This has been the most unbelievable week of my life. Our group has seen historical wonders like Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Lama Temple, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. Most of these touristy locations seemed like they were built yesterday. They were in pristine condition; the paintings on the buildings were bright blue, green, and gold and in some places, like Tiananmen Square, the ground had been replaced with new bricks. But on Tuesday morning, we set out to hike up to a desolate part of the Great Wall, an area that hadn’t been revived since the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago. The hike up was very hard and it made me think about the harsh conditions the Chinese were in when they built the wall, but they were still so devoted to the cause. It was refreshing to see a landmark with real rich history and one that hadn’t been preserved for tourists. What an incredible finish to my week exploring Beijing.
Going into this trip, I didn’t know what to expect. When I took my week-long educational class at UF, I took in the information presented to me and developed an image of China that was standoffish, humble, unfashionable, and un-modern. Man, was I wrong. To start off, the people in the city of Beijing are the kindest people I have encountered. They love to help you even if your Chinese is less than decent (like mine) to get where you need to go, to order food at a restaurant, or to just talk and practice English/Mandarin. The style of the youth here is incredibly impressive; designer shoes, a lot of heels, flowy pants that show your ankle, creative looks and shirts, and beautiful makeup. The guys always carry their girlfriend’s bags which is interesting and a practice America should follow. I have also seen more nice cars here than in well-off cities like Miami. Beijing is the city of contradiction. You will see a Ranger Rover, a Tesla, and an Audi parked next to a rusting pedicab collecting plastic water bottles. I am amazed and confused 100% of the time here and its such a wonderful feeling.
I am absolutely loving this city and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I caught a really awful cold recently when I planning to travel to Shanghai but it ended up being just the calm weekend I needed. Alex, my roommate, and I adventured in the 798 Art District where our apartment is and were once again, surprised at the modern and creative culture we encountered. I start my internship on Wednesday and I’m a little nervous but very eager to meet more 北京人 (Beijing people)!
I have some questions about Beijing that I hope I can find the answers to while I’m here. What are the schools like? What do rising Juniors in college do on Friday nights? Does everyone have the same opportunity here to find success? And how involved is the government in everyday peoples’ lives? Hopefully some of my colleagues can help me find these answers and teach me more about this incredible city.