Greetings everyone. In this post, you will not find any exciting details about a $250 glass or wine or anything. It really is a bit more mundane touristy stuff. Fun stuff, but work and touristy items.
Thursday, May 28th
Today was a pretty blah day. I really didn’t do anything in the morning at all except get up and go get some breakfast outside of the university. There is this little bakery that I have been frequenting that sells some nice Chinese items for breakfast. It kind of reminds me of an asiago-cheese bagel. I can also get croissants and other items, but I haven’t partaken of more conventional fare yet. I usually don’t eat breakfast anyway so this is a bit of a change.
I spent the bulk of my day teaching a 4 hour class from about 2-6. I have to say that I think this class went much better. Maybe it was because it was a much smaller crowd. The first two hours really consisted of a few faculty members and graduate students. We spent the first hour talking about the difference between Chinese and American higher education. As we were talking it became apparent, to the surprise of my Chinese faculty colleagues, we face many of the same issues. They are concerned about training students to read research, convince them that taking a broad range of classes is a good thing, preparing for class ahead of time, getting them involved and talking in class, and getting to know their students in a more comprehensive way. These are all issues I deal with every semester and we talked about some strategies I use to try to engage students more. I think it went well.
The next couple of hours more undergraduate students came in and we had a more conventional lecture/discussion. Today, the students seem more reticent to talk, which certainly helped me out. One of my tasks here was to talk to students and faculty about how I teach Introduction to Communication Studies, which is one of my favorite classes to teach. I gleened that one of the difficulties (from a professor colleague) was convincing students that this class applied to them. So I spent the next couple of hours doing what I do in my class I begin talking about issues regarding relationships and building one’s self identity. Starting with those issues, in my mind, helps students understand the importance of the concepts and theories they were being introduced too. I am not sure it worked, but my faculty colleagues took a bunch of my assignments and notes so I think it helped.
After that I came back to my room tired and hungry and I decided to go down to the Xidan district in Beijing. The Xidan district isn’t a very far subway ride from campus. Although I have to walk about a mile to the train station, it is only five stops away. I am not sure why I decided to go down there. Basically, I was told it was just one big shopping district west of Tiananmen Square. And yes it is. Block after block of shopping. Every single brand you can think of. Now I don’t mind shopping despite what Mrs. ROB will tell you, but this was a lot. I spent a couple of hours just walking around and window shopping. I really didn’t need anything. I think I am fascinated by China’s transformation into a global economy and its desire for western goods. Not sure why. But if you want brand names galore there they are.
In one shopping area I did ride, supposedly, the world’s longest escalator. I did it just to say I did it and that was all. I eventually just found my way to kind of a whole in the wall Chinese restaurant and just a hand a hearty bowl of Chicken Lo-Mein. I am still trying to figure out how to order food in Chinese.
When I have tried to go into some of the smaller shops that look good I get this look like I am from Mars. Basically, I just make a gesture and point. I wish I knew more Chinese. However, the food is really good. And I did learn by observing some other people that if you go to a fast-food joint and don’t speak Chinese they basically hold up a menu for you and you just point. Sign language….the universal language.
About 10am I went back to the hotel because I was beat and I just wound down a bit before going to bed. An uneventful day, but not a bad one considering I think the teaching went better.
Friday, May 29th
I must have been tired because I slept at least 10 hours and it felt really good. Today, I decided to hit the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is a large complex that was built during the Ming Dynasty where Chinese Emperors came, fasted, and prayed to the Gods for bumper crops.
It’s a fairly long train ride to the Temple, but I was in no hurry. This weekend my other colleagues decided to go to Shanghai and I stayed behind to see some things in Beijing and I think I am still smarting from that financial mistake I made the other day. I don’t regret not going because the Temple of Heaven complex is magnificent.
I wish I had my digital camera to post some photos (although I did take some with my trusty one-time use camera) and I wish I could’ve taken more photos because the complex is breathtaking. It is bigger than the Forbidden City, which is apparently pretty big. It was built that way because a complex dedicated to the gods should be bigger than a temple dedicated toward man.
