Thursday, January 29, 2015

China Today: Colorfully intense and diverse

I have found myself incredibly fascinated by the traffic here in China. There are a number of elements that pique my interest. The first of these is the diversity of the traffic. Here in Hekou, most of the diversity is in the various two-wheeled vehicles people use to travel around. There are very nice, pristine, and personalized mopeds, beat-up dirt bikes, bicycles with carts attached to the back, and all sorts of old mopeds. These vehicles seem to allow you to drive wherever you want, as they weave through the streets and even on the sidewalks. There is no discernible organized parking, and people seem to leave their mopeds—or what have you—wherever they please.

The same general rules seem to apply to cars—there is no specified parking locations, and the cars simply drive through the streets, honking at people and smaller vehicles in their way. These cars have an even larger diversity than the two-wheeled vehicles. I’ve seen all sorts of brands, like BMW, Toyota, even some Fords and Jeeps. They are mingled with small and large vans that appear to be unique to China, and there are a few large cargo trucks that have a militaristic air to them mixed in as well.

I’ve noted no speed limit signs, though it is possible I haven’t recognized them, as they are most likely in Chinese. People walk into the streets wherever they please. In Kunming, I saw a woman standing in the middle of traffic waiting to pass through each lane. On our journey from Kunming to Hekou, I noticed a few vehicles that were sitting idle in the middle of the highway. I can only assume they broke down, and I suppose rather than moving the car off to the side, people just get out and walk away. For all of this chaos, I have not noted any road-rage. Nobody seems angry at anybody else for getting in their way, perhaps because there are no rules to follow and therefore no rules to break. The bustle of the streets sounds exactly New York City, save for the sound of police sirens. If anyone in China ever gets a ticket, I can’t imagine what it would be for.

I have an incredible respect for the Hani people, and everyone who lives like them. Their existence is so simple and natural. The little old women working in the fields and carrying things around on their backs were so solid. Watching them, and the men herd the water buffalo and the pack mules through the village, was like standing at a still point in time.

While the village did posses plenty of modern amenities, the people still worked the land to live, using simply tools and methods, as they would have hundreds of years ago. China, so far, has impressed me with its beautiful coexistence of past and present. It’s not something we see in America, as the present is consumed the past.

First of all, Happy New Year! I never imagined I would fulfill one of my new year’s resolutions, to do more exciting things, on New Years. Anyway, I’ve been really interested in the way all of the people we’ve seen in this country dress. There are the Hani people, of course, who wear those beautifully embroidered traditional clothes. Even the more reserved clothes that are one solid color dot the terraced fields and decaying buildings like ornamentation. However, their clothing is not what I have found the most fascinating.

On our drives, we pass through a lot of small towns or clusters of buildings that are very dirty and rundown. In them, I have noticed a lot of women dressed as if they belonged in New York City. They are often in high heels and fashionable jackets, and honestly look more stylish than I do most of the time (regrettably, I do not have any photos of this). I was talking with a few of my comrades, and they suggested that perhaps the single women do it to attract men. This would make sense, as all of the women I have seen dressed this way are young, while many of the older women are wearing simpler, average clothing.

I’ve seen some really cool graffiti here in China. It’s funny to see people carving the Chinese symbols into trees and stuff like we carve our initials. One type of graffiti I’ve seen a lot of is crayon children’s drawings. This is probably my favorite type of graffiti to see because it’s not something seen in America. I’ve noticed that the children are often running around free-range with each other, up and down the streets with no worries. I even saw a child crossing the street by herself yesterday.

In America, children aren’t really allowed to do that anymore; they’re very sheltered and their parents are always watching them. Although, it is mostly in the small villages that I see the children running around unsupervised, which I imagine is due to the likelihood that everyone knows each other in the smaller villages. This child-like graffiti is evidence of the independence these children have on their little streets. (As a side note, it is entirely possible that I am mistaken, and that these are not children’s scribbles, but the scribbles of someone who is not very skilled at drawing. Either way, the point stands: the children in this country appear to have a lot more freedom in playing than American children)

I continue to be blown away by the intensity and diversity of the colors in this country. I’ve already written about the beautiful colors in the clothing of the Hani people, and the same intensity that exists there exists all over the place. Looking down the street, one is met with bits of striking color. One thing I have noticed is the presence of bright red ribbons tied to different places. I have seen a few tied to tree branches, a couple on the front of a car, and they surround the entire memorial site of the founders of the University in Kunming.

This last piece of information leads me to believe that perhaps the red is symbolic of loss or memory. Perhaps the ribbons in the trees symbolize a location where someone died, and the ribbon on the car is in memory of someone. Since red is also the color of the Chinese flag, it could symbolize some kind of nationality. I’m not able to research any of this on the Internet, so I will have to clarifying my suspicions with someone who knows the culture. For now, however, I find it exciting to speculate the meaning of things based on observing them in context.

When I took anthropology my freshman year, I learned about the affinity that the Chinese have for Christian traditions. The article I read back then was about how they like the have all of the ceremony associated with Christian weddings. They even fly over Americans to act as priests, many of them not being priests themselves. I noticed evidence for this on the flight here, as there was and advertisement that came before the movies of a bride and groom dresses in the tradition white wedding gown and black tuxedo.

As I have been in China, I have noticed a lot of Christmas decorations. There are Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, even a sign that said "Feliz Navidad." We were told later that the Chinese celebrate a non-religious Christmas that is essentially a time for people to party and have fun. I find it very interesting how they have incorporated an element of our culture into theirs, but have modified it to make it fit into their beliefs.

— Katie Starliper, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

China Today: A transitional country

After these first few days in China, what I’ve noticed most is that this country seems to be in the transition between a third world to a modernized country. Driving from Kun Ming to He Kou, I saw countless high-rise apartment complexes under construction, but very few looked completed. It as if they were all started at once, and have yet to be completed. It was strange to see rural farming villages, with stone houses that seemed at least a century old, being dominated by these skyscrapers. I know there are 1.3 billion people in this country, but it’s hard to imagine that there will be enough people to fill all of this new housing.

Seeing first-hand the relation between the Vietnamese and Chinese at the border and in the markets is another testament to the growing economy here. The Chinese must have a significant disposable income if they Vietnamese can sell the cheap goods they had and make a living. I can assume that this is the result of there being a lot of construction going on in China so many people are employed.

Being in this mountainous region in which terrace farming is so prevalent has forced me to think a lot about the terraces. I realized that I become more aware of the hills—their slopes and curves—when I see how the people have had to work with them. It’s an example of nature providing this framework of the landscape, and man squaring it off to make it usable.

This occurs essentially wherever people live, but the terraces made me hyper-aware of it. The terrace farming also speaks to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the people here, which brings me to the way that the people here recycle trash for practical purposes. My favorite example of this was seeing a large toy truck being reused as a flowerbed. Vera and I were talking about this on the bus and agreed that the amount of litter here is almost excusable, as they really seem to use everything they can, unlike Americans who tend to throw away everything that isn’t perfect. I will also note that Americans wouldn’t dream of farming anywhere that isn’t mostly flat land, let alone on mountain slopes.

I am constantly taken aback by the vibrant colors everywhere here in Yunnan. Before coming, I assumed in my naivety it wouldn’t be the case and everyone would dress more like a communist. I packed accordingly in hopes of fitting in and not drawing too much attention to myself. I was quickly proven wrong to my pleasure as a photographer. The traditional dresses worn by Ha Ni women are obvious examples, but also contemporary clothing, storefronts, advertising, and packaging burst with color. Seeing the fruits at the farmers markets gave me an idea of their source material. I had fun taking pictures of people whose clothing matched the color of the fruit they happened to be standing next to.

Seeing the French railway station in Menzi reminded me of hearing the story of how it came to be in the museum in He Kou. I have trouble believing that the French could be so na├»ve to think that they could control China with one railroad spanning half of Yunnan. I kept hearing about the many Chinese lives lost in its construction and driving through the area in which it is built made me see how. Yunnan seems like the last place I would want to try to build a railroad. I was amazed to see how much infrastructure was required to put a modern highway there, and couldn’t imagine being a Chinese worker a century ago attempting a similar undertaking. There was a picture in the museum in Menzi of a bridge that connected tunnels coming out of solid cliffs. I can only imagine what a toll the Chinese payed in building it. It was funny to see the clocks at the station, which aside from the railroad’s design seemed to be the only French contribution.

