Local Irish responses to US Affairs

When one comes to a program like Oideas Gael where people from around the world are coming to study and learn Irish, the first question that is often asked in any setting is “where are you from?” If my accent has not given my answer away already I respond with America, or Southern California to be more specific. Almost immediately the next question I receive is “Who are you voting for? Hillary or Trump?” The first time I was asked this question I was caught a little off guard, but as time went on I found that was one of the first questions the people I met in Ireland and from around the world would ask their new American friends.

This is a photo I took during one of my first excursions near Gleann Cholm Cille. These are the cliffs of Sliabh Liag which are said to be one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe!

This is a photo I took during one of my first excursions near Gleann Cholm Cille. These are the cliffs of Sliabh Liag which are said to be one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe!

After this question came up several times, I asked some of the members of my host family and some of their local friends what their thoughts were on American politics and what was going on in the States. Many related how they personally felt about the candidates and those opinions landed on both ends of the spectrum depending on what their own political values were. For the most part, the men and women I spoke with thought the campaigns were ridiculous and that when it came down to it, they would just be curious to see who would win the election. One man who was in his early twenties was one of the few people that expressed serious concern for the effects one candidate would have over another. He continued on to speak about how American politics affect Ireland and many other countries. It seemed to be that it was the younger generation that had more of a genuine concern versus the older generation that found it more entertaining and funny.

Oftentimes though, this type of conversation switched over to the recent shootings in the United States. Each morning, my host family has the radio on and every time a shooting occurred in the States, it would be the topic of that morning’s breakfast. They would ask me “What is going on with your country? What are you guys going to do about it?” That question was definitely a hard one to hear. In the States when something like this occurs, more often than not it strikes a debate and people end up picking sides. Here in Ireland though, it was not a question of who do you think is right in this situation, but rather more of a statement that America is experiencing some rough times and that it is more important to talk about the bigger picture.

Week 5 in Beijing

After getting back from Xi’an Sunday night we had to get back into the swing of things in Beijing right away which includes daily quizzes, endless new vocabulary needing to be learned, and our four hour classes every morning. This past week it didn’t seem to ever stop raining and on Wednesday I could barely go outside due to the weather. I left my dorm to go to the nightly optional office hours and as soon as I got into the pounding rain, even with my umbrella, I turned right back. We had some plans during the week that the rain threw off but luckily the weather wasn’t as bad over the weekend. This past weekend was actually the only weekend thus far where we have not had a pre planned group trip or activity with the rest of our class so it was nice to get to sleep in a little later than usual.

I took advantage of not having any predetermined plans for Saturday by going to some sites in Beijing that I wanted to go to but hadn’t had the chance to go to yet. Saturday morning a few other classmates and I went to the Summer Palace, which was mainly used by royal members during the Qing dynasty. The Summer Palace is basically a giant park on a hill overlooking a lake which makes for some quite good scenery. Unfortunately for us, the smog was quite thick that day so the scenery wasn’t as pretty as it usually is.



Afterwards, we also went to the Olympic park, the primary site of the 2008 olympic games, where I was able to go into the birds nest and water cube.


On Sunday, I went to 潘家园,or commonly referred to as the dirt market in English. The most similar thing I can compare this place to is a flea market, there is various booths throughout the outdoor market that is covered with a giant roof. This market had mostly traditional Chinese souvenirs such as calligraphy, paintings, fans, jewelry, and pottery. I was able to make some good purchases for relatively cheap and I also bought some children’s books in Chinese that I thought I could manage to read at my reading level.

