Tuesday July 10, 2018
Everyone safely arrived yesterday on July 9th. Today, we talked about the cultural differences and introduced the program during orientation. In the afternoon, we visited the Forbidden City and overlooked the entire city from Jingshan. For dinner, we had a big meal of Peking duck. Looking forward to the Great Wall tomorrow!
-Yi, International Director
Wednesday July 11, 2018
After an early breakfast during a morning of light rain, we packed onto our bus and spent two hours driving to the Great Wall. Upon arriving, we decided to grab lunch, which was one of the more exotic meals we’ve had thus far: Subway. After, we were faced not only with the challenge of climbing thousands of stairs to get atop the Great Wall, but also the challenge of doing so in the rain. After a somewhat gruelling climb, we were faced with thousands more stairs on a hike on the wall itself. Determined, we accomplished the feat with smiles on our faces.
As we hiked the wall, rainfall picked up, and with it, fog. Eventually, the entire wall was encompassed in fog; we were seemingly swallowed. Chinese police officers told us it was time to go due to the inclement weather. After heading down the thousands of stairs we had just spent hours climbing up, we spent some time bartering with shop vendors.
We returned to the hotel and decided to change, given that we were all soaked. Soon after, we had dinner at a restaurant known for its delicious pear-and-honey tea. We ended the day being introduced to our mentor groups, which are small groups in which will we meet every day for the remainder of the trip. For our first group, we played a game called ‘rose, thorn, bud,’ where you describe one positive thing that you have experienced in the day (the rose), one negative experience (the thorn), and one thing that you’re looking forward to (the bud).
-by Brayden Priebe
Thursday July 12, 2018
With every stride, step and turn, there is always a new adventure to be found when traveling abroad. Whether it has been trying a new food or visiting a new location, China has always presented us with new experiences, with this rule be no truer than during our travels today.
One of the focal points of our travels with GLA has always been, well… travel. With today being dedicated solely to our journey from the capital of Beijing to Kunming, a large city within the Yunnan province, many of the values found within program were brought out today.
Being able to view a country at over 10,000 feet brings a whole new meaning to experiencing a country. Because we were flying (with a connection), we were able to have this new perspective, a “birds eye view” if you will, allowing us to view this new country in different ways. Seeing how a country (especially China) is physically structured can often bring out many of the values the people hold dear to their hearts. As we were informed during our first full day in the country, the ideas of family and community are the cornerstones to Chinese culture.
As we were able to view from the air, this was represented in their towns. Unlike American cities and suburbs, China’s houses have little to no space between them. There is no back yard, no front yard, just houses. There is plenty of space around for such things, with Kilometers spanning between the separate groupings of houses, but the people do not care. It was easy to see from the sky that these were not separate houses, but instead one conglomerate, one single community that was built together, no separation. People shared living space not because of a lack of land, but because they enjoyed each others’ company.
Traveling is half the experience. Many times I have heard that it is never about the destination, but instead the journey. I have heard people complain about travel, but if there is one thing that I wish for you, the reader, to get from this blog post… it’s that you should never take for granted the small moments. There is always something to be seen in the obscure, you just have to look.
-by Oscar Clement
Friday July 13, 2018
Greetings from Kunming!
Today, we visited The Stone Forest. The scenery and wildlife was beautiful. It was a long day of hiking but every stop was worth the effort to view the everlasting landscape. Everyone had a wonderful time! Throughout the day we ate dumplings, mixed vegetables, and tofu platters, you know the usual chinese food. However, the most surprising dish of all was WORMS! Interestingly enough it was the favorite of some of my peers including me.
After heading back from the Stone Forest and dinner, we walked around Green Lake to roam around the area. There was a traditional dance class in session while walking through the streets. Very cool! Apart from a long day of walking, we are excited to head to Shaxi tomorrow. We can’t wait to see what is in store for us in our two weeks of service! Tune in to the next blog post to find out! Good bye! 再见! (zai jian).
-By Jonathan Roldan
Saturday July 14, 2018
Today our GLA group spent most of the day in our bus, with views of the beautiful Yunnan province. It was breathtaking to be in the presence of such large mountains crowded with lush green trees and rich soil that reminded me of red velvet. A couple riddles were told and we were collectively baffled, we also laughed about things like cows in our pockets.
