The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Meili Burns

My name is Meili Burns and I am a sophomore at Loyola majoring in biology on the pre-medical track and minoring in Chinese language. I am from Deerfield Illinois, a Northern suburb of Chicago, and one thing that brought me to Loyola was the study abroad program, particularly Beijing. I am from China, but have only visited once before and I wanted to explore more. Being able to spend months in China and immersed in the culture and country is what I look forward to the most!
我的冒险到上海!My Adventure to Shang Hai!

我的冒险到上海!My Adventure to Shang Hai!

Just a week or so after spring break, we were lucky enough to have another break! This break was for the Tomb Sweeping Festival. This festival is to honor the ancestors and clean out the house and the shrines. My friend and I decided to go to Shanghai to visit one the sites, and also meet up with my old high school friend, Brandon, who has been studying in Shanghai all year!

Once we met up with Brandon, we went to tons of places in Shanghai! We went to all the tourist attractions, some museums, a French market, and also got to visit Brandon’s university.

My favorite part about Shanghai was the Bund and the lake view! Both views were amazing! Even though it was raining off and on during our stay, going to the lake was relaxing and fun! The bund was amazing because it was our last day, and it was bright, sunny, and warm! We got to see beautiful views and walk along the lake. It’s amazing how all the architecture is Westernized! All the buildings were so unique and different, and at night, the lights were amazing! Buildings have moving pictures and saying scrolling across the buildings, and many of them had changing colors!

The next few posts will be posted later. We’re in our last two week stretch with finals! I’ll keep you all updated when I can!

北京再见 Goodbye Beijing…서울에 오신 것을 환영합니다 Welcome to Seoul!

北京再见 Goodbye Beijing…서울에 오신 것을 환영합니다 Welcome to Seoul!

After the excursion, sadly I got the flu. I had to go to the hospital multiple times to get medicine and whatnot. For that next week and a half I didn’t really do much since I was pretty out of it. After my recovery, we then had midterms week.

During midterms week my Chinese Medicine class took a field trip to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Hospital. It was so interesting to see how the hospital ran. In TCM hospitals it is very crowded, and not very sanitary. Most people go to the hospital for acupuncture, cupping, moxa, massage treatment, and medicine. We even got to see patients and see them get acupuncture. It was so different from Western hospitals I’ve been in. in the states, you would only be able to go see procedures if you were a medical student. We all just crowded into a room and watched and listen to individual’s medical problems. It was so interesting to see all the patients being treated with such different methods than western methods. We also got to see the hospital pharmacy. That was very cool because they have tons of small drawers filled with dried herbs, nuts, you name it. They would then eyeball with a simple weight balance, then put the dosage in a big pan. All the herbs in one pan would then be sent to another section to be mixed together to create an herbal supplement meant to drink X amount of times a day.

It went pretty well, and the best way to celebrate being done with midterms was to take a flight out of China to Korea! Kaylee, Leia, Brittany and I took a plane to Seoul early Saturday morning. It was so exciting! Once we arrived in Seoul, we took the train to our hostile. The Korean subway system is very different than the Chinese subway. Even though the trains aren’t automated, the technology is great! The subways were super clean and everyone was really polite!

Korean culture is very different than Chinese culture. The first thing that surprised me was how clean the city was. In China there’s garbage around the streets, especially around restaurants, and there’s spit on the ground. In Korea, I never saw anyone spit on the street. Everything is Korea was orderly as well. When going on escalators everyone stayed in a single file line on the right side so people could walk up on the left side without disturbing anyone. No one barged to get onto the train when the doors opened, everyone waited for the passengers to get off the train before they boarded. Little things like that amazed me! In China it’s more of the culture “you’re on your own”. People mind their own business and don’t really go out of their way to help, unless asked. People tend to do things the way they want to, even it if means pushing people or cutting lines, etc. it’s just the culture, which makes sense since there are so many people here in Beijing.

Another interesting thing about the Korean culture that is so different than Beijing culture is that you see a lot more of young parents playing with their children. In Korea we always saw kids with their parents; whereas in China it’s usually the grandparents who are with the children.

