The Hidden Treasures of China
COB Study Abroad Program China
I want to start off by mentioning how amazing this experience has been for me. I am sure the same goes for the rest of my friends on this trip. I knew that this trip could be a once in a lifetime experience, and provide the opportunity to understand a wonderful culture. Coming into the trip I was not completely sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and understanding the people are in China. Now I would like to summarize the day, and highlight some of my favorite parts about the day.
We started our day by going to a business called North Star Company, which is a state operated real estate company, and is also publicly traded. They build apartments, malls, and even personal homes; which are extremely rare in China. Although they have built homes for single families, there are new policies in place that forbid this. The corporation even had a part in constructing the China Convention Center, which was the media hub for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as the center for all fencing events. After visiting the convention center, we walked over to the two main Olympic buildings: the Birds’ Nest and the Water Cube.
After visiting with North Star Company we went to lunch at an area called 798; I will explain what 798 is further into my blog post. When we first arrived at the 798, we all went to a food court in the area to find lunch on our own. Spicy food is not widely popular in Beijing and the northern part of China. Since I usually eat spicy food in the states, I was on a hunt for some HOT food. I went with my friend Tyler, and Dr. Chen to look for some of the hottest food I could get. We stumbled upon an entire area of the food court that had spicy food.
There were many types of food in this dish, and I will list a few. I had the pleasure of trying: lotus root, cow lung, 3 different types of tofu, bamboo shoots, frog legs, and duck blood. I know what you are thinking, that I am crazy for trying some of the foods like cow lung. The way that I look at it is, if I do not like it, I do not have to eat any more, but I will never know if I like it if I do not try. Surprisingly the cow long was very similar to calamari, and maybe I would not have liked it as much if it was not spicy. I know that some people on the trip were not as adventurous as me when it came to trying new foods. I hope that you take the same approach, and find out if something is good by tasting it, not by judging the looks of what is on your plate.
After lunch, Tyler and I split up from Dr. Chen, and started to explore 798. Once we started exploring I started to understand what kind of place 798 was. This area was originally mostly manufacturing factories, but when the factories went out of business, this area turned into a local art scene. As we explored the area started to see street art everywhere, such as the graffiti, and sculpture in my pictures. I have always been fascinated with complex, and well put together graffiti, so this place was perfect for me.
There were plenty of local shops, presumably run by local artists. Walking into shops you could see art made by local artists, and there were even pieces that were not for sale. We walked into a shop that sold Ocarinas, which are flute like instruments made from clay, and used glaze that turn to glass when fired in a furnace. They had all kind of sizes and shapes that you could choose from. The guy working at the shop played a little tune on one of the Ocarinas. Tyler ended up buying one after this, I would have too if I had the extra Yuan to get one. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see the small amount of 798 that I did see. I wish that I would have more time here, and had not spent so much time eating. If you get to take a trip to Beijing I would highly recommend that you visit 798, especially if you are interested in art.
In summary, todays trip to 798 was a memorable one for me. I got to see some local artists representation of what art is for them. I think that art can be in many forms, and even the way that you live your life can be an art form. I am starting to realize that seeing the world can be an art in itself. Not every person takes the chance to leave the comfort of his or her home. This can be especially challenging in a country, where the majority speaks a completely different language. I have learned that stepping out of your comfort zone can provide incredible opportunities. There are hidden treasures in every country, but sometimes you have to go out and look for them. I can say that I have seen at least a small amount of the hidden treasures that China has to offer. I believe traveling is the perfect way to experience things you had no idea about, and may even offer opportunities that will change your life.