Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Just when we had all finally adjusted to "China time," a flight delay and late arrival threw off our sleeping schedule a bit. We arrived to our dorm at Beijing Sport University after midnight, and soon learned that the sun rises quite early in Beijing, 4:49 AM, to be exact. The entire country of China (approximately the same size as the US) is in the same time zone, FYI.
At our breakfast buffet we learned that the Beijing region has lots of different foods than what we enjoyed in the Sichuan province. However, watermelon is still a staple. I think it's safe to say that we have had watermelon served at every single meal so far in China. We had just finally become accustomed to the unique food in Chengdu, but now we start from scratch with a new menu.
On our tour of the campus we quickly noticed that we're not in Chengdu anymore...BSU is a much larger campus and the students here seem to be much, much taller. The size difference is because BSU students are elite athletes (we can compare CSU to a division 3 school, and BSU to a division 1 school), many of whom will compete in future Olympiads. We were able to see world class training facilities where the national figure skating team was testing. This center even has controlled "high altitude" apartments so that the athletes can "live high and train low" - referring to the difference in aerobic performance at different altitude levels. The Sport Science Research Center was built in preparation for the Beijing Olympic Games 2008, and everything inside is state of the art to help prepare future Olympians.
Speaking of future Olympians, we saw a few very young rhythmic gymnasts practicing today. Around the age of 5, the national teams for most sports select the young athletes with the most promise and invite them to come train for future competition. The athletes leave their families, move to Beijing and begin year-round training. This explains why Chinese athletes are so competitive and also why it can be so devastating when they don't take the gold.
At lunch we learned that we aren't the only celebrities walking around this campus. In fact, there's an American Arena Football training camp happening on campus this week and we ran into several former NFL players, coaches and referees. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to speak some English and we even got invited to watch their evening practice session.
During our afternoon Chinese class, we impressed our teacher, Mrs. Qian, with how much mandarin we already know. She built our confidence with many many "hen hao"s (very good). She also taught us some important words and phrases that we will need to bargain with the merchants of Beijing, especially at our upcoming visit to the Pearl Market.
At dinner we all tried some more new Beijing food and even used our acupuncture skills to open yogurt with straws. I think we were all overtired because the fits of laughter erupting from our table were more than usual (and that says a lot). We headed to the evening football practice and learned that the American players and coaches are here to introduce American football to Chinese students from six different universities (including CSU and BSU).
So far it seems like our experience here is going to be much different than our experience at CSU. We are missing all of our friends from Chengdu, but we have already started making new friends here like Kevin, Jessica, and Debbie who are all studying martial arts on campus (perhaps we could teach them a few things since we are practically WUSHU masters at this point). Spending time with the local students is a great way for us to learn more about the culture and get the inside scoop on what to do here. Since Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, we have learned about their social networking sites including "WeChat" which seems to be a combination of Twitter and texting and has a very unique feature of letting you know exactly where all of your friends are whenever you shake your phone (hard to explain, please ask for a demo upon our arrival). Those of us with phones are using WeChat to meet new friends and keep in touch with our friends in Chengdu. We plan to all stay connected when we return to the US.
An interesting fact about the Chinese students' English names is that they get to choose their own, usually in high school. Some choose names of TV or movie characters, and others seem to have chosen random English words. For example, we've met students named Star, Prince, Island, Lemon, Red, Silver and Fannie...list To Be Continued.
Looking forward to finally getting on Beijing time and making the most of our days remaining!
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Part 1 of our journey has come to a bittersweet end as it was our last day in Chengdu at Chengdu Sport University. After our last Chengdu breakfast, we kicked off the day with some tuina--Chinese massage. After all the intense dragon dancing and kung fu we've been learning, practicing tuina with each other with guidance from the students majoring in Chinese medicine was exactly what we needed at 8:00am.
Although we could have continued with tuina all day, we were excited to briefly watch a volleyball practice where coaches and fellow Americans from Alabama State University were training the CDSU team. While slightly skeptical that our day could get any better, we were not disappointed. Our last wushu class at CDSU gave us the opportunity to add swords to our skillful martial arts movements. We probably won't be getting any calls to act as stunt doubles in any kung fu movies in the immediate future, but we can say we were trained in China by someone who did, which is pretty awesome.
