And on the seventh day...

Trip Start Jun 14, 2012
Trip End Jul 02, 2012

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, June 24, 2012

Finally had a slow day. This isn't a
disappointment, I needed time to...breathe. I like breathing.

We slowly rambled our way through
breakfast, had a lazy lunch in the Western bar where we once again
ate our weight in french fries because they actually taste right.
Everyone is becoming extremely nostalgic of American cuisine, but
overall we're healthy, stable, and should hold out fine for another
week. When you stare down at what the poorly translated menu calls a
hamburger and realize you've had sliders bigger than that...sure our
huge portions are killing us with heart disease, but we miss that.

It being Sunday, some of us made a
point to make it to a mass with the international church that we'd heard about back at the orphanage. As if pulling on a polo shirt wasn't
difficult enough, we had to head out there in the rain. It was
actually a relaxing little trip out there. Walking up to the
Roman-styled Catholic cathedral located off the shopping distinct I
noticed something...odd. Directly in front of the church's front door
was a raised ridge leading to the street which ended under a small
stone gate standing by itself near the road. There were also two entrances besides the one with this
raised road. This Catholic church had been designed with the same
entrance pattern as the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City: The
main entrance was reserved for God, one for the nobility, one for the commoners where the members entered. This odd blend of ancient mythos
and foreign religion simply astounded me, it was the fifth or so time
we'd walked by this church and it was only now that I realized it.

Walking in, this was one of the most
diverse church groups I'd ever seen. While of course there was a
Chinese population, there seemed to be an even dispersal of white,
black, and other elasticities scattered throughout the pews. The
service was in English by an American priest, and in the typical
Catholic fashion they wrapped it up neatly in under an hour. The only
real reminder that we were in China was when the woman next to me
wished me peace with a traditional bow instead of a handshake. That was the first time I'd received a bow since entering China, I truly have no idea when it's considered appropriate to bow instead of offer a hand. 

For dinner, we faced a minor obstacle.
Our translator was taking some much needed time off, and the menus were only in
Chinese. While I can speak it to a very limited extent, reading is a
major weakness of mine. We struggled to communicate with the
restaurant hostess for a few minutes until a pair of young white men
in their twenties appeared and casually translated for us in rather
skillful Mandarin. They were both British and had been living in
Beijing for seven months working part-time jobs and studying Mandarin
heavily. After helping us order, they gave us a good layout of which hot spots to aim for
before we left. Supposedly, there's a district comprised mostly of
foreigners. I was given a name on a piece of paper, and the advice
'Everybody knows where to find it'.

I'm writing this while the other
students on the trip are playing cards on the floor or watching
movies on a laptop. Spending a week straight boxed together in a
world that doesn't speak English has forced us all to bond tightly in
order to keep our sanity without any enjoyable distractions. They're
not just other Americans, they're from Northern. While this slice of
home is keeping me together, I miss the rather pathetic life waiting
for me back in DeKalb. My attention-seeking collection of hats, all
the sympathetic professors, my bumbling internship, my seat at the
diner, my roommate's couch, the Pillow Pets I share my bed with...I
should be ashamed of it all, and I typically am, but I still miss it
all right now.  
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