The Last Days

Why is it that we don’t fully appreciate what we have until its about to leave us?  My last days in Beijing were certainly ones for the books!  I made last outings with my friends from my program, spent some last time with my host family and just took in the city one last time.  I went back to several places that I went to at the beginning of the semester, and not only do the places look totally different now that spring has sprung, but I’m not the same nervous overwhelmed girl that I was when I saw them the first time.  I can sorta kinda speak Chinese.  I have an idea of where I’m going and what’s going on.

I also stayed an additional five days in Beijing after the end of my program which was a great choice.  Some friends stayed around before they left for a trip to Tibet, so I hung out with them and then had a final full day by myself, which was absolutely the perfect amount of time to process saying goodbye to the city and my semester.  One night, seven of us rented a little battery boat and just randomly went around one of the lakes in Beijing that is surrounded by walking paths and little restaurants with rooftop areas.  I had also been there at the beginning of the semester and watched people ice skate on the lake that we were now boating in, watching the sun go down in every shade of orange and pink.  On my last day, I walked across Tiananmen Square and thought about all of the things that have happened in China just in recent history.  I ate last plates of noodles and dumplings.  It was awesome.  By the end of the day I was a little more ready to head home and be with people again, which I’m thankful for.  I’m going to Colorado in a week to start my summer job, so I wanted to do the best I could for myself to ease through reverse culture shock in such a short amount of time, and staying extra time in Beijing was definitely the best thing I did.

The hardest part of leaving is always saying goodbye to friends you have made.  IES Beijing was 60 students from all over the country (and the world) from all different schools.  I’ve realized how much of my life I’ve spent around people who are very similar to me, and how awesome it was to meet so many different people.  I may have learned more from my classmates than just about anything else that I did.  The last night of the program was surreal, just like all goodbye nights are.  We had graduation, dinner, then China Night (performances) and then we all went to the Cafe, an on campus hang out.  “Sweet Caroline” was sung.  Birthdays were celebrated.  Laughter was shared for one last time.  There was then the 1:30 exodus of a considerably smaller group to a Chinese fast food restaurant, and one final cab ride back to my homestay.  Beijing is so serene late at night.  Goodbyes are hard.  They always are.  “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh

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I’m going to miss the busy street life of China a lot.
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As a diehard Michael Phelps fan, this was above and beyond awesome!
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Last stroll across Tiananmen captured by my broken camera
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The Forbidden City
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Sunset view from a boat! Blessed.

 

Adventures on the Roof of the World

I got back from Tibet about a week ago, but its been whirlwind of finishing my program, packing, saying goodbyes, and doing last-moment-in-China activities.  A post on this past week to follow!  But, TIBET.

This trip was the bulk of my final area’s studies class about Tibet.  There were 13 of us total, ten students, one IES staffer, one RA and our professor.  We got to Lhasa (Tibet’s biggest city) by two trains with a stopover in Xining in between.  The first train was the same as my previous Chinese overnight train experiences, but the second train is quite something.  We saw some pretty incredible panoramic views of the lakes and mountains of the Tibetan plateau.  It is built partially on permafrost, making it a huge challenge of engineering.  At its highest point the train is at over 16,000 feet above sea level.  This brings me to the less stellar part of the trip- altitude sickness.  There just wasn’t enough oxygen for my sea level lungs up there!  Thankfully I didn’t have to be hooked up to the oxygen in the train (there is a plug in for every passenger).  Definitely not a pleasant day, but by the time we arrived in Lhasa in the afternoon more or less feeling better (and we came down. 

We started our touring regimen the next day- temples, monasteries, nunneries, and hiking! I learned more than I ever thought I would about Tibetan Buddhism.  I won’t go into all of the details, but it was interesting to see people of a different religion than me that I didn’t know much about before.  One highlight was at Sera Monastery, where the monks debate with each other every afternoon, teacher with student so that they can learn and defend their beliefs on Buddhist doctrines.  The teacher is standing while the student sits, and when the student makes a point the teacher does this sort of full body clap motion, palm down for “good point” palm up for “better luck next time.”  It was so entertaining to watch!

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We also did six days of camping.  It wasn’t super hardcore as we had a team of cooks with us (thus alleviating the most time consuming chore of  camping with some of the best food I have ever eaten), but it was glorious to be outside!  We visited more sights of Tibetan Buddhism, drove through the Tibetan country side, stayed with a Tibetan family, and even went to some awesome hot springs.  By far my favorite part of the trip was all of the nature that we got to see.  There were mountains everywhere we looked all the time (I’m actually not kidding).  God’s creation at its finest!  The Tibetan people are also on the whole incredibly welcoming and kind.  I’ll let pictures do the rest of the talking!

