Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I’m really excited about this next adventure in Sichuan. Wendy and the team are beautiful people from across the States and one from South Africa. We just got word that we will be going to the zone and working with kids. I’m really excited, but also reverent that we may see some pretty shocking sights. We’ll be living outside and surviving off Peanut Butter & Jelly for four days! I would appreciate pr.ys of protection and encouragement!
It’s the end of one trip, the beginning of another.
Today was a little nerve-racking to say the least. I woke only to find that the three presentations I had to give today were not working. After getting that fixed, I presented about the Sichuan earthquake, the Miao minority group on Hainan Island and China’s agricultural policy. I said my goodbyes and headed to the airport! I don’t know how I could get through this without my Papa. He has felt so close these past few days, calming my nerves and giving me peace.
I absolutely loved my time in Beijing. It was honestly starting to feel like home and felt kind of abrupt to leave so quickly. I cannot imagine a better study abroad experience. I know I won’t look back and remember my time in the classroom, but I think I learned some valuable things about China’s history, culture, and agriculture that will shape my view of the country.
I’m going to miss the OSU students I spent every waking moment with more than I would have imagined. Just walking into Jess, Ashe, and Amanda’s room today made me cry…I started calling them my sisters from week one. I loved getting to know my roomie Juan and working out some of our cultural differences. Being in a group that size, for that long, will always have some conflict, but I think we worked out quite well and learned a lot about ourselves.
There are so many people I wish I could have had long conversations with. I have grown to love them and see such hope and direction that can be brought to them. I hope it is not the end of all of our relationships. I was blessed by a few of the girls writing me notes and assuring me that even when there are not words said, I can live by an example and cause others to wonder.
I’m really going to miss my China mama, Dongfang. She was an amazing friend to us. She was so open and inviting. I felt like she really let us in on her life. She could joke with us and we just knew that she truly cared for us.
I’m also so sad to leave all my new Chinese friends. It inspires me to find some study abroad students at OSU next year and make friends! Andy was so kind to take me to the airport and hang out with me before I left. I had promised much earlier in the trip to give him his first try at Starbucks and we had our chance right before I went through security. It was pretty sad to give him that last hug. I think he’ll make it to the States sometime!
I may need some more reflection time to examine all that I’ve learned about myself this trip. My goal was to come completely open to change. The trip was not what I pictured; I thought I would have more alone time than ever in my life and have a lot of time to pr.y and press into the character of my Friend. Instead every day was jam-packed. It helped me to learn to be patient and take peace at every quiet moment I got.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Inner Mongolia has been a refreshing trip. It is so good to venture out of the city and into the rural area. I cannot describe the beauty of the mountains, the grasslands, the agriculture, and the huge blue cloudy sky. The people are beautiful as well. We are celebrities here. A lot of the people here have never seen someone from another country. I love saying hi and waving to people who are staring. The usually giggle a bit and wave back.
The houses that we’ve seen aren’t as shocking as I thought they would be. They are mostly built of red brick. Some are made of stone and mud. As you travel through the countryside little villages pop up with about a hundred homes. Then every half hour to hour you pass through a small city. I wonder if children have to come so far to go to school. It is clear that many in these villages live in poverty. It is just hard to comprehend as we drive through.
The agriculture areas are everywhere. They seem to stick cops wherever they can. The plots seem really small for each farmer. All the fields look really well taken care of even though we seldom saw people in the field. It was fun to drive though a town and see people outplaying cards and other games.
We still have not got close enough to the people to understand their lives. To see their poverty. Every bathroom/ smoking break for the Chinese men has it’s own little story. Once we went to a hospital clinic thinking the WC might be nice. They took us through the clinic to the back where there was an outhouse literally right next to a pig house. Kinda gross but I’m getting used to the squatters. Some of the girls refuse to use them, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal.
The capital city the train came into was pretty large. We stayed in a very nice hotel. The train ride wasn’t too bad! It was nine hours. Each section had six beds, piled three high. We hung out, looked out the window and watched Mulan. The train ride home was through the middle of the night. We played cards for a little while then slept for about six hours.
I don’t know the total amount of time we’ve spent on this bus…but I would guess at least fifteen. We drive somewhere for about two hours, get out and see something then keep going.
Our first stop was at a cattle farm. They have 500 employees and 10,000 cattle. That was our first interesting dining experience of the trip. They had sheep mutton and then a lot of sheep organs…gross!! These people in Inner Mongolia drink…A LOT! It’s a part of their culture to toast the host and guest with Biajiu. It’s been really funny seeing our hosts get tipsy almost every meal!
After the meal we ventured out in our huge bus to see the cattle. This bus has made some crazy scary maneuvers! The landscape was breathtaking. I have never seen this China before. We hung out with cows and joked around with China Baba for a while then headed to our next hotel.
