Yes, I'm posting in 2013. Better late than never! Read the note below. ^_^ [br][br] Here we are, last week of China!
08.05.2010 - 08.14.2010
NOTE: Yes, my exchange ended in August 2010 and I'm posting almost three years later. Much has happened since then. But my 15-year old self wrote this blog, and kept it saved as a draft so photos could be added. I can honestly say, I miss all of it, reading how whimsical and magical I saw this experience. If you all knew how this experience actually changed me...so now, with photos added, I give you my 15-year old self in writing. -Jen Huynh, Author of this blog
Yeah, I've pretty much blown all my kuai after this week. I really cannot believe that 5 weeks have gone by in China!
So on Thursday we went to the National Stadium. I decided to go to school after a day of being sick. I couldn't waste such a beautiful day at home! The idea of being there was really cool! The Olympics were there after all! But it was a little less than I expected since a lot of places you couldn't walk in to (like the actual field on the stadium, and a lot of the different rooms) and we couldn't go into the watercube either. However, it was nice that we had two days out in this week. At least this time we didn't have to use all 12+ of our cameras when taking group pictures. (Which have become quite irritating). One thing that I felt like I had to do was to bring a Stew Leonard's bag to the Olympic Bird's nest. I mean, it's $3 US for a picture overseas right? I also have one from the Great Wall too :D
Then we went to the China Nationalities Garden. It was a very pretty garden! We ended up having to stay with the group for most of this outing. We watched a few performances and some of my classmates partcipated. Like Mike, Rike, and Kyle did the pole pushing contest (it might be as weird to you as it sounds, but it was a hilarious moment) and Kyle won against a Chinese man. We found it quite entertaining. Sean also danced with one of the other nationalities' dancers when they were performing. At the end there was a water festival with the Dai people, where the people throw water at each other for good luck. It was optional, but I went in and got pretty soaked (not as much as the Chinese boys and Carrie's sister, Xinyue). At the end a lot of us were tired. I took a nap on the bus ride back to school.
After school, Kyle, Angelique, and Brett went to Jingshan Park with my host sister Henan, and Kyle's brother Chenli. We also met Brett's brother, Ma Kai Xiang, for the first time. He's soo cool :D The park was right behind forbidden city and you can see Beihai Park from the top of the tower. It was such a nice day too so the view was great :D At the top of the park there was a copper Buddha statue. It was beautiful, and I put some incense in to show my respects. It reminded me a bit of home.
Outside of the room with the copper Buddha, there were lots of people wearing traditional Chinese outfits. We actually spent 10 kuai each putting to put these on.... As we put them on we all were thinking "Are we really doing this? And are we really paying for this?" But it turned out pretty nice (and my head hurt after the big crown). I'll have pictures up soon (since I'm writing this in school). All of us went to a restaurant for Zha Jian Mian (translated as fried sauce noodles? it tastes MUCH better than it sounds!). Cheap food for a good price. We got home before 10, but it was a good day
On Friday, our liason (Gong Laoshi) got sick. So we had Zheng Laoshi (the teacher who taught me, Rike, and Carrie) teach the last unit of our book. Then school ended at noon so we could have some time to go to Temple of Heaven. Angelique, Becca, and I decided to go to the shopping place across the street from the Beijing Zoo instead since The Temple of Heaven closed late, and the place closed at 4:30. (so it'd be the only day we could go on a weekday without worrying about it closing early) I didn't buy as much this time, but I guarantee that there was more walking. We went to Carre Four THREE TIMES. Mainly because there was a cute guy working at a booth in the store. I took a creeper pic, and actually ended up talking with him. This is the paraphrased conversation (in Chinese):
Dude: Hey I'm selling a glucose monitor (actually a blood pressure machine thing) you wanna buy one?
Me: Uhhh no
Dude: Comon you never know when you need it!
Me: Okay, is it a good product?
Dude: Here, try it!
(pulls out the machine and a chair and takes my blood pressure
Dude: Your blood pressure is pretty high, are you nervous?
Me: Well I"m going to America next weekend.
