My last days in China were busy and quite the blur.
We started Saturday by going out for dim sum for breakfast. This giant dim sum restaurant is open 24 hours and so good.
Chris and Izzi with a few of our dim sum dishes.
From there, we went down to Tiananmen to go to the National Museum. I still can’t get over how much prettier Tiananmen is with spring flowers.
At the National Museum, I got to see a special exhibit of images of Mao. I was excited because I can include it in my research project!
Izzi and I did some last minute shopping at Ya Show Market, got our nails done, and took our Chinese friends Cathy and Gaojing to try American cupcakes before we left.
Later that night, a giant group of us went out for one last dinner of Beijing duck.
Our waiter carving up one of the cooked ducks.
We went out in the Sanlitun area that night, and were surprised by how active that area was, even late into the night. Chris found a street food stand where you could get all kinds of things poked onto skewers and then cooked over a grill.
Yes, those brown things were live bugs. That was one of the foods we could choose to have cooked over the grill for us. We passed, but Chris was brave enough to give it a shot.
Chris eating bugs… Squishy and not quite delicious, but that’s alright!
We finished packing, and then Sunday morning, we headed off to the airport for the long flight back home to Chicago! It was hard to say goodbye to all of the people and Chinese customs I had become so attached to, but it helped to know that after a year away, I was finally headed home to stay… at least for a while.
We had the closing ceremonies for our program on Friday afternoon. We’d all officially finished finals by then, so everyone was exhausted but relieved to be done. After listening to speeches and watching an awesome video of our semester, we got to eat food and socialize with our professors.
My entire Chinese class with our professor.
Izzi and I were both honored to be given a scholarship award at the closing ceremony, so we posed with our awards and our favorite Terracotta Warrior statue during the reception.
After the reception, Professor Gargan invited us to join him for a glass of wine on the Bookworm’s rooftop patio, which was really fun. Then it was time for one last dish of my favorite Muslim noodles for dinner before going to hang out with everyone at Helen’s, and then Izzi and I went to Fu Bar to get Buddhas that we were bringing home as presents!
Being done with finals was such a relief!
On Wednesday, I went to class, turned in another paper, and practiced a ton for my Chinese speaking exam.
On Thursday, I went to my Chinese speaking exam, took a nap, and stayed up way too late with Izzi finishing our last papers of the semester!
After our awesome Sunday adventure to the Great Wall, it was time to get serious about finals. On Monday, I studied so much for my Chinese final that I thought my head might explode from Chinese character overload, and I also wrote another paper.
On Tuesday, I took listening and writing portion of the last Chinese class I will ever have to take! Then I edited my paper and a few other people’s papers, went to Modern Chinese History class, grabbed dinner with friends, and then wrote yet another paper. One highlight of Tuesday were that I discovered that the strange box in the corner of my room was actually a Chinese air conditioner, so the temperature in my room finally began to decrease. Success!
Allie, Izzi, and I decided kind of at the last minute that we simply had to see where the Great Wall met the ocean before we left China! We woke up at 5 am to get on the two and a half hour to our adventure.
I have so many pictures and stories from this day that I might have to share even more another day, but here’s some snippets from our day for now.
When we got there, we took a chance and made friends with a great local driver. He drove us around the whole town in his three wheel cab all day, and he waited for us at each stop. He only charged us the equivalent of 5 American dollars each for the entire day!
Our driver took us to a remote section of the Great Wall that was awesome!
We passed parrots along our trek up the Great Wall. We didn’t question it.
The view from inside one of the turrets on the Great Wall.
An adorable Chinese girl I made friends with!
Hiking along the Great Wall.
Another pic of us on the Great Wall.
One of our next stops was horseback riding on the beach. Izzi is a pro and actually knows how to ride horses, so they let her ride all by herself.
Our Chinese friend kind of missed the point of getting a picture of us with where the Great Wall meets the ocean, but beggars can’t be choosers, so we took what we got.
I got to hold a real live starfish! I was so excited!
