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The end is near but it is not over yet.

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

The end is near but it is not over yet.  You may be familiar with the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”, but I like to say, “Time flies; so have fun!”

Someone once told me that if you put time into perspective, you’d realize that time is man-made, a form of control, but if you take away the idea of time you just see things as either temporary or permanent. I mentioned that because being here in China, 12 hours away from home the concept of time has changed significantly for me. Usually we think we need ‘more time’ in order to fulfil particular goals but it is not time that we need, it is strength, willingness and desire, all of which is possible once we pay attention to our mental and physical health.

Living here for over two months thus far I have adapted to the Chinese way of life and found ways to maintain my healthy lifestyle in a totally different society. These are my top five recommendations:

  • Try eating mostly with chopsticks. This may be tedious at first but it helps you to not only eat slowly but to also eat smaller portions.
  • The canteens on campus do not sell beverages which at first I found was very strange but it allowed me to not be tempted to buy juice and instead carry my water which is always the healthier choice.
  • Walk as much as you can. China is very safe and the campus is huge! Take advantage of this because back at home walking was never a part of my daily routine but here there’s no option.
  • Focus on your goal not the price. Food is very cheap in China so do not get distracted by the prices and purchase more than you would usually just keep focused on your health goal and buy just enough of the right things to nourish your body.
  • This last tip is related to mental health. Remember to be present and be engaged! Soak it all up, you only have 4 months which for me was the best 4 months of my life! Take this time to grow, you’re on the other side of the globe, nothing is the same use the time to reflect and discover another version of yourself.

 

With that said, being mentally healthy also means doing things that make your mind relaxed and happy hence, I strongly suggest taking time to explore.  I visited Beijing with some of the other international students where we went to the great wall, Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. It was a beautiful experience, my favourite place was the Temple of heaven; seeing that huge building stand tall as if it’s almost against the clouds was an awe moment. It’s amazing how much there is to see but as I mentioned above, the end is near but it is not over yet

 

Golden adventures

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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            Golden week in China is the national holiday of the Formation of the China Republic. This year celebrating 70 years of formation. All of China is on Vacation for a whole week. Since I only have class on Tuesdays, I have a few extra days off. Not only did I take advantage of this, but I traveled all around south China and enjoyed every second of it. Not much sleeping during these 12 days and 8 cities, but totally worth the long days and short nights. I believe we did a great job planning the trip, since each city got better and better. The trip began with a plane ride the “worst” city (YET STILL SUPER AMAZING) Xi’an. A city that is rich of history and has a lot of story to tell the world. The Emperor Qinshihuang’s Museum- Terracota was our first stop. Not a very local place to go since it is top 10 tourist spots to visit in China but it is also a must see. But within the museum we did very local things. We ate in the museum food hall an arepa type with what I think was pork but I am not certain of it but it was amazing. After this we had planned on visiting the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. We did but really did not make it inside. You wonder why? Well since it’s all about living in the local’s shoes; we started walking around the area and found an amazing park across the street that was in a nutshell what China is. Not only was this park beautiful but it took us to a gorgeous fountain in which we are celebrating the beginning of Golden week. They had a light and music show to begin the celebrations of this national holiday. The show was a tribute to mother nature for giving Xi’an all that it has. It was right in front of the pagoda which gave the background of the show the amazing China Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. This was a great beginning to the trip but it simply only got better from here. The next morning, we traveled to Chengdu for the amazing experience of meeting the China only PANDAS! These cute animals did not only give us a day of fun, but it also brought us another friend. On the way to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda we met a family that guided us all around the park and gave us tips and tricks only locals would know. We had a great time seeing them play and breed. After the long day at the park we decided to go to a local street full of street food and China customs. Here we learned a lot about the Chinese culture and got to eat some amazing hotpot local style. This culminated a great day and the next day took us to LeShan. A City we were in only for 10 hours but enjoyed every second of it. Here we walked more than I have in years. It was a true journey getting to the top of the famous Giant Buddha. First, we are no longer Chinese tourist, which means we do not carry cash. We only have We chat and Ali pay, for the first time this was not a good thing. We needed a Chinese ID to be able to pay with We chat or Ali pay the other option was cash if we wanted our student discount or our tourist discount or tickets at all. The only problem was that the nearest ATM was 20 minutes away. Finally, we could buy the tickets with a local’s id help. When we got inside we had to go up so many stairs but it was totally worth it. We got to the top and had a lot of fun taking crazy pictures feeding and kissing the Buddha. Not only did we visit the Buddha in this park, but we were able to go all the way up to two pagodas and under a cave. This was an amazing day that started with a train ride and ended on a plane. Taking us to sleep in Guilin, my personal absolute favorite crazy local day. It was a long next day that consisted of the Reed Flute Cave, the Li river view and bamboo raft tour around the river, the elephant hill, the sun&moon pagodas, the many emperor residencies and even the local theater. I think I mentioned everything, but I have no idea how we did the whole city in a day but we did. It was one of the only cities that we had the opportunity of calmly enjoying everything local and tourist offered. The next day it was time to begin the garden, pagoda craziness. We visited Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Suzhou each giving it a special spin but all offered amazing skylines, pagodas and eye opening gardens. The highlight of these three cities was the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the canton tower, the intercontinental in Hangzhou (which is the sun of the city), and the Lingering Garden. These cities were amazing but in my memory, they feel like one giant city. Since they were very different yet extremely similar. After all these amazing southern cities of China we had the great opportunity of finalizing our trip in Shanghai. Where we visited the world’s second tallest building, amazing pagodas and temples and DISNEY. Disney was great, not only because of the people I was with the whole day, but because even though the park is small it gives you everything you need in a park. We had an amazing time, and not only was each city better than the one before but the people I was with mad my trip even the more special. In each city, we made new friends that helped us navigate the cities as locals and enjoyed local cuisine and fun. I would not change anything from this week and I will forever remember the great adventures we had in such a short time. 12 days that will be forever marked in my memory. Thank you China for such amazing landscapes and memories and happy national day!

