Can You Say “你好”?

Maggi Richards '17, Staff Writer

Can You Say “你好”?

In Chinese, “hello” is written as “你好” and pronounced “nee-how”. This was an important skill acquired by 20 Oakland Catholic students when we attended a unique summer excursion. We visited the famous cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu. While experiencing new food, language and general atmosphere and culture, we also had several activities and sights to see in each specific city.

In Beijing, the default standout attraction is the Great Wall of China. However, in addition to the Great Wall, the OC students saw much more of the eccentric city. Other crowd favorites included the Temple of Heaven (which an authentic Taiji lesson), small marketplaces (featuring green ice cream and Buddha figurines) and The Forbidden City (a small city of houses which used to house the emperor, his wife, staff, and concubines). We compared Beijing to Washington D.C., saying it was basically the Chinese version of D.C. based on setup and general vibe. Ironically, both cities are the capitals of their prospective countries. In fact, the Beijing’s name itself means “North Capital”. While Beijing was certainly a blast, the next adventure was waiting in the city of Chengdu.

Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province, is best known for being the original home of the panda and one of the only places left in the world with wild pandas. This was an element of culture that students got to experience up close and personally. On our first day in Chengdu, we travelled to a Panda Research Reserve and Rehabilitation Center for the Giant Panda where we learned to care for, visit with, and feed pandas. After the pandas, we travelled to the neighboring city of Leshan to see the over 200 foot tall Buddha carved into a cliffside. The Giant Buddha also featured a stunningly extended Buddhist temple filled with burning candles, incense, and carved Buddhas along with his deities. These cities caused an unimaginable amount of walking, climbing and hiking, but everyone agreed: it was worth it.  The cities of Leshan and Chengdu were compared to Pittsburgh because there were two rivers at the foot of the Giant Buddha that converged to make a third along with various visible bridges. All three cities also have comparatively smaller buildings and geographic area, especially compared to places like Shanghai.

Shanghai offered breathtaking views over the Business District and prime photography opportunities over bright blue water and stunning, massive, multicolored buildings. The next day brought a tour of a silk factory, a large modern market, traditional gardens, and the extensive Shanghai urban planning center. In the market, we experienced a traditional tea ceremony and sampling of different teas and their health benefits. The traditional gardens provided endless photo-ops and koi ponds. Exotic flowers and trees constantly impressed the trip-goers. The urban planning center featured an accurate and massive map of Shanghai and all its buildings, roughly the size of the Auxiliary Gym in OC’s main building, all lit up and glowing different colors. The urban planning center also featured an IMAX movie in which you virtually soared over Shanghai. In order to get to the airport the next morning, we got to ride the high speed Bullet Train, which reaches up to 307 km/hr (190 mph). Many compared Shanghai to the Chinese equivalent of New York City.

In addition to our improved language skills, students take back a widened worldview and broader perspective. When we travel to new countries, students learn independence, responsibility, and the importance of being culturally aware. From this specific trip, students learned about respect, honor, and the importance of trying new things. By going to China, students are well on our way to saying “你好” to global citizenship.