Finally, my last week in China has arrived! It’s been an amazing adventure, and I’ve really enjoyed every moment of it, but two months in a foreign country can take it out of you, and I must admit I am so ready to go home. But before I can leave, I had a lot of work to wrap up. On Monday, I had my Introductory Chinese course final to complete. Chinese has become my favorite class while abroad. I am so surprised of how much Chinese I was able to learn (while I only know about 120 characters, and it takes 3,000 + to read a newspaper, I still feel like I’m basically fluent). Honestly, most of the credit goes to my awesome Chinese teacher, Yao Laoshi. She made learning easy and fun! I’m not sure if I will continue to study Chinese later, but if I do I’ll have a good, workable foundation. I also had my Intro. Electrical Engineering final to finish (that was a struggle, let me tell you), but once everything was out of the way, I packed my bags and prepared for our final group site visit, a three-day trip to the ancient city of Pingyao!
This trip was quite the adventure. Pingyao was about 4 hours away from Beijing by bullet train. On the train I had an incredible view of the Chinese countryside as well as the urban areas we passed through. Just leaving Beijing was an eye opener to how massive and populated China actually is. After our train trip it was a short bus ride to our final destination, the ancient city of Pingyao. We were corralled through one of the gates that punctuated the city wall and were treated to the sight of traditional Chinese-styled buildings that stretched out in front of us. Our hostel was a short walk from the gate and we soon found our two people rooms at the rear of some courtyards. After settling in, many people decided to head out for a preliminary look around the city before we received our admission tickets that would give us access to the museums, but I had begun to feel a headache and chose to take a nap before dinner instead. When I awoke, I was starving, disoriented (night had fallen already), and unfortunately down with a cold. Crawling out of bed, I ventured on my own to explore the city and search for food. I followed the wall around from the north gate to the west gate and then walked through the streets to try some of the street food. One of the first things I noticed about the street vendors and stores was the repetitious pattern of similar shish-kebab stands, knick-knack stores, toy stalls and vinegar shops that lined every street and was reflected throughout the city. I tried the questionable meat from one of the stands and was pretty impressed. I eventually made my way back to the hostel and hunkered down for a night of restless sleep. The next day I was able to visit some museums, including a Chinese newspaper museum and an ancient furniture museum. I was able to walk across the top of the south gate of the city, but the city wall was roped off and I wasn’t able to walk the city perimeter which was disappointing. I also visited the ancient city government complex, which included the living quarters of the magistrates, meeting courtyards and the city prison. We ended the day in Pingyao with a group dinner and left early the next morning for our final site visit of the summer.
After a long bus ride north, we reached an ancient Buddhist temple. It was a beautiful park with ancient gardens, structures, and statues at the foot of some low lying mountains. We entered the temple grounds at the back of the park and I was introduced to some of the most notable attractions on a guided tour which included thousand-year-old trees, impressively old wooden statues, and a spring said to be formed from a drowned peasant women eons ago. I was also impressed by the temple ground’s lake and pagoda. The day was long and hot, but we finally loaded up the bus, got to the train station, and finished our trip back in Beijing. Although I was fascinated by the art and history we were exposed to while on our three-day adventure, I was really glad to be back in the place I had come to call home for the past two months. Tomorrow we have our group farewell lunch, and then Sunday I leave for the airport to begin my 20+ hour journey back to my actual home in Georgia. I’ve had a blast this summer in China! It was an amazing experience I never thought I would ever have, I learned so much about the culture and would definitely love to visit again! I can’t believe it’s almost over, but I also can’t wait to get home!
– Jakim Johnson, 纪家盛