The hostile we stayed in was very nice! It was right next to one of the subway stations, and was very comfy. There were couches and tables around, and the bedding wasn’t too bad. We stayed in one of the rooms that had 10 beds arranged like bunk beds. It was pretty comfortable besides it being hot and a little stuffy. We also got free waffle breakfast every morning! Usually we would get up in time to get breakfast (before 10 am), get ready for the day, then explore, walk, eat, walk, and keep on walking! We walked so much in Korea! Korea is also pretty hilly might I add. We went to the 4 major palaces, tourist sites, shopping malls, and more hipster places. One of my favorite places we went to was a graffiti/mural village. Another place we went to that was equally as fun was the famous fish market! It’s famous for its 1 AM fish auction! Sadly, we didn’t stay until then because we went on a weekday, but my friends got to hold a live crab!

Korea was so much fun! I would definitely go again! It was such a fun environment and I went with great people! I would definitely go again, and recommend others to go as well!

云南 Part 2

云南 Part 2

I’m sorry for it being so long since my last post! I survived midterms week and spent this past week in Seoul, South Korea for spring break! I will be doing a blog post about my travels later on! This blog is about the second half of the Yunnan excursion. I’ll try to keep it a little shorter this time.

Part 2

              Day 7- Feb 7- Dai Village

After a 3-hour drive, we finally arrived at the Dai village. When I looked out of the window, I was a little confused. There were tour buses everywhere; however, once I stepped off of the bus, I was bombarded with hot air. The weather was amazing compared to the cold weather we’ve been staying in. I immediately had to shed the 3 layers of sweatshirts and jackets I was wearing. Once we were paired with our homestay families, we headed towards their house. I was with Megan, Silvia, and Jessie. On our walk to the house, I thought it was weird when tour groups with loud tour guides would pass through yelling into their microphones. Why did there need to be tourists? That’s one of the things I didn’t like about the Dai village. It was such a tourist destination, that it wasn’t like any of the villages we had gone to before.   

The Dai houses are amazing. They are made completely out of wood and are on stilts. Their houses are raised, historically, so that in wet damp areas the living spaces don’t get ruined. Our host grandma was very nice. We were given fruit and a knife to peel the apples, and they were the best tasting apples I’ve had in China! We were given a simple lunch with really good beef and sweet peas. After lunch the shopping began. I ended up getting a full Dai village outfit consisting of a white top with embroidered blue flowers, and a long blue skirt with peacocks on it. I really bended in, and if felt good to be “fully Asian” by looks. A lot of other TBC students bought white embroidered shirts and apparel.

In the evening, for the Chinese New Year we had a community party. Everyone living in the village and the tourists gathered on the basketball court. The Dai people preformed many songs and dances, and we sung “You are my sunshine”, Ally and Russell did an amazing hip hop routine, and we all danced to the cupid shuffle and soldier boy. After wards, the best part was that we invited people up to dance with us. We taught them the two group dances, then we all danced together! It was so much fun interacting with everyone and even seeing Father Gene dance with us! We played a fun relay game where you were partnered back to back and had to run and pop a balloon. My group won, so we got traditional colorful umbrellas!

At the end of the community party we had a mini mash-pit of dancing with a bunch of the villagers and tourists. It was one of my favorite nights of the Yunnan trip! Afterwards, our host family went to bed, so some of us went to another host family to wait until midnight to celebrate the new year. Some of the students’ host families brought them to a lantern releasing party. Sadly, I didn’t get to go, but I hung out with friends playing games and talking through the night. To signal the new year we set off firecrackers!

Day 8- Feb 8- Dai village/ Lijiang

We had some breakfast, were given a ton of bananas and banana chips (which are amazing!!!), boarded the bus, and headed to the airport! After arriving in Lijiang and getting into our hotel, we unpacked and get ready to tour the Old town of Lijiang. After dinner Dominic (fellow TBC student) and I hung out it the hotel courtyard, then decided to go wander the town. There were so many little shops, things to do, and food to eat! It was so much fun exploring, that we got lost… it was ok for a while, but once the stores started to close, it was harder to figure out where we were. We finally made our way back, but it took a long time. There’s nothing like getting lost in China with no cell service, data, and can’t communicate clearly; nevertheless, we made it back ok!

Day 9- Feb 9- Naxi village/ Lijiang

We started off the day visiting the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Dominic, Saeger, Kasey, and I hiked towards the mountain, but didn’t have enough time to climb it.

