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!
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.
You 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).
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.
I 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.
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).
Like 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.
Since 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.