Emile: Departing Our Friends, Great Wall, Downtown Beijing!

Following breakfast this morning, we had to say goodbye to many of our foreign friends and guides. Thinking back, these people were the ones with whom I could so easily bond to and make a connection with. Talking science with people from around the world is something special, and the competition and events in Beijing offered exactly that. Though, with our Chinese guides, we were able to make a bond over more than just science. With them, we could easily break the language barrier and learn more about the country we were in. Asking about culture, politics, history, and their lives, I got a special insight into people and the way they live in a country on the other side of the world.

After saying goodbye, we headed to the Great Wall! We arrived there fairly early, giving us the opportunity to miss the crowds and not have to show anyone our pain of walking up. The walk wasn’t terrible, but the view made it worthwhile. From the top, we were able to see the huge mountain range as well as all of the shops and people in the valley. It is incredible to walk on a structure that is so old and has so much history. I’m not sure I can even fully imagine it being built. Thousands and thousands of miles of wall, made of millions, maybe billions, of stones, and built by so many people…crazy. Once we finished walking along it and came down, I actually got my first chance to bargain. I’d gotten some tips before from our guide, so I had a decent mindset going in. When the vendor offered me 165 ¥ for a little gift, I thought I had done well when bargaining it down 30 ¥. I paid and left with a smile on my face…until I got to the next stand where they were selling the same gift. Out of curiosity, I asked him how much he was selling it for. He said 30…and whoosh, there went my boosted ego. I realized that I had been completed swindled. Oh well, I suppose I should experience it at least one time before I leave.

The last part of our day was spent in Downtown Beijing, in the Wangfujing District. Known as the shopping district, you’re able to see all of the name brand stores, Nike, Adidas, Gucci, Prada, but also experience some of the authentic Beijing culture. We were able to get some lunch in the mall, sharing bowls of authentic ramen, a nice break from the instant kind, fried rice, and even Japanese curry. For dinner, we got some recommendations from the hotel staff and got to enjoy a family style Chinese dinner. Stuffed lotus, spiced beef, spinach and cheese bread, and potato strips…all necessities in a delicious Chinese dinner.

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