你好 (Hello)! I am writing this blog in my hotel room surrounded by scenery of old and tall apartment buildings in the city of Guangzhou, China. To start off, our study abroad group was originally supposed to be in a hotel that we had checked in on our first day. However, due to some issues, our professors made the decision to relocate to another hotel. Our plans had been changed, but as one of my professors had stated, moving to different areas of the city is part of the travel experience as well. And so here I am, typing away in the new hotel.
It has been almost two weeks here and I am fascinated and surprised by the city and the people in many different ways. It started with the scenic view from the plane. On my flight to Guangzhou, I booked myself a window seat so I could see what the city looked like. I imagined it to be a massive urban center like New York City or Tokyo that I have seen from online images, but it turned out to be a combination of urban and nature. It was a beautiful and exciting view.
Within the first few days of arrival, I experienced both the good and the bad. I will start with the bad: the tap water. I was told that it was undrinkable here, so I needed to buy mineral water or boil it in advance. Once while I was brushing my teeth, I had used the tap water to gargle and rinse my mouth. The next day, I felt a pain in my throat and tongue and realized there were sores forming around. I did not expect it to be this serious. Fortunately, with some medications, the sores recovered over the next few days and I decided to avoid putting tap water into my body. It was a lesson well learned.
Now for the good part. Most of the food here is locally handmade, cheap, and most importantly, scrumptious. They include dumplings, noodles, stir-fried rice with vegetables, and street snacks with skewered sausages and meat. There were times I went to the same place a few times because it was that great. Even the popular restaurants, such as McDonalds, had unique menus which were completely different from other countries (they had Gyu-don which is a Japanese beef and rice bowl!), which blew my mind. When it comes to eating, it is never an issue in Guangzhou, for you are offered countless options, ranging from local to international. I recommend trying out all types of different dishes as you might find a memorable one you really love.
In the academic aspect, I went to temples, monuments and parks that helped our group reflect on the courses of Chinese philosophy and history. It was interesting to see that despite the rapid developments and modernizations of the city, there are still traces of various traditions and religions situated within. Just like the name of the program suggests, I can definitely observe the past and the present.
Overall, it has been a thrilling and surprising experience, with cultural differences I have been noticing between the host country and my home that I will further elaborate in my next blog post. I will also add some of my experiences in Hong Kong – a place that I will expect to be completely different from Guangzhou. See you later!