Dude: Oh, is that why
Flirting with a cute Chinese guy, WIN. Except he was kind of cocky, you could tell he KNEW he was cute. Anyhow, after enough walking to and from Carrefour, we finally made our way to Temple of Heaven. It was getting dark out but we ended up staying there for a while. We didn't find the main attraction (the main Temple I guess?) until it was really dark and we couldn't find our way out of the park! We ended up just walking until we saw a police officer. I asked him, "qing wen, di tie zai nar?" which meant, "Excuse me, where is the subway?" He told us to wait at a bus stop for bus number 680. It finally got there after 20 minutes, but the most mysterious thing happened. The bus stopped, the bus driver turned off the bus, and walked away from it. We thought he was just going to the bathroom but he came back with a woman in the same uniform. They sat on the bench next to ours and started talking. Angelique, Becca, and I were so confused! So I went up to them and asked what was going on. I couldn't fully understand what the man said, but it sounded like the bus needed to "recharge"? We waited another 10 minutes and the two people finally got back on the bus and let us on. We rode back to the subway station so I could take the right route home. I got home around 8pm and missed dinner. I felt so bad! My host parents were really worried, but they were glad that I made it back on my own safely and using Chinese. At least it was the weekend now! (For any AFSers reading this, here's a tip: KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND, AND KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE WITH CHINESE.)
Saturday morning I went to Yonghegong (Lama temple) with Sean and Angelique. Kyle said it was really interesting, so we thought it'd be a good idea to go. I actually met Angelique's mom this time. She just got back from a business trip? (I think). Throughout the temple I felt really close with the culture. We lit incense and prayed at a lot of different alters, and there was a lot of different history that I learned while I was at the temple. Like, there was a different place you could pray for for certain things (Gods of Medicine, Gods of Education, etc.). I spun something (I'm blanking out on the name! D but its meant to give good luck! I felt good about lighting incense and praying because it was similar to what my parents do at home every morning for Taoism. Even though I still don't fully understand it, I am looking forward to learning more about it!
After the temple, Angelique's mom took us to a Cantonese restaurant. This made me especially happy because they had DIMSUM items! It really made me feel like I was at home. I love eating Dimsum in Connecticut/New York. It kind of made me feel a bit homesick, but that was quickly evaporated by the rest of my night!
Angelique wanted to get a perm, so we went back to the hair salon to hang out with the hair stylists. It was funny talking with them, and seeing Angelique get her hair done. Eventually, I left Angelique with my host sister in the salon to help my parents prepare for the rest of the night (:
My host parents allowed me to invite my classmates and their host siblings over for dinner. Brett, Angelique, Carrie, Rike, and Kyle came over with their host siblings. My host parents also invited family members to meet me. It was quite the feast, I could swear that by the end of the night we all gained at least five pounds. Kyle had to pull out his "nerd" pants and I was wearing sweatpants (funny how by the end of the trip, I lost 30 pounds!) At the end of the night, we all went to a pool hall near my apartment and played for half an hour. End to a great day (:
This was a pretty momentous day for me. It was six weeks ago on this day that I met my host family. I didn't really speak to much to them in Chinese, but today, I spent practically my entire morning communicating with my host parents, my lao lao (host grandma), lao ye (host grandpa), and some aunts and uncles IN MANDARIN. I call this an epic win. <Thinking about it now almost a year later, it makes me cry that I learned so much from them in six weeks.> I ate breakfast and lunch with the family members that came to visit me. At 1:30 Henan and I met up with her friends, Carrie, Angelique, Brett, and Kyle to go to Houhai for the day. We did some shopping and had eggtarts (can you say homesick speciality? ) I was able to buy a Chinese traditional dress! And for only 150 kuai ($22)! I was really happy because in the United States they cost a lot more. It looked good too Kyle, Carrie, and I decided to split.... (drumroll) bugs on a stick! We spent 6 kuai on bugs that were fried (I wanna say they were beetles, I don't know actually). I guess they tasted like cheap meat? It actually wasn't too bad :P
Our day consisted of buying gifts for friends and family at home, and just enjoying the nice day that Houhai had to offer. Everyone in the group got on a boat on the Houhai (south lake) while Kyle and I decided to take a bike ride around the bar street. It was nice exercising a bit and getting to see the sights of the area on one of China's most common forms of transportation, the bicycle. Being the uncoordinated person I am, I might've knocked over a lady on a motorcycle in my attempts to make sure I didn't trip Kyle. I didn't even know that I had done that until Kyle told me after that a Chinese lady was yelling derogatory terms at me. But hey, we understoood the language...! On our bike ride, we saw Carrie jump into the water, it was interesting that there are boat police.
The rest of the night consisted of us roaming the streets, and eventually getting lost while looking for a supposed famous snack bar that Makaixiang wanted us to go to. In the end, we walked so many streets that we finally settled for the restaurant next to the subway. I ordered myself seafood fried rice while Angelique and Brett both got mango curry, Henan and Makaixiang got scallion pancakes, and Kyle ordered meat on the menu. All the food was so good. But to our surprise, we found out later that Kyle had ordered something off the menu without really knowing what it was. It was dog meat, once my host sister translated for me. I was just appalled that I even tried it! Finally, we made it home pretty late, and slept away our very very long day.
