Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Adventures of Mount Tai

This past weekend July 12 through July 14, we got to travel to Shandong. We left Beijing on Friday July 12 via the bullet train. That train went over speeds of 300 kilometer per hour, which is faster than 180 miles per hour! We were passing the regular trains and other vehicles so quickly.

We made it to our first hotel located in Tai’an in only two hours. Tai’an is home to Mount Tai, one of the five holy mountains that are located in China. And, on Saturday July 13, we had the opportunity to climb Mount Tai. We had the opportunity to choose whither to walk over 3,000 steps up the mountain or take the cable car up with our tour guide named Bruce. As a person that loves hiking, I choose to hike up the stairs with Sarah and April.

There was a lot of fog so the visibility was not the greatest. I still took some great pictures walking up Mount Tai, including the one I attached. When we were a little over half way, I felt a cool breeze. This is a sign of rain coming.

I took my umbrella and decided to go on my own, so I could get up Mount Tai faster. Not long after I left my small group, a light rain started. I have hiked in the rain before, so I wasn’t that bothered by it. But, after about ten minutes, a downpour happened. It was not just rain either. It was a full on thunderstorm. The stairs, which were small even for my feet were flooding with water and extremely slippery.

My umbrella was really of no use with the wind and water rushing everywhere. But, I was determined to reach the top, so I continued to climb up the stairs. I finally made it to the top in a little less than 90 minutes! However, I did not see anyone from my group. So, I decided to venture around and see what was around, since I have over 30 minutes of free time till I had to meet up with the group. This probably was my worst idea ever. As I was walking around looking for a place that had semi decent visibility so I could take some pictures, I stopped to text Sarah and April to let them know where I was at since they were about 15 minutes behind me.

As I was texting, the ground started to shake. I looked up quickly to see a flash of light a few feet in front of me. Less than a second later it was gone and all the people around me were screaming and running away. It took me a second to process that lightning had stuck literally right in front of me! I decided that wondering around on the top of Mount Tai is not a good idea in the rain, so I walked back to meet the rest of my group. When I got there, April and Sarah were finishing their hike up.

As I was telling them what happened to me, April told me that she got struck by the lightning. Apparently, she was holding the metal railing and the lightning hit and pulsed through the metal to her hand. Luckily, she was alright. After the rest of the group got there, we went to eat lunch and the storm still continued. A majority of the group did not want to walk down in the pouring rain, so they wanted to take the cable car. However, the cable car was not running since it is not safe to run them in the storm. Now, we all were stuck walking down the Mount Tai.

Luckily, we all bought some ponchos, so we would not get as wet as we did the first time around. I decided to walk down with Sarah, April, Laura, and Jocelyn (our OIR assistant). With the water still rushing down the small steps of Mount Tai, and no one wanted to hold the metal railing after April’s incident, we decided to try to do something to keep our mind off of the storm. And, that was singing songs all the way down Mount Tai! My group sang a large number of Disney songs from Mulan, Lion King, and Aladdin.

We even sang the Pokemon theme song. It honestly helped a lot to keep our minds off of thinking we were going to slip and fall down Mount Tai. In the end, we walked up and down a total of 6,668 steps! But, it was worth all of the pain my legs felt the next day to have some of the greatest stories to tell of our adventures on Mount Tai!

They say a picture can say a thousand words …

I have always wanted to do something fun and adventurous while I am at college and being able to study abroad in Beijing was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Being an education major, we have learned in class about how to try to integrate our students’ culture into our lessons.

I feel that actually experiencing the culture shock of being on the opposite end of the spectrum is the best way to learn how exactly those students feel.

 After being on a plane for over thirteen hours, I got to see what China really looks like. I have seen many pictures of what China looks like, but China is like those pictures and so much more. There are cars, bikes, buses, and just plain crazy traffic everywhere in Beijing. Other than the traffic the city is amazing. I have an excellent view right from my ninth floor dorm room in the Global Village, where international students stay at when studying at Peking University. I attached a picture of just how beautiful Beijing looks on a bright and sunny day from right outside my own window. Besides the language barrier, I really love China!

Even though the language barrier exists, most of the people here are so friendly. Some of the Chinese like to even try to practice speaking English with us too, which is interesting. The food here is also extremely delicious! I love the Chinese food back in America, but the food here is so much better than that. Some of the food has a little spice to it, but trying a whole bunch of different food is great.

The only minor issue that I am having in China is most of the food and drinks that you buy in the convenience stores are expired. It is almost like a game to try and find something like chips, water, or soda that isn’t already expired. But other than that, I really love living in Beijing.

Is Mandarin really that difficult to learn?

In my four years at Bloomsburg University I have never taken a language course, so I knew coming to China with extremely limited knowledge about speaking Mandarin would be a challenge. I was put in a Level 1 class with people that have some experience with the language to people that have no knowledge like me.