I spent the first hour admiring the gardens. Tons of trees (some of them 800 years old), rose gardens, and vast grounds for people to just play. A lot of people were just using the grounds as a park. People were playing soccer, chess, cards, relaxing in the pavilions, etc. I also noticed a couple of groups playing what I would describe as a Chinese version of hacky-sack. They had a bean bag that they kicked in the air trying to keep it off the ground, but the bean bag looked like it had badminton netting on it. I wanted to join in, but I think that would’ve been inappropriate.
The rest of the time I spent exploring some of the buildings in the Temple of Heaven. The grounds are divided into large sections. There is an outer wall that surrounds the temple and a number of different gates. Most of the rest is just gardens. The primary buildings are the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests pictured below (I can’t upload my own photos but these are better than mine):
The Hall of Prayer is in the center and the two buildings were used for other rituals. To get into the Hall area you have to go through to different gates, which are pretty cool. The detail and guilded inlay of these places was amazing.
This is what I came to China to see or anywhere for that matter. I love seeing old buildings, paintings, etc. I just love seeing a nation’s history. For me it the best way to spend time as a tourist.
The other primary structures of the Temple site are the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Altar, which are connected to each other. They are to the south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and both were breathtaking.
These aren’t my photos, but until I get those pictures developed they will have to do. It gives you an idea what I saw. So far it is the best touristy thing I have viewed in China. I loved it. I just walked around meandering. Although I would recommend if you go a couple of things: 1) Keep track of the gate that you came in on. I kind of got turned around because it is so huge and walked a little extra to get back to the subway; 2) I would spent more than the recommended 1 1/2 hours there. The grounds are so beautiful that it is worth just kind of walking around to marvel at the trees, birds, and rose gardens in the complex.
After spending nearly six hours on my feet, they hurt so I headed back to the hotel and rest.
However, I was also ready to have some fun. One of my desires over the past week is to figure out where people hang out. Some of the Chinese students noted some places to hang out, but they are filled with college students and I wanted a different crowd.
Not knowing where to go I Yahoo’ed some local bars (I would’ve Googled, but it is banned here). The very first thing that came up was an Irish Pub. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy Chinese food. But after 8 days of it straight I wanted something different. So I took a train ride over to the Embassy District and found the Irish pub Paddy O’Shea’s. Apparently, Paddy O’Shea’s is a chain of Irish pubs across the world. And it certainly looks like a chain of pubs, which is fine by me.
I fully admit that I enjoyed my time there. I drank, finally, good beer. I had a Kilkenny in honor of my love, Mrs. ROB who loves Kilkenny and is Irish through and through. I watched two Rugby matches and didn’t understand anything. I even had some pub food. And the pub food they serve at Paddy O’Sheas: Indian Food. Yes, you read that right. Indian Food. I had a lovely Chicken Biranyi, Naan, and a Guinness. I truly enjoyed myself. It was a nice evening.
On the way back, I stopped at a 7-11 (they are everywhere) to just check it out and I found the cheapest beer in all of Beijing. It is called Nanjing Beer that cost me only $.50 a can. I couldn’t resist…I mean “When in Rome.” Let me say that Nanjing Beer is swill. It is a cross between PBR, Keystone Light, and Bud Light. Not good, but for 50 cents a can….what the hell.
1) It is really cool to know that professors in China suffer from the very same things that I worry about. Education is really universal. And so are all the problems, worries, and other aspects that go with it.
2) I think that Chinese students are more addicted to their phones than my students are. I asked students on Tuesday and Thursday about anyone who could give up their phone for 24 hours. Not one student said anything. In fact, many looked horrified that I suggested such a dastardly act. On the subway, every single young person has their nose in their phone. It is quite a sight to see.
3) I need to be a bit more bold. I need to break out of my comfort zone. Stop worrying about things and just do something. For me, the first step is to just go into one of those side stores and order food. What is the worst that can happen? They throw me out? So be it. I need to stop being a baby and try to put myself in more uncomfortable positions. That is the only way I will grow.
4) Chinese beer, at least that I have tasted so far, is not good. I mean it is like Bud Light and there doesn’t seem to be anything else. Tsingtao and Nanjing are the only ones that I found. It was nice to find a place that served halfway decent beer.
Tomorrow more exploration. Tomorrow more adventure. Tonight….lots of sleep. I am tired.