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Great Wall and Temple of Heaven (August 3, 2011 by Joseph)

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Today, we woke up early to go to the Great Wall. We were all somewhat upset about this until we realized how much hotter it was when we were leaving then when we got there. The wall turned out to be absolutely stunning. Had there not been so many people, I could have stayed up there for hours in complete repose.
     On the way back from the Great Wall, we stopped at a jade museum to have lunch. We had a brief tour and were taught how to recognize fake jade from the real thing. We then had a half hour or so to walk around and to discern the many pieces. Some of them were gigantic and cost up to 300,000 yuan. Even the cheapest ones were at least 100. I know my dad would have refused to even consider buying anything, knowing what a churl he is. We had lunch at the jade museum.
     After the museum, we got comfy for a 2-hour bus ride to the Temple of Heaven. By this point, everybody’s eyes had closed and refused to open. When we got there, it was with disbelief that I realized I had to go back into the bright sun. I was about ready to purloin the keys from the driver, turn up the AC, and fall back asleep. I feel somewhat unqualified to be writing about the Temple of Heaven, since I spent most of it with my eyes closed. I made my hedonism quite obvious when I decided to rest in the shade rather than walk 40 meters to buy some ice-cream or candy. We decided to call it an early day and eat dinner at the hotel. By this point, I was about ready to genuflect to my bed and fall asleep. Zai Jian!

Olympic Stadium (August 1st, 2011 by Lianne)

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Today we started off with Taichi, but we were all kind of late because we sort of slept in, and then took forever eating breakfast. Taichi was pretty awesome though. Chloe and I always spend the entire time just sparring with each other. Today the teacher said that I am really strong. Take that. I am also having a terrible time typing on this computer because it is tiny and I keep accidentally pressing the shift button. It also keeps randomly switching to Chinese… so bear with me. After Taichi, we studied Chinese for a long time class pretty much consists of us having random fake conversations. In these, Gene is generally a convict. Today, I owned a bookstore and Chloe and I argued rather heatedly over the price of a signed book. In the end she ended up stealing the book, and I had to call the police. After Chinese, we went back to the hotel to eat lunch and then went to the Olympic village. We saw the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. Inside the water cube, there is a gigantic water park which has live performances and a ridiculous amount of people. We wanted to go to the Temple of Heaven, but we got stuck in traffic, so we didn’t have time. We ate dinner at a really nice restaurant which apparently is frequented by many celebrities and political figures.  We then went to a tea house, where we watched performances such as Peking Opera, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Peking Mask Changing. We also wanted to go shopping afterwards, but it was too late by the time we left.  And here I am having Nick transcribe the blog post for me because I can’t type on Beining’s weird computer.

Summer Palace in Beijing (July 31th, 2011, by Mady Bennink)

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This week we have been busy exploring ancient temples, trying new foods, and bargaining with locals in Beijing. The locals welcome us with open arms, and even ask for autographs. Today, July 31, we visited the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is the second home of Empress Ci Xi of China, also known as the dragon lady. Ci Xi gained power by any means. She chose her nephew, Guang Xu to succeed the throne, but he was merely her puppet Guang Xu attempted to make reform, but a military official told Ci Xi. Ci Xi was furious and locked Guang Xu in a room the size of a broom closet, keeping him prisoner there for nearly three years. The Summer Palace surrounds a man-made lake known as the Longevity Lake. After wandering around the artful corridors of the Summer Palace, we took the tour bus to Yuan Ming garden. Yuan Ming garden contains ruins of a palace larger than the Forbidden City, that was destroyed by the Anglo-French in 1860. Following our visit to Yuan Ming Garden, we visited one of the top two universities in Beijing, and possibly all of China, Pecking University. A lush campus with historically significant structures and devoted students, Pecking University deserves its current title. Pecking University is many Chinese students’ dream from the start, there were many families taking pictures of their small children and babies in front of the university. After a long day consisting of 32 C weather, we headed to Donglaishun to eat a delicious traditional Chinese meal, consisting of rice, soup made of pig blood, spicy chicken and various arrangements of vegetables. Back at the Inn, we conversed with the Chinese students in their native language, late into the night. Now I want to join them in playing cards, but do not fear, another post is near.
                                     

Tian Jin Trip (July 30th, 2011 by Emma)

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Today we took the bus to Tianjin. Tianjin is another huge city in China about two hours drive from our hotel in Beijing. On our tour bus there is a microphone for the tour guide but Gong, one of our chaperones, really wanted us to use it for Karaoke. By the end of the ride he had only managed to get Chloe to sing the new Chinese song that she learned.
When we got to Tianjin we picked up a second tour guide and drove to the Tianjin culture street. At last we had free time and Mady and I went off to practice our new bargaining skills and explore the street market. After an hour and a half my backpack was lumpy and heavy and we were both proud of our purchases.
       By lunch we were all hot and hungry but our restaurant was a bit questionable. The tour guide said it was a restaurant acclaimed for its seafood but there was enough trash on the floor and old food on the silverware to make us wary especially because the tour guides weren’t even sitting down to eat. I think we were all happy to here that our next stop was the Tianjin snack market. This indoor market had all types of Chinese snack food including some sort of sweet pastry with a filling that tasted of raisins and a delicious pineapple juice drink.
       After the snack market we went to the river that runs through the center on Tianjin and hopped on a tourist boat to see the huge sky scrapers. We saw a lot of beautiful buildings including one that was shaped like a square with the center cut out and one that is going to be the tallest building in Asia once it is finished. But we also saw a lot of men swimming in the river, some of them even got in the way of the boats! After the boat ride it was time to head back to Beijing. This time Gong asked us to tell him a joke but since his English was not fantastic he just ended up not understanding the pun and we had to ask Beining how to say things like ‘skeleton’ and ‘guts’ ending up in more confusion and a lot of laughing at the situation but not at the joke.
       After we got back to our hotel we assumed the challenges of the day would be done, but we still had to order food from a menu completely in Chinese. In the end Janet stepped in and ordered food for us that luckily was quite delicious. For dessert Gong and his friend, a temporary chaperone I think, went out and got us watermelon, papaya and apples. Before bed, my roommate (Avril), Eden (another Chinese student), and I are watching a terribly cheesy Kungfu movie and finishing the fruit.

