China Trip #1, Part 3

After returning from Zhejiang, I had about a week to myself before I could register for classes. This week also had no internet. Looking back, having no internet was no big deal, but it sure was annoying in the moment.

I registered for classes and was placed in some lower intermediate language class level. A proper fit, I think. The class size was a bit bigger than BNU’s, with something like 10 students. But we had two teachers. One focused on reading and writing, and the other focused on listening and speaking. But in reality, both teachers included all four disciplines. Both of my teachers during this first semester at PKU had the surname of Zhang 张. Talking with classmates about assignments given by one Zhang or the other got a bit confusing sometimes.

During the first semester, I also took two other culture courses: Chinese Folklore and Traditional Arts. These courses were taught in English by Chinese professors. The folklore class included a field trip to the Prince’s Palace. For the final project, I decided to present America’s different folk culture, such as tall tales (Paul Bunyan, etc) and Bluegrass music.

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A classmate looking over Kunming Lake 昆明湖 at Summer Palace 颐和园.
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Me standing in Old Summer Palace 圆明园. Old Summer Palace is one of the places pillaged by British troops in 1860.

In Traditional Arts, the teacher made us some food during class, including sweet dumplings 汤圆. This class also took a field trip together to Summer Palace 颐和园. For the final project, we had to visit one of Beijing’s historical attractions and report on it. I chose to report on Old Summer Palace 圆明园.

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Me with some friends from church at a park outside Beijing. I don’t know where I was beyond that. What I do know is that I had awesome fried pumpkin for lunch that day.

During this part of my experience in Beijing, I was attending a church known as Beijing International Christian Fellowship. The branch of BICF I attended was fairly close as it was located in Wudaokou 五道口, a bus ride or bike ride away. People from all over the world visit BICF. Some of my friends were from China, England, Mongolia, Germany, the Philippines, Korea, and more. The more and more I went to BICF, the more I got involved with the people. Sundays eventually became my favorite day of the week: I would attend service, the large friend group would go out for lunch, then we would go play ultimate frisbee together, and wrap it all up with dinner. Sundays were awesome. I also got to see some of those friends during the week at bible study, which was at a nearby Korean Christian cafe. It was an awesome community. People from all over the world in Beijing for various reasons but coming together to celebrate Jesus.

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China Trip #1, Part 2

The day I moved was pretty hot. I took my the first half of my stuff to PKU via taxi, then took the subway back to BNU to get the remaining half. The second taxi driver refused to drive me past the gates and drop me off directly in front of my new apartment/dorm building, so I had to carry my very heavy non-wheeled bags. Luckily there is an elevator to my fifth floor room, but in order to get there I had to walk a block or two and then up a short staircase in order to get inside (oh, China… use stairs to get to an elevator…). After I get inside my room, I bend forward to put the bags down, and blood comes pouring out of my nose! The combination of the heat and the physical effort to carry very heavy bags took its tole on my poor nose.

After a couple of hours of resting and checking to make sure the bleeding had stopped, I decided to take a walk around the outside of the PKU campus. I couldn’t go inside because I did not yet have a student ID card. After doing that for a bit, I was crossing the street heading back to my dorm which was a couple blocks away, I bent my head down, and blood starts to flow out of my nose again! I had no tissues or napkins with me, so I stood there holding my hands to my face while blood ran down my arms. Still waiting to cross the street, a man on a scooter realizes I have a bloody nose and tries to help by handing my a small packet of tissues. So kind. I rip open the package as I rush back to my room to stop the bleeding.

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A few more days pass, and I took a high speed train ride to Zhejiang 浙江 province. It took me something like 6 or 8 hours (or maybe even 10; I forgot) to get to Yiwu 义乌, Zhejiang. I was picked up at the station by my freshman dorm hallmate, Rhea. She was so kind to host me for a week. We spent a day or so around her city, Pujiang 浦江, which included hiking and visiting a temple. The next few days she and I went to Zhejiang’s capitol city, Hangzhou 杭州, along with some of her close friends. Hangzhou is known for being one of China’s most beautiful cities, “上有天堂,下有苏杭” There is heaven above and Suzhou and Hangzhou below. This saying claims the two cities are heavenly. My own interpretation of Hangzhou is that it is okay, but while I was there, I missed Beijing. After the great hospitality shown by Rhea, her family, and her friends (which included a roasted lamb meal), I returned to Beijing via high speed rail.

