Ah yes, the infamous traveling day(s). Starting with a 2:30 am bus departure from towers lobby at Pitt, it was a grueling day of sleeplessness and anticipation. This was only my second time traveling to a foreign country, so I was excited to add to my life experience. This was especially exciting to me because we were traveling to China, which has been on my list of places that I’d like to visit since I was very little. My first time traveling abroad was to Norway where nearly all of the people speak English. Going into China, I knew that it would be a completely different experience. First, there will be a much more impactful culture shock because as opposed to Europe, Asia has a more contrasting cultures from America. Also, as opposed to my previous trip to Norway, there isn’t 24/7 supervision. I have the ability to choose how to spend my free time, which makes this trip a lot more personalized and interesting.
We flew from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, had a 5 hour layover, and then flew from DC straight to China. Total of about 24 hours of flying and waiting for planes to show up. I learned that the flight doesn’t travel horizontally around the globe, it actually goes north above the north pole area and back down south to China. Once we arrived in Beijing, it was already 2 pm, meaning my body clock thought it was 2 am. I was completely spent and felt like I could go to sleep for a year, and being half way around the globe with a 12 hour time zone difference, it was quite the task to stay awake for the remainder of the day. However, as soon as I got out on the town all the new sights and experiences were enough to distract myself from how tired I actually was.
Upon our arrival at the airport, we were greeted by our two program coordinators, Liliana and Jane. They are two wonderful ladies from china who were there to help us through our journey of China.
After settling into the hotel and showering, we had our first authentic Chinese dinner. This was served family style, meaning that several dishes are put out at once, and everyone takes a small amount from each. Another cool aspect that fascinated me was that in the center of the table was a rotating glass plate that could be used to pass food around the circular table without actually lifting it. There was a demonstration of how chefs carve a duck. They use almost all of the meat and cut it into nearly identical slices. We then learned how to prepare the slices of ducks in small wraps as well as a certain type of bread filled with pork. Besides those two dishes there were a plethora of other interesting dishes. I had no idea what about half of the things I was eating were, but as they say, “when in Rome.” Luckily, I am well practiced with chop sticks so I was able to sit back and watch everyone struggle to pick up their food. Overall, it was a wonderful way to start my experience in China, and I look forward to all the little wonders and experiences I have left to broaden up my cultural scope of the world.