The grand finale of our Chengdu experience was lunch at a local "huo guo" (hot pot) with the CDSU foreign affairs department and the professors that opened our minds to Chinese culture, as well as the Chinese students who volunteered to help out with our visit. Raw meats and vegetables were brought to our tables, and we put them into the built-in hot pot of boiling water and spices in the center of our tables to cook, which turned out to be the spiciest food we've had yet. It was a fun lunch in which we all celebrated our time in Chengdu and how much we've learned about Chinese medicine, culture, and language in just one week. The first round of farewells began and we were saddened to part from the wonderful staff and students of CDSU whom we are now proud to call our chingaida peng yao (dear friends).
Goodbyes (for now) continued upon our return to campus as we packed for our flight to Beijing. It was emotional for all of us. Some shed tears and all exchanged email addresses and hugs, as we assured each other we'd meet again in the future. The staff presented us each with a laminated group photo we took on our first full day in Chengdu, as well as a certificate stating in English and Chinese that we completed study of Chinese medicine and culture at CDSU. After a brief dinner, we boarded the bus for the airport. Our hearts were heavy but we were excited for Part 2 of our journey in China at Beijing Sport University to begin, where we will surely make more friendships that will be hard to leave behind after the coming week.
After a two and a half hour flight from Chengdu to Beijing that was delayed an hour, we landed around 11:30pm and made it to our new rooms at Beijing Sport University around 1:00am ready for a few hours of sleep before our 7:30am breakfast.
It's hard to believe that half of our trip is over already. Thinking back to one week ago when we boarded the 15 hour flight from Newark to Shanghai, we didn't really know what to expect. We knew how to say ni hao (hello) and that we were going to eat unfamiliar foods and learn about Chinese medicine. We didn't know that we would create so many friendships--with each other and with the Chinese students. We can now count, introduce ourselves, say some other key words in Chinese (like "ping zi ling" = ice cream), and we've mastered the art of chopsticks. I think it's safe to say we all have a new found appreciation for Chinese culture and a desire to learn more over the next week, ultimately becoming more culturally competent individuals, academically and professionally.
- Coty Wardwell
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Today (May 27) marks the half waypoint of the trip. After the weekend everyone seemed well rested and ready to get back into the full schedule ahead of us. To start off the day we had a 715 meet time for breakfast, which was amazing as usual. Although no where near the same as an American breakfast, the buffet we had out in front of us hit the spot and was a great way to start the day off.
After breakfast we went directly to our first Traditional Chinese Medicine Class (TCM) of the day. In previous classes we learned that TCM is based off of keeping your yin and your yang in balance, which can be achieved through different techniques like acupuncture and cupping. In todays class we were going to learn how to do both. We first started out going over different points on the body that are called accupoints, which you stick with a needle. Each of these points corresponds to different organs in your body and does different things for you. Our teacher, Mrs Hong, came around and made sure that we knew where each of these points was. After that, we were instructed on how to insert the needles for accupunture. We used a packet of tissues to practice. After we were confident in our puncturing abilities, we were set free to stick each other with needles. I know many of us were somewhat apprehensive to have this done, but I think everyone ended up having at least one needle in him or her by the end of the class. After accuputurute, we were taught the technique of cupping. Cupping is when you take a glass dome and stick a cotton ball on fire in it to take up the oxygen, and just as you pull the cotton ball out of the glass dome you place it on the skin and it creates a suctioning effect. This makes your skin rise and increases blood flow to the area. Everyone was very egger to have this done to him or her, as it did not involve needles.
After TCM, we had a break in which we got to play ping-pong with some students at the Stadium. I know that I had a great time doing this. Even though a language barrier separated us, we were still able to interact and make connections through the common language of sports. I know this is how a dialogue was started with China and America back when Nixon was president and it is no different now. Even though the Chinese students had to back off a little bit, I think all of us had a great time being able to interact.
After taking a small break for a shower, we were off to WUSHU with Mr Xiaoyuan. We started the class off as usual with a warm up that consisted of dynamic stretching, but that was about all that was similar. This class we learned how to do a traditional line dance. Line dancing is when you have a partner and a dragon suit over both of you. You then go through a dance like pattern, which I know my partner Christie and I, had a little bit of trouble with. We eventually got the hang of it though and ended up winning a competition between us and another group that consisted of Ariel and Coty. After that we were shown how to use the dragon. I was the leader and thus had to hold the head, which was quite heavy. Although we looked nothing like the demo group, I think we did an all right job.
Right after WUSHU we went to lunch, which is a short 30-second walk from the WUSHU hall. After the workout of line dancing and using the dragon, I think everyone had worked up quite the appetite. My favorite option out of the whole buffet of food that we usually have laid out for us is by far the fried rice.
