Friday, March 13, 2015

China Today: An immersing and exciting experience



Today was another beautiful day in the city of Kunming. After class and lunch we hopped on the bus and headed for Guandu Old Town. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from here, like most things, but was pleasantly surprised when we arrived.

Getting off the bus we walked towards what looked like another outside market with beautiful rea lanterns leading us to more rows of shops, restaurants, and historical buildings that all told a story. We first stopped at this beautifully designed building that was surrounded by little Chinese ponds with lilly pads, lanterns, and Chinese checker boards. We explored the shops which were the best I have seen yet, I couldn’t resist buying something.

These shops seemed the most organized and had more of a selection then the ones I’ve visited so far. I could’ve spent my whole day there if I had the chance. After the Old Town we headed for the YNNU cheggong campus which is a more modern version of where we're studying at now.

This campus was so huge it seemed like it could be a city by itself. After touring the extravagant campus and hearing how much tuition is compared to what we are already paying at Bloomsburg, my heart broke a little bit. The students at YNNU cheggong campus really got it good.

Today was the day we’ve all been waiting for … the Stone Forrest! I have been excited about seeing this infamous site since I found out I was officially going to China. The Stone Forrest is located right outside Kunming and is basically a Forrest full of both tall and short limestone, all once below sea level. Our tour guide, dressed in yet another stunning traditional outfit, made everything that more entertaining.

Every now and then I’d feel someone’s hand on my shoulder and it would be her making comments like, “Hello!, here take picture!,” or referring to our group as , “many English people let's go.” She was so energized leading us through the tunnels, valleys and mountains of stone while everyone is trying their best to be cautious on the slippery stone stairs. Soon enough she lead us into another shopping center, which actually turned out be tea testing.

If I have learned anything by now it’s this Country loves their tea, which I have no problem with. I’m so used to coffee but since I’ve been here my taste buds have learned to love tea; which tastes so natural and feels healthier. Seeing the Stone Forrest and the people, like our tour guide, who inherit it for their day to day lives make me wish it wasn’t such a tourist attraction. Although it should be shared with the world and it’s great to know some history when walking through, I felt more rushed. In my opinion if we could just receive a map and explore it for ourselves, it’d be a greater adventure (not to sound picky.) If everyone has to make a living somehow, and that’s how the villages surrounding the Stone Forrest do so, I accept that.

Ever played real life frogger?


The game where you try to cross the street but have to make sure you don’t get hit by cars that do not plan on stopping for you ? That’s kind of like Kunming. It's funny because the amount of mopeds driven here you would think they would have their own lane but that is not the case. Cars, Buses, and Mopeds all drive in the same lanes and are not very courteous of one another.

In America, I feel like in the cities the traffic is more controlled by either signs or stop lights but here it seems a little bit more unorganized with much more people. They do not really believe in “Yield to pedestrians,” you just got to go when it’s the right timing in hopes of not getting hit since it looks like they are not going to stop.

Cars and busses go at a regular speed of about 50, which doesn’t seem so fast. When they are driving, they don’t plan on stopping; and if they reach that point where they almost hit you they just swerve around you.

Also they love to use the horn. When we started off in the villages all I could hear when I went to sleep was dogs barking, now I here constant horns (not just like “honk honk” it’s more like hoooonnnnkkkk hooooonnnnnnkkkkk.) Everyone is very selfish when driving, just yesterday my two friends and I, witnessed a minor accident where a middle-aged women on a mo-ped was hit by another mo-ped. The moped drove away as the women stood in the middle of the intersection with here broken parts until a kind citizen helped her. Cars and busses just drove past here not offering any help.

Today we learned a little bit more about Yunnan and all it’s different minorities. First we visited the Yunnan Minority Museum which was filled with ancient artifacts, scrolls, books, clothing and all that good stuff from years and years of the Yunnan Minorities. We have been to museums before but this one was the most interesting since they were courteous enough to include English. The people of Yunnan are way more into their culture and ancient ancestors then anything I have ever seen in America. They value their minorities enough to create a two floor multi-room exhibit filled with relics and works of art.