A picture with our new Chinese friends who shared the starfish they found with us.
A picture of us with our awesome cab driver/tour guide for the day!
I’ve had a pretty cool year, but this day might be at the top of my favorite days all year. It was a last minute decision that ended up being one of the smartest choices I’ve ever made. Somethings are really more important than studying!
Next week was finals week, so Friday and Saturday of this weekend had to be productive. I wrote more than 30 pages worth of papers and also studied for Chinese during these two days. Mia’s roommate is Uyghur, a Chinese Muslim minority, and she took us to a Uyghur restaurant for dinner on Friday. Everything we had was incredible, and it was definitely one of my favorite meals I’ve had here in China!
Uyghur dancers performed during dinner.
Cathy hiding behind a rack of perfectly cooked meat.
It was a perfect summer night, so we all hung out outside for a while before getting back to school work.
The TBC library was open for 8 hours on Saturday, and I was there the entire time. I felt like my pre-med friends who never leave the library back in Chicago during finals week; it was a new experience for me! But I successfully got the 20-page paper for my Ricci research project done a few days ahead of time, and made a lot of progress on my other work too.
Since we’d been working so hard, we took another break for a late dinner on Saturday night. There’s a bunch of little hole in the wall restaurants out the East Gate of our campus, and after dark on summer nights, it’s the place to be. Everyone is sitting at tiny little tables outside, eating shwar, having dinner, drinking beer, and just hanging out. It’s fun because there are tables and people scattered down the entire street, and it’s just a lively, fun atmosphere!
No picture can really capture this scene, but the whole street was full of tables like this. Absolutely a perfect summer night!
One of Izzi’s favorite Chinese foods is Kung Pao Chicken, and it’s always good!
So much delicious food to share family style!
We went back and got ready for bed relatively early on Saturday, because we had a big adventure planned for Sunday.
Wednesday was a day full of classes and paper writing.
Thursday was the first day where it really started to hit us that the end of the semester was near. We took group pictures of our entire program in the afternoon. It took longer than prom pictures, and it was blistering hot out, so that wasn’t particularly pleasant. I turned in my last project for Observing China, and we all went out to dinner with Professor Gargan to celebrate the end of a successful semester. He took us out for soup-filled dumplings, which sound strange but they were actually delicious!
My awesome Observing China class - We were all so sad that the class was over!
Tuesday was the Chinese May Day holiday, so we didn’t have classes. Instead we took the bullet train to Tianjin, a cute little city a half hour outside Beijing. We spent the day with Izzi’s roommate, Gaojing, and some of her friends from high school. It was great to have them show us around and we got to make even more Chinese friends!
Tianjin was beautiful and had lots of European inspired architecture.
No trip would be complete without at least one temple visit.
We went to Tianjin’s food market for lunch, and saw lots of raw seafood. Don’t worry, we didn’t end up eating this, we actually had a delicious lunch that Gaojing ordered for us. We even found a place with chocolate truffles for dessert!
We did some wandering after lunch and then stopped by Zhou Enlai’s museum. The grounds were beautiful.
We walked past a Chinese amusement park, complete with a roller coaster, where a Chinese grandma wanted all of us Americans to pose for a picture with her adorable granddaughter.
The Tianjin version of the London Eye.
Right before we caught our train back to Beijing that evening, Gaojing and her friends to ok us to Tianjin’s Little Italy. It was strange, because it really did feel like I was back in Italy for a few minutes there!
This might not be the most attractive picture ever taken, but Michael and I had to document that we got gelato in China. Michael was in Italy with me last semester, so we were excited to be able to treat all of our Chinese friends to their first taste of gelato. It wasn’t as good as in Italy, but considering we were in China, the gelato was way better than I expected it to be.
There were even fountains in Tianjin’s Little Italy, so funny.
After the train ride back to Beijing, we ended the night with a late dinner of shwar. Shwar is just Chinese meat on a stick, but it is so delicious. This whole pile is lamb. Shwar hall is one of our favorite late night places, and always lots of fun.
