When we were in Dalian we went to the boardwalk for a couple hours and had the chance to ride a couple of the rides and see the ocean. In total we went on three rides and quickly learned how the rides in China are a little bit more extreme. We started out by accidently riding the bumper cars which hit just a little harder than the ones we are used to in the United States. After getting a little beat up on the bumper cars we decided to ride the go carts which went pretty fast. I even spun out a couple times on the turns. The last ride, the one I the picture was the craziest of all. We thought it would be a quick ride that went upside down a couple times the ended, however, we were wrong. The ride lasted over five minutes and it seemed like it lifted you over the ocean and just when you thought it was over the ride started up again. Even though I was only able to go on a couple rides this small stop was a blast and it was nice to do something exciting.
On our last day in Beijing we went to a restaurant that we called the red star restaurant. We were still getting used to China and all of the propaganda was still a little new to us. This restaurant is where I realized how much the people of China really value Mao Zedong. The food at this restaurant was a little different and there were people singing on the stage while wearing shirts with Moa Zedong on them. This was also where we were first served a whole chicken that was chopped up and placed in a bowl. I’ll never forget how scared I was when I pulled a chicken foot out of the bowl. After we continued to look through the bowl we found a head and the other foot. It was interesting to find out that this is pretty common in china and a lot of other restaurants do the same thing. While this restaurant was a little weird at first I’m glad we went because it gave us the opportunity to see something we are not used to seeing.
The picture shows pit one at the Terracotta Warriors Museum. I found the warriors to be one of the most interesting things we saw. The long history and intensive process to save them makes them that much more amazing in person. I also learned while we were at the museum that not all of the warriors have been uncovered yet because they do not yet have the technology to properly preserve them. When the warriors were initially buried they were full of color, when they make contact with the air this color is lost almost immediately. Its little facts like this that made the terracotta warriors so interesting to me. We also learned that a little ways away is where the emperor is buried. We also learned that his body hasn’t yet been uncovered because it is surrounded by traps to protect him in the afterlife.
Today we visited the Olympic Park in Beijing. We were able to see the water cube and the birds nest but we were only able to go inside of the birds nest. Most of the signs were still up from the 2008 Olympics. This was interesting to see because I remember watching the Olympics on TV when they were hosted here. It was a cool feeling to sit inside of the birds nest and think about the records that were broke there. It was very impressive to see how everything was laid out even though we were in the middle of Beijing.
The food in China was unlike any other food I’ve eaten before in my life. Before leaving for the trip, I was warned that authentic Chinese food was nothing like American Chinese food, but I still didn’t know what to expect. My first meal in China was a traditional duck dish and I remember being very cautious as I picked what to take from the lazy-Susan to put on my plate based on what I knew I already liked from home. I quickly learned that I would need to get over my fear of trying foreign food, and soon I was tasting nearly everything that was put out on the table. Granted, I didn’t always like everything I tasted, I still gave it a try. Some of the “strangest” food that I tried were sea cucumber, snake, and full fried sardines. I also watched some of my braver friends try foods like chicken feet, fish eyes, scorpions, and silkworm larva. Also, my friends and I made a point to try American chain restaurants that we saw while we were in China, like Pizza Hut, KFC, and Burger King. While places like KFC and Burger King barely tasted any different to me, to my surprise Pizza Hut was a completely different experience in China than what it is in the United States.
Before going to China, I really had no idea how the Chinese people were going to treat me as an American student. Because of what I had learned about Chinese and American relations in the past, I was nervous that my peers and I wouldn’t be welcomed in China. To my surprise, the complete opposite happened. In China, the people were overwhelmingly welcoming. As we walked down the street, Chinese people would point at us, make comments to their friends or family, and even approach us to ask to take pictures with us. When we would take group photographs, random Chinese people would stand behind our photographer and take pictures of our group; sometimes they even asked to join the group photo! Although some people may have gotten annoyed by this, I found it endearing and quite humorous. Honestly, it made me feel like some kind of “super-star.” Every person I met was so nice and welcoming and seemed so excited to meet my friends and I. One of my favorite moments like this was when I was asked to take a picture with a baby while I was at dinner. The photos I took with these people are great memories that I will never forget.
While in China, it was very obvious how much the Chinese people value their traditions and beliefs in their culture. A lot of the old temples and structures that we saw were built thousands of years ago, yet they have been refurbished and maintained all of these years because they are an important part of the Chinese history and therefore culture. Within these structures, it is made very clear how the Chinese hold certain beliefs at a very high value. For example, the Chinese believe that certain numbers are luckier than others, specifically that 9 is the luckiest number. Because of this strong belief, when the Forbidden City was constructed for the emperor, it was specifically built to have a total of 9,999 rooms and the wall surrounding the city would be 9.9 meters tall. From an engineering standpoint, it makes no logical sense to design a wall 9.9 meters tall instead of an even 10, or create 9,999 rooms instead of 10,000, but to the Chinese these numbers gave them luck and prosperity and that was what the emperor deserved. Even in modern day culture, the Chinese still hold this tradition at high value while people can pay money to purposely have the numbers 8 or 9 in their telephone numbers.
One of my favorite places that we have visited through this program was CUMT, the college we visited while in Beijing. As a college student in the United States, it was so interesting to get to see what college is like in China and without this program I don’t think I ever would have been able to do that. There are many differences between CUMT and Penn State. For instance, the dorms. At CUMT, there were completely different dorm buildings for boys and girls and all students have to go to a completely separate building to take their showers. This came as a shock to me because during my freshman year I shared a floor with boys and our showers were in the bathrooms on our floor. Another huge difference was the size of the campus. CUMT’s campus is practically a perfect square and easily walkable within about 10 minutes; Penn State’s campus is overwhelming in comparison. From having conversations with students, I could tell that the size of Penn State made them very nervous to transfer there. The students were so welcoming and so interested to converse with us American students. Some students showed us around the campus and even showed us how to write our names in Chinese. Overall it was so fun and interesting to be able to witness the college experience in China.
One thing that I’ve found to be really interesting during my time in China is the way that the Chinese respect Mao Zedong so much. In high school history class I was taught about Mao Zedong leading the communist party in China and everything he did during the Cultural Revolution to the Chinese people. To me, some of the things that he did during his time in power were harsh and harmful to the Chinese, but I have noticed that the Chinese do not view him in the same light. In Tian’anmen Square there is still a huge picture of Mao hanging that so many people from all over China come to see. Inside the square, vendors sell copies of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book and hats with the red star on them. To me it was surprising to see Chinese being proud of that political past because of how I was taught about it in school. Practically everywhere we have gone in China, there has been different Mao merchandise, from playing cards and calendars to tee shirts. All of the merchandise shows Mao being happy and doing good for the country of China which, although is normal for the Chinese, seems ironic to me and my classmates. Regardless of our political opinion of Mao, some of us have certainly found entertainment in his glorification all over the country by taking “selfies” with pictures of him and even purchasing Mao themed playing cards.