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Written on: July 25, 2019

It is currently 12:45 am. I am sitting on the bus, and we just began our journey to the place we are staying for the night in Beijing. None of us know where we are going. This morning, more like yesterday morning, we said goodbye to our homestay families. Many of us had parents and siblings crying when we parted with them. It was quite sweet to experience and to watch. All of us created such close connections with our families that knowing we may never see them again hurt a lot.

After leaving our families, the messy program house awaited. The previous day, we hosted a party for all of our homestay families to say thank you to them. We cooked for four hours, moved around all the furniture, made signs, and completely wrecked the apartment in the process. When we came to the program house the next morning, a deep clean awaited us. We had our morning meeting, debriefed our x-phase day, and then delegated roles to everyone to clean up the place before we left on our adventures for the day.

We learned during our x-phase that we needed to better spread out work and take more initiative to see what needed to be done. Therefore, during our cleaning, we assigned specific jobs to each person to make sure that we spread the work evenly and everyone contributed. Some people washed dishes, some people fixed the furniture, some people scrubbed the floor, and some people bought soap. We ran out within the first 5 minutes, so some people had to buy more. We cleaned for about a half hour, but then the instructors came up and shook their heads. We continued cleaning for another thirty minutes until the instructors were satisfied.

After all of our cleaning, the program house was looking presentable, so we went to the bus stop and headed to the bird and flower market. The bird and flower market was quite enjoyable, but also quite sad. We learned from our instructors that the bird and flower market used to be only on the street. Common people would sell birds and flowers, as the name describes. Unfortunately, more and more of the street sellers are going out of business, and instead, vendors are starting to build structured shops. As I was walking around with my friends today, we saw so many stores, but no one selling any product on the street. The only thing close to the historical market was a shop that sold birds, although they were not even on the street. I could have easily missed some, but I think that the entire market used to be a street market, meaning we should have seen a couple more street stores. Many of the authentic and unique Chinese places we have visited may be gone in five years.

We took the bus back to the program house after wandering around the market for a few hours. We did not get lost today! Most likely because the instructors were leading our transportation. We spent some time in the apartment to prepare for our flight to Beijing, and then we were off! We took vans to the airport and had a very slow baggage check and security run through. Our flight was delayed, so we sat on the floor of the airport for awhile, attracting more stares than normal.

Once the boarding began, we learned about the Chinese way of cutting in line. Kristen led the way, and then we took the lead in return. We saved ourselves so much time and effort by cutting in front of about half the line. We’ll see how these skills will work for us in LA. We finally got on the plane and walked all the way to the back. Most of us were in the last two rows. My row held a tea party with new tea and tea sets from the markets we have visited in the past two weeks. It was so much fun! I am not sure how the flight attendants felt about us constantly trying to ask for hot water in Chinese. I know other rows also read, slept, and talked as well.

We stepped off the plane in Beijing, and we were immediately hit with heat and humidity. I have noticed a slow temperature increase throughout our trip. We started with pretty cold weather in Nanyao: cloudy, and raining almost every day. Then, we headed to Tiger Leaping Gorge and the sun came out! Next, in the homestay, the weather was quite nice. Not too cold, not too hot. Now we are in Beijing with 100 degree temperature, smog, and damp air.

After hopping off the plane, we got onto a crowded bus, and picked up our bags from baggage claim. Now, I am looking out the window onto a dark, Beijing highway. It still does not feel like we are in China. Today we start the “transference”, or as I like to call it, the beginning of the end. All of us are quite confused about the transference period because none of us never knew transferring could take four days. We will see what the instructors have in store for us! I am excited for these last few days we will be able to spend with each other and with nature. We will let you know about the next adventure that awaits us!