Golden Week

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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After over a month of our arrival to Tianjin, we were very excited to have a “spring break” to travel around the country and experience different things. During Fall in China, there is a “spring break” called Golden Week. This special week is a national holiday created to promote and increase domestic tourism and to celebrate China’s National Day. This year, it was the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and there were many events before and during the week.

Since it is a national holiday, we didn’t have class, so we were able to explore a little more of our host country. Moreover, China is one of the biggest countries in the world, and in order to explore as much as we could during the week, me and two friends decided to go to a different city each day. In total, we had 11 days of traveling and 8 cities, we took more than 8 trains, 5 flights, many bike and metro rides to move around, and no time to sleep.

The trip was worth it and we had the opportunity to see different unique things that only China has like the Terracotta Warriors, the Sun and Moon Temple, Pagodas, pandas, the second tallest building in the world (Shanghai Tower), one of the most important rivers for trading (Li River), and the happiest place on earth, Shanghai Disney Resort. In addition, we stayed at a luxury hotel in Shanghai (the Hongta Hotel), and we did a tour of one of the most iconic hotels in the south of China, the Intercontinental Hangzhou. It is a sphere-shaped hotel that represents the sun and attracts the energy from the river and brings it to the city to bring success.  Nowadays, Hangzhou is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and many people believe it is because of their innovation and “feng shui” (how everything is placed in order to attract and let good energy flow).

In conclusion, this week was kind of a field trip where we learned a lot about the Chinese perspective of life, architecture, and hospitality in different cities.

Golden Week!!!!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

Without even realizing how fast time goes by, in the blink of an eye, Golden Week was upon us all. A special week for China, it commemorates the birth of the People’s Republic of China. Golden Week was particularly special this year, as it celebrated its 70th anniversary. This week gave us the opportunity to travel around China a bit and get to know some of the many wonders this impressive country has to offer. After planning an exciting week of adventure with my roommate Angelica, Saturday morning came and I found myself sitting in the Tianjin West station waiting to board my train towards my first destination.

