Photo of the Week
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    [post_date] => 2015-12-06 07:33:21
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-12-06 14:33:21
    [post_content] => Today we sent students off at the Kunming airport at 4 in the afternoon. Konstantin, Sarah, Jack, Josh, Belle, Amy, and Alice flew off today, Albert's flying off tomorrow, Will and Tristan are with their parents in Kunming, and Sam's already in Japan. As a last treat, we bought the airport group McDonald's ice-cream, in preparation too for their cultural readjustment back home. Thanks for a great semester!
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Students Heading Home!

Ming, Luke, Sheila,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Today we sent students off at the Kunming airport at 4 in the afternoon. Konstantin, Sarah, Jack, Josh, Belle, Amy, and Alice flew off today, Albert’s flying off tomorrow, Will and Tristan are with their parents in Kunming, and Sam’s already in Japan. As a last treat, we bought the airport group McDonald’s ice-cream, in preparation […]

Posted On

12/6/15

Author

Ming, Luke, Sheila

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2015-12-03 09:02:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-12-03 16:02:20
    [post_content] => We just arrived back in Kunming at 6:30 this morning. We had a pretty smooth travel day, taking a 10 hour bus from Bingzhongluo to Liuku and then a 12 hour overnight bus back to our home turf. We're all pretty tired but are taking this day to shower, rest, and do last minute shopping before some midday student-led lessons and the start of transference!
    [post_title] => Arrived in Kunming, end of X-Phase
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China: South of the Clouds

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Arrived in Kunming, end of X-Phase

Sarah Gordon,China: South of the Clouds

Description

We just arrived back in Kunming at 6:30 this morning. We had a pretty smooth travel day, taking a 10 hour bus from Bingzhongluo to Liuku and then a 12 hour overnight bus back to our home turf. We’re all pretty tired but are taking this day to shower, rest, and do last minute shopping […]

Posted On

12/3/15

Author

Sarah Gordon

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    [post_date] => 2015-12-02 13:50:51
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    [post_content] => Dear China Students & Families,

It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival!

Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for eagerly awaiting families:

December 6th, 2015

China Southern Airlines #3408

Depart: Kunming 5:25 pm

Arrive: Guangzhou 7:15 pm

China Southern Airlines #327

Depart: Guangzhou 9:30 pm

Arrive: Los Angeles 6:10 pm

We will have a Dragons Administrator on call for the duration of the travel day.   Starting on Saturday, 12/5, should you need any assistance after regular office hours, please call our “on-call” number at 303-921-6078.

We wish all students a great trip home!

Sincerely,

Boulder Admin
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China: South of the Clouds

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Return Flight Information

Anne Koenning,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Dear China Students & Families, It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival! Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for eagerly […]

Posted On

12/2/15

Author

Anne Koenning

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    [post_date] => 2015-12-01 09:31:11
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    [post_content] => Hello all!

We are back in Dimaluo, which, after four days in literally the middle of nowhere, is looking a lot like a cosmopolitan city with it's slightly running water, reliable electricity, and population of more than a couple hundred. We had a good experience in the mountains. After an incredibly rigorous hike the first day (at least for me) where we walked straight uphill for six hours, we decided to change our campsite to one closer and more realistic. We ended up staying for a couple days at a cabin on a ledge overlooking the valley, owned by a couple herders. We spent most of our time huddled around the fire to escape the 30 degree cold outside and eating what our cook made for us. On the second day, four of us, including me, stayed at the cabin all day playing cards and going on short walks examining the wolf and bird traps our hosts placed around the area to catch food and protect their livestock. The rest of the group went out on a loop-hike, but it started to snow at about noon so everyone except Aluo, Sheila, Jack and Tristan returned home and we took it easy until the rest finished their long hike. The next day we hiked downhill for an hour and a half to BaiHanLuo and settled into our homestays in pairs at around dinner time. Although we only had a little over a full day and two nights with our families, I think the majority of us had a great time. On Sunday morning, we went to the small Catholic church with our families (this region is 100% Catholic) and were fascinated comparing the rituals there to those in America and looking at the beautiful architecture and decorations of the 100+ year old Church. We left the village at around 11 this morning and hiked a couple hours downhill back to Aluo's house in Dimaluo. We are taking the afternoon off to shower after 5 days (nothing feels better in the world) and wash the dirt that is seemingly permanently caked under our nails down the drain. It's the little things.
We are deciding later today whether we want to hike 8 hours to Bingzhongluo tomorrow or drive there and take a day hike (perhaps more realistic). We won't have Wifi until our guesthouse tomorrow night, but are back in range and in the home stretch!

