Monday, 31 December 2012


just a note to say that if you click on any of the photos in the previous post they will become full screen. A film strip should appear along the bottom so that you can scroll through the photos.

Some photos

Here are some photos from my time in China so far!

First two: the view from my window!

Next: the Study China opening ceremony

Beautiful flowers at the opening ceremony

Me at the opening ceremony

Out and about in Beijing

Cool name for a shop

 A fruit stall 

Some durians

Street with lots of food stalls

Selection of eggs

Seed stall. 
Seeds appear to be important to the Chinese as stalls like this are a common sight.

A Chinese lion

Callum! I saw this and thought of you!

The famous symbolic bell in the beautiful grounds of Beijing Normal University

A Chinese flag

Some of the nine million

Our first economics lecture



My attempt at the cursive hand form of the character for the dragon

Beijing Opera

The last lady is the Drunken Concubine who was my favourite character

Am about to go out to celebrate New Year's Eve with the group; I hope you enjoyed the photos and I will upload more as soon as I can.

 Thanks for reading! And Happy New Year!

 Liz x

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas in Beijing!

 Hello, everyone! 

 It is Boxing Day, and I am going to tell you about my Christmas in Beijing! It is the first time I have been away from home at Christmas, and I have been missing my family. However, I have still had a lovely Christmas with some amazing friends.

 I last updated this blog on Friday, so I will tell you what has happened between then and now. On Saturday a group of us decided to visit Beijing Zoo to see the giant pandas, which are so lovely! I also got the chance to see a golden eagle, a polar bear and boto dolphins! So many amazing creatures I had never seen before.

The aquarium, which had the dolphins and also a big turtle, looked really interesting, but my group didn't give ourselves much time to spend there and had to hurry back to our accommodation for lunch. Maybe one day we can go back and explore the aquarium properly - it looks fascinating.

 That afternoon we had our visit to a Chinese family. I was in a group of five, and our host was a lady who works with international students at
Beijing Normal University. We spent the afternoon and some of the evening in her incredibly comfortable apartment, chatting in Chinese and English, making dumplings, eating a delicious meal our host made for us, and generally feeling really relaxed and cosy. It was a lovely, chilled finish to our Saturday.

 Sunday morning we got up early to go and visit the body of Chairman Mao in his mausoleum at
Tiananmen Square. We then went to the Forbidden City, which was very beautiful. It was rather surreal looking over the walls of this ancient city and seeing the modern Beijing skyline beyond. Beijing really is a city of old and new combined.

We then went back to the Silk Market where I bought a few things, though I often feel uncomfortable in that place as the lights are really bright and white and make me feel claustrophobic. But it was wonderful spending time with Marvi, Sarah and April - three truly lovely people with whom I have become good friends.

 We had pizza together and then got a taxi back to our hotel. The taxi took us through a lot of skyscrapers and other cool buildings, such as the amazing new CCTV building (I'm hoping my Mam - who copies my emailed blog posts into my actual blog as Blogger is blocked here - will be nice and insert a photo of said building).

 That night we went to karaoke with Hai, one of the student volunteers here, who is really kind and lovely. Karaoke was good fun - there were memorable renditions of Small Things, Gangnam Style, Someone Like You, We Are Young, Mr. Brightside, Hotel California, 1,000 Miles, and L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.; the latter of which has been stuck in my head since! I don't mind because I really like it.

 Monday was Christmas Eve and we had lessons and then an economics lecture, which was on the sixteenth floor of the main university building. The view from the windows of the sun setting over
Beijing was so stunning! I wanted to go to the very top of the building to see what the view would be like; I couldn't find any easily accessible windows on the top floor - the twenty third - so I went down to the twenty second floor where there was a lovely big window at either end of the corridor and I could gaze at, and photograph, the magnificent city and the gorgeous sunset.

 That evening some people were talking about going to karaoke again, but I decided to stay in, and I phoned my family to wish them Merry Christmas and that was lovely. Then the next day was Tuesday and was Christmas!

 We had lessons in the morning and learnt to say Merry Christmas in Mandarin - Sheng dan kuai le! We are also learning the song
Beijing huan ying ni (Beijing Welcomes You - it is from the Olympics) and we are going to sing it at our graduation ceremony! I really like it.

