Thursday morning started with a bang as our tour guide, Cherry, took us to the drum tower in Beijing. After climbing some, at the time, seemingly very steep steps, we saw a beautiful view of the city and watched a drumming ritual that acted as the citizens’ wake up call over six hundred years ago. Then we visited a small home in a nearby area and learned the history of how it came to be.
Next on our adventure came the Bird’s Nest. With very impressive architecture, and very irritating vendors, the Bird’s Nest had a huge stadium and a lot of souvenir shops. While we were there, it looked like they were building something for a show that involved ice on the ground. We walked over to the Water Cube, took some pictures, and let it sink in that this was the pool Michael Phelps swam in. We watched some impressive synchronized diving and went off for lunch with several different kinds of dumplings that all tasted very similar. During this lunch, Mr. Michaels asked if any of us were interested in doing a study year abroad. All of us shook our heads and didn’t care much for the idea.
But then, we went to Study Year Abroad Beijing which has hosted Peddie students in the past. We spoke to some American students living with host families and I attended their Chinese History class. The students seemed to love the program and their host families, and some of them who had no Chinese experience going into the program are going to take the AP test in the spring. This trip inspired some of us to really consider SYA, or at least a summer program. For dinner we were treated to yet another amazing meal with duck and beggar’s chicken, hosted by Ivan Xiao and his family.
Friday morning started off with a good American breakfast and then off to the Great Wall. The wall, stretching more than 5,000 miles, was flawlessly etched into the beautiful mountains. Though some people made it to the top of the section, I cannot say I did so. The steps were painfully steep and my asthma was starting to kick in. I made it to the first checking point then found a souvenir shop, bought some stuff, and went down a secret, easier pathway, and was treated to some good hot chocolate by Dr. Jiang. After the Great Wall we visited the Ming Dynasty tombs and most people (but not me) climbed yet more stairs. We went to lunch at an obvious tourist destination, which included an expansive full floor of shopping. This turned out to be a warm up for a shopping spree later in the day. Dr. Jiang helped all of us at some point throughout the day with bargaining for great prices.
After an hour and a half long bus ride we arrived at the silk market, an indoor “shopping mall” where you can drive a hard bargain. The vendors were kind of crazy and desperate, following some of us around to different stores and even grabbing us. I managed to buy a few things at very cheap prices as did mostly everyone. It always feels good being able to get a good deal on something that was originally an outrageous amount of money. After this we talked about our successes and losses and headed over to a hot pot dinner treated by Michael King’s father. The food was delicious, the host was so nice, and the experience of making our own food was unforgettable. Our final day in China was eventful and fun. We managed to see the Great Wall, get presents for family and friends, and have a last dinner together. Soon after a fifteen hour plane ride we will be on the other side of the world.
See you soon America!