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!
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