Over the past weekend all of the students were paired with a student from Beijing 101. Mostly all of us were very scared of going home with them for the weekend but by the end all of us admitted that we had an awesome time. My experience with my student, Zace, was one of the best this whole trip. He and his mom were so welcoming and were extremely happy to host me. Over the weekend we went to 798, an art district and walked around and looked at all the shops, went to 3 car dealerships, and ate some of the best meals yet. This past weekend forced all of us to get out of our confront zone and to just be in the moment and have a great time. I myself was pretty hesitant going into the weekend. Communicating with the family might have been the biggest fear going into the weekend but by the end we had no problem socializing and commutating. The weekend was an amazing experience and many memories were made. We were all very sad to leave the family’s but all know that there are still great activities to come.
I went into the weekend of the Beijing homestays feeling pretty nervous about being in a new place with a family I didn’t know. Once I met up with my homestay student, Hurry, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t have much to be nervous about after all. By the time we arrived at his apartment, which was near the Youyi Shopping Center, the biggest shopping mall in Asia, I was immediately welcomed by his mother and 5 year old sister. That night she cooked arguably the best meal I have had so far in China, and, while she couldn’t speak English, I could feel her warm hospitality at all times. I have never felt more welcome in such an unfamiliar place, and that night I had already lost any apprehension I had felt going into it. That night Hurry and I also went and saw San Andreas at the mall, and throughout the weekend we did all kinds of fun things. When he asked what I wanted to do that weekend, I told him the he knew Beijing the best, and that he knew all the best places to see. We indeed went to some pretty cool places, and I was happy to feel like I was experiencing China through the eyes of a Chinese person instead of the all
too comfortable lenses of a tourist. My favorite thing we did all weekend was a lake boat ride on Saturday. After meeting up with Amanda and her host, Amy, and Hurry’s friend, John, we piled in the boat for a peaceful afternoon on the water. The halcyon day was perfect for a boat ride, with cooler temperatures and blue skies. It was nice to finally relax a bit after being on the go so much earlier on in the trip, and it was a good time and place to reflect on what we had done thus far. The next day I met Hurry’s father after he returned from a marathon in Hong Kong, and he too was very hospitable. That day Hurry took me to the art district where I saw some really cool art and ate some delicious food. By the end of the day, it finally hit me that I would soon be leaving Hurry and his family the next day as the new school week would begin and our time at Beijing 101 would come to a close. I had done so many other fun things besides the activities I have just delineated, and by the end of the weekend I was wondering why I ever felt the slightest bit of trepidation in the first place. There was some solemnity in the air as we all said goodbye to our families, people who had made us feel not like visitors, but brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. The weekend taught me that there is so much more to be learned not by going to tourist sites, but by immersing myself in the daily lives of the people here and interacting with them. While I have a few tangible remembrances from the weekend, I will never forget the multifarious memories I made along the way. Beijing is a place I will never forget; while most things we here about it in the U.S. may be negative, actually being here completely changed my perspective for the better. Yes, it is crowded and yes, the air may not be the best, but here lies a city with so much history, opportunity, and a people that are welcoming in every sense of the word. I will never forget Beijing, and I implore those who haven’t visited to add it to your travel list. While this chapter of the trip may be over, and what comes next is a mystery, the lessons I learned this weekend have, and will, guide me for the rest of my life.
I’m back. On June 10 (yes, I understand it is the 15th (We had some trouble)), our group explored the cultural phenomenons which are tianamen square and the forbidden city. First, we ate at a local family style Chinese breakfast spot were we all enjoyed a delicious portion of fried rice, beef and pork dumplings, and also chicken with noodles. After this our very own Zachary Richard Paris, safely navigated us to the staggering yet controversial sight, Tianamen square. Here we saw all the government buildings in which laws are made and also the place where Mao ceding declared the People’s Republic of China. All of us got a group picture with Mao’s infamous, looming portrait that resides over the square.
After this we entered the forbidden city in which we were greeted with a 180 acre palace. Here we found impressive buildings that have been perfectly preserved for thousands of years. While China was an empire, all the emperors resides here. This 180 acre palace was full of peaceful gardens full of a variety of beautiful trees and flowers, impressive buildings which were decorated with solid gold and rare stones, and also opportunities for foreigners to take pictures of us (all in all I have I have been asked 20 times to have my picture taken with some random person). After were finished that, we trekked up to a local Hindu temple which provided an expansive view of the entire city of Beijing along with the forbidden city and other well known landmarks.
Later, we all maneuvered through the subway station to arrive at very high end, almost time squary area in which we were free to explore. All of us went to a nearby food market were some of us enjoyed a nice delicious fried scorpion on a stick (shoutout to Pretlow who ate 3).
As you can tell today was an eventful day filled with many new experiences. With each new event, opportunity, and mile we are getting closer as a group. I am sure as our time here goes on we will become a more worldly, cultured, and well rounded group.
