Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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.

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