Our first days in Beijing were a new experience for many of us. As we walked into the airport, everyone was excited to be in China. Even though most of us could speak Chinese, we found it quite hard to interpret what people were saying until Larry, a rising junior who lives in China and also attends George School, arrived. He helped us through tough times and used his Chinese to make our lives easier. The first site we visited was the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall took years to build and is known to take people 2 years to walk the whole thing. The steps makes it even harder because some are very steep and dangerous while others are out of order and broken. Our time in Beijing had become more satisfying as we went to the world’s biggest square, The Tiananmen Square. Later during the day, we went to one of the most famous sites in China called the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the household of the emperors which lasted from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty which is around 500 years. The history of the Forbidden City was very influential as our tour guide explained its significance.
As we closed out our days in Beijing, the adventure and amazement with the city did not cease. Thursday morning found us at the Beijing Panda Zoo (after we became full of breakfast, of course). The main attraction of lazy, yet very cute little bears made for an adorable gift shop and an outlier experience in our temple-dominant sight seeing. Both religious and political temples were painted with bold and consistent colors of red, blue, green, gold. The temples were all beautiful, and almost identical, presenting differences in surrounding aura. You could sense the kind of power illustrated on mere things like architecture, layout, and color, resulting in our group becoming professionals in the field of ancient Chinese tradition. To close out our big city tourism, we stuck to the basics of Asian art by visiting a museum and then turned things transitioned to modern art as we strolled through a super urban art gallery; graffiti, sculpture, fashion— the works! Concluding it all, parents of Beijing-local GS students arranged a lunch in our honor and as a means for us to practice more of the beloved language. As hectic and busy as it was, the highlights of the city tours will remain engraved in memory. I am both sad to leave the city, and excited to delve into service, the Golden Dragon Tour Bus of Beijing will forever feel like home.
My first impression of my host family was great. I had been talking extensively with my host brother before the journey so when I met him I was already very comfortable talking with him. My host family lives in an apartment similar to the one my family lives in so I am in a comfortable and familiar environment. His mother does not speak any English and his father only knows a few words, but I did not find this to be a problem. They are very kind and remind me of my own parents. They are also very accommodating as despite me volunteering to do things such as my own laundry and the dishes, they insist that they will do it for me. Spending time with my host and his friends and family has felt natural and overall I believe I have had the ideal start to our stay in Yangzhou.
When I first arrived in my host family’s house, I was greeted warmly by the mother of the house. She asked me to take off my shoes and gave a new pair of slippers that she had bought me for my arrival. I was shown to my new room, given a new mug, and told to sit down on the couch. My host sister started explaining the activities we had planned for the day. We started off by watching re-runs of the World Cup that had played the night before, and then proceeded to lunch. Her mother had prepared duck, duck eggs, shrimp, fish soup, rice, and some vegetables for us to eat. My family quickly took notice of the foods I seemed to enjoy more and continued to serve them throughout the following days. Me and my host sister then napped for a few hours and had an afternoon snack of cantaloupe before heading to a popular shopping street. There I was able to witness much of the Chinese culture including the different styles of dresses and foods they had in China. This was followed by dinner with my host sister and her friends. After a long day I was able to go back home and rest with my host family while watching a new World Cup match. Over the next few days me and my host family bonded a lot together. When it came time to do service without my host sister around, I felt slightly weird not having her there and quickly embraced her the next time I saw her. I told her that I missed her and she said she had been thinking of me all day and missed me, too. I feel so fortunate to be able to have this opportunity in China to get to know and appreciate my host family and Chinese culture.
See pictures here!