When I was video chatting my mom earlier today she asked me what I was missing about America and this made me realize what I actually take advantage of in the US that is not the same or readily available in China. The two major things I realized I miss, in addition to food, are seeing the sun everyday and the sanitary condition of America. In Beijing, there is usually only sunny periods once or twice a week and it surprised me how much this cheers up my day every time. As for the sanitary conditions, although I enjoy China and the people here, I wouldn’t call China the most sanitary place. The absence of paper and soap in bathrooms or simply touching a dirty handrail make me miss the States a little bit more. Its bittersweet for me that in less than three weeks I will be back home. Although I miss Notre Dame and the US, I am definitely glad I took advantage of this opportunity and will miss it after it is over. I will have to appreciate the time I have left in Beijing.

Weekend in Xi’an

After finishing our midterm at the end of our fourth week here in Beijing, we headed out on an overnight train for a four day trip to Xi’an. After four weeks of studying and getting accustomed to life in China, it was nice to have a small break and get out of the Beijing air for a while. After eleven hours on a train ride through the Chinese countryside, we arrived in Xi’an, a beautiful and historical city. Our first impressions of Xi’an were all great, in that the air quality and scenery were all much better than where we are living in downtown Beijing. Not only that, but we soon learned that traditional Xi’an cuisine is quite good, and surprisingly different than the food we get on a daily basis in Beijing. We got to try many traditional foods, including “Chinese hamburgers,” soup dumplings, “pita bread soaked in lamb soup,” a sour plum drink, and various cold noodle dishes that were all quite good.

On our first day in Xi’an, we had the opportunity to see the famous Terra Cotta Warriors, and we were guided through the three sections of this roughly 2000 year old tomb to see the countless, all unique, hand-sculpted sculptures of Chinese soldiers, slaves, horses, and chariots. Seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors was definitely one of the highlights of my time in China so far.

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Another highlight of the trip came that night as we watched the “The Long Regret,” a traditional and historical dance and performance put on every night in Xi’an. The performance was spectacular, and included traditional Chinese clothing and dances, fireworks, fountains, moving stages, lights across the mountains of Xi’an, and even the release of doves at the end. The next day was just as good as the first, as we rode bikes around the top of the Xi’an Ming City Wall. After renting bikes, we were able to ride as a group around the entire perimeter of the wall, and from there, look out over the interior of Xi’an. In addition, Xi’an also has a large population of Chinese Muslims, and we had the opportunity that day to explore the Muslim Street, a section of the city with countless shops and food stands—great places to practice our Chinese and bargaining skills. In addition, we also had the chance to visit two pagodas, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Great Loving Kindness Temple, a historical Buddhist temple.

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Xi’an was extremely interesting and beautiful, and it was a great place to learn more about Chinese history and culture. Overall, it was a great weekend and a nice break before starting the second half of our summer in Beijing. 

I’m in China!: Xi’an

Hi everyone, so it’s been a while since I last posted. While I wasn’t posting, I went to a new city in China, which is called Xi’an. We went to Xi’an by train and it took around 11 hours. The train was really long, and because it was a red-eye train there were mini-rooms with four beds in them. I was in a room with two of my classmates and a random Chinese man, while my other classmates were scattered throughout the train.


Anyways, when we got to Xi’an we experienced a lot of different cool things. For instance, the day we arrived at Xi’an we went to see the Terracotta Warriors, which was an unreal experience. The hundreds of Terracotta Warriors and Horses were constructed approximately 2,200 years ago by the First Emperor Qin. He ordered the creation of the army of Terracotta Statues to be buried with him because he believed that objects like statues could come to life in the afterlife. So naturally, Emperor Qin thought that an after-death army was a necessity.


We also watched an incredible performance of the Song of Everlasting Regret, which is about a very powerful emperor Hsuan Tsung and his great love for Yang Kuei-fei. As Hsuan got older, he met this young woman, and they spent their time together in passionate love. Everything was good and all, except for the fact that the army got jealous that Yang’s family was getting too much power because of the emperor’s love for her. So the army decided to kill Yang and Hsuan gave up being emperor and let his son rule. The performance was outside and there were hundreds of people watching the performance. It is very hard to describe in words, but here are some words I would use to describe it: colorful, explosion, birds, glamorous, fireworks, grandiose music. Yeah, I didn’t exactly understand what was going on when I was watching the performance, but everything made sense to me when I read the plot online.


