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May 31, 2006

Leaving Beijing

Currently everyone is in the crazy frenzy of packing and checking out. After two weeks of settling in and figuring out Beijing, we are now heading on to our next adventure in China, Jia Shan. Beijing was a lot of fun, and I’m sure I could spend years exploring the city and never come close to seeing all the cool places tucked away in back alleys and side roads. It’s still interesting to think how Beijing will host the 2008 Olympics, in a city already so crowded.
We had our last three hours of Chinese class today, and while it was a lot of fun learning a new language, three hours can get to be a bit long. If we speak really slowly, and find someone who speaks Chinese and has a lot of patience we may be able to carry on a short conversation, mostly about what we want to eat.
Last night we experienced Peking Opera. It was…… interesting, a bit of an assault to the ears at times, with loud crashing instrumentation, but still interesting. The three acts including, Stabbing a Clam, something about a girl sprinkling flower around the world….. and finally the monkey king. At times we were treated to a large light up sign that “translated? what we were seeing. However, the translation was questionable at best. Still, it was an interesting experience, and we got to see the pretty lights of Tiananmen Square on the ride home.

Xi'an

Xi'an was a beautiful place, at least out in the country anyways. I had
a great time there. We visited the Terra cotta's and a muslim temple.
Although the trip was very exhausting and a lot of walking, I still enjoyed
it very much. Along with the trip we also learned bits and pieces of
history about Xi'an here and there. Our tour guide was excellent (she
saved some people who were running late! ^-^) and very helpful. At the end
of our trip, she even sung all of us a song! Isn't that sweet?! haha.. .
Her name was Helen (american name) We(?sp).

The hotel that we stayed in was very beautiful. They had a young lady
playing the piano near the entrance. The melodies she played were so
beautiful that some of us couldn't help but be entranced by the music that
flowed from her fingers. Char even took a picture with her! Even some
little kids dragged their parents to stand near the piano, just to capture
the beauty of the melodies a moment before they went their way.

Our first night in Xi'an, Char and I went exploring. During our
exploration, we found a dancing square. Within the dancing square, people
were dancing to techno music everywhere! Their body movements consisted of
a lot of hip movement--and I mean extreme hip movement!--and a lot of using
the knee and legs to kick up in the air. Their rythm was soo contagious
that Char and I tried to learn their steps. It was funny, interesting, new
and required a lot of energy. Even old ladies and men were moving to the
beat of the fast pace techno music!! We spent about 35 mins hopping around
and enjoying our time before the slow music set back in, then we walked
back to our hotel.

Over all, Xi'an is a very beautiful place. Mountainous and green
everywhere out in the rural areas, the view made me nostalgic and miss my
family and sweety a lot. It was a good expereince. Very enjoyable. And
the best thing was, the sky was finally blue in Xi'an. ^-^

p.s: at the end, our flight got delayed and we ended up staying in the
Asian Hotel for free for a cew hours! haha..i got some pictures of us
waiting on the ground at the airport when we were told our flight was ready
to fly to Beijing at midnight! haha...that was ...funny.. .^-^ and tiring..
.
By A Thao

May 30, 2006

I hope this helps you see...signed sincerely me...

The past 10 or so days we spent here in Beijing was great. Thanks to our great host and hostess (Norman and Catherine), we got to see a lot of cool sights and ate great foods. I experience has drastically changed since arriving here in Beijing. When we first arrived here in Beijing, I really wanted to leave this city because of all the people that I see on the streets and the rudeness of the drivers here. After living and experiencing the things that Beijing has to offer, I have begin to really love this city. I love this city for its uniqueness and...for just "being itself." I have realized that it was the culture here for people to act a certain way or do a certain thing. I have come to Beijing with a closed mind and will leave with a very open mind. It seems a little ironic that the place I really wanted to leave in the beginning will be the place I want to stay longer in. I would love to live longer here and experience/explore it even more. Anyways, being in Beijing has taught me a lot. It would be too much to name all of them here so I will not do that. Before leaving Beijing tomorrow, I would just like to say "Thank you so much" to Catherine and Norman. Thanks for showing us what the "real" Beijing is all about. I hope that in two years I could come back and visit during the summer Olympics. I would really love to see Beijing without the construction cranes and workers and to stay a little bit longer. Once again, Thanks CNU. Zaijian!

P.S. I would also like to say, "Thanks," to Lee Mong, Bao and a dude, who's name I forgot, for allowing me to play tennis with you guys and include me in your conversations. It has made my stay here a whole lot better and smoother. Hopefully when we meet one day, we'll be able to communicate and understand each other better. I hope to talk or hear from you guys soon. You guys are great friends. Zaijian pengyou!