It is also interesting that the Chinese barely use it anymore and it seems that it is kept in use for the sake of Vietnam. In this trip I learned a lot about French influence in this part of the world, which aside from the basic fact that they controlled Vietnam, I knew very little about.

Class discussion was very interesting this morning. I am glad to hear that China is working on establishing social welfare and anti-corruption programs in attempt to close the income gap, I am starting to get a better idea of what is currently going on in this country. I get the impression that the embrace of capitalism and communism working simultaneously was to improve the standard of living for all the people. The income gap is in theory a temporary side effect of this, and I suppose the plan is that everyone will come out more equal but with a higher standard of living than in Mao’s time. It is an ambitious plan but the ideology is in the right place in my opinion. In the United States, many of our politicians have a hard time even admitting that our own income gap a problem and we are seeing movements to unravel many of the social welfare programs initiated by Roosevelt and Johnson that many rely upon.

Today, I took a walk around Kun Ming after seeing the birds in the park. First of all, I noticed many people singing and dancing in groups at the park. They didn’t seem to be street performers but instead just engaging in community activities. Before I was out of earshot of one group of dancers, I was already being bombarded by the sounds of musicians playing traditional instruments. Seeing something like this is fairly uncommon in America unless those involved are trying to make money, and I think it reflects the communal nature of Asian culture.

After leaving that I walked back the way we came and fell across some bookstores. Most were in Chinese but I found a few English books, mostly on Buddhism and Tibet. I also noticed copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm as well as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I was surprised to see these books as China seems to try to control information and media, and these stories all directly conflict with the ideology of the CPC, by displaying the evils of socialism and totalitarianism. In the same neighborhood I saw coffee shops where there were college-aged girls smoking cigarettes and one was playing the guitar—both things I understand to be rather taboo here. It was interesting to find a counter-cultural side of this city.

— Hugh Hopkins, non-degree visiting student, #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

China Today: An artistic impression

Our first day in China went by quick. After a short welcome we traveled to a city on the border of Vietnam. Hekuo seems to be a city that is mostly based on trade. We walked a long portion of the train tracks connecting Vietnam and the Chinese city of Hekou. The Chinese though seem to grow their food and maximize any land that is available. Making due with small gardens on hillsides or between buildings.

It's hard to tell if they use these plots for subsistence or trade. They don't seem as though they could produce enough of a crop from some of these to sell in trade but it is possible they have a large quantity of these small gardens spread out to produce a sufficient amount. I did observe a man preparing greens that were more than likely self grown but later in the day we visited a farmers market where the same greens could be purchased. If anything the people of this town work very hard to survive whether it be through trade or farming for consumption.

Today we visited an area called Yuanyang to see a minority village of Hani people and the famous terraced fields they grow rice on. As a drawing concentration in art studio I am always intrigued by the art I find in different locations. The art created by the people of the Yuanyang is amazing. The entire area is dependent on the terrace fields and the art represents this. What I found is many representations of the important animals to the people. The most important animal is the water buffalo because of its use in creating the patty fields. The image of the water buffalo finds it way into large and small portions of their statues and depictions.

One particular piece that I found on a large pillar at the top of the fields depicted two water buffalo with a vague human figure between them. This figure has its hands raised as if it is worshipping the water buffalo. With the water buffalo being an essential part of their production I am not surprised it makes so many appearances in their art.

During our time in Yuanyang I found the Hani people's personalities very diverse. One of the things that would happen was if we took a picture of some of the people was that they would ask for money. I understand that it probably becomes a nuisance to have tourists gawking at you and I am happy to spare a few Yuan. Though, there were some more humble people and some that were a little greedy. I don't fault the greedy; they have a harsh life working the patty fields. While standing in their village center I found a lady that just stood to the side with her daughter, in full traditional clothing, and waited patiently. When I saw this I decided to offer a few Yuan so I could take a picture of her daughter.

She graciously accepted and I took the photo. Our guide offered to let me take a picture with her and I did. After the picture I offered the lady few more dollars as a token of gratitude, and she was gracious again. As I did this, another lady came over and reached for my money. I tried to back away but she kept coming and eventually snatched a ten yuan from my hand. That was the point where I put my money away and walked away. Ten Yuan is not very much, only about 1.5 U.S. dollars, so I was not worried about the money. I was just surprised at how greedy the lady was and how polar opposite the first woman was. Outside of this one thing the time in the Hani village was enjoyable.

During our time in Mengzi we had a surprise stop at a fruit market. Our guide decided to purchase a couple things to try, as did Dr. Luo. We tried a Chinese version of grapefruit that I really enjoyed. It was more yellow than our American grapefruit and the interior was a clear yellow-white. Unlike American grapefruit it had a natural sweetness the required no addition of sugar. It made it very delicious. We also tried tamarind, which are a nut like food where you eat the gooey stuff between the shell and the nut. It was super sweet but had a strange after taste I didn't enjoy.

Next was pineapple, I was wary because I don't enjoy pineapple in the states. To my surprise though the pineapple was milder than it is in the states and I enjoyed it. The last on the list was jackfruit. It is a large fruit maybe slightly smaller than a watermelon. Cutting up Jack Fruit seemed like a terribly long process and labor intensive. We waited about twenty minutes until the locals finished. The fruit it self has the strangest texture I have ever tried, muscle like on the outside and soft on the inside. The taste was a strange sweetness as well and was interesting.

We took a walk around a park today that was located in Mengzi. The diversity of conditions in the city astounds me. This park is well maintained and beautiful but if you walk one block from it you find impoverished homes. You see similar things in our cities but our government will condemn a house if it unsuitable for living.

With roofs that looks as though they would leak with the slightest amount of rain and missing windows the buildings are in shambles. They are not quite as bad as what I saw in the rural areas though. Some of the rural ones looked as though they were ruins. Urbanization is great for the economy but I feel as though the older generations suffer in the initial move.

In Mengzi there is former railway station that was established by the French. No longer functioning it stands as a historical location. The station itself is not what intrigued me most, it was more the way the electrical wiring was openly visible. The States we tend to hide our wiring in boxes to keep them from being exposed and dangerous. The wires at the former French railway station were completely exposed and could have been a potential hazard. This wiring is from a different era where safety guidelines were less strict. I am curious if the lines are still hot or were shutdown when the station was shutdown. The tracks themselves looked as though they were still used, so there may be some electricity running.

— Jesse Hockman, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

China Today: A wondrous place

I enjoyed the short walk through town and getting my first glimpse at a real Chinese city. The breakfast we had was delicious, but a little bit too much food for what I’m accustomed to eating in the morning.

I was glad that I waited to withdrawal money until we got to Kunming, because using the ATM was quick and painless. The welcome banquet was a wonderful experience! I loved how everyone sat together at one big table and all of the food was easily accessible just by spinning the lazy-susan. And the variety of flavors, colors, and smells were all wonderful. I was proud of myself that I tried a little bit of every dish, and I enjoyed almost every one. The grasshopper wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, and the seasoning on it helped. I’m amazed at how much food is always provided for us, and even though it seems like I eat a lot there always more leftover. It pains me that the food would go to waste, but maybe they use it for their livestock or to fertilize their crops?

The bus ride to Hekou was a definite change of scenery. Although I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the entire trip, because of the jetlag, I still enjoyed every bit that I did see. It’s so interesting to me how they farm, irrigate, and create their lifestyle. For such a hilly and mountainous country they really are effective and efficient at what they do. They cut in to the side of the mountain and form these perfect and seamless rows of crops and vegetation. It makes for a lovely photograph, but I can imagine the hard work it must be to keep up with something like that and harvest all that they can.

On the bus ride to Hekou we learned a little bit about the customs and the way of the trade that happens everyday at the Vietnam border. We were able to see the incredibly long line of trucks and civilians that walked across with their goods to sell and trade in China. It’s amazing how their system works, and I admire their patience to do that every single day!