China Trip #1, Part 1

I studied abroad in June 2015 to June 2016 in Beijing as part of a UCEAP program.

For the first two months I was studying at Beijing Normal University 北京师范大学 with 15 other UC classmates. There were 4 levels of language difficulty, and I was in level 2, meaning just above beginner level.

When I arrived at the airport, I forgot to exchange my American dollars for Chinese yuan. So after the hour long cab ride to BNU, I had to wait in the cab for one of the program leaders to pay the driver. The driver was really annoyed, but it ended up being no more than 5 or 10 minutes.

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A lotus flower in bloom at a park near BNU.

My roommate, Hannah, and I got along really well, sometimes almost too well because we would argue like a married couple. We practically went everywhere together, but during class time she went to level 3 class while I went to level 2, on the other side of the building. And she was lucky because her classroom was on the ground floor while my classroom was on the fourth floor, no elevator available. And during the summer months, climbing stairs can cause you to sweat pretty quickly.

The class sizes were wonderfully small. I had only three classmates. This meant that the teacher could really focus on helping each and every one of her students.

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A high speed train at the Beijing Train Station.

At some point during the program, Hannah and I, joined by some of our friends, took a high speed train 高铁 to Tianjin, which was a 30 minute train ride (that’s how fast the train is!). The high speed train was pretty cool. America has nothing like it. The trains I have experienced in California are either the slow trains or the Metrolink connects cities in Southern California (each I highly recommend (so fun to ride the train!)). The high speed rail is so fast! At the front of each cart a display shows how fast the train is currently traveling as well as the outside temperature and city the train is approaching.

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Mutianyu, Great Wall of China.

Half way through the eight week program, a field trip to Chengde and the Great Wall of China was provided (aka free!). It was an awesome weekend trip. There are different sections of the Wall people can visit, each having varying difficulty, whether it be family friendly or more rigorous hiking and climbing. The field trip took us to an easy section called Mutianyu 慕田峪. From the market place that sits at the mountain’s base, we took a 2 person chairlift up to the wall, walked up and down its steep stairs and enjoyed the views. The smog was not too bad that day, but it could have been better. One of the unique attractions of Mutianyu is instead of taking the chair lift back down the mountain, you have the option of riding an alpine slide! It was fun! Once you are back down, the merchants are relentless in getting you to come over to buy something at their stand. The merchants at the Great Wall are the most persistent I have ever seen in China.

During the remaining four weeks of the program, I spent a lot of time with Hannah and our classmates (most of which including eating lots of delicious food!). I had to say goodbye to her after the program’s end, for she was returning to her UC school as were a lot of my classmates. I was one of the few students who were not in Beijing for two months, but rather another 10 months. After our tearful goodbye, I had a few days to move all of my stuff from BNU to Peking University 北京大学.

Scuba Diving in Indonesia

2016/05/12

I was a bit anxious going to the airport because I thought I may have forgotten something. It was 10 on a Wednesday night with a little bit of rain here and there. The drive eventually calmed me down. I enjoyed being in the car at night. Less people, less problems.

I checked into the Malaysia Airlines counter. I was able to carry on both of my bags. On this trip, I brought my blue Converse backpack, normal sized, and I borrowed a friend’s backpacking backpack to take along. The backpacking backpack was only half filled and the checkin staff said the flight was not full. I also got my choice of seat: window.

As for the flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital of Malaysia, we boarded after the takeoff time and didn’t get onto the runway until about 2 hours later than scheduled, due to heavy rain and wind. I had the opportunity to watch the movie Creed while on the plane, waiting for it to taxi out, but I was dozing off by the end of the movie. I slept for the majority of the 6 hour flight.
Even with the delay, I landed in KL with plenty of time to spare. While wandering around the airport, I stumbled upon a Lonely Planet store. In there I realized I had forgotten to pack a travel power adapter. I bought one.

