Day 2 which is our first full day in China started with a 7 AM wake up call. Our sleep the previous night was short, intermittent, and jet lagged. We were all still tired from the long journey and felt displaced due to the 12-hour time difference, but we were in China. How can we not be thrilled? We were served a sumptuous east meets west buffet style breakfast – some of the usual and some of the more unique such as silk fried bread, sticky fried rice, chicken feet, Hawthorn juice and Leeche fruit. After breakfast, we gathered in the lobby and our guide walked us across campus for our orientation. Everyone walks in China.
We had a warm welcome reception where several college Deans and even an ex-ambassador greeted us and talked about the importance of US-China relations and the friendship we must build. Morgan sophomore Ariel Jones gave a fantastic student thank you speech that had the Chinese hosts appreciatively clapping. Next, we walked across campus to a different classroom for our first lecture of our trip – China-U.S. Relations. A Chinese professor who had taught in the US discussed the relationship the two countries shared starting from the 16th century up to recent times. Students were busy taking notes and were fascinated with the history that we knew very little about. After the lecture, we headed to lunch and then boarded a bus for a culture tour of the Summer Palace which is in Beijing.
The Summer Palace, which literally translates to “Gardens of Nurtured Harmony” is a former imperial palace and now a park and UNESCO World Heritage Site which declared it a “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design.” This was our first experience of the massive Chinese population. As we walked up to the entrance, we were hounded by street vendors trying to sell us everything under the Eastern sun. Once we entered the palace grounds, there were thousands of people in all directions visiting just like us. The concept of personal space or personal bubble does not exist. You go where you find space in China. It was a great culture shock and learning experience for our students. More fascinating was the intrigue of the Chinse people of African Americans.
Locals were coming up to us asking for pictures with us. Many were even just snapping away. Some were asking questions about our hair and braids. I had already warned the students about the celebrity-like curiosity they would encounter and quite amazingly, our students enjoyed it in a funny way. It felt like a red-carpet event and another great learning experience for our students.
Although we were enjoying visiting the various buildings in the Summer Palace, the heat was getting to us. Beijing was experiencing a blistering 2-day heat way. The mid-day sun made us feel like Peking Roast Duck – a delicacy we would try for dinner. The mercury touched a 102 degrees during our visit. We were, hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, and tired. But, how can we complain? After all, we were in China!
We boarded the bus for our final stop of the day – the famous Quanjude Peking Roast Duck Restaurant. We tried an assortment of local dishes including roast duck. We enjoyed some, and others we simply passed up. I think we were all super exhausted from the four-hour tour of the Summer Palace in the 100+ degree afternoon sun. The effects of jetlag were quite evident. After dinner, we headed back to our hotels, and I am sure everyone crashed for our first long, full night of sleep which was well deserved. Maybe, we will have dreams of the Great Wall of China – our tour for the next day.