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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15


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Hello Friends and Family,
Below is the final month itinerary for the BYP China group. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you!
April 29 - Leave for Guilin/Yangshuo: To start our trip, we'll use Yangshuo (a popular backpacker haven) as a base to go on hikes to nearby locations and enjoy the famous karst topography.
May 2 - Leave for Guizhou: Beginning in a small village on the border of Guizhou and Guangxi provinces, we'll start a village to village trek which will allow us to appreciate beautiful local landscapes. We will stay with Chinese families along the way.
May 8 - Leave for Xi'an: We plan to see the Terracotta Warriors, the city wall, and other historical sites in what used to be the capital of China.
May 10 - Leave for Qinghai
May 11 - Arrive in Xining: In Qinghai province, we hope to learn more about Tibetan culture (since it is one of the most Tibetan influenced places in China, besides Tibet itself). We will do a service project with either a local NGO that supports Tibetan women, or a lakeside facility near a nature conservatory. We hope to stay with (possibly nomadic) host families and learn more about their way of life, and visit a nunnery in the mountains.
May 23 - Transference begins in Gansu in a Tibetan monastery. Here, the instructors will lead us through a series of activities designed to help us transition smoothly back to life back home, while retaining what we've gained out of the program.
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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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BYP China Final Month Itinerary

Blaine ,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

Hello Friends and Family, Below is the final month itinerary for the BYP China group. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you! April 29 – Leave for Guilin/Yangshuo: To start our trip, we’ll use Yangshuo (a popular backpacker haven) as a base to go on hikes to nearby locations and enjoy the famous […]

Posted On

04/30/15

Author

Blaine

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    [post_content] => Nĭ hăo,

We've all been doing well. With only a little more than a month left in Kunming, we've been trying to go out and explore as much as possible. It's been a pretty busy week. John joined us on Monday and has been accompanying us to our NGOs, language classes, IEAs,etc. We leave tonight (Friday, 20 March) for a weekend trip to Tengchong. Tengchong is a county in the west of Yunnan famous for its volcanic activity and ersi (chewy rice noodles). While we haven't quite finalised our itinerary or accommodations (oops), we should be back in Kunming on Monday, 23 March, morning.

Lots of love to our families, friends and other curious yak board readers!

BY China 6.3

:)

 
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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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Trip to Tengchong

Team Aaaah!,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

Nĭ hăo, We’ve all been doing well. With only a little more than a month left in Kunming, we’ve been trying to go out and explore as much as possible. It’s been a pretty busy week. John joined us on Monday and has been accompanying us to our NGOs, language classes, IEAs,etc. We leave tonight […]

Posted On

04/1/15

Author

Team Aaaah!

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    [post_content] => Tomorrow morning we'll be heading out of Kunming on the night bus to Xishuangbanna, a region in southern Yunnan near the border of Laos and Myanmar where we'll be staying for a week. Xishuangbanna is a tropical region and a cultural center for the Dai People, showing many Southeast Asian influences. This excursion is entirely organized by the students, putting our group to the test and allowing for time to reflect on our experience in China.

Our current plan is as follows:

Saturday, February 7th: Leave Kunming, take a bus to Jinghong and explore the city.

Sunday, February 8th: Visit the Manfeilong White Pagodas, and possibly the Wild Elephant Valley.

Monday, February 9th: Visit the Menglun botanical garden

Tuesday, February 10th: Visit the Sanchahe Nature Reserve Aerial Walkway in Mengla County, and picnic on the banks of the Mekong river.

Wednesday, February 11th: Visit the Jinghong forest park, and possibly the Dai park.

Thursday, February 12th: Ride bicycles around the area and trek to a neighbouring village, with the possibility of staying a night in a Dai style home.

Friday, February 13th: Spend one last day exploring Jinghong.

Saturday, February 14th: Return to Kunming
    [post_title] => A Week in the South: Upcoming Trip to Xishuangbanna
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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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A Week in the South: Upcoming Trip to Xishuangbanna

Chaz Copeland,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

Tomorrow morning we’ll be heading out of Kunming on the night bus to Xishuangbanna, a region in southern Yunnan near the border of Laos and Myanmar where we’ll be staying for a week. Xishuangbanna is a tropical region and a cultural center for the Dai People, showing many Southeast Asian influences. This excursion is entirely organized by […]

