silk museums in Chengdu and had the chance to see silk handwoven. “They weave all day, and still only have a little because it is such an intricate process,” Henderson recounts. “Handwoven silk can be sold for thousands.”
Life after abroad
Left: Henderson smiles with pandas at a Chengdu research base. Top right: The Leshan Giant Buddha sits in Sichuan Province. It is the largest stone Buddha in the world. Bottom right: A temple on the journey to Emei. Many small temples wind around this mountain. (Photos courtesy Brooke Henderson)
“We ate so much food,” Henderson laughed. “[Sichuan] is known for a hotpot, which is like ‘kill you’ spicy. My family is Jamaican but I die [when I eat it].” They often ate with the food in the middle of the table. Guests received fresh vegetables and cooked their food in their own bowls of broth. Kung Pao Chicken originates from Sichuan province, but not like what Americans know. The bones are still in the chicken and Henderson found it to be much hotter, with more texture and flavor than the chicken in America. The name escapes her, but one of Henderson’s favorite meals was something she referred to as a “triangle bun.” Sprinkled with sugar, these buns were Henderson’s breakfast most mornings. The majority of desserts were red bean. “I would get tricked into thinking something was chocolate, but it was actually red bean,” Henderson joked.
Chengdu is the capital of China’s Sichuan province, and a place Henderson describes as “comfortable” due to its suburbia. While there, Henderson’s class went on a variety of excursions, seeing new things every day. Sites included the Leshan Giant Buddha. This sculpture was built during the Tang Dynasty. At 233 feet tall and carved directly into the mountain, it is the largest stone Buddha in the world. Sichuan province is also known for bian lian, or face-changing, a type of theatrical performance art where performers dance while wearing layers of face masks, which they instantaneously change from one face to another. It originated in Sichuan, but has spread through many other areas in China. Henderson saw the Dujiangyan irrigation system in Chengdu. Built around 256 B.C., it has been supplying water to the region for thousands of years. She and her classmates also visited the
From the awe of the Leshan Giant Buddha, the frantic hubbub of Chunxi Road and the mystical art of the face-changing theatre, Henderson found her arrival back home to be slower -- and stifling. “After you study abroad the first time, you get used to having new things every day and just learning a lot,” Henderson claimed. “Then when you get home you’re just like ‘what is this?’ I kept thinking, ‘what else can I do?’” Henderson encourages other students to study abroad. For those planning on doing a similar experience, Henderson advises students to be open-minded and to prepare for things to possibly go offcourse. She also stresses the importance of comfortable shoes, being prepared for rain (the weather is like Gainesville’s – humid) and to “get over food issues.” “People were complaining about eating rice all the time, and it’s like, you knew that was going to happen!” Henderson explains. There were some regrets along the way. “Studying abroad is hard and it’s a privilege,” Henderson said. She wished she could have afforded the additional trip to Beijing, but “the stuff you can do makes it worth it. If you have to stay within your means, that’s not a bad thing.” For Henderson, the journey is not over. She is looking into scholarships to continue studying abroad in China. “Chengdu was a good beginning,” she concluded. But for now, Henderson stays focused on balancing studying and extra-curriculars. While she dreams of continuing her study abroad adventures, she is content with life as a Gator, here in the Swamp. Designed by Kathy Xie