really was so pretty to look at the coral reef fish and see so many different species and to learn a little about them.

So, we have learned that Beijing has so many places to visit that were not on our agenda to do, and all of us had an amazing time.

On the Stairway to Heaven



On Friday July 26, we went to see the Temple of Heaven. When we were there, we got to stand in what the Chinese believe to be the center of the universe, and where the Chinese would make sacrifices for the over 700 gods. Some of the gods were even trees that were over 500 years old. And, then we got to see one of these tree gods, which was a Juniper tree that was over 550 years old! Chinese legend says that you are to stick out your hand and see what you feel. For example, if you do not feel anything then you are considered to be a bad person. Or, if you hand feels warm then good things will happen to you, such as good health. And, with the majority of our group being sickly with some form of a cold at this point, we were all hoping that we would feel some warmth when we stuck out our hands.

Seeing the Temple of Heaven was amazing. The buildings all looked amazing, even though one of the largest buildings (The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests) has been rebuilt since it was destroyed in a fire in the past. Just being able to look inside of the building and see all of the amazing and colorful artwork that was all over the building was absolutely amazing.

As Jackie, Laura, and I were walking around the largest building, we kept getting our picture taken by some random people since we look so different than them. So, we kept saying how we were going to walk up to some random people and ask to have a picture with them. But, Laura said that she wished that we would get our picture taken with a person with a baby. The reason she wanted that was because then we would get two people with us in the picture (the concept of two for the price of one). Right after Laura said that, a woman walked over to us with her baby and asked if she could get a picture with all three of us. We all laughed and said that the Temple of Heaven has answered one of our prayers.

Overall, it was a really good and sad day. It was fun getting to learn more fascinating history about Beijing. However, it was sad since this was the last day of our cultural field trips during the summer study abroad program.

Reflection



After spending one month in Beijing, I have learned so much about the Chinese culture and language. I have learned how to speak and write some basic Mandarin. I even passed both of the exams in my Hanyu and Kouyu classes. I really feel as though I have accomplished a lot while being in China such as being able to see some of the most amazing places that I have ever seen in my life.

Many people have their own types of misconceptions about the Chinese culture and way of living. But, experiencing the culture teaches you that many of the things that you hear about a foreign country are not always true. Just being able to experience a culture and see right from your own eyes how the people do everything teaches you to form your own opinions. I learned that even though China is considered a developing country, their way of living and handling themselves as a country is working pretty well for them. Many of the people that I got to know that lives there believe that China is a great place to live. Beside the air quality with the pollution, I would agree with them.

I am going to miss a lot of things about China, such as the food since it was absolutely amazing. I will also miss my teachers since they taught me so much. Even though my classes were tough, I am glad that they were able to teach me so much in one short month. And, I am going to miss all of the amazing people that I had the opportunity to meet and get to know over the past month.

Overall, China is an amazing place with many historical aspects to offer. I am very grateful that I have decided to go on this study abroad trip. And, I recommend that you should always try to study abroad while you are in college. It is a once in a lifetime experience, where you would get to meet some of the greatest people. It is probably the best decision that I have ever made in my life to do, and I have many memories that will last a lifetime.

    — Ashley Boehmer, mathematics major

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