07.04.2015 - 15.04.2015
Blog Entry 6
April 15, 2015
Last Thursday, I decided to take a walk and stumbled upon a traditional Chinese pharmacy. Glass cases filled with trays and bowls of herbs, roots, seeds and so on lined the walls. The scent of the store was something that I have never experienced back home. Curiously, I asked the pharmacist what the items were. She told me in Chinese, “This helps with indigestion, this helps reduce a fever, and this helps a person sleep.” How interesting. Although I was not at all sick, I debated buying something just for the sake of testing its legitimacy. Just then, my friend Aasim, who is studying to become a doctor, walked in and dissuaded me. Perhaps I will make a purchase before returning home.
Later that day, I attended my history class and reviewed for my midterm exam next week. Again, the detail of our class is great. For example, we are expected to know the names of the three Northern Warlords during the early years of the Republic of China and which part of the country they controlled. They are Zhang Zuo Lin who controlled the northeast, Feng Guo Zhang who controlled the Beijing area and Duan Qi Rui who controlled central China. However, all three men were taken down by Chaing Kai Shek during his Northern Expedition in 1927. After class, Shen Shen, a Sichuanese girl who sits in on our class, and I decided to get dinner. Because I had my bike and she did not, we put it to use in the Chinese fashion in which I peddle and she sits in the back. I felt very Chinese for that bike ride. I recommended that she bring me to a restaurant where locals eat and I was led to a small noodle stand a few blocks away. She taught me some more Sichuanese words and we discussed whether or not pursuing college is a beneficial choice for everybody to make. I told her that in the United States, college is extremely expensive and for those people who need to take out loans to pay, a college degree is not always worth the cost. I explained that, for example, a person who attends a college that costs $60,000 a year might graduate with almost a quarter million dollars in debt, thus counterbalancing the benefit of obtaining a degree. The situation in China seems much different. First of all, college is not nearly as pricey. Secondly, because of China’s large population, one who is accepted into a college almost always attends because of the competitiveness. In high school, students study for years to pass their college entry exam. Therefore, we concluded that it really depends on where one chooses to go to college.
On Saturday, I woke up early and met a group of people to go on a trip to Du Jiang Yan and Qing Cheng Shan. Du Jiang Yan is Sichuan’s famous irrigation system that was built hundreds of years ago and Qing Cheng Shan is perhaps Sichuan’s most famous Daoist mountain. We took a two hour bus ride and arrived at Du Jiang Yan. The entrance path was beautiful; dozens of intricately carved stone animals and fountains emitting water, numerous fish-stocked ponds surrounded by traditional style tea houses and Daoist monks predicting peoples fortunes. To top it off, the weather was hot and sunny, bringing the forests of green trees to life. We continued and saw the three main dam sites. Beyond the rocky river lay archaic-looking rock cliffs topped with ancient Daoist temples. It looked as if I was seeing a painting. We toured the area for a while and got back on the bus headed for Qing Cheng Shan. We were dropped off at the foot of the mountain and took the cable cars up. Being the last person of our group in line, I was in a car with five middle-aged Chinese women. They would ask me a question in Mandarin and after I would answer they would laugh and discuss my response in the Sichuan dialect, making it impossible for me to understand. I think they were more excited to talk to me than I was to talk to them! We got off and started up the mountain. I have recently discovered that hiking in China means climbing seemingly endless staircases. Every twenty minutes or so, we would come upon a Daoist temple or praying site at which food and souvenirs were sold. Eventually, we made it to the top. A large Daoist temple with statues of various gods and incense burning sites attracted dozens of people. I found a t-shirt decorated with the symbol of the Dao and bartered with the entrepreneur until I had the price decreased to thirty percent of what she was asking. Just then, my friend Celine, who is from France, and I got lost from the rest of the group and speculated that they had already started down. We began descending the mountain and, about half way down, received a phone call from the rest of the group who was still waiting for us at the top. Apparently, we were going down the wrong path and had already hiked down for at least an hour. Thus, I asked a fellow Chinese hiker if we were taking the correct route. He gave me long, detailed directions and, surprisingly, I managed to comprehend what he said well enough to make it to the bottom! I suppose my listening comprehension class is paying off.
On Tuesday, I met up with Ivo and two Koreans from my class who took us to a traditional Korean restaurant. We took our shoes off outside and sat on the floor at a table about two feet off of the ground. Being unable to read the menu, I let them decide what I should eat. I was brought a dish of grilled meat and vegetables alongside a dish of rice. The taste was excellent. That evening, I met my Professor and her daughter to teach some more English. As planned, we went out to dinner. Again, we chose a Korean restaurant; I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I had eaten Korean food for lunch. I taught my teacher’s daughter, was taught one-on-one by me teacher and sat down to eat. We discussed my potential plans for after graduation. We ultimately decided that it might be best for me to return to China for a longer period of time. Three months in a place is not long enough to become fully immersed and learn as much of the language and culture as I would like. The more I think about it, the more excited I get; potentially living in China for an indefinite amount of time sounds like a dream come true! For the first time, I have a clearer understanding of what it is that I want to do after college.