Our last excursion of the program was Summer Palace. It’s only a subway stop or two away from Peking University East Gate subway station, so you could even go on your own and explore! There is New Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace. We went to the new one.
The day began with intermittent raindrops and grey clouds but by lunchtime, the sun came out just in time for pretty pictures of the palace. When it was raining, Professor Gu got each of us disposable raincoats which made us look like a blue blob walking around. I had to be extra careful with the slippery steps but at the top of the palace, everything looked small and I could see the entire place below. Because of the rain though, not everything looked as beautiful and there were umbrellas everywhere. But by the time we got to the ferry, the rain had stopped and the sun was out.
We took a ferry to the other side of the palace. It was a short ride but definitely worth the time. As we walked back to where our royal lunch was waiting for us, we went into a gallery area inside one of the buildings. There were paintings of flowers and the palace–all very beautiful and almost Impressionism-esque. But the visit to the gallery was very short and we hurried to lunch.
Ferry at Summer Palace
Lunch was probably one the best meals I’ve ever had in China. With dishes filling up the round table, there were countless of different foods I had never tasted before. To say the least, my tummy was absolutely pleased the entire day.
Summer Palace, being so close to Peking University, reminded me that there are places around campus to visit and explore. Not everything and everywhere exciting and new has to be far away. Sometimes, it’s just right next door.
As one of the field trips for the Traditional Chinese Medicine course, we were able to visit the Traditional Chinese Medicine department of a local hospital to learn how different treatment methods are used and to directly observe physicians treating patients. During the first day of the field trip to the hospital, we were taken to a separate conference room, where we were taught the purpose and philosophy of each of the different treatment methods, such as acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion. We were allowed to try these different treatments on ourselves and our peers. We were even provided needles to try acupuncture on ourselves, but no one was confident enough to try it!
After we learned about the different treatments, we were able to visit the clinic the next day to see patients being treated with acupuncture, cupping, and a massaging technique called “Tui Na”. It was extremely interesting to see how a variety of different problems, including back problems, digestive issues, numbness, and even insomnia were able to be treated with acupuncture needles and electric stimulation. The physician who we observed told us that throughout his career, he had used about 4 million acupuncture needles in order to treat a variety of different health issues!
This opportunity to have a hands-on experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine was extremely valuable because TCM is not as popular in the United States, and thus, it is very difficult to have an opportunity to observe how TCM plays a role that Western medicine cannot.
I was in the Media and IMC program in China, and this summer was different than before summers in structure and learning material. Our very own Northwestern IMC Professor Paul Wang taught the class, and he was the first professor to encourage doodling and creating art for the sake of arousing our imagination during discussion. I personally loved the class.
We had to read case studies of different businesses–family businesses, businesses within China branching outside, foreign businesses trying to enter China, etc. Each story had a different take on what entrepreneurship means, especially for someone to start a business in China.
But my favorite part of the class was none of the things we read. It was the thing we experienced: tea. Professor Wang took us to a family-owned tea shop/education center in Global Village as an excursion for the class. There, we not only learned about the different types of tea and their healing powers on the mind and body but we got to hear first-handedly the story of a family-owned business. The highlight of the excursion was that the story-telling was guided and enhanced by tea. The tea master brew different types of tea, from green to oolong to white to black, as he told us his story and, at least for me, I felt like not just my ears but my entire body was absorbing every word he said.
Oolong tea freshly brewed
Tea, as an integral part of Chinese culture, was definitely a valuable experience for me. Especially as a tea-lover, I learned so much as well enjoyed so much during the excursion!
During the last two weeks of this program, I learned more about tuina, which is Chinese massage. There are many techniques, such as rolling manipulation (“rotating the forearm outward and inward in circles to lead to the flexion and extension of the wrist joint”). I really enjoyed being able to try the techniques in class.
