Right now I am at the 北京airport with only a few hours before boarding the plane back to the United States. On the way to the airport I kept thinking about all the memories I made and all the friends I leave behind. I could not hold in my emotions anymore. I am very sad to leave and I get this feeling of emptiness when I think about leaving the things I learned to love and the people I appreciate so much. Nevertheless, my experience in China was extraordinary and unforgettable. I cherish every moment I spend on the streets of Shijiazhuang and all the other cities I visited. The time with my friends, the laughter, and the bad jokes I will remember forever. Prior to coming on this trip, I did not have a lot of expectations. I expected to learn Chinese and first hand visit and see the incredible historical places that China is known for. Now that it is the end of the journey, I can say that I truly learned what I came here to learn and I saw more than what I expected. Something that I did not expect was to grow so much personally and to make really good friends. I suppose that in any trip one goes, friendship will be encountered. For me, I found long lasting friendship and even more. The most interesting experience I had was being called so many different nationalities. Some people actually thought I was Chinese, others thought I was from the Middle East and others from Europe. I guess that was one of the reasons why I did not get stared at so much as the others did. There were a lot more interesting moments, but I would have to retell my entire experience in China. Most of the things I learned where about China’s history and culture. In addition, I also learned a lot of things about myself and as I mentioned earlier I grew a lot during this trip. One of the most important things I learned about myself is that I would make a really good teacher, but the thing is that I do not like to teach big groups. I like one on one or just a few students. From other experiences I knew that I enjoyed helping other. That I have always enjoyed. But this got me thinking about teaching a language on a foreign country. I think it would be an amazing experience. One thing I regret is not studying abroad earlier in my college career. This experience has influenced the way I think and what I want. If I would have done it earlier I would have a better chance of doing some of the things I want to do now. For example, I really learned to love the Chinese language and I would like to speak it fluently but since I am a senior it is kind of too late. But of course I will keep learning on my own, except I know it will take a long time and effort.
My favorite trip in China was going to Shandong. I really enjoyed climbing Taishan Mountain. It was one of the most satisfactory experiences I had. With that I found out I love climbing mountains and I hope to make this a hobby. Food is great here in China, there is so much to choose from and you can basically make up your own dish. One of my favorite foods was 包子(baozi). It is stuffed steamed bread. Amazingly delicious. I would eat it almost every single day. I am sad that in the US they don’t exist, or at least not where I live. This is one of the things I will miss. I will miss a lot more things and everyone I met. I hope that one day I will return to this beautiful country and hopefully my Chinese will be much better. Well, one thing left to say is that my experience was great and I would not have given it up for anything. 再见中国。
This past week was the last week of classes and pretty much my time in China is over. I must say that my last literature class was the best. The discussion in class was intense and it got me thinking a lot about life itself and the great philosophers of China. It was sincerely amazing and throughout my entire stay in China, that was the class I enjoyed the most. We will have a Chinese final exam this week and I feel that I am mostly prepared for it. It really does not make me nervous. The little Chinese I know, I know it well. For my semester to be over, I just need to write one more final paper. It is unbelievable that just about four months ago I arrived to China and now only five days until I depart back to my home. Time flies when you are enjoying what you do.
Since we were not in the US to celebrate Thanksgiving, we celebrated it at our professor’s house on Saturday. It was a unique Thanksgiving in China. The food was delicious and mashed potatoes completed the dinner. One thing I really like about going to my professor’s house is that, we always have tea before eating dinner. I am really going to miss having tea. When it was time to leave, we had to walk to the dorm because there was construction on the road. I enjoyed the night walk even though it was cold. It is cold here in China but the cold does not burn like in Nebraska and it is not as windy either. On Saturday it snowed a little bit, but now it is gone.