 

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Some kids we met at a village we camped at!
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Classic Tibet tourist activity, yes the lake is still frozen.
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Capturing memories at one of the monasteries we visited

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On Being a Laowai

Whenever I go to any famous landmark in Beijing, there is usually a huge crowd of people, and I almost always hear one of a few things while I’m walking through the crowd.  Laowai is a term for foreigners as is waiguoren, and these words follow any non-Asian person through the crowd.  The more of us there are in a group, the more exclamations we will hear.  The more stares we will get.  The more people will blatantly take pictures, sometimes with us, sometimes from a distance without asking first at all.  As with many things in adjusting to a new culture, the best thing to do is to simply laugh it off, or even play along.  Sometimes I’ll give an unsolicited camera a big thumbs up, wave enthusiastically or greet the photographer in Chinese.  This always surprises them.  I have friends who, if it is convenient, pick up their own camera and take a picture back.  

The fact that I stick out like a sore thumb no matter what I do and where I go is something I’ve had to get used to in China.  My friends in Europe are excited when someone confuses them for a local.  That will never happen to me here, no matter how good my Chinese becomes, no matter how culturally aware I am I will always be different.  It can be exhausting sometimes, to constantly be stared at by people riding the bus who don’t really have anything better to do in that time anyways, the kids who look at me with wary eyes on the street.  However, I’ve more or less learned to deal with it.  Its only on the bad days that these things really annoy me.  Its good to remember that people are just naturally curious.  

Being a waiguoren does have its advantages.  It is assumed that I can’t speak Chinese and that I need help with everything.  Sometimes this is true, and playing the dumb tourist can be useful.  My Asian-American friends meet confusion from Chinese people as to why they look Chinese but can’t speak the language.  I have my friend Mykhanh’s spiel about how her parents are Vietnamese but she is American almost memorized.  If I am with an Asian friend, Chinese people will consistently speak directly to them and not to me at all.  Side note: my friend Irene and I were able to help two German girls order a cake in the bakery yesterday… accomplishments!  This can be exhausting for them, just as constantly sticking out is for me.  Having these multiple perspectives as a part of my experience has helped me to see the China experience in a way different from my bubble.  Which is a very, very, good thing.

This will be my last blog for awhile as I am headed to TIBET tomorrow for my class about ethnic minorities in China.  I’ll have internet again in about two weeks!

Those Big Moments and Learning What I Need

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  In the meantime I traveled for our longest travel weekend to Shanghai and Hangzhou, and this past weekend, climbed the Great Wall!  My favorite part of Shanghai was seeing the iconic skyline lit up at night, even though it was smoggy, it was still awesome!  It was one of the moments in my experience where I went, “Woah… I really did come to China after all!  It’s easy to lose fact of how exciting this fact is when I’m in my routine of going to classes and doing homework, but its just a privilege to be here!

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Check out this beautiful sunset! Such a good day.

Hangzhou was the next stop, and it is my favorite city that I have been to in China.  It is absolutely beautiful!  Beijing hasn’t had much in terms of trees and natural beauty, and Hangzhou’s main attraction is West Lake, a gigantic lake surrounded by trees, hills, and lots of tourists.  The best choice we made was to travel to an island in the middle of the lake by boat where it was much more peaceful.  I realized something important, that I need nature in my life.  It is a simple and uncomplicated reminder of God’s beauty and who He is.  My soul needs it.  China is awesome but it is very developed and there isn’t always a huge amount of attention to aesthetic beauty.The weekend in Hangzhou was exactly what I needed!Image

 

Now to one of my favorite experiences of study abroad so far- climbing the Great Wall.  It was another one of those “woah China!” moments.  I’ve started to realize how much I’ve learned and grown this semester and it was cool to reflect on that in a place as stunning as the Great Wall.  We were blessed with gorgeous weather and great company!  We hiked along the wall during the first day, then stayed overnight in a Chinese village.  We got to see so many stars, away from the lights and smog of Beijing.  It reminded me of many great memories of mission trips in high school and working at camp for a summer.  

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My favorite part of the experience came bright and early the next morning, when we hiked up to the wall to watch the sunrise.  It was a grueling hike, made more challenging by the fact that I wasn’t feeling too well, but with the encouragement of friends I made it!  And my goodness, it was so worth it!  Watching the sun rise over the edge of Great Wall was literally unreal.  God’s creation is seriously so cool!  And the fact that it is only a taste of how awesome God Himself is, even more so!