We then went to the Naxi village. After we arrived Aly, Carlyn, Father Gene and I measured a traditional Naxi house for our architecture class while everyone else played basketball with the locals. Afterwards we had dinner at the local shaman’s house, then started our community party. This was also another fun party! There was a lot of dancing and a lot of old men trying to get everyone to dance. It was a tight space, but a lot of fun dancing with the locals!

Day 10- Feb 10- Lijiang/Dali

We went to the Zhiyun Monastery toady. It was amazing to climb all the stairs and view the temples. I sat outside the highest temple with Dominica and Molly just staring out into the mountains taking in the beautiful views and the peaceful area.

Afterwards we went to a traditional Bai house to have lunch. There I gave my mini presentation on Architecture in Yunnan. Everyone was required to research a topic about Yunnan, and I chose architecture. After lunch, we drove to our final destination for our excursion: Dali.

Day 11- Feb 11- Dali

I started off the day with taking a nice bike ride with friends to the lake… which turned into an all-day bike ride. Saeger, Alexander, Kasey, Andrew, and I all loaned out mountain bikes and rode around Dali. Probably wasn’t the best idea to ride our bikes on country highways with no helmets (they weren’t given), but it was so much fun! Towards the late afternoon, Saeger and I biked to the closest pagoda, which was an uphill adventure. 

Day 12- Feb 12- Dali/ Kunming

For our second and final day in Dali, we had to check out at 11 am, then we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We decided to walk around and buy souvenirs and explore Dali more. Some students biked like I did the previous day. We walked around for hours eating street food, snacks, and soaking up the sun.

At the end of the day, we made the 20-minute walk from our hotel to the bus, then departed to the train station for our 8-hour overnight train. We departed at 9:00 PM. Sadly, one of my friends was really sick, so I stayed up to help her through the night. We had quite an odd experience with the doctor who came with us for the trip. I would not recommend him for anything.

Day 13- Feb 13- Kunming/Beijing

The overnight train was rough getting up every hour or so to help my friend, but I was glad I could help. We arrived at the airport at 5 AM and waited for our 7:30 AM flight. I fell asleep in line waiting to get our tickets, and again on the plane.

When we arrived in Beijing we tried to get food, but the only places open were 7-11, a 24-hour noddle place, and a few convenience stores. It was still the Lunar New Year break, so everything was still closed, and remained closed for the rest of the week. We got noodles to go, and hung out at the dorm for the rest of the night.


Overall the Yunnan trip was amazing! Truly a once in a lifetime experience. Being able to do homestays and immerse myself in the Chinese culture is indescribable. I had so much fun and was able to reflect on myself during the trip. Through the trip I realized that it’s not hard to go outside of your comfort zone. My mindset for this trip studying abroad has been to do and try everything I can. I thought it would be harder to push myself to put myself out there and do things I would never have done, like learn and preform dances on the spot, trying new foods, and volunteering for anything. That’s something I am grateful to learn about myself. It’s not hard to do something new, even if it’s uncomfortable. I have found myself longing for more adventure and to try new things throughout my time in China and in Yunnan, and I’m glad I have that longing. When my semester is over, I’m going to keep that longing for adventure and trying new things because I realize there is so much in the world, and even in Chicago, that I haven’t experienced or have tried.

The TBC program did an outstanding job in planning this amazing excursion.

欢迎来云南!Welcome to Yunnan! Part 1

欢迎来云南!Welcome to Yunnan! Part 1

The Beijing Center takes students on a two-week excursion every semester. In the fall, students travel the route of the Silk Road; in the spring, students travel around the Yunnan Province. Yunnan means “south of the clouds” and its weather is known as being eternal spring. It’s the furthest province south in China, bordering Myanmar and Burma. I’ll be writing about my day to day experiences and perceptions of China for the next two weeks of my excursion travels.

Day 1- Feb 1- Beijing to Kunming

We left Beijing and headed to the airport around 9:30 AM by bus. Driving in the big yellow bus reminded me of when I first came to UIBE. It was like I was seeing Beijing in a whole new light, literally. Since it was daytime I was able to really see life outside of UIBE on a typical weekday morning.