I did not have a window seat going to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, which was less than ideal but it wasn’t too bad considering it was a 3 hour flight. I got to watch Jurassic World on that flight. It was less scary than I thought it would have been.

Landing in Denpasar, I easily found the driver with my name on his sign. It took us approximately 1.5 hours to drive along a motorcycle (and helmet) filled road to get to Bamboo Paradise, the hostel I reserved a night at, which is located in Padang Bai.IMG_1417

I arrived at Bamboo Paradise without getting carsick and got situated in my assigned room. I asked an employee where I could eat non-spicy fish for dinner and I walked to her suggestion. At the restaurant I had the recommended barracuda. It was tasty but it was not THAT good, but I still enjoyed eating fish, nonetheless.


2016/05/14
IMG_1418Yesterday started off with a tasty omelet, toast, and fruit. I talked with a couple of guests in the hostel. They were both from Germany. After breakfast, I headed to the well known white sandbeach, about a 15 minute walk up and down a rocky hill. It was quite a cozy little cove, with hardly a person in sight. For awhile, I only put my feet in the water, but later came a local woman to set up shop for the day and convinced me to get in.
I was enjoying the waves for a good
10 minutes before I started to feel itchy. I have felt this sensation before in California waters, so it could only really mean one thing. I looked down, and sure enough, there they were. Little white jellyfish. Probably no bigger than half a dime. I could have stayed in if I wanted to, the stinging was bearable, but considering that I didn’t have much time left, I decided to get out and change clothes.
IMG_1435A man later came to the shop I was sitting at and
was informed that jellyfish were in the water. He had a look with his mask and snorkel, and my discovery was confirmed. He said that there were thousands, probably millions of them. He also mentioned there were small blue jellyfish yesterday. After I ordered and enjoyed a banana juice, I headed back to the hostel to pack for the boat ride to Gili Trawangan.

IMG_1421The boat, which probably had about 150 people on board, stopped at Lombok, Gili Air, and then my destination, Gili Trawangan, aka Gili T. I disembarked the vessel and found my hostel, Gili Beach Bum, relatively easily. My next task was to find Lutwala Dive, which was the diving school I found online and I wanted to take a diving course with them. I informed them that I was going to take the 2 day course called Scuba Diver, but they told me that I could decide towards the end if I wanted to extend it to the 3 day course, Open Water, which would grant me a first level certification, under the same name as the course. I had time to think about it. It was mainly dependent on time. I had scheduled the return boat for Monday but unsure of the time. If I wanted Open Water, the later the boat sail time, the better.

IMG_1444Being that I hadn’t eaten lunch, I was pretty hungry. I headed to a nearby restaurant and ate the seafood platter. The plate. Was. Large. Shrimp, fried calamari rings, red snapper (I think?), fries, and rice, plus a salad from the salad bar. I also drank another banana juice. So good. Like the barracuda the previous night, not the best tasting seafood but it was fresh and worth ordering.

 

 

 

IMG_1511Following dinner, buying sunscreen and a swimsuit, I called it a night and read most of chapter 1 of the Open Water Diver textbook that Lutwala gave me to read before 9 AM the next day.

 

 

IMG_1442Being close to the center of action on Gili, Beach Bum isn’t exactly quiet at night, but I didn’t have too much trouble falling asleep. Beach Bum is also next to a mosque, so at 5 AM, it projects a voice chanting something from the Quran (I’m guessing). An hour or so after the chanting stopped, I fully woke up and ate quite a simple breakfast provided by Beach Bum. It was a crêpe with 4 banana slices with some watermelon slices on the side. Though it was tasty, it wasn’t a lot. Shortly after I headed to Lutwala.

 

 

IMG_1473Once everything was sorted, I was grouped with a dive master named Sergio, a dive master in training named Kal, and an older couple from San Diego, CA. The husband already had his SCUBA certification, but hadn’t dived in over 40 years, so he was required to take a refresher course. The wife had never gone diving before and was taking the 1/2 day course, called Discover SCUBA. She and her husband were essentially taking the same course, with the same length, skills, and procedures. They were a friendly pair and I got along with them really well, as well as Sergio and Kal.

