Most people know what being on a plane for thirteen hours is like, so even though that was the first thing I did on my CET journey, the beginning of my CET experience (plane, orientation, dorm life, etc.) isn’t really all that interesting compared to what life outside of CET in Beijing is like.
This past weekend, I spent my Friday afternoon at the spectacular Summer Palace, our first week’s cultural excursion through the program. The palace is beautiful; it was built in the 1700s, the end of the Qing Dynasty, and the gardens are absolutely picturesque. The traditional architecture is breathtaking. The traditional-looking boats that you can rent make the lake look like you have stepped back in time. The Summer Palace, regardless of how many people are in any given space, holds this surreal and peaceful energy you can’t find anywhere else. You can see the skyline of Beijing from the top of the stairs at the Temple, and it’s absolutely stunning. I’ll definitely be visiting again once the weather cools off here in Beijing.
After the Summer Palace, four of us (two other CET students, my CNU buddy, and myself) went to dinner. I had never tried Hot-Pot (火锅) before Friday, but if you’ll allow me to be completely honest with you—it ruled. Severely. If you’ve never heard of Hot-Pot, it is basically a pot of broth (we got a spicy broth and a tomato broth). You can order all sorts of things, meats, vegetables, noodles, rice, that get cooked in the broth. You would be wrong if you thought it was a DIY soup. You don’t eat it as a soup; the broth is simply the method of cooking, which leads to everything being infused with the flavor of the broth. My favorite thing we ordered was the duck tongue; I can’t explain the flavor meaningfully, so just trust me that it was really good.
On Saturday, many of us decided to go to the Beijing Zoo. As far as zoos go, it’s not any different. I am of the opinion that all Zoos are cool places and worth going to, but if you’re not a zoo fan, the Beijing Zoo probably isn’t any different than one you can find in the states, except for two things.
The Beijing Zoo has some China-exclusive (or near-exclusive) animals, the most well-known being the Pandas. I had never seen a Panda in real life before Saturday morning, and before, I definitely resided firmly in the school of “all bears are so scary; why does everyone think Pandas are cute” and now, what can I say? I’m a Panda fan, they are as cute as everyone wants you to think, they look just like teddy bears, and they’re not scary at all. To be honest, the scariest part of the panda exhibit was the line to get in, the bears were extremely epic. Sleeping, rolling on their backs, eating bamboo, swinging in a hammock.
The other China-exclusive animals at the Beijing Zoo are the Snub-Nosed Monkey and the Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey, which I am not ashamed to say is the reason I wanted to go to the zoo in the first place. And let me tell you, seeing your favorite animal in person for the first time is crazy; the monkeys were the dopest thing in the zoo. They were doing monkey things, climbing, swinging on ropes, picking each other’s fur, eating, it was so cool. I love those monkeys so much. When I go to zoos, I love the monkeys, and seeing my favorite monkeys at the Beijing Zoo elevated this basic zoo to a top-tier one.