Kevin – Updates from Beijing

Day 2: Independence

I woke up bright and early with the delegation to go to the auditorium where we will present to the judges. I had a quick breakfast, and I was amazed by all of the food selections. The smell of 油条(fried buns),馒头(buns),and 包子(meat filled buns) quickly wafted into my nose. It’s been too long since I had these scrumptious snacks! Our delegation has three volunteers with us who were to be our translators: David, Selena, and Tracey. They soon took us to the auditorium for us to put up our posters. However, even though I went, I was unable to put my poster up. You see, I am part of the very first ever Mini Maker Fair that they have at this competition, so my set up time was at noon. The fellow students in the BYSCC competition had to be judged in the morning, so Serena took me back to the hotel where I prepped and followed her around. At lunch, I finally worked up the courage to use my rusty Chinese skills to talk to Serena, and she was shocked. I began talking to her in Chinese since, and we were becoming quite close.

Since I had to set up at noon, I had lunch much earlier than everyone else. Serena took me to the auditorium. While we were on our way, we began discussing the cultural similarities and differences of living in the USA and China. It was very enlightening! After setup, I began to wait patiently for my judges. My judges came in 2 big sets of 8-9 people. It was quite intimidating, and only a few understood English. I was unable to accurately represent my project in Chinese, so I, unfortunately, had to use English. While I was waiting to be judged though, I saw many fellow projects! There were many innovative and creative designs, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! One of the most favorite things that I saw, however, would have to be this cute toy that a little girl made. It was of a baby kangaroo, and if an object approached within half a meter of it, it would shrink back into the mother’s pouch. It was adorable! After such a productive day, I immediately slept after taking a shower following a wonderful dinner.

Day 3: 用夜啼薄膜从煤灰提出稀土元素 (Using Liquid Membranes to Selectively Recover Rare Earth Elements from Coal Ash)

Going to the auditorium today, there was a clear sign of the relieved stress and tension in the atmosphere. Everyone was not as nervous as we weren’t going to be judged. However, we haven’t completely cleared the obstacles yet; we had to present our research to the public. I was getting quite nervous because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to present my research effectively to the public. However, I was able to meet and interact with the Ukranian translator (刘笑梅 Liu Xiao Mei). After using Chinglish and explaining my project to hear, we were able to figure out together a good Chinese translation to represent my project! The title of the day is the result of our hard work. Countless of people, students, adults, young kids, and even old people came by my project, and as soon as they saw my English project, they began to walk away…that was until I said to them in Chinese, “Do you want to know about my project?” Without fail, all of them came back to me and wondered about the tale I was about to spin. I was able to convey the general gist of my project to them. It was from my continuous explanation to the public that I got to see how enthusiastic the Chinese people are to science. It was something that strung deeply in me, and it ignited a feeling that I should help make science more appreciated in the USA.

After the busy morning, we had a science activity day where the US delegation made some face masks with the 3D plastics. I made Aang from the Nickelodeon Cartoon “Avatar and the Last Airbender.” Following that fun task, we came to the special award ceremony. The music and the dancing were great, and I was really interested in all of the cultural activities that each countries’ delegation had performed. Though none of the US members won a special award, there was a special feeling that I got seeing people that I spent the last 3 days with win some awards. We then called it a night and eagerly awaited for the second part of the award ceremony tomorrow.

Day 4: Haggling

We woke up for the 2nd award ceremony, and as soon as we got there with all of the music blaring, I immediately thought that it was too early in the morning for such festivities. However, we still powered through. We were quite fortunate that every single member of the US delegation won a first prize award, which was very exciting. It felt like we were Olympians as we even took pictures of us biting the medals!