When we arrived in Shaxi I was amazed by how beautifully the nature, architecture, and diverse and exciting people came together to create a such an interesting and alive feel. Our home is far more perfect than I could have imagined. The whole place is very cosy and homey, but also very complex and intricately built. Today was also Oscar’s sixteenth birthday, and we celebrated with cake and singing in Mandarin. We ended the day with a pleasant conversation in our small group, where we reflected on the day and also what we are grateful for.
Saturday July 15, 2018
Today we woke up and had breakfast at 8.50 (a really good meal). Later on we got an intro to Shaxi community service, which was awesome and we all learned stuff we didn’t know, such as the fact that Shaxi used to be an important trading town on the Tea-Caravan route where business people, travellers and locals would come from all around.
After lunch we did Chinese language class and I learned how to say my name as well as my peers’ names. We also learned basic words and had a blast doing it. Additionally we learned the different pronunciations. After that, we did goal setting which was great! We got to create a poster as a group describing our personal and leadership goals for the program, as well as our leadership qualities. Our visual representation of a leader was a lion called “Loving Loud Leading Lion”!
Next we had dinner consisting of the classic rice, spinach, tofu, stir fry chicken with carrots, broccoli and apples. After dinner we had mentor group and played two cool games, one of which was ‘shoe switch’. To play this we took one shoe each, put it in a pile, kneeled down, grabbed one then opened our eyes. We found out whose shoe we had, and had to tell the group a fun fact about them.
I’m really looking forward to making mud bricks tomorrow and going to the middle school to play with the students there.
Oh, I almost forgot, earlier today I had a fruit milkshake at a tavern where we went to have some WiFi time to talk to family and got acquainted with their two cute dogs.
-by Tristen Summers
Monday July 16, 2018
Today was a day we have all been waiting for. #BRICKDAY has been the buzz of the whole trip and it finally came. Being the leader of the day I had a lot of responsibilty to make this go smoothly and not to toot my own horn; I think i did a solid job. After breaking everyone up into their respective jobs for brick making we got to work. Jonathan and Gaia made the most with ten bricks (sorry Jonah and Alexis only winners make it into the blog). After #BRICKDAY we went to a temple to meditate and bought groceries from the local market. Many snacks were acquired. Once we got back to homebase we created a group constitution, and after much diplimatic debate we settled for 15 amendments, the highlight being “shrug the little things”. I’m hoping tomorrow can be as successful and enjoyable as today.
-by Ryan Havas
Tuesday July 17, 2018
Today we went to a kindergarten and a town called Jian Chuan. We decided to drive to the kindergarten because we thought the hour long walk in the rain was not optimal. When we got there they were jumping around and giving us high fives. They then started their morning exercises, and we joined in and tried our best to follow their elaborate dance moves.
They ended the dancing early after about 20 minutes, because they thought that we looked tired. We then split up into pre-assigned groups, and went to different classrooms that the kids were in. We all tried our best to speak to them, when they didn’t speak Mandarin, but Bai. Some played in classrooms, others in the art room, and the play ground outside. We had a great two hours of playing, running around and lots of high-fiving, until we had to go.
When we got back, we had some free time, then went to an old town called Jian Chuan. Uncle Lu, the man who has been making all our amazing meals at the home base came with because he was very familiar with the area. He showed us around and we saw 500 year old homes, and some beautiful temples. We walked around for a while and met some native people who were very nice and kindly welcomed us into their home.
All around it was an amazing day and everyone had a lot of fun!
– Alexis Norwitz
Wednesday July 18, 2018
The GLA Bricks Record: Part 2
Each member of the group woke up today with a smile on their faces and a fire in their hearts,
for today finally marked the grand return to the brick making site. But before we could get to our quest,
we had to first sit down to breakfast and discuss our group’s consitution. Following some reported
breaches from the day before, we decided that it was necessary to figure out what is a punishable
offense and what isn’t. After productive conversation, we were finally able to get started on our bricks.
Upon arriving at the site, we had to kick things into high gear fast, splitting into three teams: Two brick
making teams, and a mud transport team. It took a little while to get organized, but before long Dense
Brickz Inc. was churning out smiley faced bricks. By the end of the day our brick total was 160, putting us
about 150 short of our goal with one day left. However, we get better every time we go out, so I’m
confident that we’ll take the record.