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Glory in the Highest!
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“I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Your works are wonderful I know that full well!” Psalm 139:14
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“If you never leave home, never let go, you’ll never make it to the great unknown, til you keep your eyes open my love.” Needtobreathe

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So About the Study Part…

It’s not what usually gets talked about, but schoolwork is a significant part of the study abroad experience.  My program, Contemporary Issues in China is fairly intense.  We have Chinese class throughout the semester and Area Studies courses, which are held in intensive blocks one at a time.  Right now I’m in “China in International Relations,” already having finished “Chinese Literature” and the intro course, “Understanding China.”  I have loved my classes here.  It has been so fascinating to learn about some subjects that I’ve never learned before, and to attempt to understand China.  I think what I know most certainly is that I will never know or understand everything there is to know about the most populated and most ancient country in the world.  While a lot of my schoolwork looks like it would at Hope, with lots of reading, writing, and learning characters, the study abroad experience does provide some more unique opportunities including cool field trips and fun activities.  My final block class, “Ethnic Minorities in China” means that we get to spend two weeks in Tibet!

Last week for IR we went to the Old Summer Palace, where the emperors would live until the place burned down.  I’ve been here before, but it was so cool to learn more of the history with my professor along, and chuckle at all of the attention that 15 waiguoren in a group attract anywhere that we go.  I love that this was class for the day!

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Listening to fascinating history while perched on giant rocks with my friends? I’ll take it!
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Old Summer Palace ruins

For Chinese last week we went to a market and had to find items (we only had the word in Chinese), pick out a gift for someone else in our class, and talk to random people.  It was a much needed break from sitting in a classroom.  We’re at the point in the semester where people are staring to get tired and the novelty of being in China has definitely worn off in many ways.  Usually my class starts at 9, but we were told that today we had a mandatory meeting at 8 to talk about our long travel trips.  Our program director starts talking to us about shopping for hiking clothes and I can’t help but notice how distracted he is.  He says, “You need to make sure you have good hiking shoes, but we can worry about that later, today we’re cancelling classes and everyone’s going out into the city!”  Deciding in our still-tiredness that this was probably true we went downstairs to find all of the teachers and RA’s holding signs to different locations in the city.  This was Crazy Day!  A day meant to be totally fun and give us a break.  I went with two IES teachers, one of our RA’s and seven other students to Fragrant Hills Park, a large hill that we climbed on the outskirts of Beijing.  I am a Pacific Northwest girl and the constant being in the city/not being outside in nature has been getting to me.  God gave me exactly what I needed today.  Everyone was so happy to have classes cancelled, and it was a beautiful hike, even when the smog got the best of the view.  We then went to a restaurant that some kids in the group knew for lunch and it was one of the top meals I’ve had in China.  We ordered several veggie dishes, chicken, shrimp, and of course rice.  We were literally silent because everyone was so focused on eating and savoring the food.  It was incredible.  It’s these experiences outside of the classroom that I will always remember.

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Getting ready to go out for Crazy Day!
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The view from the top is ALWAYS worth it!
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Beijing, Beijing smog. The hills on the left are the retreat center for the Communist Party.
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Remnants of an awesome meal! 

 

Unexpected & Beautiful: Chengdu

This past weekend was a long travel weekend, so we had Friday off of classes.  On Thursday night, I flew with two of my friends to the city of Chengdu (成都) in the Sichuan Province of western China.  We originally decided to go there because it is the only place in the world where you can hold a panda, and there are other awesome sights as well.  It turns out that holding a panda is $300 US dollars per person.  Our flights cost less than that.  Needless to say, I decided not to do what I had gone to Chengdu to do, however, it was the other unexpected things that made the weekend so awesome!

My favorite moment of the weekend was one that was totally unexpected, not usually considered at all desirable, but absolutely spontaneously hilarious.  Three friends and I were riding back from the Sichuan Opera when our car broke down.  Straight up stalled out in the middle of the road.  Out we got to push.  If the sight of four laowai pushing a van down the street wasn’t enough, a bus pulls up beside us and stops at the intersection.  There were probably about 30 Chinese people on board who were all staring at us, some of them literally, with mouths wide open.  We could not stop laughing.  They all looked so confused, and the absurdity and adrenaline rush of the situation made everything that much funnier.  I will never forget that, totally unexpected or planned, yet hilarious nonetheless.

