I apologize for not updating my blog regularly. So the last time I wrote, I said that I would be going on a two week trip to the northeastern part of China. I’ve been back for about two weeks now, but I just never got around to updating my blog with school work and all.

So much has happened since my last blog entry!

During my two weeks of mobile learning, I went to the northeastern part of China (Dongbei). The Dongbei area is known for being home to 46 of the 56 ethnic minorities in China. The focus of our trip was to visit the Mongolian ethnic minority group and the Korean ethnic minority group. I never realized just how ethnically diverse China is, but when you go up to the northeastern part of China, signs will have three languages on them, Chinese, Russian, and Korean.

We started out in the grasslands of China in Hulunbeier. During our two days there, we stayed in a Mongolian Yurt. Living in a yurt is not conducive for cold weather! There we learned how to wrestle (traditional Mongolian style) and just enjoy the quietness of the grasslands. The grasslands are such a stark contrast to the busy city of Beijing, so it was really nice getting to experience a different side of China. After our time in the grasslands we headed to Harbin.

Harbin is known for their Ice Festival and their heavily Russian influenced architecture. When you’re in Harbin, it almost feels like you are in an European city because the streets are cobble and the architecture is very similar to European architecture. After Harbin we headed to Changbaishan.

Tainchi Lake is located in Changbaishan. Tainchi Lake is a famous crater lake that separates China from North Korea. When standing on the Chinese side of the lake and looking across, you can see North Korea. The lake was absolutely break-taking. The water was so blue and the air was so fresh.

Then we went to Tumen, which is a border city between China and North Korea. While in Tumen, we were able to climb a mountain to get an aerial view of a North Korean village. This mountain was really neat because it allowed us to see a Chinese city and a North Korean city at the same time, so we were able to compare the two countries and see their stark contrasts. The Chinese side was developed and had high rises, while the North Korean village lacked any high rises and all the buildings were exactly the same.

It was then time to head back to Beijing on our 24+ hour train ride. Riding a train in China is like no other experience I have ever had. Chinese trains have 6 beds in each compartment. There will be a top, middle, and bottom bunk. There are no doors to these compartments, so people can walk past you and look at you while you sleep. Most people want want the top bunk because no one can look at you while you are sleeping. In addition, if you have the bottom bunk, people will always sit on your bed, thus making it hard for you to fall asleep when you want. I was fortunate enough to have the top bunk!

When we finally arrived in Beijing, it was Nationals Day. A couple of my friends and I decided that we wanted to see the rising of the flags in Tiananamen Square, so we camped out the night before and pulled an all-nighter in Tiananmen. What an experience! In order to get into Tiananmen Square, we first had to stand in an absurd line, which was packed with people. I literally was smashed in between people and could not physically move my arms, that’s how packed it was that night. When we finally made it into Tiananmen Square, we had to find a spot to camp out in. Not only was it crowded, but it was extremely cold that night. The rising of the flags happened at 6 in the morning the next day, but because it was so packed, it was extremely hard to see what was happening. But the experience of camping out in Tiananmen Square was well worth the wait.

That’s it for now! Till next time.

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A walk in the park.

Last Sunday I went to Fragrant Hills Park, which is a very popular hiking destination among Beijingers. When I had signed up for the hike, for some reason I had the impression that it would be a relatively easy hike. Little did I know that this hike would be intense! But the long and intense hike was worth the amazing view of the city (although the pollution hindered the view a bit). The view from the top overlooks 15 miles of Beijing’s city (Beijing is a VERY large city, so it’s hard to see all of it). After are long hike, we went to one of the best restaurants in Beijing and had their famous, pear and shrimp dish. It was absolutely amazing!

Now I’m about to head out on my two-week mobile learning trip. This trip will take me to the Russian and Chinese border. Then we will make our way to the grasslands and camp there for two days. We will then head to Harbin, which is known for their ice sculptures. Finally, we will go to the North-Korean and Chinese border. I am excited for this trip and for the 24 hour train ride that awaits me.

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A blue sky

For my sanity, I have decided to update my blog and take a break from studying!

As a result of yesterday’s heavy rains, I am greeted with a rare sight in Beijing today…a blue sky! The rain cleared out most of the pollution and so it is absolutely beautiful today. The sky is blue and the air smells clean! Yay! As you can tell, pollution in Beijing is a major problem. It also doesn’t help that a large portion of the population here are smokers. Pollution and second-hand smoke is something that you cannot escape in Beijing.

I’m really enjoying Beijing and I’m even contemplating coming back here to work for a year or two. This city is absolutely amazing. There’s so much good food to eat (although very greasy) and things to do. For example, just the other day I went to the Silk Market. For some reason I thought the market would be an outdoor market, but it’s actually inside a 6-story building. There are shops, restaurants, and everything you could imagine in the market. It’s basically a gigantic mall, but extremely cheap, a shopper’s paradise!

On the other hand, there are some things that I just won’t get used to. For example, in China, you have to bring your own toilet paper everywhere and you can’t flush the toilet paper down the toilet. I don’t know about you, but flushing the toilet paper down the toilet is automatic for me. So, remembering not to do that is extremely hard. I also don’t understand why places won’t provide you with toilet paper. Toilet paper is definitely a luxury item here so if you ever plan on coming to China, be prepared to bring toilet paper where ever you go!

I must get back to studying, till next time.

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A whirlwind of a week!

I’ve made it to Beijing! But, I’m currently sick. I think it’s a mixture of the pollution and me constantly going from hot to cold air or vice versa. I’ve been taking medicine for about 3 days now, but I’m still not better, so I might take a trip to the doctor’s…we’ll see. But, here’s a summary of my first week in Beijing!

I arrived in Beijing last Thursday night after a grueling 15 hour flight on Air China. I was a little worried about my flight over to China because I had heard bad reviews about Air China such as, there are no TV screens on the plane and the service is bad, but to my great joy, there was a TV and the service was great! I watched about 5 movies on the way over to Beijing (my brain literally felt like mush after watching all those movies) which kept me entertained for most of the ride. I also sat next to someone in my program so we stuck together and made our way to the school. I was very surprised that customs in China was not as intense as I had imagined it to be. For some reason I expected to have the customs person ask me a list of questions, search through my luggage, etc., but the person never asked me a question. So going through customs was a breeze!

When we arrived at the dorms, we were greeted with a nice dinner and after that I fell asleep. But I woke up around 4 am due to jet lag. For the next couple of days, we had an orientation extravaganza. We sat through many different lectures and they sent us around Beijing on a scavenger hunt. On our scavenger hunt, my teammates and I had to go to a famous lake located in Beijing University. When we were there we saw a professor, who teaches at Beijing University, doing calligraphy with these gigantic brushes. We were instantly amazed and asked if we could take a picture with him. Not only did we get a picture with him, but he kindly offered to write our names in Chinese!

School started about 4 days ago. I have a daily quiz (tingxie) and lots of reading from my area studies classes. So my daily routine consists of getting up early to study for my daily quiz, then going to class, after class I either have an area studies class or I study to prepare for my next class.

On another note, yesterday I went on a Tiananmen Trifecta! We started off at the Beijing Urban Planning Museum, then we went to Tiananmen Square, and finally we finished off at the Forbidden City. In total it was about a 3.5 mile walk, so I was exhausted and hungry by the end. In addition, it started to pour on us halfway through our walk in the Forbidden City. But luckily, I brought an umbrella (props to weather.com).

Those are just some major highlights of my first week…more to come as the semester goes on!

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