It was here in Hekou that I started noticing many different textures and patterns in their architecture as well as in nature. As we walked along the old railway station, and learned some of the history, I became more and more fascinated by the way time had altered and changed the environment. I liked taking really close up pictures of the different textures and patterns so it’s seen out of context and can be viewed as just lines and colors.

But I also found it very interesting, and quite overwhelming when I was told that each of those railway ties representing someone that died. Just thinking of the labor put into building a railroad is one thing, but then having that significant meaning behind each of those wooden ties…I stood there in a moment of silence and awe.And even though I have photographs of it, it’s not the same as being in the presence of something that impressive.

The Border Trade Market and the local farmers market gave me great opportunities for close ups of vibrant colors and the variety of textures found in their products. I saw lots and lots of different fruits and vegetables that were unfamiliar to me, but I love the whole experience of learning about their culture.

The Yuanyang terraced fields are an amazing sight and beautiful to look at. I can’t imagine the labor that was put into building these terraces. They seem to go on for miles and miles! The curvy lines and repetition of these fields makes it almost look like they were formed by nature instead of man. But after seeing all the women carrying huge bundles of branches, stones, etc. on their back I know that these were indeed made by the people of the mountain.

I found it really interesting that even though these people are all working towards the same goal and maintaining the terraces, the mountain is made up of many different types of ethnic groups. We spent the most time in the Hani and Yi villages, which is close to the top of the mountain. When we were in these villages and taking pictures we soon realized that taking their pictures was not for free and they expected some money. Even though some people might think they’re being greedy, I think it’s smart on their part. They become accustomed to tourists coming through their villages and taking their pictures, so they figured out a way to make money from it. Though it is possible to be sneaky about and get a quick snapshot of their beautiful handmade ethic clothing when they’re not looking.

We got to do a little shopping, and of course I bought some little trinkets as gifts for family back home. I’m always a sucker for handmade quality crafts, and they made some beautiful things. Everything there is handmade, even the roads that wind along the terraces. I have a huge respect for these people and the way they live. It’s not an easy life, but I’ve noticed that not one of those village people were overweight. They remain in great shape because of all the exercise they get building their village and maintaining the fields. We traveled further up the mountain to get more of a birds-eye-view of the fields, and to watch the sunset. The view was breathtaking, and an amazing experience that every photographer should have.

Yuanyang is indeed a wondrous place.

Today we saw more of the terraced fields of Yuanyang, but in a different location. We went to the Douyishu scenic spot where they have an international art and communication center building, including a restaurant and some history about the terraces. The shape of the building and the observation decks below have a great resemblance to the shapes of the terrace fields.

Although today was a little foggy and we couldn’t see much reflection on water it was still a beautiful sight. After taking a couple more photos I had to remind myself that not everything can be captured within a square frame, so I just stood there and admired everything trying to retain it in my memory forever.

Driving back to the hotel we got in a couple traffic jams, because the roads are so narrow and there aren’t any traffic laws. Many people drive mopeds or bikes, so they’re easier to navigate through the smaller roads and around any cars that can’t get through. Considering the size of our bus I’m amazed at how well the drive has gotten through such tight situations. Sometimes there would only be inches on either side of the bus, but we have a great driver and he certainly knows what he’s doing! After finally making it through all the tiny villages and down the mountain we walked around the town we were staying in to see some of their shops, and they had music playing for the New Year. It was pretty crowded, but soon we left and were onto our next destination – Mengzi.

On the way to Mengzi we stopped at a farmers market where they had stand after stand of fruit! I love fruit and we haven’t had much on the trip so far, so this was very exciting for me. We got to try their version of grapefruit, which was delicious, and a lot less tart and sour than ours back home. It was also twice as big and more yellow than pink. We also tried tameron, and jackfruit. They were both very good. The tameron reminded me of a fig because of it’s stickiness, and the jackfruit seemed like a combination of flavors of banana and pineapple. I love both so this was a great new find for me. Arriving in Mengzi we had our New Years dinner and the food seemed never ending, but it was all delicious of course! Mr. Li gave a lovely toast, and it was a nice relaxing dinner.

Mengzi is known for it’s old French buildings and railway station from when the French went into Yunnan in early 20th Century. We visited Bisezhai, which was the former French railway station. The government maintains these buildings so people can visit and learn about what happened in their history, and there were plenty of Chinese people there visiting for the day just like we were.

Everyday I learn a little bit more about segments of China’s history and it’s very interesting to me, because their country is so much older than ours so they have a lot more to tell. Its fascinating how they have developed their culture and customs throughout their history, and they seem very proud to be a part of that culture. Even the stationmaster, which is now a retired old man, of the old French railway has worked there for over 15 years and he still sits there.

Next we moved on to the Honghe Minority Museum, which was very appealing with it’s displays and artwork, but I wish I could’ve understood more of what was written on the walls about each picture. I would’ve enjoyed that experience more I think, but it was still nice to walk through. Lunch was a whole experience in itself! We had the traditional “cross bridge” noodles. Each person got two tiers of plates that were filled with little dishes of different meats and vegetables, one bowl of noodles, and one huge bowl of steaming hot broth.

The story goes that the wife of a scholar sent his lunch over to him, but by the time it reached where he was studying all of the food was cold. She then came up with a way to keep everything hot and fresh by sending the broth over too. So that’s what we had to do to eat our lunch. First we added the quail eggs, raw meat, already cooked meat, vegetables, and the noodles were added last to this hot hot broth. After a couple minutes everything was cooked through and ready to eat.

It was very interesting, very tasty, but a little too much food for me. I ate what I could but it didn’t even look like I made a dent! The Nanhu District was more of the old French government buildings, but we couldn’t go in some of them because they were being remodeled, or were no longer there. Here was where we got to see the house of the scholar and the infamous bridge that the “cross and bridge” noodles came from. I especially loved all the traditional Chinese architecture we got to see.

This morning was our first class of the trip. A couple of us presented our articles about China that Dr. Luo gave us. I also presented today. My articles were interesting to me because they were about the shift in fashion trends throughout the decades, the increase of infrastructure, and developing roadways, the norms and expectations of family life in the city vs. the country, and the different festivals they celebrate throughout the year. Each of them were short articles and only covered the basics of each topic, but at some point when I have time and definite WiFi I would like to research these topics more.

After class we were allowed free time, which was wonderful, because everyday since the beginning of the trip every minute has basically been planned for us. Now that we’re in more of a city environment there are more things to do such as shopping and trying different restaurants. I’m not gonna lie that I’m happy about being in the city for once. Usually I’m more of a country girl because of all the fresh air and open space, but after eating rice and noodles every day for every meal I have grown a little tired of it and was looking for some different food. In the city they have more options, and offer some international foods. Last night for dinner we went to a French restaurant, and today for lunch we tried the Australian place.

Both were delicious, and more of the types of food I’m used to back home. It was a nice change of scenery.

During our free time I did some walking around town and noticed murals on some of the walls. They depicted scenes or characters from some popular western animated movies. I thought this was interesting, because you often hear that China doesn’t concern itself with the rest of the world, and tries not to let it influence their culture. With how much the government tries to control and keep out, it’s inevitable that some things slip through the cracks.

— Brett Guldin, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

China Today: A happy community

Arriving in China was definitely a culture shock. But even more shocking was the amounts of food they gave us. Usually we wake up and grab something quick in America to munch on before a day of work. Then, we eat a quick sandwich for lunch and hope for a home cooked dinner once we arrive back at the house. But every meal here is a “home cooked dinner”. We woke up Dec. 29 and walked one minute down the street to a little Asian diner. Breakfast was a big, and I mean BIG, bowl of who knows what. It was amazing! From that point on every meal was huge. Every meat you can imagine mixed with vegetables, rice, noodles, etc. Putting it lightly, we were treated very well upon arrival in China.

I was in complete awe when I saw the amount of labor women did. In America we all basically go to school and find a decent paying job. Nothing too hard and definitely nothing that forces us to work all day. Yes, some may say their work is hard. But I’m talking labor, sweat, pain, survival.

You do that? These people work their butts off. The men seem to be out in the fields or working with construction. The women are carrying sticks on their backs from one place to another. They don’t just watch babysit. The babies are being carried along with them while the kids go off and play alone. So it’s not just staying at home and cooking. These women are carrying all types of heavy materials to the men. Personally, it looks to me like the women do more work than they should but that’s my personal opinion.

