The most adventurous, strenuous, and informative event that took place during our first week was the Great Wall trip. I found it especially culturally informative because of all the history behind it. People lugged bricks and building supplies up the wall we were standing on for hours a day, every day. Many people died building it, acting as a symbol of martyrdom for the country of China. We only spent about 5 hours total hiking, and that was a seemingly at times impossible feat for me. The experience of climbing the unsettled terrain and feeling like we were putting our lives in danger allowed me to have a whole new respect for the Chinese people that spent much of their lives traversing it. It was not the only time that one of our activities stood out to me, but the Great Wall put the vastness of Chinese culture and history on our shoulders as we climbed up the mountain and through the Great Wall.
My first impressions of Beijing are positive. While some things have certainly been an adjustment, like hygiene, communication, and city-life, I am treating them all as learning curves and as an immersion into the culture. Surprisingly, the city is becoming more normalized to me with each day that passes. I am starting to feel like I live in Beijing, not that I am temporarily visiting as a tourist. I expected myself to be completely awed and lost thus far, but through support and patience, I am starting to feel comfortable. Another thing that has surprised me is the bonding within our group. I did not expect to feel so close to my group-mates so early into the trip, but I have already made great relationships of substance that will allow me a more successful transition into my internship.
Some cultural questions I have in China are mainly around generational differences. Many traditional cultural things that we learned about do not always seem to apply to the people that we meet. Specifically, I would like to explore the linkage between traditional Chinese methods and age. We have met several young people that remind me more of myself than of the images that traditional Chinese ways would have led me to believe. However, we have not interacted with too many older Chinese people, so we do not have much to compare to.