6/15 – 6/18, 2015
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!
Mayhem, madness, horrible, terrible; those are the words that surprise brings to mind in American culture. However, in Chinese culture, every surprise is something to relish. At the restaurant we ate at for dinner, the food was just as exotic as the way of thinking. This was especially evident when the waiter brought out the “surprise dumplings,” which had random fillings. In America, you would never get unlabeled food because it’s all about practicality, allergy information and order, whereas in China, surprises are relished and it is customary to revel in the uncertainty because of the experience it gives. In Chinese culture, surprises lead to learning, while in Western culture, it is the gateway to strife.
-Timothy Jones, 16
Hometown: West Orange, New Jersey
Surrounded by Kindness
It only took me five minutes of wandering through the Beijing airport to figure out that Chinese people are surprisingly nice. A simple “你好“ in China will get you a warm smile and pleasant replays opposed to America, where , where simply looking at someone gets you a nasty look and a dismissive grunt. The only thing that is more weird than treating random strangers with respect and kindness, is the fact that this is completely foreign to Western culture.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall is indescribably beautiful. On the day we went, we were very lucky to have beautiful weather. Views of the mountains stretched out in every direction, disappearing into a haze twenty or so miles away. Looking up the mountains, you could see the wall snake its way up to the peaks and then continue atop the ridges. We visited two of the seemingly infinite guard towers. One has a roof that you could climb up onto and stand on, and both offered a cool, shady break from the hot sun. In the second tower we discovered a ladder that led down to the Mongol/Manchurian side. I was tempted to try it, but it was quite rickety, so I decided against it. The journey down the mountain was just as fun as the dazzling ride up in the chair lift. We got to take little toboggans down a quarter mile slide. All in all, my trip to the great wall was awe-inspiring. I still can’t believe that I have visited something I had previously only seen pictures of.
-Weston Way, 16
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Kunming to Shaxi
Although 7-8 hour bus rides aren’t really my cup of tea, the farmlands we passed as we drove to Shaxi were beautiful. It was awesome to see the terrace farming I had seen in some China videos I’ve watched. Even before we made it to Shaxi, we stopped for some lunch that was typical of the Bai minority people that consisted of pig intestines, “seaweed,” and plenty more exotic dishes. It was quite delicious and helped to make the rest of the bus ride more bearable.
The bus ride was totally worth it when we got to Shaxi. We were met by Uncle Lu, who is a magical chef with supreme culinary powers and he introduced us to what may be the cutest thing to grace this earth: a kitten. She is a fierce one, and we named her Sasha. Shaxi itself is beautiful, and the next day, we went on a scavenger hunt throughout the village learning about important sites and foods. We are all alive and doing well.
Alexander, signing off.
It’s been a long week of service and learning! We’re all a little tired, but everyone’s sense of humor seems to be intact!
Today was our second day of service. We are helping to restore an ancient Chinese temple from the Qing dynasty by making mud bricks to build new walls. On our second day, the locals were there, and everyone was very kind. They greatly appreciated our help, and some even offered us part of their meals as a gift of gratitude. Once we returned from service, we ate our delicious lunch cooked by Uncle Lu. Uncle Lu not only cooks meals for us, but also runs the cultural center & inn that we are all staying at.
After lunch we had our daily Chinese lesson with Charles!!! Then it came time to dance. Our dance teacher was Aliu. Aliu is a famous Bai Minority singer and dancer. She performed four dances for us, and when she finished performing, we voted on the dance that we wanted her to teach us. We voted on a dance that required us all to use sticks to dance with. Aliu’s stick had coins in it that made nice ringing sounds when she tapped her feet and hands with it.
The dancing was pretty humorous because we all had trouble following Aliu’s lead. She taught us “the basics,” which seemed very difficult, and then sang for us when we had had enough. After Aliu’s beautiful singing, we were given free time to hang out. For free time, we all went to a cafe where we enjoyed a little taste of home and had pizza, popcorn, and milkshakes. Overall, this was an amazing day, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of our time here!