Week 1 is a wrap but we have had so many incredible adventures! See below to follow along with our journey
Flights had scattered arrival times into the host city of Guilin but by the combined efforts of SPI and CLI, all of the students were welcomed to Guilin.
After a good night’s sleep the group began the day with breakfast before we went over to CLI (Chinese Language Institute) to have our orientation. Students got a tour of the building, Chinese cell phones and learned how to use WeChat so that they could communicate with the program supervisors whenever they needed. The first lunch in China was an exercise in using and mastering chopsticks. Regardless of what skills students had with chopsticks before, they will be pros by the time they leave!
Following lunch, the orientation process continued with a scavenger hunt to get the students bearings in the city. They were tasked to find a list of unique Chinese sights and take a photo with them (a lucky haircut, Engrish signs, 4 people on a scooter, etc). The group who got the most points would win a free massage! The students were assisted by the CLI interns as they went on their quest. When they returned they were laughing and smiling!
Students began classes with a placement test to distribute the students to their appropriate level. Classes are anywhere from one on one to three students per teacher so students get the maximum amount of participation and personalized instruction.
After class and another delicious lunch we went to a newly opened trampoline park to jump around, do flips, jump high enough to slam dunk and stick to a Velcro wall. Jumping around was hard work though so some rest happened as well.
The next challenge was to then climb to the top of Chuan Shan, a local mountain with a gorgeous view of Guilin and the surrounding area. While the hike was all stairs up the side of the mountain, the view was worth it. Combining a trampoline park and a short but steep mountain hike definitely made for the ultimate “leg day”, as the students said. After exercising so much, the students enjoyed a dinner in a cave where people bottle and store their own bai jiu, a Chinese style rice wine). While we did not drink any, it was fun to learn about the culture. What a day!
The morning began with classes again, followed by lunch on the Cultural Walking Street, where students began to order on their own. Then the students got to have a special Taijiquan (known as Tai Chi in the West) with a local master. The point of Taiji is to try and return your inner self to “zero” a neutral and peaceful place where a practitioner is focused in the moment and not about the perfection of the forms. The students all practiced in a focused manner, even in the heat. After so many slow moving forms, however, a quick round of ultimate frisbee was played before dinner at a local Xinjiang restaurant, which has food representing the Chinese Muslim minority called Uyghurs.
In their free time, many of the students play ping pong or Mah Jong together in the CLI student activity room. Occasionally they play other sports like soccer, pool, ultimate frisbee or games like Cards Against Humanity. Whatever they end up doing they seem to be having a good time, especially playing ping pong!
During class, students have started to prepare Chinese songs for our karaoke (KTV) outing later this week. Once class and lunch were done, the students were bussed our to the Guilin Tea Research Institute. While wearing traditional hats, students harvested their own tea leaves and learned what distinguishes the 6 different types of tea (basically what part and how early you harvest different parts of a tea plant – the sprouts make white tea, sprouts with two young leaves make green tea, etc). The harvest done, the guides taught the group the other steps in the process to make tea. Following this introduction, students were able to sample tea in a traditional tea ceremony.
Dinner was a slightly less traditional Chinese fare: pizza, but the students enjoyed the comfort food.
Classes continued today, followed by a trip to the market place. Students were given tips on how to haggle – the walk away tactic, the vocabulary, and estimated prices of products – and then set loose! They came back with belts, T-shirts, bags, shoes, and stuffed animals. Good haul!
Dinner was at a beef hot pot restaurant where students cooked their own meat, noodles and vegetables in large boiling pots of broth. Once they had eaten their fill (and the rain stopped), students toured the Two Rivers, Four Lakes Scenic Area, known for its beautifully illuminated Sun and Moon
Once classes wrapped up for the day, students enjoyed a delicious lunch at our favorite local restaurant He Tian Park. After some free time and errands, the group made a trip to a local Buddhist temple by CLI. While there, students learned about the Cultural Revolution and how temples like this were torn down because of their connections with old feudal ideals. Shrines and other cultural establishments have been rebuilt since they are now no longer deemed bad for society.
The temple visited, students then went onto dinner, shopping and everyone’s favorite Chinese activity: Karaoke! KTV, as it is known locally, is the best way to do karaoke because people rent their own rooms with friends to sing instead of singing in public spaces. Everyone had a wonderful time singing Chinese and American songs. Students requested that we do it again soon!
Students spent the day with their homestay families and those in the dorm had daystay families for the day. Some students made their own dumplings, went to exotic historical sites, and talked in Chinese with their hosts, to name a few of the activities.