The week was another predictably heavy week of class, but the weekend was great fun.
I think partially as consolation for how large and horrific our midterms next week are, after class on Friday the program took all interested immersion students to the Capital Museum. The museum was very beautiful, but very odd. Where most museums I’ve been to stress the importance of something being original, or untouched from its original state except for some restoration, things in the museum were either complete replicas or completely restored (meaning fully repainted, etc). It also felt kind of like an aimless accumulation of a great many random things from a great many places. It’s like someone found a bunch of interesting things, and said at random, ‘I think I’ll put this here!’ The building itself was beautiful, and the things in it as well, it just didn’t feel like any museum I’ve ever been to.
On Saturday morning, all interested students (aka everyone in the program) met up to take a bus to the Great Wall. After arriving at the base of the mountain, we hiked up 30 minutes of stairs to get to the Wall. It was at this point that most of us realized exactly how unkind the Beijing pollution has been to our lungs. As all the European tourists fresh from areas with breathable air hop-skipped past us, our 50-strong band of American college students heave-ho’ed our way up.
Upon reaching the Wall itself, we were immediately prodded into taking a group picture. As you can see, we’re all looking our best.
The thing you don’t know (or at least I certainly didn’t) about the Wall, it’s that it’s not a long, snakey structure that smoothly rises and falls. It’s a long, snakey structure that rises and falls with the most ridiculous stair steps you’ve ever seen. (My pictures do no justice to explain this).
Even though it was still wintertime, the view was beautiful. The best view to be found was past the point where the Wall has been restored. A sign notifies visitors not to pass the point of restoration, but with a shrug, our group leader led us on through. Thankfully so, because there we found the best view, by far.
The way back down the mountain was much easier, and way more fun. A metal slide that snakes down the mountain has been built so that after you’ve hauled your butt up the mountain, you can toboggan your way back down.
After reaching the bottom of the mountain, we still had time before the bus was supposed to leave, so we had time to haggle with the souvenir vendors. My roommate and I both bought immensely fat, tiny stuffed pandas, which we named 胖 and 胖, or fat and fat. By their powers combined, they make Fat Fat.
The ride back was the quietest experience I’ve had in the presence of 40 college students.
Today was much less exciting. Playtime was over, and I had to keep preparing for my midterm on Tuesday. Now, all that stands between me and a five-day spring break in Shanghai with the roommates is the giant written midterm and the slightly less giant but no less intimidating spoken midterm. We’ll see how that goes!