Yesterday, we had a surprise for our professor. We went to Wanda mall to have ice cream at Haagen-Dazs. That ice cream was my first meal of the day and it was delicious. I had never been to Haagen-Dazs before. It is a very expensive ice cream place. The ice cream nonetheless is very, very good. I am not going to say as good as the “nieve de limón” in Mexico because nothing tops that. It was a happy good bye to the people that helped us so much here in China. I don’t like good byes because it is sad thinking that you will not see those people again; maybe in the future, if I get the opportunity to come to China again. I will not forget this experience that has had a big impact in my life. I started packing, but the idea that I am leaving and not coming back has not hit me yet. My life will be different after December 7th. I may or may not be ready for it.
The last trip was to Beijing. Luckily it was not as cold and I really enjoyed it even though we had already been to some places. Beijing is a huge city and there are thousands and thousands of cars on the roads. The traffic was amazingly crowded. It would take more than an hour to get from one place to the next. The weather on the other hand was not as freezing cold as it was in PingYao. The days were sunny and that helped a lot. The day we arrived ours first sightseeing was the Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City. On our previous trip to Beijing in the beginning of my China experience we visited the Square. The Forbidden City is enormous. The atmosphere is the place is very calming and it feels as if you would be back in the ancient times. The food in Beijing was delicious. I was very satisfied with every dish we had. That was one of the best things about the trip.
The next day, in the morning we took a bus to the Great Wall of China. Ever since I have studied China and Chinese culture, the Great Wall has been one of the hallmarks and one of the reasons why I wanted to come to China. I could not wait for the opportunity to be one the wall and climb it. I must say that it was not easy. It was very steep and the stone steps were different sizes, some were so high that I had to flex my leg past a 90º angle. Nevertheless, I made it to the top and I was very satisfied with myself. It was almost like climbing another mountain but the feeling of reaching the top was even better. The Great Wall of China was amazing and the best part of the trip for me. In the afternoon, we headed to the Summer Palace. This was one of the places we had visited so it was not as exciting. I really wanted to get into the main palace, but we did not and it was disappointing.
On our last day, we visited the Temple of Heaven. This temple was beautiful and majestic. We had a different tour guide on this day and he has very helpful. He gave us a lot of history about the temple. The temple was used by the emperors to worship heaven. This temple is located inside a very big park. In the park there were many, many people dancing, playing games, and doing other recreational activities. The weather this day was perfect. It was cold, but the warmth of the sun was all you needed to stay warm. I enjoyed seeing this temple and watching all the people in the park. I felt really content. This being the last trip we would take in China, I tried to enjoy every second of it except those times when my toes would be freezing. That I did not enjoy a bit.
Well this week we did not travel anywhere, which I was fine with because I was getting tired of traveling every weekend. I needed sometime to just be at the dorm. So since we did not go anywhere there is nothing super interesting to talk about. I am enjoying going to class. I have been reading the book for literature and it is very interesting. It is time to write my paper and I think I found a topic to write about. Now I just have to start it. Our teacher gave us a gift, The Book of Tao and Teh. This book is about Taoism, it is difficult to understand. Not only is it going to teach me about Tao, but also it will be useful to learn Chinese since it has pinyin. I like it when what you are learning in one class connects with what you learn in another class. This is the case, in literature we are learning about great philosophers and their teachings and in history we touched on the same subject. Now I feel that I have learned it better. Hopefully it will stay in my long-term memory.
One thing that will definitely stay in my long-term memory is this enriching experience in China. The time to depart back home is getting closer, only three weeks and we leave China. As I was walking in the evening yesterday, I thought to myself, “this is probably the last Saturday I will spend doing this here in Shijiazhuang.” That feeling that you get when something is about to be over is growing in me now. I know that probably I will not come back to China. I would hope that someday I, again, get the opportunity to come. But it will not be the same thing. When you have something good it is hard to let it go. I will be leaving a lot of good things in China. On the other hand, I will also take many good things. For example, the amazing experiences I lived, the friendships I found, and unforgettable moments. I am sad to leave China, but at the same time I am happy to go back home. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the delicious homemade Mexican food, spending time with my friends and my family, and just being home. Sometimes I want time to rush by so that I can be home, but other times I want it go slow down so I can stay more time here.
