Today is our last day in Beijing. It has been raining for the past two days with much cooler temperatures as compared to our first day when it was 100 degrees. Our first lecture for the day was a second class in Chinese language. We had a lot of fun learning Chinese on the first day. Today was even better as we played games to learn numbers and more words. The Chinese language is difficult, but we were able to pick up numbers and certain words with minimal practice. Much of the credit goes to our instructor, Mr. Tchai who was very enthusiastic about getting everyone involved.
Our next class was on ethnic minorities in China. Compared to the U.S., China is a much more homogeneous country. Approximately 9% of the China’s 1.3 billion people are ethnic minorities while 90% of Chinese people belong to the majority Han ethnic group. Most of the minorities live in the western and northern part of the country where China borders Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and a few other countries. Our students were quite curious about China’s one-child policy. The instructor explained that the one-child policy does not apply to ethnic minorities and people in rural areas. Our instructor also came dressed in ethnic Uyghur clothes. She performed some traditional dances and invited students to practice and dance with her. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
After our morning sessions, we had lunch and headed back to our hotel rooms for some much needed down time. We came back to the classroom again in the late afternoon to meet and mingle with local Chinese university students. This was a wonderful experience because we got to meet our peers and understand their lives in China. At the same time, they got to learn more about us and America. We played many games that helped us engage with each other. We sang karaoke with them and many of the Chinese students were quite good with American songs. The Chinese students wanted us to perform hip-hop dances so we happily obliged. We were also able to bring up several Chinese students to teach them the dance moves to a few popular songs. For the last hour, we sat and spoke with our Chinese peers. We shared about our lives in the U.S. and vice-versa. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us. We also exchanged contact information with several Chinese students hoping that we are able to make life-long global friends.
Later, it was time for our farewell dinner. The dean of the school came to thank us and say goodbye. We exchanged gifts as it is a common custom for guests to bring an offering for their hosts. We thanked them for so graciously hosting us. In all, we spent five full days in Beijing which has been an eye-opening experience for all of us. We scaled the Great Wall of China, explored the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, and saw many of the important cultural sites in Beijing. We learned a great deal both in the classroom lectures and out in the field. We will definitely miss being in this cultural gem of China. Tomorrow, we speed away to our next city, Hangzhou via a bullet train.