Travelling around the big cities, visiting the famous cultural cites and attempting to survive the smog; all things that typical tourists do when they visit China.
Today, the diplomacy delegations were able to do something slightly different. Something that removed us from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.
After this mornings group meeting where we chose the topics for our collaborative projects (Ding Ding Hao are getting all smart and discussing how china juggles friendships with other major powers like the USA and Russia), we boarded the diplomacy 2 bus and traveled for over an hour into rural Xi’an. Before I looked at the schedule for the trip, I was pretty sure we would just be sticking to the cities and usual touristy activities like hauling our butts up the Great Wall. The landscape started to change only a few minutes into the drive. Tall buildings continuously became smaller and more sparse, the roads were less clogged full of cars and the rivers running under the bridges that the bus crossed over became dirtier. There was almost an immediate division between the built up, modernised cities and the rural outskirts.
I fell asleep for most of the ride (in a very ladylike way. lol jk it was mouth gaping, drool city kind of nap) and woke up when were arriving at our first destination; an art gallery belonging to Mr Jung. According to our local Xi’an guide, Jung is a former teacher who, after being re-educated during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, was given a new vocation as a farmer. To keep his creative juices flowing while undertaking his new job, Jung turned to art.
The diplomacy groups were able to visit Jung’s art gallery and watch him in his creative element. This former teacher and current farmer managed to create an incredible water colour painting in ten minutes and at the same time told us about his life -with the local guide translating as most of the groups Chinese extends only to ‘ni hao’ (hello), ‘xie xie’ (thanks) and ‘bu yao’ (thanks but no thanks- this one is especially handy for the street vendors and randos on the street trying to sell you stuff).
^Jung in action
His talent translated into success and Jung has done impressively well for himself which was apparent from his beautifully constructed, airconned (praise the gods) art gallery.
After our time at the art gallery we drove a little way to a village school in Hu County. Today was a school holiday as it is the Dragon Boat Festival but a group of young girls came in anyway, all dressed up in the intense heat, to interact with us and even performed a dance for us.
^the girls in their classroom.
Talking with them was a bit of a challenge as my Chinese is below a beginners level and they are in the early stages of learning English. One middle school boy who came by the school to get a look at the weirdo foreigners, had a slightly better grasp of English and told me he thought I was very beautiful (aaw shucks). The kids were super excited when we performed for them. They looked quite amused by one groups rendition of the macarena, responded with huge applause when another group performed the cup song (minus the cups) and joined in when we sang the Chinese version of Frere Jacques.
Being able to engage with children from this school was lovely. It added another dimension to my experience of China…one that was different from trecking through the smoggy cities and listening to talks in airconditioned rooms by diplomacy delegates from around the world.
The diplomatic activities didn’t end there. In the late afternoon we arrived at the Xi’an International Studies University to network with faculty and students. In all honesty I was a bit nervous at first to have one on one time with a Chinese student that I didn’t know. Awkwardness is pretty much my forte and I was pretty sure I was going to single-handedly make South Africa look like a country full of socially inept weirdos to whatever poor student was stuck with me. Luckily, during the introductory speech, I sat in front of a super cool girl named Jessica (her english name) and we partnered up. She showed me around her campus and told me all about her university life. She’s studying a degree majoring in Business and English and shares a dorm room with six other girls (!). She laughed at how shocked I was at that because its the norm in most universities over here. I hate sharing a room with myself never mind 5 other girls. We walked and talked and even swapped boy stories; boys being dumb dumbs translates across cultures ;). It was a special experience and I’m happy to say I’ve gained a new friend and penpal from the experience.
She also showed me around the varsity’s cafeteria and even bought me a ‘Chinese Hamburger’. It was…interesting.
In the evening, I attempted to be productive and do some studying but there’s just too much to see and do in Beijing! #theprocrastinationstruggleisreal