After a 10 hour train trip, Chengdu welcomed me with open arms and plenty of pandas to go around. (Important note: I’m a panda FANATIC!!) Fulfilling my lifelong dream was so surreal, I still can’t actually believe it happened. I know, I know, I am meant to take you all with me through a food journey so incredible it will make your mouth water and your senses explode with the imagery I provide you, but alas, I wouldn’t do anyone any justice if I don’t share what I did this past week.

After spending a perfect day looking at, feeding, and admiring pandas, I came out of the research center more knowledgeable about pandas than when I went in. A diet made up of bamboo, carrots, and special panda cakes are what these gentle and amazing giants eat. They also emphasize the importance of the care of these animals and how, through thorough research, the panda population has successfully gone up and strengthened over the past couple of years.

Chengdu and its amazingly spicy culinary world is incredible, but what took the cake for me was most definitely my trip to see the pandas. Without much time to act after a day of euphoria, Angelica and I were already on our way to our next stop for Golden Week: Zhangjiajie.

If you’ve ever watched Avatar (the movie with the blue people, not the award-worthy tv show), then you’ve probably been in awe at the amazing views the movie has to offer. As with many things, it turns out those views were inspired by the amazing mountain formations in Zhangjiajie and the Tianmen Mountains. With many tourist attractions at your disposal, Zhangjiajie was a whole experience. Opting for the amazing Heaven’s Gate, the Tianmen Mountain path, and the daring Glass Bridge, our adventure day in Zhangjiajie proved to be anything but boring.

After arriving at the base of Tianmen Mountain and enduring a crazy 99 turn bus ride, we were met by a small 999 step staircase that led us to Heaven’s Gate. From there we would take some 8 escalators to the very top of the mountain and walk around the mountain top to see breathtaking views and challenge ourselves with the world known Glass Bridges.

Our last stop in our Golden Week travels was Shanghai! AMAZING food with the Lost Plate Tours, Disneyland, and many other attractions awaited for me during the last days of this special week. I became very familiar with the metro system in Shanghai and was able to travel easily up and down the city to visit those well known tourist traps as well as other smaller, more intimate historically rich locations.

The Pearl Tower and the Jade Buddha Temple received me warmly and amazed me equally while further fascinating me more and more with Shanghai. As I boarded my train back to Tianjin, I had no idea I would be received warmly by part of my Tianjin family — Angelica (who had left a day early) and Mario. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new and different places in China, but it sure felt nice coming back and being met with those who, in such a cold climate, warmed my heart up.

Golden Week!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019
What a week!
I stayed in Tianjin for the Golden Week as there was so much I didn’t do since I have been here.
The first thing I did was the Tianjin Eye. It was beautiful, simple and relaxing. If you have ever been on the London Eye, it is exactly the same as the Tianjin Eye. The best time to go is when the sun is setting, it is such a scenic view.
I also went to the Porcelain House (China House). The outside is absolutely gorgeous and unique. It has millions of ancient porcelain pieces from porcelain wares, over 300 pieces of stone lions from the dynasties, and 20 tons of natural crystals. It’s worth a visit!
The next day, I went to a very popular restaurant called Haidilao for dinner. It’s China’s famous hot pot. This is where you basically cook your own food and the service is one of the best I have ever experienced. I highly recommend going to Haidilao when you come to China. It is an experience you must have because it is too good. For example, every single time (no exaggeration) I reached for the iPad to order food on the menu, I felt the waitress’s hand over mine also getting the iPad. I couldn’t even believe it myself. That is only one service experience that may seem unbelievable, but there is so much more, so you have to go!
With my island behavior, I just had to go to a spa. There is nothing more an island person likes to do than relax and be pampered. There were so many new things I tried at this spa like hot ginger knee wrap, fire cupping under my feet, and a man using a scapula to remove the dead skin under my feet. Interesting right? I also got a back massage and foot massage which were divine.
Even though my Golden Week was simple, it was new cultural experiences for me; and you don’t always need to go far for new adventures. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones close to home.ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Take it all in!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

If it is one thing I’ve learned in my life- it is to keep things simple; just enjoy every moment and embrace what is in front of you.

