This weekend we went to Qingdao (青岛)! I went with a classmate of mine and my teacher, and we had a fantastic time. By far my favorite weekend and favorite city in China.
We got to the train station by taking the subway and the bus! I had not yet taken the subway, so I decided to try it out for the first time! It was by far the nicest subway I have ever rode on--it was only built a few years ago and has plexiglass panels that open up and protect you from falling into the platform. Everything is in both English and Chinese, and buying tickets are also cheap and efficient.
The train ride one way was about 5 hours to Qingdao, and the train was fantastic as well. It was a high speed train and made 7 stops along the way, but I was amazed at the efficiency and the sheer number of people on the train and the infrastructure it took to build such a thing. Passing by the rural areas of China was also fascinating to see, and I took some pictures if you would like to see when I return!
Qingdao was a city inhabited by the Germans, so there is a strong presence of German architecture, churches, and culture that does remain. The most familiar thing American know Qingdao for is its famous beer culture, as it was brought by none other than the Germans to make Qingdao beer.
The city itself was beautiful--perfect weather the entire weekend, no pollution, beautiful beaches, a blend of German and Chinese architecture, and a cool ocean breeze.
Since my classmate and I travelled with my teacher, Mei Laoshi, it was a great time for practicing and learning. All weekend, we only spoke in Chinese. I also had that "ah-ha" moment on the train on the way to Qingdao for the first time. I was sitting next to a girl from Zibo, and she had no idea for the first twenty minutes that I spoke Chinese. I began speaking, and then we continued to talk for the next hour about Jinan, her studies, family life, and the famous Zibo pottery. In this conversation, I had found that my Chinese was actually better than her English, and choosing Chinese to be the medium of conversation was huge for me! I am really excited to only continue to improve from here. 3 days of only speaking Chinese was also extremely helpful, and that feeling on the train was the best feeling in the world in terms of my progress in Chinese.
When we arrived in Qingdao, we were treated like royalty by my teacher's friend! Her father owns a company, and he is one of his co-workers. Thus, whenever she visits he treats her to great food, places to visit, and a place to stay. Her father reciprocates this treatment when his family or children visit Tianjin, as this is the Chinese way. So, once we arrived, he picked us up right away and took us in his beautiful Audi to eat dinner at the official Hot Pot of the U.S. Olympic team in 2008. The view and the food was fantastic, and I got to experience the fantastic food and drink of Qingdao firsthand--especially their seafood. After we finished eating, he took us back to our hotel.
Early the next morning, we woke up and he drove us to the beach along the ocean. This is also the famous location of the Zhan Qiao Pier that graces the front of Qingdao beer (栈桥). The beach was absolutely beautiful, and it was so relaxing to sit on the beach and enjoy the perfect weather. After staying out at the beach all day and visiting the opposite side of the mouth to the Pacific Ocean. That night, we ate dinner at a well-known French-Japanese steakhouse, in which we had a private room on the top floor. There, we ate 10 plates of food that was cooked for us in a similar way to Genji Steakhouse back in America. The difference, however, was that we were being treated to all of the famous specialties of Qingdao. I ate the most that meal of any meal I have had in China, and it was a fantastic meal and a humbling gesture. We also experienced the traditional Chinese method of treating your guests in a firsthand manner. It was interesting because we could not understand his accent, as Qingdao people's speech sounds entirely different from standard Mandarin. It was so cool that our teacher could translate between two different forms of Chinese for us, though.
That night, we drove and then walked along the beachfront to see the city and lights that are famously known in Qingdao. It was a beautiful sight to behold! After this, we decided to check out the night life in Qingdao and went to an upscale district. When we arrived at the place, we noticed that there were many foreigners inside. It was entertaining because a couple was actually having a wedding reception there! The bride appeared to be Chinese, and the groom European. The music was good, it was entertaining to watch them all dance on the dance floor, and the bartenders were fantastic at performing and were really neat to watch. It was quite the experience! After this, we wrapped things up and headed back to get some sleep.
The next morning, we decided to get up and do some brief sightseeing since our train did not depart until 4pm on Sunday. We first went to 八大关, or Ba Da Guan, the Eight Passes. There are eight historic roads, each named after the eight greatest military forts in the ancient world, and there one can find many old German buildings that are occupied by retired CCP officials.
We visited the historic German section of the town after this, and we got to see the large Catholic church that was bullt by the Germans as well. It was all really interesting to see, as there is no active practice there today of Catholicism, but rather was a museum of sorts. The architecture was brilliant!
Finally, we ventured to the world-famous "Beer Street" in Qingdao that is famous for the International Beer Festival that is held yearly in August. There, we walked along the streets to see what it was like. Every store window was filled to the top with different varieties and sizes of Qingdao beer, and it was so crazy to see! While we were there, we finished off our weekend excursion by briefly visiting the Qingdao Beer Museum.
After this, we went to the train station to leave for our return around 4pm. On Monday (today as of now), we had our first CHS302 test, so I had to study on the train. The discussion we had with our teacher on the way back, however, was fascinating. Culminating our talks on the beach and the train, it was easily the most I had learned about Chinese culture since I have been here. This was easily the most worthwhile part of the weekend, and Joy and I were so glad we asked her to go. If you wish to know about what we discussed, ask me when I return to the states! You name it--dorm life, difficulties for Chinese international students, test scored, Nankai University and how it runs informally, information about different policies and regions and people. It was a great way to top off the weekend!
Once we returned to Tianjin, the subway token machine was broken, so we slipped behind others both on our way in and out--a free subway ride in Tianjin was pretty nice! A girl that told us she had seen us at the station in Qingdao offered to take a taxi back with us, and it we had the privelege of being the first Americans she had ever met! Joy is probably going to email her to meet up and practice, and I may come along as well.
Today's test went well, and we again have a 4 day week! This Friday morning, we must depart at 6:30am to head to Taiyuan (太原) for another relaxing and fun-filled weekend! I'm super excited. In class today, we are also learning the University song of Nankai and it goes along to the tune of "O Christmas Tree" and it is too funny to learn! We have to perform it at our final ceremony. It's crazy that
Also, the French and the Germans just recently left--Friday and Sunday, actually. It was quite sad because they were such an awesome group, and I hope to be able to see them sometime again in the future. They are all going their separate ways now for internships, and I wish them all the best. They were such interesting and insightful people, and watching the Euro Cup with them was something I will never forget.
Finally, I want to give a quick shout-out to Austin Muir and Katie Ott--Austin leaves for Colorado to begin his summer internship as a Trip Leader/Guide for Bold Earth, and he will be working all summer with youth. Katie has arrived in Uganda for her second year of sustainable educational development work through Pangea Educational Development 501(c) nonprofit. I know they are both doing great things, and I just want to personally say how proud I am to call both of you two of my best friends! Finally, I want to wish my Dad a Happy Father's Day from over in China--sorry I couldn't be there to spend it with you!
Already into week 6...where does the time go?
A quote for thought:"风声雨声读书声声声入儿，家事国事天下事事事关心" It is one that most Chinese learn in 5th or 6th grade, but all of us can learn from. Cheers! -Adam
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