Scaling the Great Wall
As you might have been able to tell by the atrocious grammar, punctuation, and overall lack of proofreading that characterized my last post, jetlag is a killer. More than a few times have I found myself slumping over my computer, or waking up at two in the morning with the lights still on after drifting off.
The last few days have been a whirlwind adventure of orientation. A few observations:
-I’m going to be great at using chopsticks when I get back. The Chinese love to eat, and meals so far have been a production. Breakfast starts with baoza (steamed bun/dumpling) and maybe some rice porridge or a fried egg. Lunches and dinners have been feasts with many dishes of vegetables, pork, beef, and chicken, a new one emerging every time I think I’m starting to get full.
-The roommates are great. I’m sitting next to mine now as I write this post, George. I can’t spell his Chinese name in pinyi (roman characters) yet, so his Western name will have to do for now. He’s very nice, and an avid player of DOTA (an almost Startcraft or World of Warcraft-like game). The English of the Chinese students is unbelievable; all of them have been studying english since elementary school, and it shows. I’m a little shy about speaking with him, but I hope that will change with the start of classes.
During orientation we spent a good amount of time looking at the schedule for the semester. It is jam-packed. I’ll be having Chinese 5 times a week, a core contemporary China seminar once a week, and work for a Directed Independent Study Project thrown in around that. I have my first class of chinese language in about 30 minutes and I’m hoping I survive the endless onslaught of simplified characters. On top of this, we are doing two rural stays, excursions to all of Beijing’s major sites, and a few study trips, including to see the terra-cotta warriors. The semester ends with a trip down to southern China, just when the wheather is getting very cold.
The highlight of orientation came with our excursion to the Great Wall. We drove about two hours away from the city and stayed at a farmer’s rural bed and breakfast. This felt more like the China that a foreigner might expect; much more rural and less modern. We ate (at some point I will have to do a post about food alone), played games with our chinese hosts (ironically, a card game called “capitalism”), and slept in the traditional farm-style, which meant that our beds were made of bricks. I was so exhausted, it didn’t even matter. After just a few hours, we awoke to the sounds of cooking and yelling in chinese.
The Great Wall itself is as impressive as anything. We hiked about a mile of the wall, which was pretty intense. All I could imagine were the ancient soldiers running along the wall with their gear; a punishment within itself. Steep towers and crumbling bricks characterized much of the hike. Curiously, our group was shadowed by a group of three or four rural farmers trying to sell souvenir. They spend their days joining tourists to the wall and acting helpful, hoping their help will earn a few sales at the end of the trip.
It’s so difficult to be descriptive when so much has been going on day-to-day, so forgive my grandiose overviews.
Time to get ready for class. As always, if you have questions, comments, or just want to hear more about something, let me know.