Tomorrow afternoon I leave Shijiazhuang. I cannot believe that my time here is already up. It feels like just yesterday I walked off the plane in Beijing. It has been a completely different experience then I expected. China is a completely opposite culture from anything that I have ever been around in my life. I am very glad that I have had the opportunity to do this and I have gotten to experience so many things that I otherwise would not have had the chance to do. I met so many great people and I made a great deal of friends that I hope to keep in touch with over the years. I would be lying if I said I am not excited to be headed back to the states, but part of me is truly sad to be leaving Shijiazhuang and all the friends that I have made here. I plan to return to China after I graduate college to teach english, but that is a while from now and who knows if I ever actually will. For now it is goodbye China, but I hope to see you soon.
The weekend after Xi’an, I went to Beijing with a friend of mine named Ben Franklin (Yes, that is his real name) from Wales. Ben teaches in Shijiazhuang and He and I really hit it off at the bar one night and have since been great friends. We took the bullet train from Shijiazhuang to Beijing, reaching speeds of up to 305 km/h, and arrived in Beijing around 3 o’clock Friday afternoon. Upon arrival we took the subway to our hostel, Spring Time Hostel. The hostel was very nice, and for approximately 60 RMB a night it was a steal. After checking in we proceeded to wander around the city for roughly 5 hours, seeing the outside of everything from the Forbidden City to a street market that sold insects and snakes on a stick (EWWWWW). The next day we originally planned on going to the great wall with two people we had met that morning (Luke from Kansas City and Karen from Brussels, Belgium), but the train we wished to take was sold out. We opted to do the wall sunday and decided to do the zoo and it was awful. Honestly the worst zoo I have ever been to in my entire life. Even seeing the pandas was disappointing, but at least I got to see pandas in china. After that we walked around Tian’namen square and got to see the flag being taken down. We then went to the Olympic stadium, which is magnificent at night. After the stadium we decided to head back to the hostel and have a shower and try to watch the Merseyside Derby (Everton vs. Liverpool). We caught the hostel on a good night because the bartender named Lisa was feeling nice and gave us a 2 for 1 discount on a local beer. We had a great night talking and watching soccer. That night we picked up another friend named Miki from Madrid. Great guy and he ended up going to the wall with us. We went to the wall sunday morning and had a spectacular time. Climbing the wall is no small feat mind you, it is quite treacherous. That night we ended up being late for our train and missed it. Luckily we got tickets on the next train free of charge. All in all it was an outstanding weekend and made me want to travel even more!!
Last weekend we took our final school sponsored trip to Xi’an. We took a plane which was very convenient and fast. Upon our arrival we went to a few museums and got to see some of the Terra Cotta Warriors up close and personally. The next day we went to see the Terra Cotta warriors. It was very cool how old they were and just the vast number of the soldiers. I have to say for the buildup and all the things I have heard about them, I was a bit disappointed with it. I may have had my expectations a bit high, but I thought that it all looked staged versus how something that old should look. That night we got to try Szechuan food which was incredible. Very spicy which was great. The next morning we went to the city wall, which was just like every other wall we have seen thus far. After the wall it was back to Shijiazhuang by plane, which all went smoothly. All in all I will have to say that it was a good weekend, but I would not go to Xi’an again.
I cannot believe that I only have four weeks left in Shijiazhuang. At the beginning of the semester it seemed as if my time here was going to drag on and on, but the last eight weeks have gone by very fast. I have grown to really enjoy my time here and I have branched out quite a bit with other foreigners staying in the city. I plan to someday return to China to teach english and I hope that day will come sooner than later. Although this experience started out as a rather disappointing one, all in all I would have to say that I very much like China and some of the experiences that I have had here I will remember for the rest of my life. This weekend we will head to Xi’an for the last of our University sanctioned trips. I am beyond excited to see the Terra Cotta warriors and the original Great Wall of China. More to come on our trip next week!
A few weeks ago a few friends of mine asked me if I would like to join them in going to a Mosque. I had never been to one and out of sheer curiosity I decided to join them. After a long bus ride followed by roughly 30 minutes of walking we had found the Mosque and in fact had found that there is an entire Muslim community in Shijiazhuang. The people at the Mosque were a delight, even knowing that I myself was not a Muslim. The food in that part of town was outstanding. I had the best dumplings of my entire life there. It was an eye opening experience for me because all the media that you see on the Islamic community is almost always bad, but the people that I met were nothing but nice and just good people. I hope to return to the Mosque again soon to visit with all the people and try some more of the outstanding food.
