As we reluctantly packed our bags on our last day in China, we exchanged comments like “Why did it go so fast?” and “Let’s extend!” Even after the plane landed in Manila, we were still clutching onto our seats at a feeble attempt at prolonging, even for just a few more minutes, the most wonderful and unforgettable journey of our lives.
Our six weeks in China began when we arrived at the Zhuhai Campus of Sun Yat-sen University past midnight after a two-hour bus ride from Guangzhou. Getting off the bus, we were greeted by the cool Zhuhai breeze that made our entire stay so pleasant. When we reached our dormitory, I was even more elated. Our room had two comfortable beds, an air conditioner, a water dispenser, a study table, and even a television.
As we toured the following day, we discovered how scenic and convenient our school was. It had a supermarket, bookstore, cellphone shop, and even a karaoke place! All around us were beautiful mountains and majestic lakes.
As we walked along the tree-lined pavement, groups of bicycles whizzed by, carrying students to their classrooms. The classroom building was an imposing structure, reaching up to six stories in height and almost one kilometer in length, making it the longest such building in the world.
The campus was also equipped with modern sports facilities and even an Olympic stadium. On the farthest corner of the campus was the grand library, constructed like two, thirteen-story halves of an open book.
That night, the Chinese students prepared a welcome party for us, where we sang Filipino and Chinese songs and played games together with the French exchange students. The day after the party, classes began.
For six weeks, our teachers guided us towards learning and loving Chinese. In the morning, we discussed stories, wrote essays, played games, and watched music videos. In the afternoon, we learned about Chinese martial arts, traditional dance and music, calligraphy, architecture, and other aspects of Chinese culture.
It was in our language classes where we fell in love with the songs of Jay Chou, Guang Liang, and other popular artists. It was also in class where we learned to appreciate more deeply the beauty and practicality of the Chinese language.
Our learning was not limited to the classroom. We often exchanged stories and jokes with our Chinese friends during meals. It was funny how after a delicious meal, we Filipinos would say “Haochi!” while the Chinese would say “Sarap!”
At night, we also visited the Chinese students’ rowdy dorm to play games and watch movies. In between games, our Chinese friends would teach us popular (and unpopular) words and phrases in Cantonese, then ask for the Filipino equivalents.
On weekends, we went on field trips that took us to Zhaoqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Foshan. I was impressed at how developed and fast-paced even the small Chinese cities were. We visited historical monuments, cultural sites, and ancient temples. We also found time to patrol the vibrant shopping districts, haggle for everything from hair clips to laptops, and always squeeze good deals out of the vendors. While our eyes feasted on the breathtaking scenery, we gorged ourselves on the different varieties of local cuisin —which included scorpions!
On our last night in Zhuhai, our Chinese friends presented us with a farewell gift: a video made out of our pictures and wacky memories. After playing the video, they told us that we had changed their lives so much in the span of six weeks.
At that touching moment, we realized too how much the six weeks changed our lives, and how happy those weeks had been because of our dear friends.
As we bade them farewell, my only thoughts were: I will miss Sun Yat-sen University, our school, and our home.
On the trip back to the Philippines, I realized that although the six-week journey may have already ended, the wealth of experiences, new knowledge, and richer appreciation of China would always remain.
print ed: 10/08