My favorite part of the Xi’an excursion trip was that I got to ride a two-person bike on Xi’an’s CITY WALL! It was insane. For one of the first times I was in China, I felt like I was breathing in fresh air. The city wall covered 8.5 miles in length and from each part of the city wall, I could see the city’s expanse with its temples and modernized buildings jutting out.



So week 5 just ended, and China keeps on surprising me with new and awesome things. The next three weeks are going to be bittersweet, and I’m looking forward to making the most of them.


Up the Mountain to Tarshish // إستراحة من المدينة

A few weeks have passed since the program began, and the pace has increased considerably. The bulk of my time has been spent in the library laboring through my hefty grammar, reading, and vocabulary assignments – not entirely unlike my grad student life in South Bend. Despite this, there have been scattered opportunities to break free from campus. The first of these little excursions happened during Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic celebration marking the end of Ramadan. Coincidentally, the celebration occurred just as we finished a lesson in our textbook that included extensive reading assignments about Eid traditions in Damascus. So we had plenty of newly acquired, relevant vocabulary to use in our broken-Arabic conversations.

During the month of Ramadan, I could see the streets of Hamra filling up with people each evening as families piled into nearby restaurants for the Iftar meal. They gathered around tables jam-packed with plates of hummus, labneh, fattoush, tabouleh, falafel, grape leaves, shawarma, and other traditional Lebanese foods – waiting for the call to prayer to ring out so they could break their fast. Because Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday in Lebanon, our program gave us two days off when the holy month came to an end.

As great as it would have been to stay in the city and participate in some of the traditional Eid celebrations, I decided to spend the holiday visiting a Lebanese friend who lives in Zahle – a city close to the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. He recently bought a chunk of property nearby, in a small municipality up in the mountains called Tarshish. We spent the first day of Eid far removed from the noise and bustle of the city, hiking through its relatively cooler and much quieter trails. Tarshish, as my brief Google-searching discovered, is known for the cultivation of apples, plums, chestnuts, walnuts, cherries, beans, and other crops that extend through the area. This was immediately evident during our hike, and we stopped every so often to pick a handful of cherries or white mulberries (“toot”) before continuing on our way. After passing the rows of fruit and nut trees, we veered off-trail – climbing up and down steep hills and maneuvering across massive rock formations to get a view of the landscape and escape from the sun.

 Taking a break from our hike to watch the birds   The rocky terrain of Tarshish

I was hoping to use this hike as an opportunity to practice speaking colloquial Arabic with my friend, but I found this to be surprisingly difficult. We are used to speaking with each other in English (and of course, his English is far superior to my Arabic), so I never managed to speak more than a few rough sentences in Arabic before we reverted back to English. Despite all the vocabulary and grammar that I have learned over the past two years, I still can’t get my speaking to “flow.” This is partly because I tend to pause and think about the construction of each sentence before I say it, and partly because I still struggle to pronounce certain letters. And then there is the issue of my near-total lack of confidence in speaking. For all of these reasons, most of the Lebanese people that I meet assume that I know much less Arabic than I do, and they often proceed to “teach” me very basic things (e.g., a taxi driver tried to teach me how to count in Arabic last week – something I have been able to do for a few years now). It’s a bit discouraging, but something that I am trying to work through while I’m here.

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?? ??????? // With peace


“Sólin fer upp aftur” (The sun comes up again)

I’ve been curious about Icelandic holidays, so I asked some Icelanders what they think of Icelandic holidays and about their favorite holidays.

The first holiday I asked about was Þorrablót (the “Þ” is pronounced like “th”) which is celebrated in February and coincides with the month of Þorri in the old Icelandic calendar. Þorrablót was originally a pagan holiday that was abolished after the adoption of Christianity in Iceland around 1000CE. It was brought back and became a symbol of Icelandic nationalism in the 19th century, when Iceland was still under Danish rule.