Tonight we got back from the trip to PingYao. Wow it was so cold, Nebraska cold. I have no winter coat so it was extremely hard to enjoy site seeing in the city when I felt the cold right to my bones. My feet were freezing and after a few hours of walking I could not feel them. If it had not been cold, I would have enjoyed the trip much more. Pingyao is one of the oldest cities in China. The city is surrounded by a wall and the majority of the buildings are in their original state. The streets are all brick and now that I remember I did not see a single tree except for some pots. The architecture of the buildings is beautiful and it is as if you went back in time when you walked through the streets of the city. Our hotel had the same old architecture; it was very nice. When I was in the city, I felt kind of weird because I felt that I was living in a museum kind of. My stay in PingYao was enjoyable and the food was alright. The typical dish in that area is meat. When I first saw one of the dishes, the beef looked uncooked. When I tried it, it was okay but it tasted like fresh meat. The meat is cured which means that it’s cooked in salt for a long period of time. I had not heard about cooking the meat in salt, only with lemon juice. It is very interesting and I guess the taste is not bad for those who love meat. I am not a meat lover so I only tried it once. There were also these cold noodles that looked like worms. Oh those I did not want to try but in the end I did try one. It was not bad but one was enough for me. At night, we went to what I think was a Chinese Opera show. It was very interesting and I really enjoyed it. I had only seen something like it on T.V. and I was not able to understand what they were saying but nevertheless I am glad I had the opportunity to see it.
Walking around the city, there are a lot of shops that sell scarves and hand-warmers. I bought a hand-warmer and it was a good idea because my hands were going to burn with the cold. On our last day we visited a house of a very wealthy family during the Qin Dynasty. I don’t remember the name of the family but their palace was very beautiful. Its architecture is one of the most beautiful and detailed things I have seen in China. When I was in Pingyao, I wondered how going around the city would be during the summer. I bet it would be more enjoyable and maybe you would not see so many shops selling scarves. The cold made me want to go back to Shijiazhuang even though it is also cold, but not as much as PingYao.
This past weekend we went to Shanghai. Five days and four nights we spent in modern China. To tell you the truth, so far it has been the trip that I have least liked. Personally, I don’t like big cities. I mean, it is nice to go and visit but I would not want to live in a big city like Shanghai. When I was there, I really missed Shijiazhuang. Shanghai is very different from Shijiazhuang besides the obvious difference in size. One of the most noticeable differences is the traffic. Shanghai is more modernized than Shijiazhuang. To me it was like another big city that looks a lot like a westernized city. The traffic in Shanghai is more ordered and like our host said “more civilized.” The metro system helps a lot I think. One thing I do like is taking the metro. It is far cheaper than a taxi and more to my liking. Like in Beijing the metro system in Shanghai makes it easy for tourists to visit the most famous places in the city. Also, there is less of a crowd in Shanghai than in Shijiazhuang. I prefer the loud sounds of traffic and people talking when walking on the street than moderate noise. Like I mentioned earlier, Shanghai is a modern city. There are many foreign restaurants to choose from such as Italian, Mexican, or Indian cuisine. I was missing Chinese food over there. I wanted to find a street market where they would have street food stands but we had no luck. One thing I liked the most about Shanghai is its night view. The main streets of the city light up like a night club and you see people walking as far as the eye can see. I really enjoyed this view of Shanghai.
One of the days I was there I had to stay indoors because I had a terrible allergy to something I ate. I think it was the Rice with Cheese I had since it had some pieces of ham. On my way to China I discovered that I am allergic to pork when it is not cooked right. That was not so lucky day. I had to stay in my room because I had a really bad rash and it itched so badly. Fortunately I got better when I had four pills of some allergy medicine my friends found for me. From this experience I learned that I will never eat pork again in my life, no matter if it is well cooked. I don’t want to go through those moments again.