We also went on an excursion to the Summer Palace, which is only three subway stops from Peking University. The Summer Palace was built by the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, for the Empress Dowager. Apparently, instead of using the money to build a stronger navy, the emperor used it to build this palace instead. Because of this, China lost Taiwan! We climbed “Wanshou” mountain, or Longevity Mountain, and rode the ferry to the other side of the lake.
Last weekend, my friends and I took a quick day-trip to Tianjin, a city 35 minutes away by train. Jianbin (savory crepe) originated from here! Tianjin is a very westernized, modern city that was once split up into different foreign concessions (France, Great Britain, etc). We went shopping at “Binjiang” street. At the end of the street was a cathedral built by foreigners. It was really cool to be able to walk in and observe a service in progress. We spent the afternoon at an Italian-style touristy town. Although, we were scammed by our taxi driver on the way over there. To make up for it, I had the best pasta at an Italian restaurant there!
I’ve been home for about a week now, and the reverse culture shock is starting to wear off. When I first got here I remember being shaken by the lack of squat toilets and the absence of signs in Chinese. I’m still getting use to the little things, like being back in suburbia and no longer eating dishes like black fungus or squirrel fish. I wish I could have stayed longer! I decided to take Chinese classes this fall quarter since I miss learning it at Peking University (thank you Professor Qiao!) and plan on going back. I was able to get some good practice, not without embarrassment and drawing on paper, by talking to two middle school students next to me in the plane from Shanghai. I initially helped translate the food choices the air hostess had given them in English, but then I started trying to make conversation. They were part of a group of students on their way to a Chicago middle school for a program that sounded a lot like the one I had just done, one based on cultural exchange with academic peers on the other side of the world. Neither of the two girls had ever been to the United States, so I got in-flight wi-fi to show them some of my pictures of Chicago. I told them about deep dish pizza, the Bean and Chicago hot dogs. To say thanks, the two girls gave me a signed postcard that said “Best Wishes” and “we hope you get to visit Taizhou (their hometown)”! It will be yet another reminder of my experiences during the Wanxiang Fellows program, and the people that made it so memorable.
Outside from the daily classes of Chinese language and Public Health, there are many opportunities to explore some of the major tourist attractions in China. Out of all the different places, two of my favorites were the Temple of Heaven and the Beijing Olympic Park. Both are easily accessible, with the most cost efficient method being through the subway and the most comfortable method being by taxi.
The Temple of Heaven is a beautiful complex of religious buildings situated within an area that almost looks like a park. Every aspect of this historical complex is beautiful! When going to the Temple of Heaven, make sure to not only plan to visit all the different buildings, but to also take a casual and relaxing stroll through the beautiful park. After visiting the Temple of Heaven, try visiting the Pearl Market which is right next to the east gate of the Temple of Heaven. Here, you will be able to bargain and purchase some souvenirs for an extremely reasonable price!
The Beijing Olympic Park is also very worthwhile to visit. Here, you can visit the famous Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. The Bird’s Nest is massive, and the Water Cube looks like block of bubbles. My friends and I visited the Olympic Park before sunset, toured the area while the sun was out, and waited for after sunset to tour one more time when the lights on each of the buildings came on. All the buildings look completely different when the lights come on, so I would highly recommend that you plan your trip so that you would be able to see the complexes before and after sunset.
I am writing this while in Qingdao, a city in China famous for its beaches and German influences. I am in Qingdao for the short break we have in between the first and second half of the program. I cannot believe four weeks have gone by so quickly- but at the same time I cannot believe how much I have done and seen and learned in just one month. I got to see so many more cultural sites in Beijing, like the Capital Museum.
Qingdao is so different from Beijing. Its much smaller and a lot less hectic. On our first day we went to the May Fourth Square and walked along the pier to one of Qingdao’s Bathing Beaches. Then in the evening, we went to the Olympic Sailing Center and enjoyed the nice weather by the sea.
