Yesterday, we took a field trip to the Great Wall, which was probably my favorite 名胜古迹 I’ve seen so far. We went to a relatively far area of the wall, called Jinshanling, and the scenery was spectacular, plus there weren’t many tourists. We left school early, and we took a bus to Jinshanling, which is outside of Beijing in Hebei province. We were told the ride would be 3 hours, but it only took 1.5 hours to get there. As we left the city, I noticed two things: first, there was construction everywhere on the outskirts of the city. Always tower cranes building new monstrosities. The second was that as you leave the city, it becomes rural incredibly fast. Even before we were past the 6th ring road it was almost all open land. Interesting that there is really no suburbs of Beijing.
I had an absolutely incredible time at the wall. It was a tough hike to get there, but once we were at the top, it was amazing to be so high up and see the wall wind its way across the mountain tops until it faded into the distance in both directions. Afterward, we had lunch at a small restaurant, and then headed back.
On Monday of this week, we had a visitor from Tufts University give a presentation to us about both Tufts and the admissions process in general, which I thought was very informative, though it’s always stressful to think about college! On Tuesday I started Tai Chi classes in the morning, which I did on both Tuesday and Thursday this week. It was really fun to try out and a nice way to relax before my morning Chinese quizzes. On Wednesday I had my first robotics class with the Chinese students after school. Obviously I didn’t understand most of what was going on, but I could still follow along with what they were doing on the computer.
Next week we only have school on Monday, then Tuesday is the school’s field day, so SYA will be competing against the rest of the classes at 北师大二附中 (the high school I attend). Finally, we will have October 1-7 off from school to celebrate the National Day Holiday (国庆节), which is the day that Mao declared the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This year will be the 65th anniversary. I’m very excited to use this time off to see lots of sights around Beijing!
That's all for now! Hard to believe this will be my last post of September already. As of this Thursday, I've been here for a month - Wow!
This week was my busiest at school so far, with more and more characters to memorize each night. I am enjoying most of classes, though, it’s just the homework that gets to be a drag. I’m working for a long time each night, but I’m getting through it just fine.
On Wednesday after school, we took a class trip to the Forbidden City (故宫), which I was very excited to see! As I’ve said before, I love seeing the ancient Chinese architecture. Because of the massive scale of the Forbidden City (it contains 9,999 buildings) we were only able to see the main courtyards, so I’m already looking forward to going back to see more.
Yesterday, I went to the Summer Palace, which was the Emperor’s escape from the Forbidden City. We only saw about ½ of the palace, but then we took a walk around the lake nearby, which was beautiful. I really enjoy being able to go out into the city with friends to go explore different sights. Couple that with the fact that I’m doing my own shopping, and I definitely feel much more independent here!
Here are some other pictures I took this week (mouse over for captions):
Enough about schoolwork, though, since that’s the boring part of my experience! As I mentioned in my last post, last Wednesday we took a field trip to the Lama (Buddhist) and Confucius Temples, which was very cool because at the time we were learning about Confucianism in history and now we are learning about Buddhism. Both temples had really amazing ancient Chinese architecture. At the Confucius Temple, they also have 190 huge, ancient stones that contain Confucius’s Analects. At the Lama Temple, it was really cool to see Buddhists actually praying there, and to have a chance to pray with the incense ourselves.
Last weekend, in addition to doing lots of homework, I also had a chance to explore a little more of the city. On Saturday I explored my neighborhood with some SYA friends who also live near school. Then on Sunday, we went to the 798 Art District of Beijing, which has lots of modern-art galleries, coffee shops, and sculptures on the streets. The area was once full of German factories, and it is cool to see how the old factories have now been converted into studios.
Monday was the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) in China, which meant I got the day off from school. I mostly relaxed at my apartment and did some SAT prep and homework, but in the evening I went with Ma (Chinese word for mother - what I call my host mother) to Hohai, which is a lake and park about a 40 minute walk from my apartment. Because of an old Chinese legend, you are supposed to look at the moon on the Mid-Autumn Festival, so we were able to see the moon over the lake, which was really beautiful. I was glad that Ma suggested we go to the lake, because we have a lot of trouble communicating and she usually doesn’t like it when I suggest we do something together.
This has been a very busy weekend for me. I have more school work here than I ever would have believed! I was able to take some time off yesterday to visit the Beijing Zoo, though. It was a fun outing, but it was actually very sad to see the conditions that the animals are housed in. Many of them looked very sick and unhappy. In the end we saw the pandas, though, which I was very exciting because I had never seen a panda before! They were very cute!
Here are some other miscellaneous pictures I took this week:
Well, I better get to sleep so I'm well rested for my Mandarin quizzes tomorrow!
Today marks one week since I arrived in Beijing. There’s so much to talk about and so much that has happened that I can’t possibly include it all, but I will try to give a quick overview of what I have done since I have arrived and my first impressions of the city of Beijing and of life in China in general.
Sunday was much more fun. I told my host mother I wanted to go to Tiananmen Square, so we went along with Caitlin, another SYA student who lives in the same apartment building that I do. Our outing to Tiananmen Square was my first time venturing out into the city of Beijing, and it certainly was an interesting experience. I learned how to use the bus in Beijing, but I also got a taste of how long it takes to get from place to place around the city with its terrible traffic. Once we got to Tiananmen Square, I loved seeing the area and taking my picture next to Mao’s portrait. I think it's very fun to be a tourist sometimes!
I also got a sense of how Beijing's many contradictions. Not a half mile from the ancient Forbidden City lies the ultramodern National Performing Arts Center, and surrounding the small Hutong alleyways lie gigantic glass shopping malls.
On Monday, I had my first day of classes, where I was introduced to my Calculus, English, AP Environmental Science, and Chinese History teachers. Now, I am just getting into the rhythm of school and homework. Yesterday, we took a really cool trip to the Confucius and Lama Temples, and today I had my first day of Mandarin classes, but I will save that until my next post.
I hope everything is going well with the first week of school at GFA.
Until next time,