After lunch we had a short break back at our rooms, and then we were off on a field trip to see a TCM pharmacy as part of our second class for the day. We were lucky enough to get the manager to show us around the store, which had more herbs and traditional medicine than I could have ever imagined existed. The pharmacy was about 10000 square feet, half of which was a used for herbs and the other half for TCM practitioners to assess your problems and do things like acupuncture. Many of us ended up buying herbs and we were also given a free gift at the end, which was quite the surprise.
After our field trip, we had another break and then it was off to our last Chinese class with Mr Yang. In this class we added onto our existing knowledge of phrases from previous classes. One thing that I liked about this class in particular was Mr Yangs presentation of the different sports in China. After this we were able to practice our speaking skills with some of the Chinese students that were with us. I am terrible in general with language, but by the end of the class I was starting to catch onto everything.
After our last class of the day, we had dinner and then we were off to go swimming in the Swimming Stadium with some of the water polo team. I a great time playing keep away with them, even though about half way through I had to take a break because of how out of breath I was. The students however had no problem because of how great of shape they were in. After playing what seemed for an hour, we wrapped everything up in a relay race of course had to take pictures with everyone.
After swimming I think everyone was pretty tired so we got ready for bed and for the big day of leaving and travel tomorrow.
- Samuel Cannella
Monday, May 27, 2013
Today we went to breakfast at 8:30 in the morning, where the food choices continued to look familiar to us. Our plates were full of xiao long bao, soup, carrots, other vegetables, and bread. Our cups, full of what we refer to as Tang. We ate with each other and the six Chinese student volunteers who have been with us the whole time. After breakfast, we met with two other students, Elana and Amanda, who joined us on our adventure to the Panda Research Base.
On the bus ride to the Panda Research Base, while we sat amongst our new Chinese friends, we heard from our friend, Panda Sam, who presented to us about where we were going. From Panda Sam, we learned that there are 83 pandas in the Panda Research Base, and there are about 1800 pandas in the whole world. We also learned from Panda Sam that this research base is the largest semen bank in the world for Pandas, and that this bank increases genetic diversity. Elana, a certified tour guide of the base, chimed in with her extra wisdom and knowledge teaching us interesting facts about pandas, including that Panda came from a French man, Priest Armand David, the first Western Man to discover Pandas. She also taught us that in Chinese Pandas are called da shan mao for big bear cat and that all pandas have nine black parts on their bodies: one for each ear, one for each eye, the nose, and then one for each of their four limbs. It truly was quite helpful to learn so much about where we were going.
Once we arrived at the Panda Research Base, our faces were full of excitement. While we were here, we saw juvenile pandas, one of which who sneezed, making Panda Amanda’s day, and 8 month old pandas. The pandas were truly adorable, as we all swooned over them with excitement and camera shots. We then listened to, and watched, a video about the beginning of life for pandas, learning that the mother pandas are not very good with their cubs at first, and that pandas do not begin to grow their fur until they are one month old. Form this video, we also learned that baby pandas imitate their mothers when they are young, and once they get old enough, they then live on their own with other pandas their age. As we continued to walk the pathways of the panda reserve amongst the large bamboo and trees, we saw some red pandas. These pandas are much smaller than the giant panda, and we learned, and observed, that these pandas are much more active than the giant pandas. We watched along side other eager people as the red pandas climbed up trees and ate food out of bowls. After seeing the pandas, we visited the brand new museum in the panda research base where we saw more pictures of pandas, as well as other things such as their skeleton. Right before we left, we visited the gift shop, where many of us bought souvenirs for our family/friends and ourselves. Alas, we were done with our panda adventure, but the memories will stick with us forever through our pictures and each other.
We got so caught up at the panda base that we were running extremely late for our next planned activity, the Sichun museum. However, a few days ago, we also replaced one of our shopping trips with a party the Chinese students held for us. So, we negotiated on the bus, and decided to replace the museum with a rest period, as all of us were exhausted by this point, and to go to Chunxi Road after dinner instead.
At Chunxi Road, which resembled a mini Times Square of New York City, we all split up into small groups with two or three of us with at least one Chinese student. We all held different shopping experiences. Amanda and I went with Eva, a Chengdu Sport University Senior and past host of Ithaca College students, to the normal store she shops at ending the night with great bargaining successes. It was quite interesting to experience the different shopping habitats and rules. For instance, in one store Eva took us to, there were at least 50 shops within the space of one department store, or less, in the United States, and many of these stores held one size for the people of Chengdu. We also were not allowed to try any clothes on, not even over our clothes, in some of the stores, which was so different than the United States. Overall, all of us students came to the conclusion that in the United States we are pretty much waited on while shopping, but in China, we are almost tricked into buying everything we touch and that the workers have one sole purpose, to make sales. This shopping experience is definitely something that I will remember for a very long time, and it was extremely intriguing for me to experience the shopping of a Chengdu local.