IMG_1474Saturday had a theory session, pool session, another theory, the first open water dive (this was the final stage for the Californian couple), and another pool session.

The first pool session went well. I got most of the skills down on the first try. The exception was filling the mask with water and emptying it. I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to purposely allow water into the mask and empty it. I thought we were simply emptying an already empty mask, performing the action and its motions.

IMG_1452The first dive site was set for Halik and the boat ride was very short but I still got a bit of motion sickness. It was also prevalent when we were on the water’s surface preparing to descend. Once we had descended, it went away. I was at peace. The only sound I could hear was my breathing. My air source. If Sergio needed to get someone’s attention, he would tap on his tank with a metal clip that he carried around.

IMG_1457The first dive was really fantastic. Halik was a really good site with really good visibility. The couple had some problems equalizing the ears, but they got the hang of hit soon enough. We saw 2 hawksbill turtles (which I recognized were hawksbill on my own because of all the nature programs I have watched. Thanks mom and dad.) For me, the most surprising and cool creature to see was the mantis shrimp. I only saw it for a few seconds but I did see its global eyes. I didn’t realize they live in this part of the world, but it makes sense that they do.

 

IMG_1512We all made it back to the surface, the couple said their goodbyes, and ate some lunch before some more learning and another pool session.

Scuba diving for the day ended around 5:30. I had some more reading to do in the PADI Open Water course book, so I headed south to the eastern side of the island (Lutwala is at the very north) where both Beach Bum and restaurants are located.

IMG_1483For dinner I ate mahi-mahi with baked potato. It was the best fish I had eaten so far on the trip.

 

 

 

IMG_1488The next morning, Sunday, started at 9 once again. Sergio, Kai, and I talked over some more theory then we all headed into the pool so I could practice more skills.

For the dive, we all went to Shark Point, which is on the western side of Gili T. We didn’t see any sharks, sadly. The other divers said sharks tend to like stronger currents, which was not present. But we did see a lot of turtles, mostly hawksbill but also 1 green sea turtle.
I had a non-satisfying seafood fried noodle dish for dinner that day. It was basically a ramen package with tiny bits of seafood mixed in. I also had my last readings of the trip to complete so I once again headed back to Beach Bum fairly early, read a bit, and fell asleep.


2016/05/17

IMG_1472This was my last day on Gili T and I arrived at Lutwala with all of my things around 8:30 in order to set out on the boat at 9. We went to Shark Point once again, hoping for some better results than the previous day. It turned out to be the opposite. The visibility range was at 5 meters, significantly lower than the 20 meter range I had in the preceding dives. Regardless, we did see a clown triggerfish and a scorpion fish.

IMG_1508I had one more dive to complete before leaving Lutwala, so at 11 the participating divers headed out once again, this time to Turbo, located 10 minutes north east of Gili T.

Turbo had good visibility at 20 meters and I we all saw blue sea stars, 2 green sea turtles, a trumpetfish, 2 mantis shrimp, clownfish, and a blues potted stingray, detected by me.

IMG_1515It was a memorable dive and leaving Lutwala proceeded it. It was a overall wonderful resort and team that I hope to return to one day.

It’s Still Halloween in Hawaii

Sunday was a full day for me, and Sundays are already quite busy.

sf.picI started off the day with my second softball game. I arrived at the Peking University soccer field a bit before 9 am, and the game started at 9:40.

I fielded fine throughout the game like normal, but my batting hasn’t been very good since I started playing in China. The first game I did not get on base at all. That didn’t feel very good. I batted 3 or 4 times, either struck out, thrown out at 1st, or I caused the 3rd out. This game did not start off well, either. First time up to bat, I hit the ball towards 2nd base and the base, which caused the runner ahead of me to be out, which was the 3rd out. Second time up, I hit a wimpy pop fly foul ball that was caught, leaving my head hanging low as I returned to the “dugout.” I hoped that the team was not losing faith in me. Third up-to-bat, I whispered encouragements to myself. I. Had. To. Get. On. Base. Preferably not by being walked, but I was willing to accept any method.

