Two weeks exactly. I just counted the number of days twice and got a little dizzy. That’s how long I have before I board a plane and make my way to the Middle Kingdom (no, not middle earth, Middle Kingdom). I, along with another friend of mine who was also accepted to the trip, went to an orientation meeting held at Stony Brook last Thursday to hear a bit more about the “Disovering China” program and get some idea of what’s in store for us. We were a half an hour late to the presentation, courtesy of Google maps and backward Long Island roads. The Charles Wang lecture center made Purchase College look like a hole in the ground to say the least. Somewhere between the cascading waterfalls, granite bathrooms and spiral staircases I became completely distracted. By the time I found the room, the lecture was already well under way, and I had more than a little bit of that “first day of class” feeling that so dominated high school. The presentation was good, and answered a few questions of mine, as well as giving a number of suggestions for travel that I would not have thought of. For one reason or another I have not been all that excited about the trip, which is nothing short of ridiculous, as I realize how much of an opportunity it will be. I think much of my reservation stems from some level of anxiety. It’s almost as if it’s too large for me to understand. After listening to all of the potential trips that we will be taking in China, in addition to the number of amazing lectures that we will attend, however, I can’t help but look forward to the fast approaching departure. More and more it has begun to occur to me what it really means. I’m going to China, to at least two of the cities (Beijing, Chengdu and Chongqing are listed as stops) on my top ten list of interest, and will be hosted not only by the Chinese government, but also by some experts in areas of study that I most love. Why it is hard for me to just sit back and enjoy, I’m not sure, but for now that is my primary goal. The organization of the program sounds like it was very well thought out in certain areas. The group that is going is absolutely massive, consisting of nearly 200 students and a large group of educators and several state officials as I have been told. Once we are in China, we will spend two or three days in Beijing, visiting the standard sights and celebrated the Jan 1st New Year (Chinese New Year occurs Feb 14th this year). Following our stay in the capital, we will head far down to China’s southeast, where will be staying in Chengdu, home to the worlds largest panda research center. This portion of the trip should prove to be the most interesting, as the group will be split into thirteen different sub-groups. Each of these mini groupings will be staying at a different university, and will be under the direction of a Chinese student, which should prove to be a very interesting interaction. It is my hope that we will be given enough freedom to move around on our own, as I have heard from others that being the guest can sometimes lead to a bit of an overbearing host. Either way, I think it will be fantastic, and a learning experience on all counts. I am especially looking forward to the food. Hot pot is a Sichuan specialty, revered for its incredible spiciness. The famed Sichuan pepper is not only incredibly hot, but also has a numbing effect on the tongue, creating an all around euphoric sensation. I have a major final tomorrow, perhaps I should spend some time contemplating the immediate challenges.