Monday, June 27, 2016

17 days in Beijing

The biggest event we’ve had so far is the overnight trip to the Great Wall last weekend.

It was a two-day short trip that included lots of hiking. We drove about two hours out of Beijing and started our first hike right away. We went to a part of the Wall where not too many tourists go to, so that we could enjoy it without being overcrowded.

It was about a 30-minute hike up the very steep stairs. I did not expect to be as difficult as it was, but everybody in our group made it up to the Wall. Seeing the mountains surround the Great Wall was one of the most beautiful scenic spots I have ever experienced. After we came down, we had taxis take us to a small village near the Great Wall for a homestay. We stayed with a very nice Chinese family that often hosts groups of tourists. Right at their backyard we could see the Great Wall and enjoy the sunset. That night our group stayed up pretty late and we just joked around all night.

The room that we slept in was just a one big bed. Boys and girls each got their own room. Next day at 4 a.m. we started our second big hike. The grandfather of the Chinese family lead our group because it was on a mountain beside the Great Wall. Once we got to the top of the mountain we sat down and watched the sunrise. I’ve never been much of an outdoor person, but after these hikes I want to start hiking more.

Another historical trip that we have had last week is a trip to Temple of Heaven. Temple of Heaven is located near the Tiananmen Square and is a popular place for school field trips and Chinese and foreign tourists. Our history professor told us that the Temple of Heaven was a very important spiritual place for the emperors of every dynasty and if the emperor did not perform the rituals at the Temple of Heaven he was looked down upon. Each dynasty had their own rituals, but the Emperors always prayed for a good harvest or for a victory in a war. If there was a famine, Chinese usually thought of it as if the gods were upset with the Emperor.

Yesterday we went to one of the famous hutongs a Beijing. Hutongs are streets surrounded by houses. They are popular for their markets and museums. Right now more and more authentic Chinese businesses are bought out by big franchises such as Starbucks and KFC.

Back in the day most of the officials lived in hutongs. Each profession and rank had their own type of entry gate and if an official was demoted, he would be required to change his gate. Since hutongs did not have a plumbing system, there would always be one or two saunas located in each hutong. These saunas were mostly used for gathering purposes where groups of men and women would play cards, gamble or drink. In the 60s and 70s hutong saunas were especially popular. As more and more businesses started to develop around hutongs, some of the saunas were not able to keep up paying high rents, so eventually they would run out of business. That usually affected the whole hutong because communities would lose a place to gather and their way of life would change.

In the first few weeks of my shopping experience in China, I have also learned that in most places you need to bargain for a good price. Last weekend my roommate She and I went to the Pearl Market. That market is famous for a variety of souvenirs and other goods. Especially for foreigners the starting prices are pretty expensive.

Usually I go 60 to 80 percent down the original price. At first the sellers try to convince you that they can’t lower the price, but a few minutes into it they give you the price that you are happy with. I think this is the only time when I feel confident talking to the sellers.

Usually when I go to a store I try my best to find everything myself so that I wouldn’t have to speak Chinese to people that I don’t know. Sometimes when I walk around Beijing I have no idea what I am reading on a billboard or what someone is saying to me and there are other times when I perfectly understand everything or at least 80 percent and it honestly makes my whole day. A few days ago I went to a train station to buy a ticket to go to Dalian to visit a friend. In U.S. or in Russia it wouldn’t be a big deal for me, but in China it was. It made me so happy that I had enough vocabulary to buy it for the right date and time and even get a ticket back to Beijing.

Yesterday me and another student decided to go running. The track and basketball courts are located within a two-minute walk from our dorm so we had no excuses not to go running. A wide variety of groups gather around track every day. There are many women that dance together to Chinese folk music, guys and girls my age who ride bikes and skateboards, children who play basketball or soccer, families spending time together playing badminton. In contrast to American campuses, we were a little surprised to see so many people that are not BFSU students involved on campus.

Next weekend I will be traveling to Dalian, which is north-east of Beijing by myself. If I survive this trip, you can read about my experience in Dalian in the next blog :)

— Anastasia Timofeeva, junior engineering and Chinese major #HuskyAbroad #ProfessionalU

Timofeeva is studying abroad at the Beijing Foreign Studies University this summer, courtesy of several scholarships earned this past year. She received a Professional Experience grant from Professional U, a grant designed for students seeking to get involved in their career path or learn more about the world. Timofeeva also received an International Faculty Association scholarship dedicated to students with interest in fostering globalism and internationalism. Moreover, she received College of Liberal Arts study abroad scholarship and a scholarship for good academic standing from the university.

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