By: Marsella Quinones, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Shanghai Core Abroad Program
The Wangfujing street is a busy famous street filled with stores and restaurants that runs down the center of Beijing. This street is beautiful because you can see the mix of everything. I remember seeing everything from stores selling traditional Chinese arts and crafts to high end chain stores to a Peking Duck restaurant to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is a nice place to wander and get lost before a group dinner.
Throughout my trip in China I was on a mission to find my favorite children’s book, The Giving Tree, translated into Chinese. After being unsuccessful in Shanghai, I wanted to try my luck in Beijing. Saved on my phone I had a picture of the book in Chinese and with me I had a note that said “I am looking for a bookstore.” I did not think I would get too far so after agreeing to the meeting stop I parted from the group and began showing my note to people walking down the road. I had 30 minutes before the dinner.
When I showed my note to people some ignored me and others pointed me to a direction. I remember one person directed me into a souvenir store that had magazines. Excluding the souvenir store, I went to three different bookstores. At every bookstore I would try to find the information desk and show whoever was there the picture of the book on my phone. This is where I learned the Chinese word “Mayo” which meant “don’t have any” because the two employees at the first two bookstores said it, shook their heads and gave me my phone back.
At the final bookstore the woman behind the counter
printed me a paper with the name of the book in Chinese, the shelf number and other words in Chinese. This bookstore had about four floors and but unfortunately I was unable to read what floor the book was on. My assumption was that it would be in the Children’s section. When I turned around,I saw a group of kids taking the escalator. I thought it would be worth the try to follow them; sure enough they went to the children’s section on the third floor. No employee was around so it took me a while to figure out how the books were arranged. The moment I found the book I jumped and squealed; I definitely caught people’s attention and I probably looked more excited than all the kids around me. I made the purchase with a smile and walked out of the store.
Unfortunately, I was so focused on finding the book that I had lost track of time and lost my sense of direction. When I walked out of the bookstore I realized that I was no longer on Wangfujing road. I began to worry about how I would get back to the group on time; I had less than 10 minutes and I had no idea where I was. I tried to retrace my steps but I ended up walking in a circle. After taking a deep breath I decided to walk in the opposite direction. After a block or two, I encountered the intense roasted duck smell and saw the KFC to my right. I was back to Wangfujing road with only a few minutes left so I sprinted down the busy road. I was a bit late but I made it back and my mission was accomplished.
Finding a book may not sound like something extraordinary to others but to me it was a major accomplishment. Not only was I able to find something that meant a lot to me but also I was able to find and get something on my own. Before this little adventure of mine I was very dependent on those around me and was constantly looking for someone who spoke Chinese and English. It was as if I could not do things on my own. I would avoid the hassle of trying to communicate. There were several times throughout the trip, especially at the beginning, when I was angry at myself for studying in a country where I did not speak the language or know about its culture. In the end, I look back and I realize that I can do things on my own in China. It may not be easy but I can be independent in a foreign country and I can do far more than I would ever give myself credit for.