The Chinese community is incredible. They still use electronics like Americans, but they don’t let that come between them in terms of communication. They’re always outside with one another. You see a lot of the men playing cards on the side of the street. Or they just hang out together smoking. Almost every time they eat it’s with a group. In America we barely even make time to eat one meal with our family. Playing cards? I’m pretty sure most Americans would prefer sitting in a circle looking at their phones, facebook, twitter, etc. Chinese don’t have this and I can see a happier community because of it.

I want to take every kid back with me to America. They are too cute! The only sad part was seeing the kids beg in the poor areas of China. It’s unbelievable how young they are, and they come up to you asking for money. Even worse, the parents use them to get money! I saw multiple mothers dress up their kids in fancy traditional clothes when they noticed tourists coming. We would take pictures and they would have us pay. I admit I gave a few kids some cash, because it’s impossible to say no to their adorable faces. When the kids weren’t with their mothers they would roam around alone. We passed so many kids walking along the street as we traveled to different cities. It’s different to see since in America we keep a close watch on our kids in public even when they just go out to play.

Many of the different cities we visited had markets along the street. Some were just fruit markets. Now the huge difference in China is that we couldn’t eat certain fruit like strawberries, grapes, and apples. We could eat bananas, oranges, and cantaloupe.

Why? The fruits without peels could get you very sick because of their water. So we had to be careful. Luckily, we had our awesome professors and tour guide to buy us a bunch of Chinese fruit to try that they knew was safe. My favorite was the jack fruit. It was huge! It tasted like every fruit I have ever tried combined into a smoothie. Not lying! If you ever come across a jack fruit, get it. The colors in Chinese clothing blew me away. As an art major, I love all the colors of the rainbow together. The people of china sure know how to use the colors to create beautiful clothing.

The best part is they handmade ALL the clothes and accessories. Practically everything they sewed. We would see them sitting outside their shops working on a fancy design for their next product to sell. Some parts of their outfit represent what village they are from. So we could just look at what they wore to understand where they were from. It is all simply amazing. Of course I bought a few hand sewn accessories with every color imaginable sewn in. I had too. I don’t know many good sewers in America, not like this.

— Jennifer Felegi, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

China Today: A breathtaking experience

What an interesting start to our trip! An exhausting 14-hour flight to Shanghai led into a three-and-a-half hour flight to Yunnan. We arrived to our hotel around 3 a.m. and jet lag kicked in. My body was still on Eastern Time, and I did not sleep much. We woke up to have breakfast in a tiny restaurant very close to our hotel where everything was fresh and made right in front of us. We walked around Yunnan for a while until our welcome banquet at YNNU, (Yunnan Normal University). The variety of food here was fascinating; everything from chicken and rice to donkey and grasshoppers!

After this we packed our stuff and hopped on a bus to Hekou. This six-hour bus ride gave us the chance to look at just a portion of the breathtaking scenery that China has to offer. We arrived at our hotel and Hekou, and went right to dinner which had more varieties of ethnic food to try. Our seats at dinner were incredible, because we were looking right at Vietnam! In the morning we woke up to see the people of Vietnam cross over the bridge to China for trading and selling. We explored much of Hekou this day by visiting the old railway station, Customs House (1897), the Border Trade Market, and the local farmer’s market.

There was a lot of pollution in the area, which was saddening. The air was filled with dust and debris, which was hard on breathing. Overall, I was amazed by the people of Hekou. They are extremely hard-working, which I admire. Many of them were very friendly; always smiling, saying hello, and taking pictures of us. Seeing them excited to be around us was my favorite thing about this area.

Today we left Hekou and took a very bumpy ride to Yuanyang. The 3 ½ hour bus ride gave me time to admire the amazing landscapes. I was in awe at the mountains, fields, plants, and people working to maintain them. The bus ride took us up in very high altitude. The weather went from warm and sunny to cold, partly cloudy, and partly sunny. We stepped off the bus and look out onto the incredible terraced fields and people working on them. We then took a path down to Quing Ko, the folk cultural village in the terraced fields. As soon as we stepped on the path we saw a lady who I was very intrigued by and wanted to take a picture of her and was surprised to find out that I had to pay to do so.

I was excited to see all of the little children running around and playing. I came to find that the people of Quing Ko were the same exact way; even the children. I was very careful about taking pictures unless I really wanted to, and I thought it was worth it. The shops in this little village were adorable! We needed help from Mr. Li and Dr. Luo to bargain for reasonable prices. I was very grateful for them.

I was also excited about the donkeys and water buffalo working hard in the town and walking freely. There was also ducks, roosters and chickens scattered all around. As we were walking back up the pathway, we became very winded. This made me think of the woman carrying heavy loads on their backs walking up and down the path. These women looked very old but we came to find that they were not very much older than us! The people of this village do not have very long lifespans.

Our next stop was Tiger Mouth in the terraced fields. This was my favorite part of the day. As soon as we got there, we were bombarded by the women of the village trying to sell us things. They followed us and it became slightly uncomfortable. We took the 300 steps down to get a closer view of the fields. I was a little nervous because we were up very high but the view was breathtaking.

We spent some time just staring out onto the fields. The sun painted the water in the fields so delicately it looked like a painting. It was very surreal. We took the path back up to the top of Tiger Mouth to watch the sunset over the fields. This walk was extremely tiring but worth it. The sunset was something unexplainable. The last minute of the sunset I put my camera down and just relished in the moment. It was truly remarkable. The bus then took us down to the town of Yuanyang were we stayed the night. Our dinner was more ethnic food but somewhat Americanized Chinese food. I was excited to try the Chinese beer. It tasted very familiar.

We spent much of our day on the bus coming down off the mountains. The mountain roads were very rough and uneven. This made the ride very uncomfortable. But the mountain ranges were beautiful so it made up for it. I had seen some men walking by our bus playing instruments. This was the first time I had seen this.

Because I fell asleep when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, I counted down the minutes until midnight in the U.S. We were on a bus to Mengzi when midnight came over there. I counted back from 10 and it felt somewhat like home. On the way to Mengzi we stopped at Duoyishu scenic spot to get another view of the terraced fields. It was much of what we had seen the day before. We walked some pathways and such to view the fields then we got back on the bus.

We stopped at a local farmer’s market to try some tropical fruits we have never seen before. There were lots of large and colorful fruits. They were very interesting and surprisingly good! Jackfruit, a very large fruit that took some effort to cut up, was somewhat gummy and tasted like bananas. The large grapefruit, which looked identical to a large lemon, tasted like a mixture between grapefruit and oranges. The tamarinds tasted just like raisins but in a completely different form.

At night we arrived at our hotel by Hong Hue University. This was not one of the better hotels. The Wi-Fi was very hard to get on and every time I left the room all of the power would go out. So I could not charge anything while I was out of the room. The dinner was a New Year’s feast. It was more food than we had ever gotten before. It was very good but very filling.

Today, I woke up to a nice sunny day. I’m starting to get used to eating noodles and rice for breakfast. We hopped on the bus and made our way to the former French railway station. There were a number of Chinese tourists already there but it was very peaceful there. Dr. Luo took some of us down the path to where the railway hit the road. He showed us some buildings related to the railway station and explained what some stone markers stacked up and pushed to the side were.

We went to two museums on this day; the Honghe Minority Museum and the museum related the university. Everything inside was very interesting to look at but I found myself just walking aimlessly, because I could not understand most of the things meant. Almost everything was in Chinese.

It became time for lunch where tried the famous Cross and Bridge Noodles. The waiter came in and put a large plate in front of us. The plate had tiny bowls on it filled with raw meat, eggs, vegetables and noodles. He then came back in and stacked another large plate with more varieties of foods on it. The waiters brought everyone an extremely large bowl filled with piping hot broth. We had to select everything from the large plates we wanted to put into the bowl. The boiling broth cooked everything as we threw it in. This meal experience was something I had never done before and it was fascinating to say the least. Overall, it was decent. I was full very quickly and it seemed as though not one person finished the entire bowl.