Posted On

02/6/15

Author

Chaz Copeland

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With 2014 almost coming to a close, our program is close to reaching its halfway point. In Kunming, we have settled into smooth-running routines of volunteering at our individual NGOs, taking language classes, and spending time with our homestay families. We have learned to navigate the bustling streets of Kunming and become familiar with the chaos that accompanies our daily commute in the city, dodging the swarms of bicycles, cars, and people beneath the construction noises of skyscrapers being erected everywhere around us. Although we spent the entire month of December in Kunming, without excursions to other areas of Yunnan, we did not fail to stay busy with our daily activities, in addition to special events and holidays. While many of us are currently engrossed in individual cultural activities, such as traditional Chinese painting, Chinese cooking, or martial arts, we have also been able to learn more about culture as a group, from making pottery to watching a Chinese tea ceremony. The college where we study Mandarin prepared a show put on by its international students, and our group decided to perform a dance and song to “The Nicest Kids in Town” from the musical Hairspray. While some of us were experienced performers, others used this chance to learn about show business for the first time. Learning a dance taught by Blaine, our group held semi-weekly practices to prepare for the event. On the day of the show, we spent an entire day at our college’s theater, doing dress rehearsals, preparing the lights on stage, putting on make-up and costumes, and getting ready for the show. During the evening, our practices and preparation culminated in a fun, energetic, hippity-hoppity performance, alongside other interesting, exciting songs, dances, and skits performed by other international students. It was fun to share a piece of our own culture while getting the opportunity to learn about many other cultures at the same time. At our service placements, while still learning, we are finally getting the hang of the activities and assignments we complete. While focusing on our own service placements, we have also had opportunities to collaborate with our classmates. Our group taught English and art at a local elementary school for an event organized by Kiara and Chaz’s NGO, Village Progress, and Teresa helped Sarah with a dance that she taught workers at her NGO, Eden, which we all were able to go and watch . In addition, our group sang a few Christmas carols with Will for a holiday celebration at his NGO, Xin Tiandi. Getting involved in each other’s service work has enhanced our service experiences and taught us more about doing volunteer work in a foreign setting. For the holidays, our group celebrated with a combination of traditions brought from home and local traditional events. On the evening of December 24th, we lit a home-made menorah, played dreidel, and ate a dinner of local Chinese food, potato latkes with applesauce, Spanish bunuelos, and Christmas cookies. Later in the night, we went Christmas caroling in our apartment, and then we went to the center of Kunming, where there was a chaotic annual event of hordes of people spraying silly-string and fake snow at each other out of aerosol cans. As our foreign appearances tend to stick-out in crowds, we frequently had do to short bursts of running to evade being drenched in fake snow and hit on the top of the head with gigantic inflatable hammers. On Christmas morning, we opened presents given by our secret Santas at the program house, and then went to a salon and got hair-cuts as a group. To celebrate the New Year, we plan to spend a few days in a hostel in the countryside near Kunming, biking through the rural trails, visiting an organic farm, and just enjoying each other’s company. Hopefully we will have time to wind down, relax and reflect, and be ready to delve even deeper into our China experience in 2015. 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December Group Update

Greta Miller,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

With 2014 almost coming to a close, our program is close to reaching its halfway point. In Kunming, we have settled into smooth-running routines of volunteering at our individual NGOs, taking language classes, and spending time with our homestay families. We have learned to navigate the bustling streets of Kunming and become familiar with the […]

Posted On

01/4/15

Author

Greta Miller

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    [post_content] => During our first month in China we travelled around Yunnan to enjoy its beautiful landscapes and diversity. However, we didn't stop at Dali, one of the most famous cities in the province. Dali used to be the capital of the Bai kingdom Nanzhao and is a famous destination for international and domestic tourists. Since we are a bit of both right now we decided to spend our first weekend out of Kunming there.

We will leave tonight by sleeper train and arrive there tomorrow morning. We don't have clear plans for our stay there yet, but we will definitely have time to spend more time as a group again and that always means playing a lot of card games, so we are all excited! On Monday we will take a train back and arrive in the afternoon. 拜拜!
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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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Trip to Dali (Nov. 15-17)

teresa irigoyen-lopez,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

During our first month in China we travelled around Yunnan to enjoy its beautiful landscapes and diversity. However, we didn’t stop at Dali, one of the most famous cities in the province. Dali used to be the capital of the Bai kingdom Nanzhao and is a famous destination for international and domestic tourists. Since we […]