Þorrablót is celebrated by eating traditional Icelandic food, including many fermented, sour foods like rotten shark. I asked Bertha, a chef in Reykjavík, what she thought of the holiday. Since she isn’t a fan of sour foods, Bertha said that Þorrablót wasn’t her favorite and she wouldn’t recommend it for tourists.

Eva, an Icelander who works in a tourist information center in downtown Reykjavík, enjoys Þorrablót. She doesn’t like all of the sour foods, but she eats them all during the holiday!

Eva at the tourist information office in downtown Reykjavík.

Eva at the tourist information center in downtown Reykjavík.

What is the favorite holiday of Icelanders? Jólinn (Christmas).

Elisabet and Hallgefður, baristas at Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, both said Christmas was their favorite. Elisabet said she liked it because she could spend time with her family.

Elisabet (left) and Hall. (right) at Kaffihús Vesturbæjar.

Elisabet (left) and Hallgefður (right) at Kaffihús Vesturbæjar.

Another Icelander, Gunnar, likes Christmas best because it’s when “sólin fer upp aftur” (the sun comes up again). Iceland is so far north that, in the summer, the night is only a few hours long, while in the winter, the day is only a few hours long. Christmas is around the time of the winter solstice – after which the days start becoming longer and longer.

Eva at the tourist information center agrees with Gunnar. She said that Christmas is beautiful in Reykjavík because the whole town is covered with Christmas lights – lights which brighten the dark days. The lights are kept up after Christmas, too, she said, to keep the city lit and everyone’s spirits up until the days become longer. Reykjavík must be so beautiful with all of those Christmas lights! I’ll have to come back in December!

If Reykjavík is this beautiful in the summer, I can't imagine how beautiful it must be lit up with Christmas lights in the winter!

If Reykjavík is this beautiful in the summer, I can’t imagine how beautiful it must be lit up with Christmas lights in the winter!

Sorrento – Week 6

I’ve just gotten back home from an absolutely wonderful week traveling through Italy! While it’s nice to have reliable internet connections and reasonable humidity forecasts, it was certainly a bittersweet goodbye as I already miss the country I have grown to feel a part of. While talking about Italy’s performance in the last game of the Euro Cup, I found myself using the word “noi” which means we in Italian to discuss the team. I didn’t realize it until my Italian friend pointed it out, and I was a little embarrassed at first considering that I was including myself in a group of people I technically didn’t belong to, but he was quick to tell me that it was heartwarming to him that I consider myself such a part of Italy, and that I should continue to use “noi” when discussing Italy. It was one of the many little exchanges I had with native Italians that really made me feel like I was leaving a new home. It was very difficult to leave Sorrento especially knowing how far away it is from the US, but I hope that I can return someday in the future and visit my host family and friends, hopefully fluent in Italian.

Over the next week I visited Rome (Roma), Florence (Firenze), Verona, and Venice (Venezia). Before traveling, I knew that Italy was very separated into its regions by dialect and overall culture. In Italian class back at Notre Dame, we would touch on these differences watching satirical youtube videos or listening to the professors tease each other based on where they are from in Italy. It was so interesting to be able to see those changes in such a fast pace as I traveled from the southwest coast to the northeast coast of Italy. Rome is the largest city of Italy, the capital of the nation, and the home of the Vatican City. This was my second time visiting Rome on this trip, and I was still in awe of the history around every corner. There is really a sense of greatness you feel when walking around the city as you pass the Roman Forum on the way to the Pantheon, stumbling upon the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum along the way. There is a harmony between the ancient and the modern that I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else. The people of Rome are generally very nice, and seem relieved whenever I would speak Italian to them. I think that in the hustle and bustle of the day, speaking their native language gave them a bit of a breather from the communication barriers they have with the hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. It was a pleasure to return to my favorite sites and restaurants, but also to explore new areas. We went to the Vatican City to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. It was almost a game for my friend and I to ask questions in Italian to the guides and people working to see what I could pick up and if they would notice that I’m not a native speaker.