I hit the ball right over the short stop’s head. I briefly expected him to jump up and catch it, but even as he jumped, it was out of his reach. Yes! I finally made it on base during a game. A few batters later I made it to “home plate” and scored. I returned to the dugout with my head held a little higher and shyly high-fived my teammates’ hands.

Right after the game was over, which was supposed to end at 11 but went a bit overtime, I left the field and rode my bike to church. I was late, so I saw the last few minutes of the sermon, but I did get to see the baptism of 5 christians, 1 whom I know.

pumpkin.pic_hdAfter the church service, I went to lunch with some of my favorite people from church. It was a great lunch. We ended up ordering battered and fried pumpkin in honor of Halloween. This was all on Sunday, November 1, but me and another American, David, mentioned that it was still Halloween in Hawaii, so the eating of pumpkin was justified. We enjoyed eating the pumpkin, which is a common dish in southern China, I believe. I first tried it in Southern China, in Rhea’s hometown, and I really liked it.
I took this picture of David eating pumpkin while pumpkin glasses he brought.

A couple of hours later, I went to Tsinghua University fields to play ultimate frisbee with a lot of members from church. It is always good exercise and a good time to connect with people from around the world. We all usually play for 2 hours, and eat dinner after word.

Overall, it was yet another good Sunday. I also missed this last Sunday, since I was on my trip to Henan. It was good to be back. It almost feels like they notice when I am gone, which has not happened in a long time.

Bible Verse of the Day:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8

Song of the Day:
Kill Em With Kindness
by Selena Gomez

高丹玉

From The Journal of a Traveler: 河南 (Henan Province)

Preface

Courtesy of the 2 staff members at the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) Beijing Center (which is located at Peking University), a weekend trip to 河南 (Henan Province) was planned for all of the University of California (UC) students here in Beijing.

The passages below are what I wrote while on my trip. I mainly wrote in past tense, referring to what the previous hours have been like, then at the end of each entry, I wrote in present tense, describing the current situation that I was in. I hope it is not confusing to read, as this is my first time journaling while on a trip as well as posting those entries. If you have any tips for me on how to improve, leave them down below in the comments. Enjoy!


2015/10/24 Morning

I boarded the sleeper train and walked down the aisle to find my bunk 16车004号中. On the way, a little girl spotted me. She was on the top bunk, her legs were hanging off the edge, and she was playing with a hand-held game device of some sort. As I was passing by, she looked up at me, took in a huge gasp, and loudly said, “外国人!” (Foreigner!) Everybody started laughing, including myself. I responded to the girl, “对! 你好!” (Correct! Hello!) and I waved at her and kept on my path. Walking the rest of the way down the aisle got me even more stares, but I am used to it.

IMG_8678You may not know this, but a the length of a human’s arm span is supposedly exactly equal to the height of the body. If not exact, then really close. With that in mind, I measured the length of the bed I was going to be occupying for the night to come. It was about as long as my arm span, surprisingly. So, a 6 foot long bed, since I am 6 foot tall (do not let my dad tell you differently). The only factor that shortened the bed was that I kept my backpack right behind my pillow. This wasn’t too big of a deal, though, since I do not normally fully stretch out while sleeping. I do curl up somewhat, though, which was a movement that was very limited in the bunk. The bunk’s width was about the length of one of my arms, without my hand. The barriers, a wall and a rail, restricted me from bending my legs too much.

Regardless of all of these aspects, I slept pretty well.

Right now, I am sitting on a collapsible chair in the aisle-way about to arrive at our destination, 郑州 (Zheng Zhou).


IMG_87272015/10/24 Night

After getting off the train at 郑州, a lot of us, there are 8 people from the program in total, got CoCo’s milk tea, and then we drove about an hour to get to lunch. 少林寺 (Shaolin Temple) followed lunch. On the ride there, we noticed it was kind of cloudy. Adding to the skies was smog. I expected to be leaving the smog behind in Beijing, but that wasn’t the case. Regarding taking pictures, I knew nothing was going to turn out fantastic looking.