Posted On

11/17/14

Author

teresa irigoyen-lopez

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It’s been over a month since we made our transition from Bangdong Village to Yunnan’s immense capital. No longer do we wake up to the sounds and sights of the countryside. The variety of oak trees and bamboos weaving a canopy above our heads as Ayi, our Auntie, picked tea leaves. Pigs snorting, cowbells clinking, and the bedlam of hens fluttering around all of which called our family to attend to the daily household chores. And the dark clouds of smoke racing out of the old wood burning stove loosing itself in the clear night sky summoning us to dinner. In the city, we adjust to a different pace. Instead of living in a village at the skirts of a hillside, we live in apartment buildings overlooking the many winding streets and skyscrapers. And instead of attending to the daily cacophony of cattle, we test the waters of the unfamiliar chaos as we bike through Kunming’s traffic in the mornings. Our first week back in Kunming we separated into teams to play a scavenger hunt encompassing a large part of the city. Some of the tasks proved to be a bit interesting like taking pictures of Chinese babies’ crotch less pants or getting a blow-dry from a hair salon (which was unfortunate when a few minutes later it started raining heavily). Unknowingly, we were navigating streets that would soon grow familiar to us. From the university where we take classes to Xiao Xi Men we began exploring this city. The following day, however, brought an even more welcome surprise. After a month of many group activities, we got an opportunity to explore China by ourselves. Each one of us got an address in Chinese and was told we were supposed to go there and complete a mysterious task. I was overjoyed to find my task was going into a restaurant picking my favorite dishes off the menu and learning how to do mi xian and materialize some delicious mashed potatoes (simply learning how to cook, really). This task gave us an opportunity to explore possible extracurricular activities we might want to take on. While I am learning how to cook Chinese food, others have decided to conquer: Kong Fu, traditional Chinese painting, and traditional Chinese dancing. When moving day finally came, we grabbed our bags and followed our new homestay families away from the constant traveling and to stability. Everyday we have breakfast and dinner with our homestays and on the weekends join them on whatever activities or trips they planned. After a busy day, what with NGO’s and Mandarin lessons, dinners are still the time when we can all share stories of our day and get to know these people we live with through our still limited Mandarin. As we all have our independent schedules and homes are a bit more spread out than they were in the village, it would be easier to see less of each other. For this, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we meet and have dinner, discussions, or some other activity that befits the occasion. Friday evenings are now a favorite for most of the group because in the past we’ve chosen to experiment with cooking. During Diwali, an Indian holiday, we attempted to cook some parathas and masala gobi in celebration. Recently, Blaine baked many colorful treats (including Oreo-filled dumplings) for us to snack on during Halloween, and everyone came dressed with rather interesting homemade costumes. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of our time here is still our service work. As service is a pivotal aspect of lives here, we also shortly thereafter began volunteering at our respective NGO’s. This step has so far proven to be a different kind of challenge for each of us. Whether we have to string up a number of choreographies to teach to students from an urban migrant school, go on a week-long trip to help make cleft lip surgeries a reality, or start a weekly comic strip to warn of the dangers of pesticide use, we are slowly becoming privy to what it is like to do service work in a foreign country. We not only have to overcome the language barrier but also work to learn how to deal with cultural differences that sprout up every once in a while. Every day there are new things I learn about my NGO’s projects or my coworker’s complex lives. Although it may seem that we’re falling into a routine, if we look closely days are never the same. 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Group Update

Kiara Rodriguez Gallego,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

It’s been over a month since we made our transition from Bangdong Village to Yunnan’s immense capital. No longer do we wake up to the sounds and sights of the countryside. The variety of oak trees and bamboos weaving a canopy above our heads as Ayi, our Auntie, picked tea leaves. Pigs snorting, cowbells clinking, […]

Posted On

11/17/14

Author

Kiara Rodriguez Gallego

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    [post_content] => Every morning, as I take the winding turns out of my Kunming apartment complex and head out towards the center of the city, I pass by the same small group of middle-aged and older women congregated by a fountain. What sets these women apart is that they are all earnestly wielding long, gleaming swords. They are, I would guess, a group that comes together to practice taijijian, a traditional form of chinese martial arts that falls under one of the many forms of tai chi. In unison, they methodically swing, thrust, and pose with the swords, occasionally pausing to consult one of their more knowledgable members about the technique of a certain move.

After traveling and living in China for almost two months, I find these sword-swinging old women both surprising and familiar. The common sense that I grew up around dictates that swords are simply something not found in the hands of grey-haired ladies. In the context of Kunming, however, I am reminded of why this scene makes sense. Here, people of all ages monopolize public spaces with their organized movements of dance, exercise and martial arts. Every morning and evening they descend upon parks and squares, in groups ranging from hundreds to individuals, filling the world with their unique and sprightly motions.