Although we do have museums such as the Smithsonian, MOMA, Museum of Natural History and so on, the Minority Museum is strictly showcasing the Yunnan Province. After lunch we headed for the Yunnan Minority village, which I thought would be just another row of shops but then we received tickets. After we got our tickets we entered the gates to what seemed to be an amusement park of all the different minorities located in Yunnan. Each minority had their own exhibit so we were able to see tons of different ethnic backgrounds and what they value most.

The most exciting part of all this would have to be the Elephant performance which was a total surprise. These elephants were so talented I was amazed watching them. You could tell they were very well-trained which was kind of upsetting when they would mess up and get yanked by a chain; I guess since they are large wild animals that is the only way to tame them. The best part was the show was very interactive with the audience and we were able to feed them and be a part of the show. Towards the end after all their majestic tricks, we could pay 20 yuan to have our picture taken with them. They set it up so two elephants were holding trunks so whoever wanted a picture could sit and hold onto them for a quick snap shot. I was very amazed by this whole experience.

I have been immersed in so many new and exciting things so far during my time spent in China. Last night we left the city of Kunming where we’ve been living and learning this past week and a half and headed North towards Lijiang and Dali. Instead of road tripping via bus we took an overnight train. I have seen plenty of trains in my day but never one with bunk-beds! It was almost like a Hogwarts experience minus the wizards.

Each cart had a set of miniature dorms with bunk beds making sleeping an interesting experience. After about 7 hours we arrived in Lijiang early morning and were greeted by our new tour guides. We wasted no time eating breakfast and checking in so we could start touring the old town of Lijiang. Being here only a day it already feels nice to get out of the city and into a place where fresh air is no problem. Lijiang is populated by the Naxi people who have all been very kind and welcoming so far. They take very good care of the village and aside from the Chinese symbols, you’d think you were in Colorado or something with the snow-topped covered mountains and log-cabined boutiques.

One of the main reasons for visiting Lijiang was to tour the Jade Dragon Mountain located here. Although it was the coldest part of this trip it also was my favorite place we visited. I’m usually used to going to large mountains for snowboarding purposes but getting the chance to walk and admire how beautiful the scenery was made everything that more surreal. There was not one cloud in sight and the mountain and trees were snow covered making it a great day for photography. Towards the bottom of the mountain were crystal blue meadows that were so clear you could see right to the bottom. Along the meadow laid the reflection of the mountain making for an overall breathtaking experience (literally cause of the altitude.) If Jade Dragon Mountain wasn’t on my bucket list before, it is now and I am thankful I had the chance of experiencing it.

China is very admirable for their unique designs of both architecture and fabrics. It’s interesting to see how they get their inspiration from surrounding elements such as nature and animals especially. I’ve always been interested in clothing and different types of fashion fads and trends.

Coming to China allowed me to explore a variety of different fabrics, textiles, and patterns among the people here. In America we are so used to shopping at our favorite chain stores and having all our clothes already made for us. It is rare to look at a tag on a new shirt you bought and see, “Made in America,” when shopping at big name department stores.

Among the places we have visited I’ve been exposed to so many different types of fabrics and styles, mostly all hand-thread and manufactured. Sheets of fabric are showcased everywhere from store windows to car door windows. Here, keeping to traditional clothing and embroideries isn’t uncommon.

In Yunnan I’ve seen a lot of the same patterns repeated in different cities that include similar embroidery of flowers and naturistic designs. One pattern I haven’t seen a lot of is cotton. In America we love our cotton tees sweatshirts and sweatpants. We go to class and aren’t surprised to see half the students still in their pajamas, which seems unlikely in China.

Speaking on behalf of my age group, I feel a lot of the Chinese young adults and youth like to express themselves culturally through how they dress more than what I am used to seeing. Everyone has their own type of style whether its high fashion or sticking to the traditional embroidery. I have seen more of high fashion in the city of Kunming where more of the villages like to stick to traditional embroidery, especially with age.

— Annie Sapio, 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.

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