My friend, Mackenzie, and I at the Colosseum

My friend, Mackenzie, and I at the Colosseum in Rome. 

We took a quick trip to Florence just for the day to see the David and the Duomo. Florence was absolutely beautiful, and I really regret not spending more time there. The shop owners were so helpful to me because I struggled a bit more here than in Rome with my Italian, but they would try not to resort to English and instead rephrase the questions and statements to help me out. While there were still plenty of tourists, it was a refreshing escape from the “big city” atmosphere of Rome. I struck up a conversation with our waiter when we were having dinner, and he told me how he actually just bought the restaurant with a few of his friends and about how important it was to them because they grew up eating there, and by the end of the night they had given us free tiramisù! I’m sure that I wouldn’t have been able to have that opportunity had I not been speaking Italian.

Next, we visited Verona to see Carmen at the Arena Di Verona, a functioning ancient colosseum famous for its operas and concerts. Verona was by far my favorite part of Italy as it had a hometown kind of feeling. It wasn’t very touristy compared to the bigger cities, and by the second day we were there we had thrown out the map because we already felt like we knew the place. We stayed at a b&b owned by a young man named Matteo, and we had the opportunity to meet his 4 year old son as we checked in. He didn’t speak much English at all, so I could tell it was a big relief to speak Italian. He was impressed that I knew the language and even more impressed that I was able to keep up with him. He gave us dinner recommendations and gave us a few tips about going to the opera. He was extremely helpful and really made our experience in Verona that much better because we felt like we had a friend to help us if we needed it.

Finally, we went to Venice to top off the week. We had heard wonderful things about Venice from friends at home and at school, so we were eager to arrive. We stayed in Mestre on the mainland, and would take the bus into the Island in the morning and home at night. It was a nice system that saved us a ton of money in the long run. The Veneto dialect was a little hard to understand as it deviates the farthest from the Italian language taught in school. Most people would switch to Italian when they heard me speaking it, but a few of the waiters and shop owners weren’t able to speak Italian, so we just communicated in broken Veneto and Italian until we had an arrangement. It was like a little puzzle and it was fun to have more of a challenge. I didn’t realize how different Veneto is from Italian, and I’m glad that I was able to study in Sorrento where Italian is widely used on a daily basis, and I still got to learn a little bit of the Neapolitan dialect. While in Venice, we went to a concert in Stra on the mainland at Villa Pisani, one of the Villas owned by the government that used to be run by the wealthiest of Italy. It was truly grand and to see my favorite pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi, perform on the courtyard was a truly unforgettable experience. I think that my friend was the only attendant of the concert that didn’t speak Italian, because I didn’t hear a single word of English during my time there and that was rare. The signs were only in Italian, and the security men and guides wouldn’t offer any English. I could tell my friend was a little out of her comfort zone, but I was glad that I picked up on everything and was able to maneuver around the Villa to find the concert with the Italian instructions.


This last week of travel, while not technically a part of the SLA, was a true culmination and test of the Italian I learned in Sorrento. I really do feel more confident speaking Italian, and I find myself thinking in Italian some of the time. It has been really interesting to see the shift between learning a language as in school, and learning to become bilingual from being around native speakers. While I’m certainly not fluent, I think that I’ve really come a long way in being able to respond quickly in Italian and process what I’m hearing as though it were English. I can’t wait to finish the language sequence at Notre Dame, and hopefully return to Italy for a semester abroad next year and be able to confidently say that I am a fluent Italian speaker. I think that I have laid a good groundwork for fluency in Sorrento, and I’m really eager to continue my studies at Notre Dame.

