After meeting our instuctors in the Beijing airport, we drove for hours in a tiny van with people that once seemed like strangers, but even from the beginning we were an outgoing group who shared music and food tastes. We arrived at the guest house just in time for a late breakfast of bao zi (buns filled with red bean), porridge, and fried eggs. The guest house we stayed at was along an overgrown unrestored section of the great wall and frequently had some other foreign guests staying with us during our thee days there. The host family was very sweet to us and made us three delcious meals everyday throughout our stay. They had a two year old baby boy and a dog named GeGe who we often hung out with during breaks. Most of us ate too many asian pears from the tree and Carolina wrote a haiku about it:
~I am the pear tee
My arms bear fruit to feed me
I will never starve~
We spent most of our three days doing orientation and getting to know one another. Our group sang Mr. Sandman and The Final Countdown on repeat, and slept together on beds called kangs. The weather was nice and warm and we were able to hike the great wall multiple times. It’s heavenly up there and the section near the guest house is especially quiet and empty.
After our three days, we drove to Beijing and spent three days in a youth hostel. On the day we arrived, we did a scavenger hunt near our hostel in the second ring of the city and visited shops, temples, neighborhoods, and more. On the next day, we were going to explore the Forbidden city and/or see Tianamen square but couldn’t because the entire city is intensely preparing for China’s national day parade on October 1. Instead we used the day to go shopping and exploring Hu tongs (alley ways with shops) and a shopping district. We bought some clothes to prepare for our rural homestays next week near Xi Ning (where we will allegedly be herding yaks in freezing temperatures and high altitude). We are heading there right now on an overnight train. Our rural homestays this week will be in a Tibetan community with three other students and will be an extremely different pace of life that we have been living in the city. Will update as we carry on with our journey in Qinghai!