Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Week 7 happened after that. Followed by week 8.

To be honest, I was hoping week seven would bring somewhat of an upswing. Of course our first week back from our social study projects would be hard, but then it would go back to being peachy keen. Alas, not so much. The daily repetition wore me down, I didn't sleep enough, it rained a bunch, whine whine whine. I'm actually glad I didn't post a blog entry then because it would just be me complaining.

But it's okay, because now in the last week of the program I've come to terms with everything. I'd done trying to force myself to really like China. We don't really mesh; that's okay...I'll write more on that later. I'm grateful for all I've learned both linguistically and culturally. I've been warming up to dialogue class--sometimes the issues we talk about are actually relevant and interesting. The experience of having to debate in another language, though on the one hand is just dreadful, on the other has actually helped me be more assertive in stating my opinion. I think because our rhetorical tactics are so severely handicapped while speaking in Chinese, it has a nice leveling effect. It ends up just being your ideas that matter. Or whatever ideas you're able to get across...

Lack of buildings allows for better viewing of natural scenery. Note the coconut, which provided endless coconut juice. Water? But really, we couldn't drink it all. It was magic.

The weekend before last was an exhausting whirlwind of sight-seeing. Friday we went to Yuanmingyuan, which is....the Old Summer Palace (thanks, Wikipedia). It's just ruins around a pretty pond filled with lotuses, so perfect for people like me who get more excited about pretty flowers and little stray kitties than old buildings.

If you're reading, Uncle Phil, this is for you.

Saturday we went to Yonghegong, which is the Lama Temple. That was also pretty cool. They had giant sandalwood carvings which maybe I wasn't supposed to photograph? Unclear. No disrespect intended, Buddha. It seemed like a very joyful place. Lots of colors. Gets my vote.

I learned here that incense makes me sneeze. Who knew?

Afterwards, the greatest things ever. We went to a vegetarian restaurant that specialized in fake meat. I ate my first Kungpao chicken. What an experience. I wish America had fancy-schmancy vegetarian restaurants like that. Maybe they do. We do. Wow...I'm an American, right? After vegetarian heaven, we went to the Temple of Confucius. Emperors used to go there to pay respects to our friend Confucius. That's nice I guess. It had a nice tree I liked. That tree apparently had special powers. Knocked off a corrupt official's hat. Go tree.

Chinese kids are really good at posing for photos. They're so sassy. I all the time want to take their pictures too, but most often err on the side of social decency. This time not so much.

After exhausting the one Confucius quote we know, we headed out for Gongwangfu. (Wangfugong? Gongfuwang? We kept forgetting the order. Anyhow, it's "Prince Gong Mansion" says Wikipedia.) This place may be a mansion, but it was nowhere big enough for the ridiculous number of people there a half an hour before closing. Sitting off on a side path watching the flood of people all around was definitely a low point in my acceptance of Chinese culture. So many people in tours, just going around seeing the sights because that's what you do. Not that I was any different, besides the lack of snazzy provided baseball cap, but it was just plain depressing. There's no way to enjoy a place if all you can see is other tourists.

The buildings are pretty, I'll give it that. And I am universally in favor of ponds.

Afterward I had an interesting conversation with Wang-laoshi about the purpose of tourism.

Sunday we went to Tiantan, the Temple of Heaven, which was nice because it was huge enough to handle the ridiculous number of people. It was really quite impressive, though we somewhat rushed through it due to the heat. The best part by far were the old people singing, playing traditional instruments, dancing and just being adorably old. I could have stayed all day and watched them.


  1. Great post and great pictures! Amazing how the summer has flown by...

  2. Thank you for keeping this blog. I'm going to be studying with the HBA program this summer, and it is nice to know what I am going into.