First Day in China (2)
the pearl shop we went to Summer Palace. It is the palace that
the emperor stayed in during the summer. Trees, mountains, and
living quarters surrounded a huge lake that is completely hand-dug.
All the dirt removed from making the lake was piled up into a
large mountain. Also contained in Summer Palace is the world's
longest corridor which runs about half a mile long. It is a covered
walkway with ancient carvings and paintings on it. There was not
much to actually do inside the Summer Palace so everyone took
a few pictures and then we left.
George then told us that after an hour of traveling by bus, we
would reach an open-air market called Silk Road. I fell asleep
as soon as I got on the bus so that hour felt relatively short
to me. The bus parked along the roadside and everyone got an hour
or so to shop around. My first bargaining experience was with
my parents in Mexico earlier in 2004. Though I have taken 3 years
of Spanish in school, I was not fluent enough to bargain so I
talked mainly in English. Here, the vendors spoke both Chinese
and English so I felt more at ease; I tried my best to use Chinese
and only used minimal English for brand names. I did not have
a watch so I shopped around with Jason since he was able to check
the clock on his phone. He ended up getting 4 purses and I got
a pair of shoes. This was the first shopping experience in China
and I really enjoyed it - I did not buy much but I was able to
practice my bargaining skills and sharpen them up for next time.
Before leaving, I had a weird experience, probably the weirdest
throughout the whole trip. I noticed an American speaking impeccable
Chinese to a group of Asian girls. I have seen Americans speak
good Chinese before but this particular American did not have
an accent, rather, he spoke with a slight twang that I usually
hear when my parents are talking. I stopped in the middle of the
street and watched this American talk when all of a sudden one
of the girls asked him a question in English and he replied in
English, thus changing the language of the conversation to English.
This shocked me and I think he noticed me watching because he
asked, "Hey, do you speak English?" Naturally I replied,
"Yes, I do." Then he asked, "How long have you
been here?" Still thinking naturally, I replied, "16
years". When people call me on the phone and then later meet
me in person, they usually say that they could not hear a Chinese
accent in my English; it sounds as if I was a natural born English
speaker. For this same reason, the American said, "Wow, your
English is very good for being here 16 years". I was about
to say thank you when I realized that I was in China, not America.
I still was not used to the fact that I was actually in China
and that "here" meant China, not America. I apologized
and quickly told him that I came here on a school trip from America
and that I learned English there. He told me that he ran a Mormon
church in my hometown of Taichung and he and the girls were here
on a mission trip. I thanked him for the conversation and quickly
ran to the bus; it seemed as if Jason and I weren't the best about
meeting up on time.
Next up was the very first dinner in China. If I had to describe
it in a few words, I would say it was "completely awesome".
It was prepared in traditional Shanghai style with hot and sour
soup, beef wrapped in pancakes, fatty pork, con shing tsai, ma
po tofu, orange fish, and fries. The main reason that it was so
good was because the quality and preparation of the food was top
notch, but another reason is that lunch was really bad and having
a great dinner was a huge, positive contrast. During dinner a
big windstorm started and everything turned a mess outside. Hats
were flying around, sand was blowing everywhere, and it was very
hard to walk. It was only a 20- or 30-foot walk to the bus from
the restaurant but even then I still got some dirt in my eyes.
We were scheduled to see an acrobat show after dinner and everyone
was determined to make it, windstorm or not. On the way there
I saw a guy riding his bike with one hand while the other covered
his face and eyes. It was a funny reminder of just how simply
creative Chinese people can be.
The acrobat show was really good. I think this is because everything
Chinese is just better in China. Some highlights of the show were
the guys climbing and sliding down poles and the girls doing tricks
with bowls and unicycles. It was a great way to close the first
day in Beijing. I was entirely beat at the end - partly from jet
lag, partly from doing so many things in one day. I took a shower
and fell asleep right after check-in (Dr. Tai checked each pair
students in their respective rooms at night). The hotels usually
set out two complimentary bottles of water, one for each student.
Jason was smart enough to bring Gatorade powder and he made me
some Gatorade using my bottle of water. Little did I know it would
come in handy tomorrow.