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Intl student in Xi'an promotes exchanges

By Ren Jie (China Daily)

Updated: 2017-05-18

Ekrem Demirkale, a 23-year-old Turkish overseas student in China, who also calls himself Bai Zhenguo, said he aims to assist cultural exchanges between China and Turkey to create deeper understanding between the people of both countries.

Bai, who has been studying Chinese and advertisement in Northwest China's Shaanxi Normal University and Northwest University, has become popular online because of his book Unforgettable Days. It tells the story of his 51-day-trip through seven of the nation's provinces in photos and words, a journey covering about 30,000 kilometers and involving over 200 hours on trains.

"Xi'an (capital of Shaanxi province) is a key point on the ancient Silk Road," Bai said. "So I selected it as the beginning of my voyage of discovery."

Bai said the ancient Silk Road impressed him strongly during the journey. "The dried fruits, various instruments and perfume, and exotic clothing... almost brought me back to the ancient days," Bai recalled.

He said he hopes to become a modern-day Marco Polo, recording what he sees and hears during his journeys and sharing them.

There are so many interesting things that happened each day, Bai said, sharing food with strangers on the train, listening to Chinese people telling the stories of their hometowns, encountering a young Chinese man who studies in Turkey, riding a donkey on the zigzagging mountain roads, and seeing Guilin scenery with its hills and waters - the sight printed on China's 20 yuan banknotes.

Intl student in Xi'an promotes exchanges

"I feel lucky that I have had a chance to see the country so closely," Bai said. "It is so difficult to understand China - what a large country with so many people from different regions! They may speak different dialects, live with different customs and believe in different religions."

Bai, who came to China for the first time when he was only 15, was impressed. Five years ago, his father encouraged him to study overseas. "It is a big world. You should leave Turkey and see the world from a different viewpoint," his father said. So Bai, a high school graduate who couldn't speak a sentence of Chinese at the time, became an overseas student in Xi'an.

In his book Unforgettable Days, Bai said traveling is not only about sightseeing, but also taught him to lay down prejudices and to be inclusive, to understand people and different cultures.

"Communication can remove prejudices and draw people closer," said Bai, who is a Muslim. "With my Chinese friends, we ate different food on different tables, but we still talk with each other happily - that came from inclusion."

Bai is working on a new book about traveling in Turkey, which could be published within the year. "This is a book for Chinese tourists. It's like a friend is introducing the country to you," Bai said, adding that he hopes the book could be a gift for Chinese tourists to Turkey.

"China and Turkey stand at different ends of the ancient Silk Road - China on the east and Turkey on the west. There are a lot of relics in Turkey," Bai said.

The Belt and Road Initiative has created new life along the ancient Silk Road, and also increased cultural exchange between the two old countries, Bai added


(China Daily 05/14/2017 page44)

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