It was a great May Day holiday!
Sunday and Monday were boring days filled with studying and working on the paper for my Chinese Ricci research project. I broke up all the studying and paper writing by going to dinner with Yiping at Korean BBQ on Sunday night, which was delicious as always.
And since life in China always revolves around food, Monday night’s highlight was my favorite Korean chicken curry for dinner. Every time I think of leaving behind all of my favorite Chinese foods, it makes me want to cry. I simply cannot grasp the concept of not eating rice everyday, and I have no idea how I functioned before!
It might not look like anything special, but this is the best curry in all of China!
Photo Flashback: Overlooking Rome last September, when this whole adventure had just started. It’s hard to believe that this year is coming to an end!
On Saturday, Izzi and I went to go see Chairman Mao’s body in Tiananmen Square.His body looked just as bizarre as everyone said that it would. A strange orange glow was emanating from him, and I’ve seen wax figures that look way more realistic. But the whole thing was certainly an experience, we waited in a crazy long line full of people bringing their children to see Chairman Mao and leave flowers in front of Mao’s statue.
I’m glad I got a chance to witness this whole cultural spectacle for myself. Tiananmen was filled with beautiful flowers that made the whole square seem happier, especially in comparison with the dreariness I remember from my winter visits there.
So many beautiful flowers!
You’re not allowed to take cameras in when you view Mao’s body, so Izzi and I got a picture with a smaller Mao statue instead.
After seeing Mao’s body, Izzi and I stumbled on an adorable old town district that was hidden a few streets over from Tiananmen. It was a great new area that we had no idea existed, so discovering it was the highlight of our day! As we often do, we went to a hole in the wall restaurant and had a delicious lunch of dishes that the owner recommended. We also got some serious shopping done, including buying some awesome Chinese linen pants and new suitcases to help bring all of our souvenirs back to America!
We came back to have dinner with everyone else at a restaurant near campus that specializes in Southwestern Chinese food. The service was really slow, but the food was still decent.
My favorite dish of the night was this plate of veggies and pork that they lit on fire!
Thursday was the end of a crazy week for me, and it turned out to be a not so great day for me. But I ended the night with Observing China, my favorite class, and then I met up with the lovely Lauren. I took her to Fu Bar, the speak easy that serves drinks in Buddhas, and we had a blast. She even brought me cupcakes, so time with her definitely made my day better!
Lauren and I with our Buddhas!
I slept in on Friday, did some homework, and explored the city on my own a bit in the afternoon. I got some souvenir shopping done, and it was nice to have some time to myself.
When I got back that night, Izzi and I watched Disney’s Mulan while doing our Chinese homework, because that was something we’d been wanting to do since we arrived in China. It was fun to recognize so much of what we’d seen here in China in the movie!
Tuesday was a normal class day. I’d just sent my rain boots and my rain coat home with my dad, so of course it was pouring all day long.
On Tuesday night, we decided to dye my hair again. Last time I’d dyed it, it had barely made any difference, and my hair was back to its normal color within a few weeks. So since I still had another box of hair dye, we figured we might as well use it. Except this time, it turned out REALLY dark, despite the fact that it was the exact same kind as before.
Mom, here’s a picture of me as an accidental brunette. I’m fake smiling, but I am not happy about this! I refused to look in any mirrors because I didn’t recognize myself and it freaked me out too much.
Wednesday was my big Ricci presentation on this semester’s research, so at least I had something to take my mind off my new disastrously dark hair. All of our presentations went well, so that was a relief!
I thought I’d share this Chinese sign with you all. It’s in almost all of the classroom buildings on campus, because people here smoke everywhere. It’s very common to see people standing and smoking directly in front of a “No Smoking” sign, so authorities really have no control because people will just smoke everywhere they want to, regardless.
We thought this sign was funny, because of both the somewhat choppy translation from Chinese to English and the fact that they’re threatening expulsion for smoking! I appreciate all of the American “no smoking” rules now more than ever!