While people from a variety of generations participate in these public recreations, it is the older ones that I, the foreigner, find most striking. The image of a throng of old men and women dancing out in the open would be a much rarer find back in the United States. From a fanciful perspective, it might seem as if these dances are a defiant way of asserting one's place in society, with brazen movements on display for everyone. From the local perspective, however, public dances, tai chi, and other public movements are probably thought of more in terms of their health benefits, or simply just another facet of life here in Kunming, China.
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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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Old Women with Swords

Chaz Copeland,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

Every morning, as I take the winding turns out of my Kunming apartment complex and head out towards the center of the city, I pass by the same small group of middle-aged and older women congregated by a fountain. What sets these women apart is that they are all earnestly wielding long, gleaming swords. They […]

Posted On

10/28/14

Author

Chaz Copeland

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It has already been a week since we first arrived at Bangdong and we have already established and gotten used to a new routine. After moving from site to site for some time, it is nice to finally have enough time to explore a place in more depth. For us this has meant meeting our new family members, trying to communicate and work with them, and going to the local primary school to teach English classes. I must say they have all had their challenges. The first day here, before we all separated into our different homestays, we all wrote down situations in which we would have trouble communicating with our host families and then we used them to play charades. After playing the game I thought I wouldn’t have much trouble communicating with my host family. After all, we had all understood each other’s (not so good) mimics and guessed all the different scenarios. Yet, once I stepped into my house all my confidence went away. How was I supposed to explain to my ayi and shushu that I really did want to try to use the chopsticks while very visibly being unable to and them repeatedly trying to give me a spoon? Of course, my limited Mandarin and the very strong dialect from the locals in the area didn’t help much. These two unfortunate coincidences mixed together have led to a series of uncomfortable and awkward situations such as trying to explain to my ayi and shushu that in Spain we don’t eat as much rice and them quickly trying to apologize for not having much money and thus not much variation in food, as if I was trying to point out an income difference rather than a local cuisine one… However, little by little, we are all making progress. I now remember to properly wash my feet every day before going to bed and my host family has quickly noticed how I try to avoid the spicy dishes so now they take a bit (a lot) of each dish before adding the spicy stuff and put it in my bowl. They are all extremely caring. In fact, they sometimes seem to care so much that they make it almost impossible for us to help them. No matter how many times we ask how we can bangzhu they will always smile back and say there is no need (believe me, we’ve tried!). Only after I literally take the plates away from my ayi’s hands and start doing the dishes myself, does she smile at me and, after a while, lets me take over. But if we are getting better at finding new ways in which we can help, our host parents are even faster at learning and coming up with new strategies to prevent us from doing so! Whether it is by serving us boiling hot tea just before we are about to go do the dishes (which basically translates in us drinking really hot tea too fast) or actually using the time when we are doing the dishes or tiding up to disappear and go to work without telling us where they are going (even though they promised that today was their rest day and that they were not going anywhere!). But by now we have all been able to follow, shadow and work along our host parents and other family members in some way. For some of us it has meant going out to pick tea leaves which, no matter how much insect repellent we might put on, also means getting a lot of mosquito bites; for others it has meant learning how to separate the tea leaves once they have been dried into the different types (and prices) and actually getting pretty good at it. So we have all been learning a lot about tea and, a few days ago, Greta’s host brother actually gave us a very interesting talk on its history. But, growing tea is not all they do here; ask Chaz if you are interested in learning about giving injections to cows or cleaning chicken poop! As you can see, our homestay experience has been one of the two most important components of our stay in Bangdong, the other being the service project we are doing here. That is, teaching English at the local school. Every afternoon we hike up the mountain for half an hour and arrive all sweaty at the school where many excited and amazed faces welcome us. Each of us is in charge of one class (go fifth grade!) but we pair up to give the lessons so we also get to teach different levels or ages. However, since there isn’t an English teacher or subject at the school, they all have pretty much the same level. Thus, this week we have been singing a lot the ABC song and “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” as well as teaching the numbers, colours, animals, fruits and basic sentences. We try to make the lessons as interactive as possible, so learning a new topic actually means learning a few new games. This is both fun and interesting not only for the kids but also for their teachers (who come to classes, take notes and sometimes even get excited and participate!) since it is a completely new teaching style for them. By now almost all of our initial nervousness has gone away and going to the school has become everyone’s favourite part of the day. Now we know that hiking up is really worth it! 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Picture of the Week, Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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Group Update

Teresa Irigoyen-Lopez,Picture of the Week, Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

It has already been a week since we first arrived at Bangdong and we have already established and gotten used to a new routine. After moving from site to site for some time, it is nice to finally have enough time to explore a place in more depth. For us this has meant meeting our […]

Posted On

09/23/14

Author

Teresa Irigoyen-Lopez

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    [post_date] => 2014-09-22 15:05:41
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    [post_content] => The floor of the courtyard glitters with the splash of what seems like a gazillion raindrops per second. Shushu, my home stay father, my rural hero, is aptly dressed in a plastic cape like thing and a Chinese rain hat. His weapon of choice is a long broomstick which he uses to sweep away at the wet floor. Ayi, jie jie and Kiara sit beside me, huddled up around the open fire stove which holds our breakfast.

