After smoothly transitioning into the daily life and routine at Peking University, the second week of our summer in Beijing was even better than the first. Each day consisted of class, one-on-one tutoring sessions, office hours, and individual study, yet we still found time to explore local malls, restaurants, and attractions. It was during the second week that a friend and I first met with a Peking University Law School student named Roger—one of the language partners assigned to our group for the summer. Not only is Roger incredibly funny, kind, and down to earth, but he is also one of the smartest and most interesting people I have met. Majoring in history and currently studying law, Roger’s hobbies include reading, drawing, philosophy, physics, and history, and he shared much of his insights, opinions, and thoughts on different aspects of Chinese culture and government. Though Roger has never been to the United States, his English is nearly perfect, and this was very helpful as he tried to teach us different Chinese sayings and common phrases. Roger offered his advice and further help on our study of Chinese, and we plan to meet with him again in future weeks.
The highlight of our second week in Beijing came on Saturday, as our group departed on our day trip to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is the center of Beijing, and as believed in ancient times, the “center of the cosmos.” The beautiful buildings of this small inner city were home to many of China’s emperors, and the entrance of its outer gate displays a prominent picture of Mao. Our tour guide led us through the many sections of this ancient “city,” in which we were able to view the living areas and even the throne of China’s emperors. After finishing our tour, we hiked to the top of a man-made hill overlooking the city, and were able to view the Forbidden City from above. The city and its many golden-roofed buildings is incredible to see.
After finishing our tour of the Forbidden City, we walked as a group through one of the city’s Hutongs (traditional Chinese neighborhoods), with the purpose of spending the afternoon at Haihong, a shopping and eating area encircling one of Beijing’s beautiful lakes. The area had a number of shops selling items like traditional Chinese tea, clothing, local foods, and other souvenirs, and the lake was surrounded by a number of interesting restaurants and bars. We spent the afternoon exploring what the area had to offer, as well as making note of places we wanted to return to and things we still want to do.
To close off our second week in Beijing, a few friends and I took an early morning subway ride to the Beijing Zoo. While there, I got my first glimpse at a Giant Panda, as well as an assortment of other animals native to Asia. While the panda exhibit was definitely the highlight of the morning, the zoo was home to a huge assortment of different animals, and it was one of the largest zoos I have ever been to. This small excursion was definitely worth it, and a great way to finish off the week.