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The opera, the earthquake and Pizza Hut

July 13, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Christopher's blog: 
大家好!(Hello, everyone!)

It has been a while since my last post, and a lot of interesting things have since happened. Summer break has finally started for the Chinese students, so the campus feels almost empty compared with before. Our classes are continuing just fine, and we have gotten used to the routine. However, because one of our teachers (we have two) had to go to a teacher's seminar, we were given a substitute until they could find us a permanent replacement. The substitute was a nice guy, but his accent was pretty hard to understand (different parts of China have very different accents and dialects, to the point that people from neighboring provinces cannot understand each other!). We will be starting with our new teacher this week; hopefully she won't be too hard a grader!

A couple of weeks ago, our event coordinator took us to our first hotpot dinner. Sichuan hotpot is famous all around China for being really tasty and spicy. The way it works is there is a burner in the middle of the table where they put a pot of water, spices and hot peppers. The pot is brought to a boil and then you throw in all different kinds of vegetables and meats. And if you can't handle the spiciness, the middle of the pot has a separated part without peppers for the people who want it mild. The meal was wonderful, but with the heat from the pot and the peppers, we ended up covered in sweat!

Another great experience was checking out some Sichuan Opera at a teahouse. Sichuan Opera includes many different types of performances such as folk dances, acrobatics, shadowplay, comedy skits, singing and so forth; but it is most famous for its fire breathing and mask changers. Mask changers are performers who switch masks so fast that you cannot see them do it. The opera was a blast, and we were served as much tea as we could drink

Later that week, a classmate and I went to eat at Pizza Hut. While the pizza still tastes the same, the Pizza Huts here are very fancy and you can order all kinds of dishes from soups, salads, steaks, desserts, and many other dishes you would never see in an American Pizza Hut. We ended up ordering a popcorn shrimp pizza that was topped with crab, peppers and pineapple.

Over the weekend, we took a two-hour drive out to the Sichuan countryside to see some of the areas affected by the 2008 earthquake. We first visited a destroyed bridge that had become a monument for the earthquake. This bridge was famous because it had been the only bridge to connect a remote part of the province, and when it was destroyed it left 60,000 people stranded on the other side. After several days of being cut off, the government was able to build a "lifeline" bridge to rescue the people on the other side. In remembrance of the rescuers' hard work, the government designated the destroyed bridge as a monument.

Next, we traveled to one of the villages that had been rebuilt by the Chinese government after the earthquake. We had a huge lunch of local countryside specialties and afterwards we sat down with the local families to ask them questions about their experiences during the earthquake, which killed an estimated 68,000 people and left millions homeless. It was sad to hear their stories of the terror, devastation and loss that they faced. However, it was uplifting to hear how they gathered together to help each other overcome their sorrows and challenges.

After crossing a river by using stone blocks that had been placed as stepping stones – and seeing a thousand-year-old bridge that had been destroyed by the earthquake – we reached a middle school. The middle school was famous all around China as being "the strongest building in all of China." It was given this name because the school's buildings, of which there are two, were originally on level ground, but during the earthquake the rear building was lifted three meters higher than the front building ... and both buildings survived! We were allowed inside the school to take pictures. Being inside the classrooms, we could almost feel the terror the students must have felt (the earthquake took place in the afternoon during classes). It was a surreal and humbling experience.

Well, that is it for now. I'll be back with my next post as soon as I can, and hopefully will have pictures of pandas!

Christopher Robinson, a sustainability and Chinese major, is a student in the Chinese Language Flagship Program and will be a senior this fall. He is studying abroad in China this summer.