We’re in China! Yesterday we all arrived after our long flights, ate a adventurous/delicious dinner (including black fungus, pigs hoof and fatty beef), and got to sleep early.
Today, we all ventured to the Great Wall! It was amazing! From the lift ride up to the exhausting hike up the steps of the wall to the descend down the long slide. We learned a lot about why the wall was built and the different kinds of people who live in China and what a “foreigner” in China is. Now we are all super hungry and ready for a shower! It was totally worth the sweat and legs that feel like noddles.
We’re off to eat at one of China’s famous noodle house restaurants–more updates will come soon!
Yesterday we began our day with a buffet-style breakfast at the hotel. We then proceeded with an orientation from the GLA staff. We went over the code of conduct, history of GLA and main aspects of Chinese culture. Some of the major points we learned were the five elements (earth, fire, wood, metal, and water) and PYBPAR (pronunciation, yin and yang, boisterous, practicality, awkwardness and repetition).
After the orientation, we went to a Korean restaurant and ate delicious food. Our favorites were the rice cakes and the kimchi fried rice! We then went to Tiananmen Square and we felt like we were melting. It was so humid and hot that we could have fried eggs on the ground! We went to the Temple of Heaven and walked more than a mile. It was really cool to see the history and culture that we talked about earlier in the day in-person. We wrapped up the night at a famous restaurant with a speciality of Peking duck.
It was an exhausting but memorable day!
-Sophia Chen and Stephanie Chen
Hello to everyone back home!
Today we completed our journey from Beijing to Shaxi, and we made the six hour journey from Kunming count by playing a lot of games, getting to know each other better, and of course getting some solid naps in! We spent the evening settling into our home for the next two weeks. The village of Shaxi is beautiful and the cooler temperature is a welcome change. Our local staff- Uncle Lu and Alieu- greeted us with a delicious feast of local specialties. After dinner, we played a few games and created group “prayer flag” banners that list each of our goals for the next two weeks. After that, we surprised Julia (a student in our group) with a birthday cake at a local cafe. It was delicious!
Tomorrow, we’ll explore Shaxi with a tour and cultural scavenger hunt, and dive further into our language instruction. Until next time!
On Tuesday night we arrived in Shaxi after a long bus ride! The next day, we started our day with a nice noodle breakfast prepared by our GLA homebase cooks. We were put into groups with our TA’s (students who are more advanced in Chinese) and went on a research scavenger hunt of Shaxi. We had an arrangement of things to do throughout the town which included buying an assortment of food and drink. Following the scavenger hunt, we presented our findings to the group and shared our snacks. We then took a tour of the village, stopping at many temples. We then had dinner and following that we had our first mentor group meeting. We all got to share a little bit about what makes us unique.
The next day (due to the rain) we had our first Chinese lesson in the morning. We then had lunch and free time before we headed to the service site for our first day. We stomped mud to flatten the ground to build a floor and transported shingles from one part of the site to the other. We then went to a cafe in town with our mentor groups. And had some delicious treats! We then met with some undergraduate art students from a Chinese university who happened to be in Shaxi at the same time as us. We were able to talk with them and ask questions and use our new Chinese skills. It happened to be one of the students birthday so we ended the night with some cake and some singing from Chinese Beyoncé (one of our staff members, Alieu).
Zoé Bertone and Sarah O’Reilly
Dear families and friends of GLA,
Yesterday after a breakfast of fried dough, steamed buns, mung bean paste, and coffee, we traveled to the service site. As it was raining, we were unfortunately unable to make mud bricks. Instead we pounded down mud floors and stacked tiles. After lunch we went to the town square, and had milkshakes and American food for the first time since arriving. Later we learned to play Ma Jong and made dumplings for dinner. We finished the day by testing our newfound skills in Ma Jong against college students before passing out in our beds.