Finding Spaces for Language

While studying French (which, in practical terms, often entails sitting in poorly-ventilated classrooms, digesting grammar and stories and conversation in tandem), immersion experiences offer up reminders of why we choose to study languages at all. This is a concrete benefit of the SLA grant, in my opinion: through extending my immersion in Switzerland secured by an internship experience, my grasp of the benefits and widespread applications of language development solidify.

Within the International Organization and United Nations system established in Geneva, the benefits of acquiring another “official language” (of which there are six) are numerous. Moving beyond dependency upon translations at meetings and hearings to active, participatory listening lends itself to quickly capturing the rapid back-and-forth, the occasional humor, or the intensity of rhetoric in a given situation. Knowledge of French within this system is, I believe, indispensable. It is one of the cornerstone languages of day-to-day communication and a bridge outside of Switzerland to the rest of the Francophone world.

Aside from a professional context, I find myself desiring spaces for language-learning because I find French a conduit of certain emotions and expressions that find a certain lightness in their untouched form. I often consider the difficulty of accessing the emotional power of language aside from my mother tongue, and I consider that the depth of connotation and nuance required to experience emotional ties to language may be the last component to arrive in the language-learning process, far after humor and advanced rhetoric. Perhaps this remains a distant goal because of the disparity in the way I emotionally experience the written word in English and the way in which my French reading skills focus on comprehension, not experiencing rich constructions of emotive narratives. Along my journey of learning the language, I hold this goal in mind: reaching a point at which the connotations, nuance, and lightness of words strike me in ways that are novel and even moving. It entails opening spaces of language, resting in them more fully.

Second week

This is not a quiet week for Munich. The shooting incident on Friday nearby the Olympia shopping center shocked everyone. When it happened, I was just leaving the Carl Duisburg Center and on my way back home with U-Bahn. The spot of incident is not far from the Olympic Park where the 1972 Summer Olympics was held. I played basketball there last Tuesday, and saw the monument in memory of the Munich massacre. The monument is in front of the building in which the tragedy happened 46 year ago:



The tragedy on Friday caused great panic in the city. I heard the siren outside the window for hours. But everything has been back to order since Saturday. 

Concerning my study, the past week is quite productive for me. I can feel that I am getting more and more accustomed to speaking German!


Weeks 2 and 3 in Beijing: Forbidden City and Imperial Gardens

Time continues to fly in the capital. I feel like there is so much I could write about that these posts might as well have not end. Every new day presents new opportunities, and you are only limited by how adventurous you are. Never seen, let alone heard of, that dish before? Try it for yourself. Wondering what’s off to the east of campus? Go for a walk and explore. In Chinese, there’s a saying: 入乡随俗, literally “enter village, follow customs”, which is essentially the Chinese equivalent of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. And in order to experience Chinese culture to the fullest, you have to be willing to leave your comfort zone. Instead of ordering beef dishes every meal because they are what you are most familiar with, try something new. There are so many foods here that don’t even have proper English names (they tend to just attach “Chinese” to the front, e.g. Chinese broccoli and Chinese yam). You never know when you’ll find something new you really like. For example, I have discovered that I really enjoy red bean, common in deserts, and a fruit called Chinese hawthorn.

This goes for exploring as well. On more than one occasion my classmates and I have gone to an area called “Wudaokou”. It is not far from campus and has tons of good restaurants, bars, and other attractions such as karaoke. Exploring the area we found a place to do some karaoke and a cool little bookstore with a bunch of children’s books, that are quite frankly at around our reading level. Similarly, to  the south of campus is a large mall complex called “Zhongguancun Mall”, that I haven’t even completely explored yet, despite being there on multiple occasions. We found a pizza place there whose pizzas are not only larger than any I’ve ever seen before, but whose taste rivals, and even surpasses,that of many pizza places back in the states. On the Fourth of July, we went out to yet another area of Beijing, known for being home to many Americans, and celebrated with some very good barbecue sandwiches. What I’m trying to say is keep exploring and don’t settle, because you never know when you’ll find something you’ll really enjoy.