Yong He Lama Temple (July 27th, 2011, written by Chris Park)

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Today we had breakfast at the hotel. The options were limited, but still nothing to complain about. It included fried rice, noodles, several kinds of vegetables, and some pastries. After we quickly wolfed down our breakfast, we rushed to school where we would meet our new Taiqi teacher. As we traversed along the narrow, winding path to school, we noticed a few cars with smashed windows, possibly from the harsh storm that had occurred last night.  When we arrived at the school and dropped off our damp backpacks, we learned a few new Taiqi moves we could use against possible attackers. Afterwards, we had a three-hour long class with our teachers (we were split into 3 different groups) with occasional breaks. After class, at around noon, we all walked to a local Chinese restaurant where they served us authentic cuisine. Our palates were put to the test there, so some of us managed to settle with just plain white rice. Satisfied, we trudged back to our hotel underneath the daunting clouds.
 
After an hour of relieving rest, we jumped onto the shuttle bus we had been taking for the past few days and made our way to the Yonghegong Lama Temple, a Buddhist fusion temple. Numerous statues of Buddhist gods glinted in the dark rooms as our tour guide explained the significance of each statue and structure. After we had about half an hour to wander the temple for ourselves, we took a short walk to the Confucious temple where we saw his statue and walked along the stone paths. Later, we visited a village next to Hutong (A hutong is a special Chinese alleyway) by rickshaw. There, a specialist explained to us the magnificent history of a small house in Hutong which possessed more years of history underneath its belt that the United States of America. There was also a man in the small house who made beautiful paintings of people’s names for 60 yuan (less than 10 USD). After we took the rickshaw back to our shuttle bus, we headed to a restaurant that had accrued its fame with its world-famous Peking duck (shaved roasted duck). The restaurant was colossal and its dishes were amazingly delicious. Exiting the restaurant was like navigating a maze, but it barely phased us and our full stomachs. We all went home that night with full, content stomachs, regardless of the fact that most of us had gotten the classic Traveler’s during the first few days of the trip.

Second Day in Beijing (written by Chloe Bergstrand)

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Today I woke up to sunlight streaming through my window. Thinking it was time to get up, I casually looked at my watch and realized, No, it was not time to get up, it was 5 in morning. Later, when it was a decent hour, my roommate and I met the group down stairs, ready to head out for the day. Unlike yesterday, it was immediately sunny and hot, despite the early morning. We headed to a take-out breakfast restaurant, then walked to our school. After we ate, we went back outside to experience our first taiqi lesson. We then had the first real Chinese class of the China trip, a general review of how to pronounce Chinese pin yin and tones. My class also played several games. One such game was counting in Chinese, but we weren’t allowed to say 7 or any multiples of 7. If you said such a number, you had to perform for the class. The first round started and I forgot about the no multiples rule, and then recited a Shakespearian sonnet. I’d like to say it was quite a rendition, though it wasn’t in Chinese. Some other students preformed cirinthians and the school chapter. We put on quite a show/

That day for lunch we went back to the same restaurant as yesterday, though today we sampled different dishes. After lunch, Emma, Mady, Lianne and I traveled with our roommates to a nearby market to buy supplies for the dumplings/pork stickers (jiao zi) we would be making later. The trip to the market was very fun and enjoyable; we constantly asked how to say different food items and looked at the strange labels. The market itself was big, though our hosts said it was a small market. When we got back to the hotel, the group prepared the stuffing for the dumplings, which included cleaning and preparing some of the vegetables. After that, the dumpling making began. It became a competition to see who could make the most jiao zi. After awhile I started making shapes with my dumplings, which ended up morphing into delicious figurines of some of the zodiac animals. I made the ox, dragon, and rabbit. For Emma I also made a turtle. When we finished making the jiaozi, we cooked and ate them, which was very satisfying.

After dinner we then had a Chinese shuttlecock contest, which is kind of like hacky sack, but with balls that have feathers. I was not very good at it, though some of out hosts were amazing. We then headed back to our rooms, where we could chill and rest, then go to sleep. My roommate and I have been talking for a long time about Chinese and American culture. Despite not visiting any famous places today, it was still very busy and exciting, and I think the jet lag is setting in. it’s time for me to sleep now, to wake up hopefully wake up again to another bright, fantastic day in china

First Day in Beijing (written by Nicholas Elliott)

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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.