Week 4 and 5 - Finals, Shandong Province, & Upcoming Qingdao Trip
This past week has passed by so quickly! Not a ton of new things are happening over here, but we are over the halfway point! My final exam was this past Thursday, and we just got our final grades back today for the first half of the course, and I was pleased with the results! So, contrary to how busy it may sound I am with extracurricular activities, I am still buckling down with my studies! ;-)
This past Friday, we left for a class trip to Shandong Province (山东). Shandong is known to be the oldest of the Chinese provinces, as it was once the old capital, was a focal point of the Silk Road, and contained the powerful Qi Empire that ruled China thousands of years ago. It is said that to learn about the oldest parts of Chinese history, one should go to Shandong Province. It is also the birthplace of Confucius, and the Yellow River (黄河) runs straight through the province. The province is famous for being modest in accepting being second in everything. Commonly, you can ask for help from someone in China if you refer to them as "brother" or "sister". You can only refer to a person as your "second-oldest brother" in Shandong, though, because of their ideology that is rooted in Confucius. He was the second-eldest son, and his older brother did not contribute to Chinese society. Additionally, the most powerful leader from Shandong during the reign of the powerful Qi was the second-eldest as well. Therefore, this humility of being the second-best is deeply rooted in the people of Shandong.
First, we visited Jinan (济南), the provincial capital of Shandong. There, we visited a special nature area because Jinan is known as the city of springs. The 72 Special Springs (七十三名泉) are the most prominent there, and we visited this place first! It was beautiful to see the lakes, the flowers, and the trees in this HUGE nature area! It was a nice change of pace as well to be in a less crowded area.
We ate a nice dinner at the hotel, utilized our fast W-Fi (12mbps down!!!) and played tons of ping pong (乒乓球) until we went to bed for our next early morning that would be spent climbing a mountain! We departed by 8am and climbed up 山东九如山 Jiu Ru Shan, and this is the location of the longest wooden plank road in the world! It took about 3 hours of climbing to reach the peak, and I was the first to reach the top of the mountain! Just wait to see the pictures--the views were breathtaking! For fun, we decided to run down the mountain as fast as we could, so we made it to the bottom in 13 minutes. It was really tiring but also a lot of fun! Our tour guide, Dennis, was a native of Shandong and loved to tell us Chinese jokes about past warlords, using the phrase "ni hao ma" incorrectly, and some other interesting stories that I could share once I return if you are interested.
Climbing the mountain was absoulutely breathtaking, but it was also very tiring! We headed to Zibo (淄博) in Shandong Province after that, moving to a new hotel and a new city! This city has a number of interesting attractions. We visited a porcelain museum, because Zibo is the number three city in all of China for making porcelain. It was beautiful to see, and the storms outside really made it cool inside because of the interesting lighting inside as well!
Also, I thought the coolest part of the museum in Zibo were the clay statues of soccer players. FIFA has confirmed that the earliest form of soccer was played in Zibo, and it was called Cuju and is the birthplace of the sport! We also visited a palace of a fox ghost that was really neat to see as it was underground, and we concluded the trip exploring their ancient market area and saw a traditional village! It was also cool to see a lot of the rural China, and it oddly reminded of the Midwest in some ways because it had no pollution and it also had flat land!
This first week of class has been good, but this is the final week that the French and German students are here! New students from the University of Maryland and from Utah have arrived, but it won't be the same without these students. Last night, I watched England and France tie 1-1 in the Euro Cup with the German and French people! Their passion and excitement for the sport was really exciting to see, and it was totally worth staying up till 3am over.
We went to Ancient Culture Street again this week and tried out the bus system for the first time! It was a lot of fun, and only costed 2 kuai to ride! We bought some awesome souverneirs at Ancient Culture Street for some friends as well, and some cool stuff to wear on the plane ride home--I'm excited!
I begin my third round of tutoring this week with Wei Wei. We get to interview other people about their Chinese experiences, and this will be fun! We went to Helen's once this past week to meet up with our old tour guide, Xiao Xin, and we got to meet her boyfriend, Jason! He has also served as a tour guide in his native Beijing for 10 years, and studied British Literature at the University there. He was fantastic at English for only having visited America for a week, and told me so many interesting things about what has changed in the last decade in China, LGBT rights, and other "taboo" things that most Chinese don't talk about with Americans so openly. It was a great conversation for 3 hours, but too short lived. I wish both of them the best and hope they can teach Chinese to English speakers someday, because they have so much potential and both feel so limited as tour guides. I tried my best to tell them that they could do such big things, so hopefully I planted a seed!
This weekend, I am going to Qingdao! (青岛) I will be going with two classmates and one of my teachers, and we plan on going to the beach and seeing where 青岛啤酒 is made! I am really excited to visit the ocean, see the people, and enjoy the beautiful city. We are leaving on Friday afternoon and will return on Sunday. The Chinese equivalent of the ACT/SAT is finished this week as well, so this weekend most of the Chinese college students will be travelling! I hope to see plenty of Chinese college students in Qingdao this weekend! Over halfway done, and still having an awesome time! Thanks to all who are still reading!