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    [post_date] => 2013-05-12 00:00:00
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Hello from Gansu!

Well it's been quite an adventure, these eight months. As you can tell, we've been super busy--maybe a little too busy to write yak yaks *looks around guiltily*--and now we are nearing the end. We have just two weeks left in our program, and we are spending them in style, travelling throughout Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai Provinces. Right now we are staying in Tian Shui (Gansu) to check out the ancient Buddhist grottos in the surrounding mountains. The day after tomorrow we'll be heading to Qinghai. We will stay mainly in Xining and Xiahe over the next two weeks.

 

If you'd like a more in depth reflection on our time here, please check out the Princeton Bridge Year website, where we post updates about our time here. Our final group reflections will be posted in the next couple of weeks! So check that out for a window into the diverse, profound impacts this adventure has had on each one of us.

 

Wishing everyone well back in the States; we'll see you very soon!

Yun-Yun

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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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Nearing the end…

Yun-Yun Li,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

Hello from Gansu! Well it’s been quite an adventure, these eight months. As you can tell, we’ve been super busy–maybe a little too busy to write yak yaks *looks around guiltily*–and now we are nearing the end. We have just two weeks left in our program, and we are spending them in style, travelling throughout […]

Posted On

05/12/13

Author

Yun-Yun Li

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    [post_date] => 2013-04-07 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 4/2/13

Today had a lot of traveling. We had to leave at 7 am, but of course there were some stragglers ( I'm not going to name any names). We got into 3 vans and took them to the train station, huo che zhan in Chinese. I was excited for it, being my first time on a train. It was around an hour and a half, but with the Chinese culture going by my window it barely felt like that. We took the train to Hangzhou from Shanghai. In Hongzhou, we were to take vans to our next destination, downtown Hongzhou. However, there were, like, fifteen drivers who wanted to drive us. Things got heated quickly, and a couple of kids got scared. In the end it was settled with no harm done to any of the travelers. 

Downtown, we ate at a Muslim restaurant called "Lan Zhou la mian guan." I had beef noodles with egg. It was hen hao chi (delicious.) Next we walked to West Lake (xi hu.) There we got Chinese ice cream, heard a story about a white snake, and took a boat to an island called "San Tan Ying Yue." 

After the trip to the beautiful island, we went to a night market that was nearby.  The first thing that happened when we got there was I was almost pick pocketed. It was kind of disturbing at first, but at least now I have a more unique story to tell. 

At the night market, we went to a tea shop where we tried different types of tea and watched the employees prepare the tea. They had unique hand movements, and each tea was treated differently. We then had dinner at the market. I had the street food. It was spicy beef on a stick. It was a bit too spicy for me though.

All in all, it was a tiring day. However, we were tired from the fun we were having. And the walking.

- Meghan
    [post_title] => 4/2 Trip to HangZhou
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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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4/2 Trip to HangZhou

Meghan Hanrahan,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

4/2/13 Today had a lot of traveling. We had to leave at 7 am, but of course there were some stragglers ( I’m not going to name any names). We got into 3 vans and took them to the train station, huo che zhan in Chinese. I was excited for it, being my first time […]

Posted On

04/7/13

Author

Meghan Hanrahan

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    [post_date] => 2013-03-18 00:00:00
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To parents, family and friends of the 2012-13 Princeton Bridge Year China participants,

Spring greetings and a warm welcome from balmy Kunming. My name is Justin Kiersky and I’ll be stepping into the role of On-Site Director for the remainder of the program.

Before I delve into my bio and the work I've been focused on in Asia during the last decade, I would like to take a moment to give credit where it's due and to recognize the people who have worked so diligently to make this program an overwhelming success. First and foremost, I'd like to acknowledge the previous China OSD, Max Woodfin, who has done a magnificent job designing the program components and guiding participants toward their goals of improved language proficiency, lasting service learning, and deep cultural immersion. Under his tutelage, each participant has made impressive strides toward ingratiating themselves not only into their homestay families and service placements, but also into the community as a whole. Over the last six months, Max has worked tirelessly with Princeton and each of the seven burgeoning young scholars to nurture their independent pursuits, cultivate leadership skills and gain experience in modern China from an insider's perspective. This is no easy task, yet Max's guiding principles have served to foment positive group dynamics and a stable platform from which participants have been able to explore and survey the world around them.

Due to unforeseen circumstances it has become impossible for Max to see the program through to its natural conclusion. Although he will be missed by all, rest assured that I will redouble efforts to maintain the high standards that he, John, Scott and Christina have established and to make the last eleven weeks of this program as enriching and enduring as possible.