My class has a mixture of Bloomsburg University students, students from University of Washington, Canada, and South Korea. Studying Mandarin at Peking University is difficult since the teaching style in China is very different than in America. Classes are four hours long everyday and by every day I mean Monday through Friday.

This is very different from Bloomsburg University with only having classes for fifty minutes every other day. Plus, since we are only here for four weeks the learning process is extremely accelerated.

We are learning how to read and speak using both pin yin and Chinese characters. Learning the proper stroke order of the characters is the hardest part of learning Mandarin. It is very important to get the order of the strokes done correctly. Another difference of studying at Peking University is that one of my teachers mainly speaks Mandarin to us and very minimal English. Everyone in class was so lost for a while in that class, but after a while I understood why she was doing that.

By hearing her repeat the words over and over you eventually start to pick up the vocabulary faster. It is a very unique teaching method. Even now after my first week of classes, I am starting to pick up some words that are used when we are walking around Beijing, which is extremely exciting for me. I can’t wait to see how much more I can learn in the next three weeks here in Beijing!

Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

For our first weekend in Beijing we got to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. On the bus ride there our tour guide told us that today was going to be a very hot day reaching temperatures of about 35°C (which is approximately 100°F). But, we and another group that is studying at Peking University were prepared with lots of bottles of water to drink.

Once we got to Tiananmen Square we saw tourists from all over the word, and it was so crowded there. But, Tiananmen Square is rich in historical background. There is a monument dedicated to the Chinese that died in World War 2. Also, the Hall of the People is located there that many of the presidents of the United States have visited before when they were in China. As we left Tiananmen Square, we got to enter the Forbidden City, which is where the Emperor of China used to live such as Mao Zedong. The Forbidden City was extremely breath taking.

It was so large that it was unbelievable. The architecture alone was so amazing for buildings that are centuries old. I got so many amazing photographs of the city despite it being really crowded. I attached a picture of my friends Sarah, April, and myself in front of one of the buildings that is located in the Forbidden City. I even got a picture of the emperor’s throne room. I had to fight my way through a large crowd of people, but I finally got a great photograph. Right before we left the Forbidden City we got to walk through the Imperial Garden which was filled with amazing rock formations, trees, and many beautiful flowers. It really was just amazing to look at, but we were in a hurry to reach the bus, so there really was no time to take pictures there, which was upsetting. One of the strangest things happened to me there though.

As I was taking pictures of statues, some Chinese women grabbed me and wanted me to be in a picture with these four young boys. We all put our thumbs up and smiled, but this gesture seems to be common in China. Many people here like to take photographs with foreigners. We were told that many Chinese people have never seen people that look like us since they are from more rural parts of the country, so to see a foreigner is an amazing experience for them. It makes me feel like a celebrity some times that many people like to take their picture with the foreigners. In the end, I had an amazing time even though we were all extremely exhausted from how hot it really was there. This is an experience that I will never ever forget, and I have many pictures to help me remember everything about Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Peking Duck Dinner

On Thursday July 11, we got to have our Peking duck dinner. This is when the students from Bloomsburg University get to partake in a wonderful meal consisting of many body parts of the duck and other delectable food items in a traditional Chinese dinner. A traditional Chinese dinner is not the same as an American dinner. At a Chinese dinner, the dishes of food are placed on a rotating glass table that is in the center of a larger table. The smaller glass table is able to spin, so you would spin the glass table until you get to the food you want then you are able to take some to eat.

When the food was brought out, there were so many dishes to choose from to try. Some of the dishes I decided to try, and there were some that I would not try. For example, I refused to try duck feet, since I could see the scales still on them. Another dish I was afraid to try was the jellyfish. Some members of the group decided to try these dishes, and they made some weird faces, so I believe I made a good choice in not trying them. Some dishes that I really liked were squid, lamb, and this crepe looking thing that you were able to dip the duck meat in some brown sauce and add some vegetables and wrap it up. Those dishes were my favorites.

 The food just kept coming out more and more. There were so many dishes that were available to try. Some other food items were lots of vegetables, salad, duck liver, duck heart, and even duck soup. The Chinese really don’t waste any part of the animal that is available. The one thing that I learned about Chinese meals is that they end with a plate of fruit. When the plate of fruit comes out that means the meal is finally over. This was very intriguing to me since dessert is served before the fruit, but I learned a lot of how traditional Chinese meals work by attending the Peking duck dinner.

 Also, after the conclusion of the meal, the serial numbers of the two ducks that we ate were given to Dr. Luo to give to us as souvenirs. Everyone in the group wanted them, so a rock paper scissors battle began. After a few rounds the winners of the serial numbers were Sarah and Harry. I am usually not a person that likes to be adventurous when it comes to food items, since I am a picky eater. However, in China, I want to take some risks and try foods that I would never want to back at home. I am surprising myself a lot lately, since many of the things that I have been trying, I end up really enjoying eating here.
    — Ashley Boehmer, mathematics major

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