Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beijing Week 2: Playing tourist while learning

I think I've adjusted to life in Beijing for the most part. My roommates all speak Chinese and I also have a friend who's from Beijing. They have taught me a few useful phrases and words; however, I still think my pronunciation can use some work. Regardless of the language barrier, the locals I've met so far have been very nice in trying to help me (from taxis to ordering food). When I need to take the taxi home, I just show the drive a picture of the road sign next to my apartment.

These past two weeks, I have also done some sightseeing with a group of from Mount Union College, who are currently studying at Peking University. We went and saw the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Pearl Market on a Saturday. The Forbidden City was massive. I grew up watching Chinese fighting dramas that take place during ancient China and to be there, it felt so surreal. It was exactly like what I've seen from TV, expect instead of palace guards, it was filled with tourists. This last week I was at the Great Wall of China. It was a breathtaking (literally) experience. I also went to Houhai, a bar area similar to Dupont Circle or Adam's Morgan. It was interesting to see what the night life was compared to America. The area has traditional Chinese buildings mixed with modern looking bars and pubs. In the middle there was a pond where people can rent paddle boats or have a Chinese version of a gondola. Yet, the feel was similar to what it was in the states.

Besides playing tourist the past two weeks, I am in China to do an internship and an independent study research. I am an intern at a place call China Security or Chen Shi China Research Group ( . It is a policy journal that writes about Chinese security issues from both the United States and China’s perspective. The past two weeks I have been doing research on Chinese satellites’ capabilities along with what missile defense technology. It has been great learning experience. Especially, I am reminded that I am “behind” the great Firewall of China. As in there are a few terms and internet websites that I cannot access. An example is this blog. I’m am sending this blog by email, since I can’t access blog site.

Likewise, I was able to interact with current students from Peking University for my independent study research. I am interested in Chinese students’ perspectives on South Korea, Japan and Taiwan from their popular cultural products (dramas, music, comic books, and cartoons). It is interesting to learn about their thoughts about these places. My goal is to see if what they have seen/heard/read has encourage them to become more interested in the place of origin. For the most part say they want to go visit the country, yet at the same time a felt a strong presence of Chinese nationalism when talking to these students. As in, they are saying, that China also has been producing cartoons and dramas that are up to par with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Now this is only the second week, I’m sure there will be more learning experiences to come.

- Manith Hang

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