–Three things I appreciate about flying in China: free food, free checked bags and you don’t have to take off your shoes to go through security.  Meet Marytha and Alyssa!  We had a great weekend together.

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–We got in the car to go on our day tour of the Leshan Buddha (the largest Buddha in the world) and the pandas to find some kids from IES Shanghai.  What are the chances of that?  They were a fun group to spend the day with.  The Buddha was pretty magnificent, and the pandas were oh so fun to watch even though I was bummed about not holding one.

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–One of my friends at Hope, Yijun, is from Chengdu.  I got to meet her parents and they treated us to a delicious dinner with true Chinese hospitality!  It felt like being at home with family, they were so kind!  It was a very unique experience that I wasn’t expecting to have, but it might even have been why I came to Chengdu.  I’m so thankful that everything worked out.

–Wandering random shopping streets with no goal or time frame in mind.  Sichuan is known for SPICE.  The one spicy dish I ate I also managed to get in my eye.  Needless to say, I’m still a spice wimp.

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–Something that I LOVED about Chengdu was how many green trees there were (Beijing basically has none right now).  We also checked out a monastery that had some beautiful gardens away from the city.  It was interesting to observe some Buddhist religious practices and I definitely want to learn more about Buddhism as it is a belief system that has greatly influenced Chinese culture.

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–On Sunday, Marytha and I were going to go to a nearby mountain but train tickets were sold out by the time we got there.  We decided to explore some parks in Chengdu and had an absolutely awesome day!  We paddled a canoe (a midst many greetings of “Hallo!” from our fellow Chinese mariners), danced with Chinese people (including to “Gangam Style”), and rode this suspended bike ride at the part of the park that had a mini amusement park.  It was so glorious to be in such beautiful creation and to enjoy it with many Chinese people as well.  Some sort of white puffy pollen was floating in the air, like snow, which only made everything feel more like a fairy tale!  We even managed to run into Alyssa and her friend without planning to at all.

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Chengdu was an absolutely beautiful city, and I’m so glad that I made the choice to go, even though I didn’t hold a panda, train tickets were sold out, the car broke down… it was still an awesome weekend, with the best memories in the unexpected & beautiful.

 

I Have Never Been So Cold…

I know this is a long one, but last weekend I went on my first travel weekend out of Beijing!  15 other students from my program and I went up North to the city of Harbin, which is closer to the Russian border than to Beijing!  We took an all night train Friday night and arrived bright and early on Saturday morning and OH MY GRACIOUS IT WAS SO COLD (negative temperatures Fahrenheit .  I unwisely didn’t put on all my underlayers on the train, so I was shaking as soon as we got off!  One thing about traveling with 15 other people is that you end up waiting around for each other.  I was still groggy from sleeping, and we were trying to find each other to get cabs together to our hostel and I was under dressed, but fortunately this was the most unpleasant time of the trip for me.

I went into the bathroom to change at the hostel and left my backpack and such right outside the door, to come out of the stall to see an unfamiliar woman digging through my stuff, like had my wallet open and was thumbing through everything.  Chinese utterly failed me.  “What are you doing?  That’s my stuff!  You can’t do that!”  I then yelled for my friend who can speak Chinese and she thankfully came in right away.  It turns out I had left my pile of stuff in the place where guests leave things that they want to give away (there was no sign explaining this that I saw), and the staffer had been seeing what was up with it.  I then felt really bad for overreacting and we both apologized profusely to each other.  The sight of an unfamiliar person going through your wallet is a lot more unnerving than you would think!  However, the day only got better from there.

We split up into groups, and I and seven others went to Snow and Ice World, the largest snow and ice park in the world.  Its most famous lit up at night, but we decided to save some money and see it in the day.  I was not at all disappointed.  There were so many ice sculptures and we basically had the park to ourselves because it was daytime.  There were ice slides, tubing, ice biking (exactly what it sounds like) and a Chinese thing where you basically sit on a chair that’s mounted on a sled and push yourself around on the ice with poles.  Running around doing things and taking pictures with the ice sculptures helped us stay warm too!  

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Ice hallway

 

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All bundled up with the ice temple!