Hope all is well,
Sarah Gordon
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China: South of the Clouds

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Back in Dimaluo!

Sarah Gordon,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Hello all! We are back in Dimaluo, which, after four days in literally the middle of nowhere, is looking a lot like a cosmopolitan city with it’s slightly running water, reliable electricity, and population of more than a couple hundred. We had a good experience in the mountains. After an incredibly rigorous hike the first […]

Posted On

12/1/15

Author

Sarah Gordon

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    [post_date] => 2015-11-27 22:23:31
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    [post_content] => IMG_6096 IMG_6097 IMG_6098 IMG_6095 IMG_6094 IMG_6093 IMG_6092 IMG_6091 IMG_6090
    [post_title] => Photos from the Group: On Trek in Gongshan, Yunnan
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China: South of the Clouds

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Photos from the Group: On Trek in Gongshan, Yunnan

China Fall Semester Group,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Posted On

11/27/15

Author

China Fall Semester Group

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    [post_date] => 2015-11-27 22:00:35
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-28 05:00:35
    [post_content] => Hi friends! X-phase is off to a great start! Three days ago we took a five hour bus ride to Dali, have spent the day biking to and exploring in Xi Zhou, a Bai village on the big lake by the city. We took a 5 hour sleeper bus (with beds!) to Liuku and Belle arranged for us to sleep on the bus in the empty bus station for free, which was an awesome experience. We took a private bus to Dimaluo, the village of our guide for the next few days, Aluo. After spending a day watching the family who live here slaughter their pigs, we are now heading off for a substantial trek and homestay. Here is the itinerary for the remainder of our expedition:

11/26-11/27: Hike in Nujiang Valley with Aluo
11/28-12/1: Homestay in a village near Dimaluo in the mountains
12/1: Hike 8 hours to Bingzhongluo and take several buses for 18 hours back to Kunming

We are definitely going to be off the grid for the trek and possibly for the homestay, so that's why you won't be hearing from us. We'll be back in civilization on the first of December and can't wait to tell you about our final adventures in China.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home in America!

Amy, Belle, and Sarah
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China: South of the Clouds

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X-Phase Itinerary

Amy Hong, Belle Furman and Sarah Gordon,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Hi friends! X-phase is off to a great start! Three days ago we took a five hour bus ride to Dali, have spent the day biking to and exploring in Xi Zhou, a Bai village on the big lake by the city. We took a 5 hour sleeper bus (with beds!) to Liuku and Belle […]

Posted On

11/27/15

Author

Amy Hong, Belle Furman and Sarah Gordon

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    [post_date] => 2015-11-25 16:33:33
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-25 23:33:33
    [post_content] => As one of our final afternoon activities during the week in Kunming, Luke and I split the group and led separate instructor lessons last Thursday afternoon (11/19). The group with Luke learnt about the Chinese classification of ethnic minorities at the Kunming Nationalities Park, while I introduced Albert, Belle, Jack, Josh, and Konstantin to the Yunnan-based environmental NGO Green Watershed.

Green Watershed is a Chinese pioneer in environmental protection and community development work; it has worked extensively in areas such as Lijiang’s Lashi Lake, and also the Nujiang Valley, which happens to be the setting for our group during the student-led expedition phase. In the valley Green Watershed has advocated against the construction of large hydro-power projects, and pushed for more accurate assessments of the social impact of these large projects on local communities.

Following the visit to the NGO I had asked students how the information they have heard and received is applicable to their personal lives, perhaps beyond the time-space confines of this course. The following is a compilation of their responses:

This affects my personal life because I will no longer look at “innocent” construction projects or other events before looking at consequences.