China Baba (Daddy) or Wheel man as we like to call him is crazy. You have to love this guy! He is our driver back at CAAS…I don’t know what his role on this trip is other than entertainment. He speaks very little English, so we spend most of our time with him laughing at his charades. Wow…I hope to get some video up of him…he’s so funny!
When we pulled into the hotel at a small city, a crowd of local people started to gather to watch the parade of foreigners. We went on a walk relatively unbothered until near the hotel end when one lady shook our hands, then everyone came over to greet us! The hotel was at a natural hot spring. We were all pretty exciting picturing ourselves outside surrounded by mountains in a hot spring. Instead of this picturesque scene, the ‘hot spring’ was our bathtub that we filled with the sulfur smelling spring water!
Every meal is crazy…biajiu and more biajiu! A tradition of their culture is to have young women sing to you to encourage you to drink. They have these white scarves that they put around you after you take your three shots. I took mine gracefully and thankfully wasn’t sung to, to drink more! Some of the people on my trip are really pressured by the locals. These pour guys never want to smell Biajiu again! All the while China Baba is there filling our cups, laughing and smoking. He asked us to sing our Ohio song, and he tried to join us as we sang Carmen Ohio…He got the OH-IO! We joke that we’re going to pull all our money together and ship Wheelman to OSU. They students would surely get a kick out of him!
I enjoyed a long conversation with one of the guys on the trip. I feel like we’ve all had very little reflection time. These bus rides are more than sufficient think time. We talked about the poverty and how he never wants to complain in America again. I’ve had a few interesting conversations on the trip and learned a lot about our perception of China.
The view from the back of the hotel was beautiful so I decided to get up at 5 to try to catch the sunrise. They don’t have daylight savings time here so I think the sun rises at 4! By the time I got out there the sun was pretty much up but still lighting the town beautifully. I started wandering around watching all the old people doing their morning exercises. I stopped at one point to take a picture and an old man started talking to me. ‘Woe Bu Dong’ (I don’t understand) is one of the few phrases I know. I started walking with him and playing the usual charades to communicate. We went to a monument describing the hot springs and did a few stretching exercises. When he ran into one of his friends I caught one word: Me Gue (America). We walked a bit more and parted ways at the hotel. He wanted a picture with me. It was a special time. He’s my new Chinese grandpa!
The landscape drastically changed today. In our hours looking out the bus windows, it shifted to a much sandier area. We stopped at a forest where there is a unique type of tree that can grow in the sand. It is the only forest left of this tree in the world. Then to an Inner Mongolian tent area where we ate lunch. We made it to China’s third largest lake. It was pretty muddy but pretty. They have a pretty impressive museum. Between the locals, there is a lot of tourist areas.
This night that we stayed in another small town was my favorite. They Chinese administrators with us kept saying the real party is this night. We were all a little nervous considering how much they had pressured us to drink until this point! It really was a party. After dinner there was a traditional Inner Mongolian performance of singing and dancing. While we were learning a dance in a circle loud firecrackers were set off behind us and then our own fireworks show.
All the drunken Chinese administrators wanted to do was sing and dance. Well you know I’m the lady for that! Even though I was probably the most sober one there, I joined right in dancing with them. At some point I pulled in a few of the local girls and used some of DJ skills to get them dancing. At one point a bunch of the locals came so we had a huge dance party!
The following morning we got up and went horseback riding! What a treat. When we went around to some really scenic areas…check out the pictures. I kept joking with one of the guys that I couldn’t wait to frolic in a field. He found the song “born free, as free as the wind blows…as free as the grass grows…” on his i-pod and declared it my official frolic song. I had it in my head for most of the trip. I had some quality frolic time in a few fields. One field was like a photo shoot of Chinese people as I danced!
