Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
I hope that everything is going well, and that the memories of our summer adventures still linger, even in your busy life schedules.
Every trip I have taken to China has been different and amazing in it’s own way, but this summer’s experience was crazy and hilarious because of all of you. Spending the summer in Kunming, Shaxi, and Beijing, every day was different. Whether we were walking to the kindergarten, playing games with kids, or working with mud bricks to help restore the local temple, it was amazing to watch all of you experience China and our service projects with such grace, determination and humor.
The three weeks we spent together went by so fast!
I hope you are all doing well, and if I haven’t heard from you in a while, feel free to reach out.
Summer Blog Posts
After a few long travel days, our entire team of China students have finally arrived safe and sound! Most of the crew arrived late this afternoon and our final arrival landed later this evening (yay, Davis!). With a window of time to rinse off the travel weary, we were off to wander through one of the universities on our way to dumpling dinner. But not before our first lesson in Chinese culture… one of the more important for the trip…”How to use a squat toilet!” 🙂
Our first group photo (Davis not pictured)
Everyone had a chance to learn the fine technique of properly squatting (for when the opportunity arises to use such facilities in the future). Needless to say, we all had a good laugh but everyone seems to be feeling a bit more prepared for the trip. The next adventure of the evening was our first meal together in China, DUMPLING DINNER!
A few newbies to the art of using chopsticks had a chance to master their new skill, while others managed to consume more dumplings than ever thought imaginable. Early to bed for our first night, in anticipation of venturing to the Stone Forest tomorrow!
More to come soon… Stay tuned!
Yesterday was our first official day all together as a team and we had an absolute blast! We started the day with a bit of fun orientation activities and a cultural lecture by our local staff, then made our way to the Stone Forest! Along the way, we stopped for our first Chinese sit down meal and it was quite the experience with over 10 different dishes to try).
Amazingly, every single student actually went for it and ATE A BUG or A WORM! Don’t worry, these fine delicacies were well prepared and very much dead. It was great to see so many adventurers in the group, we know this is definitely going to be a fun group slightsmile emoticon.
The hike around Stone Forest was stunning and we all enjoyed the sunshine (which can be elusive during monsoon season here in China). Today, we set out on our long bus journey to our home base in Shaxi. Our access to internet will be more limited once we are in the village, but we will be posting blogs written by the group in a few days to come. Off we go!
PS. We all wish all of you dads out there a HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!!
by Wiley Eaton, Terence Foster, Davis Vergnolle
I. We arrived in Kunming, and got settled in our hotel and had our first meal of dumplings. We got adjusted to the culture by learning how to boil water and use the squat toilets.
II. We all got to know each other and became more comfortable in China.
We headed to the stone forest where we explored the scenic rock formations and the stories behind them.
III. We woke up early, got on a bus for our eight-hour drive to Shaxi. We arrived that evening and were introduced to our home base and some of the locals.
IV. Our first day of community service began with a home cooked breakfast and coffee. We soon headed to our service site where we cleared the area we would be working in for the next couple of weeks. That afternoon we had our first mandarin language class. Later that evening, we took a tour of Shaxi and headed to bed after a long day of work.
V. That morning we headed out to start our next day of community service, making adobe bricks to restore a local temple. After lunch, we visited a local middle school, where the principle gave us an in-depth tour. We then played basketball and soccer with the students. On our way back to the home base, we all tried out the local bubble tea.
A personal view…
After many awesome experiences we have found a few that we would like to share with you. First of all the food is fantastic. Our first meal was freshly steamed dumplings at a local restaurant in Kunming, which set the tone for our future meals. So far we have not been disappointed by a single meal. We have eaten everything from wasps to bamboo fungus soup. Despite the discomforts of some we all stepped out of our comfort zone and tried something new! We especially liked the duck, the Chinese-style pancakes, and the bubble tea. We look forward to trying more authentic Chinese food.
We also have been getting used to some parts of Chinese culture we did not expect. Shortly after arriving, we learned how to properly use a squat toilet; we are getting used to it after lots of practice. Another hurdle we have faced is having to prepare all the water we drink by boiling it before drinking it. We are also all getting used to drinking warm water with no ice. So far our trip has been everything we have wanted and more, we can’t wait to continue our journey in China!
