Heavy rain and thunder greeted us this morning. Braving the downpour, we headed out to our first lecture, which was on social development and anti-poverty works in China. It was a great class that helped us to understand more about China. For starters, we learned that the United Nations (UN) definition of extreme poverty is earning less than a dollar per day and according to UN statistics, more than 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty. That is as much as the entire population of China, which itself has more than 173 million people living in absolute poverty. The students had differing viewpoints of what they had seen so far. Some students thought that China was richer than what they saw, while others believed that China was poorer than what they saw. Until now, we have been in two major cities and have seen little of China’s poverty. In order to see poverty, we would have to go to less touristy places and also the countryside. Never the less, this lecture was a sad but eye-opening informative look at poverty in other parts of the world.
Next, we headed for our class on martial arts. Our instructor taught us some basics of offense and defense and also some Tia Chi. This class was a lot of fun, as we did not have to sit in a classroom and listen to lectures. We got to practice, scream, and look like we knew what we were doing. It raised our heartbeats, left our quads sore from squatting, and made us sweat a bit. It was different from the usual lecture, which was a good change of pace. After martial arts, we had lunch and headed back for another lecture on culture differences. This was a very interesting class as the lecturer went over all the norms in China and how they are different than in America and other countries. Some customs that are so normal to us seem so far-fetched to the Chinese and vice versa. We had plenty of questions but did not have enough time to ask all of them.
Our next activity was a visit to the Xixi Wetland Museum. China has taken an active role in preserving its wetlands, which are a vital part of the ecosystem. The wetlands support a plethora of flora and fauna, some endemic to certain parts of China. We then headed back to the university’s dining hall to learn how to make dumplings. We have been eating dumplings at every meal for the past ten days, so it was nice to know how to make them. In fact, it was quite simple. Dumplings are widely eaten in China and other parts of East and Southeast Asia. They are easy to make, very healthy, and tasty. We ate our own dumplings for dinner and called it a night.
It has been ten days since we came to China and our homesickness is slowly but surely setting in. We miss our families and friends, our daily routines, American foods, and our way of life. However, we have to always put things in perspective to realize that exploring the world, out of our comfort zone is one of the best experiences one can face. Today is the first day we were able to retire to our rooms by 6 pm and it felt great. We hope to be well rested, both physically and mentally for the final three days of our China trip.