Written by Juniper Katz
We arrived about a week ago, but it feels much longer. I’m crossing intersections like a local, eating melon on a stick, and becoming accustomed to cucumber, cabbage and buns for breakfast.
Last week we attended class for two days and then had a field trip to IHS Global. We were ushered to the 30th floor of a modern, fancy office high rise where the view of Beijing was stunning. The Executive of IHS, Xizhou Zhou, is one of the Forbes “30 under 30” top global leaders and is a former student of Dr. Marian Chertow. Zhou graciously hosted us the same week that he was hosting Chancellor Merkel and Secretary Kerry. He gave a mind blowing presentation about the demand for energy and about the aggressive steps the Chinese government has taken to reduce the use of coal. The pace of energy development here is incredible. In many ways, if China can get its energy policy right, it will be a model for the rest of the world.
Later in the day we visited one of the main oil refineries for Beijing. The refinery is located outside of Beijing at the foot of the Yanshan Mountains. The fact that we were given access was very impressive given sites like this are critical national security areas, just like energy sites in the US.
The students here are friendly and welcoming — my new friend Zhou Hang calls me “Joo-Nee” and holds my hand when we walk together. Although it is not culturally common to hug each other, Chinese are very affectionate with their friends and their children. I’ve witnessed so many sweet scenes on the subway of people leaning on each other and generally being kind to one another.
In my free time I visited the Forbidden City which is located adjacent to the infamous Tianamen Square. The Forbidden City occupies about 180 acres in the center of the city and is surrounded by a high wall. There is a larger-than-life picture of Mao facing south over the square. Today the site is maintained as a public heritage site with thousands of Chinese and foreign tourists visiting it each day.
After a truly scorching day at the Forbidden City (it was 102 degrees), we hiked to the top of an ancient man-made hill for a view of the entire area. This was the highlight of the day for me: looking across the old city with the breeze blowing up the hill and the giant Buddha serenely watching over the city was a great way to take in the Forbidden City.
Later we descended the stairs and sought out dinner. The food here is tremendous — it’s a relative of Chinese food in America, but so much more flavorful and with vegetables and meats that we are not familiar with. One of my favorite dishes consists of baby cucumbers, with their blossoms still on, sautéed in garlic and oil. Yummy. I also like the small, cured pork ribs that have a sweet and smoky flavor. Then there’s the buns filled with garlic, cooked greens and tofu. My mouth just started watering, I think it’s time for dinner.