Well, we are in Beijing. We took a train from Liaocheng and our two teachers who were in charge of us while we were there and Henry came with us to see us off at the train station. A whole bunch of students came to help us onto the bus, because most of us had more luggage than we could reasonably carry. The boys from Ghana sang for us a goodbye song in a mixture of English and their local language (I think they call it "Twi") in acapela and everything. It was a great moment.

The train was awesome. It was one of their slow trains, which basically just means it's not a new age super fast train. It's the kind of train where you are assigned a bunk, and there are some seats by the windows, but not enough for everyone. It was a lot of fun and we got lots of pictures.

When we got here, we came straight to our accomodations to get checked in. Our rooms are basically just a hotel room. In fact, the international dorm also serves as a hotel in Beijing. They are basically nice. The beds are slightly softer than our beds in Liaocheng, and we have water pressure and water as hot as we desire that has a tub. We do have mold in our tub though. But, we have room service who cleans our toilet, changes our trash and sweeps our floor every day. We have a TV, a computer, and a phone in our room. We haven't used either, but we might.

That first night the woman in charge of us (who actually has lived in California for a few years and is starting at UNG this fall. She arrived in Beijing just a few days before we did from California) she walked us a few blocks around our building. We don't have a dining facility to go to, so we are on our own finding restaurants to eat at every day. That's a shock, because it is impossible to eat at any restaurant around here for less than $5-10 American dollars. I'm used to spending no more than $3 on food a day.

So on Monday we had our first class. I could ramble about how we really weren't supposed to have class and how we are all very frustrated that we have SO much work to do academically while trying to balance being exhausted from site-seeing in the hot sun and finding time to eat meals which are no longer quick. We also have completed already the amount of hours that would normally be required for the amount of academic credit we are earning. Really, they don't know what to do with us, so they are doing the only thing they know how to do. I, (though not everyone here) have finally come to accept that it's a waste of energy to mope about it too much and that I should just accept that I have class and homework, get it done, and move on.

Monday afternoon we went to Tian'An Men Square and to a shopping district in Beijing and walked around for a few hours. Nobody was talking to us about anything historical, we were all just walking around together wondering why we were in a group and if we were allowed to wander off or not. Once again, no one knows what to do with us. Our teacher isn't sure if she is supposed to just get us to the location or if she is supposed to hover. To be honest, she very clearly would like to just get us there and leave (we are trying to be sympathetic to her jetlag) but since she won't tell us that, we all stand around awkwardly and wait for us to direct us, which she doesn't do.

Part of our schoolwork assignment (I am grateful for this part) is to know how to get around and travel in Beijing. We ride the subway everywhere because it is literally 33cents (2yuan) to go anywhere by subway one way. Each of our groups is required to figure out how to get to one of our site-seeing locations. My group is assigned the Forbidden City on Tuesday. The subway is rather fun, though it was very overwhelming at first.

On Tuesday we had class again and then in the afternoon we went to the Summer Palace. Oh my gosh it is beautiful. It was a really hot day with full sun, and I had forgotten my sunglasses. Since I couldn't find anyone selling any, I settled on a hat. I liked it a lot and if I can fit it, I'm bringing it back with me. I looked rather strange in a cowboy hat in China that said 北京 (BeiJing) on it.

This time, they did just get us in and let us run off.We didn't see all the historic sites because we didn't really know what they all were and we only had 3 hours before it closed. So, we saw the stone boat which we knew it was famous for and a fancy bridge that has 500 lion statues on it and we briefly checked out a huge building that we aren't really sure what it was, but it was so big that we decided we didn't have time to explore it enough. Instead, we went on a long and leasurely walk all the way around the lake. Let me tell you, I totally get why they would have gone there over the summer. It was nice and cool by the lake and extremely beautiful. It was much less crowded, too because it was such a long walk. I would highly suggest it to anyone who went to Beijing. It's probably going to be my favorite tourist place I've been in Beijing.

On Wednesday we didn't have class, but we spent literally the whole day from 8 in the morning until about 8 at night with a film crew volunteering (being voluntold) making a video for 5th graders all over China to help them learn English. The director is apparently famous and has directed a lot of television shows in China. It was really fun, but there was a lot of sitting around and waiting. They really liked me. I did the most scenes (only 4) and they gave us like 10-20 minutes to memorize something of a script before we did a shot. Only twice did they not take the first shot. In fact, they liked me and a few other students so much that they are begging us to come back next Wednesday and shoot some more. I said I would be happy to. I'm going to be famous! Well, not really, just to a bunch of 5th graders. It was still a lot of fun though, even though the videos were extremely cheezy.

