Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dragon Boats

Our first weekend in China was spent sightseeing. Close to the university is Yi He Yuan or The Summer Palace. There's a big lake and lots of interesting things to see. It is a very nice place to go to.

Here's a picture of some boats on the lake and the dragons on the front of the boats.

Shi Mao Tian Jie. The largest outdoor video screen

At Shi Mao Tian Jie, (in English, known as "The Place"), there is a huge courtyard between some large office buildings. In the center is a huge video screen. Do you remember watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and they rolled out the large video screen on the floor? This is very similar to that only it is suspended in the air and you look up to see it. My guess is that it is at least the length of a football field, maybe even longer. It is like a park underneath and people eat, have drinks or children rollerblade and play. When we arrived they had a listing of people's cell phone messages on the screen. Apparently you could call in and have them posted. After that there was a show about the solar system that was pretty amazing. Hannah said it was ironic that we'd sit outside on the ground and look at a video screen to see the stars.
The picture to right is from the front as you walki in off the street. The screen curves upward.
Video below is taken approximately from the second of the last two sections seen in the picture.

Dog Fashions

While we were at a large market we saw a man walking this lttle dog. I ran after him to get a picture and snapped this just before he picked him up and disappeared into the crowd.

The Bird's Nest and Water Cube

We visited the Olympic Park and saw The Bird's Nest stadium and Water Cube. The visibility that day wasn't very good as you can see from the pictures.

Simatai Chang Cheng (Great Wall)

My friends, Wang Leyan and Wu Ceng, escorted us to Simatai Chang Cheng (Great Wall). Of the three sections of the Great Wall you can see in the Beijing area, Simaitai is, in my opinion, the most spectacular. With the help of Leyan, I hired a car and driver and off we went for the day. The weather was cooler and slightly rainy that day which was ideal since the previous week had been very hot and humid. Simatai is on a mountain ridge and the general feeling, when you are at the top, is that you are in an airplane with the valley far below. After our hike we had a nice lunch and drove back to Beijing.
-Having Leyan and Ceng as friends in Beijing made the trip extra special. Leyan met Hannah and I at the airport when we arrived and helped us get settled in at the University and they took us to restaurants and places that we never would have know of ourselves. Their help was very much appreciated.
Top Left: Wang Leyan and Wu Ceng
Top Right: Picture of the Great Wall from inside a tower.
Note: The main picture on The Riverlands blog (at the top of the page) is from Simatai when I first went there 11 years ago with another friend, Dong Qiang. Tourists are not allowed to walk that section any more as it is too narrow and dangerous.

Temple of Heaven Musicians

Here's a video of some musicians playing classical instruments. As with the singers they are just another group of people who get together and have fun.

Temple of Heaven: singing

Here's a short video of some singers at the Temple of Heaven Park

Tian Tan: The Temple of Heaven

One of our first weekend excursions was to the Temple of Heaven (Tain Tan). The Temple is amazingly beautiful but also a lot of the fun was going through the side entrance and seeing people enjoying their weekend by dancing, singing, and playing musiic.

Top right: A lady playing with a ribbon in the park.

Top leftt: Man writing calligraphy with water and a giant brush on the sidewalk near East Entrance to Temple of Heaven Park.
Bottom: The Temple of Heaven (and lots of tourists)

The Bird's Nest and Water Cube

One of my classmates told me Beijing is a architect's dream. They can design and build world class projects in relatively short periods of time as compared to other countries. The Olympic stadium and Water Cube are two examples. The day we went there the air quality was poor and it was very hot but it was very interesting actually be there.

Our Dorm

Here's a picture of our dorm. There's 10 stories. We were on the fourth floor and walked up the stairs 3-4 times a day. It was good exercise- and we needed to exercise to prepare for going to the Great Wall. Occassionally we were lazy and took the elevator.

BLCU Classes

We took an intensive class in Chinese language. Hannah was a beginner in Level A3. I started in a "C" level class but dropped to "B4" level the first day because it was too difficult for me. Two days later I dropped from B4 and ended up in B3 level which was just right. Class levels range from A-F and there are intermediate and advanced classes within those levels. We spent 30 hours a week in class and probably another 4-5 hours a day studying and preparing for the next day. We both learned more than 300 new words in Chinese (Average 25 new words a day. Many days we had to learn much more).

This was my second time at BLCU. Almost ten years to the day I was in the beginning level class there. It was fun to go back and see how the University has grown.

Top: Hannah at the entrance to our building, The College of Intensive Chinese Studies. (Making a "V" sign is very popular there when taking pictures. We have fun adopting that pose.)

Top left: My class. Zhao Laoshi (teacher) (blue shirt) is just right of me and Jiang Laoshi (teacher) (white & blue dress), our grammar instructor, is next to her. Both were excellent teachers. We also had two other teachers for listening and conversation classes. Students came from many countries including Sweden, England, Iran, Russia, Japan, Spain, South Korea, and Malaysia to mention a few.

Bottom: Speaking teacher Zhao Laoshi and student. She was very nice and very patient with us as we stumbled over the words and pronunciation in text we had to read outloud. The blackboard in the background is typical of our class work. Zhao Laoshi never spoke English and it was very rare for the other teachers to speak in English also.

China Studies

Yesterday, Hannah and I left Beijing at 12 noon, flew 11 hours, then arrived in San Francisco at 8:30 am the same day. We saw the sun rise and set twice this day. I had to wait at the San Francisco airport until 5:00pm until my plane left on my final leg to Redding.
It is now Sunday, 2:00am and I'm wide awake. There's a 15 hour time difference from Beijing and my body says I should be up - so I am.
What follows are some pictures and video clips from our Language Study trip at Beijing Language and Culture University.