I would also like to recognize the work of Scott Leroy and John Luria at Princeton and, of course, Dragon's own Christina Rivera-Cogswell. They have gone out of their way to make the transition as smooth as possible and to provide all the information, logistical support and resources necessary to create an unprecedented experiential education program in China.

Now let me briefly introduce myself. I am a US citizen who has been based in Asia since 2002. I first came to Asia to work with Sarvodaya, a local Sri Lankan NGO aimed at post-civil war peace and reconciliation and sustainable development. After working on their rural living and learning center in Thanamalwila, I moved back to the Americas to pursue a teaching degree, which I completed in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2003.

In 2004, I travelled to China for the first time and eventually decided to settle among Yunnan province's Himalayan peaks and precipitous green gorges. Those early years were thrilling and anything but sedentary. I taught ESL in Taiwan, Korea, and northern Japan before finally returning to China in 2007 to work as an instructor for Stanford University’s inaugural EPGY (Education Programs for Gifted Youth) Program in Beijing.

In January of 2008 I moved back to Kunming where a friend of mine and I co-founded Yunnan magazine, the first bilingual (English-Mandarin) publication distributed throughout China and the Greater Mekong Subregion. In the waning years of the magazine, I also began freelancing for publications in southeast Asia and China, and producing film content on contemporary Chinese arts and culture for Vice Media in New York.

In the summer of 2011 I started leading Where There Be Dragons courses in Asia. I've worked as an instructor for the China summer internship and Mekong semester; course director for the China summer internship and China semester; and now as On-Site Director for the Princeton Bridge Year China program.

My areas of interest include minority affairs, borderlands issues, the Golden Triangle, China-Myanmar relations, Chinese Neo-colonialism, the transmission of HIV/AIDS, conservation and biodiversity, among others. 

While many of the participants are completing their languages classes and beginning to pursue more independent studies, the Bridge-Year program is far from over. We have some very exciting plans for the spring months including excursions to the Pu'er tea country as well as the Dai New Year festivities known as the Water Splashing Festival. The student group is also presently researching and designing their final excursion which will commence in early May. Participants will use the skills they've acquired over the course of the program to plan a trip centered around three main components—service learning, a week-long retreat, and a journey into the heart of the Silk Road. We'll have more concrete information in the coming month, but from the looks of the tentative itinerary the final excursion is shaping up to be a truly momentous journey with a deep and lasting impact. 

I will end the missive here. Please know that the participants are happy, healthy and learning an immense amount about life and China. We are all proud of the what they've accomplished so far, and are eager to make the last two and half months as educational and impacting as possible.

Sincerely, 

Justin Kiersky On-Site Director, Princeton Bridge Year China

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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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Introduction from Justin: Princeton Bridge Year China

Justin Kiersky ,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

To parents, family and friends of the 2012-13 Princeton Bridge Year China participants, Spring greetings and a warm welcome from balmy Kunming. My name is Justin Kiersky and I’ll be stepping into the role of On-Site Director for the remainder of the program. Before I delve into my bio and the work I’ve been focused […]

Posted On

03/18/13

Author

Justin Kiersky

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-08 00:00:00
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I daresay that we have been through half of our time in China and are beginning on the last few months before departing back to the land of our inheritance. It seems like it was just the day before last that we landed in Kunming and rode off to the Kunming Train Station for our overnight ride to the majestic pagodas of the ancient capital of Dali by way of Xiaguan in our pursuit of the inn at Shaxi. A long time ago, but in the practice of it all a time not so long time ago. Our time in Kunming has been less than flat and filled with routine for the last few months and the upcoming sojourn to Lu ShuShu's Guest House at the Shaxi Cultural Center and Guesthouse is a welcomed period of rest. This evening we will leave Kunming on the same train, we took many months ago, between Platform Nine and Ten to Dali and find a bus to take us to Jianchuan for our final 'Mianbao Che; bread van" into the mountain valley that is Shaxi. This is a time of rest and a sort of retreat to reflect on the time we have spent in China and the time we have left too. In our pursuit of a relaxing rest we won't be in contact via internet, but our mobile phones will still be with us and as always our instructors can be contacted too if something serious should arise and we need to be informed. Thanks for those of you who have stayed with the Yak Yak board and those who are new and may read this notice. I wish everybody the best and I hope we come back from Shaxi and our retreat with new stories to tell about our time away from Kunming.

Warmly,

E.

