April 26, 2013, by Katie Angus
As things get increasingly more hectic before the end of term, it’s always more difficult to keep on track of what I’ve done and where I’ve been, but since the last post, I’ve visited Beijing and most importantly, seen the Great Wall!
Beijing is a great city; where Shanghai has a slick, modern feel, Beijing is a little more traditional. It feels a little older and little closer to a China unaffected by the obsession with Western influences compared to Shanghai. Tiananmen Square, famous for its significance in the political turmoil of China’s past, the Forbidden City and various temples, palaces, gardens and markets are situated incredibly close, meaning with accommodation near to Beijing’s centre, you never have to travel far to see the sights. It takes sixteen hours by sleeper train to reach the capital from Ningbo, with taxis as the main mode of transportation on arrival –its also worth getting the underground; to negotiate it is absolute child’s play compared to London, and with each one-way journey costing ￥20, a rough equivalent to £2.00, it is also far cheaper! If you ever fancy a scorpion-kebab or snake meat, head to the night market in Wanfujing like I did, although I stuck to the perhaps less ambitious but more delicious Beijing kaoya, Peking roast duck with all the trimmings (well, not all, its not uncommon to order duck and have its head floating appetisingly amongst the noodles). The Great Wall is of course a must-see when here and I went to a part named Jinshangling. This is the oldest and least renovated part of the wall and some bits are literally crumbling apart, but it’s still relatively unknown. There are a lot less tourists (and souvenir-sellers) at this spot which makes all the difference. It’s a fantastic sight to see and easier to climb than I thought!
Having come to China knowing only one word of Chinese (yes, just one) and being aware of how difficult the language is, if anything, I’m most surprised at the amount I’ve been able to pick up during my time here. I can order fairly proficiently at the Street food, which appears in the late evening here outside the University gates and have picked up a few phrases handy for bartering, as well as numbers and greetings. Obviously, I can still hardly speak Mandarin, but for me now the language is far less daunting, and lot easier to pronounce than many people assume. I’ve been inspired to pick up Mandarin more consistently back home, I would love to come back to China, there having been so much I know I simply won’t have time to see, and having even a little of the language under your belt makes a huge difference here.
Back on campus, fairly recently Chinese and International students clubbed together for Global Village, a celebration of all nationalities, cultures and traditions here on campus with stands from the majority of countries represented. The food, music, performance, costumes and games from all over the world (Great Britain, Canada, America, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Germany and many, many more) were presented by each group. Being of (albeit dubious) Scottish heritage, I was placed in Scotland and more collectively, Great Britain. I’ve never had scones or cucumber sandwiches which tasted nicer than those which we made that day. I never even realised I had suffered much from lack of English, or even Western food, until then! The event coincided with the University’s open day, there was no better way to demonstrate the international nature of Nottingham and I highly recommend you take a look at what we got up to!