August 9th and 10th
One week left in China! You know what that means? Make it last! Today, we went to the Summer Palace. After six weeks of teenagers constantly taking photos as a group, by this point we all began to feel tired of posing and making peace signs like we had been for the past few weeks. It was a groggy day, and many of us didn't feel like walking too much. It was still fun to be able to walk and view all the scenery of the palace, but it was too foggy for many sights.
It was odd that we had such a rigorous walking path though! Our tour guide ended up taking us up some very very steep stairs where all of us were hanging on to the railings as if our lives depended on it. Luckily we spoke up and said that this would be impossible. (can't risk spraining my ankle again!) When we got to the area with the stone ship, the place my dad always told me about, I got to try a very interesting delicacy that my friends in Harbin were telling me about: corn ice cream! Don't be fooled by the name, it actually was very delicious and satisfying! I also took this time to fulfill the Stew Leonards bags around the world challenge, and take a photo in front of one of the smaller buildings.
The next day, we spent the entire school day studying for our final exam. After school, Angelique and I took another trip to the hair salon to ask them to fix her perm, since it had already uncurled itself. Attempting to explain that in Chinese was fun!
All I can say about today was that it was...confusing? We learned the week before that we'd be performing on a show that would be broadcast-ed on CCTV. We had spent a few days rehearsing the song "Curse of the Chrysanthemum Flower" by Jay Chou and "Mo Li Hua (Jasmine flower)" for this performance! We thought we were going to a television studio, but then discovered that we were at a university. Suddenly, we were asked to take a photo with hundreds of children and some (I guess well known?) figures from different countries. Then, we saw signs that said "World Olympiad Mathematics Contest Consortium Organization." What were we doing here again?
Later, we had realized that we were the American representatives for a supposed "math competition". They asked three Americans to volunteer to go on stage. They didn't believe I was American when I went up to volunteer myself and sent me back to my seat! But the three students from our group that did go up were then given awards. Leigh and Kyle were awarded tied second place in a math contest, and Brett was awarded the gold medal for math. What! We didn't understand anything that was going on! Then, a man came in and announced he was sorry for his "late arrival" and celebrated that next year's presentation of math awards would be in South Korea! We asked a "math coach" what in the world was going on. I guess I won't jump to conclusions, because who knows what was happening?
Either way, we made it back JUST in time to take our final exam! It was no problem for me, it's amazing how much I learned in six weeks! I got a 95 on the test and was happy with that grade After school, we hit up KTV one last time to sing and hang out with our host siblings. Then, I spent the rest of my night with my host family.
August 12th, 13th, 14th
Well well, it's our last day of school! I can't believe that it's the end! What I remember most about that day was the fact that I had written a speech about how being Chinese and coming to Beijing really affected me. On the outside, I look like I am Chinese and that I am born here. It surprised me to see how much Chinese I actually knew. I almost started crying talking about how here, I've found a home, a community, so much happiness that I never knew from being so close to my culture and heritage. It's like the song we learned at home in Chinese class this year, 永永远远是龙的传人。Forever and forever, we are Descendants of the Dragon. The farewell/graduation for us was a lot of bittersweet tears. Afterwards, we went to a buffet with Brett, Angelique, and their host siblings, and eventually made our way back home. The last dinner was really really difficult. It was such good food. I tried to pay for the meal to thank them for everything, but they graciously said it was alright. I can't thank them enough for everything though. I packed a lot more, and was really sad that it was all almost an end. The night ended with Henan and I staying up really late trying to finish the multiplayer online game we started, knowing that we wouldn't see each other for a long time. My host mom came in and asked "Why aren't you sleeping, you have a long day." But she said her goodbyes, knowing that she had work when it was time to leave. I didn't know how to thank her for everything. Henan and I got the high score on the game too before going to bed.
I didn't want next morning to come. Leaving my host family is definitely the hardest part of the experience. I learned so much from them, and would love to see them again. I knew they cared once they said at dinner, "if you're ever in Beijing, you know how to get home." 如果你在来北京，你知道怎么回家。Saying goodbye is really so hard. I know some day, I want to return to Beijing. I want to see Henan and everyone again.
And to say, our trip ended with a bang, as everyone from the other parts of China in the NSLI-Y program reunited! Oh the bonding!
My life has changed. I love you China. I will be back someday.
I will be back for you China, I will make a point of it.