[post_title] => A Time of Rest [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => a-time-of-rest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-01-08 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=39254 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 270 [name] => Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013 [slug] => bridge-year-china-fall-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 270 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 263 [count] => 22 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3.10011 [cat_ID] => 270 [category_count] => 22 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013 [category_nicename] => bridge-year-china-fall-2012 [category_parent] => 263 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/princeton-bridge-year/bridge-year-china-fall-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013 )

Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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A Time of Rest

Emery T. Real Bird ,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

I daresay that we have been through half of our time in China and are beginning on the last few months before departing back to the land of our inheritance. It seems like it was just the day before last that we landed in Kunming and rode off to the Kunming Train Station for our […]

Posted On

01/8/13

Author

Emery T. Real Bird

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    [post_date] => 2012-12-04 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 
Tai qi tou. Di xia tou. Look up, look down. Qing zhang kou. Qing bi kou. Open your mouth, close your mouth. I was sitting on the plane from Kunming to Jinan together with other Operation Smile team members trying to memorize two pages of Chinese sentences. All I could do was hope these basic phrases would somehow help me take pictures of patients before and after the operations, the requirements of my job as a Patient Imaging Technician.

I was more than excited to go to Jinan to help operate on children with cleft-lip and cleft-palate deformities. I imagined I would be useful during the trip, but it was not quite the same as expecting to play any kind of important role. I had only been working at Operation Smile for a few weeks, I still spoke very limited Chinese and I had never been on one of the missions before. I thought nobody would (or could) really expect me to know what would be going on. Yet unexpectedly, while packing for the trip, I received an email saying that I would be the PIT team leader during the mission. Even more unexpectedly, just after I landed in Jinan and long before I felt ready to talk to kids in Chinese, I was called to take a taxi straight to the hospital instead of the hotel.

We were expecting 50 patients. But when I arrived, I found 124 patients waiting for me. Children were crying in the hallway while their parents looked at me with hope every time I called the next patient. Time was short, it was getting late and taking pictures was becoming more and more challenging. When children didn't listen to me, to make sure I got their pictures for the doctors to evaluate, I could just put them on a table and have somebody hold their head straight. This was the simplest solution. But then I had to look through pictures of children screaming and crying knowing that it was me who made them cry.

I tried my best to figure out better ways to calm them down. For the youngest patients teddy bears were usually enough. Older children generally let me take pictures, but sometimes I could tell that they just didn’t want to admit they were about to cry. I would then try to talk to them or show them the pictures and ask if they liked them. I was astonished to see a girl with tears in her eyes suddenly start laughing and enthusiastically go through the next steps of the registration after she said goodbye to me.

However, I didn’t have a good idea how to talk to the adults. I had not needed to until one woman moved her head away every time I tried to correct it, trying to block me from seeing her face. It was then that I realized what the true value of our work was: the operation enables our patients to eat and drink normally, but maybe even more importantly, it gives them the self-esteem they have never had because of their appearance. Looking that woman in the eyes I had nothing I could tell her. I was relieved when a few days later she received the operation.

I expected the operation days would be easier for me since I would be less busy. I knew I would have to stay in the Operating Room looking at blood for many hours, but I thought it would be emotionally manageable. The reality turned out to be more challenging. Children were screaming before doctors put them to sleep, and I found it very hard to take good pictures when my hands were shaking. By lunchtime I was overwhelmed. I did not feel like engaging in any conversation, so I sat alone at a table staring at the food on my plate. Suddenly a young anesthesiologist from Beijing came to ask if I was doing alright. He gave me an apple and explained that was just what operations looked like, and that there was nothing to worry about. He didn’t do anything special, our conversation wasn’t long or sophisticated, but I felt much better when we came back to the OR together.

Each day I had to get up at 6 am, and while everyone on the international team left the hospital at 9pm, I stayed until past midnight. I was waiting in the Operation Room with Chinese doctors until the last patient left the table. I could see how tired everybody was and sensed that we were all worried about whether the surgeons might make a mistake. I was exhausted, but I kept smiling to make others feel better. All that time I wished there was more I could do to help. However, when an elderly doctor came to hug me and thank me for my support, I understood that it was exactly what they needed. I also realized that the very same anesthesiologist who had helped me during lunch was sincerely thankful for my help. I noticed that he didn't take breaks nearly as often as others. He explained that every time he decides he wants to sit down and rest, a child loses the chance to be operated on.