A week after the Great Wall expedition, we found ourselves headed towards the heart of Beijing: Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tian’anmen Square is a massive city square south of the palace. There are many buildings of interests along its edges, including government buildings, the National Museum, and Mao Zedong’s final resting place. The large scale of the square prepares you for the grandeur of the Forbidden City, where it seems everything is larger than life. Multiple layers of towering gates, spacious courtyards, shrines, and countless buildings, all in traditional Chinese architecture. It was very crowded and incredible hot that day, but I was still rather awestruck by the place. I’ll attach some photos that will hopefully give an idea of what I’m talking about.

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After exiting out the north gate, we walked through some of Beijing’s old neighborhoods, called “胡同” (hutongs). These areas are characterized by thin, winding alleys and lots of small shops. They definitely have a unique vibe. Afterward we went on to Houhai, a really nice area around a small lake, which contains shops, temples, bars, restaurants, etc.


It’s especially nice after sunset when all the lights reflect off the water and live music abounds. The next morning we went to Beijing Zoo. The zoo is huge, we were there for at least of couple of hours and I don’t think we saw even half of the displays. If you’re a fan of zoos, it’s be a great place; most of us just got exhausted and left a little early.

That next Saturday we went to an area of Beijing simply known as “798” (qijiuba). This district is most famous for its artistic significance: the area of home to tons of art galleries of various kinds, from contemporary, traditional, and everything in between. Some of them were solely on display, some places were selling art. There were also a lot of small shops selling all sorts strange or unique things. Shirts, cloth, postcards, model trains and cars. An exhaustive list of the wares of these shops would simply be ridiculous. You could probably spent an entire day just exploring the shops of 798 and not see everything available.

The following day is probably one of my favorite days so far. That Sunday I woke up fairly early and took a long subway ride to “潘家园” (panjiayuan), also known as the ‘Dirt Market’, on the other side of Beijing. This is a huge open-air flea market that primarily sells more traditional Chinese objects. There are literally hundreds of vendors, selling jewelry, art, calligraphy, pottery and ceramics, books, and other assorted goods. It’s immense, and to be honest I liked it better than the Pearl Market. Vendors weren’t as obnoxious, and don’t call out to you as you pass by. Additionally, a lot of stuff sold there is more uniquely “Chinese”, and make good souvenirs (at least in my opinion). You still haggle, like at the other markets (unfortunately my bargaining skills are rather deplorable). This time around I didn’t buy much, mostly some ceramics, but I plan to go back some time.

Afterward, on the way back, I stopped at 北海公园, Beihai Park, a large public park not too far west of the Forbidden City. Like Houhai, Beihai surrounds a small lake. I personally loved this park. It was a beautiful day, if a little hot. Besides the wide roads the went around the lake, there were many smaller paths weaving around the trees that surround the lake. Every so often along these paths were pavilions of various sizes, places to find shade from the particularly relentless sun. Besides those seeking refuge from the heat, many pavilions also had musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments (admittedly I don’t know what any of them are called). After walking around the market all morning and standing on the subway, these pavilions were a nice reprieve. One particular pavilion caught my attention. It was a bit large, built over a small pond and surrounded by trees. It was far enough away from the city and the more crowded parts of the park that it was very peaceful. You could have painted the scene. The only noises were the birds and an older man playing some sort of flute instrument. Nearby a family was having a picnic, and occasionally people would pass by. I must of stayed there a half hour, just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.


Finally I got up to explore the rest of the park, which now mostly consisted of the island in the lake. The island housed the “White Pagoda” and a Buddhist temple. It was a small island, but it hid a deceptively large number of old, traditional-style buildings. I tried to wander through as much of it as I could, but I’m sure there’s plenty that I missed. Afterward I finally returned to the dorms. And I think that is where I’ll leave off this entry. Until the next time!