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.

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