Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday, July 1

Sorry for the delay in updating. After nearly two weeks of almost flawless online access, our hotel is now having problems connecting us to the net. Even so, we're managing a balance of intellectual productivity and touristic adventure. All of us are exhausted, yet we continue to see as much of this place as possible. Two students have been so bold as to fly to Shanghai for the weekend (leaving many of us amazed at their confidence to pack so much into a short time!). Others are still planning to visit Hong Kong next weekend (making sure to leave me detailed itineraries before they depart). And all of us are bonding over shared excursions and late night conversations. It seems that every participant in this trip has something to offer. Some take amazing photos, others use their haggling skills to get us great deals, while others play live music at our gatherings. It's an amazing thing to see this group become such a family.

As you'd imagine, SJSU students have been making the most of this weekend's much-needed break from our studies. On Friday most of the group metro'd to the city's Olympic Center to check out the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube, and the surrounding park. The sticky, hot weather inspired many of us to take a swim in the Cube - imagining ourselves doing laps with Michael Phelps. Later that evening we oooh'd and ahhh'd at the Park's magnificent light show. Of course we couldn't walk more than a few feet without receiving repeated entreaties to buy kites and LED slingshots (toys that shoot up like rockets and spin down to earth on delicate wings). We haggled a while but eventually gave in, buying nearly a dozen toys between us. Thereafter we laughed and played among the crowds who'd gathered on a lovely, cool evening - leaving just enough time to squeeze into late-evening metros heading home.

Saturday was, if anything, even a nicer experience. For the first time, Beijing's gloomy overcast weather cleared enough to reveal beautiful blue skies. Our class responded in unique ways, with some folks returning to the 798 District, and others searching for new sights to discover. One small group journeyed by metro and bus to a place called World Park, a collection of miniature versions of famous landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, London's Tower Bridge, and - yes - the Great Wall of China (and also the setting for a 2004 movie about the modern China called Shìjiè, directed by Jia Zhangke).

We rented a paddleboat, took pictures on a camel next to a fake Egyptian pyramid, and rode a rollercoaster with park employees who constantly reminded us to shout louder (hoping of attracting more business). World Park even boasts a section dedicated to U.S. landmarks, including an eerie Manhattan island where the Twin Towers still stand. The day closed with many of us gathered in one of our hotel rooms, listening to live music played by one of our talented crew and sharing stories of our Beijing adventures.

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