This weekend our program designed a scavenger hunt for us to get to know our campus and Harbin. We were split into five different groups and competed against each other. We were given a list of questions that needed to be answered (with the help from locals) and places that we needed to go and take a picture in front of. My team included myself, Elise, Su-yee, and An-Sheng (I forgot his English name). These were some of the things we had to do:
Tuan(r) roaster on Zhongyang Street
We had to find lamb on a stick (tuanr) and then pose with them in tango form. Meat/fish/tofu/vegetable on a stick (tuanr) is a common snack food that’s ordered from street stalls. It was a little bit spicy, but really good! This stall was in front of the four-story Walmart, which we went to next to take a picture with an employee. The things we had to find were quite humorous! And yes, Walmart can four four-stories or taller in China!
Saint Sophia Cathedral-Remnants of Harbin’s once vibrant Russian neighborhood
We walked a few blocks from Zhongyang street to find my favorite destination, the Saint Sophia Cathedral. We had to rush through, but I still got a glimpse and feel of what old Harbin was like. Zhongyang street and its surrounding area used to house a thriving Russian population of 100,000.
“St. Sophia Orthodox Cathedral is one of the most magnificent structures in Harbin. It was built in 1907 after the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1903, which connected Vladivostok to northeast China. The Russian No.4 Army Division arrived in this region just after Russia’s loss to the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). St. Sophia Church was built and completed of timber in March, 1907 as part of a plan to reconsolidate the confidence of the army by building an imposing spiritual symbol.
In 1921, Harbin had a population of 300,000, including 100,000 Russians. The church was expanded and renovated from September 23, 1923, when a ceremony was held to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone, to its completion on November 25, 1932, after nine years. The present day St. Sophia Church was hailed as a monumental work of art and the largest Orthodox church in the far east.”
During the scavenger hunt, my classmate really wanted a cup of coffee. While I waited for her, I saw this sign. I have always found the combination of different cultures (syncretism) interesting. Here is a great example: The Mid-Autumn Festival is fast approaching, and the traditional food to eat during this holiday is a moon cake. Previously, Starbucks and this festival had nothing in common. However, since expanding into Chinese culture, Starbucks has transformed their American coffee shop into a place that can be shared cross-culturally. Therefore, Starbucks moon cake! I’ll be sure to try one, I wonder if it is espresso flavored?
At the end of the day, we all met at the Flood Control Remembrance Monument. “The Monument is the centerpiece of the popular Stalin Park, built in 1958 to commemorate the tremendous feat of the Harbin people in controlling the massive flood of 1957. The flood was the biggest flood ever recorded in Harbin until the summer 1998 disaster” (http://www.sinohotelguide.com/harbin/tour/sight/sight.html).
CET arranged for us to eat hot pot near the monument. It was really good, but I sure do miss Kunming’s 饵块 (rice squares). Hot pot consists of a large pot of boiling broth in the middle of the table and then a plethora of ingredients to choose from. I really like frozen tofu and romaine lettuce in mine!