Golden Week was very different for me. Instead of traveling outside of Tianjin, my friend and I stayed and explored what the municipality had to offer. We visited the famous Porcelain House also known as the China House which is a house made up of millions of ancient porcelain pieces from porcelain wares. We did the Tianjin Eye, also known as the Tientsin Eye, which is a giant Ferris wheel built over the Hai River with a height of 394 ft, and at the end of the week, we visited the tallest mountain in Tianjin (Jiu Shan Ding).

All of these places were very interesting, but in the midst of being constantly active, I was reminded of how important it is to also be still. While it is good to explore, remember to be present, mindful, and aware of the “now.” Too many times we lose focus of the real meaning behind the things we do, especially as young people with the influence of social media. We are always searching for the best picture to post and the most unique places to put on our stories, when in reality, as global citizens, our stories should be the ones that we can tell people about based on real, genuine experiences we have had. In other words, do more than just the ordinary, truly immerse yourself with the culture, and aim for growth so you can have much more to say than to show.

With that said keep in mind, if you embark on this study abroad journey, and want to visit these places, remember when you step into the China House to pass your fingers on the walls and feel the art; at the Tianjin Eye instead of looking at the camera lens, look outside – a sunset may be passing you by; and at the Jiu Shan Ding Mountain, remember to just breathe… Inhale the untouched air, hold in the pure joy, and take time to exhale.

         

First Steps Into Art & Culture

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

From meeting the Chinese students and teachers, to taking pictures with random strangers because I look different; studying abroad in China has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The Golden Panthers have really made it easy to feel welcomed and at home. All the classes assign group projects on the first day, and I truly believe it is to get us all talking and friendly. After all, I’m sure the nerves and excitement to meet each other is mutual.

Once everyone was settled in, it was time to go exploring, traveling, and of course, getting lost. Tianjin is a very beautiful city, full of different architectural styles with inspirations from Europe, Seattle, and New York. The Tianjin Eye is a great way to see the entire city at almost a bird’s eye view. Another great spot in Tianjin is Ancient Culture City, full of special architectural styles, classic cultural features, various folk crafts shops, and delicious local snacks.

The Tianjin Eye
Entrance to Ancient Culture Street
Inside Ancient Culture Street
My scroll, purchased at Ancient Culture Street

Our next stop was Beijing and the incredible Forbidden City, as well as the Temple of Heaven. Beijing has a wide range of architectural styles, but standing out the most is a combination of traditional imperial style and modern corporate style. One of my favorite things I did was visit Shichachai Park, a place where locals gather for recreational activities like renting boats on the lake or visiting bars/restaurants with live music. I only spent two days in this incredible city, and I wasn’t able to do everything it has to offer; but rest assured, I will go back.

The last stop was Dalian, one of the biggest seaports located in the south of China. It’s a beautiful city full of its own character, with ocean-themed architecture and sometimes called the “Russian City” for its dome architecture. I got to stay in a castle, yes that’s right a castle, with a view that overlooks the city and the sea. A one night adventure was enough to soak up the city and leave me wanting more.

This was the beginning of more adventures to come – full of art, music, and great people. I am so glad I get to call this country home for the next 3 months.

First adventures in China

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

The-View Red-Dress-Gang In-hat Food

Trying to be a local in a country where you do not understand the language and you are starting to learn the culture, is not an easy task. Hotpot, metro, VPN, local parks, getting lost, didi, taxi drivers, bullet trains, 13 hrs of sun, pictures with strangers ,and much more can truly sum up what I have experienced my first month in China. Let me explain…

Food: It has been amazing. Like any other country, even though they have different mixtures of plates, its all the same food and has the same taste to it. It is really good, just hard to order since they do not understand me and all the foods and condiments are the same therefor they taste THE SAME. This is not a bad thing, it is very delicious; it just gets a little tiring. I have found local restaurants specially in the cities we have visited (Beijing, Dalian & Panjin) that have their own city spin to the food.

Transportation: We started using didi’s (China’s version of Uber or Lyft) since it is simple to order a car; just plug in both addresses and you don’t have to try and explain to the driver where to go. But we quickly realized distances are not short, and even though each rides are $3-$8 max it adds up pretty fast. Additionally, when trying to get a didi before 7am or after 11pm, since the side gates are closed, the drivers do not understand that they must go to the main gate and that has also been an issue.

