Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 10 – Heroes

Today was an exciting day.  We went to the Great Wall and the Summer Palace, both of which were fabulous.  The students had a great time climbing the steepest part of the Great Wall called the Juyong Pass.  Our tour guide told us that you are not considered a hero until you’ve climbed the Great Wall, so now we have all been elevated to hero status.  Most of us got a metal engraved with our names stating that we had climbed the Great Wall.  A touristy thing to do?  Perhaps, but we had to partake.  Some of us will memorialize our experience by framing the metal with a group picture of us at the Great Wall.

We then hopped onto our tour bus which took us to a fantastic restaurant for lunch.  We were all so exhausted and hungry that we plowed through lunch with few words.  The group did a small bit of shopping, and then we headed to the Summer Palace.  Our tour guide Ivy did an amazing job of keeping us informed, not only on the bus, but as we walked through the Summer Palace.  She shared many stories of both past and present China.  On the way back to home base a few of us had a rich discussion of the differences between America and China.

We ended the day by coming back to campus, showering and resting.  Last night the students had a deadline to get all papers to me (a deadline they collective chose), so for the next 10 days or so they only have to complete their daily journal entries and their final presentation for the class.  I’ll describe the presentation a bit later, but from what I have chatted with the students so far, they are all doing something different – a monologue, song, playing an instrument, a poem, and a few other things.  Our final class session is going to be rich with cultural interpretation.

Because I want this to be a collective blog, I have asked my students to post about their experience here in Beijing.  I will include 2 students per day.  Although the students are not required to provide posts to the blog, those that I have asked so far have been more than happy to oblige.  Here are the first two posts, one from George Damouny, and the other from Daniel Vuko.

George Damouny

As a foreigner, walking in Beijing makes me feel like there is something growing out of my forehead that everybody wants to look at, but feels bad for doing it at the same time. That is, the natives of Beijing are quite wondrous about an American foreigner walking their streets. I can only imagine what is going through their head as they stare at me without blinking an eye, “Holy crap! Who the heck is that? I wonder what he’s doing here. Look at his beard! Look at the size of his nose!” (insert Mandarin translation here). I would feel the same way too if I wasn’t raised in one of the most diverse areas of the world. However, for somebody leaving the United States essentially for the first time (with the exception of going to Mexico when I was 17), this is an entirely new experience for me.

If I were to use a cliché to try and sum up my experience of Beijing into one word, it would have to be “unique”. The word in itself is extremely vague without much depth or meaning. However, let me try to place the term into context for everybody who cares enough to read this. Everything in Beijing seems to differ from California. From the seemingly foggy air which resembles a cold San Francisco morning in December, to the natives who continuously stare at us, to the array of authentic Chinese food (you haven’t tried Chinese food unless you’ve tried it in China), to the local culture, jam-packed subways, extreme shopping, and so much more. Everything has been adventure in Beijing so far. I feel like our culture shock has already set in and now we’re finally adapting to the local culture. There are so many new sights, sounds, and smells in this city of over 30 billion people (and yes, you can tell there is that many people here). My senses have never experienced anything like this before.

Looking around, you see motorists on mopeds, Vespas, bicycles, food-bikes, trucks, cars, busses, and a bunch of other weird automobiles I’ve never seen before in my life. I still fear for my life when I walk the streets of Beijing, even on the sidewalks (yes, those are fair game for motorists as well). They also honk for just about anything. The streets of Beijing are never silent. It’s a very hectic city that is extremely fast paced. For example, before the subway doors open, people crowd around the doorways and literally race to find a seat on the subway.

Words can’t describe Beijing. I thought I knew about Chinese culture before coming here based on the diversity in the Bay Area in which I live. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Coming here was and still is a major learning experience for me. It is a humbling to immerse myself into a culture I essentially knew nothing about. As my time in Beijing progresses, I feel as if I’m not only learning more about other ways of life, but I’m also learning so much more about myself. This is an experience that is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced before. I can feel myself becoming a more understanding person. I can feel myself becoming more humble. And for that, I can truly say this is THE experience of a lifetime.

Daniel Vuko

Hello blog follower’s! My name is Daniel Vuko and I’m having the time of my life as this is my first time out of the States. I’m so full of excitement that I don’t have a clue as of where to begin to explain the experience I have had here in Beijing. But, I guess I should start somewhere. Here we go! First off, getting off the plane and getting to the dorms was an adventure in itself. People were driving all over the road, the motor cyclist seemed to be unsafe, and the pedestrians looked like they were a deer in headlights. The one thing that one must remember is that there aren’t rules and regulations that are enforced. Instead, they are merely suggestions for those to live by. Whether you follow them or not, it’s at the user’s discretion. Not only are the roads for people to travel on surreal, but the metro is nothing that I have ever experienced before.

            Right before karaoke two nights ago, we headed to the metro station right after dinner from a place called “Just Kids.” Their motto: “Do what you want, F*#k the rest.” Where else in the world would you find something like this? Anyway, back to what I was getting at about traveling through Beijing. The metro is insane! There are so many different connecting stops, and so many people trying to fill the empty gaps of the subway train. On our way to sing the night away at the KTV (short for karaoke), I have never had my personal space invaded so much. We were crammed into this metro car that is no longer than our dorm room (which isn’t saying much), and every millimeter was filled by patrons getting on the train. Even a guy tried to shove himself through as the sliding doors as they were closing. He was stuck for a few seconds as the doors continually closed and opened on him. Regardless, he got the remaining spot on the metro. There is so much more I would like to share, but other students will be posting soon and I don’t want to spoil the fun for them by me telling about my whole experience. Until next time family and friends, Zàijiàn (Goodbye)! 

Until tomorrow……

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