Written by Louis, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for JSA Diplomat Program in Beijing, Summer 2018*
Today, in lieu of our typical excursions to Chinese cultural places scattered across Beijing and the JSA speaker program, I, along with my classmates, attended a tai chi class where we learned beginner moves while laughing at our own inability to emulate our instructor. This is the second cultural activity we have done as a group, with the first being Chinese paper cutting. While such activities are not necessarily as educational as our class time, I find the hours spent embracing the culture of China to be just as important to our experience.
The time we spend taking part in the culture of China has been complementary to my learning of the nation’s history, working to create a truly authentic experience. This trip has taken on the framework of an immersion program rather than simply a summer school, and has broadened my understanding of both Chinese history, Mandarin, as well as what traditions the Chinese people hold dear to them.
The tai chi class was just another installment of my continued inquiry into the culture of China. Moving beyond the delicious food (particularly the scorpions I enjoyed on Wangfujing Street), tai chi is a part of the spiritual culture of China, being an exercise for the health of the mind and body–as well as self-defense. As we continue to traverse this trip, my classmates and I are not only becoming more knowledgeable about the past, but are becoming worldlier in regard to the present.
Outside of our scheduled activities, many of us have become incredibly competitive over the number of steps we have taken. Using the app “WeChat,” everybody is logging the number of steps they are taking each day, hoping to earn the number one rank. While not in any way, connected to just China, this light competition has been a unique bonding experience for all of us.
While today was largely laid back, it was just the recuperation we all needed to prepare us for the next adventure that awaits us tomorrow: an excursion to Art Zone 798.