Tomorrow, Tomorrow . . .
Well, here we are . . . T-minus 1 day and counting. One day everyone. The Journey East gang will be home -- that’s right, not 2 weeks, not five days -- tomorrow!
Here’s a photo of the gang hanging out at the Summer palace.
It’s been a fun ride and we’ll reflect on everything tomorrow. For now, we still have photos and activities going on as the group spends their last day in Beijing. Let’s find out what they’re up to . . .
Long day. Up at 5, breakfast, hotel check out, 7:45 AM flight to Beijing. We had about an hour and a half rest after arriving at the hotel, the lobby of which was completely refurbished in our absence, and then it was off to the Summer Palace.
Beijing is much greener than when we left, as you can see from some of the photos. The Summer Palace was the summer residence of the Emperors. Beijing is terribly hot in the summer. Lake Kunming, the man-made lake that you see in the photos, was dug out by hand to create the mountain with the large, beautiful buildings on it. We had great weather here, a little cool with a nice breeze.
There are also a couple of photos of the "birds nest stadium" that is under construction for the 2008 Olympics. It is quite an impressive structure, still in the works.
Not surprised to see the IKEA store but thought I would shoot a photo of it.
As you can see [in the photo at right], size rules in traffic. [Here is a photo] shot through the windshield of the bus showing which lane we were in. Our driver, though, is great. The way they wheel these big busses around in major traffic is amazing.
Callie came with us tonight and we spent the day with two lovely Chinese girls who will be coming to the States with CIEE [The Council on International Educational Exchange]. At least one of them is slated to attend Leland and Gray this coming year. They basically spent the day with JD and Kay. Nice opportunity all the way around. See you soon. [Tom]
Summer Palace panorama
April 23, 2007 -- Kayleigh Overton
March twenty-fifth. That was the day all thirty-five of us had been waiting for--the day we flew to China. Our first flight was roughly two hours long from Hartford to Chicago. From Chicago—“the windy city”-- we flew to Beijing, the capital of China. The flight was a dreadful twelve hours long! During this half-a-day flight, we all got to know each other a little better. We talked; we laughed; we sang, and made new friendships. It was the beginning of a new lifestyle that would develop and endure for thirty-two days.
Our first adventure was the Great Wall of China. The view from the wall was breathtaking! The mountains were jagged and rough like a broken piece of glass. At the same time, they were curvy and elegant like a crane. Unlike Vermont, there were no trees on this never-ending mountain range.
I thought how amazing it is that the entire Great Wall was built by hand as our tour guide told us a sad, but interesting story: A woman’s husband was sent to work on construction of the Wall. She had not heard from him in three years until one day, she decided to try to find him. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found. As the legend goes, the heavens heard her cry in desperation and the sound was so intense that part of the wall collapsed. Among the fallen rock, lay her husband’s body. Then our tour guide said “Ok, so please, don’t cry. We don’t want part of the Great Wall to fall.”
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Bargaining has been one of this Journey East group’s favorite activities. Did you know that bargaining is also a Chinese tradition? Some of us were timid at first and got “ripped off” or bullied into something we did not want to buy, while others knew what to do and were “professionals” right away. I have to admit that bargaining is fun. I enjoy it because I get to practice the little Chinese that I know. At first, I thought it would be easy to understand people when they gave me prices, but it was hard because they obviously speak Chinese faster than I can. Over all, everyone’s Chinese has improved [as our teacher, Tong Chen, will be happy to hear].
One of our last stops in Beijing was Tiananmen Square. There were hundreds of people absolutely everywhere! While there, I thought about the protest that happened just a couple decades ago and conjured a vivid image in my mind of protesters and army vehicles filling the square. Whenever I got a clearer image, people swarmed my friends and me as if they were going after candy that has just fallen out of a piņata. Chinese people are so fascinated by people who are not Chinese. They were interested in what we wore and did; how we talked and walked.
In America, our reactions are completely different. We don’t express much interest in people from different countries, it seems. I think some Americans are self-absorbed: They only care about what is happening to them and their country and not others’. I don’t want to start a political dispute, but the other day I was chatting with a friend about global warming. He said that “President Bush has to realize that global warming isn’t just China’s problem or fault. It is our issue too: It affects the entire world; hence, global warming! We are all responsible for our environment. We should try our best to take care of it.”
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Another memorable city in China was Qufu. Qufu Normal University was incredible! The weather was warm, and the people were friendly. During our stay, we heard lecture/demonstrations on three different subjects: Chinese Traditional Instruments, Chinese Art and Calligraphy, and Chinese Folk Songs. At the first lecture, six students played various instruments: bamboo flute, sheng, xun, erhu, butterfly, pipa and jheng. One of the instruments I found most interesting was the sheng, an ancient instrument over three-thousand years old. It is made out of bamboo and the mouth piece is made of metal. One blows into the mouth piece and covers the holes at the bottom with one’s fingers to make different notes. The sheng reminded me of an organ. The jheng is a thirteen- to fourteen-stringed harp played with picks taped to the fingers. The xun is an egg shaped five-thousand to six-thousand year old instrument. Out of the three lectures, I thought the instrumental lecture was the most interesting.
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We also visited a village. A typical Chinese village is not at all like a village in Vermont. These people had practically nothing: no running water, plumbing or technology. The difference between the countryside and the city is like day and night. After visiting the countryside, it made me realize how much we have that we take for granted. Without the comforts we have in America, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Well, maybe some of us would but others would complain. I think we need to be more appreciative of what we have and help others who don't have all the luxuries we have.
A few days after visiting the village, we went to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia. For our collaboration, the Mongolian students taught us two songs and a dance. We taught them “For the Longest Time” by Billy Joel. The first song the students taught us was in Mongolian; the second was in Chinese. Learning the songs was the easy part. It was the dancing that was hard for most of us. To those of us who have seen the Mongolians perform in Vermont, the dances may look easy, but, they are actually tough to learn and quite a workout!
When it was time to teach the students “For the Longest Time,” the students picked up the words quickly. They say it is actually easier for Mongolians to learn English than it is for them to learn Chinese. This is because the Mongolian language/phonic system are similar to English in that Mongolian is alphabetic whereas Chinese is pictographic. In fact, a lot of the Mongolian words/letters look similar to one another just as in the English language, for example, “p’, ‘d’, ‘b’ and ‘q’ are the same shape, but are written at different angles.
Journey East has given us all a chance of a lifetime! We will all hold these memories dear…but we still have a few more days…so more memories are on the way!