Last weekend we went on a trip to Qufu and Tai’an to see Mount Tai. It took us around 7 hours by bus to reach Qufu on the first day. Qufu is the hometown of Confucius, and was a very nice little town. We got to go to the mansion and temple of Confucius which was very interesting to see. We also got to see where he was buried. The cemetary was huge and had over 120,000 people buried in it. The next day we went to the top of Taishan. To get halfway up you must take a bus down a treacherous road. It was easily the scariest driving experience of my life. Once you get halfway up, you have the options to take the stairs up (roughly 4 kilometers) or take the gondola. Adam and I opted for the gondola which was a good decision. The view from the gondola was incredible, although a bit terrifying at first. As soon as you get in the car it shoots you out over a gorge and only a cable is holding you 200+ feet above certain death. Once we reached the top Alex, Adam and I went exploring off the beaten path. We took hiking trails around the backside of the mountain and got temporarily lost. The views from the back were incredible and it was well worth the scare. All in all this trip was a very good one, and I would not mind returning to Tai’an someday.
I apologize to those following this blog regarding the tardiness of this post. WordPress is difficult to access from time to time in China. In the past few weeks we have stayed in Shijiazhuang. Last week was National Week and we did not have any classes for its entirety which was very fun. Over the break we ended up going out on the town with a group of Peruvian girls we met on our trip to Beijing. They are very fun to be around and we get along great. Friday night I went to the bar with a a group of foreigners that encompassed people from Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Canada, Wales, England, New Zealand and Italy. It was a very fun time meeting and talking with them and finding out what brought them here. I got to talk about American football for about 2 hours with the guy from Minnesota, which was very nice.I have been playing soccer very frequently and trying to meet other students at the university through that. Most of the time while at the soccer field the kids playing just treat me like any other student playing soccer, which is probably my favorite thing about it. This weekend we are headed to the temple of Confucius and Mount Taishan this weekend. I hope to have some pictures to post on that once we return from Tai’an.
This past weekend we went to Beijing and I had a blast! First we went to Tian’namen Square and the Forbidden city. It was very cool to see a place where so much history has taken place. It was truly awe-inspiring. One of my favorite parts of Tian’namen square were the big statues of the Lions. The lions represent strength and are supposed to ward off evil spirits. They are incredibly popular in Beijing. The next day we went to the Great Wall which was just indescribable. Thinking that the structure you are standing on is thousands of years old and thinking about how many people from all different times had been on it just took my breath away. It was hard to process that I was actually on the Great Wall in china. Ive heard so much about it throughour my life and to think I was actually there, it was crazy. We then visited Summer Palace which to be honest was dissapointing, but its ok. We then went to the Olympic Square which was very cool. I loved the Birds Nest which was very cool to see. The last day we went to the Temple of Heaven which was pretty cool. The symbolism behind the architecture really surprised me. Overall i had a blast in Beijing and I can’t wait to return!
This weekend was one of much anticipation. At approximately 7 am Saturday we embarked on our first excursion to Baiyandgdian lake (the biggest lake in china). It took about 3 hours to get there due to traffic, but upon arrival we were greeted by our tour guide, who spoke only mandarin. We then boarded a boat, while the tour guide continued to tell us information we could not understand. I would like to tell you that we had a good time at the lake but sadly we did not. Aside from the lotus garden and the Buddha statue we did not really know what was going on. Also the lake was horribly polluted, and there were dead fish everywhere. I hope our future trips are better catered to English speaking people.
So we have now been in china for over 2 weeks and it is nothing like I expected. A lot of the things are hard to describe if you aren’t there. For instance the language. You can listen to Chinese people talk in America and you won’t understand it, but when it’s all around you it can become overwhelming. The food is excellent for the most part, although some of it is well, different. I will say the biggest difference I have noticed is the fact that there are people EVERYWHERE. There are always people, wherever you go while here. Also the construction never stops, even in the middle of the night. Always progress. That’s it for now, check in soon.