The End is Near
My final week in Beijing is quickly coming to an end. I will be returning home, but more than half of my class decided to stay in Beijing. I am tempted to say that I would do the same, but I am almost done with my Bachelors in Public Health so I must return home to complete it.
My first destination on my list was the Summer Palace. As I made my way around Beijing, I would often get glimpses of this palace. It was massive, and every place that I visited seemed to have a corner of this palace. A literal edge, the palace is so large that when traveling around, I would see parts of the palace gate. When I visited, I was only able to see a smaller percentage of the palace due to its colossal size.
I enjoy sightseeing in Beijing, but it can be a little difficult sometimes. Many of the tourists in China are from China as well, but they are from the more rural parts. When visiting these palaces, I often get weird looks or stares. It’s not in an offensive way. I understand that many of the tourists have never met or spoken to a foreigner, but it’s something that is hard to get used to. Some people want to take pictures with you, and I am okay with this. I see myself as a representative of Americans while I am abroad, and I act as such. Imagine if someone met me and knew that I was American, if I acted poorly, they might form a poor opinion of all Americans, but if I act well then they may form a positive impression.
I also can admit that I am guilty of giving people looks here and there while I have been here. Often time when I feel culture-shocked, I cannot hide it, or it is hard to hide. For example, I was at a restaurant once, and a man began to smoke indoors. I was outraged, we were in a public space, and he chose to smoke in a place that people were eating in. I had to resist the urge to glare at him from afar, but I also made sure to recognize that China has a different culture and laws compared to the United States.
I also began to realize that their view on history may differ from many foreigners. When visiting Tiananmen and the surrounding area, many people seemed to show pride and idealize Mao Zedong and other historical leaders.
I would assume that this is due to their school curriculum. When I learned about Mao Zedong in high school, it was not very positive. He had many accomplishments, but many failures well. We can say the same for many of our leaders and the watered-down history that we may be taught in our schools.
Although that is true, China is beautiful, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I love how contrasting the country can be. Sometimes you may be in an area that looks almost identical to a New York or Atlanta, but the next moment you can be out in a field that seems to be untouched by modernization and western influence. I would describe it as untampered beauty. China is a country that is quickly increasing it’s footing on the global scale. With that, I fear that this untampered beauty could be corrupted before I have a chance to return.