IMG_8699I anticipated 少林寺 to look similar to the setting of the movie Kung Fu Panda. 少林寺 did not meet this expectation. It honestly resembled the other Chinese temples that I have seen before. Sure, there are some differences between all temples in China, Asia as well, but 少林寺 was not extraordinarily special to someone like me. However, I did have a good time and everything went along smoothly.

Our dinner was quite elaborate. It included 8 cold dishes and 16 hot dishes. This banquet meal is known as 洛阳水席 (Luoyang Water Banquet), which is one of 3 national level banquets of China. 8 of us ate this meal. We did not finish. There was a lot of food.
I am currently in a hotel room watching Chinese television. I am sharing the room with 赵老师 (Miss Zhao), my teacher and friend from over the summer program. She also works as a UCEAP program assistant. I like her and I like spending time with her.


2015/10/25

We all woke up around 8 at the hotel and ate breakfast at a small buffet room on our floor, the 5th floor. It was probably one of the better Chinese breakfasts I have eaten. I am not saying it was delicious, but I was not struggling to find something worth eating. Around 9 we all checked out and hit the road toward 白马寺 (White Horse Temple).

IMG_8783Like 少林寺, 白马寺 was very similar to temples I have previously viewed. It claimed to be China’s 1st Buddhist temple, but I don’t know if I can believe that. There is probably at least one other temple in China that advertises the same proclamation. But one thing that was different with this location was that there was a Thai-styled temple as well as an Indian-styled temp
le. All 3 centers were bordering each other. A lot of the color gold decorated the Thai temple, and looking at the Indian temple made me feel like I was at Luke Skywalker’s home on the foreign planet Tatooine. I told my classmate this and he agreed while mentioning the fact that George Lucas drew inspiration for Star Wars from Indian culture as well as Buddhism.

IMG_8790Since the time of waking up, it had been raining, or at least drizzling. Towards the end of our visit at the temples, the rain had stopped. However, through lunch and time at our next tourist destination, the rain was continuous, with little wind, thankfully.

Our next and last sight to se was the Longmen Grottoes. It was a whole lot of Buddhas carved into the side of a mountain. Personally, I did not find this attraction that great. The Buddhas were not that grand and it was cold and raining. Of course, the Longmen Grottoes were not horrible, just not the greatest was to spend a rainy day. I generally had a good time with my companions, though.

To warm our bodies up after spending a few hours in the cold, we ate dumplings. Following that, we were driven to the train station. We bought snacks and hot drinks while we briefly waited for the bullet train.

On this 4 hour train ride, I listened to music and I am currently playing a round of the card game Monopoly Deal. These train rides go by a lot faster when I have people to talk to, rather than trying to entertain myself.

Overall, this trip has been pleasant. For one thing, I only packed and carried one backpack, so I did not have to manage too much luggage. As far as previous trips go, I overpack and become overwhelmed with both the weight and too much stuff to keep track of at the hotel.

Secondly, I enjoyed spending time with everybody on the trip. There were 2 other UC students from my exact study abroad program, 4 UC students from Beijing Normal University (which is where I was for my summer language program), 1 of the UCEAP Beijing advisors, and the tour guide and bus driver.

Another mentionable note is that this trip was, in a way, free for me. It was paid for by my program fee, which I had to pay for regardless of my choice to participate in these scheduled weekend trips. So, if I had decided to skip this trip, that money that I had to pay as part of the program would have gone somewhere else that would not benefit me, or at least not in the same way.

Bench Series: October

Here on WordPress, I came across a photo challenge by the blog Travel Words. The author says that they favor taking pictures of benches, and I agreed that benches are indeed interesting. Anybody can access a bench, whether it be high or low income humans, animals, or it can be a temporary place to puts things. The theme the authored assigned to October is any bench with somebody or something sitting on it. You can find more details about the challenge on the Travel Words blog. This is my first photo challenge post ever, but here is my take on it:

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These two photos were taken at 未名湖 (literally ‘No Name’ Lake) at Peking University in Beijing, China.
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It was another very smog-free day in Beijing, and they do not come around often at all, but when they do come, you really have to take advantage of them. I either play sports, ride my bike to new places, or take photographs.

Here is a link to my post that contains the other photos (not involving benches) of this day at 未名湖.

高丹玉