• Posted on: July 11, 2014

[Think China 2014] Day 3 | Our “Deep Dive” Into Chinese Culture

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July 9, 2014

Authors: James Alexander and Shakir Carminer

[View Day 3 Photo Album]

Today was a good day for the Think China 2014 Delegation. At breakfast, we had fried eggs and bread, but we also had rice porridge, vegetables buns and black sugar buns. Dorothy, one of our chaperones, also provided with beef and rice wrapped in seaweed from a local 7-11 store because she observed that most of us don’t have pork in our diet. We really appreciate how thoughtful our hosts were.

During our mentoring circle, Franklin, another one of our chaperones, had do an exercise where we connected with each other about our fears and hopes as we grow older. We then shared about how we would cope with the fact that we have such great fears and great hopes, which collectively we realized we can do so because we have great support systems, positive minds and persistence to always grow and get better. Lorenzo, one of our college mentors, was speaking with us about the importance of the exercise, because we agreed that it was very basic, but it also teaches a lot. It allows one another to express something that we usually would not, which are our fears. This exercise allowed us all to consciously and unconsciously be aware about  others fears and hopes, which can open our minds to provide means of understanding for one another and means of help for one another. It was a trust exercise that allowed us to bond. Lorenzo stated, “Today, it was great to see more of the high school students interacting with each other and with the college mentors. I believe that as time passes, each of us are feeling more welcomed into the Think China 2014 and it’s beautiful to see all of us coming together strongly.” No matter the fears, hope will help you overcome your fears no matter what the case. It is okay to have fears, but giving fears power becomes unhealthy and you must have hope and courage to face the fears to go where you want to go. After our discussion, Ms. shed tears of joy in respect to what we are doing here and how proud she was of us that we are really applying ourselves and taking advantage of this great opportunity.

Once again we traveled to the Beijing Foreign Studies University Lecture room where we participated in two lectures; the first being The Political System in China, and our second was our Mandarin class. During our first lecture we learned about the political system in China, consisting of nine political parties, with one main party that oversees the nine. The main party, called the CCP (China Communist Party), is the main source of political power in China. These are the most powerful in China. The central military commission is not loyal to the government, but loyal to the CCP. The chair of the central military commission, also is the General Secretary of the CCP. The General Secretary at the moment is also the Head of State, Xi Jingping, the equivalent of our president. At one point, the professor stated that President Jingping was the most powerful man in the world. That comment made the entire delegation looked up bewildered. Then Destin said, “Isn’t President the most powerful man in the world?” The professor never responded.

Our next lecture was Mandarin 101 again. Our lesson in Mandarin started off pretty slow, but that is just how learning linguistics is. After we had a lot of the basic sounds of words down, then we actually started on our Mandarin introductions. We learned how to introduce ourselves by saying our family name first (last name), then say our given name (first name), along with how to say what nationality we are.  In mandarin, my introduction was, “Wo jiao Clayton, Wo xing Crowell Wo shur meguoren.” “My name is Clayton Crowell. I am American.” This became super exciting because after yesterday’s lesson you would have expected for this session not to be as prosperous as it was. I could really tell there was a much greater enthusiasm today, Shakir said, “I liked the fact that I started to really understand the introductions phrases in Mandarin.” Even later on in the day, I could hear the confidence that had when saying little short phrases. By the end of our third class we should have complete introductions ready to say to anyone in our best Mandarin. After our class, we went to lunch at a beautiful restaurant on the campus of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, where we have by far the best food of the trip. We had egg fried rice, a great Chinese made tomato soup, chicken wings, a bit of American fries, and the greatest dish of them all today had to be the smallest thing. The Steamed Bun!! Destin Colbert said, “I Loved lunch, I got a chance to associate with everyone and we had a great time. I really appreciated Mr. Tzang, China Exchange Foundation Vice President’s message today about our purpose on this trip and why he does the things he does, along with other people inside the organization. He mentioned Dr. King’s I have a dream speech and said that the Chinese have similar dreams.” Back to the steamed bun, it was very, very light, in both color and texture. Dipped in condensed milk it tasted the absolute bomb, it was amazing. Talking to everyone at the table I made a couple of new friends, China US Exchange Foundation staffer, Dominique Nguy also loved sports. It was so great to be at lunch and experience it all.

After we had a wonderful lunch we had embarked on our journey to the Summer Palace where we had a beautiful tour and learned a lot about its history. The Summer Palace was a beautiful place to visit with its lake and the beautiful scenery. Some of the most memorable parts of going to visit the Summer Palace were seeing the giant jade boat that does not float and learning about the history of some of the emperors. Another part that added to the charm of the Summer Palace was the various statues of different mythical Chinese animals such as foo dogs which are supposed to ward off evil spirits and are supposed to protect. The experience of visiting the Summer Palace was unforgettable. Another one of the college mentors Rodney Horne had this to say about the experience, “The Summer Palace was amazing! The Chinese have so much history that is so interesting. They have been through some horrific things and they still find the capability to strive.” The trees within the Summer Palace were beautiful, provided shade from the sun, and were to home to very noisy cicadas. The lake at the Summer Palace reminded me a lot of Lake Merritt with the many people around and in the lake on boats.

For dinner we went to a local Chinese restaurant located at a mall. The food at the restaurant was good and interesting. Most of the food was had a salty or sweet taste which were the qualities of Southeast Chinese food. Some of the foods brought to the table were rice cakes, roasted duck dumplings, vegetable and pork pot stickers, fried purple yams with black sugar paste, tofu, and spicy chicken. The atmosphere at the dinner table was welcoming and friendly as we conversed with our gracious hosts about our lives. College mentor Kyle, and one of our hosts – Olivia, were discussing parts about their lives and forging friendships. Another good thing about dinner was that they give large amounts of food so that you couldn’t leave hungry. This was really important to me because my nickname, the “garbage disposal,” gives you a hint of my appetite. After dinner we spent some time in the mall and it was really cool to look at the various stores that we do not have in the United States.


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