In the midst of the school routine and life around 北外（Beiwai, short for Beijing Foreign Studies University), this week we visited Tiananmen and the surrounding area(namely, the Forbidden City) as well as the Beijing Urban Planning Museum. Going to both of those places, it was very apparent just how much the city is a conglomeration of heavily industrial infastructure as well as old architecture that have endured thousands of years of wear and tear. In most places in the U.S., the oldest a building may be is most likely a hundred years, but some of the houses in Beijing have stood there for thousands of years, undergoing many changes.
It's very awe-inspiring to walk around a place like the Forbidden City, knowing that thousands of years ago people were walking on that same ground, going about their palace duties, and then to walk not even 100 feet away to a recently opened Starbucks for a cup of coffee. Beijing is currently undergoing a cultural revitilization project in order to maintain the older buildings, most of which have fallen by the wayside, which aims to keep that juxtaposition of time periods while also trying to help lift up some of its citizens out of poverty. Just as the old and new live side-by-side, so do the rich and the poor.
One of our IES leaders said that he could spend his whole life here and still die ignorant, because there's so much deep cultural history to a place like Beijing, and after being here for a couple of weeks I'm beginning to see that more and more. I can only hope to experience as much of it as I can before returning home.
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<p>Hi, I'm Gretchen, and I'm currently a prospective Languages and Linguistics Major at Swarthmore College, PA. I was born in Rota Spain, and have grown up in various places around the states (notably Hawai'i), and am very excited to be participating in the Beijing Summer Language Intensive program! I'm really into all different types of art, and exploring that interest through all sorts of avenues (this blog will be one of them). On this trip I hope to gain not only language skills, but innumerable friends and experiences that last a lifetime. Join the adventures of an unapologetically queer, short (but not tiny) college student navigating one of the biggest cities in the world!</p>