I made it to the winter wonderland! Growing up in Florida, I never thought I would see snow anytime soon and definitely never thought my first time would be in China!
I participated in the Home Stay Match Meeting where I was able to meet students from all over China who were willing to open their homes during the spring festival. Originally I wanted to go to Yunnan, but last minute I realized I might as well take up the opportunity to head north!
While I was in Sichuan, I didn’t think I would even be able to go to Harbin. After some drama happened, it was all sorted out and I headed to Harbin. I would be staying in a hotel, but I still hung out with my new friend and her family.
Heilongjiang province borders Russia, so the capital city is a mix of Russian and Chinese culture. On my first day out, we looked around town and tried famous treats like Russian style sausage and ice cream (yes, they eat frozen treats in the freezing cold!)
We headed to the World Ice Festival, Volga Manor, the Siberian Tiger Park, Harbin Polarland and Unit 731. I happened to pick a good time to be in Harbin because it was during the Spring Festival so it was never too crowded anywhere that we went. Out of all the places, one of the most memorable had to be visiting Unit 731. Most people have probably never heard of it, but I’m a bit of a war history buff and I wanted to check it out. I didn’t take any pictures out of respect, but it was an eye opening experience and changed my view of both Harbin and China.
The most rewarding experience about Harbin had to be my home stay family. They were so warm and inviting and really encouraged me to keep studying Chinese and chase my dream of being the ambassador to China one day. My home stay grandma was so sweet! She reminded me of my great grandmother. She taught me how to make dumplings and fed me until I was about to explode. I was so grateful to them and happy that I chose a great family to stay with.
My favorite thing about Harbin is that no one cares that you are a foreigner! No one stopped to take pictures of me, I didn’t get any stares or people shouting “a black person!” when I walked by, so I was able to travel in peace.
If you are in China for the winter, I would definitely recommend traveling to Harbin!