The Palace Museum guards complete their daily 6 a.m. training in the Forbidden City grounds. In the streets surrounding the Palace, shopkeepers start their day early, preparing food and goods for visitors. Productivity is a lifestyle in this part of Beijing.
On a Palace Museum-organized tour of Tianjin, we attended a “crosstalk” (Xiang Sheng) performance (fast, bantering traditional Chinese comedy). Amidst the lively sunflower-seed-splitting, tea-drinking audience, I experienced a deeper connection to my hometown than ever before.
With weekend adventures including camping on the Great Wall and a tour of Beijing’s contemporary art district “798” (shown here), it was impossible not to bond with the other 10 Yalies in the Bulldogs in Beijing group.
Fortunately, because my family came to visit from Canada, I got to spend time with them on the weekends, taking the train to visit and feeling very much like a working adult. The result: I spent much time at train stations goofing off with my little brother.
I also had the chance to reconnect with my extended family living in Beijing. My uncle, passionate about Chinese history, would take me on walking tours of historical sites, where I made the biggest discovery: although we are not related by blood, our smiles match.
An architect by trade, my uncle showed me the intricacies and magic of ancient Chinese architecture. Every detail counts: from the auspicious odd number of tiles and statuettes to the complex interlocking molding system that requires no screws or nails. I spent a large part of my lunch hours staring at rooftops, enchanted.
My favorite food stall on the street that led me to work. Among the four other ones selling the exact same breakfast options at impossibly low prices, this one offered the best taste and a smile as they’re returning your change — not to mention the least stomach woes afterward. This summer was an experiment in gastronomy both blissful and … “complicated.”
A candid moment (thanks to a humorous photographer who ensured we all smiled) with some co-workers from the External Affairs department. I bonded well with them over food and adventures on our cultural trip to Tianjin.
In addition to experiencing the rich culture in Beijing, I also delved into introspection within the quiet of the Palace, pacing the grounds in my free time, following the steps left by Chinese philosophers, fully immersing myself in discovery and wonder.