We then took a walk by the South Lake. We saw beautiful Pagodas, the French Gardens, and the French Embassy. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day for a walk by a lake. A couple of us saw a pet store on the walk and we went in. I was very excited to see dogs, because I miss my own dog very much. I was surprised to see Husky and Labrador puppies because most of the dogs I have seen in China have been wild and just roaming the streets; emaciated, standoffish, and dirty. Seeing expensive purebred dogs and puppies for sale as pets was somewhat shocking to me.

I have been waking up very early around 5 or 6. So waking up at 7:15 a.m. for breakfast was not difficult. After breakfast, we packed our stuff and got right on the bus. The bus ride was very scenic and we passed the stone forest which looked beautiful. We will be heading there later on in the trip. Everyone seems to be very excited for that. The bus ride was around 4 hours back to the university but it felt much longer.

Once we got off the bus, we had to say goodbye to our bus driver and our tour guide. They were very sweet and nice. Nixon, our tour guide always helped me with any questions I had. I really appreciated him in times when I was very confused. He was always making us laugh and being very friendly!

We finally made it to Kunming. Mr. Li and Ms. Li set up a very formal and well done orientation for us at Yunnan Normal University (YNNU). I felt very welcome. They made it very clear that if we needed anything at all, they would be there to help us. They showed us around an old classroom that was very quaint inside. It had windows on all sides, a chalkboard and a large cluster of wooden desks. I liked the old time feel it had.

We had some free time to walk around the city after class. This was very laid back and relaxing. I enjoyed walking around. I was very excited to find some American food for the first time on the trip! We were all so happy to finally eat something familiar. Then we all celebrated with dessert. It was a perfect end to the day.

Today was our first day of class, which went very well. Dr. Luo introduced us to some of the history of China. Three others and I did our presentations today. I think they all went pretty well. Professor Vera ran through some camera basics for the introductory students.

Our big venture was to take on the Chinese Walmart today. The walk to Walmart was about 20 minutes of crowded streets and shops everywhere. There was always something to look at. There were many illegal street vendors out. As we were walking, they all rushed to grab there things quickly and hide as the police scanned the streets for anything illegal. We stopped to watch for a couple minutes.

One we got to Walmart it was almost nothing like an American Wal-Mart. Unfortunately we were advised not to take pictures in Wal-Mart. It was very congested and confusing inside. There were many workers standing by isles, working in their own shopping sections that looked like mall stores rather than Wal-mart shopping isles. A

s we went to pay, we passed the “Wet Market.” This had a large selection of meats and fish. There were sellers standing next to their products advertising their products by yelling out information about them. This is was so interesting to me. This part seemed so much like an outside market of some sort rather than a big supermarket.

During free time, I was very excited to get some souvenir shopping done. We found some very cute little stores with trinkets and gifts that were perfect keepsakes for some of my friends and family! My favorite little store was called, “Good Life and Good Idea.” I bought most of my things inside this store. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly inside!

— Victoria Rawa, psychology major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

China Today: Along the border

Today we got to know the small town, Hekou. It is located near the southern edge of China. It boarders Vietnam. The major event that takes place in Hekou is the boarder trade. The trucks and people line up on a bridge and wait till the border to either China or to Vietnam opens and then they can go across. The number of trucks that would line up to cross the boarder was huge and it would take forever for each truck to get across.

When we were sitting eating lunch near the bridge it seemed as if the trucks didn’t even move. The trade process seems inefficient and not very use full in my opinion.

It took too long for thing to come across and there seemed to be more supplies then needed. However, like Dr. Jing said to me; for the Chinese and Vietnamese it is not about the supply and demand like it is in the US.

Today we saw the Vietnamese were bringing over to the Chinese side to trade. A few of the items were melons, rice and prostitutes. It was interesting to see the trading upfront when most of the trading that goes on in the U.S. is behind the curtains. The manual labor that all the people do for each of their products is a amazing, basically their lives/jobs. In return it is understandable that they have the patients to wait hours to be able to trade the product. This is something that I think very few Americans would understand and have the patients to do, so although it doesn’t seem efficient to me it also builds a lot of character.

The other interesting thing in Hekou is the old railway station. The French built this when they invaded China. Each of the horizontal slats on the railroad cost one Chinese life when being built. Mostly everything around the railway was broken down and abandoned. The sides were full of trash. I think this place is amazing and beautiful but the amount of trash and broken down places brings the beauty down a few levels. Hekou has the combination of new and old.

We departed in the morning on the bus and traveled about three hours north to a small village in the mountains called Quing Ku. The people that inhabit this village are a minority group by the name of Hani. The Hani people spend their days farming in the terraces, which hold red rice. The Hani people came up with a complex system to bring the water from the mountaintops down into the terraces. To create an irrigation system like that is amazing ad these people must be smart.

The amount of work that the Hani women put into farming the terraces is huge. They carry large sacks on their backs that are help up by a strap, which goes across their forehead. This intense labor that the women go through has a huge toll on their aging process. I thought the women looked to be in their late 60’s and later found out that they were in their 30’s. This was baffling to me because I don’t understand intense labor. I don’t consider my-self a girly girl but I do prim my-self. After seeing the work that these women do it gives me an enormous appreciation for the life style that I was brought up in. The work I saw these women do has inspired me to put that same mount of determination and intense work into all of the work I do.

Today we again visited the terraced fields. One would think that once you have seen it, it will look the same but that is not the case with the terraced fields. Every time I look at them they are just as beautiful and different. The lighting changes all the time and therefore changes the reflection and the look of the terraced fields. The ambiance is breath taking.

However the most exciting part of our trip today was the bus ride. The fact that our bus driver scraped the side of a truck was inevitable with the way the people drive around here. They zip passed one another on these skinny roads with buildings on both sides. As far as I can tell there doesn’t seem to be any driving laws. I think that either the roads need to be expanded or they need to drive smaller cars. The trucks and buses driving up and down these roads, which should only be for one-way traffic. I would look out the sides of the bus and see people working on building more buildings but I didn’t see was anyone creating or expanding the roads. Building more homes or stores will not be useful if no one can get to them. The small roads also make it very dangerous for the town’s people. It is unbelievable that the people don’t seem to mind being almost run over by trucks 24-7.

Today we were in the city of Menzi where the former French railway station is and the Original Southwest Associated University Mengzi Branch is located. It was interesting to hear the story of how some of the professor and students used the French railway to go from Kumming down to Menzi during WWII; because the professors needed to get away form the Japanese. They then moved back up to Kumming once the war was over. Some of the greatest Chinese scholars studied at the Southwest Associated University Mengzi Branch. What I don’t understand is why the scholars had to go back up to Kumming when the University in Mengzi was a good school?

The hype of todays trip was to experience the Mengzi Cross the Bridge Rice Noodles. It was quite an experience! When we first walked into the restaurant all I could think of was, “Man Chinese people eat a lot of food,” because of all the plates piled high. Then once the servers started bring all the little plates with different meats, veggies, and herbs to our table in my head I was like, “My stomach will explode.”

However, the eating process was explained to us and then I began to understand why there was so much food. The process is very unique and interesting. I absolutely loved the creativity of basically being able to create your own noodle soup. I didn’t think that the raw foods could be cooked just by putting them into the boiling hot water, but it did and it was amazing! If there is one thing I have learned so far it would be that the Chinese definitely know how to cook great foods; and how to present them on at table in a way that is practical so everyone can reach the food. I love it!

We took the bus back to Kumming today, which took about four hours and once we got back to Normal Yunnan University we went through orientation. I thought it was honorable and amazing how high education is held in this country. We were shown the monument of the University’s history, which was located on the campus. It was unique the way they kept the original school building and how the original professors were buried on site.

The museum was very interesting to look at and it was peaceful in the way it ended with a quite garden area to study. I think that it really goes to show how proud they are of their academic history and it shows students who or what they are representing by going to the school. I think it would be very beneficial and interesting if Universities had something similar to this. I don’t know a lot about Bloomsburg history but I think it would be interesting to know. The rest of the campus was very quant. It was very interesting to see the classroom we will be using for the next nine days because it was not what I was expecting! It is very low tech and has a very different desk situation then in the United States. I’m really excited to experience class in this new location.