I pull myself away from my home stay family.

I’m going to be honest. I am not particularly enthusiastic about writing this yak. Not because I don’t have anything to write about, every day we experience something new and exciting. Not because I’m lazy, even though I am. But because I’m struggling to find my stance on a problem which has plagued me since the first day in Kunming; to journal or not to journal; to yak or not to yak.

My argument is simple. Why waste time hunched over the group computer, or scribbling into my journal when instead I can be out there experiencing China, spinning the prayer wheels of the Tibetan temple, or staring down the side of Shibaoshan or as the case may be today, unsuccessfully urging our host family to let us help them cook? Why be in here recording memories when I can be out there making them?

Yesterday, however I decided to journal. The fourth grade class I teach remembered what ‘clap’ meant and it made me happier than it probably should have. Like a proud mother I needed to boast about it, to write it down and to remember it forever. So I did. But I was no longer sure which side I supported. I needed to write out my thoughts, I needed to figure out what I believed in but most importantly I needed to submit a yak before Jesse killed me.

So with reluctance I wrote this yak. A result of careful coercion and enticing incentive (I’d have internet for the night). And somewhere in between where my reluctance changed to acceptance, I realized I was wrong. The struggle is not whether to journal or not, but to find a balance between spells of both. To live in the moment but to also preserve the memory of it. Turns out, no matter how hard I try I will end up missing out on some things. The trick is to make the most of what I do get to experience, even if that means sacrificing some time to write it down. After all, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Might as well have the really great memories written down.

I return to my home stay family. Not much has changed in the past few minutes. Time to eat.
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Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

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To Journal or Not To Journal

Sarah Varghese,Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

The floor of the courtyard glitters with the splash of what seems like a gazillion raindrops per second. Shushu, my home stay father, my rural hero, is aptly dressed in a plastic cape like thing and a Chinese rain hat. His weapon of choice is a long broomstick which he uses to sweep away at […]

Posted On

09/22/14

Author

Sarah Varghese

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    [post_date] => 2014-09-19 15:13:16
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    [post_content] => A week ago, I got lost in Lijiang – a gigantic knot of touristified, indistinguishable alleys. Even if the architecture had been more diversified, I still would have been just as lost, because it was a really dark night. I remembered that I had picked up the name card for the guesthouse where we were staying, and I went into the closest hotel to ask for directions from whoever was at the front desk. The man I found was young, friendly, and ready to be distracted. When I showed him the card, he seemed like he didn’t recognize it, but then his face lit up, and he said his friends worked there. This seemed too good to be true, and as I remembered things I had read about tourist scams in China, I started becoming suspicious. He called someone on the phone and then told me that his friends would be there shortly. In a few minutes a young man and two young women in tow showed up, and we said goodbye to the “friendly” man at the hotel and began walking. Maybe it was paranoia, maybe it was the way the women asked me if I liked Chinese girls like them, maybe it was the man’s letting me know that the women were “already drunk,” maybe it was the subliminal effect of the countless red lanterns hanging around. Anyhow, I knew then that I gotten mixed up in a prostitution scam. The man at the hotel had found a naïve tourist presented to him on a silver platter, called up his sketchy acquaintances, and must have been enjoying a foul smelling cigar while waiting for his cut at that very moment. I thought about exit strategies as we went down unfamiliar streets, but then we turned into a lane that went right to the guesthouse, and I felt embarrassed. I wish I had enjoyed my time with those extremely cordial and helpful people, but if I were in the same situation again, I still wouldn’t be able to know if I could trust them. I’ve found that it’s hard to really know things in China, and sometimes everything feels like a gamble. But that’s the way it is everywhere – you’ve always got to play the numbers, and you never know for sure whether or not you’ll win. I’ve lost a few times, but I’ve found the numbers are usually on your side, and as long as you follow the rules, you can forget your worries and just enjoy the game.
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The Big Casino

Blaine Crabtree,Picture of the Week, Princeton Bridge Year China 2014-15

Description

A week ago, I got lost in Lijiang – a gigantic knot of touristified, indistinguishable alleys. Even if the architecture had been more diversified, I still would have been just as lost, because it was a really dark night. I remembered that I had picked up the name card for the guesthouse where we were […]

Posted On

09/19/14

Author

Blaine Crabtree

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