People say that Shanghai is not China because it is so modernized and most of the people there speak English. It is possible to live in Shanghai without learning Chinese if you speak English. Either way, I prefer Shijiazhuang a million times more even though I don’t know much Chinese. I love the simplicity of the city and the friendliness of the people. In addition, I am glad I made the trip to Shanghai because now I can say that I have been to Shanghai.
Today we arrived from out five day trip to Xian. The city is amazing and it has a million things to see and appreciate. We arrived at Xian in the evening. The city is covered in colorful neon lights, some blinking on and off. The night life is kind of different than that of Shijiazhuang. There are less people walking on the streets except for the Muslim Quarter, which is an endless way of streets going in different directions. This place I really liked and I enjoyed it a lot. There were shops of souvenirs and food on both sides of the street and there was so many people that you could barely walk. Oh how I love the night life of this kind of places. It is very interesting. One morning we went walking on the street to find breakfast. During the daylight it looks like a totally different world. The multitude disappears and it is quiet. For breakfast I found something, I don’t know the name of it exactly but I would say they were “empanadas” filled with lamb. They were delicious and very authentic. I could spend the entire night in the Muslim Quarter and I would not finish going through it all. There is just so much to taste and look at. The first night we went to the Muslim Quarter we got separated and it took us a while and a couple of calls to find each other again. That day we stayed out very late and most of the shops were closing. We went into an alley were we had been when everything was open and it was dark and deserted like nothing had been there half an hour before. Visiting this part of Xian was one of the highlights of the trip. I must say that it was my favorite.
Another highlight was obviously the Terra-cotta Warriors. When I was there taking pictures with the warriors on the background, I was thinking of how impressive they are. Now I can say that I have been there where hundreds of years ago the warriors were placed there to guard the emperor of the Qin Dynasty in his afterlife. The excavation of this architectural finding is not over yet. There is more waiting to be uncovered and recognized. Xian is a beautiful ancient city with history written on its walls and on every corner and street. The city wall is another one of its beauties. I had the opportunity to see the city wall and ride a bike along the entire wall. The ride was a little bumpy but it was worth it. We rode in the evening so the sun was setting and when we finished it was dark. All the lights turned on and the red lanterns traced the length of the wall as far as my eyes could see. The amazing view was priceless. I must say that the best view of Xian is at night. I will always remember my visit to this beautiful city.
This past Friday all the international students had to take a class of Chinese traditional dance. We will have the class every Friday. I really liked the class because I enjoy dancing and of course I want to learn Chinese traditional dancing. The teacher is very good and we have fun in the class. I am looking forward to the rest of the classes. This class in not something that is required to do but I am more than ready to experience something new.
On Saturday we visited Xiantai Mountain, another mountain that was worth climbing. Climbing mountains is something new that I really enjoy doing. Xiantain Mountain was amazing. A group of us climbed two peaks. Going down the last peak was my least favorite part. The view from the mountain was precious. The trees of different autumn colors covered the mountain and it was beautiful. As always the bus rides are not enjoyable but going to a mountain is worth the discomfort.
Sunday, we visited Emily’s house and made dumplings. She is an English teacher at the middle school we visit. Her family whole was very hospitable and polite. From my experiences, Chinese people are very friendly and kind. When we got there, she immediately said “make yourself feel like home.” Her husband was very polite and he was glad to have us there. Her mother-in-law showed us how to make dumplings. It does not seem difficult. I think that the hardest part would be to make the dough and rolling it into little circles. I have experience making dough for tortillas but I can never roll the little ball into a circle. It takes more practice. When I go back to my home, I want to try making them. Besides the dumplings, her husband went to buy traditional Chinese food for us. Roasted duck is very popular in this region. It tasted amazing, better than any roasted duck I have ever had. I ate so much that I wasn’t hungry until the next day. I really enjoyed the time we spent at her house. And I learned a little bit more about Chinese culture.
Now that I have spent about two months in China, I feel that I know Chinese culture and the people. In addition, what I have studied in my literature class can be observed in daily life. Every day that I am here, I feel so glad that I decided to take the opportunity to come to China. It is an experience of a life time and I always remember every single moment and every friend I have made. Time is going by fast now, faster than I would want it to. When the time comes, I am going to want to stay for longer. I wish I could stay for at least a year to learn Chinese. One thing I can do is take advantage of the time I have left in China.
