Day 2: I Ate a Fish’s Eye

Day two of our trip began with a visit to Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing. At the university, we attended a lecture on the smartphone supply chain from Dr. Kai Yao, a Ph. D in the business field. His lecture highlighted the rapid growth of the smartphone market in China and the competition in the overall mobile market that results. We learned that Chinese internet users did not undergo a phase of using personal desktops like in the United States, but instead jumped straight into using mobile phones. The mobile brands are also constantly updating their marketing strategies to win in the battleground that is China’s smartphone market. Dr. Yao’s lecture also touched on the prominence of e-commerce in China. When buying goods, most Chinese internet users will shop online. Even items such as food that most Americans would always buy in a grocery store are bought online and shipped. This lecture informed us of the sharp contrast between Chinese and American internet users.

After the lecture, we enjoyed lunch in the CUFE campus dining hall. The dining hall was three floors, which most of us believed was massive for a cafeteria. However, this size was necessary as It seemed that most students took their lunch break at around the same time, resulting in the dining hall still being crowded. Luckily, we were allowed to enjoy our lunch in a private room where we ate with some students at the university. By talking to these local students, we could understand some of the differences between Chinese and American university students. For example, the Chinese students we spoke with were enrolled in 10 courses in their semesters compared to our much smaller number of 4 to 5. Although most of these classes met less than twice a week, a typical day for the students would involve classes for all but two hours between 9 am and 7 pm. Also, even though the local students were majoring in the business field, they were still required to take math classes, physics classes, and even a rigorous PE course.

Following lunch, the students took us on a tour of their university, including a massive library which was roughly 50% larger than Pitt’s Hillman Library. The CUFE library was equipped with a system in which study spaces could be reserved using a student ID and multiple books could be checked out all at once by placing an entire stack on some type of reader. I barely have a clue as to how the scanner can determine what books are being checked out when they’re all stacked on top of each other, but was cool to witness. After the tour, we learned about a group rope skipping game where two people swing a long jump rope and you have to run in, skip the rope once, then jump out without getting hit. The game was simple and enjoyable and different variations could be added to keep things interesting.

After the university visit, we enjoyed a rather exotic dinner at the mall adjacent to our hotel. The meal was served with the same style as last night’s restaurant, with the spinning disk on which dishes were placed and sent around the table. I’m starting to believe those are a staple when dining with large groups in restaurants. The dishes consisted of abnormally large beans, balls of fish paste, a whole duck, and a whole fish complete with its bones, scales, and head. The dinner was exotic compared to those of the previous nights and I didn’t eat as much as before either. However, I did eat a fish eye, which was surprisingly hard and had a powdered texture.

Following dinner, a small group of students and I set out for a tea house near Tiananmen Square. We got there using the Beijing subway which, despite the language barrier was still as straightforward as the Washington D.C. metro system which I’ve taken back at home. As we left the subway station as began walking toward the tea house, we came across an area with beautiful architecture, many shops, and some street vendors. We walked around for about an hour as we visited a few shops and enjoyed the sights until we finally decided that start toward the tea house.

The tea house was covered with decorations both in the interior and exterior. We were given a small private room decorated with paintings and figurines where we were served the tea that we ordered. Even though we each drank one cup of tea and ordered the cheapest type of tea, we still ended up paying a total of about $16 per person. The tea was simply made by placed bitter leaves in the cups and adding boiling water. This was disappointing considering the price as the tea simply tasted mostly like water except with a slightly bitter taste. So overall the tea was not great, but I guess the aesthetic provided an experience in itself.


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