02.10.2012 - 07.10.2012
This week didn't bring too much worth writing about until Saturday morning when we headed to the Great Wall! My week was a very typical one full of classes but nothing out of the ordinary (except for being in China). So, without further ado:
The Great Wall of China
On Thursday we had a mandatory meeting where our program coordinators talked to us about our trip to the Great Wall, giving us a break down of where we will be going, what we will be doing, and what to expect. They made it clear that it is quite a hike to get to the wall and that the wall itself is no easy feat. I obviously remember seeing pictures of the Great Wall before, but even with those memories and what our teachers told us, the trek up the mountain was a bit exhausting. The Great Wall is on top of a mountain (which makes a good strategic defense, so that makes sense) and our bus drove a bit up the mountain. But that left a nice hike up endless steps to get to the Great Wall.
Here is our group starting the climb up the steps.
As tiring as the steps were, the views that were becoming more and more breathtaking as we ascended were good incentive.
I was almost at the top and could see people on the Great Wall from a distance... if they could do it, I could too!
I was ahead of some of my friends and caught a view of them from across the valley!
And then we made it to the top! And from there was 4 hours of walking along the Wall. We started on a part of the wall that hasn't been recently restored, so it was a rough path. Some parts of the path, especially the "steps", seemed more like piles of rocks than an actual path. Then the latter part of our walk had us on much smoother, more recently restored areas.
History note: The Great Wall isn't a continuous wall. It is a series of "walls" ranging from smooth brick structures to piles of stones that are scattered around, resulting from changes of dynasties that meant changes of boundaries. As boundaries changed so did the location the emperor wanted a wall, so if you look at a map of all of the locations of "The Great Wall" it is a series of lines, some connected, some not. The part we were on had seen defensive action as a location where Mongol warriors had attempted to raid China, and a lecturer on Friday explained the battle as well as where we could look to know that we were standing on the grounds of a former battle site where the Great Wall was utilized in defense of China.
After four hours of walking along the wall, we had a yoga class there! Talk about a surreal experience. Didn't really get any pictures of it though because it's hard to do yoga and take pictures, but I'm hoping other people who had decided not to participate took pictures and I will find them and maybe get them on here next week if I don't look too much like a dufus doing yoga.
The rest of the week
This section is a bit anticlimactic but it didn't feel right only having the Great Wall in my blog for the week. So, in other news:
Pretty consistently I see things here that are strange by my U.S. standards. I think I've become accustomed to a lot of them and don't notice it, but there are still some things that we come across that just make me laugh. Like when cars are just parked across the sidewalk.
This week saw the end of our Mahjong class and the start of Chinese singing! I am terrible at singing. I know it, it's okay. But that isn't going to stop me from learning some Chinese songs! So, I went to the class, it was a lot of fun! We went over two songs and I was happy with how much I understood of the songs (looking at the lyrics; just listening would have been much harder).
I am also really enjoying my Chinese painting class; I didn't like last week's painting and was frustrated because it didn't look very good but this week's turned out great! Painting was always my least favorite of art styles but having a teacher show us how to do it is making it much more fun and giving me some success!
I have been getting tired of going to sit down restaurants every night of the week with groups of 4-8 people and spending two hours there. I like having dinner with people, but it's getting to be too much and there is always one or two people who literally just jump into our plans and follow us to dinner, which is getting frustrating. Also, I usually spend around 25Y on dinner which is only around $4, but that is kind of expensive by Chinese standards. I know it sounds kind of crazy to complain about a nice dinner for $4 but I know I can get it for cheaper. So, Sarah and I went to this small dumpling restaurant (only had three small tables) and I ordered this basket of dumplings for 5Y (less than a dollar!). I am hoping to go to places like that more often!
I still don't feel like I am learning Mandarin especially fast. Maybe its because I am in the middle of it and don't realize all of the things I'm picking up, but it seems like I'm not retaining a lot of our vocabulary. I need to review it, I know.There are points where I am really happy with my language capabilities though. Zhou Yuan skype called me to ask me if I was going to the club and after hanging up I realized that I just successfully had an impromptu conversation in Mandarin. I didn't have time to prepare what I wanted to say and it wasn't with a U.S. person or a teacher who know what vocabulary I probably do or don't have, it was with a Chinese person. Little moments like that are the ones that I need to keep in mind to remember that yes, learning Mandarin is very hard, and yes I have an enormously long way to go, but I am getting somewhere.