In the same building that we were filming (which was on Tsinghua University's campus) there was an art exhibit. It was very cool. Tsinghua is like China's MIT, so there were a lot of neat exhibits that were really scientific or based in technology and engineering, but there was this one set of photographs that really hit home with Kate and I. It really shows that all over the world, women have the same issues. We took pictures of them.

Today we had class again in the morning, and had the afternoon off. I woke up this morning with some stomach problems (I went to bed with them last night as well. Up until now, I am the only person who has escaped any stomach issues in China), and Kate was exhausted from playing mom to some of the guys and staying up late listening to them talk, so we went straight to sleep after class. We slept until about 2, when a cleaning woman came in, turned on the lights, and ordered us to get out of bed so she could change our sheets. It was a bit shocking. We knew that they came in and changed our trash for us, but we were both in a deep sleep. So we groggily watched her change our sheets for us.

After that, we decided we might as well get up. We decided we would try to go find the UPS store so I could ship some things home. But first, we ate dinner/lunch at this Japanese Restaurant on the bottom floor. Shockingly, it's less expensive than a lot of places around here. We tried this rose drink and ate sushi and some sort of rice and eggplant dish. Then I got my things together, and off we went.

It took about an hour to walk there. We kept having to ask people to redirect us when we weren't sure if we were on the right track. When we arrived, I had to sign in with my passport number. They showed me to this backroom where there were a whole bunch of Chinese men in UPS uniforms at desks. It was very packed. Kate said she thinks we ended up at a business UPS where they usually just ship documents. They had me open up my suitcase that I brought to show them what I had. They wouldn't let me ship any tea or anything made of wood, which I thought was weird.

Once they had it all packaged up, they told me it would be 4000yuan. I about fell over. That is the equivalent of almost 700 American dollars for a box much smaller than my suitcase that didn't even weigh 50 pounds. I said I couldn't do that, and they brought another box and said it would be much cheaper if I didn't include a few items. I asked how much, and they said something about waiting until it was packaged and proceeded to package my things extremely well with lots of protective bubble wrap and tape. I am pretty sure that every single employee came over to give a comment about the best way to package it and to help. I'm not even sure I would be able to undo the tape when I get back to America.

Once they had it perfect, they told me it would cost 1900Yuan, which is still over $300. Checking an extra bag on the plane is only $100. I couldn't believe it. I apologized and thanked them profusely, and asked them if I could purchase the box from them. I can still take it to the China Post and have them ship it for much cheaper. They were extremely kind and gave me the wonderfully packaged box free of charge. Not once in that whole process did they seem annoyed or anything of the sort. They were pure kindness.

The post office is closed currently, but it is open on the weekends here (even on Sundays) so I am going to try to take care of that this weekend since they have nothing planned for us. Unfortunately, I am pretty certain that the post office will make me take everything outside of the box so they can see it all again before they will ship it, so it will still be a hastle to get back in there perfectly, but at least I shouldn't have to buy a box. Also, it will probably take a month to arrive in America. But, I have been assured by my professor and Dr. Stavick who came from UNG with us that everything that I packed should arrive safely.

I think several of us are feeling like we are experiencing some culture shock being in Beijing from Liaocheng. It's a city. People don't think we are strange, and they ignore you. No one is overly helpful or in our business all the time. We have hardly spoken in Chinese because every time we try they speak back to us in English. A city is a city, and we could almost be in a city in America and there would be no difference other than there would be less Chinese people and more Caucasians. There is toilet paper in most public bathrooms (and lots of western style toilets), and hand soap by the sinks. We have this running joke where we say "We aren't in China anymore" whenever something happens that is uncharacteristic of things we have subconsciously decided was just China, and then we say "We are still in China!" Whenever something is familiar and comforting from what we have become accustomed to.

It's been an interesting few days. Honestly, I think the best part about Beijing is it is preparing us to go back to America. When we were leaving Liaocheng, we didn't want to leave China, even though we have lives and loved ones back home. Now, we are definitely going to be ready to come home. It's all perfect timing.