During three days we managed to operate on over 60 patients – yet we turned another 60 down. We accomplished some great things, and I met amazing people, but we still have more to do. The Chinese sentences I learned: Xiao pengyou by yao ku meaning “little friend should not cry” and many others helped me to talk to patients. Still, to wipe their tears off, to make them smile, to prepare them for operations that scared them so much it was not the words, so limited in my case, that mattered. My biggest fear to not be able to make a difference in China because of the language barrier fortunately proved wrong. I learned, first of all, that I could accomplish much more than I had expected; and second of all, that the smallest accomplishments might make the biggest difference.
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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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Xiao pengyou bu yao ku

Anna Lewandowska,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

Tai qi tou. Di xia tou. Look up, look down. Qing zhang kou. Qing bi kou. Open your mouth, close your mouth. I was sitting on the plane from Kunming to Jinan together with other Operation Smile team members trying to memorize two pages of Chinese sentences. All I could do was hope these basic […]

Posted On

12/4/12

Author

Anna Lewandowska

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    [post_date] => 2012-09-20 00:00:00
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Greetings from Zhongdian!

We have just arrived safely back in the increasingly Western city of Shang-ri-la. The flushing toilets, hot showers, and paved roads lie in stark contrast to the rugged-yet-beautiful backdrop of Hongpo, where we spent the last week.

After about six hours of bus travel,we arrived in Hongpo last Tuesday (September 11) and were welcomed by two host families. We rested that evening, and woke up ready to work Wednesday morning. Our service project was to repair the roof, walls, and floor of the watermill in the village. The first order of business was getting the materials for the watermill. This involved a few group members going into Deqin with Annabu, the village leader. Although this task was only supposed to take half a day, the rain and subsequent mud stranded them in Deqin for the day, and thus we took Wednesday as a rest day.

Thursday, we got to work on the watermill. In the morning, we helped take apart the old wooden roof of the watermill and replaced it with metal sheets. After lunch, we helped repair holes in the walls by flinging mud at them. We quite literally got our hands dirty. It was comforting to work side-by-side with the villagers, who were willing to teach us and eager to talk to us. They even through a banquet that evening to thank us for our help. They sung traditional Tibetan songs, and we attempted to sing American songs.

Friday came as a surprise when we learned that because of finances, our work with the watermill was done for the time being. As a group, we decided to continue serving the community by helping individual families with their daily tasks. This included picking potatos (wa tu dou), weeding a grape field, harvesting walnuts, picking Matsutake mushrooms, and doing chores for our host families. Though the work was not necessarily back breaking, it really helped build community relations. Hongpo is a closed village, and we were only the third group of foreigners allowed to enter the community. By spending time with the families of the village and helping them in whatever ways we could, we attempted to leave the best impression possible, so that we might be welcomed back in May.

Tonight, as we celebrated Sadiki's birthday, we were able to reconnect with Doma, our contact person for future projects in Deqin. All of us are eager to get back to that special place hidden in the mountains and find more ways to learn from the village. And while the dirt from our clothes will eventually come out, the memories and friendships we made in Hongpo will last.

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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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Hongpo

Lesa Redmond,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

Greetings from Zhongdian! We have just arrived safely back in the increasingly Western city of Shang-ri-la. The flushing toilets, hot showers, and paved roads lie in stark contrast to the rugged-yet-beautiful backdrop of Hongpo, where we spent the last week. After about six hours of bus travel,we arrived in Hongpo last Tuesday (September 11) and […]

Posted On

09/20/12

Author

Lesa Redmond

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    [post_date] => 2012-09-10 00:00:00
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Max told us before arriving in Shangri-la that the town might not look the way movies and books have always taught us to picture it. When he came here ten years ago, it was a tiny, one-horse town known as Zhongdian that sounded like it was straight out of a Western: a small assemblage of buildings lined up around two long dirt roads, rest stop to Tibetan plains cowboys riding in on horses in clouds of dust, and occasioned by seasoned, steely-eyed travelers exchanging stories of trekking and tribulations over steaming cups of yak butter tea. Essentially, rustic rough-riding at its most picturesque.

However, when we arrived this past weekend at the renamed city of Shagri-la, the two long dirt roads had been paved and now spider-webbed across the city; Westerners with bulky money belts walked the streets searching for a cup of joe at a Western cafe to tame coffee jitters; and the old town had been expanded out to make way for a new development, a section of town specifically designed to reek of Tibetan way-station nostalgia and thus unsurprisingly deceptively christened "Gu Cheng," or "Old Town."

That's not to say this place isn't fascinating and, in its own tourist-y way, authentic. Parts and pieces still remain true to that Tibetan-Wild-West visual of yore Max described - i.e. the cones of Tibetan yak cheese in the huge local market, the eight Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism painted everywhere if you only know to look, the temples with shining golden roofs high up in the hills, yaks wandering the streets of the actually old town...though, of course, that's also not to say that we're not at least a little bit grateful for the less authentic Western amenities, such as the available coffee (and peanut butter - and Nutella - and alcohol swabs - and - well, you get the picture).