We had class today. It was interesting to see the difference in the classroom compared to the ones back in the United States. The desks were long and green tables, which had cubbies under them. Two people could sit at each desk. The building didn’t have wifi and the computer aren’t connected to the Internet, which I thought was something that it should.

No academic building in the United States would ever not have wifi or be connected to the Internet. Angela and I walked around campus in the afternoon to see what the students do. The thing that I noticed most was that the students actually study while they are laying and sitting outside. The students in Bloomsburg, when it’s sunny and warm out, have a hard time studying. I always see the students just laying and talking with their friends. I wonder if going to college has become such a common thing in the United States, so the students don’t take it as seriously as the Chinese do?

It was our first “free” time today, so we got the chance to walk around the city by ourselves. We went to the little shopping area and had some Australian food. It was a nice break from the Chinese food we had had for the past six days. All around the shopping area there were murals on the buildings.

I absolutely love how China decorates the walls and buildings. It blows my mind how cheep things are here compared to home. I understand that it is made here so they don’t have the shipping costs to add in, but I didn’t think it would be this cheep. Also, I like the fact that there is not sales tax so you know the exact price. Lastly I don’t understand why servers don’t get tipped in China.

— Nicole Updegrove, psychology major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

China Today: A beautiful view

Visiting the Chinese markets was a really wonderful and amazing experience. The people selling goods display their colorful items and have them layered on tables, hung from hooks, and even lay them on mats on the ground. They bargain and fan you closer so they can show you all that they have to offer. The air is full of wonderful smells consisting of spices, meats, and fruits. The most exciting experience I had was walking into this area that was covered in cabanas and seeing this middle aged woman holding these ducks in her hand just completely hacking away at the featherless meat. She was quite delighted to see Jenn’s and I’s horrified reactions. As we inched closer her smile got bigger and she swung her meat cleaver like she wanted to cut straight through the table. I politely asked if I could capture a picture of this hilarious moment and she obliged.

Southern China landscape is extremely beautiful and the vegetation varies from tropical plants to pine trees and everything in between. There are great planes that go for miles and then huge mountains that get hidden in the clouds. The color of the Earth ranges from light browns dirt to blood red clays and huge rocks stick out of the ground like shark teeth. It’s just a completely beautiful country that’s nothing like anything I’ve seen in the states. The rivers and lakes switch between and algae greens and mud browns. Even in the winter everything is still green and lush. I really love that the mountains aren’t just a bare rock, there’s plenty of vegetation on and surrounding them. There are an endless amount of crops and fields for planting rice, tea, bananas and other plants.

America has many tasty fruits but I’ve got to say China’s fruit takes the cake. You can see how directly the fruit goes from the tree to the stands. It’s a really wonderful system of selling where you can always get the freshest fruit available for next to nothing price wise. The fruits sold at these markets were unbelievably colorful and delicious. I tried fruits I had never eaten before like Jackfruit and then I had familiar fruits such as pineapple and yet it seemed so much sweeter and more delicious than any other pineapple I had eaten before.

There are always places you visit that you never quite forget and the Terrace Fields took the breath right out of me. You can see these beautiful man made fields go on for miles and then just disappear in the fog of the mountains. Sometimes the sun peaks through the clouds and gives the water a beautiful golden shimmer. The ground is dug out using hoes except for a ridge at the edge to hold the water in so it can nourish the ground for upcoming crops. These sections of water and Earth seem to just go on for forever eventually looking like steep steps of water that just flow into each other. I am one of those people who are completely obsessed with ramen noodles and I’ll never be able to look at them the same way again. I have eaten at a decent amount of Chinese restaurants and tasted delicious noodles but the famous Crossing Bridge Noodles are by far the best noodles I’ve ever tasted. To my surprise we start out the meal with a plate full of ingredients.

A few examples are quail eggs, a variety of meats, veggies, and plenty of spices. Each plate had seven ingredients for us to later put in our scorching hot broth. All of the ingredients get dumped into the hot broth and then the noodles go in last. I couldn’t believe how delicious this dish was, it was absolutely wonderful. There was no way I could’ve eaten it all but if I could’ve trust me when I say if I could have, I would have.

Our visit to the Lake in Mengzi was extremely peaceful and relaxing. The lake is surrounded by parks, food stands, and a small amusement park. It was a beautiful sunny day and delicious smells filled the air drifting away from the food stands selling savory meats and candied fruits. Beautiful gazeebos decorated in the traditional colors and Chinese style are placed in the shade with trees surrounding them. Big yellow duck-shaped boats are rented out and couples paddle out to enjoy the gorgeous day. We also got some great shots of a beautiful building sitting on the edge of the lake that was decorated and had a great view of the surrounding city.

— Jessica Brown, art studio major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Like a bucket of water to the face ... our final semester IS here

How is it possible that we are back already?

Weren’t we just handing in our last finals, hastily packing our luggage, and speeding home to the warmth of home cooked meals, our own beds, and our beloved pets? As a senior I can tell you from personal experience….TIME FLIES. But before you know it, the smell of spring will be in the air, and another semester will be in the books.

For those of you who are seniors like myself– HOW IS THIS OUR LAST SEMESTER???

Can you not vividly remember our first semester here as freshman thinking you had to eat three meals a day at the commons and sport a lanyard around your neck with your sharp new ID so you didn’t get locked out of your dorm? Yea, me too.

But my fellow seniors, the realization is that soon, we will no longer be able to bank on our midday naps to get us through the day. We will actually have to start paying for our Starbucks coffee with cash, not flex dollars. And free gym memberships….forget about it. It is 2015, our graduation year. We have been saying since we were kids, “I will be a college grad in 2015! I will be sophisticated, mature, and totally have my life together!” (What were we thinking?)

But it’s not too late! With a positive mindset and the proper preparation, we can become the greatest post-grads we always imagined we would be.

So, what’s the first step?

To start, look around you. I guarantee your smart phone is either attached to your body or sitting within 1-3 feet of you. As 20 something’s who grew up with Xanga, Myspace, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (the list goes on) we are pretty much social media experts. So why not take advantage of our knowledge and expertise? For those of you with big interviews lined up within the next month or so, one of the crucial things you need to do during your preparation process is clean up your social media accounts.

Social media can be a fantastic way to boost your brand, but only if you use it properly. Google yourself. See what you find. You want employers to find the goodies (your blog, a LinkedIn account, a digital portfolio, a professional twitter page). Make sure you like what you see when you type your name into an internet search. If your 2014 Block Party images are popping up from your roommates Facebook account, you may want to reconsider keeping your profile open to the public.

You are your brand

Even though you may know a lot of other upper-level students who are in the same process as you and are going to be graduating with the same degree, remember – the students sitting to the right and left of you at the May 2015 graduation ceremony are not you. So how exactly can you sell your brand and stand out from your competitors?

A great place to begin - establish a 20-30 second elevator pitch. Pre-grads who are soon to be post-grads, ahemmm, this is for you! An amazing opportunity may be standing next to you in line at your local coffee shop.

Get your communication face ready and be prepared to tell a stranger your story in a nut shell. Form a clear introduction with your name, your major, your career goals and achievements. Include any relevant work or internship experience you have, or research you have done that relates to the position.

I know, this may sound a bit robotic. But with practice you can work on establishing a bit of your personality into your pitch. Another tip - have a professional business card (with your email, LinkedIn account, Digital Portfolio link, etc.) ready in your wallet to hand potential employers at a conference or a work meeting. Pleaseeee…..put your phone down, and don’t be afraid to talk to people!

“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo.

Just remember, have fun establishing a personal brand. You are unique, you are educated, and you will soon have a fancy degree framed in your parent’s living room. Make something of yourself. Be courageous, be prepared, and most importantly be confident. Before you know it, you will be that cool post-grad you always dreamed you would be!

— Rachael Scicchitano, senior communication studies major #HuskyLife #ProfessionalU

Monday, January 19, 2015

China Today: A scientific look

My first meal of 2015 was a Chinese breakfast buffet. We had our choice of a number of different dishes. I particularly enjoyed the fried rice with bits of egg in it, and also enjoyed some buns that resembled marshmallows. I also began to notice that I was getting drastically better with chop-sticks, and that I had found a way to hold them that suited me.

