Well I should probably begin writing my ten page paper due for this class in little over a week, but this seems much more fun at the moment. To Cassie and Ryan, the Harry Potter reference was very necessary, I felt like I was really in the movie… it was pretty sweet. We will have to make mock hot pot dinners when I get back to the states so we can all experience it and to Cassie I am definitely going to have the travel bug after this so I will gladly join you in your travels after graduation miss you guys like crazy and RYAN HAPPY 21 BIRTHDAY!! Expect a gift from China when I return.
We have started to have a lot more down time than usual now that we are done sightseeing. We have lectures in the morning then the rest of the day is usually ours to spend however we want. The lectures in the morning though have been very interesting; we had one on Chinese medicine and another with Wei teaching us Chinese Calligraphy.
I am not exactly sure how I feel about the whole medicine practices here in China. Traditional medicine is all about the herbs and natural treatment like meditation, massage, and acupuncture, while the more modern techniques rely on prescriptions and medicine that we are more accustomed to in the states. I am not a big fan of taking pills if you don’t absolutely need to but I am also not sure that meditation can cure cancer. I guess it’s the whole mindset you have going through the processes and I am sure a lot of things can contribute to how you handle your illness. I did, however, like the acupuncture and massage techniques used. There were a couple cool ones like when you make a fist, if you push really hard where your middle fingers hits your palm it is suppose to be good for heart problems and dizziness. Another neat one was if you push about an inch from the middle of the big crease in your wrist it is suppose to help cure upset stomach and nausea. The acupuncture was also very interesting to learn about. In China they believe you have your actual veins, then invisible veins that serve different purposes. In acupuncture they target your invisible veins and there are so many different techniques in how you poke someone that does different things, like if you push it in very fast or twist it. I took some of the packages needles so if anyone wants me to try some at home acupuncture let me know! Just kidding.
Now, Chinese Calligraphy was also quite the experience. Our professor Wei makes it look so easy but in reality it was extremely hard to get it right and make it look good. When writing anything in Chinese, it is not just a straight line or a circle or anything, it’s a point then you have to bring your brush up just a little bit, then apply pressure and bring it across the page, then finish by gently lifting and swooping the edge. Can you tell we had to repeat this OVER AND OVER AND OVER again to get it right? I guess the whole process also relates to all the other design techniques used in China, everything takes time and you need to enjoy the whole process, not just the finished product. So in a couple hours I learned how to write one, two and three and also the Chinese word for “forever” because it embodies all the techniques you need to know to write Calligraphy well. The whole process was very relaxing once you got the hang of it and I think I am going to end up taking Wei’s Chinese Brushstroke class when I get back to UW, if anyone is interested in taking it with me
After lecture we usually go around to some other places in Beijing we haven’t seen before, like one day the girls on the trip decided to go to the zoo to see pandas. This was a good idea and bad idea all at the same time. I have heard horror stories about the zoo and how they are completely different than the US, but I figured it couldn’t be THAT BAD. I was wrong. The panda house was nice (it was redone for the Olympic Games in 2008), they were extremely cute and actually very lazy. Two of the pandas just sat on their butts and only moved when they wanted to get more bamboo or carrots to eat and then they would just plop right back down and start eating. I think I legit got about 100 pictures of just them. It was AFTER the panda house that it really started to sink in how bad the zoo actually was. It isn’t like China doesn’t have the resources to treat their animals nice, I think the zoo is really just a cultural difference, but either way it was pretty bad to witness firsthand. The monkeys had patches of fur missing and were playing with plastic bags and the white tigers were in like 10×10 cublicles with absolutely nothing else in their cages. Even the peacocks were like locked up in glass cages, which is weird because they just like roam freely in zoos by us. The whole experience was just kind of sad. I would recommend only going to see the pandas and then leaving to anyone who is thinking about going to the Beijing Zoo in the future.
Another thing I would recommend to do in Beijing is to go find the night market. I was absolutely grossed out by most of the things I saw but the experience itself was really interesting, however I think one visit is perfectly fine for a lifetime. We started off just wanting to visit the Forbidden City at night and see all the areas around it, which was super cool. It kind of reminded me of a mini times square; there were tons of people and little shops and stores and lights, but then tucked away in the corner is this little street decked out in lights. Luckily we had one of the grad students with us who speaks Chinese and we were able to see what ask her what some of the stuff was the vendors were selling, however some things needed to explanation at all.
The very first thing we see is skewers upon skewers of little scorpions, which was bad enough, but then the vendor would smack the table and all their little legs would start moving because they were still alive. Needless to say the kid on the trip we EATS everything bought one and before I realized they fried them before you eat them and you don’t actually eat them while they are still alive I thought I was going to throw up. But after that we continued on and saw more scorpions, these sea dragons that looked like dinosaurs, starfish, seahorses, cockroaches, bugs, and even huge tarantulas all cooked up on skewers. Then there was stomach ( I stupidly ate pork stomach on one occasion in China and am still recovering from it), weird jello meat things, octopus and squid… pretty much anything you would never want to eat in your life they had to try. There were some normal things, like we got fried ice-cream, and they had fruit and snacks and stuff like that MOST of the things were gross and disgusting and there were all these weird smells and people eating gross things and like I said before, it was nice to experience it ONCE but probably never again.
Besides that little excursion I am still also doing my fair share of shopping. When we aren’t exploring Beijing, seeing pandas, or eating bugs, we are usually at some kind of market or another popular activity: out at clubs and the bar districts. It is quite the experience. We have made our way out to this club called Global a couple times and each time it is super fun. The Chinese absolutely love you and let you in for free and bring you whatever you want and they all want to dance with you and take pictures. It is also very fun because they play American music, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Each time we go we all have a good time and it is super chill. We will all definitely miss our times at Global when we leave Beijing.
Another cool area we have been to is a place called Hutong bar District. It is literally bars and restaurants lining this big lake. Each bar is a little differently themed so it’s fun to just walk around and see them all. We stopped at one bar… the Michael Jackson bar… which we left pretty early, then made our way to the Reggae bar, which I am sure you could have guessed from the name was super laid-back and chill. The best part was that we met SO many people from all over the world. We met three guys from the UK, one from New Zealand, another from Holland, a bunch of people from all over China and Hong Kong. Then we met a bunch of students from all over the states. It absolutely amazed me how many cultures were at this one random bar in the middle of Beijing. I loved talking to everyone and learning about their travels, what they do back home, and of course… hearing all the accents, I particularly enjoyed the guys from UK accents. The whole experience was great and I am loving meeting so many different people.
So yeah, now that I sufficiently procrastinated enough, I think I am going to head out. We leave Beijing on Wednesday to see other parts of China then eventually end up in Shanghai, and although I am going to miss Beijing, Peking University, and all the adventures we have had here, I am super excited to see other parts of the country. I heard, last night from some locals, that Shanghai is like the New York of China and that the architecture, shopping, and night life is AMAZING. Ill will have to let you know how that goes next time until then keep reading and posting. I am starting to miss everyone like crazyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.