When we entered the classroom, it was filled to the brim. Karen Chen, their professor told us that there were actually two classes in the room because most of the students there had never had any chance to interact with Americans before and wanted to participate. We also found out that we would be talking during two different class periods. We introduced ourselves and were separated so that the students could be in smaller groups to interact with us. During the first class, I was hit hard with questions ranging from politics, to Bin Laden's death, and what I thought the consequences would be for the US and for al-Qaida. They asked me what I knew about Tibet and Taiwan and I was fortunate to be uninformed on the issues, so I could give a truthful "I don't really have a good answer for you" answer. They loved the fact that I went to UNC, the school of Michael Jordan and virtually every girl seemed to watch Gossip Girl and wanted to know if that was one of my favorite shows. At one point, Karen asked me to write words that I knew, or had learned, to describe China. I wrote: Big, Communist, Pollution, Little religion, and a couple others I can't remember. The Chinese students did the same about the US and wrote: powerful, democracy, free, contradictory, environmental, religious. Those words prompted a back and forth about how those images were created - and a very interesting discussion about morals and religion. Karen asked her class how they know right from wrong, and they said the law. Then they asked me what I believed, personally. I told them that while the law does say what is right and wrong from a legal sense, religion in America tells some people that the distinction between right and wrong, even in things that are legal, comes from God. Then they asked me about punishment and what should happen to people who do bad things, from a religious perspective and a legal perspective. I got the chance to explain the creation story and how we do bad things, but Christians believe that God is like a parent who doesn't stop loving his children when they do wrong, they love them the same. It was a very cool experience that I'm not bound to forget any time soon. During the second class, the questions were much less taboo. They wanted to know about how I balanced studying with friends in college, what kinds of activities I did outside of school and whether college life was really like Gossip Girl and the TV shows they have seen or not. They told me about the national college entrance exam that every student must take before going to a university. It seems like the SAT, only way more pressured. Students take the exam on the same day and you only get one chance. The score you make determines the Universities you are allowed to attend. I can't imagine the pressure they must feel to score high. They said that they wished getting into a University also relied on skills outside of the test score. I don't blame them for wanting that.
After class the students indulged me by taking photos with me by a statue of Confucius on their campus. I was informed that it is unusual to have your photo taken in a group like that, but once we got started many of the students wanted to take their photos with me and Lauren. We were also ushered around the campus and got to tour the library and the cafeteria. I learned that the University used to provide housing to faculty members but with the price of apartments skyrocketing they no longer do so. Teachers do, however live on or near campus in high-rise buildings.
Down a small street we came up to the restaurant we would eat at. There were five Chinese students: Harvey, Kiddy, and Mae (the three who brought us to campus) and Sally and Mandara (who would take us home) in addition to Karen. The restaurant was a Nepalese Vegan restaurant which immediately intrigued me. I knew for sure I wouldn't be eating any mystery meat! Karen ordered six or seven dishes and I tried all but one. There was a lotus dish, spicy potatoes, eggplant-fish substitute, lettuce wraps, dumplings , some sort of fried eggplant thing and potatoes in toffee. The only dish I didn't try was the eggplant fish dish. The Chinese students said it tasted exactly like fish, and since I don't usually eat much fish anyways I though tit best just to eat the other foods in front of me. But everythign was inicredible! I was so stuffed and satisfied with the meal.
As the sun began to fall we walked down another side street which was also a little market of sorts. Stalls serving Chinese bar-b-que were everywhere and we also saw a few stands serving Milk Tea. I thought it looked like a drink I had tried in Hong Kong and made a comment about it. Before I realized it, Mandara ran back to get teas for me and the other Lauren. It was just as I had remembered: sweet, creamy and utterly refreshing. Students also walked along the market purchasing clothing, shoes and other little items in addition to their dinners. It's like nothing I've ever seen in the United States.