By Fiona Dawn
Northwest Asian Weekly
I didn’t expect a very fun summer this year until my parents signed me and my brother, Austin, up for a study tour sponsored by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission in Taiwan. Not only that, they also offered us a chance to see the highly anticipated opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Our jaws dropped like a broken door hinge
In July, my brother and I flew to Taipei for camp, which encouraged overseas Chinese students to learn about the Chinese language and culture.
On the first day, I felt anxious about meeting my roommates. When I arrived into my room, I met five amazing girls who introduced themselves and made me feel right at home. They became my first group of genuine
For the next two weeks, I followed a jam-packed schedule of classes and activities. Every morning, I woke up at 7 a.m. for a Chinese breakfast consisting of congee, scrambled eggs and cucumber slices. Afterwards, I headed across the sky bridge to the classrooms where I took my Mandarin, flute and knotting classes. In the afternoons, we traveled on huge buses to visit scenic and historic sites in Taipei.
Camp had many strict rules. We were required to be in class on time and in our beds by 11 p.m. every night. Although we tried to fulfill every requirement, most of us couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak out after bed check to be a part of Taiwan’s nightlife. Like all the other campers from preceding years, we covered our faces so counselors couldn’t detect who we were when we ran out the front gates.
One night, my roommates wanted to take me out clubbing. Exiting the building was extremely difficult, because our counselors were surveying inside and outside the buildings, taking snapshots of us so they could issue demerits the next day. We heard some people were climbing out windows, but my friends and I decided to leave through the elevators. For a head covering, I used a brown plastic bag and poked two holes in the front so my eyes could see.
We decided to run for it. It seemed like a simple plan, but I couldn’t keep up in my heels. The plastic bag that consumed my face made it incredibly hard to breathe. I also couldn’t see where to run, so I had to take my covering off of my head. Though I did get a demerit the next day, I do not regret my choice to sneak out because it was one of the most fun times I shared with my friends.
After camp ended, Austin and I excitedly flew to Beijing to be a part of the opening ceremony. On the first day of arrival at the Beijing International Airport, I was in awe at how big the new terminal was. When we drove into the city, there were so many grand buildings odd in shape and size.
I visited Beijing seven years ago, and this summer I went back expecting the standard of living to have improved and the influence of globalization to have had significant impact on the people. KFCs and McDonalds were open at almost every major mall, and the food catered to the local palate. My mouth watered over the rice burgers.
On Aug. 8, Austin and I were very giddy when we put on our Olympic shirts and tattooed our faces with Fuwa mascots. We spent two hours in transportation and security check and finally arrived at the Bird’s Nest Stadium. I looked inside and thousands of people were taking pictures simultaneously to the point I thought it looked like twinkling stars.
The performances were incredible and reflected an important part of China’s culture and art. The large masses of people and their uniformity showed much practice and discipline, a key element that represents the spirit of the Chinese culture. When the athletes marched out, I cheered the loudest for U.S. and China because I had ties with both countries. As an American citizen, I received an education and knowledge of society’s needs. But as a Chinese person, I was immersed into a flourishing culture that gave me a different perspective on family values and filial piety.
During my stay in Taiwan, I will always remember the late night talks with my roommates, the laughter we shared after singing on the bus and complaints about how bad the food tasted. The people I met gave me confidence in myself and showed me the importance of living in the moment. My chance to see the opening ceremony was mind blowing. This event stretched my mind to view a more progressive and newer China.
As China continues to open itself up to the world, I’d like to see the country preserve its culture and flair even though they are slowly progressing. Thanks to Mom and Dad for taking care of the expenses on this trip! Without them, my summer fun would not have been possible. ♦
Fiona Dawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.