Yesterday we returned from our trip to Shandong. There we visited the Confucius village: its temples, the mansion, and the cemetery. We had a tourist guide and he was very funny and entertaining. He told the history of the places we visited. I really enjoyed having him as a guide because I learned a lot about the Confucius doctrine and history. I was able to understand more about the historical village. It is said that Confucius himself lived in the temples and his descendants lived in the mansion. No lie the Confucius mansion was nothing like I expected. Of course, we were only able to see the corridors and the outside of the building but it did not look like a mansion or even a living place. To me it looked like more temples. They all had the same architecture. The place that was most interesting to me was the cemetery. It was not like any other cemetery I have seen. Well I have not seen any cemetery in China except this one. The cemetery is huge and the tombs are mounts of earth. Some have stones and some do not. The most important tombs have bigger mounts. I am guessing that the size symbolized the importance of the person. Until this day the descendants of Confucius are buried on the cemetery. You could see the new tombs that were bare earth and the old ones were covered with grass. Overall the first day of our trip was very productive and worth the bus ride of seven hours.
The next day I really enjoyed climbing Mount Tai. This is the second mountain I have ever climbed and so far it is the biggest and highest. The tourist guide said that climbing the entire mountain from the very bottom to the top would take five to seven hours. So most of the group decided to ride the bus to the middle and then climb to the top. So we did and the top was very steep. I loved climbing every second of it. Once I crossed the gate to the top it felt good and I was not tired at all. At the top there are temples, food places, and shops. I was not done climbing yet. My friend and I kept going and we went to two places with huge rocks from where you could see the view was perfect. Unfortunately, my camera died when I arrived at the top gate so I did not take pictures of the rest. The view of the mountain was amazing. I stood up on one of the rocks and opened my arms feeling the fresh wind. It was one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced. After having lunch, we were ready to descend. This was my least favorite part, but I also enjoyed it nevertheless. By the end of the day, I had no energy left to spare. The next day we were on our way back to Shijiazhuang and again the uncomfortable bus ride was worth the amazing trip to Shandong.
A ten day holiday has felt like the longest break I have ever had. I’m enjoying the time but we had no plan to go anywhere. So the entire holiday I will spend at the campus. The first few days felt like I had all the time of the world and now that the holiday is coming to an end I am excited to continue with my classes. Something even more exciting is that the rest of my stay in China will be fantastic with all the places we will visit during the field trips and spending time with friends. By the time December comes I am not going to want to leave this country. I have gotten used to it since the first day.
Saturday we took a two hour bus ride to Cangyan mountain. I was very excited to go and see China’s natural landscapes. The bus ride was not very comfortable, but it was interesting to see the surrounding on the way there. The road was busy and surprisingly dusty. There was dirt and dust everywhere. On the sides of the road, some people swept the dust into side pits creating a cloud of dust. I don’t know where all the dusty dirt comes from. Even in the city it is like this. I will clean my room and by the next morning it is covered in dust again. The weird thing is that I don’t have windows open at all. It was early morning when we arrived at the mountain and the air was fresh and cool. Climbing the mountain was fun; it made me feel alive. Going up the mountain there were elder people begging for money. They looked really old and weak. I wondered how they got there since so steep and high. Once we got to the top of the mountain I was a little tired from going up so many steps, but going down was not relaxing. I prefer going up the mountain rather than going down. Before taking the bus back to Shijiazhuang we had lunch at a restaurant by the mountain. There was a dish that we ordered that was delicious. It had green pepper, potato, and egg plant. The taste was amazing and I so wish that Chinese food was like this in the U.S.
I have a feeling that the next two months are going to fly by and sooner than I realize my stay in China is going to come to its end. Nevertheless, I still have a million things to experience here. I am going to enjoy every field trip we take, every new dish I taste, and every step I take in China.
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