Farewell Beijing and trips beyond Beijing by Chloe

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Here’s what happened previously on “China Trip 2011!” (since the last blog post was almost a week ago) Last Thursday Lianne and I were unfortunately bed ridden with a stomach sickness, but the misfortune was worth the extra rest and awesome Chinese subtitled movies provided by the hotel. The rest of the group had class as usual, then headed to Wang Fu Jing street, a famous market, though I here everything was very overpriced.
Then Friday came rolling around and it dawned on us that it would be our last day in Beijing and our last day with our Chinese friends. Class was shorter than usual, ending with an awards ceremony, with congratulations being given to “the best Chinese speaker” “the best chopstick user” “the best environmentalist”, and many more. Later, it was an emotional farewell as we said our goodbyes to newfound friends. I know I will miss Eden (my roommate) and keep in touch with her.
That night we took an overnight train to Xi’an. It was the first time I had traveled by train, and it was really quite something. We got to stay in little bunks and throughout the night we were awoken by sudden jerks and rumblings as the train shifted a move. It was an experience and actually quite fun. In the morning we arrived in Xi’an, most of us with little to no solid sleep, and began our day. We traveled to the city wall, where most of the group rented bikes to circumvent the city. It was really nice to stretch our legs and do some physical activity, not to mention the view. Mady, Emma, and I also raced some British people, though Emma’s bike broke down 8 times. Afterwards we found out the wall was 22 kilometers long. It was pretty awesome. The day just got better as we headed to the Terracotta Warrior museum, which looks pretty much exactly as it does in all the pictures, postcards, and travel shows, except we were actually there. That’s something I have to remind myself of, that I am actually standing near this monument/temple/burial site,  that this is actually happening to me. The whole experience is just so unbelievable. Oh, my camera also died the moment I set my eyes on the Warriors, so they will live on in my memory, if not on film.
The next day, now Sunday I think, we traveled by bullet train, that's right, Bullet Train, to Zheng Zhou. (the train was very fast and smooth, completely unlike the other train we had traveled on.) At our new city, we went to the suburbs to an amusement park/ historical reconstruction of the Song Dynasty. There were people participating in ancient games, as well as many dressed up in traditional costumes. Mady, Emma, Lianne, and I watched a sumo match, where one of the guys wanted us to participate, though we didn’t, then went and adventured to this fantastic playground. It had spiny-teeter-totters, manually operated ferries-wheels, an obstacle course, and a mess dragon that was entirely too small for us, though we managed to crawl through, somehow. The obstacle course was also quite dangerous, as there was this beam portion, which I thought was a balance beam, though I was sadly mistaken. It ended up spinning when I was halfway across, resulting in my untimely reunion with the ground. I made a nearby Chinese man laugh and got a raspberry on my chin for my efforts.
The next day, Monday now, we traveled to the Shaolin temple, famous for it’s kungfu and awesomeness. There we got to see a performance of some traditional Chinese kungfu. It was pretty amazing. Then came a portion for 3 volunteers to come up and try and mimic some animal-kungfu. And I volunteered. I was the only woman, as well as the only American on that stage, so I think everyone was surprised, even myself. I ended up trying to do some frog-kungfu and got a dvd for my efforts. The experience was amazing and I can now legitimately say I trained at the Shaolin Temple. We also got to see the pagoda’s erected for deceased kungfu masters. With chanting in the background, it was magical and mysterious and tranquil.
And now onto today, which was spent traveling to ShangHai by bullet train. It was a 7 hour ride, along with 3 hours of total bus time. It’s astounding how much time we actually spend in tour busses. The train ride was fun, as I got to sit next to a very cute Chinese infant and his grandma. Halfway through the trip he meekly gave me a package of peas, which interestingly enough said “USA green peas, 100% imported!” It’s moments like this when I realized how different china is from the states. We never see “Chinese Peas, 100% imported.” That just doesn’t happen. But it’s not only that which brings out the differences. There is just an ‘otherness’, and essence I can’t put my finger on which makes china so magical and different. To walk down the street and not really understand what anyone is saying, or to look over and see a thousand year old temple. These things are amazing and unique and require experience to understand. I can’t really put into words what I’m feeling, but everyday has been a whirlwind, every night exhausting. And it’s just so fantastic.