The next day we went to the old German town. It was an interesting area because it did not feel like we were in China. The architecture was very European. We stopped at a castle by the sea and toured it for a little bit before moving on to another part of the city. Later we went to the Tsingtao Brewery, which also acted as a museum.
I am really glad that I made the decision to visit Qingdao and I wish I had more time to explore the city. But now it is time to return to Beijing and get ready for the second half of the classes and adventures!
Even a year ago, I would have never imagined that I would see the Great Wall of China with my very own eyes, let alone climb it.
The day began at 6:00 AM, when we boarded the bus for a two-hour drive to the section of the Great Wall that we would climb. I had no other shoes other than the Vans that I had brought with me, and after contemplating whether I should buy athletic shoes last-minute, I figured it couldn’t be THAT bad.
I was wrong.
We began the trek at around 9:00, where we began at a small village at the foot of the Great Wall. The total walking time up the Great Wall was about 3 hours. No two steps up the Great Wall were the same size, and it was probably one of the most difficult hikes I’d experienced in my entire life. It was difficult to imagine that soldiers used to patrol the wall from tower to tower. However, each view from one tower to the next was different and breathtaking in its own way. At the top of each tower, it was possible to fully take in the beauty of the mountainside and the Wall itself.
At the end of the grueling yet rewarding climb up the Great Wall, we took a lift in order to get back down to the small village. The lift provided a different view of the Great Wall that could not be viewed from the hike. As I watched the stretch of the Great Wall that I had successfully hiked on the way down, I felt a sense of accomplishment of having climbed one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
I’m back in Hangzhou again for the 4-day break! I am currently finished with my 4 weeks of global health in China class and cannot wait to begin learning about traditional Chinese medicine! I will have a new Chinese teacher when I return to Beijing. I’m enjoying not having to do homework for a couple of days. In the first 4 weeks, I’ve visited The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and many other museums and places. The excursion to the Great Wall included views that were well worth the intense hike. The part of the Great Wall that we went to was one of the more difficult parts to climb, but has fewer tourists. There’s a little touristy town at the bottom of the mountain that served visitors food and drinks. Most of us were so exhausted once we reach the top that almost all of us opted to take the cable car down. At the beginning of the program, we met our language buddies and they took us to purchase our daily necessities and gave us a tour around campus. Ours even took a group of us to Nanluoguxiang (drum and bell tower district), which is a traditional street filled with souvenirs and street food. The area used to be the center of the city, before it expanded. The neighborhood has narrow streets that used to be common in Beijing called “hutong”. I had rice-stuffed chicken wings, Peking duck wraps, and this special yogurt desert called “shuangpinai”.
rice stuffed chicken wings, tofu, lamb, and Peking duck wraps
The Great Wall!
It’s been a while since I was last in a country where I don’t fit in, so to speak. There are not many immigrants in China, so seeing a Black person can be rather uncommon. As a result, I’ve gotten a lot of stares, and even had some people take pictures of me. When I first got to Beijing I decided to start an album of pictures of everyone who’d taken a picture of me (the pictures in the post are examples).
By the time I left Beijing a month later, though, I decided this just made me worry about it more. It can be kind of stressful drawing unwanted attention but at its best discomfort is an opportunity to look at your surroundings with fresh eyes. I’ve realized that unlike many of the other place’s I’d been, I was never going to “blend in” and would be constantly singled out as a “foreigner”. In Hangzhou I was finally able to accept it and feel more at ease in public. It can be hard ignoring people when they are talking about you right under your nose, but developing a thick skin was definitely worth it. I began smiling at people like I would at home, and sometimes they would smile back. I’ve even been able to joke around with some people when I speak Chinese! I’ve been reminding myself that the people staring are most likely not doing so maliciously. Now I see adjusting as a good experience; it reminded me not to stress about things I have no control over because it might draw away from valuable moments and making the most out of my time here. When I come back (yes I’ve already decided), I will know better and be prepared.