Overall, the trip was better than I could have imagined. I accomplished my three goals of exercising with an old man, dancing with local people and frolicking in a field. I really enjoyed my time on the bus to have some alone time. We all basically listen to music and look out the window. I’ve had some sweet times just sitting with Papa and pr.ing for myself and all the people I’m missing back home. I’m just amazed that He made all this and knows every hill, every bush. It’s more breathtaking than anything man could create.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Well, over the last weeks, we all have had experiences that we will cherish for a lifetime. The Summer Palace was extraordinary, the Great Wall was indescribable, meals tend bring interesting stories, the nightlife has been a good time, and so on, everyday has held a wealth of enjoyment. That being established, there is one part of this China experience that out-classes any excursion… and his name is China Baba, or Wheelman as we like to call him. Wheelman is our driver when we go out on our CAAS excursions. His company is always appreciated, even when he is not wowing us with his top-class driving skills, there is never a dull moment around the legendary Wheelman. Even though he speaks very little English [he knows the important words] Wheelman is always good for a laugh, he is the center of attention. You never know when you will round a corned and see Wheelman sprawled out on one of the lobby couches enjoying an afternoon smoke, or being chummy with his cronies in a local restaurant. Here are just a few bright spots and classic memories that came from hanging around Wheelman. First off, his superior driving skills… He doesn’t take any business out on the crazy Beijing streets, his graceful top speed maneuverability skills are off the charts, his driving commands much respect. Also, meals with Wheelman are always and enjoyable experience. He take charge of the entire restaurant, whether it be flagging down a waitress, checking into the kitchen to see what’s up, or even retrieving the food for the table himself. He also never lets a glass get anywhere near empty. We all were fortunate enough to see an entirely different side of Wheelman during our time in Inner Mongolia. Since he was just along for the ‘road trip’ and was not driving he was able to participate in the local Mongolian traditions… which is pretty much a barrage of mutton dishes and constant series of toasts between the hosts and the guests throughout the entirety of EVERY meal. During these afternoons and evening we were all entertained by his antics that included fantastic impressions, funny stories, and most importantly, frequent displays of his love for disco dancing. There is never a dull moment when the Wheelman is around. He is just another great example of one of the many incredible wonders that China and our study abroad experience has had to offer. I am very glad to have been able to meet Wheelman; I cherish our friendship, and look forward to every encounter and hopefully a future visit by him to Ohio State [fingers crossed].
And here is a video of me dancing with Wheelman. After one of our crazy Inner Mongolian parties, I was one of the only one's that would dance...despite me probably being the only sober one! Buckeye Sounds should be proud!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Ordering food is not the big ordeal it used to be. We are getting great at pointing and the few words we know help! And, I’m getting very comfortable with not having any idea what is going on around me! We are all growing a little more independent and feel confident journeying over to the mall or trying out a bus route. Life generally goes on as normal.
I’m starting to feel not so out of place. In fact in Starbucks today as I was writing my paper, I caught myself looking at some foreigners and thinking, ‘tourist’!
This week we had an interesting trip to a more rural area of Beijing. I agreed with one of our professors explained that we aren’t seeing the true country until we see the rural areas. We’ve been studying a lot about rural poverty and inequality. It is crazy to see the effects of urbanization on China and many developing countries. Our ideas of urban and rural areas are so different. We often think of inequality and the poor in urban areas.
I could stare out the bus window the whole trip and be intrigued by every little common everyday thing that the Chinese people were doing. Kid walking to school. Baby peeing in the gutter. Old man playing chess. Guy riding his bike piled incredible high with who knows what. woman using a strange broom. Naked kids swimming in a dirty pond. Our attempts at capturing the moment with photos usually fails, but it’s all great to give us a better understanding of the real China.
I’ve found the best way to learn about China is to ask. The most interesting things to me are the thoughts and opinions of the people that live their daily lives rather than what a textbook or lecture tells me. Although conversations with the graduate students and random other people I meet may be slow and take a lot of patience, I think it is the most precious part of my trip. While I am learning about the real China, the person I am talking to is simply thrilled to be putting into practice the English that they’ve studied for so long.
I’m learning that no matter where you are in the world; people make the place. When I look back on this trip, all the things that we saw and did will be pretty amazing, but what I’ll take home with me the most is what I learned about myself and the OSU and CAAS students. I’ll cherish all the awkward giggles, translation misunderstandings, silly questions about America, those in depth talks, inside jokes and making genuine friendships.
I found out they don’t really hug much here in China. There have been some people I’ve grown to love so much I just gave them a huge awkward hug…I don’t think they knew what to do at first. It’s been fun to watch them grow more comfortable with our American greeting and give me a hug when they see me! It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to China and the relationships I’ve all grown here!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I feel like this program is almost over and I still have so much I want to do! It often doesn’t feel like I’m far from home. Just like I went away to college or something. Skype has really helped me stay connected with people. I love calling my friends cell phones and hearing the surprised, “this is Paige?!”
Ashe and I were eating in the cafeteria and talking about how this whole experience has been a lot more comfortable than we expected. We haven’t had much of the cultural frustration (other than our miss of cheese & any dairy product). The language barrier is still a problem. I very much desire to talk to the people and hear their stories, but it’s never much more than smiles and pointing.
Saturday we went to one of my favorite parts of Beijing. Beihai Park is a beautiful lake area with gardens. We wandered around with a great group of CAAS students. They were a lot of fun. My favorite part is Hohai, which is an older part of town. There are tons of restaurants, bars and shops. Please check out the pictures! The Hu Tong area is full of old people loving life. They stay active and work out, play ping-pong and board games. Last time I was here we saw a bunch of old men in speedos swimming in the frozen pond…crazy!
A group of us went back to check out the night scene. We brought our good friend Andy and had a great time. The atmosphere is really fun. All of the bars have big cushy couches to hang out on and chat. We went into one bar and the first song was Soulja boy (apparently no one there knows the dance…we were the only ones on the stage!) Then there were three college-aged girls and a guy that entertained us with basically glorified karaoke. I mentioned to my friends that this kind of entertainment would never be cool in the states!