While waiting for the plane, I was able to have a long conversation with our director, Nick, and Dr. Paul who joined us on our excursion and would help if any medical issues arose. It was interesting to listen to Dr. Paul’s story, and it was fun sharing my own story and answering questions.

After a 3.5 hour flight we prepared to land; we couldn’t see anything out of the windows due to the dense fog that blanketed Kunming. Then, all of a sudden, the runway appeared outside our window and the tires screeched upon hitting the pavement. After leaving the plane, we quickly discovered that Kunming was sadly not eternal spring. It had gotten a cold front just before we arrived, so that put a damper on the hope for warm weather, and a slight concern for me since I didn’t pack a lot of winter thermals with me.

For the next two nights, we stayed in a hotel on the campus of Yunnan University. The shower was amazing! Great pressure, and the best part was that the heat was adjustable! It was a luxury that I definitely miss from home. At UIBE you can’t adjust the heat, so it’s either extremely hot, cold, or in the middle.

Day 2- Feb 2- Kunming

Today we started off the day with breakfast, but some of us couldn’t find the restaurant we were supposed to go to, so we just found a baozi (they’re buns filled with meat) restaurant. Afterwards, Dominic (a fellow TBC student) and I walked around the outside of campus for a long time. However, we had gotten the start time of the next activity wrong and ended up running back to the hotel. Since I haven’t been able to run on my own since I left Chicago, I’m definitely out of shape, but also adding to my windedness was the smog during the day.

After some student presentations the group left for the Yunnan Provincial Museum. It was a great museum, but it was so cold. Since it’s almost always eternal spring, there is no insulation and all doors are open, so for this unexpectedly cold spell, it was very cold to walk around. Afterwards we went to Guandu Old Town to have lunch and explore. It was a huge market street lined with vendors, vendors galore! For lunch we had yummy traditional Kunming noodle soup. I then purchased a really cool sugar animal. The vendor took some sort of melted sugar, and poured it onto what looked like a block of ice in intricate patterns of all sorts of animals. You name it, he made it. I got a beautiful crane for only 5 kuai (less than $1)! It was my favorite part of the market.

We then got back on the bus and went to the Yunnan Ethnic Museum. We tried buying simple embroidered shirts, but they were 5,000 kuai (almost $800)! After the museum, we went to feed Siberian seagulls at the Green Lake, which is the largest lake in Kunming. There were thousands of seagulls! They fly all the way from Siberia to Kunming for the spring weather. It was fun to feed them, and to watch people’s reactions to flocks of birds flying towards them. A few TBC students even got pooped on!

Once we were back to the hotel, a few of us walked through the Yunnan University campus. It’s beautiful! There were gardens everywhere, mini pagodas, and traditional Chinese buildings. It put the beauty of Loyola Chicago’s campus to shame.

After wandering the street vendors and getting more food, we prepared for our first homestay at the Yi village.

Day 3- Feb 3- Kunming/Yi Village

We packed up and left Kunming for the Yi village in the morning. I was so excited, but didn’t know what to expect. This was our first homestay out of two. The bus ride was unexpectedly beautiful! I’m used to doing 4.5-hour car rides, but that’s all flat land. In China, it’s all breathtaking mountain, lake, and village views. After a few hours of our crazy driver speeding around curves of the mountain we reached the Yi village. We were greeted by the Yi women and children dressed in their traditional clothing. The women were dressed in beautiful red tops completely embroidered with tassels and matching black embroidered pants. They wore red shoes and a beautiful large intricately embroidered hat. They sang a traditional song and preformed a dragon dance.

We were then paired with our homestay families. I was with Carlyn, Megan, Molly, Jessie, and Jessica. We were brought into their beautiful traditional house with a large “hole” in the ceiling which allows sunlight to come in and air to flow out. This is traditional architecture of the Yi people because they live in spring weather all the time. We were served delicious food, but there was too much of it! Our host grandma continuously fed us and got mad when we didn’t finish the food. I basically ended up eating five full meals for lunch. Halfway through lunch, I had to go to the bathroom since we hadn’t gone since our last rest stop on the bus. Something that definitely caught me off guard was the toilet. I was expecting a squatty potty, but their bathroom was a giant latrine with two sets of bricks to stand on. Let’s just say that I am no longer squatty shy.