We started asking our new classmates how to use the metro and it was not as hard as we thought it would be. Now we are all set to use the metro ALL around China and have all the maps downloaded to our phones.  This way we will no longer spend on unnecessary didi’s or waste time with confused drivers. It is truly a win-win situation even though, some drivers have really tried to communicate with us.

One of our weekend trips was to Dalian, a small city on the coast. This is not a very touristy city, meaning that when the driver picked us up she was excited to meet us and started talking to us with an amazing app. We were told prior to our trip to download google translate, but it does not work unless we have wifi, so we can not always use it. BUT, this driver showed us this amazing app that has alleviated the communication with locals that do not speak English!

Travel:  Traveling like a local in China is a very easy task actually. We have stated to do our research, and every time we are looking for a place to go or even eat, we first look at Chinese webpages not only travel pages. In Dalian, as we were talking to the didi driver, she recommended this amazing ranch which we visited and spent the day like locals. It was an amazing experience; it was amazing sceneries and beautiful people all around.

We saw more than just the ranch in the middle of nowhere. As we were leaving there was no way of going back to the city, for we were in the middle of the woods; only public transportation was available. Without really knowing what we were doing, we hopped on the bus and tried talking to the driver to explain where we were going. He actually understood us and told us what stop would be closest to our hotel. We were truly living in a local’s shoes. Not only was this mini adventure in Dalian, but a week later we visited Panjin to go to one of Chinas local attractions, The Red Beach.

We bought a same day ticket on a regular train, giving us 6 hours of fun on a train bed. We slept Saturday night on the train bed, which was truly an experience. We arrived Sunday to the best tour guide ever.

We spent the day in Panjin, thinking we would only visit the Red Beach and go back home that same night. Little did we know that we would fall in love with the best hot spring in China. Our tour guide took us to a hot spring that gives you 24-hour access for only 140 RMB (just over $20) — it even offered a room to sleep and a movie theater. It was truly a place we are looking forward to going back to.

All these places were local recommendations and ended up being the best places we have ever been. Tourist locations are overrated, BUT, still fun! I can not deny that the temples and palaces we have visited so far in these 4 cities have not been extremely amazing and breath taking. Just a little too main stream for my taste. Street food and crazy adventures are more my forte.

Dalian, Beijing, Tianjin, and Panjin have been the cities we have visited so far, where we have experienced local custom and local food. We have been in China less than a month and already understand so much about them. I’m truly looking forward to visiting more of China in the upcoming weeks and knowing everything there is to know about the culture, for each thing we learn is more amazing than the previous.

#FIUHospitality #studyabroad #lovingit

For Daily recaps or live stories please visit my IG blog to get a closer view of our daily adventures and fun the oriental way: @travelingwithAngelica.

Arrival / Start of Classes

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

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Hello again from Tianjin!! It is hard to believe that we are close to a month in already! I am absolutely loving my new home and have been truly enjoying all the things I have been able to do and accomplish!

I am only taking two classes this semester as those are the only classes I need to graduate; therefore, I have a good amount of time on my hands to not only focus on school but on myself.

In both of my classes we have groups, so it has been a lot of fun getting to know all of the students here. Even with the language barrier we make it work. Thanks to a Didi driver I has I was able to purchase an application for my phone which allows anyone to speak in whichever language they prefer, and it translates it to any other language. This app has been a GAME CHANGER and has genuinely made all of my interactions here with others smooth, regardless if they know English or not!

Thus far I have seen a few Tianjin attractions, from riding The Eye to visiting Culture Street and the Drum Tower.  I’m not quite done finding a lot of Tianjin’s hidden gems, but I am definitely excited to see all the other places as well.

Roommate Ana Julia and I at the Tianjin Eye

Aside from Beijing, I have had the opportunity to visit Dalian, China and stayed in an actual castle! Dalian, a former Russian city, was so full of history…. and pollution. Everywhere you looked the buildings had the dome roofs which is what is seen commonly from Russian architecture.