When we were done eating, we loaded back on to the bus. The plan was to drive and find more platforms from which to see the terraces. While we were driving through one of the villages, we got caught in a traffic jam. It was explained to us that today was a holiday for the Hani people, and the cause for the traffic jam was a wedding that had just taken place.

We finally got past the jam and continued towards more of the terraces. The two platforms we saw were above different terraces than we had seen on New Year's Eve. They weren't as amazing as the ones we had seen the night before, largely due to the lighting, but it was amazing to see how extensive they were.

Soon though, everyone began to get tired of taking photos of the terraces. As awe-inspiring as they were, you could only take so many pictures of them before you started to create duplicates. We decided then to head back into town.

As we started to walk around some of the markets, we noticed a commotion. A crowd had formed and music was playing. We all tried to get a peek, but I just wound up confused. One man was handing out jars of colored liquid, and the other was standing at a table with a bunch of dead snakes and a dead horse shoe crab. I asked Nixon as to what was going on, and he said that they were putting on some sort of show to promote a product. Continuing to walk the streets, we saw everything and anything. Some of what we saw was fresh tobacco, electronics, shoes, clothes, barbershops, even freshly butchered meat. We looked around for a while, but nothing really caught my eye.

When we went back to the hotel, we had to prepare to leave again, this time for Menzi. The road going down from Yuanyang was just as perilous as coming up, but at the very least I was better able to see the view due to how the bus was oriented.

Once we were out of the mountains, we stopped by a fruit market by the side of the road. Some had their suspicions that this was just an excuse to stop for gas, but I had a good time regardless. My diet back in the states isn't what it should be, but the market had some interesting fruit I'd never tried before. First was the Chinese grapefruit, which was much better than the pink grapefruit I was used to having back home. It wasn't sour or bitter, just sweet, and it never tried to shoot juice in my eye. Next was this really strange fruit called the tamarin. It had a shell like a peanut, but when you opened it up, looked and tasted similar to a raisin. You had to be careful though, because the center of the fruit had pits. Finally, we had the Jeque fruit. It was a citrus-looking orange-ish yellow fruit that tasted somewhat like banana. Of what I had tried, I enjoyed the jeque fruit most.

Soon we were back on the road. We had to go up into some more mountains, but they weren't nearly as high as the ones we went into previously. The soil started to turn a dark red, which I guessed was a result of a high iron content. It didn't take long for the mountains to end though, and soon we were driving through an extremely flat and dry area.

At one point I saw a Chinese fracking pad, although we passed it too quickly for me to get a decent shot of it. From what I've read, the Chinese have had a hard time obtaining natural gas, and are helping Russia circumvent their UN sanctions by allowing them to build two large pipelines into China. Soon we were in Menzi. Apparently we were staying at the Huanghe University dorms. They prepared a large feast for us in honor of the New Year. We ate until we were stuffed, then most of us went to bed.

A few of us were still anxious to explore however. Dr. Luo led us through a student pavilion on the outskirts of campus. The air was filled with smoke and the aroma of cooking food, and many students were drinking beer and playing pool.

After we got so far, we went back out the way we came, and then walked just off campus to a small mall-like area. We saw a few bars, what might have been a Chinese McDonalds, and a few outlet and convenience stores. We then walked back to our rooms, where I quickly fell asleep. I woke up early the next morning to look out the window and see a bright pink sky. I quickly rushed out to take photos of this beautiful sunrise.

For breakfast, we got to boil our own noodles and choose what meats and spices were in our broth. I chose pork, and it was by far the best breakfast I had eaten yet in China. After we ate, we set out for the Bisezhai railway. The Bisezhai railway is renowned in China for being the first railway built by the Chinese, even though it was owned by the French. It connected down to the same railway we had previously seen in He Kou. I couldn't help but feel as if I had walked into a western movie, between the desert-like landscape of Bisezhai along with the railway station.

There was a quarry near the railroad, and I was happy to find a few nice rock samples to bring home. I found a perfect chunk of Calcite with some beautiful cleavage. Dr. Luo and Katie brought over some vesicular basalt to check out.

Basalt is the result of dried lava or magma, and vesicular means that it had many holes in it where gas bubbles had been while it was forming. I didn't know it before, but Yunnan has many volcanoes, and possibly some rifting where magma has been able to reach the surface.

Dr. Viditz-Ward also asked me to look at a large rock that a local had placed as decoration outside of their house. It was finely rounded with the exception of a roughly hewn area beneath a small arching piece. I'm pretty sure the stone consisted of Limestone, but I'm not one hundred percent sure. I also observed a number of small quartz veins running through it. The rough area I suspect is the result of it originally resting by a magma chamber, possibly even next to my small sample of vesicular basalt.

Next, we went to a restaurant and had the famous Crossing Bridge Noodles. It was interesting how the meal was made. They would bring everyone a bunch of raw ingredients, including pork, mushrooms, eggs, a whole chicken leg, along with many other meats and vegetables. Then a large bowl of steaming hot broth was given to each guest, and they would throw in all of the ingredients they were given, starting with the meats and ending with vegetables. They would all cook inside of the broth, and after a few minutes it was ready to be eaten. It was delicious as much as it was peculiar.

After lunch we went to the Honghe Minority Museum. They had the entire history of the county, starting with fossils found locally. They also had artifacts that were hundreds of years old. Hugh, Jess, and I walked around slowly observing each object on display while the group moved on. Then Jess realized that we weren't alone. A group of Chinese girls had been watching and following us from a distance. After a bit, they worked up their courage and asked Hugh if they could get a picture with him. They then left, but came back later to get a picture of the three of us with them. Soon after they left the second time, another member if our group came in and got us. Apparently the group had gone through the museum pretty quickly and had been waiting outside for us.

We then drove a little down the road and walked around a small lake in the center of town. All around the lake were these beautiful pagodas and bridges. There were also rides and a pool for the kids. It was a perfect day to see this lake, as there wasn't a cloud in the sky and a comfortable breeze coming from across the lake. It was a day to remember.

We then returned to the campus and had some time to do whatever before dinner. I took a quick walk around campus to see what I could. Two girls saw me walking around and called me over. Apparently they were English majors, and wanted to know if I could help them study for their exams. I helped explain how to use some words, and then helped them with their pronunciation. Eventually it was time for me to head to dinner, so I wished them luck on their finals and left, but not without leaving them with my email. Assuming they email me and everything works, I now have Chinese pen-pals!

After dinner, I took a short walk around campus and went straight to bed. And so ended yet another day in the beautiful Yunnan province.

We started Wednesday by eating again at 1897. We then packed and prepared for our trip to Yuanyang. We knew that we were heading to the terraced fields, but nobody quite understood what that entailed. We left He Kou back through the Ai Luo Mountains. This time I was facing the mountain rather than the gorge, which was somewhat of a shame because the first time I thought the photos wouldn't be worth taking through the windows.

Since then it was pointed out that they may not be great, but could still be high enough quality to be worthwhile. While I may have missed some of the more scenic shots, I did get something I didn't expect to. We eventually turned off from the road we had previously taken onto another small highway beneath it. Most of the rock face consisted of limestone, however there was occasionally some sandstone and shale, which is to be expected.

Many places by the road displayed evidence of dynamite blasts, which could be seen as equally spaced holes drilled vertically into the rock where dynamite was placed. However, these blasts had made portions of the mountain unstable.

Where there had once been a solid rock face, there was now a crumbling mass of sediment and stone. Until another single face can be eroded away, that crumbling mass will continue to fall apart, and could possibly grow further up the mountain, creating a hazard for the highway below. The Chinese had tried to stop this crumbling by placing concrete grids over the blasted areas, in an attempt to reduce further erosion. In some place it worked, especially when local plants were able to take root in the grids, keeping more sediment from shaking loose with their root systems.

Other areas were less successful. Large rocks would still fall from the rock face, being a hazard and further damaging the grid before vegetation could help to secure it from erosion. One way that the Chinese helped secure these grids was by pouring a cement mix over particularly troublesome areas. Pipes drilled into the mountain would stick out of these areas, most likely to drain groundwater that might otherwise put pressure on the concrete. What I am unsure about is how they poured the concrete without further aggravating the stability of the slope. From what I could see, there were no ledges above that were level enough to support a truck, yet the cemented parches seemed too wide for a person to do on their own.

