The trip to The Great Wall on Tuesday 6/16 was spectacular. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Sure, I’d seen pictures and heard stories about it, but not until seeing it up close did I get a full sense of its magnificence. We only had about 2 hours to spend at the wall, which meant our time was limited. We decided to climb up instead of down to begin, figuring it would be easier on the return trip. Sections of it were very steep and the steps were uneven in places. As we began the climb some people in our group only made it part of the way up. I continued to climb with some others and then it began to rain. We ducked into a small gift shop along the way and waited for it to let up. We eventually made it back to the parking lot to meet our bus. While we were waiting to leave someone in our group found out they were changing the flags on the poles that morning. Apparently they didn’t care if we took the old flags as long as we fished them out of the garbage. I was giving a flag by one of the people in my group. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, but it’s a nice keepsake.
After visiting The Great Wall we returned to the hotel to get our things. We were now going to be flying from Beijing to Xinjiang University in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, the northwestern most part of China. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7 p.m. but because of bad weather we weren’t able to leave until around 10 p.m.
We arrived in Xinjiang around 2 a.m. and needless to say we were all exhausted. Representatives from the university were waiting for us at the airport to take us to the dormitory we were staying at on campus. After a few hours of sleep we were up and ready to begin our work at the university.
The first thing we did on Wednesday morning was met for breakfast. We ate in the university cafeteria and the head chef prepared food for us. The food was good but nothing compared to breakfast food in the U.S. Milk is served in individual cartoons that are room temperature. It’s a lot thicker than our milk, comparable to about 5% milk fat, I was told. It reminded me a lot of heavy creamer that you would put in your coffee.
After breakfast we met with the Party Secretary of Xinjiang University in his office. This was the official introduction of our group. We learned about the university and had a chance to ask questions. Christine translated for us the entire time. We were given gifts and took pictures before going on a brief campus tour.
Lunch that afternoon was more of a celebration than a lunch. They set up traditional Chinese tents in the park on campus. More food was served at lunch than I’d ever seen in my life. We were treated extremely well and I could tell that they were going out of their way to make us welcome. There were so many toasts that took place, I lost track. Overall it was a nice way to begin our stay on campus.
While on campus we were split into two separate groups. One group consisted of the MBA students. They took field trips during the day to local businesses to see firsthand how they run in China. The other group, which I’m in, visited students who are taking English classes. There are three of us in this group, and our job was to talk about American culture and explain some of the differences between the U.S. and China. Many of these students hope to one day study in the United States, possibly even at Concordia University Wisconsin. This was in incredible experience and one that I enjoyed emmensely.
We are heading out on Wednesday morning for a trip north to Heavenly Lake and a place called Kanas. It’s near the borders of Mongolia and Russian. We will be doing a lot of sightseeing and picture taking. We will return to the university on Saturday. I will not have internet access so I will not do another posting until returning this weekend. Thanks again for reading and feel free to share your thoughts and comments with me at firstname.lastname@example.org