On Wednesday I went to the China Care Home orphanage on the outskirts of Beijing. At GFA I am very involved in the China Care Club, which raises money for this orphanage, so it was really rewarding for me to finally see it after hearing about it for so long. The Home is a temporary orphanage where small children can stay while they await medical care in Beijing, which the Home also pays for. Unlike a typical orphanage, though, when the children have fully recovered from their procedures, they will return to their home orphanages. When I was there, there were about 30 kids staying at the Home, most between 0-6 years old. The China Care Home is actually inside a large residential home. The downstairs is largely administrative space, and the bedrooms on the second floor each house a few kids. I was pleased to find that the kids all seemed happy and really well cared for. There is a “妈妈” or caregiver for every 2-3 kids, and they get a lot of individual attention. I had a great time meeting and playing with the children, and it was inspiring to see how much care is given to helping these children with very serious illnesses. Though these medical conditions are very sad, it is amazing that these kids have a healthy future ahead of them thanks to the surgeries provided by the Home.
This Thursday marked exactly eight weeks since I arrived and eight weeks until I leave SYA, so I am now more than halfway done, which is hard to believe!
Yesterday, I visited the mansion of Prince Gong, who was in charge of China’s first foreign affairs office following the Second Opium War. It’s really cool to be able to learn about something in history class and then go see it on the weekend! We also get extra credit for going to certain places like this (Thanks Fu Laoshi!).
Today the pollution cleared so I considered going out to do something, but I have a lot of work to do, so instead I just went out to go to lunch and to go to the supermarket. Speaking of my homework, I have a midterm in Mandarin tomorrow, so I’ll get back to studying for that!
During the week I continued my classes and extracurriculars, which now include calligraphy, Tai Chi, robotics, and ping pong! Next Friday is the end of the quarter, which means that I am gearing up for mid-term exams next week.
Though the pollution was better over the past week, it returned to “hazardous” levels today, which makes it difficult to be outside for long periods of time, as I find myself getting headaches. However, I do have a mask that I try to wear while I am outside, and this helps a bit.
Today I went to the Baiyun Temple, which is a Daoist temple that is home to many actual Daoist monks. It was great to see the monks praying and practicing their calligraphy in addition to exploring the Temple, which was quite large and consisted of many halls.
Afterward, I took the subway to Chongwenmen, which is the site of the last remaining section of the Ming dynasty wall that once surrounded the city of Beijing. It is amazing to think that what was once the edge of the city now lies almost in its heart.
Today (10/12) was my birthday, and it has been quite an experience to have a birthday in China. Last night I celebrated with friends at an American-style pizza restaurant, and we even found a birthday cake at a Cold Stone Creamery. This afternoon I went to HoHai park, and we took out a paddle boat on the lake, which was fun and relaxing. This evening, when I told my host dad it was my birthday, he was very excited! He made me special long noodles for dinner that symbolize long life (a Chinese birthday tradition), and then he took me to Olympic Park. I hadn’t seen the park at night before, and the lights were spectacular. I received some notes and gifts from my family back home, too! Thank you all for your thoughtful presents and cards :)
On Friday night, I attended a Mariah Carey concert with a group of classmates at the Beijing Worker’s Stadium. It was a very interesting experience to see an American pop concert in the context of Beijing. I was surprised how empty the stadium was.
Though it cleared today, the pollution over the past week has been incredibly bad. On Thursday, it even reach “Beyond Index”!
Back to school again tomorrow. Have a great week!
Since my post last Sunday, I've only had one normal day of school (Monday, the 29th). Besides that, my week has been packed with new experiences, exploring Beijing, and catching up on sleep and homework.
On Wednesday, my vacation from school for the National Day Holiday (国庆节) officially began. The weather was terrible on Wednesday, but I still went to the Olympic park, because I had wanted to see it for a long time. Unfortunately, all the major sights like the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube were closed, but we managed to get into the China Science and Technology Museum to get out of the rain for a few hours.
On Thursday I braved the incredible crowds of people flocking to Tiananmen Square for the holiday and went see the decorations in the square, then took a long walk around the Forbidden City to Jingshan Park. The park is on top of a small manmade mountain on the north side of the Forbidden City that was built to protect the emperor from the bad Feng Shui coming from the north. There is a pavilion at the top that affords an incredible view of the city.
Friday was another rainy day, so I went to the Capital Museum to learn some more about Chinese history and, more specifically, the history of Beijing. Afterward, the weather cleared up, so I took a walk to Beihai Park, which is built around one of the ancient reservoirs for Beijing.
On Sunday, I went to the Temple of Heaven, which I thought was magnificent. It was much bigger than I expected, and there is also a large park around it with some other interesting ancient structures. After that, I went to Wangfujing St., which sells all types of bugs, from scorpions to caterpillars, for dinner. I didn’t really have the stomach for it, though, since it was a pretty narrow alleyway and people kept accidentally hitting me with their scorpions or pushing me into food stalls selling octopus tentacles. Eventually, we all decided to bail and eat at a nearby McDonalds instead! It was fun to see, but I don’t think I’ll be returning the Wangfujing.
Finally, Monday I took a day trip out of Beijing to the Ming Tombs. My Lonely Planet travel guide said the bus trip would take one hour, but it ended up being more than two and a half hours with the traffic. We also had some more trouble getting back; we had to take a bus to the outskirts of Beijing and take a subway from there. Despite our transportation issues, I enjoyed having something to do and I really liked seeing the tombs. They are mostly a series of halls leading to the burial ground, but in the second tomb we visited, the tombs themselves had been excavated, so we could go underground to see the burial chambers.
Right now it is Tuesday afternoon, and I am spending my last day of vacation doing homework and catching up on things like writing this blog. It has been nice to have a break from school, and I certainly don’t miss my daily Chinese quizzes, but I’m ready to return to school tomorrow.