After lunch, the Yi people preformed more songs and dances, and we were given the opportunity to learn the traditional dance and the dragon dance. Surprisingly, it was easy to pick up and I was pretty good at it! The dragon dance was a little hard to do since the dragon was heavy, but it was fun! The leader holding the head faces the rest of the train, then moves the head in an infinity pattern, and after the person follows the path two seconds later.

After dinner we climbed a small mountain that overlooked the Yi village. It was a beautiful view!

Even though many people complained about the homestay, I loved it! I loved the grandparents, even though the grandma kept feeding us. She was so open and welcoming. She taught us how to properly do certain things, even though she barely knew us, and she treated us like her own children. It helped that I went in with an open mind, but I also respect that this is how the Yi people live. They have equally as fulfilling lives as we do, even though they don’t have the same luxuries and technology we have. After this homestay, it was very easy to separate the two types of people who study abroad; the ones who study abroad to party and live comfortably, and the ones who fully immerse themselves into the culture to experience it firsthand.

Day 4- Feb 4- JianShui

The next day we had breakfast with our host families, said our goodbyes, shopped around, and left the Yi village headed to the city of JianShui. It was another four hours of traveling in our squished yellow buses, but I didn’t mind the traveling. Besides sleeping, I often found myself staring out of the window looking at the endless mountains, crops, and village views. I would journal, but I often found myself lost in thought about the Yi village and my expectations for the rest of my trip. The Yi village gave me mixed emotions. I loved learning about the traditional culture of the village, but I didn’t like that everything was a show. The whole day was about performances both by TBC and the villagers. We weren’t given a lot of time to explore the village, or even our own host family’s home. What bothered me what that the host family wouldn’t eat with us. The six of us would eat crouched over a small wooden table, while the host family was nowhere to be found. I understand the importance of the concept of holding guests higher than oneself and saving face by giving guests the best accommodations possible, but I still can’t get over the reasoning behind not eating together.

After arriving and checking into our hotel in JianShui, I was able to take a warm-ish shower, then wander around the city. Many cities in China are not based on a grid system, so I was constantly getting lost. A lot of students got really sick after the Yi village, a handful of students and even our TBC director and the doctor had to stay behind and not go to our next destination, the Hani village.

Day 5- Feb 5- Hani Village

Noodle soup is now one of my favorite types of meals to have in China! Noodle soup is typically served for breakfast, but I could honestly eat if for every meal. Whatever mixture of vegetables, leaves, and meat put into the broth creates a heavenly taste when combined with noodles. After breakfast and getting lost trying to find my way back to the hotel, we checked out and started our five-hour bus ride to the Hani village. To get to the village, we have to climb the mountain taking twists, turns, and almost falling off the edge a few times. I would recommend to never try and pass vehicles on mountain roads, especially in a big yellow bus. We were all relieved to arrive at the village unscathed and only slightly scarred from our bus driver’s crazy driving.

Immediately after stepping off the bus, I noticed big differences between the Hani and Yi villages. The Hani people live in houses primarily made of clay and stone, usually with thatched roofs. The Hani village was much more dirty than the Yi village. I will spare the details of the bathrooms, but let’s just say I would take my host family’s bathroom over the Hani bathrooms.

We were greeted by three groups of women: young girls, young adults, and a group of grandmas (see a recurring theme here?), all with different traditional clothing. The elders wore white tops embroidered with black, purple, and blue with matching black pants. The younger adults wore pink embroidered tops with green pants and intricate hats that looked like black donuts. It was a type of tightly wrapped black headpiece with a hole in the middle where a braided bun filled in the gaps. The young girls wore multicolored outfits with small pieces of jewelry or coins sewn into it making a jingling sound. The young girls’ hats were very intricate and unique as well. It only covered the back half of the head, and it spiked upwards with their ponytails holding it in place.

A banquet was waiting for us when we finished trekking through the village. Circular tables were pushed together in a straight row called a long-street banquet. We were fed meat, spicy vegetables, red rice, undistinguishable dishes, mango juice, and a select few had bai jiu (a common drink found in China that is an extremely concentrated alcoholic shot. Be careful if it’s ever offered to you.