 That evening we all met up for drinks in a coffee shop called Sculpting in Time, where I had some nice hot chocolate and a lovely chat with Scott. Then a large group of us went out for a meal together, which was really tasty. It was so lovely to have so many of us in one place on Christmas Day.

 We then went to play pool, and I played with Fay against Sarah and April. Fay had to teach me quite a lot as I am not a seasoned pool player, but by the end I had learnt quite a bit and potted a couple of balls! Fay also showed us some really amazing card tricks. It was a brilliant night and such a unique Christmas Day. I am glad I got to share this surreal but really enjoyable experience with such wonderful people as the Study China crew.

 Today after lessons we had a Tai Ji class, which was good fun, and the teacher was so talented! He showed us some of his skills and everyone was flabbergasted. We then went to see an acrobatics show which featured juggling as you will probably never have seen it, extreme bike riding, tightrope antics and umbrella juggling, which was something I had never seen before. It was a really well-choreographed and beautiful show, but it ended too quickly for me - I want to see more of it!

 Some of us then went to a little bar on campus called Laker's, where the lads in our group requested Gangnam Style and danced en mass, to the bemusement of half of the bar! I sat more serenely with some of my friends and had a pizza and a milkshake and both were delicious. Another really nice night with friends.

 So, that is you up to date with my antics! I don't think I need to say that I am having an amazing time. I feel so lucky to be here; it is just incredible being able to experience China in this way.

 Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

 Liz x

Friday, 21 December 2012

One week in!

 Hello everyone! Ni hao!

 We have now been in China for a week, but it feels like we have been here for months! We are now accustomed to the system of Mandarin lessons in the morning, economic or cultural classes in the afternoon, and going out exploring in the evenings. I am getting to know more and more people in the group, and I feel I am making some good friends.

 Wednesday afternoon we had a calligraphy class, which was fascinating. We were taught by a Professor who I understand to be very well-respected in his field. 

 He taught us about the ancient art of calligraphy; what it is that makes calligraphy so different from ordinary writing; then he showed us how to do the eight different strokes of Chinese calligraphy. We had special brushes made from - I think - bamboo, and very black ink which from the nautical smell of it may have come from a squid but I can't be sure. We practised the brush strokes on special paper and those of us who have Chinese alternative names wrote our names in calligraphy. 

 The Professor then told us all about the dragon and its significance in Chinese culture, and showed us many different ways of portraying the dragon in calligraphy. He finished by offering to write up all of our names in Chinese calligraphy, which is extremely kind of him. It was amazing to learn such an ancient and special art form from a true master.

 That evening the whole Study China group went to see the Beijing Opera, another ancient and respected art. There are truly spectacular costumes - I cannot emphasize enough how amazing some of them were. The performance we saw was made up of four famous scenes from the Beijing Opera. The first was called, "A Dance With a Sword," and was about a woman singing and dancing with a pair of swords with great skill to try to comfort the King who has lost a battle and may be about to lose his kingdom. In the end she threatens to kill herself with the sword and it wasn't obvious to me whether or not she succeeded... hopefully she lived. 

 The second piece was entitled "The Crossroads," and was about an encounter at an inn which leads to a martial arts battle. I know this was a favourite for a few of the lads on the trip who were impressed by the kung-fu, but personally I preferred the other pieces which had more dialogue and singing. 

 The third piece was called something along the lines of "A Pact and a Promise," and was about a husband revealing to his wife that he is actually from a different background to what she had thought, and that he changed his name so he could marry her, as she is above his level socially. He wants her to steal a token that will get him past a border of some sort so he can see his mother. That is the gist I got. I must say, I think she took very well the revelation that he lied to her and is not who he said he was - she sung about it for a few minutes and then seemed to be completely over it - not very realistic, I don't think!

 Finally we had, "The Drunken Concubine," about a concubine who becomes "charmingly drunk" as the intro put it, when she finds out the King has left her to spend the night with another concubine. This was the most bizarre performance, but I really enjoyed it, and I found it the easiest to follow.