We've also done our fair share of exploring. Yesterday we had a huge, city-wide scavenger hunt - the details of which I'm sure will be unveiled in later Yak Yaks - and celebrated our dear Richard Chang's eighteenth birthday, complete with birthday hat and Western style cupcakes (that shows how much of a tourist town Shangri-la - which is incidentally trademarked - has become)! Today we left the city behind to pick up food at the local market and then picnic'd over one thousand feet up at the top of a nearby, relatively small mountain. I will be the first to admit that typing what we did is approximately a kabillion times easier than the actual trek. My legs are still sore. But, the view from the top was more than worth it. And we ended the day with a nice bit of Tibetan dancing in the middle of the main Gu Cheng square. Plus, the place where we're staying is known as "Dragon Cloud," which is the English translation of our beloved chaperone Long Yun's name. All in all, a very pleasant stay.

Tomorrow, though, we're leaving this complicated half-Tibetan, half-Chinese, all-Western-catering place to travel to Deqin. From there we head to Hong Po to start at our first service site, which is decidedly more dirty and down-to-earth, to repair the locals' watermill. Because of this travel into the far reaches of Yunnan, however, heads up to all family and friends that, starting tomorrow, we will not have Internet access. So no updates for about a week or so. When we head back to Shangri-la, we promise to respond with even greater enthusiasm than usual to all emails to make up for our absence.

Wishing you well from the top of the world,

Bridge Year China

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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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A Fistful of Kuai / For a Few Kuai More

Claire Ashmead,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

Max told us before arriving in Shangri-la that the town might not look the way movies and books have always taught us to picture it. When he came here ten years ago, it was a tiny, one-horse town known as Zhongdian that sounded like it was straight out of a Western: a small assemblage of […]

Posted On

09/10/12

Author

Claire Ashmead

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    [post_content] => People. They continue to amaze me. They surprise you, and never leave too entirely sure of yourself. They can be beautiful, honest, genuine and kind. Their actions and beliefs can take you to places you never thought inhabitable. They can deliver you a microscope with which you can deeply and sometimes scathingly look at yourself. They can teach once more to be honest and true and to never take complacency as answer. People. Truly a gift from God. 
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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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People

Sadiki Wiltshire,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

People. They continue to amaze me. They surprise you, and never leave too entirely sure of yourself. They can be beautiful, honest, genuine and kind. Their actions and beliefs can take you to places you never thought inhabitable. They can deliver you a microscope with which you can deeply and sometimes scathingly look at yourself. […]

Posted On

09/7/12

Author

Sadiki Wiltshire

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    [post_content] => 
Dear Bridge Year China parents,
Some of you may have seen a report that a 5.6 magnitude earthquake occurred earlier today in Southwest China, with its epicenter in Zhaotong. We wanted to write to let you know that Shaxi (where the Bridge Year students are currently located) is about 500 miles from Zhaotong, and that the students are safe and sound. Max was contacted and he reported that the group (including himself) was fast asleep, and completely unaware that an earthquake had taken place. Max said that he’d brief the students in the morning about the incident – but we just wanted to assure all friends and family that the students are well, just in case you would see something online or in the evening news.
The earthquake, albeit far from the students’ location, did have quite serious results. Here is a link to a New York Times online report on the quake: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/08/world/asia/earthquakes-shake-southwest-china.html

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Bridge Year office.
Thank you!
Christina
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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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BY China Group Update

Christina Rivera Cogswell,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

Dear Bridge Year China parents, Some of you may have seen a report that a 5.6 magnitude earthquake occurred earlier today in Southwest China, with its epicenter in Zhaotong. We wanted to write to let you know that Shaxi (where the Bridge Year students are currently located) is about 500 miles from Zhaotong, and that […]

Posted On

09/7/12

Author

Christina Rivera Cogswell

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    [post_content] => Many things have been going through my head lately and I've had a lot of time for self reflection. Shaxi, the town we are staying in, hugs the mountains so that every time you look up, your breath is taken away. My mom's words keep coming to me whenever I stare at the mountains: There must be a God in this world to create such beauty.
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Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

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Mountains

Lesa Redmond,Bridge Year China 2012 - 2013

Description

Many things have been going through my head lately and I’ve had a lot of time for self reflection. Shaxi, the town we are staying in, hugs the mountains so that every time you look up, your breath is taken away. My mom’s words keep coming to me whenever I stare at the mountains: There […]

Posted On

09/6/12

Author

Lesa Redmond

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