After lunch, the young girls lead us to hike the rice terraces. This was the part everyone was excited for! We wanted to see the beauty of the terraces and be true tourists and take tons of pictures. As we started hiking it was clear that, like the village, everything was covered by fog, and the fog was not going to lift. This is the first time in 10 years of the TBC program running that it had been that foggy. However, I flipped by switch (thanks mom J) and enjoyed my hike through the terraces. It was mind boggling how big a single rice terrace was. We even saw a group of villagers carving out room for another terrace. Something sad that I saw, was that there was garbage everywhere. Water bottles, wrappers, tissues, everything was just thrown on the ground, and will probably never be cleaned up.

Walking uphill through the terraces and back to the village gave me a new appreciation for daily life in the villages, particularly for the elders. All the elderly I have encountered have been super strong, mobile, and the heads of their households. In the Yi village, our host grandma did everything, from cooking, to bringing out the food, moving tables, all while refusing help. In the Hani village, there were elders walking uphill with loads of grains in baskets on their shoulders, and they didn’t even look tired. In Beijing, the elders are the ones we see who are taking care of the young children. It’s just amazing how crucial they are in society for both the family and their village.

After a long and slightly disappointing day we looked forward to getting to our hotel and taking showers and relaxing; however, that didn’t happen. One thing that is the hardest thing to accept about travel, is that not everything will go the way you plan. Our hotel didn’t have any running water and was the type of hotel a normal traveler would not go to. For those of you who know of my travels to Wuhu, it was like that hotel but much less clean and accommodating. In the end, I ended up having a sleepover with two of my friends, Megan and Silvia for the night. My roommate sadly had to stay in JianShui because she was sick. We ended up watching a movie and kept warm with all the body heat (there was also no heater in the hotel).

Day 6- Feb 6- JingHong

This was one our long boring parts of the trip. It was an eight-hour bus ride from the Hani Village to the city of JingHong. We were headed to the Southernmost tip of China. One of the highlights of the bus ride was when we stopped along the roadside with tons and tons of fruit stands! Apples, oranges, dragon fruit, star fruit, and bananas galore!! The closer we were to JingHong, the more abundant bananas were.

After our long journey and catching up with all the TBC members who skipped the Hani village, we checked into our hotel. When we walked in, I was so relieved. It was a beautiful hotel with heat, water, and the most comfortable bed I have slept on since being in China. After coming out of the shower, my words to my roommate, Bailey, was “I think I died, went to heaven, and came back”. The hot water (which was adjustable) was a luxury after the past 3 days. Even the dorms at UIBE don’t have adjustable water temperatures!

That night a group of us went to a popular western café called MeiMei Café. I thought the food was pretty good, I had a burger, fries, fresh squeezed lemonade, and fantastic chocolate brownie with ice cream. Afterwards we went to the midnight market and looked around and shopped. The market was vendors on vendors with trinkets, scarves, clothes, bags, jade, you name it! Too bad we only spent one night in that amazing hotel. The next day we were on our way to our final homestay in the Dai village.

That about sums of the first half of the amazing excursion. Keep on the lookout for part 2! 再见!

欢迎来北京!Welcome to Beijing!

欢迎来北京!Welcome to Beijing!