Of course, this is a leadership program, and what we do here coincidentally is to learn how the leading process works, to learn how to carry it out properly, and to learn how to be the most effective leader we can be. This learning process is the byproduct of he system in which we have implemented. In this system we have delegated out many jobs that each person must undertake full heartedly and effectively. These jobs consist of: LEADER- make sure everyone else is doing the jobs properly, THE FACILITATOR- leading group meetings/leading reflection/making sure everyone understands what their roles for the day require. CAMEL- making sure everyone is properly nourished in regards of food and water (we’re still working on this one). SAFETY CZAR (STALIN)- make sure everyone wears the proper gear and (you guessed it) making sure everyone is safe throughout the day. LINGUIST- learns, teaches, and applies at least 5 or more new Chinese words that expand the groups vocabulary and allows each person to be more immersed in the Chinese experience. ENTERTAINER- serves as the “moral thermometer” for the group and lightens the mood when they feel that the group needs it. ALARM CLOCK- makes sure everyone wakes up on time and makes sure that everyone knows when to meet up. SAVIOR- makes sure everyone doesn’t miss anything. Stops at something and allows the group to slow down and reflect on our surroundings. BUS BOY/GIRL- makes sure that everybody cleans up after each other and, especially in the city, serves as a main navigator to our destination. SCRIBE- (what I am doing right now) blogs about the days past events and produces a short paragraph of the highlights. This is just a little something Dan (our SUPREME LEADER) wanted me to do. I hope this really breaks down the whole leadership refinement process and let’s y’all understand our experience here a little better.
Today was a great day with a clear blue skies and started out with a trip to Peking University. Here we visited the Shan Shui (Mountain and River) Conservation Center and learned about various environmental issues facing China today from two people working there. We then traveled around campus, ate lunch, and even interviewed various students about their education system. We learned to count and practiced bargaining. After all this we made our way to a bakery where we had a speaker speak to us about her experiences as a researcher studying various ethnic minorities in China. It was interesting to hear all of her stories regarding how she is treated by the locals. We then finished off the day by going to a nearby restaurant and ate some amazing Peking duck. It was even carved right in front of us by a professional. After heading back to the hotel, we had a great last meeting for the weekend and packed up to head to Beijing 101 tomorrow. We’re all looking forward to it!
Today, my host, Alisa, took me to the Great Wall. We packed lunch and headed to Chaoyang, Beijing. The car ride was nearly two hours, but it was worth it. From what I saw, the wall looked beautiful. The surrounding verdant mountains took my breath away. Even though mobs of people rushed around me, it felt peaceful.
We decided to take the cable cars so we could reach the top faster. I am glad we did because the view left me in awe. I saw up close those lush, jade mountains with evergreen trees covering their surface. I could see remnants of the Great Wall, as well as reconstructed parts. The wall stretched out into the blue-grey mist in the distance.
When I hopped off the cable car, the bright sun shined in my eyes as I looked upon the legendary Great Wall of China. I stood where generations of Chinese stood, where historic wars were fought. I felt connected to them while I walked the Wall.
Alisa, her mother, and I hiked the steep slopes in search of a spot to appreciate the magnificence of the Great Wall. We walked as far as we could and I admired the work of those who built it. I wondered how one could build such a large and winding wall without modern technology.
Afterwards, we traveled to a secluded, shaded spot on the wall for lunch. When we had eaten, we walked to the cable cars and rode down.
I appreciate my experience traveling to the Great Wall. I was able to see one of the new seven wonders of the world that I have learned about and have seen pictures. I never fully realized the greatness and magnificence of the Wall until now.
Today Bill, Hurry, Amy, Amanda, Ryan and I went to the movie theater around 11. We watched the new film Jurassic Park. We all enjoyed the movie with popcorn and sodas. After the movie we decided to go to the 798 Art District of Beijing. There were many art galleries which all had amazing art. There were sculptures and even street art as well. We stayed at the art gallery for about 2 hours until Hurry’s dad picked us up to go get dinner. The dinner took place at a restaurant and the food was amazing. We had Peking duck as well as noodles with soybean paste and some spicy shrimp. After finishing dinner we road home finishing the day by observing many famous sites and attractions. All in all today was a great day in Beijing.
Tonight at the farmhouse we learned how to make dumplings. (Having just eaten the fruits of our labors, I can assure you we passed the class!)
We arrived safely after our 12 hour and 45 minute (!) flight from Detroit to Beijing. After linking up with Daniel and Lisa, we set off on a bus ride to our farmhouse at the base of the Great Wall, about 2 hours ride north of Beijing. We were treated to a fantastic meal (see Amanda’s forthcoming post for pictures) and even managed to work in an impromptu game of basketball before collapsing in our beds. All in all, a great first day!
– Dr. Naujoks