Listening to the constant struggle between environmental activists, the government, and the agrarian populations, in China, as they decide the future of conservation for Chinese wilderness makes me appreciate the strong voice and attitude in the United States about environmental protection. The difficult work that Green Watershed does in the name of environmentalism reminds me of the 19th century U.S. John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Thoreau, along with others fought for environmental change, but more importantly were key figures in changing the view of nature in American society. Green Watershed has reminded me of the importance and vigilance environmentalists must keep in the coming century as technological advances have increased the rate at which we can alter the environment.

Often times, those that are at a disadvantage are their own best advocate.

I think my main take-away from our trip to Green Watershed was how the organization combats the effects of climate change and promote sustainability by working not with chemicals or natural resources but with people. I think it is really important to understand that the reason the organization has been able to protect the forest is because they worked so closely with the local people, acknowledging that after empowering the locals with more sustainable crops/income and greater education, the people would be able to adjust their lifestyle to protect the forest. The only way we can fight climate change is by promoting climate justice.

Several years ago I launched an initiative in Russia, the primary goal of which was to provide assistance to orphanages located in Moscow and Moscow region. To this day, I have supervised numerous fund-raising campaigns and other projects, which have benefited children in the target institutions significantly. During the conversation with ‘Watershed’ representatives, we touched on many possible ways to cooperate with different communities for the purpose of improving their living conditions. In the future, I hope to use their experience to introduce changes to the way I run this initiative.
    [post_title] => Homework from Last Thursday
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Homework from Last Thursday

ming,China: South of the Clouds

Description

As one of our final afternoon activities during the week in Kunming, Luke and I split the group and led separate instructor lessons last Thursday afternoon (11/19). The group with Luke learnt about the Chinese classification of ethnic minorities at the Kunming Nationalities Park, while I introduced Albert, Belle, Jack, Josh, and Konstantin to the […]

Posted On

11/25/15

Author

ming

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    [post_date] => 2015-11-22 14:45:36
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-22 21:45:36
    [post_content] => 
Over the past two days, students presented their Independent Study Projects (ISP's). These projects have been worked on mostly during our Kunming phase, when students met with mentors on a regular (and for some, irregular) basis; of course, a few projects are continuations of the students' travel phase ISP's, and offer a chronological glimpse into our time in China.
On Friday, we learned from Will his experience of studying Mandarin Chinese as his ISP; from Tristan the impact foreigners have on Kunming and vice versa; saw Chinese paintings of bamboo Amy had drawn; practiced some 'Long Fist' kicks with Alice; enjoyed delicious Chinese cooking prepared by Sarah; learned about Chinese pottery with Jack; viewed a photo gallery put up by Belle; and watched Josh prepare handmade noodles.
Saturday was the Kunming home-stay family activity and appreciation day, we went to Daguan Park, played some games, and also saw the remaining ISP presentations from Albert ('Taiji and Traditional Chinese Medicine'), and Sam and Konstantin ('Jeet Kune Do').
Student-led expedition starts today!
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ISP Presentations

Ming, Luke and Sheila,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Over the past two days, students presented their Independent Study Projects (ISP’s). These projects have been worked on mostly during our Kunming phase, when students met with mentors on a regular (and for some, irregular) basis; of course, a few projects are continuations of the students’ travel phase ISP’s, and offer a chronological glimpse into […]

Posted On

11/22/15

Author

Ming, Luke and Sheila

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2015-11-16 09:31:43
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Our time in Kunming is coming to a swift end, as the students gear up for their self-led expedition starting next Sunday. As part of our last full weekend here, we organized some optional activities for the students this past Sunday.
In the afternoon, we invited Jeff Crosby, long-time China resident and local art collaborator/critic, to lead us through a current exhibition of Chinese contemporary art, at an art district in Kunming. We had the good fortune of speaking with one of the artists on exhibit, Ms. Lei, and heard her personal history as a former member of the People's Liberation Army, and path towards modern art. We then sat down with Jeff, who ran through with us the development of art in China in the decades since the Communist Party came to power; and gained the perspective of art as a major contributor to the huge political and economic upheavals that have influenced modern China.
Following a small group dinner at the famed 红豆园 (Red Bean Garden) restaurant, and some delicious local Chinese food, we headed towards Elephant Books, for a talk on sustainability and social entrepreneurship. The talk was organized as part of "Kunming Green Drinks," the local rendition of an international network that organizes regular meet-up spaces for people working or interested in the environmental sector. The guest speaker for last night's talk spoke about her disillusionment with modern urban existence, and the work she's doing with volunteers to create an environmental education center in a Yi Minority village in the western suburbs of Kunming. She hopes to promote permaculture and other sustainable lifestyles, while running the project as a social business so that it is self-sustaining and not reliant on external grantmaking.
With Sunday in the bag, it's on to our last week in Kunming!
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Sunday Activities

