Today was our first full day with students! In the morning, I joined the beginner Mandarin class. In just a few hours, our little group was able to have CONVERSATIONS in Mandarin Chinese. They were simple sentences, talking about our names and ages, or what we like to eat, but we were speaking and understanding each other. It was very exciting.
In the afternoon, we visited the Hutong, which is a traditional neighborhood of small alleyways. Today, there are lots of modern shops, even though the overall feel of the area is still very “Old Beijing.” One highlight was visiting the Lama Temple, which houses the largest wooden Buddha in the world. In this photo, you can only see his feet!
You can see the people bowing down to him, but you can’t hear the monk in the corner who was chanting, or smell the incense burning all around. You can’t jump into the photograph and look up several stories at the giant wooden sculpture, made out of a single sandalwood tree. If you could do these things, you’d be even more impressed. Perhaps it’s best that you are reading this instead, because you get to avoid the outrageous heat that we experienced as we walked around. It was very hot! As we walked around, the students learned about Buddhism, from the eight auspicious symbols to the fruit offerings presented at their feet. I really enjoyed sharing my love of Buddhism with the students. In this photo below, a student is spinning her first prayer wheel.
After our visit to the temple and a lot of walking, we needed a break. Students were jet lagged and we were exhausted. We stopped to get some juice at a nice cafe. Mine was “honey melon” which I think might be a cantaloupe-related melon, but not exactly the same. Silvia, who is in the photo with me, got papaya juice. My role this summer is international director, and Silvia is the local director. She is Italian, but she’s lived in China for about 6 years. She knows the area very well and did a wonderful job showing us around the Hutong.
It might seem like Beijing is full of ancient sites. It’s true that there are many historical places to visit, but there are also many modern things to see. Here are some of my other favorite photographs from today’s visit to the Hutong:
For now, I need to say “Zai Jian” (goodbye). Sorry that I could not take this adorable dog home, but I will continue to try to capture a bit of Beijing to send home to you through photographs.