New Photos – 6/21/2016
June 23, 2016
The last few days in China have been extremely busy with mornings of Adobe brick building and afternoons full of cultural experiences. The bricks we have made consist of mud, straw, and water. We scoop the mud into a bucket that then is transported into molds to form the bricks. As of right now we have made over 200 bricks, which will be used in the local community center that is being constructed. The thought that these bricks will help the local community have a building to remember their history is an amazing felling to everyone. By the time we finished one session of building bricks we were completely covered in mud. We caught a few extra stares on the way home, because of the mud cakes on our clothes. We also had an opportunity to visit a local middle school in Sha Xi. The time that we have had with the 7th, 8th, and 9th graders was full of new experiences and many surprises.
We started our experience with a tour of the school, which was given by the principal. He told us about the schools history, and how the students and staff helped in the construction of a pond and a garden. The garden had 56 trees, which represented the 56 ethnic groups of China living in harmony in this garden. We played basketball with some of the freshman boys, soccer with some of the girls, and a jump rope like game with some of the other girls. Some of us think that this jump rope game should be brought back to where we live because it was a lot of fun. In the rope game and in basketball the students of the school pretty much beat us in every aspect. The teachers of the 9th graders were kind enough to let their students skip some of their classes so that they could continue to play with us. This was very kind of the teacher because they knew that this would be a very good experience for everyone involved. The school was especially different because they had their own pond for fishing. The pond intercepts the flow from a local river, so they have plenty of fish. The kids and the staff fish during their free time and if the fish is big enough they prepare it for the students and staff to eat. They have a canoe that they use to get across the pond. We all saw people rowing across and thought it was interesting because it’s not something you would normally see where we come from. We also thought it was funny because they could also just walk around the whole of the pond. So far, we are all doing well and enjoying our time in China.
Kaci, Vonnie, Cat
“Some lies are kind,” that’s what Uncle Lu said after our forty minute hike turned into one and a half hours. Our goal for that afternoon was to help remove all the weeds from a family’s corn and bean crops. Since most of us grew up in cities, this was our first experience farming. After a quick lesson on identifying weeds versus crops and how to use the scythe with out cutting our fingers off, we finally begun to clear the rows. Leaf hats were given to us to shield our faces from the sun. It was interesting to hear other farmers sing songs dating back to the Cultural Revolution despite their distaste for Mao Zedong.
After accidentally pulling out three sunflowers (good job team), we headed to the families house and enjoyed the Eight Bowl Meal, a dinner that is only consumed for special events. Yoga, Tai Chi, thumb wrestling, and floating arms were just a few of the activities we partook in with the family. We said “再见” (goodbye) then began our walk home. On the way we stopped at an old temple, and tried out Chinese park exercise machines. The entire day was a great and insightful experience that taught us what it was like to live in a rural community.
Because of our full week of community service, on “Friday Fun Day” we took a rest in the morning and had a scavenger hunt instead. Friday is Market Day in ShaXi, and the scavenger hunt gave us the opportunity to test out our Mandarin skills when bargaining with the locals. In addition to bargaining, we also had to translate the instructions on our list from Mandarin to English; some of the directions included taking a picture with a group of locals, obtaining the most amounts of fruit for the least amount of money, and taking a “birdy on the perch” picture on one of ShaXi’s famous bridges. The activity prompted us to work as a group and learn and use each other’s strengths and weaknesses in language as well as practicing leadership skills. The winners of our scavenger hunt were the “White Tigers” — their prize is Boba Tea.
