Taking in the Sights of Beijing
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A week and five days. Yes, I have been in China for less than two weeks and I already take pride in having so much to say about this vast and unique country. My learning experience started at the airport, where I realized things were written in characters; such an exciting and scary moment! Even though I arrived a week later than everyone else, the coordinator of my program came to pick me up with his wife. I enjoyed my first 40-minute ride through Beijing in the front seat since the lady politely insisted on me having it.
On the road, I wandered to a park that continued forever on both sides of the highway. It is several times the size of Central Park. It is connected with many bridges because some of them are only for animals and plants. Yes! There was a bridge that looked like a park itself covered with trees and with plants leaning out of it. I admired the thoughtfulness of the construction - it was designed not to disconnect nature on both sides but to allow animals cross just as cars and people could.
During the rest of the trip, I felt like our car would run over several people and bikes, which scared me sincerely. Later, I realized that cars, bikes and people almost clashing were the norm. Crossing the street, especially that one place where there are two wide roads, makes me highly alert at least twice a day.
My first trip around Beida (or Beijing University) made me realize why the institution ranks among the top 15 universities in the world. The campus reminded me more so of a national park than a university. Unique architecture, both traditional and modern, drove me to take tons of pictures. Small parks could be found everywhere. Beautiful small bridges and extravagant trees and plants were decorating the campus. Not to mention the many beautiful lakes spread in the northern part of the university. In some of them, I could see groups of goldfish playing around. My favorite spot is next to a big lake with benches and a view of a water tower that resembles a temple. Having the opportunity to easily go sit and study there makes me feel very lucky and increases my level of disbelief that I have tsuch access to the beauty here.
During my first weekend, I enjoyed a trip to the Summer Palace in Beijing organized by my program. It was as splendid as I expected. There was a beautiful lake that you can walk around, through a set of beautiful bridges and small streets with traditional buildings, or that you can take a dragon boat to bring you to the magnificent Palace.
I walked through the longest archways with the most numerous paintings and engravings in the world. I knew that and many other interesting facts when my Chinese language partner surprised me with her politeness -- she had prepared a set of notes to explain every interesting detail to me. I was grateful.
This weekend she invited me with her and her classmates on a trip to Ye Sanpo. The small village is situated amid ranges of gorgeous mountains, sets of rivers and water basins. I enjoyed sightseeing while sailing on a water raft and during a one-hour horseride through small pathways in the mountains themselves! The scenery was magnificent beyond description. For a moment I felt sorry I could not take pictures since I was holding tight to the galloping horse, but I realized, in my later attempts, that my camera was not good enough to capture such beauty anyway.
For those interested in night life, Beijing can be just as impressive. You can find everything from a lake surrounded by a group of bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs that shine on its waters to karaoke places and American bars.
Knowing how diverse China is makes me scared that I will not have enough time to see even a small fraction of the country's wonders. However, I feel lucky to have a chance to not only immerse myself in Chinese with amazing professors, but also to travel around China and get to know more about the life of its people before I head back to my loved and missed Colby.