Thursday, May 23, 2013
Today (May 22nd) was our first full day in Chengdu China. Although most of us were still feeling the effects of jet-lag it was no excuse to get out of a fully packed schedule. We started off the day at 8:30am in the morning dressed in our best to meet the president of Chengdu Sport University. Before the meeting, we were escorted to breakfast by a few Chinese students who volunteered to help us out during our stay. They were extremely friendly and kind, with stories and words of advice to offer. They even introduced themselves using there english names because they knew we wouldn't have a shot of pronouncing or remembering their Chinese names.
Our first meal in China was exactly what I expected: I did not recognize a single dish that was served. Most of us took this as an opportunity for adventure, trying a little of each dish. The food is definitely something to get used to but it was still very good.
After breakfast, we made our way to 'The White House', a massive white building with pillars on each side where met with the present of Chengdu Sport University. During the meeting we exchanged gifts, which demonstrates respect between the two parties in Chinese culture. We presented the president with a small wooden paddle that was engraved with both the Ithaca college and Chengdu Sport University logos with the quotation "Separated by Sea, Connected by Heart". In return, all the students received a set of white, silk Wu Shu uniform, which we wear during our martial art lessons. After the official greeting and gift exchange, we were taken to a campus tour. During the tour, we visited the university's museum, which housed many works of art that depicted the history of Chinese sports. We also got the chance to bond with the Chinese students, who very quickly became our friends.
After a lunch break and some rest, we had our first class. We were introduced to traditional Chinese medicine; why it is used, the theories behind it, and how it compares to western medicine. After the class we went to our first Wu Shu lesson. The class was in a big, hot room that was completely covered with thick carpets. We were taught different hand positions, how to kick and punch. Then we had to put it all together in one fluid, coordinated movement. It was incredibly difficult and required an enormous amount of focus, which was hard to do considering the other fifty students in the room who were also practicing. Not only were they playing with swards and spinning through the air, but they were also watching us less coordinated group. Although this made everything a little more intimidating and embarrassing, it was still a very fun lesson.
After Wu Shu, we had a short break and all of us rushed to get ready for the official welcome banquet hosted by the Chengdu Sport University president. This was probably the highlight of the day. We were brought to an exclusive room on the third floor of a very nice restaurant and seated around a colorful spread of dishes. The food was amazing and of course, completely foreign to us all. We all took turns making toasts to each other and celebrating the fact that we were actually in China experiencing such a great and exciting culture. Although we had just met everyone that day, the atmosphere around the table was one family.
To end our first day in Chengdu, we went to Jinli street with the students we had met. This street is a major tourist attraction because of the ancient architecture and design. There are also many shops and bars that line it. The street was very crowded, filled with people, things to buy, and bars every few hundred yards. The whole experience was very overwhelming but extremely exciting. Despite the jet-lag and the heat, our first day in China was unforgettable. Everything from the people to the activities to the food we ate was an adventure.
- Ariel Mack
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