Yesterday we had another incredible day, starting with breakfast of mildly spicy dumpling soup, with dumplings made by all of us from the day before. We were rained out of our community service due to the Shaxi culture that does not permit anyone working in poor weather. This is due to their belief that if we became ill, it would be due to them letting us work in these bad conditions. After breakfast, we had Chinese class with Charles, and learned about numbers and measuring words. Then we all headed into town for market day. We were split up into partners and were able to wander freely exploring the incredible culture. The market was full of exotic fruits, vegetables, and spices that the locals had grown and prepared. The most memorable part was when I reached the end of the market and found myself in the fish section. There were small pools of water containing anywhere between 15-100 small to large fish. We watched the man pick up live fish and weigh them, before shoving them in a mini plastic bag. I was very surprised when a large fish escaped the pool and flopped and writhed around on the ground, making me jump back. After leaving the market, we all headed back to the homebase for lunch, which consisted of rice, potatoes, spices, and soy beans. After lunch, we all went upstairs to watch a Chinese tragic, romantic type movie but encountered a technological issue. While the projector was being fixed, we all played a game called “Celebrity”. After this we were very hungry and were glad to have another amazing dinner. When we had finished the movie was ready making it a relaxing way to finish the day before retiring to bed.
Hello everyone back home,
Tuesday was the first day we’ve been here that we could actually see the sun, so we were very excited. After breakfast, we headed to the temple to finish the mud bricks – although a little mud was lost, since some students put on “war paint.” (Fun fact: painting one’s face with mud leaves it surprisingly smooth). Even though we had started with a huge pile of the stuff, in two days, all the mud had been made into bricks. If we’re all working, things get done quite fast! We had some free time after lunch to clean up and go get food – some of the cafes in town have surprisingly good pizza, coffee, even French fries. Then, we had the privilege of being taught calligraphy by a nationally ranked master – he even wrote out some of our names in Chinese for us, in a special, artistic calligraphy style – followed by a Bai dancing lesson from Alieu, our Beyoncé-in-residence. We learned the basic moves for a dance called “Emperor’s Whip” in the town square – and it was the only time that day that it rained! Nonetheless, it was wonderful. We rounded out the day with dinner and mentor groups at the cafes.
Wednesday morning, the calligraphy master returned, this time to teach us some basic Tai Chi. Even though he is over seventy years old, none of us can match his strength or balance – but we certainly tried! (There’s one funny thing – if we’re out in public trying out a new cultural activity, we tend to attract lots of tourists with cell phone cameras at the ready.) We had Chinese class with Charles and learned some basic conversational questions (such as “How old are you?”) because after lunch, we got to go visit some kids who live nearby. Even though they’re on summer break, lots of kids showed up (though the boys were initially very shy). They taught us a little dance, we played duck-duck-goose and tag, shared some treats we’d purchased at the convenience store, asked them our questions, and even taught them a few English words. It was a fun experience all around. We headed back from our “play date” for another dance class with Alieu, practicing our Emperor’s Whip, and learning a simple bonfire dance to do when we visit her village this weekend. We had some free time to browse the shops and get snacks before dinner. For our evening activity, we were introduced to the GLA spa – anti-aging face masks, which are very popular in China for both men and women. Our faces rejuvenated, we watched a classic Chinese tragedy, “A Chinese Ghost Story.” It’s an old film, but very well known all over China – another taste of this vibrant culture.
Tuesday and Wednesday were so warm and sunny, quite a drastic – though pleasant – change from the constant rain; a few of us even got a little sunburned! But Thursday morning, the rain returned with a vengeance, doing it’s level best to soak through our rain gear as we finished demolishing the buildings at the temple site and assembling traditional furniture (so donors coming to visit the worksite have someplace to sit). The fronts of the buildings are now all gone – our main goal, achieved – so our new task is prying the nails out of the wood planks, so both can be reused. It’s a tough job for sure, but we’re making sound progress – although it’s strange to think we’ll only be working there one more time before we leave. When we returned, it was still pouring, but that didn’t deter many of the students, who went out to shop and get coffee. As we dried off during Chinese class, we learned how to talk about time and direction, and played a few games to practice. Those who didn’t know any Chinese are progressing swiftly, and the students who knew some are learning many helpful hints and tricks. We spent the rest of the afternoon brainstorming ideas for activities with the kids and making more delicious dumplings for dinner (we made both regular and vegetarian so everyone could eat them). After devouring the dumplings (I must stop this alliteration!) we played charades, mentor group against mentor group. Though it got competitive near the end (the groups were tied 25-25 when the pot was empty), it was very entertaining, and great for building team spirit. Nothing bonds a group like dancing around idiotically in front of people, and being applauded rather than judged for your craziness.
We go every day from 8:30 am to at least 9:30 pm (sometimes quite a bit later), and even though we end each night exhausted, I have to say, through the work and rain and Chinese characters, we’re enjoying every minute.