Following such a boisterous morning, we relaxed until the afternoon, where everyone who competed in the international competition went to the Great Wall. I have already been to the Great Wall multiple times, but I was still excited to go back. The air quality in Beijing today was bad, and so the Chinese volunteers all gave us face masks. All of the adults of our delegation decided to buy a 2-way tram trip of the Great Wall, but us kids decided to walk it; it was miserable. At least, during the walk, it was quite miserable. It was so long, and the steps were uneven with some steps being really high and really steep. The air quality was not helping at all, and so it was quite a task. However, after making it up to the top, we felt quite accomplished, and we decided to tram down (which turned out to double our admission price but it was worth it haha). Coming down, Ritvik wanted to buy a cute panda. The guy originally tried to sell it for 65 RMB but with my excellent expertise, I was able to haggle the price down to 25 RMB. However, despite my achievements in haggling, it was nothing compared to Serena’s haggling ability. She was able to negotiate her way through all of the trade deals in the Market, and cut the price down from items which were worth 85 RMB to 25 RMB or less!

However, all is well may not always end well.

After the Great Wall, we came back to the hotel to eat dinner. Unfortunately, the Chinese volunteer students had to leave tonight because the rooms they were booked in had to be used for other reservations. As such, it was kind of a sad and solemn dinner. It was quite cheerful as we had given them the gifts that we brought from the USA, and in the words of Tracey, “There was a moment where I almost broke down”. We all exchanged our tearful goodbyes, and it actually felt sad that this amazing experience is coming to a close. I made sure to add Serena, Tracey, and David on Facebook and Wechat (and I even told them about Snapchat) to continue my connection with them.

After all our troubles today with the Great Wall and dinner, I was mentally and physically exhausted and tired, and I slept at 8:00 PM. I missed the planned card game that we had with the Australia, Israel, South Africa, and etc delegations, and so this blog is my apology to them. I’m going to blame the jetlag.

Day 5: Embassy

Today was a sad day. Not only was it the worst day so far on the air quality index (it was 500 because of a severe sandstorm that came over the Gobi Desert), but it also marked the end of the BYSCC. We woke up early to get breakfast, but Ritvik and I were almost late to our bus (because I’m going to blame Ritvik for taking too long to get ready). We had a couple of other delegations on our bus as well, but most of the other delegations left in separate ways. It was also some tearful goodbyes, but after yesterday’s sad departure, I was still a little bit numb.

Our original plan for today was to drop off our luggage and stuff to the hotel before we went to the US Embassy, but to make sure the other delegations on our bus made it to their event in time, we were first dropped off at the Embassy, and they said they were going to drop our stuff at the hotel. I was quite anxious to part with my stuff, but it ended up well (as I am still able to type this). It turns out that going into the US Embassy is like in movies, and all we had to do was show our US passports. They were quite strict about us not being able to take pictures of the visitor pass of the embassy, but overall, it was nice. We met the head of the NSF department at Beijing, Nancy Sung. She was really nice and gave us a quick tour of the inside of the embassy, a chance that I bet not many people get. We had to give up our cameras and phones, and so we were not able to get pictures of the inside. However, on the inside, it was the most beautiful field, and there was some amazing artwork. It was truly an unbelievable place as we were also able to discuss our works with Nancy, and discussed many different things. It was all very enlightening. She took us down to eat at the embassy cafeteria, and that was very exciting as well.

Following that amazing embassy trip, we went to the hotel where, thankfully, our luggage was there. I also was able to see my aunt there, as well as the hotel we are staying at, is quite close to where she lives. The only plans we had for the afternoon was to go shopping, and I had my aunt take and lead us to show us the way of the Wangfujing District, one of the most popular tourist areas in Beijing. After a busy afternoon of bartering, I bid my aunt goodbye to see her again tomorrow as we have planned lunch together. The US delegation then decided to relax until dinner, where we went to a nearby restaurant that had the wonderful Peking duck (it’s what I lived for as a kid). Michelle and I practiced our Chinese as we ordered, and with as minimal of difficulties as possible, we were able to order stuff. After dinner, Ritvik and I went back to the hotel and rested in the hotspa. It felt so nice, that we plan to go down to the sauna and steam room tomorrow. I am planning to make sure to maximize my time spent at this hotel!

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