 So, the Opera was a great success and I really enjoyed it. Also, I don't know if she'll ever see this, but I want to thank Natalie again for being so kind and doing what she could to help me enjoy the show despite my phobia of loud noises - I had been afraid there would be fireworks used, though in the end there weren't any so my fears were unjustified. But Natalie got me a seat on the aisle so I could leave if I needed to, and was very kind, so xiexie! (That's "thank you" in Chinese.)

 Thursday morning we had lessons as usual, then we had a lecture on "Demographic Change and the Social Security System in China," which was really interesting. Then a group of us went to Tienanmen Square, where it started snowing, and it was lovely. The Square is magnificent and we all took what seemed like hundreds of photos! 

 We then met by happy coincidence with another group of Study China students, and we all went for a Chinese meal together. We got our own little room within the main restaurant, and were given mango juice and watermelon juice. We ordered various dishes to share between us, including the famous Peking Duck. I had been expecting it to still look like a duck, but it was arranged in slices. I liked it at first, then it became a bit too fatty so I left it. So far my favourite Chinese dishes have been sweet and sour pork/chicken and a dish you can get with chicken and roasted peanuts. (Peanuts the way they do them over here are absolutely amazing.)  

 When we left the shopping mall that the restaurant had been in, it was really snowing, and the landscape was very beautiful. The ground was very slippery though! But it was lovely, walking along in the snow, and it is one of the main memories I will keep with me of Beijing.

 Today we had lessons, then Abbie, Scott, Sally and myself went to a Cantonese restaurant and shared a delicious meal. Sally is a student at the University and is one of the student volunteers who is there to look after us Study China people; to guide us and help us out when we need her. She is absolutely lovely. 

 Today is the winter solstice which is celebrated by a festival in China, which was partly why we had our meal (and partly just to spend time together). Today is also the apocalypse according to some; I really hope we live to see tomorrow because I love it here in China and want to see some more of it!

 This has been a wonderful first week in China; I was a bit homesick at first but I am settled in now and am really having a brilliant time. Here's to another two amazing weeks! And to the world not ending!

 Thanks for reading my blog! I hope you are all well! ♥

 Liz x

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

More adventures ...


 I have had an amazing few days! Yesterday - Monday - we had the Opening Ceremony for our Study China programme. It was lovely, and everyone from the university was so kind and welcoming. 

 We posed for a group photo, then we had a tour of the university campus. According to our tour guide, the campus of Beijing Normal University is smaller than those of some other Beijing universities, as we are near the centre of the city and land is expensive. However, the campus seems massive to me! Hopefully I will learn my way around soon.

 We then had a welcome dinner at a restaurant; this was very nice and helped me to get to know some members of the group who I hadn't known that well before. We then retired to bed for the night, ready for our first day of lessons.

 So Tuesday - today - we had three hours of classes in Mandarin Chinese, and a two hour lecture which was an introduction to China and the Chinese economy.

 I had studied Mandarin before this trip; however I still found that I learnt a lot during the lessons, and they helped in cementing what I already knew. We had two different teachers, who each had their own teaching style but were both really good. We learnt greetings, conversation, numbers and Chinese pronunciation.

 In our lecture in the afternoon we learnt all about China: about its geography, the different provinces and regions, and the Chinese economy. It was fascinating and I learnt a huge amount.

 We were free for the rest of the day, and a group of us decided to visit the Silk Market, a large shopping mall-type place, with lots of stalls selling all sorts of products, from clothes to bags to jewellery to toys to tea. It was an interesting experience and I got to know some more really nice people on the trip. 

 We then went and ate at a restaurant together. We ended up in the heart of Beijing, and it is amazing, with huge buildings and bright lights and a general aura of power and magnificence. I don't know whose idea the Silk Market excursion was, but I'm really grateful as I had a great evening.

 So, that is the last two days summed up! I will post photos when I can. 

 Thanks for reading,

 Liz x

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hello from China!

 Hello, world!

 I am writing to you from Beijing! It is my second day here - I arrived early yesterday morning after what was by far the longest journey I'd ever made in my life. 

 I'd been to some amazing places - Barcelona, Montpellier, Paris, Brussels - but I had never been outside of Europe before Friday. So it feels like a milestone in my life, to have travelled this far, to a new continent!

 First I flew from Manchester to Amsterdam, then from Amsterdam to Moscow. I had a bit of a wait in Moscow Airport so I had a look around. There are a lot of near-identical licence-frees selling chocolate, Russian stacking dolls, wooden Santas and little painted boxes, which I may be tempted to buy on the way back. 