After brick making, a group of mud covered and dead tired kids returned to the home base for
some well deserved lunch. We then had about an hour of free time before leaving for a farm about 20
minutes away. At the farm we once again got a bit muddy and dove into thick trees to recover
numberries; a sour berry with an interesting tingly/numbing effect on the mouth. After finishing our
picking, and maybe consuming a few too many numberries, we climbed back on the bus to go home. We
ate another delicious homecooked meal, and then broke for free time as we waited for the mysterious
“food challenge”. We sat on the edges of our seats for about an hour until we were called upstairs to
learn about the challenge. There was a line of upside-down bowls, each covering an unknown and
outside the box food. We broke into two teams, and had an eat off where we raced to finish these scary
dishes and guess what they were. After an intense competition, team JuiceWRLD won by a controversial
half point. However, what really speaks to the mettle of this group is the fact that every single dish was
finished, no matter how frightening it was. Overall, it was another great and adventurous day in China.
Thursday July 19, 2018
Today was an important day, both for me and the group. It was the first day of making the plum enzymes, along with making sustainable, and economical, compost, using a blend of green and dry grass. The day started off as any other normal day, but for me, it was anything but normal. Today, I was the leader of the day. The leader of day comes up with schedules, reminders, etc…. The day before, I was the assistant leader, but unfortunately I had to cancel, due to the fact that I was unwell.
The walk to the organic farm was about an hour long, and we all stopped around thirty minutes into the walk for a water break. Even though it was only 10:00 in the morning, I was so tired. Other than that, the walk was uneventful.
When we arrived at the worksite, we broke into three groups. After splitting up, we each got a basket of plums, and put them into a a water jug. We then added water and sugar syrup to the plums, and they began to ferment before we knew it.
The second part of the program involved picking a mixture of green and dry grass from another one of the fields. The grass was then used to make compost. The compost was an economical, and environmentally friendly way to allow plants in the future to grow faster.
My favorite, and the final part of today’s service, was rose picking in the garden fields, from roses, to herbs like rosemary and thyme. During the service, a couple of bees decided to come check me out. Now, as a reminder, I am DEATHLY AFRAID of bees. I pretty much stayed like a statue, and hoped they wouldn’t sting me.
After the service, we had lunch back at home base. Uncle Lu cooked up some braised pork, and it was sooooo good. When i tasted it, i literally had no words to say, it was that good. After lunch, we had Chinese class. My friends and I were in the advanced group, so we learned about Chinese table manners and customs, as well as bargaining methods.
At 5:00, the group and I headed out into Shaxi to do some shopping. I bought a comb, some awesome looking aviator sunglasses, and a farmer’s hat. At 6:00, we had dinner and for the first time since arriving in Shaxi, it did not rain during dinner. We all ate dinner outside.
After dinner, we did a skills market challenge. Basically, we had to write some skills we had, and skills we wanted to learn, then browse and exchange skills with others. At the end, we shared what we learned and what we wrote down. After that, Jonathan taught us how to do some origami, and we made spinning tops out of paper.
As i sit here, tired and ready to get some sleep, I hope you enjoy reading tonight’s blog, and truly knowing how it felt today, I can tell you all one thing, and it is that my life is changing for the better. Shoutout to my parents, I know they must be dying to read my blog. 🙂
Friday July 20, 2018
After spending the past few days doing community service, today was an opportunity to rest and relax. We started today with a fun market challenge and were split into four teams, each contributing their blood, sweat, and tears to the goal of buying as much fruit as possible with only 20 Yuan (about three dollars) at the weekly market. It was a great opportunity to practice our Mandarin with the locals.
After a fantastic lunch, a local artisan came to our home base and taught everyone some fun paper-cutting skills. I’m pretty proud of my newfound ability to cut semi-intricate designs with safety scizzors. After paper cutting and dinner, we had a nice mentor group discussion about the differences between all the places we’ve been and took a brief nighttime walk to a local coffee/pastry shop. Overall, today was absolutely fantastic; The weather was great, I didn’t get a sunburn (despite forgetting sunscreen), and I had tons of fun hanging out with all the group members.
