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Richard Eriksson's 2-month trip
 

May 3rd, 2000

Prologue

I leave on Monday for Tokyo, spend the night there, and then fly to Beijing. We (I'm with a group of 13 people) are going to spend a week in Beijing, taking in the sites, like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, etc. Then we take an 11 hour train ride to Changchun, which is about 1000 km northeast of Beijing. I will be studying Mandarin for 7 weeks, and there will be field trips and special lectures on various aspects of Chinese culture.

May 12th, 2000

Beijing

Now, in Beijing, the traffic system is very, very different. You must understand that pedestrians do not have the right of way, nor do the bicycles. Cars have the right of way, always. People are often waiting in the middle for a break in traffic to cross. And honking seems to substitute for shoulder checking.

May 14th, 2000

Changchun Arrival

China is an interesting place so far, but it is very busy. The roads are packed with cars, bicycles and people, all competing (and the cars usually winning) for open spaces.

May 15th, 2000

First Day of Class

Today was the first day of class, and before class we were all tested on our level of Chinese. I did okay on the written part, but during the oral part, the woman asked me questions I would have known if I had studied for just three months more. Then I understood the questions given to Benny (the oral and written exams were done with everybody together in the same room). So I asked for a second chance, and I had a better chance to answer, because the questions were simpler and I had some good answers.

May 20th, 2000

Variety Show and Puyi's Palace

Changchun was where Puyi and his wives (yes, plural) lived, and the story goes that one of them (there are conflicting stories as to which one it was) smoked opium and went crazy, as people who smoke opium do.

May 25th, 2000

Dinner and the Zoo

Today, after class, I went to the Internet cafe and found out that the United States Congress granted China permanent normal trading relations, which is not essential for WTO approval, but certainly helps. The Chinese government, according to the state newspaper (there are only state newspapers here), is happy, but doesn't like the human rights provisions. No surprise there.

May 28th, 2000

Harbin

The countryside of China has played an integral part in Chinese history, especially the twentieth century. Even though the Communist Party started as a group of urban intellectuals, a peasant from a fairly well off family, Mao Zedong, was instrumental in convincing the Communist Party that the revolution would spring from the peasants, which made up (and still makes up) the vast majority of the Chinese population.

June 3rd, 2000

Olympics and the Tax Party

The math department was surprisingly disciplined, walking in step and shouting their slogan clearly. Our logan was "Friendship First, Competition Second." Some students got tired of waiting in line to parade in the stadium, and started making their own slogans, like "Rest First, Study Second". Silly people.

June 7th, 2000

Jilin City

I have eaten dog, and it's actually not bad. A bit tough, but tasty. I'm eating a lot of new dishes here, but I've decided not to knowingly eat cat.

June 11th, 2000

Since Thursday

The policeman had studied kung fu for twenty years, and according to him, he would hit his arms against trees to make them stronger. Well, that's one way of doing it! He gave us a demonstration, and nearly tore Benny's arm off. He's okay now.

June 19th, 2000

Inner Mongolia

The sunset was very beautiful, and we were treated to a bonfire with some Mongolian singing. The Canadians sang "Oh Canada!", the only song we all knew.

June 29th, 2000

Last Day in Changchun

At first when we came to Changchun, we believed that the city wasn't anywhere near Beijing in being developed, but after that night, we figure that in a few years, Changchun will be a gem of Northeast China, a place worth working and living.

July 4th, 2000

From Changchun to Courtenay

There is now a tension inside me. I already miss the fact that I am given a lot of attention, mostly because of the fact that I'm a white guy and speak some Chinese. Almost everywhere I went, people would look at me with curiosity.

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