When traveling across the world, what is the best way to calm your nerves? Is it downloading Dulingo and attempting to commit helpful phrases to memory? Is it ordering an etiquette book from Amazon and practicing proper chopstick use? We would argue that these are several of the preliminary ingredients to the most unusual but rewarding recipe for successful international adventures.
Adding some zest to our arrival in Beijing was a 5’10”, rather tubby but enthusiastic Chinese man - Charlie. Charlie is unlike any taxi/Uber/Lyft driver you’ve ever experienced. Not only did he seamlessly fit our 10 pieces of luggage into his car, but he also navigated through the overwhelming labyrinth of Beijing traffic to the household of our hosts, the Harker family. The next morning, during our drive to the Great Wall, Charlie surprised us once more by performing his own rendition of “Pi Wu La Zi,” a song from the traditional Chinese opera Haui Ju. His melodious, albeit rather sharp voice provides the background music for this microfilm, which encompasses our whirlwind journey up the Great Wall and throughout the streets of Beijing, with stops in the Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square.
In addition to our excursions with Charlie, the Harker family (Brad, Megumi, and Bethany) graciously helped four jet-lagged students transition into the fast-paced – and at many points bewildering - international lifestyle. Not only did they provide valuable and amusing anecdotes of their own experiences living in Japan; they were also the behind-the-scenes directors of our trip – coordinating with Charlie to take us to the Great Wall, introducing us to the unforgettable tradition of Peking duck, and cooking lovely homemade meals before we set out for our semester abroad in Japan.