 

 

 

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Incense and ice Buddha

We headed back to the main shopping street in Harbin and walked around the shops and had some lunch.  I really wanted Russian food but the only place we could find was way too expensive and people needed food so we had Chinese fast food, which is pretty tasty though available in Beijing.  No complaints though.  The Russian influence was really clear in this part of town, for it definitely felt very European to me.  Buildings weren’t skyscrapers which was a nice change from Beijing!  We then went to St. Sophia’s Cathedral, which was gorgeous!  My favorite part was the flock of birds that kept flying around the top and then landing back on the roof, over and over again.  It was captivating!  It was really neat to see a testament to God’s work in China over the years and the beautiful way that He made those birds to fly around.ImageImageImage

 

We went to see another park’s sculptures all lit up.  Highlights include admiring the craftsmanship of the sculptures, falling off of a sculpture, and the wonderful meal that we ate afterwards.  We had a girl who is nearly fluent in Chinese order for us and I had the best eggplant I have ever had in my life.  It was cooked in some sort of savory soy sauce thing… I will never forget that meal.  It was a great group of people and the restaurant gave us a private room with a giant round table with the lazy susan so we can all take from each dish.  It really creates a sense of community that I absolutely love.  We talked, laughed and ate some awesome food before heading back to the hostel for a chill night of talking and hanging out.ImageImageImage

The next morning my friend Mykhanh wanted to go to Catholic church and I said I would go with her.  There were three churches on the same corner!  The first one was an Eastern Orthodox church which we basically just walked in and out of.  Then we went to the Catholic church and ended up going to mass in Korean… why not right?  It was the first service that we found and they welcomed us warmly, not that we could understand a word.  Then we went to the second half of a protestant service in English.  It was such a fun morning and God delighted us with an adventure seeking Him!  It was time to head to the train station and go home after one last walk down the main street for our favorite street snacks, but it was a great weekend!

I love the thrill that comes from seeking and finding adventure.  I love that God is who He is no matter where I am, and I’m learning more and more about walking in Him wherever I go.  I love that I am so free here, to just buy a train ticket with 15 friends and go explore somewhere, to laugh and enjoy and slide down ice slides and expand my view of the world just a little bit more.  

 

A Day in the Life

8:00- Wake up, eat Chinese breakfast. This usually consists of zhou or rice porridge, a hard boiled egg, and usually something else. Sometimes I have dumplings for breakfast, I never know until I walk into the kitchen!

8:30- catch the bus to school. The time of my commute changes drastically depending on the amount of traffic that morning and how long I have to wait for a bus, but it usually takes me about 25 minutes to get to Bei Wai. It’s a great time to people watch though! If I have enough time before class, I might pop into the bakery right next to campus and chat with a few friends who also make this a custom. It feels like the LJ’s of JP’s of my China experience!

9:30- class. Right now I’m taking Chinese Literature, but my area studies courses are broken into blocks, so we take one class for about three weeks at a time, but at a very intense pace. I actually really like this method, because I can really focus on the material that we’re learning at the time. My Lit class has seven students, so we all have to contribute to the discussion! This has given me the opportunity to really get to know the material and get to know my classmates and their ideas. I absolutely love it though, to see China from the perspective of its authors, and what this creative outlet can teach us about the culture.

12:00- lunch. There are a multitude of options from the cafeteria on campus that has meals for one US dollar, to baozi or dumplings of the street, to more formal restaurants. I could go to every food place within walking distance of campus and never run out of options! I’ll probably do a post solely devoted to food sometime. This time might also be spent finishing homework or cramming for a Chinese quiz.

1:00- Chinese class. I’m in a class with two other students, so we all get lots of chances to talk and practice Chinese. I’ve already seen myself improve in a month of being here, so I can’t wait to see where I am by the time the program is done! After class I have my one on one session with a Chinese teacher, and I’m currently doing some extra learning about restaurant words, so that I can learn to order for myself here.

4:00- the language pledge lifts, so I’ll usually hang around and catch up with friends before heading home. Its been interesting having to think and speak Chinese only during the day. In a week, the language pledge will go to 24-7 on campus. With my language level, the language pledge has felt more like a vow of silence than anything else, because I just don’t have the vocabulary for the things I want to say yet. However, gesturing, pointing, grunting, and inserting English words when needed can be more effective than it seems! This is the time I might go on random food adventures or catch up emails (I never thought I would appreciate email until I’m 8-11 hours away from the people I love). Today we had our first Chinese test (and I think it went pretty well), so afterwards some friends and I went to the bakery and had a wonderful laughter filled conversation.  Below is hot milk tea, an afternoon favorite of mine- its basically like chai (served hot) with taro bubbles!  So good!Image

5:30- go home. While in the morning everyone (including me) is tired and bustling off to work, the evenings are an interesting time to be out and about. I love hearing the Chinese language around me even though I want more than anything to understand what people are saying, I love the way Beijing lights up with neon as night falls, I love the little street food and bootleg DVD stands that are open as I walk home from the bus stop. I don’t love climbing five flights of stairs to get to my apartment quite so much, but I guess its getting me in shape for Tibet later in the semester.

