Not goodbye, but “again see” (再见)
Welp. This is my last post from China, my flight leaves tomorrow morning. I’m pretty much all done packing, all that’s left is to get this post out, eat dinner, and get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s 14 hour flight. And that’s just the first leg to San Francisco, I still have to transfer. Ugh. But you don’t want to hear about that.
So last week, a fellow student and I flew to Beijing to spend a couple days sightseeing before he had to go back to the States. As the “local,” I acted as tour guide and took us to the Summer Palace (my favorite tourist trap in Beijing) and the Great Wall. Unfortunately, August is also the preferred month of Chinese citizens to travel, so both places were crazy packed full of people; there’s a Chinese saying that seems apropos: 人山人海 (rén shān rén hǎi, “people mountain people sea”). I wanted to rent a boat to take out on the lake, but all the boats were already out and the line was ridiculous, so we had to be satisfied with wandering on land. Just walking around was still fun, though I wasted a lot of time looking for a specific kind of popsicle (I didn’t find it 😦 ), we wandered through the Garden of Harmonious Interest (cover photo is of me in the garden) and hiked up to the top of the big hill. That evening my grandparents treated us to Peking duck, one of my favorite things in this world. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, go to Beijing and eat duck, nowhere else in the world compares.
The next day, we took the train to Badaling (八达岭), the stop for the Great Wall. We saw this fantastic restaurant in the rest stop area at the bottom:
For some reason, the majority of the tourists all go up the branch to the right of the entrance, making the path barely walk-able on that side, but the left side is always much emptier. I don’t think it has particularly more impressive views or even an easier hike on that side, but I’ll never know because we took the left side. There is one section of the Great Wall where the slope seems nearly vertical, with stairs attempting to make it less so. This is very difficult to capture on camera, but here－after the picture of the right branch of the wall－is a picture of me sitting on the very beginning of these steps.
My dad arrived the same day my classmate left, and we spent a few days in Beijing visiting people and places. After coming back to Chengdu, I was able to do a little more sightseeing. On Saturday the 23rd, I met up with a couple classmates who had gotten back from visiting Chongqing, another city in Chengdu, and we went to another “ancient” street, called Qintai Lu(琴台路). Unfortunately this street was much less pedestrian friendly than the other two, there wasn’t much of a sidewalk and the street was quite wide to accommodate cars. Luckily nearby there was a public park with a miniature tree garden (bonsai, but Chinese?) and a tea shop we stopped in to relax. Later we went to the big shopping area again to meet with my program tutor, who wanted to check out a Doraemon (a Japanese anime character) exhibit in one of the malls. After an hour and a half of waiting in line, we got in to the exhibit to discover it was nothing but rows of Doraemon statues holding items with different expressions. It was rather disappointing. However, we discovered this Doraemon at the very corner of the exhibit, which I think made it all worth it.
My classmate and I are wondering why Doraemon needs to wink and stick his tongue out while holding the Passport of Satan. Perhaps he stole it from Satan and is taunting him? The world will never know.
I have actually been on my own for a lot of my time back in Chengdu. My classmates flew out on the morning of the 24th, and my Dad left on the 23rd for Liang Shan (梁山), a county in Chengdu with a lot of ethnic minorities. I have discovered quite a few things that I took for granted living in Chengdu before. For one, eating, especially going out to eat, is a very different experience. I didn’t really think about how limited my choices would be by not having anyone to eat with. Hot pot, barbeque and family style are already out, and there are plenty of other restaurants I was so used to going with larger groups, that I would feel extra lonely to go to alone. Basically I ate a lot of noodles and steam buns. I also realized that living on the 5th floor of the dorm as part of a large group was very different from individually getting a room on the 2nd floor. You know how I said in an earlier post that the dorm seems like a hotel but falls flat in a lot of ways? Well they try harder on the 2nd floor. Instead of being cleaned only once a week (and sometimes they forgot), my room gets cleaned every day. Which is nice because my tiny trash cans don’t overflow and my towels are always clean, but it’s hard to be appreciative when they start to come into my room in the morning just as I’m naked getting into the shower (I made panicked sounds and they didn’t open the door too far). Or at 9am and wake me up (don’t give me that face, it’s my vacation time, I can sleep in if I want). Even though I know I’m going to start missing Chinese food a week after I get back, especially since it’s so cheap here, and being able to act weirder in public because Chinese people think foreigners are weird anyway, I’m glad to go home. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, but China has begun to lose its sheen after two months, and I really want to walk outside in Seattle, breathe in the clean, crisp air, and be home.