The Peking Opera

We went to the Peking Opera tonight. We watched the "tourist" version which
was about an hour long (the real Peking Opera is about four hours!) It was
very interesting! Bright colors, loud drums, amazing costumes, and of
course-- singing. The female lead actress used to be played by a man. Now,
they are played by women. I watched a film in my Gender in East Asia course
about the lives of male actors in Chinese Opera and how the actor that
played a woman trained extensively. It was great to have actually watched a
Peking Opera after learning about it in class. It was definitely different
and entertaining! On our way back to campus, we drove by Tiananmen and the
Forbidden City. Both sights were lit up with lights and the streets were
busy and full of people as usual. This will be our last night here in
Beijing. We leave tomorrow for Shanghai and Jiashan... Zai jian Beijing!

Post by Crystal Yang

May 25, 2006

Llama Temple

Today we explored the Llama Temple. It was quite interesting because I've never been to a temple before. There were incense burning all over the place. There were a lot of different buildings with different displays. I don't really know a lot about the Buddhist culture so everything there was new. But luckily some of the people around me knew a bit more and informed me. It was a wonderful experience. In one room there was a guy who looked so real. . but I was too scared to look at it closer, so i'm still not sure if it was a real monk or not. I think it's fake. . but it looked so so real. But I also got to witness the monks chanting prayers.

The funniest thing happened today. We were all at dinner and the waiter comes up to Patrick and I and he starts speaking to us in chinese. He is holding a big blue plastic bag. So I look at the people around me to see if they understood.. and no one did. . So then, Dan tells me that he probably wants my napkin. So I'm still a bit confused. . but I throw my napkin into the bag anyways.. . then the waiter gives me this weird look. . and we find out that the bag contained the fish that were about to be cooked that we were about to EAT!. . . ahaha. . it was so funny. . I've had some great experiences here. . ahahha. .

Rebecca at the Llama Temple

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It was a beautiful temple, and while there were tourists there, there were also many monks and regular people praying and burning incense. I don't know a great deal about Budhism, but this temple follows the Tibetan traditions of Lamaism. There were some enormous Buddha stratues and myriad rooms with different buddhas. I really enjoyed spending the afternoon there.

Lions, tigers, bears, and English majors Oh My!

So yesterday evening me and a few of the group left for the Beijing Zoo to check out the pandas and all of the interesting Chinese animals. To my amazement the zoo had dogs as an exhibit for people to see, perhaps the Chinese like dogs? I'm not too sure. Anyways, we didn't have too much time to check out the rest of the zoo since it was closing but it has a similar set up to the type of zoo that we can find in the U.S.

On our way back to campus, via the city bus, we were talking about how to translate the phrase "I love you" in different languages, and surprisingly, we met two English majors from CNU, which doesn't seem too common to find around here, and the girls had thought that I was the group's Chinese tour guide! Which I wish I was because then it would be a lot easier to get around. Anywho, the zoo was great and the trip back to CNU campus was even better, I hope to have more experiences like that for the rest of our trip!

Benefits of exploring the streets

Sure, everywhere you travel, it's important and almost sometimes necessary that you visit the "big name places and historical sites." I've partaken on these excursions myself on this trip many times already. But on our afternoon off today, I was wandering through the crowded streets of Beijing and found myself learning about the Chinese people in new ways. There were still the many street vendors who come up to you and hound at you, trying to sell you something of any different sort. These people are everywhere here and it's been one of the hardest things to get used to. For me it's like "why don't they just let the tourists come to them if and when they want something. the service might be better and the people wouldn't be as irritated by the seemingly rude interruptions and constant pestering." During this hike, I also saw more of the homeless, a phenomenon that I never really thought to be possible in a Communist country where everyong is supposed to be earning equal shares of money; an apparent misconception in the way that I had previously understood the concept. I found that these trips through the non-touristy part of China has provided me with a new understanding of part of this country. Sure, the other places and classes can provide us with understanding of history and culture, but these walks have given me a greater understanding of things that aren't described in textbooks or present in historical monuments. Now, I'm not saying that this is the only way to learn about China or any other country for that matter. I would just suggest that during the busy time while studying abroad, I would encourage anyone to take the time to explore the foreign country they're in and not only enjoy the experience but allow themselves to take in the culture in an attempt to enhance their learning.

Great Wall of China

After arriving at the Great Wall the group split into two smaller groups, those who wanted to walk up to the top of the Great Wall and those who were taking the cable car (I was in the cable car group). The cable car was amazing. You get into this tiny little bubble with three other people and you're suddenly soaring a couple hundred feet off the ground. When you get to the top, the scenery takes your breath away. The mountains stretch for miles into the distance and you can see parts of the Wall on almost every peak and slope. As we walked down the Wall we were surrounded by a sea of people, vendor and tourists alike. You can even look down from the parapets and imagine what it was like to be stationed there waiting and watching for invasions by the barbarian Mongols. So far, this was one of the best experiences of the trip.