 I then flew on to Beijing. This last flight was seven hours long, which is shorter than those of some other people I've spoken to, but still it was a lot for me to cope with, considering the longest flight I'd been on before this trip was probably about two hours long. I tried to sleep, which was difficult, and at one point I woke up suddenly and spilt my cup of water all over myself, which was not a very nice experience. 

 But at least I had an amazing new book to read: Origins, the third in a trilogy of books called the Fourth World trilogy, by the brilliant Kate Thompson. I heartily recommend these books; they are about what makes us human and where we came from, and they contain some very out-there ideas that will really make you think. Thank you so much to my Mam and Granma for getting me this wonderful book.

 Finally we reached Beijing and I was able to say I had been in the two biggest countries in the world (by land area)  in twenty-four hours, which is pretty amazing. My world has suddenly got a lot bigger.

 I got a taxi to the accommodation at Beijing Normal University, and as we were driving along I got my first glimpses of China through the windows. It was very snowy, and there were trees that looked new to me, which were quite pretty. I also saw two magpies, which I will take as a good omen. I was a bit surprised to see magpies so far from the UK. 

 I slept for most of yesterday, then today I met my room-mate  also called Elizabeth, and some of the others on the Study China programme. We ate together in the University canteen; I had some kind of meat with rice and it was very nice. 

 We ate with chopsticks which was a bit of a challenge! When I tried I couldn't hold them properly, but one time I picked them up absently-mindedly after we had been talking and started eating and I realised I could do it! Must have been in my subconscious somewhere.

 We then went to a little supermarket and it was amazing - it looks from the front like a small shop but inside it's really big! I bought some lemon cookies and they are delicious, some bread/cake that looked interesting, and some coconut-flavour Ferrero Rocher-type things which were also very nice. 

 Tomorrow we have our opening ceremony, which I am looking forward to. It is so amazing being in China, and I can't wait for the lessons to begin! I am studying Mandarin Chinese as well as a module on "China's Economic Development and Current Issues," which should be fascinating.

 Beijing is beautiful, especially at night with all the lights, and I hope to be able to upload some photos soon.

 Thank you for taking the time to read my blog,

 Thank you especially to my brother for sending me the very first Chalet School book which I had wanted for ages to be able to read but couldn't get hold of.

 Thank you to everyone who has sent me lovely, kind emails - computer access here is difficult at the moment but I will reply to each of you individually when I can.

 Love to you all,

 Liz x

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The night before


 A bit about me: my name is Liz, I am eighteen and I am a student of French and Spanish at the University of Manchester. Since April I have also been studying Mandarin Chinese at night school, and I am fascinated by the Chinese language and culture.

 So when I received an email telling me about the Study China programme, which is managed by my university, I thought it looked like a wonderful opportunity, and I applied to take part in it. After sending off the application form, I had a telephone interview, and then I got an email telling me that I had been given a place on the programme!

 I was amazed and delighted. Not long afterwards, I found out that I was destined for Beijing, which was the city I had been hoping for, so I was even happier. The whole thing is so amazing - even now, the night before I am due to set out, I still cannot completely believe that I am actually going to China.

 I have never been outside Europe before, so this will be a big journey for me not only in terms of distance but also in terms of the difference in culture. I will get the chance to explore a country and a way of life unlike any I have ever experienced, and that will, I feel, broaden my horizons and teach me more about the world.

 One of the reasons why I applied for Study China was simply to go somewhere completely different to anywhere I'd ever been, and China promises to fulfil that wish. It will be a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I feel so lucky and privileged to have had this opportunity. Thank you, Study China!

 So, the plan is that I fly out tomorrow, get there Saturday and have a day to get my bearings before the programme begins on Sunday.

 I can't wait to go to China, but I am rather nervous - this is the furthest from home I will ever have been, and the longest period of time - three weeks - for which I will ever have been away. I am really hoping I won't get too homesick, especially as I am staying over Christmas. However, I have been promised a second Christmas when I get home ♥

 I hope you enjoy reading my blog and joining me on my adventures! It promises to be the trip of a lifetime!

 Liz x