Saturday, June 24, 2006

It's been a crazy week. Between the start of classes, the language pledge, and still trying to adapt to Beijing life, it's probably fair to say everyone's been kept on their toes. This next week, we'll start afternoon classes, which consist of a weekly 1-on-1 and daily "language practicum" exercises - going out in Beijing to practice our newly learned material.

CET-organized trips have started, also, which gets us out and about to new places in the city. On friday, we went to see a Chinese Acrobats show, which was great. There are a ton of troupes in Beijing, and the particular one we saw was obviously a little sketchier than some of the really well-funded, high-end shows. Nonetheless, the show was still great. I just created a Webshots account, and you can see some pictures of the show and of life in Beijing at the link at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday we went to see the Temple of Heaven. I'm not as educated on the site's history as I would like to be, but it is a huge compound where the emperor would visit once a year for 3 days to pray for good harvests. The ceremonies were extremely elaborate, as is to be expected, and included sacrifices of animals raised on-site, and and ritual performance of music used exclusively for this event, from a dedicated observatory, also on-site. The magnitude of everything was just amazing. The imperial dining room was a building probably the size of a football field, to give an idea. Furthermore, all the buildings, which were constructed in the early 15th century, were all built using exclusively wood and stone - no traces of metal. The architecture was amazing, and the grounds were equally impressive. When walking between areas on the compound, the pathways are flanked by Cypress forests, planted in formation. Apparently, there are some 3000 trees, most of which are over 600 years old.

Today I'll do some studying for our daily quiz tomorrow, and perhaps make a run to our local Carrefour (essentially a French Wal-Mart) to buy some groceries. The fruit here is great, and I've included a picture of some interesting local varieties. Some ping pong may be in order, as well, since a fierce rivalry has just sprouted between myself and a friend following our investment in some decent paddles.