We could not spend Thanksgiving in America this year, this did not prevent us from having an amazing experience with our “family” in Beijing that we have formed here. Before we ate Thanksgiving dinner, we made jiaozi (dumplings) with chefs from our university campus. Once we sat down to eat, we exchanged our Thanksgiving projects to each other; we played a game where each person wrote a note to another, read them aloud to the table as we ate, while everyone else had to guess who the writer’s recipient was. Everyone was very moved by what the students wrote to each other about their appreciation for one another and why they are grateful to have spent this unforgettable time together here in China. It was a perfect activity to celebrate an American holiday that is all about loved ones gathering together.
Today visited a siheyuan, an old courtyard garden, in middle Beijing. The owner of the garden was over 70 years old, and had lived there her entire life. Away from the crowded Beijing streets was a peaceful cluster of buildings guarded by a solemn heavy gate. Inside lived the woman we met, her family, and her grandchildren (in total 11 family members spanning three generations). It was a beautiful garden and outside space, and a glimpse into the lives into the citizens of Beijing who have not yet moved into large apartment building complexes. There has been controversy as of late as whether or not to demolish down the old courtyard gardens in order to make room to build larger skyscrapers or office spaces. Some argue that Beijing’s old architecture should be preserved as much as possible; others say that the people who live in the courtyard would much rather prefer to have modern apartments, complete with private plumbing and other relative luxuries.