Returning to the daily homework, quizzes, essays, and oral presentations of class was difficult after such a fantastic weekend touring Xi’an, but I was glad to dive back into learning more and increasing my Chinese proficiency.
The weekend of week five was rather mellow, as we were able to choose what we wanted to do and go exploring ourselves. On Saturday, I headed to the Summer Palace, which is also Beijing’s largest garden. Filled with temples and winding paths, the Summer Palace truly was a site to behold. From the Summer Palace, I headed over to the Olympic Stadium. Beijing hosted the 2008 summer Olympics, and with the 2016 Summer Olympics coming up, I wanted to see the stadiums in Beijing. I toured the Bird’s Nest, the huge track and stadium that now hosts soccer matches. I was also able to enter the Water Cube, and was shocked at how small the stands were that surrounded the swimming and diving pool.
On Sunday, I went to mass for the first time in Beijing. It was so interesting to see how similar yet different a Catholic mass was in China. There was a bit of an issue with communion, as a non-Catholic accepted the host and then discarded it, but the priest handled the situation with grace. The mass was held in English and French, and it was nice to see people of all nationalities coming together in such a unique place to celebrate their faith. I definitely plan on returning every Sunday for the remaining weeks, and I really enjoyed reconnecting with my faith.
Week six came and gone, new vocabulary and grammar structures learned and ready to be tested during the weekend with conversations with locals. Friday for lunch, we were treated to hot pot again, and this time the meal was complete with performances. A man came and stretched noodles in front of us while a traditional mask-changing performer gave us a very unique show. After lunch, we headed to a movie theater to watch an animated Chinese children’s movie. It was amazing and empowering to be able to understand the entire movie’s dialogue, and it felt like my Chinese study was definitely paying off!
On Saturday, I headed back to the 798 Arts District, excited to be back in my element. It was even better than I remembered, and I loved exploring and finding all of the quirky art plastered across alley walls. Saturday night, we were treated to a traditional Chinese acrobatic show, and I was absolutely floored by how the performers made every insane act look like the easiest thing in the world. Sunday, I headed back to Church and stopped at the Silk Market on my way home. The Silk Market was an exciting place to be, as it was fun to use my Chinese to bargain for goods. The shopkeepers are very good about being patient with our Chinese, and it was really amusing to have fluent conversations in Chinese explaining why exactly I absolutely needed to buy a silk pillowcase, but could definitely not meet the asking price, as I was a poor college student.
I can’t wait to experience more of China, and I’m sad that next weekend will be my last weekend in one of my favorite cities! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to study the language I love in its home country, and the benefits of language immersion are becoming more and more evident every day.