Saturday July 21, 2018
Day two of our weekend break was filled with plenty of fun and interesting things.
Starting in the morning, we headed off to the mountains to see the Bai temples and the monkeys that inhabit the area. Along our hike through the breath-taking mountain trail we collected trash to keep the environment clean for our animal friends. When we reached the temple we were greeted by a monkey in a tree, then two, and then many many more. It seemed like we were in the Planet Of The Apes! They began to watch curiously as we walked through. Eventually they grew confident and snatched one of our trash bags and tore it apart to fight for a granola bar.
The temple is filled with amazing, colorful statues of various things. After our visit with the local monkeys we headed over to a nearby community area to enjoy some delicious local BBQ. When we finished our meal we visited two temples that were in the area, one in restoration and the other completely remade. So after a very busy day filled with walking, good food, and some fun with the monkeys, we headed home to enjoy dinner and watch a Chinese animated movie called Bigfish and Begona. Over all it was a good day and we can’t wait for Sunday!
Sunday July 22, 2018
Today, in the quiet village of Shaxi, GLA had an semi-relaxing, and fun day today. In the morning, we had a delicious breakfast cooked today by the cooks at the homebase. Then some of us went on a relaxing walk with Yi and Vaila, and we drew some of the scenery with Yi’s expert guidance, while others went to the playground with Xiao and had an adventurous time with him. Afterwards, we went to the wificafe, in which we chatted with families, or with friends. Afterwards we had lunch, then we went off to learn traditional Bai dance. Unfortunately, it rained so we went back to homebase where we successfully learned the dance. It was so energetic! We are going to perform the dance as a group at our farewell party.
Afterwards, we went on an adventurous scavenger hunt for a riveting hour, and the winning team was awarded ice cream. After that, we returned home for another delicious dinner, and ate until we felt satisfied. In the evening we wrote letters to our future selves, in which some of us wrote advice, our goals, and we all made dates to open them. All in all, today was a great day in Shaxi filled with happiness, fun, laughter, and joy.
-by Jordan Lott
Monday July 23, 2018
Breaking The GLA Bricks Record: The Finale
Today was our final day at the brick making site; our final day to demolish the record. After a delicious breakfast of dumplings and fried dough, we packed our egg sandwich and drinkable yogurt lunches and started our final trek to the work site. Once arriving we immediately jumped into action to achieve the goal we set out for: making more than 160 bricks. About one hour in we were all exhausted, but with the help of our cheerleaders (Ryan and Jordan) we were soon back in the groove of pumping out the bricks. After a scenic lunch at the brick site, filled with music and some dancing, we returned back to our brick making stations and began making mud bricks once again. In the end we not only broke the previous record of 320 bricks, but we DEMOLISHED it by making 482! Satisfied with our work, we headed back to home base to have our 3rd Chinese class.
In Chinese class we went over what we had previously learned, culture and traditions, and we also learned more fruit, vegetables, and how to say the pros of living in either a village or a city. Following chinese class and a scrumptous dinner, we had an evening activity of describing the story behind a picture we had taken on this trip. This activity led us to talk about how we should always keep our minds open about other cultures and be open to experiencing and learning new things. Overall today was a rewarding day and I am looking forward to the rest of this trip and our time spent in Shaxi! Zai Jian!
– Laura Lennon
Tuesday July 24, 2018
This morning, we woke up and had breakfast at the usual time (8:20). We had some delicious dumplings, along with some Sprite and Coca-Cola. After breakfast, we headed off for some more service on the enzyme farm. When we got there, we mixed a lot of green grass with a lot of dead grass, added some enzyme, sprinkled a little magic dust on top and left it to react.
The combination of all these substances is supposed to rise in temperature to 60-70 degrees celcius before flipping the mixture to result in a nice combination. Then, we headed to check on our other enzyme solution that we had already made. Finally, satisfied with our work, we left back for homebase. After a pleasant break for lunch, we revisited our goals that we made on posters when we first arrived in Shaxi. While it was fun to look back through our journey to China, we also reflected upon whether or not we had met our goals, and if we acquired any leadership traits that we had written down.