6:30- dinner. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. Chinese food is awesome. Definitely not for the picky eater, but I’ll eat anything that’s placed in front of me unless it has an unnecessary amount of spice. For example, fish here is served totally whole with the eyes, head, tail, etc. still intact. I’m also improving my chopstick skills, though I still drop things a lot, it’s starting to feel natural to me. Tonight we had a dish with shrimp in it and that includes the shell, legs, and head. They’re fried to be crispy, and man are they delicious!

7:00+- I usually start homework at this point, or maybe watch some tv with my host dad first. Its interesting how much you can pick up from a show with only knowing a few words of the language. Later in the night is a time when friends in Holland start waking up and coming online so I’ve had a few surprise late night Skype chats, which fill me with so much joy. One challenge I’ve had here is adjusting to not having the Christian community at Hope. I’ve gone to some different churches and I’m praying for a group that I feel like I fit with!

I’m headed to the city of Harbin to see their famous ice sculptures this weekend, so I’ll have lots of pictures and stories from that next week!

Happy New Year!

Chungjie
Sunday was the Chinese New Year, or since China now follows the Roman calendar, Spring Festival (Chunjie). Chunjie in China is like the American holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s all rolled into one. Life in Beijing stops as the migrant labor force (about half the population) returns home to other provinces. We had Monday through Wednesday off of classes this week to enjoy the festivities. Here’s how I enjoyed my Chunjie:
Saturday- New Year’s Eve is the big day, where we have a huge meal. Some other kids from my program came over to my homestay and our housekeeper actually said that she wanted us to eat so much that we would explode (I think we came pretty close!). Then we watched the traditional New Year’s Eve “talent competition” television event. It involves singing, dancing, and skits. Celine Dion even made an appearance. No, I don’t understand that one either. It would have been better if we could have understood what was being said and sung! Another key feature of Chunjie is fireworks. Not just your average driveway fireworks, but the big ones that could be used in an actual fireworks show. Here they can be bought by anyone off the street. Starting around 5 o’clock they were going off all around the city just about non-stop, culminating in an earth shaking racket at midnight that went on until about three. Thankfully, I’m a night owl!
Sunday- A friend of my homestay family invited me and a friend to go with them to a temple fair, which is the traditional gathering at Chunjie. There were a LOT of people, and stalls to buy souvenirs and street food, as well as sedan chair rides and other carnival games. We walked around the Old Summer Palace (where this temple fair was being held). It was awesome to meet a Chinese family and spend part of the traditional Chinese holiday with them. Their daughter is 14 and speaks English- love for Taylor Swift is universal!
Monday- I went with my host dad to visit his brother and his family. It was so much fun! His sister in law and her daughter were also there and they even have a dog. The girls were practicing their English with me and I got to practice my Chinese with the parents. The warmth of a welcoming and hospitable home is universal. The family sat around the table and laughed and even though I wish I could understand what was being said, I could understand that the family loves each other’s company. For dinner, I met up with a group from my program and we went out to an American restaurant that was way too expensive, but I had a quesadilla and it was magnificent. Cheese is not easily found in China at all. As much as I love Chinese food, its good to have something different every once in awhile. Trust me, no matter where you go, you will miss the tastes of home eventually!
Tuesday- I hung out with the same family that I did on Sunday and had lunch at their house. They heard from my host family about a dish that I really like called tangyuan (rice flower balls filled with red bean paste), and made some just for me! I ended up watching The Hunger Games with their daughter, and it was really interesting to explain the premise behind the story to someone with limited English, and the themes about government to someone who lives in a country with a very different government than ours, and enjoyed a relaxed evening of great conversation with my friends. Every day is something new!
Wednesday- Today I went to another temple fair with some kids from my program. More masses of humanity, more overpriced food, more ridiculous items for sale. I also went shopping with a friend. I must also add that the fireworks have carried on every night so far. I never thought I could be bored of fireworks, but there’s a first time for everything!
I’m so glad that I got to be in China for Chunjie, to see something that is such an important part of their culture, and to experience the family aspect that the holiday brings. I’m thankful for the families that have graciously invited me into their homes and filled me to bursting with delicious food, for the time spent getting to know friends better, and for God’s provision in bringing me here!