Brian Persons ’16, Coco Spagna ’16, and Ceci Swenson ’16 describe the group’s last few days in Beijing:
Brian, June 25: Today the group went to Behei Park. We adventured on boats and saw older ladies and men dancing to popular Chinese songs. I learned that the older people who dance at the park are usually retired people who need a form of exercise, and this is the best way for them to exercise.
When we first arrived at the park we played this game called jianzi, in which you had to keep an object that resembled a very large shuttlecock off the ground. Some of the Chinese thought it was very funny that Americans were trying their game, which is the same reaction I had when I saw people playing basketball in China. Then the boys went to a mall with our newly arrived guest Charlie Ho, who was in China for a month at SYA. We introduced him to the spots we have gotten used to and had an all around fun day.
Coco, June 26: Today our group traveled to the Fangshan Global Geopark of China, Shihua Cave Geo-Region. We left the sticky, hot climate of outer Beijing and entered a cool and initially dark cave. I have previously explored caves in Yosemite, and I was expecting the Shihua cave to be similar, despite being in China. I remember the Yosemite caves being dark, and if I could see anything it was because of a natural crack that allowed sunlight in. Yosemite in general was very untouched and had few man-made accessories, aside from the occasional bathroom and path signs.
The Shihua cave was unexpectedly quite different. The path throughout the cave was paved and had steep stairs at parts. It was brightly lit with colorful lights. It was stunning, yet not exactly a natural wonder. The stones’ beauty were without a doubt emphasized by man-made accessories, yet it definitely varied from the raw beauty I have seen in American parks such as Yosemite.
Ceci, June 27: Today is our last day in Beijing. I have seen many beautiful places, found friends in our host families, and experienced many cultural differences that I would never have seen if I hadn’t been here.
We shared our bus today with some middle schoolers from Washington D.C.; however, we struggled to find a common interest. Everyday we play music in the back of the bus, and today we hoped that we would be able to do the same. When we first asked to play music, they were nervous that they might not enjoy the same style of music. After the first song and a long awkward moment of silence, we reached out and asked them to request a song that they liked. Within the first few seconds we all were singing together and having a good time. Looking back on this moment, I realized that the nine students on this trip are able to adapt to many different situations. This quality has been extremely useful on this trip given the many situations we have been put into.
The first cultural difference we had to adapt to was the difference in language. We quickly learned vital vocabulary and hand signals, so that we could maneuver our way around Beijing. We were all eager to jump into the experience with our host families and easily immersed ourselves into their daily lives. Also we were signed up for classes such as robotics, wood shop, and Kung fu. These classes all demanded our attention and interest, and we had a great time learning something new. As we embark on the next ten days of travel throughout China, we hope to use this helpful quality of adaptation and learn many new things and experience many new cultures.