After that activity, we had one of our final Chinese classes. We then had a short break before dinner, which was used to continue our connect five tournament. There were many games played, but the standings ended having Beck waiting to participate in the final game, while Jonathan and I are competing in the semi-final. The winner of the final game will not only recieve a prize, but get the opportunity to compete against Uncle Lu for the title of connect five grandmaster.
After dinner, we had some free time to walk around Shaxi in order to buy any last souvenirs that we might have had in mind. Finally, we all participated in an appreciation activity in which we both anonymously and openly commended each other for our positive behaviors and leadership traits. Through this activity we came much closer together as friends, and had many newfound appreciations for each other. Overall, today was a very productive day in all aspects.
-by Cody Rupp
Wednesday July 25, 2018
Today, after a change of plans, we headed to the organic farm to pick flowers. It started to rain on our way there, but thankfully we all had our rain gear and boots. On our way back to home base, we stopped by at the supermarket to buy a few snacks for our bus ride to Dali and Kunming. After lunch,we learned how to make silk flowers from a very talented lady. It was a bit frustrating at first, but we all ended up with beautiful flowers. One of our favorite activities today was walking around Shaxi and buying souvenirs and/or presents for family and friends. We were all excited to have another chance to explore Shaxi.
After dinner, we played a game called Bucket of Dreams. We all wrote a dream or two that we would like to achieve, folded up the piece of paper, and put it in a bucket. Then, we split up into two groups. Each group had a few people that were blindfolded, a few people that could only write on a piece of paper without talking, and a few people that could talk and give directions. The challenge was to instruct the people with blindfolds to use a rope to haul the bucket that was on a chair. The chair was in the middle of a circle of rope that no one could step on or trespass. It proved to be a frustrating task as everyone had different ideas and there were barriers like being blindfolded and not being able to talk. Tonight we were able to talk about our dreams and why we want to achieve them,which let us learn even more about each other and was a good way to end the night.
Yesterday we had two leaders of the day – Ellie and Natasha. They wrote separate blog posts so we’re posting two blogs for yesterday!
Today was our final day in Shaxi. We started off with a delicious breakfast at 8:20 am. Just when everyone was finishing eating, the schedule for the day was announced by me and my co-leader. The code of the day was “make the most of your last day in Shaxi”. This is what we swiftly accomplished!
At 9:20 we left for the service site. Today we were planting flowers outside of the East Gate of Shaxi. We split into two groups to plant flowers in two separate areas. One group was planting flowers in multiple large wooden flower boxes, the other group was planting flowers in the cinderblock wall to make the space more pleasant and beautiful. We continuously worked hard by shoveling and breaking up a huge pile of dirt, and then by planting the various flowers into their respective areas. At around 11 am, we finished planting all of the flowers; you could see that our hard work had a notable positive impact on the Shaxi community by lighting up the area with beautiful flowers.
After having about an hour off nothing scheduled (some chose to either relax or to pack) we ate an amazing lunch. Then, at 2:30, we all went to Chinese class. We wrote our own stories based off of the childern’s book, wu ya he shui. After we shared our stories, we watched an insightful animation that gave each of us a little bit of wisdom. It was a really enjoyable last Chinese class and from all of those classes I know that I have learned so much.
Following Chinese class we had a short break time before our next activity. In this time the first China Gla Connect Five Tournament was concluded with Beck at the champion, however, Grandmaster Uncle Lu remains superior. At 4:30, we began to make dumplings! We split into two groups to make a ton of dumplings. Following the instrctions of the kitchen crew, Uncle Lu, and Mr. Ma (and through a process of trial and error) we made A LOT of dumplings.
This was our dinner, and after hearing about how someone in the last session at 46 dumplings a few people in this session were determined to beat that number. These dumplings were delicious mind you but, 46 is a very large amount of dumplings to eat, as these challengers soon found out. Ryan and Jonah tied at 37, while Jonathan and Daniel each ate 37.5 dumplings(nobody got sick). With full stomachs., everybody attempted at coming up with ideas for the farewell party.
At 8:00, we all arrived at the home base and were met by local Bai dancers and Uncle Lu’s friends. After a frantic review/practice of our Bai dance, we headed into the home base’s courtyard to perform for everybody. We really tried our best. Everybody danced to the best of their ability and, even though the order and some moves of the dance were forgotten, I believe that we pulled it off.