ShaXi is great and we’ve been learning a lot about Chinese culture and language. J
– Alessandra, Julia, and Fei
June 27, 2016
One of the benefits of having Uncle Lu as our host are his connections. He arranged to have a local artisan come and show us his craft. The man, who we called Ouyang Laoshi, pulled out giant pieces of red paper, folded and cut, and handed out pieces. He was teaching us how to do the ancient Chinese practice of decorative paper cutting. Although our double luck characters weren’t nearly as good as Ouyang Laoshi’s, they came out decent for having been made with childproof scissors. Ouyang laoshi begun this practice almost forty years ago; his lifetime of practice showed when he created a paper cutout of four butterflies with a flower in the middle. It was a nice departing activity before we left for the weekend. Ahh, the bus, it was too long since we sat in those seats, rocking side-to-side traversing a mountainous road. So that’s what we did, travelling to a small village called Stone Dragon for the weekend. Stone Dragon, a rural village beside a reservoir (that is said to contain the namesake mythical animal) was breathtaking and full of fun surprises. On the way to the mountain we were followed by a group of cute little boys that found great joy in throwing firecrackers at us (laws regarding firecrackers in China are very different). Once we arrived at the start of the trail, we embarked on the hour hike through the mountains. While hiking, we passed the time by telling each other impossible riddles that kept us stumped. We soon arrived at 石宝山 (stone treasure mountain), an seemingly endless vertical climb of a temple that was built into the mountainside. As soon as we walked through one segment of it, we walked through another, and another, and another before reaching the coveted view of the golden Buddha and another towering statue. The religion practiced at the temple is a blend of Buddhism and the local religious practices of the village. Fortunately for us, the stone dragon village had much more to offer. Aliu, our host for the night and guide to the town, explained the village’s history of the traditional dances; little did we know that we would be engaging in those dances later that night. There was a fire; there were spectators, and a single speaker, which played traditional Bai music hooked up to a phone. We gathered in a circle, joined by some of the woman of the village, and began to dance. It was a little difficult at first but the group soon got the hang of it. We then watched a group of about five fifty through eighty-year old women perform a traditional dance using a baton with bells on the end. After an exciting day we headed back to our rooms, exhausted. It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Stone Dragon without some relaxing morning-time mushroom picking. So after two hours we walked back with bags barely filled with shrooms that we would later find out were, for the most part, inedible. We were however able to enjoy the fruits of our labors, at a restaurant that cooked the remaining mushrooms for us. You know you’re at a good “cook it yourself” restaurant in China when you are sitting half-a-foot off the ground and half blinded by smoke from the grill – the grilled fish was delicious. We washed our hands, said goodbye to Stone Dragon, and stepped back into the bus headed back to Shaxi.
-Brandon, Christian, Morgan
We started our last week in Shaxi with new experiences full of fun and adventure. On Tuesday afternoon we learned a tradition shi long dance with Aliu. She taught us four sequences of the traditional dance and in the end we put it all together to music. The dance moves were difficult and challenging, but we tried our best and had a blast. We danced in the square and about half way through a shop owner gave us some freshly picked plums. The dance represented farming and how they had to work hard in order to eat. Throughout the dance there were multiple people who joined in, but there were also groups of spectators who took pictures and videos of us. Overall the dance was fun and a great experience. It taught us a lot about a Chinese culture. Aliu taught us that in shi longs culture a tradition is that, once you learn how to walk you learn how to dance, and once you learn how to talk you learn how to sing.
On Thursday our afternoon activity was silk flower making. We basically made flowers out of dyed pantyhose, wire, and washy tape. This was a challenge for a number of us, but in the end we all created beautiful flowers. We learned how to make a stargazer lily. After we finished our lilies the teacher showed us how to make a rose. If all of us tried to make a rose it would have taken hours, but she made one in 15 minutes. The lily we made represents 100 years of marriage. She gave extra supplies to people who wanted to practice and said practice makes perfect.
– Cat Vonnie Kaci
Ni hao friends and family!
We have had a very busy past few days with limited access to a strong wifi signal, but I look forward to sharing photos as soon as I am able. I wanted to let you know that all is well here in China as we prepare for our final day in Beijing. Today…we get to climb the GREAT WALL! And…it is Christian’s birthday 🙂
Our departure from Shaxi a few days ago was complete with an incredible concert by local musicians and live dancing from our beloved dance teacher Aliu. We then traveled to Dali for an amazing tie-dye afternoon and over night wander through the town. Our final leg of the trip was back to Kunming where we celebrated an early July 4th with an american dinner (surprise to the students, quite a few milk shakes and happy faces)! Yesterday was our journey all around Beijing, a long day of exploring and walking the Forbidden City and a special hot pot dinner.
More soon…we are about to start our last day together. Going to miss everyone SO much, what an incredible journey we have all had together! Everyone seems both excited to go home and sad to say farewell to one another. Many friendships have been formed complete with massive giggle fests and fun times. China will not be the same without this crew!