Being in Beijing for the past two weeks has been quite an experience! After getting off our 13-hour flight and getting through customs we hopped on the bus and headed to UIBE (University of International Business and Economics) in Beijing. Since it was dark out, it was hard to make out the details of the city, but it was intriguing to see the night life of Beijing with street vendors and tons of motorcyclists weaving through people and traffic. When we arrived at UIBE, we were told our room numbers and were assigned the task of bringing our luggage to our rooms, with help of course. The downside of bringing 50 pound bags is there are no elevators in the dorms. Thank goodness I only live on the second floor.
When I arrived at my room, I was interested to see what the dorm looked like. We were assigned Western style rooms, but typical Chinese dorms fit 5-6 students in one room. When I opened the door I wasn’t too surprised. There are 2 twin beds, 2 wood desks, wooden table and chair set, mini fridge, TV, closets, and a bathroom. I was very surprised when I looked into the bathroom. I stood in the doorway for a good few minutes trying to process what I was looking at. In the bathroom there is a lonely shower head in the corner of the room next to the toilet. It’s very interesting and definitely something I had to get used to because water gets everywhere. One of the first things I paid for in China was a pair of sandals to wear around the dorm since water can get tracked everywhere.
We are part of The Beijing Center (TBC) program which partners with UIBE, and our orientation was a week long. We participated in fun activities and listened to presentations. For the first two days, Chinese roommates and tutors took us to lunch, which was fantastic because even with my many years of Chinese, ordering food is one of the hardest things to do here in Beijing when there are no pictures to point at. After day two, we were on our own for getting food. On the third day, Aly, Sarah, (fellow TBC friends) and I wandered to the restaurant we had had breakfast at the previous day. The hardest thing about being Chinese in Beijing, is that I am not fluent. I get laughed at a lot by Chinese people when I start talking, but it only pushes me to try and get better at speaking Chinese.
One aspect of the program that I love, is the option for having a Chinese roommate. They are fantastic and have made the transition to Beijing so much easier! My roommate’s name is Amy who is a senior at UIBE and an economics major. Almost everyone at the program has a Chinese roommate. There are a few people who have other TBC roommates, and a few returners (students who were part of the TBC program last semester) are living with host families. After orientation, finals month (yes a whole month of finals) for UIBE students ended and the roommates started their winter break, which will last until March. All of the Chinese roommates are so nice and helpful. They help us with literally everything. From shopping, to ordering food, to helping us figure out how to use the heater, they are much needed and irreplaceable.
One day Amy took Aly and I to a big shopping mall. To get anywhere in Beijing you either have to walk (usually 10 minute minimum), take the bus, or the train. We chose to walk to the mall. We left campus and traveled through a local park, which was a little gloomy since there were only tree stumps, but I’m certain it will look beautiful in the spring. After a 30-minute walk, we reached the 8 story mall. Man I love that place! I’ve been back multiple times! There’s a restaurant called Grandma’s and it’s by far one of my most favorite restaurants. We had spicy tofu, shrimp, cauliflower, and beef. I have already been more adventurous with my eating habits because all of these dishes were delicious!!
We started classes Monday (January 19th). I am taking intensive Chinese language, Chinese history, Chinese medicine, architecture, and Daoism. I started off the day with my only class on Monday, Intensive Intermediate Chinese B. I was surprised with how much I understood since our teacher only spoke in Chinese with barely any English. Tuesday was language in the morning, then a quick bite to eat at a dumpling place that serves 10 dumplings for 6 kuai (6.5 kuai=$1). Wednesday was Chinese Medicine, Thursday was language and architecture class, and Friday was language class. On Friday we had to make a speech on who our idol is. I chose my mom  , and with the help of my tutor, received good feedback from my teacher.
Saturday morning the TBC group went to see a Llama Temple. It was enlightening to see all the Buddha statues and experience people worshiping. One of the rituals is to burn incents in any multiple of 3, then hold them slightly above your head, kneel down, say your prayer/wish, and bow three times. It was amazing to take part in this ritual. Sadly, it was a little hard to appreciate the temple fully due to the -27-degree wind chill that morning. No worries, no frostbite, just frozen toes and fingers. I will definitely go again when it is much warmer.
To celebrate surviving our first week of classes, later that night a small group of us went to a giant buffet restaurant. You pay a fee, then have access to all the food, beer, meat, fish, drinks, and pastries you want for two hours. The only downside, is that if you are wasteful and leave a lot of food at your table, you lose your 10 kuai deposit. After dinner we went to a karaoke bar. It was so much fun! What is really intriguing to me is that for all the events Chinese people partake in, such as going to clubs, karaoke, and just hanging out, there is not a strong emphasis on alcohol. At the clubs (we went to one named Vick’s) it’s all about dancing. At karaoke, people go to sing their hearts out with no judgement from their peers, and is usually a completely dry event. The culture of drinking in China is completely different than America, and to be honest, I like the nightlife better here in China. Nevertheless, karaoke was so much fun, and I may have overdone the singing since I have a slight sore throat from singing our endless playlists of Kesha, One Republic, T-Swift, JBeibs, and more. No Chinese songs for us, maybe later in the semester we’ll venture to Chinese music.
That concludes my first 2 weeks in Beijing! I can’t wait for what is to come. Soon we will be leaving for the Chinese New Year. Next Saturday we fly to the Yunnan province where we will spend our entire two-week break celebrating the new year, immersing ourselves in minority cultures, learn dances, try food, hike, and explore. Until then, 再见!