After our first group performance, the local Bai dancers performed for us! It was a wonderful event to experience! We had three more improvised group performances following that. Featured dances, in order, include: the cupid shuffle, the cha cha slide, and the macarena. When we were doing to macarena, we taught the Bai dancers the dance and they joined us! In between each of our dances the Bai dancers would perform for us. They were amazing and it was a great cultural experience.
After all of the group performances(minus the macarena, since we had that as our last dance), we had a few solo performances by members of our group! First was CJ, who did his first stand up comedy routine in front of a big group! Then went Ryan, an upcoming stand up comedian, who made us all burst out laughing. Tristen went next, singing Perfect by Ed Sheeran. For the last solo performance Gaia performed an amazing and incredible dance to Feeling Good by Nina Simone. All of the solo performances were great because each person put a ton of effeort into it and because it took a ton of courage to perform somthing by yourself in front of a large group.
The conclusion of the farewell party also signaled the end of our time in Shaxi. The group then surprised Uncle Lu, the kitchen crew, Mr. Lin, and Mr. Ma by giving them handmade thank you notes signed by all. A little later,right after the mentors finished telling us the plan for tomorrow, we surprised them with thank you notes. Each card was handmade and signed by everybody. We all also each wrote something personal and meaningful to each mentor on the back of the card an it really showed our greatfullness towards them which has continued to increase over the course of the trip. It was a beautiful end to our final night in Shaxi.
The first thing in the morning is community service. We head out past the East Gate of Shaxi to plant some flowers. We planted in the boxes and along the brick wall. The area was quickly filled with bright flora.
We made dumplings in the kitchen once our afternoon Chinese class was over. At dinner, many of us made a show of eating as many as we could. And after dinner, we hosted a farewell party. We danced a traditional Bai dance and got to watch professional dancers do their routines. A few of us contributed to the festivities by giving a few performances of our own.
Overall, we made the most of our last day in Shaxi.
Friday July 27, 2018
Ni Hao Dali!
Today was the day we left our home base in Shaxi and head to Dali to do one last day of sightseeing in China. We woke up extra early and ate our final meal with Uncle Lu. Saying goodbye to our home base was definitely not easy and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that not only will the beautiful views of the town be missed, but so will the wonderful people that we met. Uncle Lu, the kitchen staff, and Mr. Lin took such care of us and their hard work was greatly appreciated.
It was a 2-hour bus ride to Dali where many of us caught up on some Z’s. We first went to the tie-dye shop to learn about how the local people use organic materials to create beautiful tie-dyes. Jake taught us about the process they use to prep the dye and the cloth for the process, as well as how different plants can produce a variety of colors depending on factors such as the material of the cloth, and the time spent in the dye.
Now it was our turn to try our hand at tie-dying a handkerchief of our own. Some of us tried to replicating techniques Jake taught us to create a certain patterns, some of us folded the cloth however we wanted and hoped for the best (myself included), and some of us did a mixture of both. All of us had fun getting our hands dirty in some indigo and seeing how each other’s tie-dyes turned out.
After a delicious meal for lunch, we went to our hotel to drop our bags and get some rest. Then we visited a local Confucius temple that had some beautiful architecture. There was a stone bridge that lead to the main building of the temple that people in the past used to cross in the hopes that it would help them pass their imperial exams to become officials. Once Yi told us that the stone bridge was still used today for giving people good luck for academic success, we all scrambled to get across. The figures inside the temple were beautiful and grand. Every inch of the architecture was intricately carved and amazing to see. Right before we left, some of us bought a good luck charm and wrote their wishes down to tie onto a structure in the temple.
Now it’s shopping time! We had time to spare before dinner so we all split into groups with the staff members and walked around the shopping center to get goodies for home or to simply snack on. After wonderful authentic dinner we went back to our hotel to take a small break and drop off anything we had already bought, before those of us that still wanted to shop could head out for another hour and a half.
Dali was a beautiful place to visit with amazing architecture and art. I loved all the different tie dye patterns that many of the shops had. Tie dying in the States is very different from the style in China, where the patterns can vary from simple flowers to intricate lotus designs. Shaxi will be dearly missed by all of us but the experiences we had there were worth it.