At the Zoo

*Today, I went to the Beijing zoo with 8 other people! It was really
interesting!! The weirdest thing that I saw AND heard at the zoo was...
..dogs barking!! My initial reaction was fear because it sounded like 15 BIG
dogs were on the lose in the zoo and was heading directly towards US!! But
then on second thought, I reasoned to myself that they probably kept some
sort of wild dogs for show in the zoo and that we were passing by the "wild
dog" area. To my surprise, when I investigated the area of the dogs
barking, I saw a bunch of dogs running around lose in a fenced in area!!
Meanwhile, there were some other dogs that were fenced in within the fenced
area! I don't know if this is the petting zoo area or not, but this is
something that is really different from the zoo's in the U.S. Seeing the
dogs caged up as if for show was something very unexpected.

Besides the dogs, there were many other intersting animals in the zoo. For
example, there were the white deers. I can't recall the exact species name,
but they were white and I've never seen white deers before. That was really
awesome!! There is also a really scenic place by the area set aside for the
mallaeds, geeses, turkeys (yes, TURKEYS too!!) and pelicans, etc.. . They
made a rocky waterfall area for them!! The sight was really beautiful, so I
took a few snapshots there for uploading. I noticed a group of mallards
attempting to walk across the rocky ledge that stuck out from the waterfall
and it was so cute!
There is also a small river (I think it was design as part of the zoo) that
weaves around the zoo(?) or just that particular area by the mallards
etc...that has been stocked with koi's. And then there are mini bridges
that you can walk over to view them from the top as you continue on your way
to other interesting areas of the zoo.

Another really awesome thing about the zoo is the PANDA House!!! Yes,
living, breathing and moving pandas!! I've never seen one before so it felt
really good seeing pandas for the first time. So, if you like Pandas, check
it out! You can see them up close and personal!!

*Overall, the visit was very fun, interesting and exciting!! The zoo was
really big. It has SOOOO many different types of animals that it'll keep
you going and going and going!!

Well, I'll say this much only for today. See you next time when I come back

A Thao

May 24, 2006

A day at the Beijing Zoo!!

Today I went with a group of 8 people: Becca, Burton, A, Char, Patrick C., Patrick V, Crystal and Two Shacks to the Beijing Zoo. We were going to take a taxi there but the woman at the front desk at the hotel told us how to get there by bus. This ended up to be great because it was much cheaper than a taxi...only one yuan (about 12 cents) each way! When we got to the zoo we first went into the building with the pandas. Oh, they were so cute!! At first it was kinda hard to see their faces since they wouldn't look out the glass window. But, then we found some stairs on the side by the window and were able to see their faces a lot better! We also saw a lot of other exotic animals. There were these monkeys that had red and white faces, they were kinda ugly. There was also this animal that looked like an anteater. He was kinda weird looking too! Then, when we were taking the bus home we met two Chinese girls that were also studying at Capital Normal University. They showed us a good restraurant to eat at for dinner. I had a dish that was scrambled eggs and spinach. It was very yummy!! :)

The great smells of China.....etc...

Beijing Stinks! Horribly! Public restrooms are horrible because toilet paper has to be thrown into the trash and not the toilet...idk why though...As a result, all bathrooms smell like pee before you enter. Also, while walking down the street, I have to keep my mouth and nose covered..usually with a kleenex or my shirt...because the smell gets very bad. Lately though, I haven't been too bothered with the smell because I developed a runny nose and itchy throat while here. THe bad thing about not being able to breath through my nose though, is that everything is going in through my mouth...ewwww...Well... besides the horrible smell, Beijing has a unique smell about it...In the sheets, towels, kleenxes I buy, and just about everything else...there's a unique smell that I don't particularly like....haha....On the other hand, we went to the summer palace yesterday, and the place was beautiful. There was such a nice breeze from the lake and it was the first time fresh air came through my nostrils... I was thrilled. So far, I've gotten over the stinky smell but lets hope that I get over my stuffy nose and itchy throat also....~smiles from Beijing, China~

May 23, 2006

Jennifer Boating

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I love paddle boats! The breeze on the lake made for perfect paddleboating!

A Great Day!

Summer Palace.JPG
Today was probably my favorite day here yet! It started off well with writing post cards and sleeping in, then I got some lunch and the group headed for the Summer Palace which turns out to be this huge gorgeous park with a lake and palaces and gardens and best of all it wasn't crowded or noisy! Crystal, Mayla, A, Cecilia, Mimi and I rented a big paddle boat and spent about an hour paddling around the lake! I steered us successfully under a bridge with narrow pillars which I was pretty proud of. Then we found some yummy ice cream for 3 yuan, about 40 cents and went for a walk around the grounds. I could have spent a full day there and had a picnic!

Ice Cream, anyone?

Char Crystal Burton.JPG
Crystal, Char, and Burton chilling with some Banana Ice Cream at the Summer Palace
Photo by Jennifer Falzerano