After about an hour, the valley began to open up more and the slopes became less steep. We passed a fruit market which led me to believe that we were getting close. After all, we were heading to the terraced fields, it would make sense to see people selling their produce. We continued past the market and quickly began to ascend further into the mountains. The winding roads here were really narrow, with only a small concrete barrier keeping you from plummeting hundreds of feet straight down. This didn't seem to change anything in regards to how people would drive, as even small motorcycles would still regularly cut in front of our bus. Luckily our driver was a pro, and this drastic change in elevation hardly seemed to phase him. This was impressive, as I was feeling anxious from the height just by looking out the window. I was particularly cautious when I saw a crack in the road large enough for you to see the space beneath it.

Soon it started to become foggy, and we quickly realized that these were the clouds. We were told that we were almost to the Hani minority village, and that we would have to do some hiking. Considering the steep slopes and high elevation, this made me nervous. However, when we got there I realized that the path down to the village was paved with bricks that provided good footing, so I had nothing to fear. The Hani village was located just below some of their terraces. These terraces were beautiful, but didn't compare to the sights we would see later.

The buildings of the Hani were all bright orange, and had thatched roofs that intentionally made them look like mushrooms. Children wandered the streets, playing games with ropes and sticks. It was fun to watch some of the boys sledding down a dirt hill with a piece of plastic.

Vendors sold items to tourists out of what seemed to be their homes. Most of these items were seemingly handmade or extremely old, which made it the best place to buy souvenirs that we had yet seen. I bartered with a vendor for a cast iron dragon statue. It cost me 360 yuan, or about 60 dollars. While I have yet to find it's artisan's signature, tool marks suggested that no machine had been involved in it's creation. I considered it a bargain, if not a steal.

It was good to see that the locals were savvy to tourists. In order to take pictures of the people, you would have to give them a few yuan. While this was hardly anything for an American tourist, it's possible that this money could help stabilize their living conditions should something happen to their crops. It was interesting to see how the Hani treated their animals. Small caravans of mules were led through the streets, while groups of water buffalo had to be occasionally prodded with a broom. Ducks happily quacked in the streets near a source of water while children laughed and played nearby. All of the animals seemed healthy and content with their lifestyle, and it was clear the Hani went to great lengths to provide appropriately for them.

Soon we began to hike back up to our bus. We drove further up into the mountains until we got to a tourist site. As soon as I got off the bus, an old Hani women grabbed me and handed me an envelope full of postcards with pictures of the terraces.

At first I wasn't sure if they were free or not, but the fact that she wouldn't leave after handing me them told me otherwise. She wouldn't leave me alone, so I just decided to buy them. Then she decided to push another one on me, and me being the soft hearted fool with no taste for conflict, decided to just buy those too. Together they cost 20 yuan, or in dollars about $3.30. I was ready to mark it off as a karma buy, but the woman made it a little hard when immediately after the transaction she ran over to her friends excitedly shouting something that must have translated to something like "I got that sucker to buy TWO of them!"

I'm pretty sure I became a target after that, because other woman selling the same things began to swarm me after that. Many of them brought sad looking children to me, and buy their gesturing I was able to put together that the kid was either hungry, sick, or just dirt poor, and that they needed me to buy their stuff. I had figured out their game by now, and did my best to tell them I was not interested. Most left after some badgering, but one really persistent woman I needed help from Mr. Li, our Kunming University representative, in order to get rid of her.

The site itself was a large platform on the top of the mountains overlooking the terraces. The terraces were built in a valley high up in the mountains around 700 years ago by the local minorities after they had to flee from areas to the north.

They chose Yuanyang because no warlords would be interested in conquering such a remote location, and if they tried they would have to give up far more valuable lands in order to do so. The way the people filled the terraces was brilliant.

With how high up they were in the mountains, the people lived amongst the clouds. The terraces were filled by the clouds, condensing their moisture on to the soil. The terraces were then built so that higher areas would overflow into lower areas, and these were made as far up the mountain as the people could manage access to. The platform we were on granted a full view of the mountain valley, and we were waiting for the sun to set over it. In the meantime, some of us decided to walk down to the lower platforms to try getting shots of different angles.

Going down the platforms was nerve wracking for someone with a fear of heights, but the photos gained were worth it. At the bottom, I was called over by a Chinese man who noticed that I wasn't a local. He told me that he was learning English, and I told him that I was learning Chinese, so we decided to try and have a conversation and help each other out. He told me that three months ago he took a trip to California, and he really enjoyed Lake Tahoe. He also said that Americans were really nice and polite, and while I was glad that he had gotten that impression, It was somewhat sad to know that my homeland was rarely so kind to people who are not perfectly fluent in English. I told him that I was a Geology major, and that the terraces were both beautiful and interesting. Soon though, I realized I was the only one in my group that was still on the lower platforms, so I told him I had to go. He wished me a good time while I was in China, and then we parted ways. My only regret is that I forgot to ask if I could take his picture.

I made my way back up to the top platform just in time to catch the sunset. I took as many photos as I could before it finished. We then made our way back to the hotel that we were staying in for the night. With all the excitement, I had nearly forgotten that it was New Years Eve. Dinner. For a long time I had wondered if the Chinese celebrated the international New Year. The answer is yes, as we saw a few Chinese stumbling around clearly drunk. One of the kitchen staff, who by my guess had a nice buzz going for himself, accidentally dropped a large living fish on the ground on his way to the kitchen. More people were leaning on each other and laughing as we left the restaurant to rest for the night. At midnight, I wished my family what would be to then an early "Happy New Year!", as I listened to the crackle of fireworks just outside.

We set out early the next day for Kunming. To me, there was only one feature that made this ride interesting. At one brief point we passed an area that had formations resembling those of the Stone Forest, or Shilin. While I know that the actual Stone Forest consists of formations that are both taller, more widespread, and dense, it was nice to have a sneak preview of what may be the defining moment of this trip for me.

When we arrived at the University, we said farewell to our guide Nixon and the bus driver. They had helped us see and understand everything outside of Kunming, and we wanted to make sure that they knew we appreciated the effort they made doing so. Dr. Viditz-Ward gave Nixon an old travel guide that was in English, and our group all put in some yuan to compensate the bus driver for a minor accident that had occurred in a traffic jam three days before. We also gave them Bloomsburg University T-shirts and said goodbye.

After we put our stuff in our rooms, we went to a Kunming University orientation where they told us
about the history of the school. The school in Kunming was founded at the beginning of the Japanese invasion, when three universities in the northeast fled and then united in Yunnan. This is in fact a common story in Yunnan, which before the fleeing of refugees during the war had been pretty small in terms of population.

After the war, the three universities returned to their respective cities, but the teacher's college stayed behind, and eventually became Kunming Normal University. In an old classroom, we were shown where the Chinese Nobel prize winner once sat. Also among the schools proudest accomplishments is the fact that they greatly contributed to China's nuclear weapon program.

After orientation, we had a chance to wander around the area surrounding the campus. We found a small shopping area clearly aimed at satisfying tourists, as there were restaurants with names like The Great Australian Bite, The French Cafe, and even a McDonalds. Some others and I eventually made our way into the French Cafe, and to our surprise one of the waitresses was fluent in English.

I had a chicken curry panini and a Yanjing beer, which I had seen advertised in many places. Both were very good, although once again the beer tasted very similar to Coors Lite. It seems the Chinese really enjoy their light beers, as the only dark ones I've seen are imported. The most popular foreign beer from what I understand is Budweiser, as it's the only one that's not only carried, but actively advertised. After I ate, I went back to my hotel room to prepare for class the next day.

— Brandon Robinson, environmental, geographical, and geological sciences major #HuskyAbroad

Led by Vera Viditz-Ward, professor of art and art history, and Jing Luo, Ph.D., professor of languages and cultures, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent three weeks in China studying language, culture and photography. The group, hosted by Yunnan Normal University, traveled to Kunming, Hekou, Yuanyuang, Mengzi, Dali, and Lijiang, where they had close contact with a variety of ethnic groups and learned about their lives and cultures.