From the Arch to the Great Wall

3. First Day in China (2)

After 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.

中國的第一天 (2)









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