Castle Hotel in Dalian

Coming to China I was prepared for a lot of changes… but BOY I was not ready for the mattress that we were going to be getting… or should I say LACK of a mattress. This was a big struggle for me arriving here due to having medical issues. After three trips to stores such as Walmart and Ikea, I was finally able to make myself some 5-star comfort FIU-TUC style. It has definitely been an interesting but HUGE victory on my end.

Initial bed cushion
Super cushioned bed for back support.. HEAVEN SENT

With Golden week quickly approaching, stay tuned to my next adventure in China, it’s going to be a big one!

Walking Around Dalian, China

In With The New and Out With The Old!

By Marriott Tianjin China Program – Fall 2019

The-Ancient-Cultural-Street Taking-pictures-with-the-locals Meet-Sunny-and-Tessa.-We-were-off-to-the-welcome-dinner. Eating-soups-with-the-chopsticks Image-1-small.jpeg

Meet Sunny (L) and Tessa (M). We were off to the welcome dinner. I’m on the right.

I am not just a tourist visiting China; I am actually living in China until December. From the moment I stepped on China’s ground, it was officially time to kiss my old life goodbye.  Everything that anyone told me, whether good or bad, no longer influenced my thoughts or expectations about China as I knew it was finally time for me to create my own experiences and stories. Even with all the preparations and research I did to ready myself, it only became real when I arrived.

The first thing that struck my curiosity about China was the people. It’s their eagerness, boldness, kindness, and contentment that immediately made me feel welcomed and strangely safe. It stems all the way from the little children, the students, the teachers, the canteen staff to the elderly. Can you imagine yourself hosting a group that speaks a totally different language? This is not a task anyone is easily willing to do but the Chinese students fully accepted us and made it their duty to assist us in whatever way we needed; no matter how little or how big, trust and believe me when I say they got it done for us. It reminds me of the show Paw Patrols when the pups say “No job is too big or no pup is too small.” Also, keep in mind I am speaking about students; they do not have to do this, but this just goes to show their drive to make you feel welcomed.

Where do I even begin with the other citizens of China I mentioned such as the little children, the canteen staff, and the elderly? It is fascinating to see them look at you like you are odd. It’s like a ‘WOW’ moment for them. So get ready because here they come!

Taking pictures with the locals

They will either take out their phones and start recording or take pictures of you, or they are brave enough to walk up to you and touch your hair. I have long braids in my hair so it’s even more interesting to them. They want to touch my braids and take a closer look. Hearing about this was pretty weird, and I thought it was something I would not like; but to tell you the truth, I am honestly enjoying it and having so much fun.

As soon as I see the phones, I am ready to pose for a picture, no hesitation. I am famous in China; I am taking advantage while I have the opportunity. However, I can appreciate it because you can see the genuine amusement on their faces when they see us. It brings happiness to my heart knowing I can share this knowledge with them that there are other types of people in the world.

The Ancient Cultural Street

The teachers and students also made it their duty to learn another language, which is English, and they have this admirable desire to learn more of it. I must say I thought interacting with any Chinese citizen was going to be frustrating, but it is actually an enjoyable experience. Two different cultures are speaking to each other, they both hope each other can understand what they are saying but no one understands each other — isn’t that amazing? What a perfect opportunity to share, learn and help each other.

My friend and I always have a good laugh with the canteen staff when we are trying to order food. We cannot understand each other but a friendly relationship is forming. I am also trying to learn Mandarin. So far I can count from one to ten in Chinese, greet someone, and say I would like to have rice and chicken. Soon I will be participating in tutoring English to the freshman Chinese students, and I am filled with glee to begin.

It is only 3 weeks in, but I would encourage any student to grab this study abroad opportunity to study in China. It is only 3 weeks in, and I absolutely love China. It is only 3 weeks in, and I already put China as number 1 on my list of my favorite places I visited. It is only 3 weeks in, and I can say this is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Cultural experiences have a very funny way of scaring us, but it also has a very beautiful way of making us cherish the memories and friends.

Fun Fact: I cannot eat with chopsticks, but I only eat my meals with chopsticks.

Eating soup with chopsticks

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