Sunday, Juan, Ashe, Amanda, Jessica, and Mark came with me to chrch! We had a great time and were bombarded by Chinese students that wanted to talk to us after. We then met up with Elaine to go wedding dress shopping for Amanda’s wedding. The dresses were really cheap…a lot under $100! They were all basically the same size (understandably). We saw a lot of couples…in China the groom comes with the bride as she picks it out. I can’t picture that in the States! This was her first time shopping, so she didn’t really want to buy anything. Trying on a dress was a crazy experience!
Monday we had two classes. They are almost finished. We talked about the poor areas of China and farming. Wow, a lot of their income is around 1000RMB a year. I cannot imagine. I hope I get to see these areas one day. There is just no way to comprehend. After class we took Andy to a farewell dinner at McDonalds. It was his first time going…I think he liked it!
Tuesday was our Great Wall adventure! I am so thankful the weather was cool; I have NEVER climbed that many steps in my life! A few of the people in the program and I had been training for the past week by climbing the seven floors to our rooms instead of taking the elevator. I felt pretty fit! There is no way to explain how steep it is…it really is climbing a mountain! It was really fun to be there with all the Chinese tourist. We got many request to have our picture taken with people!
I woke up early and had a nice walk and quiet time this morning. How freeing to have my Best Friend with me everywhere I go! This afternoon as I was climbing the steps I heard some singing in one of the top floors. I stopped as I recognized the tune…as the deer panthe for the water so my soul longs after you…I was sure that it was this song. I slowly made my way up the stairs. I saw an older man kneeling with several books around him. He heard me behind him and I started to tell him I knew the song. It turns out John (as he would like me to call him) has been to Ohio State. He even wondered when he saw our group if there were any true belivers in the group. Tears came to his eyes as we spoke. He carries a wonderful light. I asked if we could sing the song together before I left. It was beautiful. We are getting dinner hopefully with a few students tomorrow. I was sure giddy after that, Papa is so faithful!
Well, I’m off to bed. I can’t wait to wake up in the morning. Andy moves in the morning, which I’m sad about. But he gave me his bicycle!!! It is horrible shape. He hasn’t ridden it in three months! It has no breaks and the wheel is a little shaky…a TRUE Chinese bike! He remembered Lightning (my bike’s name) and named his BMW (like the car company he said). BMW and I will be off for an adventure in the morning!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
· Cottage Cheese
· Blue Skies
· Fast Internet
· The Prayer House
· RDPs (random dance parties)
· The Boogie Button
· Mac & Cheese
· The Ville
· My sisters
· Being able to understand my classes
· Free time
· J House
· Any Cheese
· Swimming pools
· Being able to brush my teeth and drink water from the faucet.
· Picking on Allyse and her picking on me
· Being able to read a menu
· Lightning (my bike)
· Going to the park
· Northstar Café
· Kelcie’s Jeep
· The Ark deck
· Ice/ ice water
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Happy Fourth of July!!!! It doesn’t feel quite like the fourth here. The only American flag and eagles I have seen are on this sweet pair of shorts I bought at the Wal-Mart here for 50 cents! (pictures to come later). We also sang ‘Proud to be an American on the bus.’
The closest we got to fireworks was at the Laoshe Tea House where there was an acrobatic performance where a really flexible girl balanced 6 candles while doing crazy moves! There was also the most amazing shadow puppet performance ever, amazing kung fu, traditional dances, and ear screeching traditional Chinese instruments.
I’m almost half way done with my time here in Beijing. The reality that I have 6 papers and three presentations is also becoming clear!
The dynamics of our group of thirteen has certainly changed. After two weeks, people’s attempt at a good first impression starts to fade. I’m learning a lot about myself and how to work with different people. I so badly want to have deep conversations with these people. I can see that a lot of the uneasiness comes from insecurity. Please join me in prying for these opportunities. I’ve taken my usual spot as the peacemaker and it gets a little lonely at times! It’s pretty neat because there is just something different about the security I have, knowing my Papa and that he knows me. I know that they see it. They’ve already joked with me about it, but I hope its something that makes them wonder.
Yesterday I met with the lady, Jane, that is organizing the relief work for Sichuan. It looks like it will work for me to go! I have a lot to figure out…flights, travel insurance and such. This will be a challenging time, but really refreshing to meet up with Wendy and her group! It was so great to hang out with Jane. I stayed at her house for six hours chatting. A Chinese girl Lill is staying with her for a week while she goes through training on how to do therapy using art and music. Wow Lill has an amazing story. Just like the brave young girls we hear about in the movement. Lill made us a traditional dinner and we enjoyed being such close sisters in the same ‘family’, yet never having met each other! Papa is good!