Submitted by Beining Hu on Mon, 07/25/2011 - 6:46am
Today was our first official day of the China trip, after 7 hours of sleep in the hotel we arrived at the night before. The "day" (more of a 36 hour wait) before was peppered with uneasy naps and airplane meals between brisk strolls from gate to gate. Despite being so long, the process of switching flights was somewhat unremarkable, the flights went without serious delay, and although our flight from Seoul to Beijing was slightly delayed, it was a perfect excuse for a quick nap. The first day was much more noteworthy.
We started out the day by having breakfast in the dimly lit but busy breakfast room of our hotel, filled with both various Chinese dishes and somewhat bland pastries. In the beginning of the day, the weather was altogether a bit too similar to that of Portland, with an added 80% humidity. The hotel was only slightly air conditioned, and stepping outside was like walking into a sauna. The humidity snuck under clothes and clung to us, drawing out sweat quickly. After a 15 minute walk we found our way to the high school where we would have our daily classes. We met our 3 teachers, and had a brief individual "interview" (chat) with them. Soon afterwards, we had dim sum for lunch, and prepared for our second part of the day.
The majority of our afternoon would be spent touring Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City. Although the weather had been overcast, muggy and rainy for most of the day before, as soon as we started our tour, the weather took a turn for the summery. It immediately spiked to a good 85 degrees. The humidity was like a wet blanket coating us, and the sun beat down hard on us. Miraculously, everybody made it through the afternoon without getting sunburned, but it seemed inevitable with the extreme weather. We saw many beautiful sights at both the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. For instance, we saw the longest stone carving in the world, covered in extremely detailed and intricate dragon carvings. Our tour guide told us a story about the carving in ancient times; since there was no convinient method of transporting a several ton stone carving, the ground ahead of it would have to be iced in order to slide the carving around. All around us, the traditional Chinese architecture with it's gold and red roofs and polished tiles stretched for miles. We also saw the wedding chambers of the Forbidden City, and the emporer's living quarters.
We finished off our first action-packed day with a long dinner at another dim sum restaurant. It felt good to unwind after such a long day of seeing new sights and new experiences. We also discussed our plans for tomorrow as well as some skills that we might need in the future. For instance, we discussed how to bargain (or, rather, how to haggle) in stores. We also dicussed some interesting experiences that we had in the day. For instance, at Tiananmen Square, I was sitting on the railing of the square, when a family to my left started laughing and pointing at us (not in a jeering way, but in a playful way). They then tried to convince their child to stand with Cooper and I to take a picture. It took a lot of convincing, but eventually, they got the kid between us. However, they didn't stop there. Soon, the wife joined us, then her husband. After all of them had joined us, we had to keep smiling while the family shouted at what appeared to be the child's grandmother, who was trying to take the picture. Of course, with all of the commotion, we had drawn all of the other members of our trip over, who were now pointing and laughing and taking pictures, all while Cooper and I exchanged nervous glances and tried to keep the same smile on our faces. It's stories and anecdotes like this that make me so exited for the rest of this trip.