Overall, I would call this day in China a success. I personally learned so much about the national treasure of the panda and got to experience so many unique opportunities. It means so much for me as a Chinese adoptee to be able to connect with more of natives of my culture, and I am gaining such a better understanding of the culture I would have grown up in if I were not adopted. I feel that this day brought our group so many great memories, while giving us a better chance to experience part of the daily life of our Chinese friends. Even though we did not have classes today, I believe that we learned so much just by being enriched, and involved, in more parts of the Chinese culture. With our close connections that we continued to grow with our Chinese friends, I think that all of us students are learning more, not only about the Chinese culture and global connections, but also a lot about ourselves and daily lives.
- Emily Quinn
Sunday, May 26, 2013
To kick off the weekend in Chengdu, we were offered the chance to sleep in a bit longer than usual this morning before gathering for breakfast at 8:30am (as compared to 7:15am for the previous two days) at our usual spot in the campus Canteen. After a quick breakfast we went back to the International Exchange Center to grab our belongings and head to the bus for our excursion to the Wenchuan earthquake site and Shui Mo Ancient Town. Although many of us had the chance to catch up on some sleep overnight, some were still very tired, and the 2+ hour bus ride to Wenchuan was an opportunity to take a nap. Others enjoyed the scenery as we traveled on expressways past neighboring towns and through farmland, as well as on winding roads and through tunnels into the mountains.
Upon arrival to the Wenchuan earthquake site, about 50 mi NW of Chengdu, it was apparent that this location has special significance for many of the people traveling in our group, especially our Chinese friends and IC professors. Before beginning the tour, we stopped in front of the earthquake memorial to hear Hongwei recount the events of the earthquake and how it affected the IC trip to China that year. The earthquake occurred at 2:28pm on May 12, 2008, just days before the IC group was to depart to Chengdu and Beijing for that year’s trip. Because of the devastation near Chengdu, IC students and faculty were unable to visit Chengdu Sport University that year, but had to extend their time visiting Beijing Sport University and Shanghai.
The earthquake site we visited was actually the ruins of the Xuankou secondary school. The school buildings have been left in their post-earthquake condition, as a memorial to those lost. Forty-three students and 12 adults perished in the deadly earthquake, which measured an 8.0 in magnitude. We saw five-story buildings that had been leveled as well as buildings with shattered glass and gnarled window bars that looked as if a bomb had gone off in the area. The mood was a somber and reflective one, with little talking while everyone processed the scene. A sign outside the ruins stated “Civilization pay homage to the memory of. Do not laughing noise.” Indeed, we were paying homage to those whose lives were lost on that tragic day and the days following.
After spending time at the earthquake site and participating in some brief shopping at the local vendors, we boarded the bus to continue our journey to Shui Mo Ancient Town. Our first stop there was for lunch and a local restaurant. The second floor of the restaurant was reserved for our group, and a waitress from the restaurant even came with a flag to meet our group in the streets and guide us to our destination. The family-style eating has now become familiar, and we quickly helped ourselves, using chopsticks, to dishes on the “lazy susan” in the middle of the table. Even though a few of the local dishes were unfamiliar to some of our Chinese friends, they were quickly able to recognize which foods were spicy and warn us ahead of time. After lunch we split into groups and had the opportunity to do some shopping at the local shops and vendors. We were grateful to have our Chinese friends with us to help barter for deals, even though many goods were inexpensive to start. For example, hand woven shawls were being sold at some shops for as low as 15 RMB (which translates to less than $3 US) even without an additional markdown. We ended our shopping just in time, as light sprinkles changed to a full downpour. Huddling under umbrellas, we made it back to the bus. On the ride back to CSU, we showed each other our purchases of the day. There was excitement in the air as people talked about the deals they got on souvenirs or gifts for family and friends. Because the bus ride was over 2 hours long, some took the opportunity to rest, while others sang along to music or learned the Chinese version of the nursery rhyme “Frere Jacque” called the “Two Tigers.” Later that evening we headed back to Jinli Street near the CSU campus for some nightlife and additional shopping.