Ming, Sheila and Luke,China: South of the Clouds

Description

Our time in Kunming is coming to a swift end, as the students gear up for their self-led expedition starting next Sunday. As part of our last full weekend here, we organized some optional activities for the students this past Sunday. In the afternoon, we invited Jeff Crosby, long-time China resident and local art collaborator/critic, to […]

Posted On

11/16/15

Author

Ming, Sheila and Luke

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    [post_content] => 10 Highlights from 22 Days in Kunming

1. Green Lake Park: The "Central Park" of this city, filled with musicians, performers, Tai Chi, dance classes, temples, the occasional bird, beautiful benches upon which to sit in the sun and read, and, as the name would lead one to believe, many lakes and lush greenery.

2. Mandarin Classes: The Hardest Language To Learn is becoming learnable! Thanks to the patience of Yang Lao Shi, our beginners class has learned over 50 Chinese characters. Bargaining, ordering food, clothes shopping, and making conversation is now within our reach. The self-sufficiency this has given me cannot be understated. I feel like I suddenly can experience culture on a wholly more personal level, joining into the daily rituals of the Chinese with the power of words.

3. The Flower and Bird Market: To put our new bargaining skills to the test, Yang Lao Shi took our class to the Flower and Bird Market in downtown Kunming. Will, Tristan and I meandered through the labyrinth of bamboo stalls, looking at pipes, incense, shrubbery, soap, and jewelry, asking how much everything cost and seeing if we could get the prices down with our rudimentary vocabulary. Employing the "walk away" technique, Will managed to cut the price of a Hulusi (a traditional Chinese flute) in half, while I didn't have the heart to ask for a lower price and argue over the equivalent of 60 cents. Our progress halted as we came to the section of the market filled with every animal imaginable. Baskets of beetles, buckets of mealworms, tubs of turtles, cages of hundreds of baby rabbits, chinchillas, squirrels, guinea pigs, lizards, snakes, mice, kittens, and hedgehogs, and, best of all, piles and piles of puppies, abounded. It took all the will power in the world not to pay the mere $30 asking price and buy a "class pet" puppy for the program house.

4. My first night at home: I was probably the most nervous in the group for meeting my host family on our first night in Kunming. As a very talkative and social person who also spoke the least Chinese, I felt I was doomed to frustration and awkward silences for the next month. My family contains some of the most loving and intelligent people I have ever known: Chu, my host father, Betty, my host mother, and Chu Ju, my 8-year-old host sister. All my fears were dispelled when each of them spoke practically perfect English and shared my interests in education and politics. They take care to make sure I'm full even when my discerning palate clashes with their love of all foods, bringing me cheese, fruit, and peanut butter toast even when I don't ask for it. They had a full collection of Hillary Clinton's memoirs in Chinese (The first real sign we would get along) and I have just loved following them around in their active lives in this city.

5. Meeting my host grandparents and great-grandmother: The unity of the traditional Chinese family that I've heard about for so many years has been brought to life. Both grandparents live within Kunming and everyone sees each other at least once a week, in comparison to my grandparents living across the country and our bi-yearly visits. We've visited my maternal host grandparents in their house, straight out of the Upper East Side, several times now, and while they speak no English, their love extends to envelope me, the "mute" exchange student. Over dinner, I met my host great-grandmother and thought about all the things she's seen in her life, learned about how she joined the army at age 17 at the beginning of World War Two to fight the Japanese, and imagined being a young adult and raising a family during the turbulent 1950s and 60s during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

