Today, I finally made myself stop lounging around (although that is my natural state of being during breaks) and took the subway to Tiananmen Square with plans to visit the National Museum of China. Unfortunately, so did hundreds (maybe more?) of Chinese tourists, which meant that I had to wait in line for about an hour to get in. Fortunately, in this line I met two French girls who had been studying in Shanghai and who were seeing the country a bit before they returned home.

It was fun to speak French with them, although particularly in the beginning I kept accidentally saying small words (but, so, yes) in Chinese, which was more amusing than anything. Also near us in the line was a small girl who was a bit more forward about being inquisitive than most Chinese people on the bus or the subway (although I do get stares sometimes), and she asked us where we were from and if we were exchange students and how old we were. It was very cute. As I was leaving I also got a question, also from a young girl, who wanted to know where I was from. This has been a pretty new experience for me, getting stared at, having random people ask to take a picture with me, and having people ask where I’m from. When I was in Europe, I pretty much fit in, and I’d only get the questions after people heard my American accent (and even then, it was usually ‘which state are you from’, because Americans have a pretty distinctive accent). It’s not necessarily a bad thing, although sometimes when it’s 7:00 am on the bus I don’t particularly want people staring at me. I think in the next few months I might get tired of it, but little kids asking me questions is much less uncomfortable than a random man staring at me as I’m just going to school.

The museum itself was wonderful. The building alone is beautiful, a great work of architecture, and, though I didn’t get to see all of it, I loved walking around and looking at the exhibits. There was one with pieces from the Louvre, which was funny when I was walking around with two French girls, and one on calligraphy, which I had to go through rather quickly because the museum was closing. That was alright though, because it didn’t have any English translations, and my Chinese isn’t quite good enough to read museum signs. I saw pretty much all of the Ancient China section though, and I loved seeing the styles of pottery and lacquer evolve through time.

Another interesting part of the museum was the section about modern history, discussing the revolution and how China became a communist state. It reminded me a lot about discussion around American history, as a lot of it focused on only the good things that the state has done, and the support it got from its people. Coming from America to China, I’ve heard a lot of bad things about this period in Chinese history, mostly focusing on the faults of communism and the faults of various Chinese leaders. I’m not really surprised at the difference in narratives, and I guess I’m not as surprised as I thought about the similarities in tone between the two countries discussing their own history. It’s mostly just interesting to think about.

One thing I’m very proud of today was navigating the subway. I almost no problems, and the one that I did have was hardly a problem at all – I started going the wrong way on the loop to get back to the station with the line I needed to take. I would have gotten there eventually, with just a little time lost, but I still decided to get off and take the train going in the opposite direction, so I lost maybe 10 minutes for that mistake. But that was the first time I started going the wrong way, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. For the rest of the time I was perfectly comfortable with the knowledge of where I was going to get on and where I needed to go. Overall it was a successful trip, and I’m looking forward to my outing tomorrow!

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An ancient grave, I forget the exact time period but it was very very early in the Ancient China section, with seashell drawings of a tiger and a dragon – I think that’s really clever, and a really fascinating way to commemorate the dead. 

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A pottery sculpture of musicians performing while seated on a camel. I loved the energy and life in this figure, as well as the detail and the colors. Truly an amazing work of art.

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