6. Exploring Chinese Hospitals: I've puzzled many a doctor over the past 5 weeks as a cough I developed after having bronchitis back in Shabrang has refused to go away. Luke, our instructor, has started to shepherd me around to various clinics and hospitals around the city. As I've been swept from doctor to doctor, phone call to phone call, blood test to EKG to X-Ray, I've been able to observe and be awed by the systemic precision of Chinese hospitals. One was brand new, shockingly clean and absolutely deserted, nicer than any American hospital I've ever gone to. Another was a massive complex, where you go from station to station, booth to booth, getting various tickets that direct you to a plethora of different departments around the many buildings, where you wait in what resemble airport gates to be called. Seeing these new things almost makes having a chronic cough worth it.

7. Cooking classes: I began my ISP, pursuing my passion second only to feminism--cooking. Working with Sheila, our instructor, and a new teacher, Ye Lao Shi, I have started to cook simple Chinese dishes that I have enjoyed the most. Highlights include fan qie chao ji dan (tomato fried eggs), Gombei Yang Yu Si (A latke-like potato dish), acidic tofu dishes, the most incredible stir fry I have ever had in my life, and even a salad made with a kelp-like vegetable that I actually enjoyed eating--a first. I explore the market below our program house with Ye Lao Shi and get to know the vendors, watching her haggle with them over a few kuai and dispute the quality of the vegetables we will inevitably buy. I down the recipes I'm taught fastidiously, hopeful to cook a feast for my parents when I return home and show them what real Chinese food is and why I love it so much.

8. Calligraphy Class: As a student hopelessly impaired in the visual arts, I was shocked to see how much I loved observing and participating in my host sister's calligraphy class. I poured over the massive leather-bound books detailing the four main schools of character-art, failed miserably at yielding the huge paint brushes myself, and marveled that the teacher, a calligraphy master, took so much interest in the simple characters I was learning in class. I had one of those "what is my life" moments, as I looked out the window at the Kunming rain, amazed that here I was, in China, being taught how to write characters by one of the few foremost experts on the subject in the world. Absolutely magical.

9. Dynamic Yunnan dance show: My host parents surprised me with a ticket to Dynamic Yunnan, a staple dance show performed every night. I sat, fascinated and by myself, as I watched the incredibly talented performers execute traditional dances and songs of various ethnic minorities, and realized how much more I have to learn.

10. The Starbucks at the Fashion Mall: I returned to my natural habitat for the first time in two months the other night and experienced the beauty that is Starbucks. While my sister worked diligently in one of her after-hours English classes, I snuck downstairs with my Mandarin homework and was shocked to be greeted with a "hello" in English, a credit card machine, and the warmth and familiarity of this coffee house. All the hours I've spent in rooms that looked exactly like this one, ordering toffee nut lattes in the Christmas-themed red cups, and looking at the pedestrians in the cold outside as well as the fellow coffee drinkers around me, came back in a flood and I felt something unfamiliar: comfort. As the Christmas music I've been longing for started playing (November 1st is NOT TOO EARLY), I thought about how what I've experienced in the past two months has changed me as a person and will forever alter my daily trips to Starbucks once I return home. Now, instead of just viewing these simple pleasures as doses of caffeine and sugar to get me through the day, I will think about how these $5 lattes represent the divide between the haves and have-nots that have become so apparent to me. As I sat among the other Starbucks worshippers who have the opportunity to sit around and enjoy these exorbitantly priced (by Chinese standards) drinks, I thought back to Shabrang and my family whose annual income is around 100 lattes. This sweet comfort that I experienced was the Yin to the Yang of the Dragons journey: it helped me appreciate the discomfort I've been privileged to be a part of, briefly took me back home, and made me realize that, swiftly, I have a new home and perspective that I can always hearken back to.
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China: South of the Clouds

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10 highlights from 22 days in Kunming

Sarah Gordon,China: South of the Clouds

Description

10 Highlights from 22 Days in Kunming 1. Green Lake Park: The “Central Park” of this city, filled with musicians, performers, Tai Chi, dance classes, temples, the occasional bird, beautiful benches upon which to sit in the sun and read, and, as the name would lead one to believe, many lakes and lush greenery. 2. […]

Posted On

11/11/15

Author

Sarah Gordon

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